By Sharon Atieno
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) with support from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with the European Union (EU) has launched a COVID-19 information portal to disseminate factual and timely information on the virus.
The portal which is embedded on MCK’s website will be a one-stop shop for emerging issues in COVID-19 and will also provide linkages with experts and global institutions playing a key role in COVID-19.
Speaking during the launch, Maina Muiruri, MCK Chairman said the information portal will be used as an avenue to build capacity and offer networking opportunities between journalists and key stakeholders in the health sector.
The Chief Guest, Cabinet Secretary(CS) for Health, Mutahi Kagwe noted that the global spread of this pandemic has been mirrored by diffusion of misinformation & conspiracy theories about its origins and the motivations of preventive measures like vaccination, social distancing, and face masks.
While applauding the efforts of MCK to support journalists to report on health, he said, the setting up of this information portal will greatly supplement efforts to ensure accuracy in reporting and providing hope to various sections of the population.
“Correct and timely information needs to get to all segments of the society in terms of the preventive measures and the roles and responsibilities of different players in curbing the spread of the coronavirus,” Kagwe stated.
“This pandemic requires effective and well-coordinated public communication to enhance public response and elicit cooperation.”
According to the UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, there has been a rise in misinformation and disinformation since the advent of COVID-19 which needs to be effectively addressed through provision of right information by the media.
Prof. Gijzen noting that UNESCO is pleased to contribute to joint efforts to provide access to information, said the portal will be beneficial to all as it will also be accessible to the public besides the media.
“We are committed to strengthening the fundamental rights to information and leveraging use of public information and to monitor the impact of this crisis on media freedom. This reiterates our call to access to scientific information made available and free to the public”, he said.
The CS for Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Joe Mucheru said the launch of this information portal is timely as it will address the numerous challenges that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic with regards to dissemination of accurate information.