CPJ publishes worldwide safety guidance for journalists covering covid-19

Posted on: March 25, 2020 by Claire Meadows

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has published worldwide safety guidance for journalists covering the covid-19 crisis.

The advisory, published in a dozen languages, is being regularly updated and offers health advice and guidance in relation to the crisis. Topics covered include keeping a safe distance when interviewing people, decontaminating all equipment if having reported from somewhere where covid-19 is likely to be present, the psychological impact of reporting on the coronavirus and being aware of misinformation and digital security.

Alongside a ‘myth buster guide’ being run by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the CPJ also advised journalists covering the outbreak to keep up to date with health advice published by the WHO, the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Public Health England.

The guidance advises that journalists should consider their mode of transport when travelling to report on the crisis and, to avoid infection, those covering the pandemic are encouraged to avoid public transport during rush hour and practice the principles of social distancing when conducting interviews.   

It states: “Journalists should be conscious of maintaining a ‘safe’ distance when interviewing anyone showing symptoms, the elderly, those with health conditions, anyone close to individuals who are symptomatic, health-care workers treating COVID-19 patients, or workers in high risk locations.”

Directional microphones should be used from a safe distance rather than clip mics, it advises.

The CPJ, an international not-for-profit organisation based in the US which promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists worldwide, also asks those reporting on the crisis to “consider the potential psychological impact of reporting from an area affected by COVID-19”.  A useful resource for media workers covering traumatic situations can be found via the DART Center for Journalism and Trauma it advises.

The Committee also advises journalists of the need to be alert to the risks posed by reporting on or from countries with authoritarian regimes that may wish to conceal the extend of an outbreak and censor the media accordingly. Journalists should also be mindful of digital security noting that scammers and hackers are reportedly targeting individuals with phishing emails related to COVID-19, according to the cyber safety company Norton.

It advises: “[Journalists should] be alert to the risks posed by reporting on and/or from countries with authoritarian regimes, which will likely be closely monitoring coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak. Certain governments may try to conceal the extent of any outbreak, censor the media accordingly, and/or take punitive action against those who report otherwise.

The guidance can be found here.