January 19, 2021

TV remains primary source of information on COVID19 in Pakistan; social media distrusted by many: study finds.

The Pakistani public has expressed its trust in the mainstream media’s coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study conducted by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD).

People felt the Pakistani media coverage of Covid-19 provided them the information they needed, supplied largely accurate information, and ensured the benefit of the public, according to the study, which relied on a national public opinion survey of 345 respondents.

The research titled “Public Trust in the Media during the Coronavirus Pandemic” was published by MMfD as part of the Civil society for Independent Media and Expression (CIME) initiative jointly undertaken with the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives and the Pakistan Press Foundation.

Around 57 percent of the respondents considered the mainstream media as trustworthy sources of coronavirus news and information. People also frequently relied on their friends-and-family networks to get coronavirus updates and a majority (56 percent) also trusted these sources of Covid information. 

On the other hand, 30 percent of the respondents saw social media as untrustworthy when it came to information about the pandemic.

While half of the respondents said they had never used the Pakistan government’s Covid-19 web portal or smartphone app, a majority (52 percent) still trusted official sources for information and updates on the virus.

The TV medium was the most used media type for Covid-19 news, according to the survey, and people were most interested in getting information about coronavirus safety precautions.

The study, which attempted to understand the news consumption patterns and levels of public trust for Covid-19 information, also asked people about the lockdown’s effects on their ability to access information. A vast majority (74%) of the respondents reported that the pandemic had not reduced their ability to access news and information.

The Covid-19 pandemic was accompanied by an overwhelming amount of false medical information, rumours, and conspiracy theories on the one hand, while on the other hand, journalists and media organisations fought against health risks to bring reliable information to the public. The research recommends that the government should use the TV medium for its Covid-19 public awareness campaigns and supply messages in local languages to reach the majority of the public. The study also suggests that media outlets should continue to provide practical information to the public so they can keep themselves informed and safe during the pandemic.

Read the full study here.

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