By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – A survey by the world’s largest journalism group shows three in every four journalists have faced official restrictions, obstruction or intimidation in reporting on the new coronavirus disease COVID-19. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also noticed that most staff and freelance journalists have “suffered pay cuts, lost revenue, job losses, canceled commissions, or worsening working conditions.”
Its survey, conducted between April 26-28, was based on responses from some 1300 frontline journalists in 77 countries. “When asked about the state of media freedom in their countries, the vast majority said it had got worse,” the IFJ said. It noted that dozens of reporters were detained or faced lawsuits since the outbreak started. Almost one in four journalists said they have struggled to access information from their government or official sources.
And many respondents reportedly complained about restrictions on free movement or on asking questions during press conferences. The survey quoted an unidentified male journalist in India as saying: “Press freedom has become increasingly restrictive. Journalists have been arrested for reporting stories highlighting the government’s shortcomings.” A female Brazilian journalist added: “The federal government despises journalists. It attacks the press every day for the information it publishes and discredits and humiliates journalists”.
Pressure on media is even an issue within the 27-nation European Union, known for being vocal about human rights. In EU member state Hungary, for instance, Parliament adopted government coronavirus measures allowing up to five years imprisonment for journalists accused of spreading ‘fake news’ about the pandemic. Advocacy groups fear it will make it more difficult for independent media to report on the government and ask critical questions.
Worldwide, “From Greece to Indonesia and from Chad to Peru, journalists used words such as precarious, problematic, terrible, worse, declining and restricted to assess the media freedom environment,” the IFJ explained in a statement received by Worthy News.
“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,” added Anthony Bellanger, the IFJ general secretary. “Journalism is a public good, and it deserves public support and an end to political obstruction and interference,” Bellanger argued. Working during the coronavirus crisis has also taken a toll on journalists’ mental health, with more than half suffering from stress and anxiety, according to IFJ investigators.
And, the Brussels-based IFJ expressed concern that more than a quarter of respondents complained that they lack the right equipment to work from home in safe conditions amid the lockdown measures widely implemented to slow the spread of the virus.
One in four lacked proper protective gear when reporting in the field. Despite the difficulties, respondents praised journalists for risking their safety to report on the pandemic. And for trying to seek out independent sources and counter disinformation. The IFJ is the world’s largest organization of professional journalists representing 600,000 journalists in 146 countries.
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