The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has announced several policy measures to guide local and foreign journalists covering health facilities across Liberia, particularly Ebola Treatment Centers.
The ministry frowns at the media for taking photographs of naked Ebola patients in Treatment Units, warning that patients’ photos are not to be taken until written permission from health authorities.
Speaking Monday, October 6, 2014 at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services and head of the Government’s Incident Management System, Tolbert Nyenswah, said news interviews, filming, recording, or photographing may be conducted only with written approval from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
He said authority to approve such written requests may be delegated to the county health official in whose assigned area the facility is located.
He explained that the purpose of the policy is to protect privacy of patients and healthcare workers, as well as protect the health and safety of both local and international journalists, who will want to cover any health facility, stressing that the policy covers all interviews, including Written, Audio, Tape or Video that occur on the grounds of a health care facility, or in areas outside the facility.
The Government’s latest measure comes after a foreign photojournalist Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was reportedly diagnosed last Thursday with Ebola and subsequently taken to a treatment center in Monrovia.
Minister Nyenswah said request for interviews should be made as far as possible, but at least one full business day before such interviews are granted, and that when, and if granted, a designated hospital official must accompany the news crew at all time to ensure their safety and compliance with guidance provided in the policy.
According to him, each health care facility should identify a senior medical staff to serve as primary spokesperson in providing accurate information to media institutions on the deadly outbreak and other essential issues.
Nyenswah further announced that during the Ebola epidemic, reporters and photographers may not be allowed to where Ebola patients care is being provided, or where patients are being triaged, and/or where potential patients may be waiting in ETU for treatment.
He added that family members may be interviewed only with their expressed permission, because no family or possible patient will be interviewed inside or anywhere near a health facility to ensure infection prevention and control of the deadly virus.