Resilience against COVID-19 through Communication and Information
“In developing countries, the Coronavirus crisis can only aggravate an already challenging environment for the media, particularly for community media which often lack capacity and resources, but which service the most vulnerable communities. [Community media] projects will contribute to responding to the current needs with strengthened collaboration among media, as well as with an increased use of digital means and services.”
Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information
Now more than ever, communication and information are indispensable for public health, social prosperity and economic growth. Disinformation has been spreading alongside the virus and the safety of journalists is threatened. Emerging information and communication technologies, however, provide innovative solutions for public health threats as well as economic problems, while documentary heritage about previous pandemics can save lives.
Human rights are at risk around the world as a result of COVID-19 and the response. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right that needs to be protected and promoted, in part because it helps facilitate access to emergency health information for the general public. Also, the right to health and safety, including for journalists, should be protected as essential to produce trustworthy and reliable information for the public.
With the support of the Embassy of Netherlands, OHCHR and IJNet, UNESCO Bangkok and UNESCO Yangon are staging a social media campaign for World Press Freedom Day on 3 May in the context of COVID-19. The campaign will highlight the importance of freedom of expression and access to information, highlighting the work of journalists from the region who cover the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by an enormous influx of disinformation, described by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as humanity’s other “enemy” in this crisis. Different myths – such as “eating garlic can prevent the coronavirus”, “children don’t get the virus”, “cold/hot weather will kill the virus” – have been spread worldwide. This demonstrates that media and information literacy is essential during the pandemic. Through the exchange of good practices and sharing of verified information, societies become more literate and prepared to deal with the pandemic.
With the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) Asia-Pacific, UNESCO Bangkok will collaborate to conduct a radio campaign bringing trustworthy information to local communities in Mekong countries in local languages. UNESCO radio spots refuting disinformation will also be broadcast. Another campaign against disinformation will be organized through social media platforms to raise public awareness about the current “infodemic” in the Mekong region.
In the midst of the pandemic, digital technologies have captured our imagination with their potential to provide support and allay fears during a difficult time. From 6 to 30 April 2020, UNESCO Communication and Information and partners are holding a global online hackathon, CodeTheCurve, to challenge young developers and designers.
The hackers are teaming up to use their digital skills, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to develop digital solutions to address the COVID-19 emergency and post-emergency issues such as distance education, access to quality information, and future post-pandemic related challenges. Partner FOSSASIA is bringing together a community of open-tech developers from across Asia to the hackathon and providing training on free and open-source technology.
As COVID-19 is affecting more than 190 countries, the role of memory institutions, including national archives, libraries, museums, as well as educational and research bodies, cannot be neglected. Memory institutions provide access to invaluable primary sources of information and much-needed historical perspectives on how governments and people have addressed pandemics in history.
The UNESCO statement on documentary heritage “Turning the threat of COVID-19 into an opportunity for greater support to documentary heritage”, disseminated through the Memory of the World Regional Committee in Asia-Pacific (MOWCAP), emphasizes the value of memory institutions to record past pandemics and make them accessible for present and future generations. It also calls on memory institutions in the region to take proactive measures for disaster risk reduction and management.
UNESCO’s Communication and Information sector is working with other UN agencies, Member States, private-sector partners, academia, NGOs and local communities to provide responses to the current COVID-19 challenges. We will keep working to deliver trustworthy information and share knowledge on an equal and inclusive basis during the pandemic.
Please follow on https://www.facebook.com/unescobangkok/ and https://twitter.com/unescobangkok for social media campaigns to fight for freedom of expression and safety of journalists and to refute disinformation in the public sphere.
Actions to support media and enhance access to information
Know more about Media and Information Literacy
Listen to radio messages about disinformation regarding COVID-19
Check CodeTheCurve hacker teams and their solutions
Find out about the Memory of the World Statement