28 March 2020
The UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information today voiced concerns about the safety of journalists when reporting on the global COVID-19 health crisis.“The role of journalists in informing the public during the ongoing crisis is absolutely pivotal,” said Chakchouk, emphasizing that journalistic work can save lives in the current emergency situation.
“Journalists’ physical and psychological safety should come first,” stated Chakchouk. Media organizations should make sure that journalists are trained on sanitary precautions and equipped with protective material. When sending journalists to report on the virus, their safety must be a priority.
He also recalled that states and duty bearers should ensure safety of journalists in covering the health crisis and its social implications, as per international standards on freedom of expression.
Aside from concerns about physical safety, journalists are working under considerable psychological stress. While some journalists are working under the pressure of covering the constantly evolving situation, others are worried about job security.
Freelance journalists are especially vulnerable in terms of physical and psychological safety, as they do not always have access to the same resources and support as staff journalists.
Chakchouk affirmed that press freedom is now more important than ever and called on all Member States to ensure that journalists can report on COVID-19 without interference. “In times of health crises, the importance of accurate and reliable journalism cannot be overstated”, he said.
The UNESCO Assistant Director-General also underlined the importance of ensuring an enabling environment for press freedom in order for journalists to report independently on the crisis, and he encouraged governments to increase the amount of information available to the public.
“The UNESCO Director-General’s report on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, to be launched later this year, will highlight the issue of protecting journalists during this pandemic,” announced Chakchouk.
UNESCO and its partners are developing a series of initiatives, to be launched in the coming weeks, to address these concerns.
UNESCO promotes the safety of journalists through global awareness-raising, capacity building and a range of actions, notably in the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
For more information on UNESCO Response to COVID-19 crisis available here.