The International Federation of Journalists today called on media owners – and particularly press employers – to put health and safety on the newsroom agenda with a warning that companies face expensive court actions unless they take steps to reduce the risks in modern newsgathering.
In a statement to mark Workers’ Memorial Day – April 28 – the IFJ said that news people face a range of threats in journalism: from physical dangers in the field to intolerable stress in the high-pressure atmosphere of media and journalism.
“Today journalism has changed beyond all recognition,” says the IFJ. “Journalists are expected to work longer, assume new tasks and apply a range of new skills all of which bring added pressure to the normal framework of meeting deadlines.”
The IFJ says that in the converged communications and information environment many journalists, often freelance without basic social protection, work for online, broadcast and print media in an intolerable climate of competition that takes its toll on their health.
“Many employers simply ignore the reality of the strain on the health of their workers,” says the IFJ. “The result is poor quality journalism and, even worse, lives cut short through anxiety and exhaustion.”
The IFJ is angry that press employers have not responded to industry demands for a new approach to reducing the physical risks facing journalists and media staff. Each year scores of media personnel are killed and hundreds injured and some employers, mostly in the broadcasting sector, are now investing more in safety training and protective equipment for their staff. More than 40 deaths have been recorded by the IFJ this year.
“Newspaper bosses have been reluctant to take up the safety challenge,” says the IFJ. “But the friends and the families of victims will rightly confront such negligence. Media owners face prosecution if they willfully fail to help reduce the risks facing their staff.”
The IFJ says media should join the International News Safety Institute, launched a year ago, which is campaigning for a culture of safety in journalism. “Employers have no excuse,” says the IFJ. “They can join the campaign for safer working conditions, or face the consequences in the courts.”
The IFJ has called on all of its unions today to support actions by trades unionists worldwide to draw attention to health and safety issues and to highlight the threat to working people posed by high-risk diseases, such as HIV-Aids, which is prevalent in many sectors, including the media and entertainment industries.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries