The Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Moez Chakchouk, has called on States to ensure the safety of journalists covering the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, saying “In times of health crises, the importance of accurate and reliable journalism cannot be overstated.”
Moez said: “The role of journalists in informing the public during the ongoing crisis is absolutely pivotal,” emphasizing that journalistic work can save lives in the current emergency situation.
He emphasised that “Journalists’ physical and psychological safety should come first,” advising that media organizations should make sure that journalists are trained on sanitary precautions and equipped with protective material. He stressed that when sending journalists to report on the virus, their safety must be a priority.
Moez noted that freelance journalists are especially vulnerable in terms of physical and psychological safety, as they do not always have access to the same resources and support as paid journalists.
The UNESCO Assistant Director-Generalaffirmed that press freedom is now more important than ever and called on all Member States to ensure that journalists can report on COVID-19 without interference, adding “In times of health crises, the importance of accurate and reliable journalism cannot be overstated”.
He also underlined the importance of ensuring an enabling environment for press freedom in order for journalists to report independently on the crisis. He encouraged governments to increase the amount of information available to the public.
He disclosed that “The UNESCO Director-General’s report on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, to be launched later this year, will highlight the issue of protecting journalists during this pandemic.”
UNESCO promotes the safety of journalists through global awareness-raising, capacity building and a range of actions, notably in the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.