Since the start of March 2021, African countries have been receiving limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility. However, FAJ and its affiliated journalist unions across the continent note with concern that in many countries, journalists, have been relegated to the periphery with regards to the administration of vaccine.
This is a worrying development since professionals in the medical, education and security sectors, who have been identified as “essential workers” have all been given priority by most African governments to receive the vaccine, while most of these governments have remained mute about journalists who have also been considered as frontline workers in the COVID campaign and are as vulnerable to contracting the virus as other frontline professionals.
“Journalists cannot being tossed overboard at this critical time. Given the wave of misinformation and public skepticism about the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination, journalists and the media in particular have a very important role to play and are going to be needed more than ever before to convince the public to accept the jabs,” said FAJ President Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed.
“Including them among the first recipients of the COVID-19 jabs, will make them more credible to the public since they will be reporting from the context of their own experience,” Sadiq added.
FAJ further notes that in their frontline role interacting with members of the public, journalists face the added risk of contracting the virus or spreading it, if they are not protected early.
Information is an essential service and the failure to protect journalist at this time, could lead to the collapse of an essential service, at a time when the public needs a lot of reassurance about the safety of the vaccine through information campaigns.
FAJ demands that African governments that have not yet recognized journalists as frontline workers do so immediately and make a public commitment to ensure that journalists will be among the first to receive the available vaccines.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "Journalists and media workers risk their life everyday to inform citizens during the pandemic. They played a key role as essential workers and they must be considered as such in the Covid-19 vaccination programs".