Background: The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 31, 2020. Following further assessment, it raised its global risk from “high” to “very high” on February 28, and finally declared it a pandemic on March 11.
The COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, is currently spreading across Africa and the world. From the messages we read flying across the continent, there are so many unverified information, which likely to cause harm and misinform individuals.
No doubt, governments all over the world are making frantic efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19, this in turn, calls for journalists and the media to demonstrate professionalism in their work, by providing credible and reliable information that will appropriately direct and guide people.
It is in line with this that AMDF developed these tips to support journalists on how to cover and report on the pandemic.
We also invite you to share with us any resource that can be of help to ongoing efforts aimed at combatting the spread of fake news and misinformation on COVID-19.
In general cases of health emergencies, the number one priority of the media is to provide accurate information on the whole situation; i.e. what is happening and the ongoing emergency efforts by relevant authorities. This should also include provision of credible information and guidance to forestall spread of rumours and misinformation, as well as direct people to appropriate health centres, where they can find help when needed.
- Do no harm: The general Do No Harm principle should guide how journalists write and report the COVID-19.
- Do your research and be prepared: Conduct research and read further on the COVID-19 from the World Health Organisation, and other credible websites on preventive measures, mode of transmission and treatment.
- Work with relevant authorities: Reach out to experts and first aid organisations on time for broader understanding of the situation. You need to work with them in order to provide accurate, reliable and timely information.
- Report positive/ success stories: if there are successful treatment, don’t waste time in highlighting such in your reports – it lightens the spirit of the infected and affected. Share how they are coping and managing the situations. Bring credible experts to speak on the steps further.
- Focus on the situation: in time of health emergencies, strive hard to avoid use of words and descriptions that apportions blame to individuals and certain quarters.
- Broader impact: During disease outbreaks people are affected in several ways. Beyond health, their lifestyle, food, education, relationship and movements are all affected. So, report responsibly.
YOUR SAFETY MEASURES
- If you have to travel to report from an affected area, or country, take precautionary measures including relevant vaccinations and medications for your destination. Do not neglect psychological preparation – it could be traumatic, especially when you have to visit isolation facilities, etc.
- On location, maintain the recommended social distance (at least 6 feet), especially with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing – in time of disease outbreak, safe distance is usually promoted, so, always use the best channel in reaching your audience and contacts. It is good for journalists to rely on phone calls, virtual sources of communication.
- Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Do not hesitate to immediately report any noticeable changes on you, especially when symptoms start to develop.
- If subjected to lock-down/quarantined, or isolation, do not panic, remain calm and stay in touch with your base.
- Consider taking with you recommended protective emergency items like hand sanitizers, tissue paper and face masks, among others.
- Always stay in touch with your organisation, family and friends providing update on your safety.
- A myth buster guide on COVID-19 by World Health Organisation (WHO) can be found here
- An up-to-date map by WHO showing global situation of COVID-19 can be found here
- A guide on how to protect yourself by America’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) can be found here
- Resource for journalists and media by WHO can be found here