Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Coronavirus Safety And Reporting Guide For Journalists

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The people need more accurate, reliable information now more than ever. As the world fights the coronavirus pandemic, they would rely on journalists to provide them with such unsullied life-saving informative and educative stories.

The Gambia Press Union (GPU) note that while journalists have an obligation to keep people informed and educated in these extraordinary times, it is very important for them to equally observe all safety measures in order to stay alive to tell the story. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.

Newsrooms all over the world are adopting strict policies that have seen major adjustments
on news gathering and reporting, including work from home policies and the use of online
tools like skype to report news.

Journalists and media workers in The Gambia are advised to consider the following safety
and reporting tips on the coronavirus outbreak:

Avoid Getting Infected

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• Wash your hands with soap
before and after every interview and
frequently use alcohol-based hand
sanitizer (greater than 60% ethanol or
70% isopropanol).

• Avoid close contact with people
coughing, sneezing and blowing their
noses. Cover your mouth and nose
with a tissue paper when you cough or
sneeze, and discard safely in a dust
bin.

• Do not board congested public transport (van or gele-gele) to and from an interview or work. Newsrooms should provide an office car or a hired taxi.

• Remember to maintain a safe distance if you must have a face-to-face interview. And don’t shake hands.

• If you are using microphones, use directional mic from a safe distance. If using a
recorder, still maintain a safe distance and disinfect your recorder and mic sponge
after every use.

  • Consider covering your microphone or voice recorder with a plastic which should be
    safely disposed of after every use.
  • Use protective gear if working in and around a hospital or a quarantine facility.
  • If you develop coronavirus-like symptoms, call the toll-free number 1025 to notify
    emergency health services. Do inform your editors and colleagues as well.
  • Newsrooms should consider introducing work-from-home policies. If there is a need
    for staff to work from the office, only a few, essential staff should be allowed – to
    enforce social distancing.
  • Newsrooms should endeavour to provide health insurance policies for reporters sent
    on assignments in high-risk places like quarantine facilities, or to places known to
    have recorded high number of cases.

Care For Face Masks

• Newsrooms should provide face masks for use when necessary.

  • If you wear masks, please dispose them after use. If they are cloth or reusable masks,
    please wash after use.

Online Safety

  • Be aware of phishing emails. Do not open suspicious emails and do not download
    attachments from such emails.
  • Do not just click on any COVID-19 related links; some might take you to sites that
    infect devices with malware. Avoid clicking on social media links to strange websites.
  • You might face online trolling, bulling or even threats relating to your coverage of
    COVID-19. Discuss with your editors on how to handle such when they arise.

In The Field

• Avoid press conferences
and other events. Ask to be sent
press statements or request phone
interviews or emailed responses
to questions. Take into account
that government has banned
public gatherings.

• If you must be at a press
conference physically, do observe
all requisite prevention measures
to and from the press conference,
and during the press conference.

• Discuss with your editor
what plans they have if you fall
ill on assignment. Avoid using
public transport, arrange to travel
in office car or hire a taxi.

  • When visiting Gambian borders, do a risk assessment by checking what possible harm
    you might face including risks of contracting the coronavirus, car accidents, and
    possible hostile persons.
  • Take along all the supplies you will need including a travel size hand sanitizer, liquid
    soap, a bottle of water and tissue papers.
  • Avoid street foods. Take along a soft drink(s) and high energy packaged foods like
    chocolate bars/digestive biscuits. Always wash hands before eating.
  • Your family might be concerned about your work during this time, consider setting up
    a conversation between your concerned family member and your editor.
  • Assignment editors should avoid sending reporters to a quarantine facility/zone
    without protective gears. Freelance journalists too should take note of this.
  • Disinfect gadgets like microphones, recorders, cameras etc. Disinfectant sprays
    maybe available in pharmacies and supermarkets.

Writing Stories

• Be aware of misinformation (or what others refer to as Fake News). Fact-check, fact-
check and fact-check.

