The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), has called for heightened protection for frontline Journalists and improvement of their conditions of work amid the continuous spread of COVID-19 in Africa.
The steering committee of the Pan-African Regional Organisation of journalists which met by teleconference expressed grave concern about the safety and wellbeing of what they say are overworked and under-resourced African Journalists who, as frontline workers, have been carrying out an essential service without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), thus exposing themselves to the coronavirus.
The Federation points out that already, two Journalists have died from the virus. They are Togolese Journalist Dominique Aliziou and Zimbabwean TV Journalist, Zororo Makamba. While expressing sadness at the unfortunate event, the Federation said the tragic deaths underline the fact that journalism is an essential public good which must not go on as business as usual with journalists entering risky situations.
FAJ said it is extremely concerned to hear that the working conditions of journalists in several countries in Africa have dramatically deteriorated, throwing journalists into a second crisis in addition to the COVID-19 tragedy. At the same time, many newsrooms have seen non-payment of salaries and layoffs without any compensation.
The Federation describes growing moves by African governments to use the emergency situation to deny journalists’ access to information as extremely deplorable.
It, however, urges African journalists to soldier on and do their job with the utmost diligence, in particular discharging their role as society’s watchdogs by scrutinising the actions of Governments and public institutions.