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A medical doctor speaks of the media’s need for facts during COVID-19
PHNOM PENH—World Press Freedom Day held on May 3 this year stressed journalists’ gargantuan responsibility of reporting on COVID-19—a coronavirus that has spread globally, infected millions of people and brought the world to a standstill.
“We have the greatest challenge of our lifetime with this COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Ahmad Faizal, president of the medical relief organization MERCY Malaysia, said during an online conference on March 6.
“[S]haring is becoming the norm and sharing of information is actually key to the whole of society approach,” he said.
During this crisis, it usually is governments and especially national health authorities that, Dr. Faizal said, “have the majority of the information at their fingertips at the moment, in whichever country the pandemic has hit.”
So much so that health authorities have become a “one-stop center” for information about the pandemic situation in any given country, he said.
The scope of the pandemic and need for the public to understand why measures must be taken to stop it highlights the importance of accurate data and information being shared, Dr. Faizal stressed.
This requires that, he said, “every country in the world allows for an open and free media who can ask questions, can inquire, can challenge the data and can challenge authorities’ actions as a result of the data presented.”
One area in which all governments can improve in regard to COVID-19 information is the timeliness of information sharing, Dr. Faizal said.
“Timeliness of information being shared also influences decision making,” he explained, along with what and how the media choose to publish the information.
Of course, governments are, he said, “quite sensitive about what people will think or accept.”
The online conference was organized by Internews Malaysia. Internews is an international media-development NGO that is active in more than 70 countries including Cambodia.