Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams outlines requirements for SA media during the COVID-19 outbreak

If you’ve visited Bandwidth Blog today, you’ll likely have noticed the presence of a new button on our homepage directing our users to the government’s official Coronavirus Resource Portal. Due to a new mandate issued by Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, all website owners with a .za domain are required to assist with the dissemination of information to help keep the public abreast of measures being taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.

While this is a move that’s been requested by the government, we’re also more than happy to do our part – and the instruction is one of many that has now been issued to the South African media landscape.

As outlined by the minister, South African media owners, houses, telecoms, and other network operators and players must do their part to assist. Interestingly, the release of instructions – available in the latest government gazette – calls on parties to assist in a number of interesting ways.

For example, broadcasting licensees are required to disseminate information relating to measures that the government takes to reduce the spread of COVID-19, while licensees operating with radio spectrum must similarly make their platforms available.

ISPs and Over the Top services (OTTS) will be required to remove any fake news on their site, and licensees must further provide zero-rated access to educational websites. Alarmingly to those valuing privacy, Electronic Communication Network service licensees must make their location-tracking capabilities available to the government for the purpose of tracking the movements of individuals pre-and-post suspicion of infection, while the Post Office has made available its national address system for authorities to locate the domicile of any particular person deemed to be a carrier of the virus.

Additionally, mobile network providers have been advised not to increase the cost of any of their services, nor provide number porting (SIM swop) services at this time.

All provisions and requests made by the ministry can be read here.

What are your thoughts? What could the South African media landscape do to further inform the public this time? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.