KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Pan American Health Organization and the Caribbean Development Bank have partnered with the Caribbean Broadcasting Union to host a series of digital seminars for regional journalists and communicators focused on responsible reporting of COVID-19.
Three more webinars are scheduled — with one held last week — intended to better position the participants to provide accurate evidence-based information regarding COVID-19 developments across the region and globally.
More than 200 media workers and communicators from Jamaica and other Caribbean territories participated in the first session convened on Thursday, June 18, under the theme ‘Key Epidemiological and Ethical Concepts for Reporting during the COVID-19 Pandemic, including Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects and Tips for Self-Care’.
It featured wide-ranging presentations with the Jamaica Observer’s Managing Editor Charmaine Clarke; and President of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers, Emmanuel Joseph, sharing examples of responsible COVID-19 coverage across the Caribbean.
Coordinator for PAHO’s Office of Subregional Program Coordination for the Caribbean, Dr Jessie Schutt-Aine, who spoke during the opening session, underscored the pivotal role of media workers and other professionals in keeping pace with the pandemic’s ever-changing developments via credible sources, thereby keeping the public properly informed.
She said that this is key, particularly in light of the impact that the virus continues to have on the physical and mental health of persons.
“Since the end of January [into] early February, our lives have been transformed… in some way, shape or form. We have been faced with prolonged periods of lockdown, physical distancing and separation from friends and family, and schools are closed [resulting in] homeschooling,” Dr Schutt-Aine pointed out.
She said while many individuals have been working remotely, mainly from home, “we also face uncertainty, as large numbers of people are affected by loss of livelihoods and sudden uncertain futures due to the economic consequences of COVID-19”.
The PAHO regional coordinator said this unprecedented situation has taken a toll on many people’s mental health, triggering reactions such as fear, depression, and anxiety.
She pointed out further that with COVID-19 being a new and highly contagious virus, information and evidence on it has been evolving at a fast pace, fuelling rumours and false information, which, she noted, has spread faster than the outbreak itself.
In light of this, Dr Schutt-Aine cited the need for accurate, timely and frequent information via reliable channels and tools, “so that we can adopt positive behaviours to promote mental health and psychosocial well-being and reinforce coping mechanisms”. (Jamaica Observer )