COVID-19: Groups demand action as survey reveals poor attention to journalists’ safety

JOURNALISTS covering the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria have said they lack sufficient protection and are not adequately catered for.
The journalists disclosed this in a survey conducted between April 27 and May 1 by a group of media and civil society groups.

The survey was designed by the coalition to assess the support available to journalists covering COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

The groups include: The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Enough is Enough (EiENigeria), International Press Centre (IPC), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)

The coalition commissioned the survey following the perceptions that journalists might be having a hard time doing their jobs during this period.

The participants, 463 in number, comprise correspondents, reporters, editors, freelancers and presenters from 73 print, broadcast and online media across 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Of the 463 respondents, 65 per cent said their employers had not provided them with any support during assignment while only 35 per cent said they had been provided with some form of support.

Findings of the survey showed  that the topmost needs of journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic include
additional monetary allowance separate from salary and payment of outstanding salaries by owing employers, special Covid-19 coverage insurance package,
specialised training on COVID-19 reporting, provision of face masks and provision of specialised equipment to enable social distancing while on the field.

The groups have therefore recommended the following to media owners and managers:
Widen the scope of their support to ensure that reporters on the field are adequately insured and financially empowered while those owing
salaries should have them paid; establish workplace policy and follow the same to equip their journalists with specialised and personal protective equipment including for observation of social distancing while on the field; provide training to journalists on how to crowdsource information for their stories without having to necessarily go to the field; and finally, explore technological options for interviews while in-house infrastructure should be put in place to ensure the safety of employees
and guests (particularly for broadcast media) in line with the safety advisory of the government and health authorities.
They also enjoined freelance journalists to take advantage of reporting grants and other opportunities available during this period.

The six organisations also charged media development, civil society groups and other stakeholders to lead campaigns and advocacy for the safety of and support for journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic.

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