The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has urged all media houses and journalists to adhere strictly to the health and safety protocols recommended by the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health.
This, it said, would help them to protect themselves against the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the discharge of their core mandate of getting the public informed and educated on issues.
This was contained in a statement signed by Mrs Linda Asante-Agyei, the Vice President of the GJA, and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
In the news gathering process and programming, such as interviewing and discussing programmes, journalists faced greater risk of being infected by COVID-19, it said.
The Association, it said, recognised with satisfaction the arrangements made by some media houses to uphold safety protocols against COVID-19 and urged others to adopt similar safety measures.
“The health crisis is likely to have serious consequences on media practitioners and their working conditions in newsrooms, given the closeness of contact in their workplaces, "it said.
"The situation has become even more precarious with the recording of community transmission cases of COVID-19.
“In keeping with ethical principles of fact, truth, balance and the people's right to know, journalists cannot cover COVID-19 from self-quarantine, as there is the need to go to the field, which then increases their risk of infection.
"In order to stay safe from the pandemic, the GJA therefore, advises media practitioners to, as much as possible, adopt innovate ways of news gathering and reporting such as the use of Skype and telephone for interviewing instead of inviting panelists to the studios for interviews".
This would ensure the practice of social distancing, help to reduce human contact and the risk of getting infected by the disease.
The GJA also encouraged media owners to acquire Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) such as gloves, bodysuit and full face mask for use by their reporters who might be engaging infected persons or reporting from compromised sites.
It also called for the provision of running water or Veronica Buckets where necessary as well as soaps, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other protective equipment for journalists in order to guarantee them optimal protection.
“We also encourage media houses to adopt remote work systems that allow staff to work from home and ensure their safety and protection since we are not in normal times,” the statement added.
The GJA in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and the Ghana Health Service, will from Monday, March 23, roll out training programmes on how to report effectively on COVID-19 and equip the media with the appropriate information," the statement said.
The training programmes, which will take off in Accra, will be extended to all the regions within the week.
“As journalists scale up efforts to educate the public on the pandemic, we reiterate the need for them to spread calm and not fear.
“The GJA commends the government for the measures put in place to contain the situation, and health professionals for their dedication and commitment to duty at this critical moment of our national life,” the statement said.