THE Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) has developed a Covid-19 reporting guideline for journalists which seeks to capacitate reporters with skills on how to report effectively during the ongoing pandemic.
Addressing journalists from Bulawayo during a launch of the book titled “Covid-19 Reporting Guidelines for Zimbabwean Media” VMCZ executive director Mr Loughty Dube said the media fraternity has a huge role to play during the pandemic.
He said journalists had the task to disseminate correct information timeously in order to save lives. He said the guideline sought to equip journalists with skills to do their job safely but effectively. Mr Dube said the guidelines were part of the disaster communication ecology to ensure journalists did their job safely, ethically and effectively.
The guideline was compiled by Sunday News Editor, Mr Limukani Ncube who is also a media studies lecturer at Lupane State University (LSU) with support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and European Union.
“When sharing information about crisis and disaster journalists exist as part of an ecology in which journalism influences and is influenced by the environment. During a health crisis it’s extremely important to disseminate correct information timeously in order to save lives.
“Quick information dissemination helps curb the further spread of the disease by helping to sensitise communities, alerting policy makers and helping in driving a positive behaviour change. To achieve this news reports must be sharp, short, simplified, ethical and written with purpose. In this regard the VMCZ developed this reporting guideline,” he said.
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) coordinator, Mr Nigel Nyamutumbu said the training was targeting journalists, online creators and media manager all over the country.
He said during this Covid-19 pandemic there were a lot of people who are spreading fake news hence the need for journalists to verify their information and be well informed on health issues.
Mr Nyamutumbu said the guidelines will go a long way in countering misinformation and fake news around the pandemic, broadening the spectrum in reporting the pandemic and to strengthen reporting on scientific issues.
“We want to strengthen the reportage of the Covid-19 pandemic particularly in light of misinformation, fake news and other challenges being faced in the media fraternity. Moreover, the guidelines are part of a major framework in terms of how the media has been affected by the pandemic be it lockdown regulations, safety and security concerns of journalists that have been affected, the sustainability of the media and ethics involved around covering the pandemic,” said Mr Nyamutumbu.
He said stakeholders that were involved in coming up with the guidelines included VMCZ, Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef), Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ).
Some of the topics that are tackled in the guideline include information crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, reporting on the pandemic, Covid-19 reporting guidelines, solutions-based journalism, tips on covering the Covid-19 pandemic, mitigating risks in the newsroom, dealing with unproven information and myths and the basics of health and science reporting.