The African Editors Forum (TAEF) is set to launch a Safety Guide for journalists covering pandemics in Africa together with a report titled “Reporting at a Distance: The Impact of COVID-19 on Journalists and Journalism in Africa” on February 23, 2022.
TAEF chairperson, Jovial Rantao, through a media statement, said, “TAEF is happy to provide the study, which will be a necessary tool for journalists and researchers. The guide will be a valuable weapon in the arsenal of the media as they cover pandemics.”
Dr Sandra Roberts, the author of the research report, said, “not one of the journalists interviewed in the fifteen participating countries, spread out in all regions of Africa, was left unaffected by the pandemic.
“One of the key challenges of the pandemic has been the ability, and in some cases the tendency of governments to restrict the movement of journalists and pose a risk to their safety.” She said.
A female journalist in Zimbabwe said, “Every time there is a roadblock, you then have to produce your ID, you then have to produce a letter, and sometimes it has to be verified. People were told no, go back; you can’t proceed.”
The journalist continued to explain the increased surveillance, especially during lockdowns, meant that journalists’ own and their sources’ safety could be compromised.
Journalists’ financial, physical, and electronic safety and security has been challenged, leading to poorer news content and impacting their capacity to fulfil their role as they should in reporting in an emergency of this nature.
Dr Adedamola Adetiba, the co-author of The Safety Guide for journalists covering pandemics in Africa, said, “The guide is a resource material for journalists and anyone interested in reporting during health emergencies in Africa.”
The guide provides safety advice, not only for reporting during Covid but on numerous other infectious diseases.
The guide provides insights into how African journalists may best protect themselves going forward. At the same time, the report maps the challenges experienced by the media and proposes solutions for sustaining good journalism in the continent.
Dr Roberts further added that “the changes in the sector present an opportunity as there is now a pool of un- and underemployed journalists, whose talents can be utilised in a potentially industry-changing way.”
TAEF invites journalists, editors, media activists, and public members to join Guilherme Canela Godoi, Chief of the section of Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists at UNESCO, at the launch of the research and the guide.