‘Most people exposed to fake news in Bangladesh’

A first-ever national survey on news literacy in Bangladesh has found that two-thirds of the people have experiences of ‘fake news’ with the gaining popularity of social media as a news source.

The survey also found that half of the people were not aware of the importance of checking the accuracy of information, prompting the researchers to suggest news literary initiatives at school level.

“News literacy does not make a journalist, but it aims to train news consumers to think like journalists,” the lead researcher of the study Md Saiful Alam Chowdhury, an associate professor of journalism at the Dhaka University, said while revealing the results at a webinar on Monday.

A leading media training organization in Dhaka, Management and Resources Development Initiative (MRDI) conducted the study with the support of the Unicef in November.

But the findings were released at a time when the whole world is battling misinformation along with the pandemic.
UN chief António Guterres described fake news as an enemy and had said “Our common enemy is COVID19, but our enemy is also an “infodemic” of misinformation”.

The lead researcher, Chowdhury recommended a combined effort in Bangladesh among the government, NGOs and media organizations to address the issue. “News literacy should be the goal of teachers, parents, researchers, administrators, and policymakers in Bangladesh”.

He also suggested greater access to information and media and awareness raising initiatives such as national news literacy week.
Key findings

Some 1209 out of 2,799 people aged above 18 responded to the survey – equal number of males and females – conducted between November 5 and November 20.

They also conducted focus group discussion with the relevant stakeholders between December 21 and January 7.
But 18 percent of people still do not consume any news media. Of them, 11.5 percent do not believe news media while most of them do not have time to use news media.

Television is the main source of news in Bangladesh while radio has almost no significance to people as a source of news, according to the study.

Only 5 percent of respondents use online news portals as the main source of news.
The news literacy rates do not vary notably by metropolitan, urban and rural residence or any divisions.
Younger people and educated tend to be more news literate than older people.

Social media platform facebook has gained a “significant position” as a source of news in Bangladesh compared with news media.

Some 18 percent of respondents have never tried to look at who shared the news and 30 percent of respondents have answered that they tried to look into the sources for some time.

Almost 17 percent of respondents never feel the importance of checking the source of the news and 15 percent of respondents never bothered about what evidence the news story contains.

Fake news experience rate is higher in the rural area which is 66 percent, followed by the urban area - 62.3 percent. It is the lowest in the metropolitan area - 52.5 percent.