•Say usage of black people to depict outbreaks in UK, N/America unacceptable

By Sola Ogundipe

African journalists under the aegis of the Foreign Press Association Africa, FPAA, have kicked against  the use of images of black people alongside stories of the  Monkeypox outbreak in North Amenca and the United Kingdom.

Subsequently, the Association has called upon the  editorial managers in news outlets based outside Africa to update their image policies and censure their staff from the allure of using images  images of Africans, people of African descent, or people living in Africa to cover outbreaks in the United Kingdom and North America.

Registering its displeasure in a statement, the FPAA, which is a professional body for journalists covering Africa for the foreign media, condemned what it described as “insensitive, lack of dignity, and  the perpertuation of  a  negative stereotype  that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege or immunity to other races.

In the statement, the body argued that at a time when the world is forging alliances against systemic racism and racial stereotypes, the media should be at the forefront of shaping positive images and narratives.

The statement reads in part:  “As any other disease, it (Monkeypox) can occur in any region in the world and afflict anyone regardless of race or ethnicity. As such, we believe that no race or skin complexion shouid be the face of this disease.

“It is therefore disturbing for European and North American media outlets to use stock images bearing persons with dark/black and African skin complexion to depict an outbreak of the disease in the United Kingdom and North America.

“Shouldn’t it be logical that if you are talking about the outbreak of Monkeypox in Europe or the Americas, you should use images from hospitals across Europe or the Americas?

“Or  in the absence of such use a collection of electron micrographs with lobelled subcellular structures?

“We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege or immunity to other races.What is the convenience of using such images to tell the world how Europe and America are reeling from the outbreak of Monkeypox? Is the media in the business of “preserving White purity” through ‘Black criminality or culpability’?

“We find these actions to be very insensitive. It is glaring in the lack of dignity afforded to black and brown-skinned victims of disease outbreaks. It is a lack of nuonce and empathy given to people suffering from this disease.” Association offerred readiness to support media houses seeking to review the editorial policies to reflect correct framing of Africa, people of African descent and people living in Africa.

Stigma on Monkeypox jeopardises public health —UNAIDS

In a related development, the UNAIDS has expressed concern that stigmatising reporting and commentary on monkeypox in the form of  language and imagery, particularly portrayals of LGBTI and African people, reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.

The UNAIDS has therefore urged media  covering the Monkeypox outbreak to follow the regular updates  issued by the WHO, even as it directed governments, and communities to respond with a rights-based, evidence-based approach that avoids stigma.

In  the view of  Matthew Kavanagh, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director: “Stigma  and blame undermine trust and capacity to respond effectively during outbreaks like this one.

“Experience shows that stigmatising rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures.”

Noting that the disease can affect anyone, Kavanagh said the  Monkeypox outbreak illustrates that communities will continue to face threats from viruses, and that international coordination and solidarity is essential for public health as viruses can only be overcome globally.

“This outbreak highlights the urgent need for leaders to strengthen pandemic prevention, including building stronger community-led capacity and human rights infrastructure to support effective and non-stigmatizing responses to outbreaks.

“Stigma hurts everyone. Shared science and social solidarity help everyone,” Kavanagh asserted.

The Worid Health Organisation, WHO, classifies monkeypox as a zoonotic  disease caused by Monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae  family of viruses.

The name “monkeypox” comes from the first documented cases in animals in 1958, when two outbreaks occurred in monkeys used for research, but monkeys aren’t major carriers of the disease. 

Monkeypox is usually transmitted to humans by the bite by an infected animal, or by touching an infected animal’s blood, body fluids or fur. It is mainly spread to humans by rodents, such as rats, mice, and squirrels.

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