Two Kenya News Agency (KNA) journalists have landed sponsorship to provide specialized coverage for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Veronica Bosibori King’oina, a Nakuru based reporter and Ann Mwangemi, will join 500 other journalists shortlisted in a Health Reporting Grant initiative by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA).
Beneficiaries will receive grants of between Sh.1, 000 to Sh.25, 000 to facilitate their reporting and coverage of the dreaded covid-19 disease in the country.
According to the MCK CEO, David Omwoyo, the Ministry of Health (MoH) intervention measures and guidelines on the control of the virus have had an effect on the work of journalists and that they need a lot of backing to realize their objective.
Launching the initiative on April 21st , 2020, Omwoyo noted that the media plays a critical role in public health messaging and therefore it is crucial to empower them to do the work.
“We are eager to see to it that journalists are facilitated to carry out their work in this environment of depressed incomes and economic activity,” he assured.
The Head of KNA, Joseph Kipkoech, expressed appreciation for the move taken by MCK and the partners, saying the KNA team is eager to undertake the task.
Kipkoech added that recently, the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs undertook a public sensitization exercise through eight targeted high-risk counties where KNA staff were mobilized to further disseminate government information and mitigation measures.
“KNA staff are equally better placed for messaging since they have the necessary experience and are spread across the country,” the KNA Head noted.
King’oina expressed gratitude for the honor bestowed upon her by the MCK, saying that winning the MCK sponsorship was not easy since many journalists applied.
“I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate the recognition which the Media Council of Kenya and its partner the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa extended to me, and the KNA fraternity,” she said.
The Nakuru based journalist, however, noted that she might have had an upper hand since many Kenyan journalists hardly take much interest in science reporting despite that being, what a third country requires most.
“I was called by Christine Nguku, the Head of Training and Media Development at MCK and immediately I definitely knew i had been selected. It was a jubilant moment for me since despite being an accomplished journalist who has covered farming and science related topics, nobody has ever appreciated me like this, except my editor, Joseph Kipkoech,”.
Ms. King’oina who has been very active in reporting on the pandemic regretted that the coverage has been challenging because scientists seem to have been relegated to the background by society and the media.
She said that the experts seem not willing to talk to people they perceive as alarmists and who always concentrate on politics.
“However, the few l have closely worked with in the past have assisted in introducing me to other scientists, and that has made it slightly manageable for me to access information from the experts,” King’oina acknowledged.
She noted that being a new epidemic which is being researched upon and more understood by medics and scientists, the answers to her questions are not always forthcoming.
Ms. King’oina said that unlike politicians, scientists don’t like making wild statements or allegations. On the other hand, the public wants conclusive answers and not suggestions.
“I have sincerely appreciated the many innovations the local scientists have come up with where recently I was privileged to report on a testing booth invented by Dr. George Owino, of Egerton University,” she added.
On the dreaded Covid-19 Ms. King’oina noted with concern the lack of understanding and appreciation by wananchi on scientific solutions, which leads them to accept auxiliary theories, rumors and speculation more easily than facts.
The journalist further noted that it was not good to approach the disease by criminalizing all the small mistakes wananchi make in the preventive measures, such as forcing people into quarantine and gazetting of wearing of facemasks as a crime.
“That has made the disease to be perceived as a punishment from the government other than a means of protection against the highly contagious pandemic,” she added.
Also speaking during the launch, the MCK Head of Media Development & Strategy, Victor Bwire, who will also be coordinating the grant programme added that successful applicants will undergo virtual training sessions, facilitated by the Council.
“We will go beyond the issuing of grants to successful applicants, to also ensuring that some virtual capacity-building takes place via online platforms to enable the journalists to improve on their writing,”.
Bwire said that the briefing will ensure that the journalists submit health stories that meet a quality mark as judged by audience interest and response.
Ann Mwangemi, who is based in Nairobi, says she is greatly honored to be part of the team that would be facilitated by MCK to cover the covid-19 pandemic and expressed confidence that she is up to the task.
The youthful and promising journalist said that such an opportunity which is also rare will furnish her with more experience in the profession which will propel her to even venture in more challenging assignments in future.
Ann thanked MCK for the opportunity and also assured her Department, KNA, that she will undertake the assignment with precision and commitment in order to help realize the ultimate objective of the sponsors and the country at large.
She underscored the role of the media in sensitizing the public on the dangers of the deadly disease, mode of infection, spread, prevention as well as playing the part of link between the public and the experts.
By Lang’at Edwins