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COVID-19 Information Portal launched for Media Professionals in Kenya

Prof. Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa giving his opening remarks © UNESCO/Cynthia Meru

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, mis/disinformation, false information, myths, and hate speech are in the rise, spreading even faster than the virus itself in various platforms. To address this emerging threat, UNESCO has partnered with the Media Council of Kenya, to develop a National COVID-19 Information Portal for Media Professionals.

Launched on 4 October 2021, this initiative falling within the UNESCO-European Union funded project #CoronavirusFacts project to address the ‘disinfodemic’ on COVID-19 is designed to serve as a one stop shop for media professionals and the public to access factual, credible, and authentic information about the pandemic and other related issues timely.

The development of this platform is a major step led by the Media Council of Kenya to promote access to information as a public good, a vital move during this pandemic period, as it encourages and promotes responsible and professional journalism, through facilitating access to and sharing of reliable information and countering of mis/disinformation based on publications, materials and government reports and statistics on the pandemic in Kenya.

Giving his opening remarks, Hon. Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Health recalled misinformation about COVID-19 pandemic and false information that the vaccines do not work: “The launch of the COVID-19 information portal for media professionals is a timely initiative. It will ensure provision of timely, factual, and accurate information to the public and widen the scope of and quality of coverage about the pandemic.

He further commended UNESCO for its continuous support to the media sector, reminding that this pandemic requires a well-coordinated public communication with factual, authentic, and credible information that will inspire and instill discipline to tackle and counter it in our local communities.

Hon. Joe Mucheru, Kenya Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs applauded the development and launch of a COVID-19 information portal for media professionals as timely to address the numerous challenges that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic. “The development of this information portal is a step to enable provision of credible information about the pandemic in Kenya. False information has led to loss of lives and destroyed livelihoods. It has also caused vaccine hesitancy.” He echoed.

He further stated that media’s role as the society’s watchdog and a source of factual, verifiable and authentic information is critical at this moment. Therefore, media reporting and coverage of the pandemic has created awareness resulting to a positive behavioral change and subsequent reduction of infection rates in the country.

Mr David Omwoyo, Chief Executive Officer of Media Council of Kenya thanked UNESCO for its continued support to the Media Council of Kenya and celebrated the platform as a tool for capacity building and networking: “This information portal that we are launching today will serve as a critical tool and an avenue for building capacities of media professional and will also offer networking opportunities between journalists and key stakeholders in the health sector.

Prof. Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa reiterated UNESCO commitment to promoting access to information as a fundamental human right, and to continue supporting the media sector and civil society organizations to tackling mis/disinformation around COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya. “Access to information alone is not enough. Beyond just access to information, we need information that is verified, relevant and reliable, but also available in languages and formats that people understand. That is why we are particularly excited about this COVID-19 Online Information Hub, which will provide also localized information to different audiences in English and in Kiswahili. We hope this will be extended to other local languages spoken in Kenya, including braille and sign language – remember, we promised to leave no one behind.” He said.

He further amplified UNESCO advocacy role, together with its partners for promoting access to information as a public good, essential to build forward better. In that regard, he shared a quote from the Message of the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay, on the occasion of the International Day of Universal Access to Information (28 September).

 

At UNESCO, we firmly believe that access to information must be recognized as a pillar of sustainable development, and as a prerequisite for the promotion and protection of all human rights.
Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

About the #CoronavirusFacts project

Based on the central tenet that information is the opposite of disinformation, the UNESCO project #CoronavirusFacts leverages the pivotal role of freedom of expression and access to information to address information needs in times of COVID-19 and to tackle the massive wave of disinformation which threatens democracy, sustainable development and stability around the world. Funded by the European Union, the project supports professional, diverse and independent media’s capacity to report on the pandemic; strengthens local fact-checking organizations to debunk misinformation; and empowers youth and other citizens to critically process what they read and hear linked to COVID-19 through training in Media and Information Literacy.