Taiwan: Unions call for vaccination of media workers after journalist death

Unions urged the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) to consider journalists as frontline workers and be given vaccinations after the death of Next TV photographer, Liu. The International Federation of Journalists and its Taiwan affiliate, the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ), urges the CECC to fast-track the vaccination of Taiwan’s media personnel nation-wide.

People wait for a vaccine in Taipei. Credit: Sam Yeh / AFP

A 48-year-old man, surnamed Liu, was found dead in the Next TV office on June 7. It was later noted by the autopsy report that Liu had contracted COVID-19. Two days later, eleven Next TV employees also tested positive.

15 media unions and professional organisations have come together to send a letter to the CECC urging the centre to assure the safety of journalists by classifying them as frontline workers and fast-tracking the vaccination program for media workers.

The letter notes that journalists reporting on the pandemic have continuously put themselves at risk, often needing to be in contact with high-risk frontline workers, experts, institution leaders, and even those infected with the virus.

In response to the spread of coronavirus in Taipei, the city government set up a rapid testing station at the Next TV office in Neihu to screen the company’s employees. Another three mobile rapid screening units were also dispatched to COVID-19 hotspots.

According to Major Ko Wen-Je, on June 8, 553 people were tested in Taipei, with 17 tests coming back positive.

On May 20, the Association of Taiwan Journalists and the Taiwan Media Workers Union issued an appeal to the CECC to give journalists involved in front-line coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic priority immunisations. The CECC is yet to respond.

The ATJ said: “We urge the CECC to promptly comply with these appeals in order to prevent further unnecessary tragedies and ensure that the “right to know” about pandemic control efforts and the impact of the pandemic on the Taiwan people through free and safe news coverage is not impaired.”

The IFJ said: “The fast-tracking of the vaccination program for journalists is vital to assure the health and safety for media workers and across Taiwanese society. The IFJ urges the CECC to priorities the health and protection of journalists in the field and do everything possible to prevent any more deaths.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram