Launch of a manual for Arab media professionals on covering epidemics

31 Jan 2021

Jordan Media Institute – Amman

The Jordan Media Institute (JMI) on Sunday released a guide for Arab media professionals on specialized media coverage of proliferating epidemics, with a focus on coronavirus as a model. The guide is supported by the German "Deutsche Welle Akademie".

The manual, which was prepared by JMI’s Jordan Media Credibility Monitor "Akeed", aims to provide a roadmap for Arab media professionals in formulating a professional media discourse. It is also meant to improve media performance when it comes to covering epidemics.

The guide seeks to develop Arab media professionals’ theoretical and practical skills, specifically in dealing with the professional and ethical violations that they may encounter as they cover health issues related to epidemics in general, and the coronavirus in particular.

At a launch event attended by journalists and media professionals, JMI Acting Dean Prof. Dr. Abdul Hakim Al-Husbani said the guide depicts an extraordinary moment in media, as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, and makes a product out of it that is both contextual and empirical. The manual, therefore, moves us from the field of theoretical research on the media into empirical studies, he added.

Al Husbani noted that the manual, a very unique product of researh and monitoring, builds on Akeed’s efforts to promote the vefirifcation culture among journalists and media professionals on the one hand, and their audience of readers and followers on the other hand.

Akeed's Managing Editor Taha Darwish said that the guide is the product of efforts by the monitor’s editorial team, starting from March 2020 when the team started tracking content related to the coronavirus pandemic. He added that the manual makes reference to more than 100 specialised reports that Akeed used to extract ethical, professional and legal principles that are most critical to the regulation and conduct of this kind of media coverage.

The manual consists of several chapters that address previous studies of epidemic coverage, examples of verification reports that Akeed has carried out addressing information published by media outlets on the coronavirus, and examples of verification reports published by regional and global fact-checkers.

The guide features a chapter on cyberbullying as a phenomena that has accompanied the spread of the coronavirus, and which must be addressed. Lastly, the manual concludes by proposing a code of conduct for Arab media professionals, citing best practices for media coverage of epidemics, in addition to a list of recommendations aimed at improving media coverage on this front.

Majed Touba of Al-Ghad said there is an unprecedented need for this manual, given the widespread use of social media and the large flow of information, news, photos, and videos that may not necessairly be true.

On that point Kawthar Sawalha of Addustour agreed, pointing out that the content of the manual could be applied to any emergency situation that might occur in Jordan or the region.

Khaled Al-Qudah, a board member of the Jordan Press Association, called for building on the progress made by the guide. He hoped that methods would be developed for studying the factors behind the spread of rumors and misinformation, and that legislation to address these problems and defects would be proposed.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khasawneh, head of the Radio and Television Department at the University of Petra, said that the spread of social media outlets heightened the need to verify news in circulation. A greater culture of scrutiny and verifying media content would lead to more responsible work by those employed in this field.

Akeed is one of JMI's projects and is funded by the King Abdullah Fund for Development. Akked is devoted for fostering a culture of media accountability among media outlets, journalists, and society at large, and encourages the public to make verifying the news a daily habit.