Journalists urged to report responsibly on COVID-19
Minister of Health, Hon. Dr Frank Anthony has called on journalists to practice responsible reporting about the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in this digital era where misinformation and fake news about the disease can spread easily through social media platforms.
The Minister made these statements at a Virtual Training Workshop on Responsible Reporting on COVID-19 for journalists and health communicators on Friday. The training was a collaboration between the Ministry and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“We believe that the media has a very important role to play in this pandemic. One of the things that we noticed with the pandemic is that you also have what is called an infodemic; a deluge of information is spreading as fast as the virus has been spreading, going fast and farther afield. A lot of times it’s a lot of false information,” he said.
This is where media can serve the public. While journalists are tasked with reporting on the disease, they also have a duty to educate the public.
“The role the media plays include not just informing people saying, ‘well, we’ve had a case here,’ or ‘we’ve had a case there’. I think there is a deeper role and I think that is helping the public to understand more about the disease,” Dr. Anthony said.
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, medical professionals have been discovering new things about the disease. This includes findings about its genetic composition, how it affects not only the respiratory tract but other organs, and how to accurately test for it.
It is important that the public understands how the disease works and how to take preventative measures.
“We believe that a lot of this information and getting people to change can be modelled if we have our media helping us to do so,” Minister Anthony said.
To this end, there is need to build strong relationships with the media which can inform the public of the facts, debunk myths about the disease and achieve public health goals.
“This, perhaps, would be the first step in building a long-lasting relationship with the media and we are here to work with you to ensure that you can better understand more about this disease,” the Minister said.
PAHO/WHO Representative in Guyana, Dr. Luis Felipe Codina, expressed similar views. He said the training is important to help build a better response system to the pandemic.