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Minister praises local newspapers amid crackdown on fake news

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The A&T being printed in Portsmouth
The A&T being printed in Portsmouth

THE government said it is cracking down on fake news as it highlighted the importance of local newspapers being delivered to help keep people informed during the coronavirus emergency.

A rapid response unit has been set up by Number 10 and the Cabinet Office to tackle "harmful narratives" online, ranging from purported experts to fraudsters.

Responses include issuing direct rebuttals on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content, and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson backed local media, such as the A&T, as a vital operation to help people keep up with developments in their communities during the crisis.

He said: "It is really important that people are able to access local news to gain an understanding of what is going on in their area.

"Local newspapers are absolutely vital when it comes to reporting on some of the key messages that we all need to take on board so we can tackle this virus.”

He called for guidance to be issued to ensure that people understand that “newspaper deliveries can – and should – still take place”.

He added: "In order to stop the spread of this virus, what we all want to see is less people leaving the house and having to go to the shops. Home deliveries are an important part of this battle to keep people self-isolating."

The A&T is liaising with newsagents to help readers keep up to date with all their local news with deliveries if they are staying at home or want to limit their movements.

A&T managing director Eddie Curry said: “I’d like to thank the newsagents for their help as our team of journalists work hard to bring important local information about the coronavirus crisis to the people of the New Forest and Christchurch.

“Despite the restrictions, community life hasn’t stopped and we will make sure our readers know about it. We don’t have the huge resources of the BBC and the national media, but we will do our best to answer people’s questions and keep them informed of what’s going on near them.”

John Innes Centre virologist George Lomonossoff, who uses molecular biology to research viruses in the UK, offered reassurance to people thinking about what they are buying to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

He said: “Newspapers are pretty sterile because of the way they are printed and the process they’ve been through.

“Traditionally, people have eaten fish and chips out of them for that very reason.”

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