AJI Indonesia has closely monitoring the spread of coronavirus among media workers since March when the government announced the first cases of Covid-19 in the country. The monitoring concentrated on the period when the country took gradual steps to ease restrictions, which triggered more positive cases. The highest number of journalists who tested positive to Covid-19 was from July to August with 235 cases.
Journalists are at a high risk of infection as they are required to attend live or offline press conferences where health and safety protocols are lax and there are no physical distancing requirements. Those invitations came from different agencies, including the local governments, national police as well as ministerial press conferences. On one occasion the District Chief of Ogan Ilir in South Sumatra Ilyas Panji Alam invited journalists to his residency for a press conference to announce he tested positive for coronavirus.
AJI urges the central government, local governments and numerous institutions both public and private to stop holding the offline press conferences that endanger journalists. In addition, AJI also calls the media organisations to ensure the safety of their workers by not assigning them to events or press conferences where they may be at risk.
AJI has launched a series of digital campaigns and published guidelines for journalists covering Covid-19. The IFJ has also launched Covid-19 training material for journalists.
“AJI also urges the media institutions to provide protective equipment for their workers and remind every party to follow the safety and health protocols to protect media workers,” AJI added.
The IFJ said: “IFJ is well aware of the vital role that journalists play during a pandemic in providing the public with accurate and up-to-date information. But this should not be done at the expense of the health and safety of journalists and media workers. It is important to protect journalists so that they can do their jobs safely.”