UNESCO launches an Online Course for “Female journalists in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 and Misinformation”

UNESCO Iraq Office held a two-days online training course for journalists, under the” #CoronavirusFact project to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19 in conflict-prone environments” funded by the European Union. The training course aimed to provide female journalists with the necessary safety measures of COVID-19, and tools to fight misinformation.

Amal Ahmad, an Iraqi journalist said “Female journalists are facing very bad conditions at this time for many reasons due to the spread of COVID-19” , then she added :” I lost my job a month after the country’s curfew was imposed, because the institution I was working for, reduced the number of employees and focused on the use of male journalists, as they are ready to be at risk of COVID-19 in the field, that is what my manger told me”.

Social stigma and shame that surrounded the infection of women with Corona, was among the topics of learning in the training, and how it is possible to fight the spread of these fake news on infected women, which causes them to be mistreated or prevented from receiving treatment because of the long quarantine of infected persons.

The young writer, Rawa Al Uegaily said:” the content of women’s issues in the media and social media is unbalanced, in comparison with the content that deals with men’s issues. Everyone is trying to hide any information about infected females, even in the media, there are many infected female journalists, but they’re not reported, while information on infected male journalists is always available. So far 17 journalists have been infected with COVID-19 and two deaths, according to the information received by the Iraq National Committee on Safety of the journalists, but no cases on infected female journalists were reported.

In this program, UNESCO Iraq, announced its initiative “Our Journey to achieve the Safety of Iraqi Female Journalists from the Pandemic”, UNESCO experts in this initiative are working on a special questionnaire, on the best way for Iraqi female journalists to report the risks they are exposed to in association with the pandemic to guarantee their safety. The majority of answers for “What is the best way possible to report your own cases?” was, “An E-platform that allows them to report and contact a medical team to ensure online health treatment from the pandemic if they were exposed to it.

“A strong and vibrant journalism is vital to address this unprecedented global health crisis,” said Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information. “Journalists roles in informing the public during the ongoing crisis is absolutely pivotal, fighting misinformation and hold those responsible, regarding the policies designed to tackle the current pandemic.

In times of heath crisis, it is important for the public to have access to accurate, timely and reliable information. Journalists play a key role defending the right to freedom of expression, this includes freedom of the press and access to public information. The online course on “press coverage of COVID-19 pandemic, will provide journalists from all over the world, with additional tools and materials, now and in the future, and an access to specialists to provide high-quality information on the current crisis and its consequences.

Mr. Chakchouk concluded by saying: “This is one of the key activities UNESCO has been developing with its partners to celebrate a free, autonomous and pluralistic media, and again, it casts a light on how important the press information center is to our societies, especially at times like this”.

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