Journalists have been advised to go back to their diary meeting to review how they got the HIV\AIDS story wrong. They were also asked to keep the story alive by exploring other angles.
Although local and international media have always reported extensively on issues related to HIV and AIDS, there is a general perception among the readership that all and enough has been said about the problem.
This was said by Leah Chimuzinga, a Presenter and Programme Producer from Radio Christian Voice, who was one of the Workshop facilitators.
Chimuzinga said that to the extent that the rates of infections continue to escalate, and people’s behaviors and attitudes and perceptions about HIV and AIDS remain largely negative, it requires that journalists go back to the drawing board and try to find out what it is they are not doing right as ‘the agents of change’.
According to her, like people in other professions, media practitioners have lost their loved ones and continue to live in denial despite the emotional torture that they go through, including in the course of their duties.
“Out of those experiences, there exists a pool of angles that are pregnant with hope, humour and stimulation for the reader, and most of all for those in need of a reassurance of life even in the midst of the HIV and AIDS challenge,” she said, adding that, in the process, healing for the reporter, the reader and more importantly the targeted audience is accomplished.
Chimuzinga painted what she said would be the positive effect of ‘breaking the wall’, saying it is only after opening up that reporters will begin not only to see the HIV and AIDS story from a new perspective, but that they then stand to be transformed into yet a powerful medium in the shifting of paradigms.
To give currency to Chimuzinga’s theory, Spencer Mogapi, Deputy Editor of The Sunday Standard, spoke from an editor’s dimension.
“Stories on how HIV and AIDS is pulling down the social infrastructure, the impact it has had on agriculture and its adverse effect on life in the rural areas are some of the yet to be exploited ground, on positive reporting about the condition,” Mogapi said.
However, he cautioned against the danger of transmitting messages of people who would claim to have found cure for the epidemic, emphasizing that reporters must be careful of the end product of their stories in that regard.
On the concern that local papers do not consistently publish and devote considerable space for HIV and AIDS stories, The Sunday Standard Deputy Editor regretted the problem.
Although he intimated that it is the prerogative of Editors to allocate space, Mogapi stated that some of the stories that come to their offices are those that mislead the public. Given the enormous challenges that Government is faced with in tackling other priorities, it becomes important to check what is reported, he said, adding that a story that has too much jargon and specialist terminology has little chance of making it into the pages.
The workshop, which brought together journalists and reporters from various media houses, under the theme: “Media Fatigue and Stigma; Changing the Hearts, Minds and Behaviors in Botswana” in Gaborone recently, highlighted that it is important that journalists appraise themselves on the essence of their subjects and endeavor to understand better the level of their audience in order to serve them rationally.
Whilst the use of words that reflect stigma is viewed as one of the consequences of not shedding the negative past by reporters, it is in part attributable to poor or overall lack of understanding of issues appertaining to HIV and AIDS, including specialist terms.
Mwiika Malindima, an HIV/AIDS & Gender Media Specialist at the Zambia Institute of Media Communications, urged reporters on HIV and AIDS to be more investigative, and revisit and analyze previous stories on the issue to correlate their new found knowledge.