By: Necus M. Andrews
A media guide to ensure effective health and human rights journalism has been launched in Liberia.
Developed by the Anti-AIDS Media Network (AAMIN) with support from the American Jewish World Services (AJWS), the health rights guide for journalists and media practitioners will serve as a quick reference document for journalists to enhance their capacity while reporting on health and human rights issues including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
The Guide replaces the 2014 HIV and AIDS Media Guide, which only focused at the time HIV and AIDS issues.
However, highlighted in the current four chapters media guide are HIV, Tuberculosis (TB), COVID-19 and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and other human rights related issues which have been misunderstood and feared over the years.
Serving as Chief launcher during the launch of the guide on October 13, 2021, the Commissioner for Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Laws at the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), Mohammed E. Fahnbulleh said ensuring quality in the media profession requires trained and informed media.
Mr. Fahnbulleh urged journalists and media practitioners who are the beneficiaries of the guide to use it effectively in bringing to light health and human rights issues affecting, especially those categorized as key and marginalized populations.
“The fact that you will assess yourself and develop a tool, an instrument that you are going to reference to guide you, it speaks volume of the improvement and the level of professionalism you bring to your profession. We call on you to effectively use the instrument to help reduce the spread of diseases. There is a saying that education has shown to be an effective vaccine against the spread of HIV because when people are educated they tend to adhere to the rules, procedures and preventive methods,” Mr. Fahnbulleh said.
Mr. Fahnbulleh: “The manner in which you communicate is also important. So, your partnership in this endeavor is highly laudable, and we hope that we can begin to work together along with your partners to ensure that all persons whether living with HIV, LGBTI issues to ensure access to health.”
The human rights commission official also challenged journalists to pay attention to distribution of resources in the country’s national budget and investigate how it guarantees quality health for the citizens.
“I want to call on the media community to also pay attention to our national instrument which we refer to as the national budget because it lays the foundation, guarantees good health and access to good health for all persons including persons living with HIV. Our national budget has to be rights based. If basic services are not well attended to in the national budget how do we expect to have development; and you the media needs to push relevant stakeholders and actors to do the right things,” Mr. Fahnbulleh urged.
He observed that “When you have a national budget that instead of money for health services increasing it is decreasing; it speaks to the contrary and is alarming. If we have a national budget that does not provide medication for people to go to hospitals then how can we talk about development, and who going to enjoy the development when people who the development for are dying.”
Mr. Fahnbulleh pledged the Independent National Commission on Human Rights’ unflinching support to partnering with the Anti-AIDS Media Network in engaging the public on the need to create an enabling environment that accommodates everybody void of stigma, discrimination and.
Mr. Daniel Nyakonah, Vice President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) praised the Anti-AIDS Media Network for adding onto professional development in the journalism profession, which he said brings the PUL closer to the people to know the issues.
“The focus we have adapted now at the union is more of citizens driven content, we want hear more from the citizens from the grassroots than their political leadership in Monrovia. We encourage this network to zoom in on the actual population affected by these epidemics, and not people who are in the sweet offices in Monrovia,” Mr. Nyakonah said.
Nyakonah committed the PUL to working with relevant institutions to keep pushing and bringing out issues that policymakers need to address for the benefit of the citizens.
“When I come to these occasions as a program person I listen keenly so that I can map out key programs. I listened to the remarks regarding herbalists who are using the media to advertise about having cure for diseases; they too are making use of the media-we have to recognize that… and next point made was about the need for journalists to pay attention on what is in the national budget for healthcare services; that too is another concept. We will work with the network to engage relevant stakeholders to address those issues,” Mr. Nyakonah assured.
The PUL Vice President called on journalists to make use of the guide to help make the country a better place.
Mr. Dayugar Johnson, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) In Country Consultant (ICC) for Liberia, said the launch of the media Guide demonstrates the commitment and willingness of the Anti-AIDS Media Network (AAMIN) in attaching professionalism to its activities and elevating health and rights issues.
“For a media group to sit and do an assessment on itself and begin to develop an instrument such as this media guide, it speaks to your desire to ensure professionalism. I am very proud of AAMIN for this initiative, and we hope that the Guide will be used for the intended purpose,” Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Johnson joined previous speakers who urged journalists to increase their interest on reporting on the national budget, nothing that the country’s national budget has limited focus on ensuring healthcare services improvement for the population.
“You can’t have a budget that only pays people and does not provide their basic social services, and that’s the kind of budget we have. If we zero in on the budget toward HIV response, we are depending on people out there to drive our response…that’s irresponsible,” Mr. Johnson said.
He urged journalists that why they committed to ensuring the protection of basic human rights, it is also critically important to critique the country’s national budget and expose its insensitivity toward prioritizing the health of the population.