Press Release on Survey on Health Journalism and the Safety-Security Measures of the Journalists during the COVID-19 Pandemic

09 May 2022

Press Release

Survey on Health Journalism and the Safety-Security Measures of the Journalists during the COVID-19 Pandemic

79% of journalists consider DSA a barrier to freedom of press• 34% of journalists were infected by Coronavirus during the pandemic• Only 10% of them attended training on the COVID-19 pandemic• 60% of journalists faced psychological challenges during the pandemic.

Centre for Governance Studies, committed to upholding democracy, has been working to promote freedom of press in Bangladesh. The project titled “The Fourth Estate: Under the Shadow of Restrictions and the Search for Ways Forward” is another effort to grab the attention of policymakers to address the adverse problems of freedom of the press in Bangladesh. The project is supported by the Asia Foundation and UKAid. Considering the current scenario, the Centre for Governance Studies surveyed 100 journalists on Health Journalism and the Safety-Security Measures of the Journalists during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The study aimed to investigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on journalists of Bangladesh and assess their preparedness for such pandemic.

Data Gathering Process: The sample size for the study consisted of 100 journalists and media workers working for national newspapers, electronic media, and online media (both online news portals and online sections of print media) and news agencies. At the time of the survey, the journalists were stationed in eight divisions in Bangladesh. The respondents were 63% from the Dhaka division, and the other 37% were from the other seven divisions. The selected sample consisted of 70% males and 30% females. The survey was conducted from July 2021 to August 2021 based on the first lockdown of the pandemic in 2020. The survey was conducted through an online Google form and over the telephone without a face-to-face interview since the survey was undertaken amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major Findings of the Study:

Status of Health Journalism in Bangladesh: Training remains a significant limitation for journalism in Bangladesh. The survey indicates that about half (48%) of the respondents were unaware of the theoretical aspects of health journalism. 88% of them reported that they had not participated in any training or workshop on-field reporting during a disaster or pandemic situation. Only 10% of the respondents attended training on the COVID-19 pandemic and found it to be quite beneficial. 

Challenges in Health Journalism during COVID-19 Pandemic: The study also reflected the poor and deteriorating condition of the press freedom in Bangladesh. 79% of the survey respondents expressed that the Digital Security Act 2018 was a barrier to working independently. 23% reported that they faced external threats while working during the pandemic. 13% of them faced restrictions by their editors from publishing particular reports on certain matters.

Health Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Journalists of Bangladesh: The survey finds that the journalists of Bangladesh got infected by the Coronavirus at a high rate. 34% of the respondent journalists were infected by Coronavirus. Journalists from Dhaka showed a higher rate of infection (41%) compared to their fellows working outside Dhaka (26%). 

Impact on the Working Condition of the Journalists: The study tried to see to what extent the media houses of Bangladesh practised the home office culture sparked by the pandemic. It found that less than one-third (27%) of journalists worked from home. Among them, 47% felt that they had faced problems like hindering proper communication with colleagues while working from home. Even only 29% of them were provided with necessary logistic support from their office while working from home. 40% of the total respondents had to work both at home and office. The remining 33% physically attended the office. 

Financial Impact: The survey asked the respondents about the economic impact of the pandemic. It found that less than half of the respondents could retain their pre-pandemic salary flow. 40% of the respondents received full payment regularly, while 36% were paid half of their salary. The remaining 24% received full salary payment but irregularly. Moreover, 8% of the journalists lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Social and Psychological Challenges Faced by the Journalists: Even if journalists of Bangladesh were acknowledged as “front-liners” during the COVID-19 pandemic, it could not prevent many from facing social stigma. About one-fourth of the respondents of the present survey faced social stigma. They were avoided by community members and felt socially isolated for being journalists and continuing duties during the pandemic. The study reveals that 60% of the respondents faced psychological challenges, including fear of being infected, putting their family members at risk, financial uncertainty, and so on. 

Safety Measures at Work: The respondents were asked whether they got PPE or other safety materials like masks, sanitisers, etc., from their office. Among them, 57% received safety materials. Respondents from Dhaka got more safety materials than those working outside Dhaka. Half of the respondents were provided transportation facilities from their office. 

Vaccination Status: At the time of the survey, 43% of respondents had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, 17% had received only the first dose, and 40% did not receive any vaccine. One-third of those who were vaccinated got the vaccine through official arrangements.

By analysing the opinions of survey respondents, the study provides some recommendations to make journalists better prepared to carry out their duty during any disaster or pandemic, such as having proper financial and psychological support along with adequate training for the journalists, ensuring vaccines for front-line workers, and maintaining proper health safety measures with emphasis on mitigation of every possible risk, and finally, ensuring freedom of the press and create an environment where journalists can work without any internal and external pressures.

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