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  • Nigel Akuani 

Church Media undergo COVID-19 Training Program

Port Moresby: Personnel from various Church Media Outlets and Commissions were fortunate to be part of an intense one-day media training program on information sharing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The workshop held on Friday 9th July 2021, at the Institute of National Affairs, Kondedobu, was facilitated by Ms Rosa Koian, Editor of Wantok Niuspepa, and sponsored by International Foundation for Electoral Systems through ABC International Development. It had the involvement of 12 participants from the Social Communications Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference PNGSI, Radio Maria PNG, and the Wantok Niuspepa.

The workshop focused on COVID-19 and the significance of protecting ‘Information Integrity’. It covered the three main types of ‘Wrong Information’ that was being disseminated that caused hesitance and clouded judgment among the public sphere in their need to discern correct, truthful and reliable information, namely: Misinformation, Disinformation, and Malinformation.

Ms Koian cautioned participants how with the overload of information available that could be easily accessed through digital devices, there also came the growing need to learn how to discern and report factual information. “If you are not able to discern information and carry out research on your own about an issue or on COVID-19, you will end up giving the wrong information to the general public,” she said.

Ms Lydia Kaia, Content Advisor of ABC International Development, emphasized the important role journalists played in the Church and said they were fundamental to ensuring correct information passed through the Church’s connections down to communities. “Our people respond better to Churches because they believe in the Church more than anybody else. Your hearts are in the right place and this is to ensure we get the right message across to the people,” she said.

Recalling the impact of social media amidst the pandemic, Ms Alison Anis, Communications Officer of CIMC Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, said the new social platform did not help in containing the virus’ spread but only raised fear and uncertainty. “There was an influx of all types of information coming through social media about the virus but the key lies in being able to distinguish the various types of information. A society that is well informed on the issues can be able to make a better and lifesaving decision,” she added.

Kingsley Tabing, Media Personnel from Wantok Niuspepa, thanked the facilitators for the opportunity to be part of the workshop and said it served as a reminder for journalists in the media to be more cautious in their reports especially amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. “With the influx of all types of information about COVID-19 flooding across social media platforms that is causing fear and hysteria in society, it is very important for journalists to report factual news about the virus and vaccine. This is to ensure our people are given the right information to help and prevent themselves from falling victim to the disease,” he stressed.

Radio Maria representative, Kalistus Lemnai, said the occasion provided him with an improved understanding of his role as a media officer and was reassured to use the knowledge gained to better inform the public about COVID-19 and the vaccine. “Many people in PNG are in denial that COVID-19 actually exists, but I believe after this session I am well informed on the duty I have in educating our people about the virus and the importance of vaccination,” he stated.

The workshop also had an icebreaker session where participants had a chance to briefly introduce themselves to shake off any nervousness. Various aspects surround ‘Wrong Information’ and the COVID-19 pandemic were dwelled on that ranged from: responding to wrong information, verifying content, COVID-19 and supporting vulnerable audiences, people living with disabilities, responding to reports of wrong and harmful information, pitching documents to report, editorial responses, avoiding stigma, being properly informed, role of social media, developing healthy scepticism, verifying story, fact-checking digital content, and the public attitude to COVID-19 and the vaccine.

The day’s workshop left participants with a heightened sense and strong reminder to always report the truth as it was, but more so in a way that was beneficial for mass consumption.

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