Panos calls for media support to cover COVID-19 in Southern Africa

Panos Institute Southern Africa has called for increased support for media houses  and individual journalists to effectively cover the response to the COVID-19 public health emergency while staying safe from infection and other risks.

Panos director Sifile: Media are essential workers educating the public and keeping various stakeholders up to date on the pandemic

The executive director of  Panos Institute Southern Afric (PSAf), Vusumuzi Sifile said, while most of the workers are staying at home  and working remotely in line with measures put in place by governments to curb the spread of COVID-19, media practitioners are out there generating in-depth information, educating the public and keeping various stakeholders up to date on the pandemic.

Sifile said  in most cases the journalists do so at great personal risk without personal protective equipment.

“As governments and other agencies collaborate to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the media has a duty to ensure all stakeholders, especially the poor and marginalised communities, have access to timely, in-depth and authentic information on the pandemic, its impact and efforts to address it. The media must also provide a platform for supporting different stakeholders to effectively participate in the COVID-19 response,” he said.

He also said as a watchdog, the media must highlight human rights violations and other gaps in the response at the local and national level, and packaging the content in a manner that will stimulate effective and timely response actions by government and relevant stakeholders.

However, he emphasised that the media cannot play its role without the support of law enforcement agencies, cooperating partners, local and national health authorities and other government entities, opinion leaders and civil society.

“The media must be supported to produce evidence based, high quality and in-depth content while guaranteeing the safety of journalists from COVID-19, and from being abused or violated while doing their work,” he said.

With support from our partners such as the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Winrock International through funding from the US Department of Labour, Save the Children, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, Panos has provided basic preventive accessories like hand sanitisers for community radio stations, as well as rural based radio listening clubs and community action groups in Zambia.

The organisation has also supported some individual journalists with investigative media fellowships to generate in-depth content, and debunk false information on the COVID-19 response.

“While we commend governments in the region for proactively sharing information on the pandemic, we call for the removal of any restrictions limiting journalists and media houses in the exercise of their duties.

“We encourage media practitioners to adhere to guidelines from health authorities in dealing with Covid-19. We also remind our colleagues in the media that no story is worth dying for”.

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