  • Avoid reporting on rumours and suspected cases – they add to spreading fear and
    anxiety.
  • Journalists should only report on rumours to achieve one of two objectives:
    1. To prove that it is true.
    2. To dismiss it as a lie.
    If you cannot confirm a rumour as true or dismiss it as a lie – do not report on it.
  • Do report on all confirmed cases.
  • Avoid sensationalising stories.
  • Find out about coronavirus terms and correct usage. Check the Associated Press
    Stylebook on coronavirus Terms – available online.
  • For official information on the coronavirus, use data from the Ministry of Health and
    the World Health Organization. Cite official information only on verified social media
    accounts of the Ministry of Health and the WHO.
  • Use health experts to analyse figures and patterns and explain these in the context and
    language that people will understand.
  • Avoid identifying patients or suspects in photos, by name and addresses and those of
    their relatives or colleagues. If the patient(s) announced their status, or are involved in
    awareness advocacy on the coronavirus, you can quote them.
  • While reporting on new cases, do not forget to keep the public reminded on how to
    avoid contracting the virus – use advise from the Ministry of Health, the WHO and
    recognised health experts and institutions like the Medical Research Council Unit The
    Gambia.
  • Maintain media’s watchdog role. Find out and report on what is happening to people
    who contracted the virus and those in quarantine? How are their cases (suspected and
    confirmed) being managed? What sort of medication are they receiving? Where are
    they being held and under what conditions? How many isolation centres there are?
    What are the conditions in these centres? How many beds are available? How are
    COVID-19 funds being handled and distributed? Look for lapses and inadequacies in
    government preparedness, and also reckless behaviour that exposes people to possible
    infections.

Travel Plans

• Avoid travelling to affected
countries or regions. If you must
travel, adhere to the Ministry of
Health and WHO instructions on
prevention. Check on existing
travel bans and purchase
refundable tickets.

• Have a contingency plan in place.
Do not travel if you feel ill.

• Check on the visa situation for
your destination. Call up the
embassy or consulate to enquire
about the issuing of visas. Some
countries are not allowing visitors
except their citizens.

• Arrive early at the airport for any required health checks and keep up to date with
changes made to your destination.

Useful Contacts: Covid-19 Response

Sana Sambou, Incident Manager, Public Health Emergency and Operations Center,
Epidemiology and Disease Control Unit
Tel: 3516320 / 2422949
Email: [email protected] / [email protected]

Useful Contacts and Verified Accounts: Ministry of Health

Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health, Tel: +220 3113558
Modou Njai, Director of Health Promotion, Tel: +220 2002851 / +220 3509011
Pa Modou Faal, media officer, MoH Tel: +220 312 0093
Twitter: @MohGambia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ministry-of-Health-The-Gambia-
100866698020695/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.moh.gov.gm/ – not regularly updated

Useful Contacts and Verified Accounts: MRC Unit The Gambia

Tel: 4495442 / 4495446
Twitter: @mrcunitgambia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mrcunitgambia/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://mrc.gm/ – regularly updated

These safety tips and reporting guidelines are adapted from the following:
• Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
• Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)

Thomas R. Lansner of Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs in
Ethiopia
Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC)
First Draft
The News Manual

Additional Resources
• What Investigative Reporters Around the World Need to Be Asking About COVID-
19: https://gijn.org/2020/03/10/what-investigative-reporters-around-the-world-need-
to-be-asking-about-covid-19/?mc_cid=df4743b444&mc_eid=b5b6a28b13

Tips for Journalists Covering COVID-19: https://gijn.org/2020/03/10/tips-for-
journalists-covering-covid-19/?mc_cid=df4743b444&mc_eid=b5b6a28b13

Tips for reporting on Covid-19 and slowing the spread of misinformation:
https://firstdraftnews.org/latest/tips-for-reporting-on-covid-19-coronavirus-and-
slowing-the-spread-of-misinformation/?mc_cid=df4743b444&mc_eid=b5b6a28b13

How journalists can fight stress from covering the coronavirus:
https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2020/how-journalists-can-fight-stress-
from-covering-the-coronavirus/

How newsrooms can tone down their coronavirus coverage while still reporting

responsibly: https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2020/how-newsrooms-can-
tone-down-their-coronavirus-coverage-while-still-reporting-responsibly/

This media advisory is prepared by:

  • Therese Gomez, Programme Officer, Welfare and Gender, GPU
  • Modou S. Joof, Journalism Trainer, MAJaC
  • Paul Steven Prierra, Editor and Presenter at Star FM
  • Mass Njie, IT Officer, GPU

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