Image: Journalists wear masks during a press conference. EPA-EFE/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda (ipi.media)
In a joint statement, six media organisations in Sri Lanka call on media institutions to implement safety precautions in the newsrooms as well as covering Covid-19. the statement follows:
To all media owners/heads,
Media accountability against the Covid-19 pandemic to the owners of electronic and print media heads.
As the Covid-19 virus spreads globally as a pandemic, Sri Lanka is also feeling its impact seriously. In such a context, all media groups play an extremely important and admirable role in delivering accurate and reliable news and information in protecting the public’s right to information. It is our intention as a collective of media organizations in Sri Lanka to fulfil that duty and responsibility of the media throughout the period whilst taking action against the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, we emphasize the importance of protecting the media industry and its existence, especially the newspaper industry.
Our organizations therefore would like to highlight certain matters that need to be seriously considered and implemented during this difficult period.
• To request only a limited number of key employees and media personnel essentially required to work from the institutes whilst enabling others to work from home through online technology, especially at a time when the government of Sri Lanka has declared a period of work from home, thereby minimizing the chances of the staff contracting and further spreading the virus.
• In the event of newspaper distribution, it is important to consult the relevant sectors in order to prevent the spread of the virus among the public and to ensure that electronic media equipment used is covered according to the proper protocols of protection.
• It is important to ensure that all vehicles used to transport staff between the office and their homes are completely disinfected and that it is regularly cleaned and sanitised. Also making it compulsory for regular cleaning of office equipment and providing facilities for staff for sanitisation and protection, will minimize problems.
• The National Mechanism established for the prevention of COVID- 19 conducts daily press briefings. Participating in these briefings and disseminating the information presented is a prime responsibility that should be undertaken on behalf of the country and the people. However, it is a core responsibility and duty of the institutions to provide sanitation facilities for institutional and regional journalists who participate at such press conferences.
• We have seen through several channels where journalists, especially in television, use microphones, and come into close contact with people and officials, sometimes without using protective face masks and at times pulling the masks down thereby exposing the mouth fully. It is important to educate journalists about this matter since everyone is at risk and advise them to clean their microphones from person to person.
• The life span of the Covid-19 virus can be several hours or several days according to medical experts and virologists. Therefore, it is our hope that the safety of the public and the integrity of the media industry will both be safeguarded, without the distributed newspapers becoming a media for the virus. It would be a prudent step to develop the readers trust regarding the newspapers through your institute websites and electronic media whilst ensuring accountability in the distribution process.
We would like to point out that the action you take at this decisive juncture regarding the above are important steps for the safety of the entire nation and for the upliftment of the media industry which all of us as stakeholders are committed to safeguarding. Therefore, as a media collective in Sri Lanka we would greatly value if you could seriously attend to these matters.
Free Media Movement
Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association
Sri Lanka Muslim Mass Media Forum
Aadhil Ali Sabry
Sri Lanka Young Journalists Association
Tamil Media Alliance
March 23, 2020