New guidelines for Myanmar journalists to report safely and professionally on COVID-19
At the end of June, the Myanmar Press Council and UNESCO jointly launched comprehensive guidelines for journalists to report on COVID-19 based on professional standards, while protecting themselves from physical and psychological risks.
“Guidelines for Journalists Covering COVID-19: Professional Standards and Tips for Physical and Psychological Well-Being” will provide journalists with basic, useful tips to build their physical and mental resilience and also to deal with trauma while reporting on COVID-19, among other issues that could affect their physical and mental health while reporting from the frontlines.
The toolkit also compiles practical guidelines on how Myanmar journalists can adhere to professional and ethical standards to report on COVID-19, such as avoid stigmatizing and perpetuating discrimination related to COVID-19 and avoid provoking anxiety and fear. Recommendations about how to identify online misinformation are also covered.
At the launch at the Myanmar Press Council office in Yangon, Min Jeong Kim, Head of Office for UNESCO Myanmar, said the COVID-19 crisis had brought all of us into unchartered territory. She highlighted the role of journalists to cast light with timely, relevant and accurate information to guide our way through this new landscape.
The launch also raised awareness about how COVID-19 affects journalists and media workers’ job security. Ohn Kyaing, Chairman of Myanmar Press Council, said that since the COVID-19 outbreak, 80 journalists had lost their jobs in Yangon alone and more than 300 journalists across the country had reached out to the Council for support. The Council is now developing a sustainability plan for media and journalists to seek assistance from the Government.
Zayar Hlaing, a member of the Myanmar Press Council and Chief Editor of Maw Kun online magazine, also pointed out that access to public information has become more challenging as some government departments and health officials have not answered journalists’ information requests, using COVID-19 as an excuse. Zayar Hlaing urged government officials to help professional journalists to provide the public with accurate and timely information.
As part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, UNESCO and the Myanmar Press Council have been supporting journalists with psychological support training to enhance their safety while they work to inform the public. Two training sessions in May and June 2020 offered journalists opportunities to discuss problems they routinely face in their work and to get advice from a mental health expert.
The virtual launch event can be accessed through:
The support of the Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists made this project possible.
About the Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP)
The MDP strengthens UNESCO’s work at the global, regional and national levels by channeling funds towards emerging priorities and the most pressing needs to achieve its mandate on freedom of expression. It enables UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector to address complex issues through the design and implementation of holistic media and long-term interventions. This mechanism enables UNESCO and its partners to achieve greater impact and sustainability, while reducing fragmentation of activities in the same field.
To learn more about how to protect journalists and freedom of expression, visit: https://en.unesco.org/themes/fostering-freedom-expression/mdp
Main photo credit: © UNESCO/Naing Naing Aye
Caption: Journalists from MRTV cover the virtual launch of “Guidelines for Journalists Covering COVID-19”.