Health Journalism has not received the due importance till the pandemic struck. Most media had overlooked the importance of health journalism, and did not see this as high priority to train their journalists. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the scene highlighting the critical need for media organisations to disseminate information in a compelling, accurate and humane manner.
AIBD together with the WHO Regional office for Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam organised two workshops for journalists in this region focussing on health reporting strategies and Fighting the Infodemic from November 15-17 in Brunei. The WHO saw the necessity to empower the region with better understanding and the tools need to achieve a better outcome in Health Reporting. The WHO funded both activities in Brunei and Kuala Lumpur and brought in consultants from Europe and regional health practitioners to share their expertise.
The first activity began in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on November 15 and was officiated virtually by WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.
In his opening Address, Dr Rabindra stressed on the importance of Media Awareness on Misinformation and rumour in a crisis. He added, Health Journalists have enormous potential to influence health-related behaviours and help the masses tackle issues like the ever-growing silent epidemic of noncommunicable diseases.
He called on the media to strive for Balanced reporting and to collaborate with other organisations to provide accurate and crucial information that forms the core of Good health journalism.
Eighteen Programme producers, Print and Electronic media Journalists representing the Ministry of Information, Radio Television Brunei (RTB) and local media organisation joined the 3-day workshop from 15-17 November 2022 held in Times Hotel, Bandar Seri Begawan.
Also present was the Acting Director of RTB, Haji Azman bin Abdul Rahim, who in his opening remarks urged participants to harness the power of traditional and new media and to be proactive journalists. He thanked AIBD who echoed similar sentiments, for providing the relevant training in the region and to WHO for working with media actively. The workshop is moderated by Ms. Meera Sivasothy, a Health Journalist from Malaysia. Also sharing in the sessions over three days are Science Journalists from India, Mr K.P Madhu, WHO Strategic and Risk Communication Specialist, Mr Djordje Novakovic, Head of Corporate Communications Division, Ministry of Health Brunei Darussalam, Ms Athirah Yussuf.
For the first time journalists in the region will be exposed to a special session on the digitised information ecosystem, data collection, and infodemic management, presented by Principal and Expert Consultant from Marble Global Ms. Amy Wright.
Representing AIBD Director Ms. Philomena Gnanapragasam, AIBD Chief Compliance Officer, and Program Manager, Ms. Lee Lai Mee read her welcome speech and said, “We witnessed in the early days of the pandemic that journalists didn’t know how to report on such severe subjects, correct myths and misinformation, and protect themselves from dangerous infections while on the ground.”
The consultant for this workshop is Ms. Meera Sivasothy, a renowned health journalist from Malaysia. During her first session, she discussed the importance of health journalism and the common challenges that health content creators face when dealing with various health-related myths that exist in any society. She also discussed the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and how media organisations should be more sensitive towards this subject.