As you are aware, COVID-19 continues to ravage many parts of the world. The disease was, indeed, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
In Uganda, we now have confirmed cases of COVID-19. H. E. In his regard, H.E. the President has offered strong leadership by discouraging crowds, encouraging our people to stay home, thorough washing/disinfecting of hands, wearing protective masks and keeping a distance (of at least 4 meters), for those who get into the public domain.
On 25th March 2020, he announced additional control measures to control COVID-19. They include banning travel by public means for two weeks, stopping sale of non-food items in markets and reducing numbers of people in offices, among others.
We would like to commend the media for supporting the Government’s efforts towards sensitizing the public, thus far. We invite our media houses to continue with this spirit because the threat of COVID-19 is still in our midst.
However, we urge our media personnel to be mindful of their own safety, as they go about gathering news, informing and educating the public about COVID-19. Broadcast media personnel, i.e. presenters, on-camera field interviewers, live/on-air interviewers and talk-show moderators are at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of the close proximity with interviewees.
Journalists should, therefore, adhere to the general safety guidelines, issued by H.E the President and the Ministry of Health. For the broadcast media personnel who are particularly at greater risk, the Media Council hereby guides specifically as follows:
Management of Media Houses:
All broadcast media houses should endeavour to protect staff, resource persons/guests and interviewees to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Media houses should specifically observe the following:
- Only essential and critical front line news reporters, studio staff and technicians for newsgathering, reporting and talk shows should be maintained. Non-core staff should work from home.
- Keep in touch with news and other programme content sources through remote technology such as phone, internet and social media.
- Provide certified hand sanitizer in the broadcast or recording studios for use by talk-show hosts, guests/resource persons and other staff.
- The entire studio should be continually wiped and disinfected. Wipe the audio console, mic arms, headphone jack areas, knobs, keyboards, telephones and other items that talk-show hosts and guest/resource persons are likely to touch.
- Large studio audiences should be suspended. It is essential to minimize or avoid co-hosting of programmes and consider live streaming some of them, but also use video-conferences to avoid contagions.
- Reduce on the numbers of live shows and have more of recorded or telephone discussions, and increase the use of remote interviews since many broadcasting studios are small.
- Ensure all interviewees are pre-checked for temperature/fever, cough and flu-like symptoms before engaging with them.
- Reception areas and waiting rooms at broadcast stations should have a maximum of three people, who should be a minimum of at least one meter from each other.
Talk-show hosts and Presenters:
- Talk-show hosts, presenters, interviewers and news anchors should stay at home even with just slight feeling of being unwell.
- Do not touch the top end of the microphone. It is also prudent to secure a microphone muff for use at all times.
- Wear gloves on your hands to shield yourself from contaminated surfaces as you undertake your duties.
- Where possible, bring your personal headphones which you are sure are not used by others.
- Guests should be limited to a bare maximum at a time and ensure they are at least one meter apart. There should be as few people in the studio as possible at a time.
- Wash hands with a certified sanitizer before and after every studio engagement.
- Move away from the station unless there’s other official work reserved for you. Ask the guests/panelists to leave the stations’ premises immediately after talk-shows/ interviews.
- Avoid speaking in very close proximity to guests/resource persons and interviewees.
These guidelines take immediate effect. We thank you and look forward to continue engaging with you. We, similarly urge media houses to remain professional/factual and non-alarmist more so as we collectively confront the threat of the COVID-19.
For God and My Country