OrderPaperToday – The World Health Organization (WHO) has challenged media practitioners to focus more on educating the populace on how to protect themselves in times of outbreak of diseases as in the case of COVID-19.
WHO Health Emergency Communications Specialist, Chima Onuekwe, spoke at a one-day sensitization meeting for media personnel on COVID-19 behavioral change and information management in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) organised in collaboration with FCT Public Health/COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).
During his presentation, Onuekwe noted that journalists inform, create awareness but when it comes to education the media was not doing enough.
“In an outbreak situation people become tensed, what do they need? They need words of encouragement, they need someone who will tell them it is not the end of the world even if they test positive but what do we see, man bites dog. That is what we get and it becomes bold headline.”
He said the media should specialise in confidence building, adding “we need to build people’s confidence because in a situation where we have a weak health system and we have an outbreak like this people can easily lose confidence in government and in the health system.
“We need to build confidence from the way we write, from the way we report. So we need to ask, what is it that the public want which the media does not offer? We do not offer this education, motivation, confidence building, these are what we do not offer and they are what the public want desperately in any emergency.”
He noted that the media was mostly concerned about how many people have caught the virus because the figures help drive traffic. “1000 people down with cholera, 10,000 affected by COVID-19, for us that is the news but for the public that is the least of what they want?
He further explained that the media are partners in public health and therefore whatever gains or achievements recorded would go a long way in improving the health of people and their communities, adding that the media should focus on promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases.
A former presenter and veteran journalist on health reportage with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Mrs. Moji Makonjuola, on her part said “the media has a lot of work to do especially as the fear of COVID-19 is the beginning of wisdom”.
She also stressed that some talk about the fact that the vaccine kills should be accordingly dismissed by the media through engaging in evidential reporting.