PEMRA for continuity of dedicated coronavirus awareness campaign

ISLAMABAD, Jun 25 (APP):Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority ( PEMRA) on Thursday asked all electronic media houses to ensure continuity of dedicated public awareness campaigns to sensitize people on coronavirus pandemic and to support the efforts and sacrifices being made by healthcare workers across the country.

While issuing directives and guidelines for electronic media licensees for the purpose of coverage and reporting on Coronavirus (COVID-19), PEMRA advised all the media houses to constitute special editorial board with the purpose to verify authenticity, accuracy and correctness of the information pertaining to any drug, vaccine or other treatment like plasma through Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), Federal and Provincial health ministries. This was essential in order to avoid negative impact of misinformation about drugs, vaccine that could ultimately damage public health and lead to loss of life.

Media houses should ensure that only qualified and registered health care professionals working on COVID19 were provided airtime for expert opinion, the PEMRA said.

Any videos or information available on social media of individuals portraying of being health care workers (e.g. individuals wearing doctors’ attires) spreading disinformation and fake news about the pandemic (treatment, hospital conditions etc.) must be avoided.

It is an acknowledged fact that public awareness is a key pillar of response strategy against any crisis situation and presently the COVID19 pandemic.

Unprecedented and focused media campaigns run by private satellite TV channels for the last several months were highly appreciated. Pakistani media has helped the masses to know the sensitivities associated with this pandemic and its impact on required profound behavioral change.

The pandemic was likely to continue for some time and a peak was expected in the near future. Now more than ever, responsible and authentic reporting on electronic media was required in order to keep public informed, avoid panic and maintain calm.

The challenge in coming days and weeks would need continued risk and crisis communication countering disinformation and flat out fake news. Besides, the most important practice would be to avoid any coverage which creates sensationalism.

Healthcare workers were real front lines heroes in the fight against this pandemic.

Hence it was a need to pay befitting tribute to their untiring contributions for public safety and well being, while also highlighting their requirements to safeguard their working environments.

Media should avoid showing images and videos of public interference in their line of duty while performing sacred work of saving lives of Pakistani brethren fallen ill to COVID19.

PEMRA acknowledged that media already being aware of the situation has aired dedicated campaign to pay tribute to these saviors. As the pandemic situation was likely to intensify in the near future, private electronic media licensees were required to follow guidelines stated below while covering/reporting on the COVID19 pandemic .

To counter disinformation and fake news on broadcast media, the PEMRA suggested some measures:

* Coronavirus being a global pandemic, every doctor was not able to comment on COVID19. Therefore, the media should seek opinion from recognized subject experts.

*Expert opinion and views of especially trained and recognized epidemiologist, nominated as health experts at federal, provincial or hospital level must be sought in order to avoid sensationalism.

* No information should be aired which tantamounted to character assassination of frontline healthcare workers.

* Projections about COVID19 was an essential tool for the government and offers insight to decision makers. This effort is led by Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination under the NCOC platform.

Dedicated efforts of multiple teams of epidemiologists and modular produce these projections. These projections are made public through the NCOC platform. Media houses are therefore required to avoid airing projections which are not based on ground realities and stoke unnecessary panic.

* Any violence at hospitals, emergency situation, attack, offensive behaviour towards healthcare workers may not be telecast in order to protect honour and dignity of healthcare workers as the same may demoralize them.