By Nuru Ahmed

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deplores the death of scores of Journalists around the world who have perished from Covid-19 pandemic and who in many cases contracted it while reporting on health crisis. 

Journalists are on the frontline and put their safety in peril everyday to bring citizens reliable and verified information about the pandemic. Their contribution has been invaluable for us all. Many lack protective equipment, access to healthcare, and some have been made to pay the ultimate price for the coverage of health crisis.  

Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of UNESCO said, “I stand in solidarity with media workers and their families during this demanding and perilous time.”

Media workers covering the pandemic in the field are particularly exposed to the virus, and the drop in revenue for media outlets has added extra complexities to this scenario, affecting the actual jobs of media workers, the availability of protective equipment and necessary sanitary safety training for journalists and their crew. The situation of freelancers has likewise become increasingly precarious.

While monitoring the deaths of media workers due to COVID-19 pandemic is a difficult exercise and is still underway, a Swiss-based Non-Governmental Organization Press Emblem Campaign recorded at least 127 deaths of journalists in 31 countries between 1 March and 31 May, of which two thirds of the Journalists were on duty. 

In some countries, journalists have also been subject to harassment, persecution and detention as a result of their work to inform citizens about the pandemic.

UNESCO promotes the safety of Journalists through global awareness-raising, capacity-building and the implementation of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and implements actions to enhance access to information and support media in the fight against the pandemic. 

In order to assist journalists around the world in enhancing their safety (including regarding their physical and mental health) while reporting on the pandemic, UNESCO, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, has deployed a Massive Open Online Course on this subject, which has so far enrolled around 9,000 journalists and media workers from 162 countries.