PARIS, France — A group of 200 Eastern African women journalists will soon be connected through an online resource hub addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and providing online training materials on how to cover the outbreak. The hub will also include a database with reference media content and links to good practices on reporting sanitary emergencies in the world.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, a network of 25 community radio stations serving 250,000 citizens living in rural and marginalized communities will be strengthening collaboration mechanisms to better cover the coronavirus-related challenges in these remote areas. About 100 community radio practitioners in this region will be closely working with national and local governments as well as with development partners to respond to the current pandemic.
In India, 25 community media will be closely working with the disaster management authorities to reach a wide general audience, but most particularly tribal and marginalized communities. The objective is to formally integrate community radio into the disaster management plans, procedures and processes both at the national and state level to ensure an effective response to this and future crisis. The project will benefit community, private and public radio stations reaching a population of 47 million inhabitants.
In the Caribbean, the priority for the media will be to fight disinformation. Fifty media professionals in nine Eastern Caribbean countries will be rapidly empowered to conduct effective fact-checking and counter disinformation and sensationalism on coronavirus. The project will contribute to building the capacity of media to cover the outbreak with the highest professional standards, providing reliable information for citizens to cope with the sanitary emergency.
These are the objectives of four initiatives approved this week by the Bureau of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), an intergovernmental programme that has mobilized support for media development for the last 40 years, including in times of public health emergencies and natural disasters.
“We have gone through different emergencies in the past but what we are seeing now with COVID-19 is unprecedented,” said IPDC chair, Anna Brandt, ambassador of Sweden to UNESCO. “Media and journalists around the world play a crucial role, as they provide an essential public service to the population. With the current crisis they are facing tremendous difficulties – with their financial situation further challenged and also increasingly having to fight disinformation”, added Brandt.
“In developing countries, the coronavirus crisis can only aggravate an already challenging environment for the media, particularly for community media which often lack capacity and resources, but which service the most vulnerable communities” said UNESCO assistant director-general for communication and information, Moez Chakchouk. “These projects will contribute to responding to the current needs with strengthened collaboration among media, as well as with an increased use of digital means and services” he added.
UNESCO is the UN agency with a mandate to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image”. Its International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), set up in 1980, is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development in developing countries. In line with the UNESCO’s global priority on gender equality, all IPDC projects promote gender equality and seek gender-transformative action.
UNESCO is closely monitoring the impact of this crisis on media freedom, safety of journalists, and the fundamental right to access information. In a context of unprecedented challenges for the media and digital technology sectors, UNESCO has created a “resource center of selected responses to COVID-19” with actions to support media, enhance access to information, and leverage digital technologies in the fight against the pandemic.