The Media Council of Kenya (MCK), today, launched the Covid-19 Information Portal for Media Professionals, that will provide timely information to journalists on matters regarding Covid-19 and other health issues.
The aim of the portal is to have a one stop shop for media professional, where they will access information that is factual and reliable to counter rumors and disinformation about Covid-19, as well as get publications and government reports on the pandemic.
This initiative has been developed by the Media Council of Kenya, with the support of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), through the European Union funded project # CoronaVirusFacts.
Speaking during the launch held at a Nairobi hotel, the Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Health, Mutahi Kagwe, said the portal was timely as it will widen the scope of Covid-19 coverage and provide timely and accurate information from the Ministry of Health.
Kagwe said through the media that the country has achieved a lot in addressing containment measures since the outbreak of the pandemic and urged journalists to embrace responsibility in reporting health matters.
He said there has been a lot of misinformation about the new disease which has made some critics spread information that the vaccines do not work, noting that some of the critics who treated it normally have been treated by the disease abnormally.
“This pandemic requires a well-coordinated public communication that will create discipline among the communities. This is what will help in the fight against Covid-19,” said Kagwe.
The CS, who commended the work UN bodies are doing for the country by investing in media. In order to enhance their role in society in providing information, he urged Kenyans to continue cooperating with them, to enable the country achieve more development.
Speaking at the event, the ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary (CS), Joe Mucheru, said media reporting on Covid-19 pandemic has helped to create awareness and boosted the vaccination exercise, which has resulted to behavioral change and reduction in infection rates.
Mucheru said the creation of the portal will help to dispel misinformation on Covid-19 in media and social media outlets, which has left many people confused on the efficacy of the vaccine, and commended the media for highlighting gaps in the state of public health preparedness, which have been addressed appropriately.
“Part of the hesitancy in taking the vaccine in Africa can be attributed to misinformation. This is where the media’s role as the society’s watchdog and credible information source comes into play,” he said. He stressed and urged all stakeholders to assist the media in providing accurate information about the disease and its challenges.
“Lack of verified information has left many health experts and journalists, struggling to present their stories to the public,” said Mucheru, adding that the government has made emergency plans to contain the disease, including sharing of information to the public, in order to protect the country.
The CS at the same time, said health provision and emerging threats such a Covid-19 are some of the key issues the government has captured in the Big Four Agenda, Kenya’s Constitution and Vision 2030, for the success of Universal Health Care.
“Kenya has also ascribed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG Number 3 that commits governments to provide quality healthcare for all,” he added.
Mucheru also commended MCK for partnering with other stakeholders to train journalists on Covid-19 reporting and assured of his Ministry’s support to ensure that media adheres to professionalism in Covid-19 coverage.
The MCK Chairman, Mr. Maina Muiruri, in his remarks, noted that since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Council has come up with solutions to cushion journalists by providing them with grants, materials and personal protective equipment.
He said that the portal will help the media disseminate accurate and timely information on Covid and other emerging health issues and commended the government and in particular the Ministries of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs and Health for their continuous support and enabling the media to access information.
UNESCO Regional Director of Eastern Africa, Prof Hubert Gijzen ,said the organization is committed to supporting communication and information communities tackle the current pandemic crisis and other health matters through strengthening the implementation of fundamental right to information.
He added that UNESCO will also monitor the impact of the crisis on media freedom, safety of journalists and right to access information including open access to scientific information and basic science research and innovation in order to ensure that all resources developed on Covid-19 is made available for free and is open licensed.
“I am happy that the information provided by the hub will be verified, relevant, reliable and available in languages and formats that people understand,” said Gijzen.
“We are excited that this Covid-19 on-line information hub will also provide localized information to different audience in English and in Kiswahili. We hope it will be extended to other local languages spoken in Kenya, including braille and sign language so that no one is left behind, the Regional Director said.
Present at the event were the MCK Chief Executive Office, Mr. David Omwoyo, and the Director Media Training and Development, Mr Victor Bwire among others.
By Bernadette Khaduli