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Journalists urged to be responsible

Published:Thursday | October 2, 2014 | 11:25 PMChristopher Serju

Richard Thompson, acting director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, has appealed to journalists and other communications experts to be responsible in their coverage and reportage of chikungunya-related issues.

"You have heard some of the myths around chikungunya Ö so it is essential in disaster management to look at crisis communication, and crisis communication is giving timely and accurate information but not panicking the public, and that is very critical," he told Thursday's weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston at the Liguanea Club, New Kingston. "If people are operating on myths, then they will activate their own personal responses in order to make themselves better."

Describing the chikungunya situation as a pandemic, Thompson said a key aspect of preparing for disasters and coping with any kind of emergency has to be the availability of sound information, which can properly inform public awareness and action.

"The lucky thing for us is that the situation that we are dealing with is not one in which you find that people have died, but in terms of disaster emergency, proper information and timely information will save lives, so that is critical," he stressed.

The disaster-preparedness expert called on communicators to exhibit a high sense of accountability since misinformation can devastate the economies of small-island developing states such as Jamaica, which can ill-afford this financial fallout.

"It is essential not to do any damage, so there is a great responsibility on the part of communicators - whether those who are involved in crisis communication or those who are involved in aspects of media communications - to ensure that you cause no adverse impact on your economy," Thompson noted.