Journalists call on newsrooms to protect staff as more media workers contract COVID-19

Journalists call on newsrooms to protect staff as more media workers contract COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is calling on media companies to protect their employees as it counts at least 58 media workers contracting COVID-19 and two cameramen dying due to the disease.

The count is likely lower than the actual number of media workers who have contracted COVID-19, partly because of a stigma surrounding it. Many of the bigger media companies have instituted policies like remote work and provide testing for field teams, but policies differ across newsrooms.

"Although media workers are considered essential workers during the quarantine, the lack of support and assistance for them suggests they are not seen as that important after all," the union said Thursday in a statement.

The union urged media companies to provide their employees with free swab testing, hazard pay and health insurance.

It also said that those who end up getting infected with COVID-19 should be given emergency cash assistance, access to quality healthcare and psychosocial support.

It added that those willing to get vaccinated must be given access to safe and effective shots.

"Our friends, colleagues and families are not just ‘maliit na bagay’ (small things)," the union said, referencing President Rodrigo Duterte, who used the phrase to downplay the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected nearly 820,000 and taken some 14,000 lives in the Philippines.

The union also slammed the Duterte administration’s “failed” and “inefficient” response to the pandemic, scoring its supposed snubbing of calls for a scientific approach in battling the spread of the coronavirus.

Tough times face the media during the pandemic as many newsrooms, especially those in the provinces, struggle to stay financially afloat while still striving to deliver the news to the public. — Xave Gregorio

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