ISLAMABAD              -         Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority ( PEMRA) on Thursday asked all electronic media houses to ensure continuity of dedicated public awareness campaigns to sensitize people on coronavirus pandemic and to support the efforts and sacrifices being made by healthcare workers across the country.

While issuing directives and guidelines for electronic media licensees for the purpose of coverage and reporting on Coronavirus (COVID-19), PEMRA advised all the media houses to constitute special editorial board with the purpose to verify authenticity, accuracy and correctness of the information pertaining to any drug, vaccine or other treatment like plasma through Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), federal and provincial health ministries. This was essential in order to avoid negative impact of information about drugs, vaccine that could ultimately damage public health and lead to loss of lives.

Media houses should ensure that only qualified and registered healthcare professionals working on COVID-19 were provided airtime for expert opinion, the PEMRA said.

Any videos or information available on social media of individuals portraying themselves as healthcare workers spreading disinformation and fake news about the pandemic must be avoided.

It is an acknowledged fact that public awareness is a key pillar of response strategy against any crisis situation and presently the COVID19 pandemic.

Unprecedented and focused media campaigns run by private satellite TV channels for the last several months were highly appreciated. Pakistani media has helped the masses to know the sensitivities associated with this pandemic and its impact on required profound behavioural change.

The pandemic was likely to continue for some time and a peak was expected in the near future. Now more than ever, responsible and authentic reporting on electronic media was required in order to keep public informed, avoid panic and maintain calm.

The challenge in coming days and weeks would need continued risk and crisis communication, countering disinformation and flat out fake news. Besides, the most important practice would be to avoid any coverage which creates sensationalism.

Healthcare workers were real frontlines heroes in the fight against this pandemic.

Hence it was a need to pay befitting tribute to their untiring contributions for public safety and well being, while also highlighting their requirements to safeguard their working environments.

Media should avoid showing images and videos of public interference in their line of duty while performing sacred work of saving lives of Pakistani brethren fallen ill to COVID19.