Media has to play constructive role, webinar hears

The virus pandemic is 'amplifying' the crises already casting a shadow on press freedom, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its annual rankings. AFP/PATRICK BAZ

Pei said a responsible media should play ‘a constructive role’ in promoting global cooperation and fighting the pandemic together – putting people first.

With at least 5.5 million Covid-19 cases confirmed and over 351,866 deaths reported globally, the coronavirus pandemic continues to get priority coverage in media throughout the world.

Speakers at a webinar attended by South African and Chinese journalists told of the impact of news coverage in informing, educating, updating and addressing fears of affected individuals and nations.

The gathering, according to People’s Daily chief of international cooperation Zhang Pei, followed last year’s meeting hosted by Belt and Road News Network (BRNN) – an international forum for journalists to share experiences from their countries, with 205 media organisations from 95 countries participating, 49 from Africa.

“No one expected that, a year later, the coronavirus [could unleash] the most serious crises faced by the human race since the end of World War II,” said Pei.

Pei said a responsible media should play “a constructive role in promoting global cooperation and fighting the pandemic together – putting people first”.

He continued: “Promoting the humanitarian spirit, opposing racism and narrow nationalism, should be part of basic values we should all subscribe to.”

The BRNN was “willing … to provide African media support, cooperation, sharing of information and experience”.

“The pandemic teaches us, no matter how powerful a country is, it will become vulnerable to such a disaster,” Pei said. “It will not survive alone in this global battle. People need objective and accurate information and the role played by the media is more crucial than ever.

“A responsible media should play a constructive role in promoting global cooperation and fighting the pandemic together.”

Kirtan Bhana, founding editor of The Diplomatic Society, said Covid-19 had “a devastating effect on the media in South Africa – in particular the print”.

Said Bhana: “Many titles have had to shut down, with some staff enduring pay cuts – some losing their jobs. We now have to relook at how media is going to survive this outbreak.”

Other panellists included ChinaAfrica magazine chief reporter Albert Ni, China-Africa Institute senior researcher He Wenping, Independent Media group foreign editor Shannon Ebrahim, Li Jianguo, Associate Editor in Chief of Beijing Review,  and eNCA national assignment editor John Bailey.

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