Lao media at the ready in case of crisis during SEA Games

Posted by samakomlao Sunday, November 1, 2009

With less than 40 days until the SEA Games kick off in Vientiane , government agencies are boosting efforts to make sure everything is ready for nation's largest ever sporting event.

Public relations are an important aspect of their work in ensuring the games run smoothly. To prepare the media, a course titled “Training for Journalists on Crisis Communication during the SEA Games” was held from October 29-31 in Keo-oudom district, Vientiane province.

The course was jointly organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture, World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Emerging Infectious Diseases Coordination Office (NEIDCO).

Ministry of Information and Culture Office Deputy Head and NEIDCO committee member Vayolinh Phrasavath said at the course “The SEA Games will gather large numbers of people both from around Laos and from other countries. This increases the risk that an infectious disease such as influenza A(H1N1) might emerge.”

“The government is working hard with related organisations to prepare for such an occurrence and prevent disease outbreaks.

“This training course gathers together 41 journalists and TV and radio announcers from every media agency to discuss plans for crisis communication. We will explain various points of detail about how to report an energency and talk about public relations. It is important that everyone knows in advance about the good cooperation and preparations of public health agencies and the media. This involves how they will try to prevent a disease outbreak during the SEA Games and what they will do if people fall ill.

“I believe this short course will help participants to get a better feel for what is needed in the way of anticipating events and forward-looking reporting. You will learn a lot about communicable disease surveillance in Laos , and with good reporting you can make sure visitors to the SEA Games aren't concerned about falling ill,” Mr Vayolinh said.

Currently the Lao government is on the alert for seven communicable diseases - the H1N1 virus, bird flu, diarrhoea, dengue fever, smallpox, hepatitis and food poisoning.

The government is in constant communication with the communicable disease surveillance committee, so that any suspicious illnesses can be investigated, reported on and the necessary information passed on to reporters.

WHO Communications Officer Ms Catherine Cochran said “During a time of crisis people depend on the media to provide them with information about what's going on so they can protect themselves.”

“We have a major event coming up with the SEA Games. There will be thousands of visitors as well as international media coming to cover this event. We have all have been working hard to make sure the games run smoothly, but we must be prepared for something to go wrong. This could take the form of a disease outbreak or other emergency.”

“The media must be prepared to tell the public what's really happening and how to deal with the situation. In this workshop they will learn how to work together to help everyone be safe with the help of our communication skills. I'm looking forward to involving the media in the SEA Games communication network,” Ms Cochran said.

By Phoonsab Thevongsa

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