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 by a group of media and civil society groups between April 27 and May 1 this year “to assess the support available to journalists for their safety in covering the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria”.
The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Enough is Enough, International Press Centre, International Centre for Investigative Reporting and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism commissioned the survey following perceptions that journalists were being exposed to danger in the course of covering the pandemic.
A total of 463 male and female journalists participated in the survey.
They included 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.
The survey revealed that the topmost needs of journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic are:
• 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.
Concerned about the poor attention to the safety and welfare of journalists covering the pandemic as revealed by the survey, the organisations have called on media owners and managers to:
• 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 crowd source information for their stories without having to necessarily go to the field; and
• 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 to procure personal protective equipment while covering the pandemic.
The six organisations also charged media development, civil society groups and other stakeholders to lead campaigns and advocacies for the safety of and support for journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic.