By Mohamed Lamin Banya
The Chairman of the Media Reform Coordinating Group, Dr. Francis Sowa has said that journalists need to have the requisite knowledge in reporting on COVID-19. This, according to Dr. Sowa will guide journalists on how they should be effectively reporting on COVID-19. He was speaking while lecturing journalists on capacity building in response to the pandemic.
False information and fake news are the major issues of concern regarding public engagement about mitigating the transmission of COVID-19. Therefore, the training was to ensure that journalists have the required knowledge, skills and competence to educate the public about the pandemic.
Facts and key messages for COVID; guidelines for reporting during emergencies, understanding, identifying, checking and debunking fake news on COVID-19 were among the thematic areas during the training.
According to Dr. Sowa they are targeting 180 journalists across the country, noting that, journalists will report effectively on the pandemic if they have insight about it.
“All of us including the medical practitioners are in the learning process about the disease and for the journalists to be in a better position to report on the pandemic they need to have requisite knowledge,” he said.
He noted that, the major role of journalists in a situation like this is to give out correct public education through collaborating with the experts and the facilitating role they are playing.
Since its outbreak in Wuhan, China and inception in Sierra Leone few months ago, the virus has affected every essential organization including media houses. However, Dr. Sowa implored journalists to use the training and requisite knowledge gained to stop the transmission of the pandemic.
Dr. Sowa further said that, journalists were also trained on key ethical issues on reporting about COVID-19, citing that, journalists should understand the ethical issues when reporting on COVID-19.
Presenting on the ethical guidelines on reporting COVID-19, President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla noted that, journalists should be ambassadors in reporting on the key issues about the pandemic.
He encouraged journalists to follow the SLAJ code in fighting for their moral values and not reporting fake news.
Humu Hawa Bakar one of the participants expressed her delight over the training, noting that, it was overdue, considering the facts about the outbreak of the pandemic since last year December.
“We hope that programs like this will continue and will be cascaded down to the provinces for our colleagues that are mostly female journalists to also gain this knowledge,” she said.
She added that, one of the delights about the training was that she had learned about the issues of fake news on social media, noting that, she has now learned how to distinguish authentic from fake news on social media.