Being one of the frontline workers as regards Uganda’s Covid-19 response, the journalists, who are at the forefront of disseminating information for public consumption, are at a risk of contracting the coronavirus as addressed by the Ministry of Health.
Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson has revealed that over 50 journalists have so far tested positive for covid-19 as per the Ministry’s patients’ data and assessment.
Ainebyoona made this remark in his key note address during the public dialogue on ‘Harnessing the Media in Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic in Uganda which illuminated Journalists’ experiences, lessons learnt and the implications posed by the pandemic in their course of duty.
“Covid-19 is real because we have had over 50 journalists test positive for COVID-19. Some have reached out to me with severe signs and symptoms like difficulty in breathing, chest pains and I have managed to come to their rescue, working through the response system,” Ainebyoona said.
Organised by Makerere University School of Public Health’s Knowledge management and Evidence Response Unit (KERU), the dialogue attracted over five journalists, health reporters from various media houses who discussed chore issues in light of the Pandemic’s effect and the sketchy information that continues to mislead those who consume it.
Ainebyoona noted that the Ministry of Health is investing more time in fighting the “infodemic”, the issue of fake news rotating around the pandemic and issues pertaining the virus.
“There are various unscrupulous persons who keep peddling rumours. However, we have set up a mechanism as a Ministry to make sure that we provide factual information,” he said.
Ainebyoona also attributed the misinformation and myths about Covid-19 to the fact that the virus was new and nobody had prior research findings and information about it which made the situation more complicated.
“This being a new virus, we never had information on what drug is helping to treat patients. So, people utilised that moment to persuade others into taking garlic, ginger to protect themselves against the virus,” he said.
What Journalists Say
Walter Mwesigye, senior health reporter at NTV Uganda said that reporting about the pandemic has been a unique experience, “all of us are learning on the job.”
Adu Nasir, a reporter from UBC said that sometimes the journalists lack information, which may result into misinforming the public.
However, Peter Mwesigye, Executive Director African Centre of Media Excellence (ACME) cautioned the journalists that interaction with health experts doesn’t need to be for the purpose of getting a quote for their next stories but also for their professional growth as pertains such issues.
“Have coffee meetings with scientists just to deepen your understanding of issues. For journalists, invest in your own professional growth. Seek knowledge and deepen your understanding of issues. Read journals and content, make sense of what they are saying,” Mwesigye stressed.