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Health issues neglected in media coverage - report
Sunday 10 October 2004
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AFRICA: Health issues neglected in media coverage - report

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Journalists will be assisted to enhance their health reporting skills

NAIROBI, 17 September (PLUSNEWS) - Media coverage of health issues in sub-Saharan Africa has been inadequate in terms of both content and quantity, a new report has found.

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) last week released 'Deadline for Health: The Media's Response to Covering HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in Africa', in which the African Women's Media Centre documented the challenges they faced.

According to the report, which focused on five countries, journalists in Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi and Senegal relied heavily on policy pronouncements by government officials rather than reporting on the realities of, for example, HIV/AIDS stigma.

There was also a lack of coherent policies on sustaining coverage of health issues, the report added.

"Most newsrooms in Botswana have an acute problem of resource constraints, so that ... you hardly find journalists with the necessary knowledge and expertise to contend with public health issues and, especially, HIV/AIDS," said Gideon Nkala, editor of Mmegi, a Botswana daily.

Although articles about HIV/AIDS dominated health coverage in all five countries, the frequency of health articles was inadequate.

In Senegal, health stories accounted for only two percent of media coverage; in Botswana, where 37.3 percent of the country is estimated to be HIV-positive, health-related stories ranged from 10 percent of all coverage in the daily newspapers to less than one percent in the weeklies.

"The media have incredible power to help Africa come to grips with the challenges of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. But, despite some trailblazing reporters and editors, these findings demonstrate a lack of capacity and a lack of courage in the media," said Akwe Amosu, executive director of AllAfrica.com and an IWMF board member.

Following on from the study, the IWMF and the African Women's Media Centre have launched the Maisha Yetu ('Our Lives' in Swahili) campaign to improve the state of health reporting in Africa.

The project will work with six media houses in Botswana, Kenya and Senegal, providing a trainer in each country to assist local journalists with their coverage of public health issues, particularly women's health issues.

Aulora Stally, the programme manager of Maisha Yetu, explained: "Even though women [make up] 58 percent of those infected with HIV, there is a critical lack of attention on health information targeted at women. There is little reporting on gender inequalities, discrimination against women and violence against women as it relates to their health and wellbeing."


Recent AFRICA Reports
HIV/AIDS remains a big child killer,  8/Oct/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 202, 8 October 2004,  8/Oct/04
HIV/AIDS care centre not being fully utilised,  8/Oct/04
Using theatre to encourage HIV testing,  6/Oct/04
Vaccine research struggles to find trial participants,  5/Oct/04
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Mothers and HIV/AIDS

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:

  • IRIN
  • Inter Press Service (IPS)
  • Health Systems Trust
  • Health & Development Networks
  • GTZ/Afronets

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