Declining media freedom amid Covid-19 outbreak

    Friday, 01 May 2020
    This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

    On 30 April, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said: “three in four journalists have faced official restrictions, obstruction or intimidation in reporting on Covid-19, according to a major new survey of more than 1300 frontline journalists in 77 countries”.

    On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2020, the IFJ – the world’s largest organization of professional journalists representing 600,000 journalists in 146 countries – has carried out an online survey to figure out the journalism environment during the COVID19 outbreak.

    The survey of 1308 journalists revealed appalling results: nearly every freelance journalist has lost revenue or work opportunities, more than half of all journalists are suffering from stress and anxiety, more than a quarter lack essential equipment to enable them to work safely from home, while one in four lack any protective equipment to work in the field. Dozens of journalists have been arrested, faced lawsuits, or been assaulted, more than a third of journalists have shifted their focus to covering Covid-19 related stories.

    At the questions: “have your pay, job security and/or working conditions been negatively affected by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic?”, 65.4% of the respondents say “yes”, while 34.6% say “no”. “Has your job as a journalist suffered more restrictions since the COVID-19 pandemic?” 73.9% say “yes” and 26.1% “no”.

    The IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger claimed: “These results show a worrying trend of declining media freedom and cuts to journalism at the very time when access to information and quality journalism is so crucial. Journalism is a public good and it deserves public support and an end to political obstruction and interference.”

    His words are crucial to understanding what is happening in the media world today: it must be fundamental to re-establish journalism as an indispensable element within the field of political forces of any State in the world, dictatorial or democratic.

    The virus has undoubtedly made the environment of journalism chaotic and unfair. When the crisis is over, it will be necessary to rebuild the already fragile journalistic reality brick by brick .

    In the IFJ’s survey, a Brazilian female journalist said: “The federal government despises journalists. It attacks the press every day for the information it publishes and discredits and humiliates journalists.”

    Things can stay as they are but be sure of one thing: journalists will need the support of all citizens because only with their support, in social networks, and in reality, they will be free to inform the population again. It’s a circle that goes under the name of “democracy”.

    Elia Cavarzan