Since the outbreak of the CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) in different countries of the world and subsequently Uganda, several measures have been undertaken to contain its spread and therefore minimize the extent of the scourge. We should all observe the health guidelines as put in place.
The journalists/ Media have played a very important part in trying to enlighten and educate the public about the pandemic by disseminating relevant and timely information from different centers of excellence, mainly Ministry of Health, Ministry of Information and National Guidance and H.E the President. This has helped to create more awareness and vigilance by Ugandans in different parts of the country.
Given the critical role played by the media in this fight, as a media rights organization, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) commends the journalists and their respective media houses for the work well-done at this critical moment of the fight which we must win together.
The safety of the journalists remains of utmost priority. HRNJ-Uganda, therefore, appeals to the journalists, Editors, Managers and the owners of media houses to consider issues of safety seriously. To ensure this, journalists must be equipped with safety gadgets such as wearing masks, carrying of sanitizers when out in the field and at workplaces, as well as avoiding body contact while in the line of their duty at all times. The provision of these gadgets should be the cardinal responsibility of all media houses.
Another issue of concern to the wider media fraternity and the public is the banning of press conferences as a measure to avoid bigger groups of people which can escalate the spread of the coronavirus. Going by the work of journalists, any such restrictions must be demonstrably justifiable. Under the current outbreak of the pandemic, we opine that the President acted in good spirit to safeguard Ugandans and journalists in particular against contracting the deadly virus. So we should heed this advice for the general good and safety of all journalists.
We, however, believe that given the nature of their work, journalists can notably work from home in some circumstances where they need to interrogate situations for better comprehension and generation of news. In this light, safety measures can be put in place to enable them to meet their sources in at least smaller groups as this will help to avoid distortion of the messages if repeated several times to individual journalists through a one-on-one interview basis.
We, therefore, believe that in order for journalists to best cover certain sources like the president and church leaders relaying live services, managed press conferences or meetings can still be organized with a deliberate effort to observe all the health guidelines.
“We once again thank the media for disseminating timely information in a bid to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge them to be factual and avoid distortions and misinformation at this critical time” said the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director, Robert Ssempala.