The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has cautioned journalists to desist from racially and ethnically profiling cases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chairperson of the Central Regional Branch of the Association, Alice Tettey who gave the caution, noted that such reports could lead to hatred, ridicule and discrimination against Covid-19 patients and communities that had recorded cases of the diseases.

She gave the caution at a day’s media orientation on COVID-19 organised by the Ministry of Information, the Health Promotion Division of the Ghana Health Service, and the USAID Breakthrough Action Project in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Private Newspapers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) in Cape Coast.

It was to empower and equip journalists and communicators with the basic knowledge and information on Covid-19 to support in educating and disseminating valid information towards the containment and prevention of the spread of the disease.

Mrs Tettey noted that despite the fact that the geographic of the Covid-19 disease had moved from its origin spreading across the World, there existed examples of racism and discrimination in reporting against certain group of people.

Subsequently, she asked journalists to be wary of “fake news” which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) had spawned massive infodemic of conspiracy theories and sham treatment recommendations, making it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance.

“Good reporting has to distinguish legitimate sources of information from rumours and half-truth. An effective journalist should cede, rather than seize the stage in the Coronavirus news and information theater”, she added.

She advised journalists to seek expert opinions, proritise expert sources and uphold professional ethics in reporting on the disease, adding that, journalists were expected to lead the frontlines in providing the news, information and needed education to the public.

Regional Health Promotion Manager, Mathew Ahwireng who took the participants through ‘Risk Communication and Social Mobilisation’ described the training as apt and significant as journalists were key stakeholders in the management of an outbreak.

He appealed to the journalists to help dispel rumours and manage misinformation, adding that, public perceptions were useful tools to work within times of an outbreak or pandemic.

A Health Promotion Officer of the GHS, Seth Adjei took participants through some of the frequently asked questions about the virus and provided answers accordingly to be communicated to the general public.

He also educated participants on the causes, symptoms and prevention of the Covid-19.

He mentioned some of the symptoms to include fever, running nose, cough, sore throat, breathing difficulties and possible headache.

Mr Adjei reiterated the need for the media to feed the public with the right and accurate information about the virus, hence, the need for the training.