Rumour prevention

Mohamed Salmawy
Tuesday 26 Apr 2022

The Mustafa Madbouli government can boast of many fine accomplishments thanks to Madbouli’s excellent choice of ministers. Their efforts have modernised and improved government performance in many areas.

 

Unfortunately, rapid and strategic communication with the public is not one of them. Tendentious rumours still reach the public first, which constantly puts the government on the defencive and forces it to dedicate a large portion of its communications to refuting them.

The latest example of this involves the recent import ban on a number of non-essential goods that have locally produced alternatives. The government merely published the decree, listing the goods and the companies affected, with no further explanation. This left the field open for the rumour mill to kick in.

The misinformation, the source of which we know too well, enumerated the alleged harm done by the decree, such as factories shutting down and workers dismissed. Yet, a look at the actual government list tells us that none of the banned goods are raw or intermediary materials on which our local factories depend.

What we find are some electrical gadgets, readymade clothes from Turkey, energy drinks from Austria (which are unhealthy to begin with), ceramic tiles made in the UAE and other such products – all of which have Egyptian-made alternatives. The misinformation also conveniently overlooked the fact that local currencies around the world are struggling with an exchange rate crisis. The government’s decision will save us millions of dollars while prioritising basic commodities the Egyptian people need.

I was told that a government official appeared on TV to refute the misinformation and explain the facts to the public. However, as long as the government is working to modernise and upgrade performance, it needs to develop a modern and effective communication strategy. This is one that takes the initiative and arms people with the facts before rumours can do their damage. It means that when a decision is to be announced, a media and communication plan will already be in place in order to inform the public.

Taking sound decisions is not enough; they have to be properly marketed. This is how to protect the public against the wiles of those who exploit hardship to further their own political agendas, which they now do furtively through rumour mongering after the people rebelled against them when they were in the open.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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