UNESCO, WHO Launch Online Course  for Journalists Covering COVID-19 

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Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), have launched a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for journalists around the world on covering the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new MOOC titled: “Journalism in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 now and in the future” is organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin.

The MOOC, which received the support from the Knight Foundation and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), is a four-week online training programme aiming at providing journalists with the necessary knowledge and tools to cover the COVID-19 health crisis, and the social, financial and political consequences it entails. The MOOC will be offered simultaneously in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

According to MoezChakchouk, the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, “A robust and vibrant journalism is of utmost importance to address this unprecedented global health crisis.

“Journalists are vital for guaranteeing that citizens are well informed with verified facts about the emergency, in fighting disinformation and misinformation and in holding authorities accountable regarding policies developed to address the present pandemic. The joint partnership to design and deliver this MOOC comes in a critical moment, by fostering a special dialogue with journalists about central components required to safely report on COVID-19”.

The course is divided into four weekly modules, and will notably cover the past history of pandemics and disasters in the 20th century and how governments responded to these outbreaks. It will also examine the unfolding of the 2020 pandemic and the fundamental importance of fostering freedom of expression, as well as detecting and combating disinformation and misinformation about the pandemic. The final module will look at story angles for moving coverage forward and will discuss the importance of journalists’ self-care in the process of covering the outbreak. Each module includes a series of videos, PowerPoint presentations, readings, quizzes and discussion forums dealing with specific aspects of the course. The Spanish, Portuguese and French versions of the course will be taught by high-profile instructors.

In her words, Maryn McKenna, the award-winning science journalist who will be the lead instructor of the MOOC said: “This story is so big: It incorporates not just epidemiology and clinical care and biomedical research, but politics and finance and commerce and many other topics.”

“I’m a science journalist who has spent my career writing about epidemics, yet I have to learn new things every day — and I think many other journalists will be in the same position,” she said.

During the times of crisis such as the current Covid-19 outbreak is it even more important that the public have access to reliable and timely information, and journalists have a key role to play to make the rights to freedom of expression, which includes press freedom and access to public information, a reality for all citizens.

The online course “Journalism in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 now and in the future, will give journalists from all over the world additional tools, materials and access to specialists to offer quality information on the current crisis and its aftermath.

The MOOC will also have the potential to create a network of media professionals and community that can share ideas and information on the best way to cover the outbreaks and combat disinformation.

Registration for the MOOC opened on April 23, 2020, while the training course will officially start on May 4, 2020, during the World Press Freedom Day week.

“This is one of the core activities UNESCO has been developing with its partners to celebrate a free, independent and plural press, highlighting once more how central journalism is for our societies, particularly in times like the current ones,” MrChakchouk concluded.

To register to participate in the course, please visit: https://journalismcourses.org/PAN0320.html.