, 07 April, 2020 / 6:03 AM
Catholic journalists in Africa are being encouraged to take up the responsibility of identifying and exposing fake news about COVID-19 in the face of increasing misinformation on the pandemic that has claimed over 74,000 lives globally, with at least 1.33 million confirmed cases.
The leadership of the Union of the African Catholic Press (UCAP), the organization that brings together Catholic journalists in both Church and secular media across Africa that is also recognized by the Vatican, made the appeal through a Press Statement dated Monday, April 6 sent to ACI Africa.
“There’s a huge amount of misinformation circling through the social media. So be aware of how to spot and debunk such misinformation,” UCAP President, George Sunguh stated on behalf of the Union’s Executive Council referencing fake news about COVID-19.
Addressing “every Catholic journalist working for newspapers, broadcast media and new media in every corner of Africa,” UCAP leadership has called for accurate and factual reporting, devoid of rumors and speculation.
In the statement, the Kenyan-born UCAP President cautions Catholic journalists against the tendency toward negative reporting.
“As Catholic journalists, you are expected to be agents of hope and role models at times of despair and hopelessness like this,” the Union recalls and adds, “As COVID-19 spreads, so do the levels of anxiety causing a state of helplessness.”
“You should therefore remain on the frontline in educating the masses with well researched and informed details of the disease and how to stay safe,” the Union has appealed in the April 6 message copied to Fr. Janvier Yameogo of the Vatican-based Dicastery for Communication and Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS).
In a message to ACI Africa, Bishop Badejo expressed his appreciation for UCAP’s message and underscored the need to foster hope in reporting about COVID-19.
“I fully endorse this beautiful release and so simply add that the journalists be prayerful and manifest Christian hope for better times in their work and life,” Bishop Badejo who is the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Oyo diocese told ACI Africa in reference to UCAP’s April 6 Press Statement.
In their collective Press Statement, UCAP leadership recognizes the challenges faced in reporting about the global pandemic that has infected at least 9,300 people on the continent and encourages Catholic journalists “to continue working with courage and to observe humility as the fundamental element of your profession during these trying times caused by the COVID – 19.”
“We are all aware and appreciate the sacrifice you make while gathering and sharing information in these times of immense uncertainty,” UCAP leadership acknowledge the efforts of Catholic journalists in Africa and add, “We encourage you to soldier on by providing your listeners and readers with truthful and verifiable information.”
The leaders underscore the value of responsible journalism and say that if Catholic journalists are “guided by Christian teachings,” they will succeed in having “readers and listeners stay informed about the impact of the Coronavirus crisis in your respective countries and communities, as the scourge pushes us over the edge.”
They provide a highlight of the situation in Africa saying “A number of countries are observing curfew while others implemented a total ‘Shut Down’.”
The leaders express their gratitude to “the organizations which have been offering training and support to journalists on ‘How to Report on COVID-19’ and encourage them to continue doing the good job.”
According to a media report, there are at least 9,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 51 African countries; the deadly virus has claimed over 445 lives while some 906 people have recovered.
UCAP leadership “is monitoring the progress in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and will advise on what happens to the Congress which is scheduled for Libreville, Gabon, between 2nd and 9th August this year,” the April 6 statement disclosed.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa