Media urged to be responsible when reporting on monkeypox

Media workers were on Friday engaged in a seminar titled “Reporting on the Monkeypox infection,” which provided an opportunity for them to engage with senior health officials and experts who are tackling the viral infection in Guyana.

Guyana has so far recorded two cases of the monkeypox.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony stressed the importance of responsible coverage of the infection here.

“The way that we report this can either help to convey information that people would take and be able to change their behaviour and so forth, or we can stigmatise them, push them underground and then we will have an unrepressed spread of the infection,” Dr. Anthony said.

Executive member of the Guyana Press Association Dennis Chabrol and Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony in conversation

He added that this can pose a challenge in contact tracing as people may not want to cooperate.

“We want to assure people that even if they get sick, that we have the mechanisms in place to help them, so coming into the facility they can be diagnosed properly, we can test them we can make those diagnoses and then we can treat them and I think that is very important.”

The health minister also noted the critical role the media plays in disseminating the message to the public.

“You are an extension of us on how we get over this messaging to people, you really are an extension of this public health response and a very important part of this response, the technical people here know the technical know-how, but we also need to get information out to people, we need them to take these precautions seriously and you can convey that in the way that you report, the way that you present the information you can convey some of these things,” Dr Anthony said.

Representative of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Luis Codina spoke of the mistakes that were made in the past that caused stigma and discrimination especially in campaigns against HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.

Executive member of the Guyana Press Association, Dennis Chabrol, noted the experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic when a lot of misinformation was being peddled on social media, even by established media entities, resulting in vaccine hesitancy. He said consideration should be given to information circulated by established organisations, such as the Ministry of Health, Caribbean Public Health Agency, PAHO/WHO and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).