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Africa journalists decry racist monkeypox reporting

  • 22 May 2022

Kenya-based FPPA group asks Western media to refrain from using stock images bearing persons of black and dark and African skin complexion to depict monkeypox outbreak in Europe and North America.

WHO reports 92 laboratory-confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases from 12 countries, including several European nations, US, Australia and Canada. ( AP Archive )

African journalists have slammed media outlets using images of Black people alongside stories of the monkeypox outbreak in predominantly white countries, saying such reportage promotes "negative stereotype," assigning the "calamity to the African race."

"Is the media in the business of 'preserving white purity' through the 'Black criminality or culpability'," the Kenya-based Foreign Press Association, Africa [FPPA] asked in a statement amid monkeypox outbreak in North America and Europe.

"The virus can occur in any region of the world, regardless of race or ethnicity… No race or skin complexion should be the face of the disease.

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

READ MORE: WHO predicts monkeypox cases to rise around globe

As of May 21, the World Health Organization [WHO] received reports of 92 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases and 28 suspected cases from 12 countries where the disease is not endemic, including several European nations, the United States, Australia and Canada.

"Shouldn't it be logical that if you are talking about the outbreak of monkeypox in Europe or the Americas you should use images of hospitals across Europe or the Americas? Or in the absence of such use a collection of electronic micrographs with labelled subcellular structures?" the association added.

READ MORE: France, Belgium, Germany join growing list of nations with monkeypox

Media houses told to correct policies

Monkeypox symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

No treatment exists, but the symptoms usually clear up after two to four weeks. 

The disease is considered endemic in 11 African nations.

Experts believe the current monkeypox outbreak is being spread through close, intimate skin on skin contact with someone who has an active rash. That should make its spread easier to contain once infections are identified, experts say.

Meanwhile, the FPPA urged editorial managers in news outlets based outside Africa to update their image policies and censure their staff from using images of Africans, people of African descent or people living in Africa "to depict outbreaks of diseases or calamities."

"FPAA offers its readiness to support to media houses seeking to review their editorial policies to reflect correct framing of Africa, people of African descent and people living in Africa," it said.

READ MORE: Everybody should be concerned about monkeypox outbreak: Biden

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