Cambodia: Combatting Covid-19 Misinformation

Radio call-in show unpicks fake news and conspiracy theories around the virus.

Cambodia: Combatting Covid-19 Misinformation

Radio call-in show unpicks fake news and conspiracy theories around the virus.

Cambodian children wait for medical care outside a hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on February 12, 2020.
Cambodian children wait for medical care outside a hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on February 12, 2020. © Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Oeun, a resident of Kampot province in southern Cambodia, recalled how rapidly wild stories around Covid-19 had spread in the early days of the pandemic.
 
“A lot of rumours went around here. For example, it was said eating chicken or putting a puppet in front of the house helped prevent or cure Covid-19,” he told the True or Not live talk show on the Voice of Democracy (VOD) radio station.
 
VOD is the local media outlet of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) NGO. Last summer, CCIM was among the 16 successful applicants - out of nearly 200 - to an IWPR project supported by the US Department of State to help Cambodians access reliable information around Covid-19.

“A lot of rumours went around here. For example, it was said eating chicken or putting a puppet in front of the house helped prevent or cure Covid-19.”

Launched in October 2020, True or Not provides accurate, local language information on Covid-19 so that listeners can understand and comply with government protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

Produced every other week and aired over 14 radio stations throughout Cambodia, it is also aired live on VOD’s Facebook page with more than 1.5 million followers, and its YouTube channel with more than 110,000 subscribers.

Cambodian Center for Independent Media’s (CCIM) first radio show discussed fake information around COVID-19 and was viewed 9,900 times on Facebook.

Cambodian Center for Independent Media’s (CCIM) first radio show discussed fake information around COVID-19 and was viewed 9,900 times on Facebook.

Oeun, one of the radio talk show’s regular callers, said that he now shared information on Covid-19 only after verifying it with a reliable source like VOD’s True or Not.

“I consumed so much information, but I made sure these were only from trustworthy sources like the VOD,” he said.

True or Not’s seven episodes have already been viewed nearly 63,000 times and have gained almost 4,000 engagements on Facebook.

Other ongoing IWPR-supported projects to help combat Covid-19 misinformation include fact-checking initiatives and technology-based solutions to inform people in local languages.

Using both traditional and new media to keep communities well-informed and engaged on Covid-19 issues, the programme is building the capacity of journalists, media outlets, and CSOs to better understand, identify and combat disinformation.

Investigative reporting on the impacts of government Covid-19 measures on the most marginalised sectors such as the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities is also underway.

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