EMRO Media event

Comments from the Director-General

Ladies and gentlemen,

The media are a key partner for health, and for WHO in particular. People learn about issues that affect their health through the media. They learn how to protect themselves from health threats. They also learn about the importance of other people's health.

An important responsibility for those of us working in public health is to help you to understand the impact of what we do - and the impact of what you write and say. It is of the utmost importance that you have the right information, and that you report it accurately.

The tobacco industry spent millions of dollars trying to convince people that smoking was not harmful. They tried to get this message across through the media. That is how you reach large numbers of people. But because journalists understood where the information was coming from, and because health workers helped them distinguish between accurate and biased reports, the industry message failed to achieve credibility. Accurate information about smoking saves lives.

The same is true in many other areas, such as influenza, food, essential medicines and HIV/AIDS. Misinformation, whatever the reasons for circulating it, can harm and even kill people. Health workers have a strong interest in helping you to find out the truth. WHO can provide you with good, accurate information about public health. And WHO will rely on you to report accurate stories. By working together in this way, we can help each other to save lives.

The importance of this partnership is highlighted by this evening's awards. It's a chance to celebrate the excellent work that has been going on, and will encourage us all to continue to support each other's efforts. I wish us all a pleasant and instructive evening.