Monday, 20 April 2020

JOURNALISTS ARE ESSENTIAL SERVICE PROVIDERS : GOVT


GOVERNMENT has listed journalists among providers of essential services allowed to work during the lockdown to combat Covid-19.

Journalists join health workers and security forces among others that are permitted to work during the lockdown.

On Sunday, President Mnangagwa extended the national lockdown to May 3 as part of measures to fight the spread of Covid-19.

The lockdown which started on March 30, was meant to expire at midnight on Sunday. Following the extension of the lockdown, Government on Sunday published Statutory Instrument 93 of 2020 listing journalism as an essential service.

“This order may be cited as the Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 3). 2. The Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020 , published in Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 (hereinafter called “the principal order”), is amended in section 2 (“Interpretation”)—(a) in the definition of “essential service” by the repeal of paragraph (j) and the substitution of— “(j) communications and telecommunication services, including the Internet, any public or licensed broadcasting service, and the activities of persons as journalists, newspaper vendors or employees of such services,” reads part of the SI 93 of 2020.

Before the SI, members of the media had been allowed to carry on with their jobs upon the production of a Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) accreditation card, but there were reported incidents of journalists allegedly being harassed by security forces deployed to enforce the lockdown.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) commended Government for SI 93 saying journalists, print or broadcast, all have the same role of informing the nation on Covid-19 developments. 

ZUJ secretary general Foster Dongozi urged media companies, NGOs, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the corporate sector to recognise the development by providing or donating protective clothing to journalists covering Covid-19 to ensure that they don’t contract or spread the virus while on duty.

“As ZUJ we welcome this development by Government in recognising us as an essential service.

“There is therefore the need now to prioritise the health and safety of journalists by the Government, WHO, corporate world and employers by providing them with PPE so that they conduct their job of information dissemination while protected or protecting the people they are covering,” he said.

Dongozi urged the security forces to work well with journalists in the fight against Covid 19.

Chairperson of Southern Africa Editors Forum (SAEF), Willie Muponda also described the recognition of journalists as a welcome development.

“However, the issue of safety of journalists when covering Covid-19 stories needs to be addressed as most lack experience on how risky the beat is.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care needs to educate journalists as well so that they don’t risk spreading or contracting the virus in their line of work,” he said. Herald

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