‘Journalism without fear’ – Amid Covid-19
Since 1993, 3 May has been celebrated as a day when governments must take accountability and recognise the importance of a free media in a democracy.
The theme for 2020’s World Press Freedom Day which is Journalism without Fear or Favour is an idea that becomes especially significant during the Covid-19 crisis, when the media has been declared an essential service, and journalists deemed a vital part of the frontline battle against coronavirus.
We remember broadcaster Zororo Makamba who become Zimbabwe’s first coronavirus death. The 30-year-old was the second person to test positive for the virus in Zimbabwe.
MISA recognizes that a free media is crucial for a comprehensive response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Only by keeping the public informed can we prevent a further spread of COVID-19.
The 2020 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), shows that “the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.”
We are all aware that since the COVID-19 pandemic started, journalists around the world have been risking their lives, freedom and jobs to share lifesaving information with the public.
However, there have been reports of Journalists in some Southern African countries who have been harassed, threatened and arrested while trying to cover the Covid-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 must not be used to restrict media freedom. Silencing and attempts to capture the media should not be entertained.
Journalists must be allowed to carry out their legal and professional duties without fear or favour. A free, independent & safe media is key to access to information for all.
MISA is urging governments in Southern Africa not to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to restrict media freedom and to protect journalists from harassment, threats, detention or censorship so that information can be disseminated without suppression.
MISA opposes all attempts by any government to use the pandemic to adopt restrictions on media freedom, silence debate or abuse journalists.
In the middle of COVID-19, journalists as frontline workers deserve our praise for putting their lives at risk to ensure valuable information is shared with the public.
We commend journalists for their important work and will continue to stand up for them and campaign for media freedom.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was founded in 1996. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.