Latin America: pandemic, journalists and jobs

Thirteen journalists have already lost their lives due to COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean at the time of writing this article, a few days before the expected peak week in most countries on the continent.

IFJ Senior Vice President, Zuliana Láinez

Ecuador (9) and the Dominican Republic (3) have become the deadliest territories with dozens of journalists and media professionals under quarantine. The city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, due to its rate of infection and deaths, is today the "Wuhan" of South America.

For journalists, layoffs, lower wages, deferral and/or suspension of payments, is the universal recipe dished out by large media companies facing the pandemic. This has been the route in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. 

The tragedy is more devastating for regional journalists in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Central America, where as freelancers they only have the advertising revenue they generate as a means of survival. 

During the compulsory social immobilization, without trade or services, our colleagues continue to report for their radio and television outlet, with a high cost for their health and the certainty of not being able to pay the bills at the end of the month.

Journalism is generally considered to be an essential activity, but is not treated as such.

It is time to overcome obstacles to access to information, secrecy and even denial in countries like Brazil, El Salvador or Venezuela. Among the more extreme examples is the prison sentence handed out just for reporting, as was the case for the Venezuelan journalist Darvinson Rojas, released after 12 days in detention.

A parallel pandemic is disinformation. The badly named "fake news" multiplies faster than contagions. It is up to journalists to invest more than a third of their working day to check, check and check again.

Today, unions are essential. They are necessary to expose the employers who use the pretext of the virus to increase the usual measures - precarity of work and lack of pay and rights - to warn the States of their responsibility in front of the impotence of a group of dying workers, to require that employers and States take responsibility for the health of journalists.

Likewise, they have been, are and will continue to be essential in generating fraternity, solidarity and unity in the sector. The only possible way to survive in the face of the uncertainty of what will happen.

Zuliana Láinez, IFJ Senior Vice President

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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