Several media executives and some civil society leaders have urged journalists, media practitioners and related entities to sustain their reporting on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia.
Statements urging the media to press on in their Ebola coverage resonated during a one-day seminar featuring the presentation of a report compiled by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Liberia Media Center and the Center for Media Studies and Empowerment (CEMESP) in Monrovia on the media’s handling of the Ebola crisis.
The three media institutions’ report targeted six independent newspapers that reflected extensive coverage of the Ebola virus outbreak and its ferocious spread across the country.
Media executives informed the participants attending the seminar that the monitoring and review of Ebola coverage in the media was conducted in November 2014.
They also explained that during the period under review 215 EVD stories were reported in the print media and several others in the electronic media in the country.
The media monitoring also reflected that a majority of the Ebola related stories concentrated on the nation’s capital Monrovia and the greater Montserrado communities.
The media report further pointed out that the media entities did not concentrate in areas many Liberians describe as ‘hard to reach counties’ particularly Grand Kru, Gbarpolu, River Gee and Sinoe.
Regarding the level of professionalism exhibited by media entities in their EVD coverage, the group reported that the media generally maintained a relatively good level of professionalism in their coverage of the outbreak.
The report also indicated that there were instances, especially during the peak of the disaster where some ethical considerations were disregarded.
The group cited as an example the Daily Observer’s September 9, 2014 edition which published a commentary entitled ‘Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DOD’ which was written by a Liberian plant pathologist Dr. Cyril Broderick.
Scientific statistics released by the three media groups placed the independent Daily Observer newspaper at the top among local dailies for reporting 76 EVD stories and dedicating 28.6 pages in 12 publications.
The media groups’ statistics placed Frontpage Africa second with 55 stories and 32 pages in 11 publications devoted to EVD. The New Democrat came in third place with 36 stories and 19.25 pages on EVD.
Women’s Voices carried 28 stories in eight editions on 11.45 pages while the Informer newspaper accumulated in two publications 11 stories on 3.9 pages.
In addition, the Public Agenda newspaper reported nine Ebola related stories in three publications investing 2.75 pages.
In some interactions with seminar participants, it was revealed that strict travel curbs to heavily infected areas and high risk were responsible for the low coverage in some areas of the country.
The participants however, thanked the organizers of the media monitoring initiative and underscored the urgent need for consideration of the logistical capacity of media representatives covering the post-Ebola virus challenges.
PUL president Kamara A. Kamara urged the media to now concentrate on post-Ebola challenges in their reporting.
He also advocated that journalists continue sensitizing residents, business entities and foreign nationals to observe the preventive measures issued by medical agencies and the Liberian Government.