Liberia’s government has said that journalists will now need official permission to cover the Ebola outbreak under new rules aimed at protecting patient privacy.
The move was announced on Thursday, the same day an American cameraman working for NBC News in Liberia became the first foreign journalist to test positive for Ebola. There was no indication that the new rules were related to that case.
Growing international media interest in the outbreak, which has killed nearly 2,000 people and infected 3,696 in Liberia, has highlighted the challenges to the West African country’s health-care system.
Journalists could be arrested and prosecuted if they fail to get written permission from the health ministry before contacting Ebola patients, conducting interviews or filming or photographing health-care facilities, officials said.
“We have noted with great concern that photographs have been taken in treatment centres while patients are going in to be attended by doctors. That is invasion of the dignity, privacy and respect of patients,” Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant minister of health and head of Liberia’s Ebola Incident Management, said.
“Ebola patients are no different from any other patients. We should do that [report] under permission so that we don’t just take pictures or send out stories of naked people [in a way] that does not respect their privacy,” he said.