Webinar ARTICLE 19: Public health information should not be obscured

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Speakers called on the government to hold weekly press conferences with questions and answers on the Covid-19 situation

Information about public health emergencies during a pandemic should not be withheld from the public. In times of crisis, real information raises awareness and also helps them prepare.

Health experts and rights activists made the observations during an online webinar, “Covid-19: Pandemic, People, Government and Right to Know,” hosted by ARTICLE 19 on Saturday on the occasion of the International Day for Universal Access to Information. [September 28], indicates a press release.

This year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) theme for this important day is “Save Lives, Build Trust, Bring Hope! “

Speakers at the webinar said awareness and seriousness among people across the country regarding Covid-19 has now waned due to the decline in the flow of information from the government.

Besides the publication of daily bulletins, it is necessary to hold a press conference at least once a week with the possibility of asking questions and responding, they added.

The webinar was moderated by Faruq Faisel, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia.

Faruq Faisel presented data on violation of the right to information, obstruction of information flow and lack of transparency.

He said that from March to June 2020, ARTICLE 19 registered 1,929 cases of violations of freedom of expression and the right to information in the country.

The number of victims in these incidents is 2,613. Meanwhile, 768 cases of violation of the right to expression have been recorded, he said.

Dr Mushtaq Hossain, advisor to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, said: “Although officials in the health department and other government offices cannot share all information such as personal information, they can always share information regarding disease and related scientific issues.

“People need to be empowered by providing information about risks, so that they can take appropriate action to protect themselves. “

Speaking as moderator, Faruq Faisel said: “Due to the novel nature of the coronavirus, this experience is new to everyone.

“There was also a lack of awareness among journalists, at the start, regarding reporting on Covid-19. Many did not know how to report a pandemic while keeping themselves safe.

“There is a need to increase the capacity of journalists in these areas. People should also take the initiative to raise awareness and learn without depending on the government. “

Commenting on the flow of information and the right to information, Dr AKM Shamsuzzaman, director of the National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Reference Center, said: “The government has an obligation to disclose and provide people with urgent information about Covid-19. “

Bangladeshi Samajtantrik Dal (BSD), Secretary and Barisal District Committee member Dr Manisha Chakraborty, said: “The government’s strategy to deal with the pandemic has undoubtedly shown a tendency to withhold information from the start. of the crisis.

“During this period, the expression of independent information and opinions was torn from the population. Due to the lack of free flow of information, there have been several cases of inhumane fraud and corruption linked to Covid-19. “

Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha’s health department chief Dr Md Matiur Rahman called for a far-reaching plan based on lessons from the recent past to deal with Covid-19.


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