4 According to the EIC, to restore trust, channels of communication between public health agencies and journalism in the country, like those established and maintained globally, must become more widespread.
5 “Such networks will be used to educate public health agencies about journalism ethics, and journalists about clinical terminology and health care ethics.
6 “Just as clinicians are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of patients’ information, so journalists are obliged to protect their sources from harm or stigma and to engage in unbiased reporting,” he said.
7 Mr Chukwuemeka Oguanuo – Media Relations Lead, NCDC, said that the country’s public health institute was undertaking an initiative to strengthen the capacity of journalists through integration into public health emergency preparedness and response.
8 “The NCDC is the country’s national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the prevention, detection and response to the outbreak of infectious disease and public health emergencies in Nigeria.
10 Oguanuo said that the COVID-19 pandemic showed the importance of communication for a successful response and also exposed stringent challenges to effective communication.
11 “The COVID-19 pandemic has also informed us that effective communication required a whole-of-society response, with the media playing a critical role in advocacy.
12 “It is the media that can amplify key messages from NCDC to create awareness and on preventive measures for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
13 “However, their impact has been stymied by poor capacity for science communication, unprecedented level of misinformation and disinformation about the disease and understanding some non-pharmaceutical recommendations,” he said.
14 He said that considering their reach and level of trust, the role of journalists in tackling the issue with the COVID-19 response and other public health events could not be underestimated.
16 “This is to establish the media preparedness against current and future outbreaks in three programme areas.
19 Nguku, who was represented by Mr Oliver Iorkase, Communication Specialist, AFENET, said the idea was to equip journalists with technical and practical knowledge that would enhance their understanding of basic epidemiology.
20 He added that the training would also mitigate general scientific reporting, decipher right and wrong scientific data, publication, research, among others.
21 “It is aimed at utilising journalists to focus the spotlight on field epidemiology and accentuate its criticality and essentialness to a wider spectrum of decision-makers and development partners,” he said.
22 Dr Umar -Farouk Olayinka,
Deputy Project Director Risk Communication, BA-N, said as part of the development of the training programme, a national media NEEDS assessment would be conducted in the coming weeks.
24 She explained that the training would be on basic epidemiology and scientific reporting, infodemic management and behaviour change communication.
25 She said that a network of trained journalists would be incorporated into the mainstream of outbreak response in the country.
26 Meanwhile, Hajia Hadiza Aliyu, Head of Health Desk, NAN, said that Journalists remained integral to health communication and should be integrated into the nation’s
response to present and future pandemics.
She also called on all relevant agencies to recognise the strength of the media, adding that good journalists strived to be allies in control of disease outbreak.