Safety precautions

Journalists and media professionals around the world are working hard to keep the public informed, but in doing so, they are putting their own safety at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked more attacks on journalists and media houses, also in Africa.[1] Covering the pandemic may have an impact on more than merely journalists’ physical safety. It may also have ramifications for their digital, psycho-social and legal safety. This page provides information on these safety risks, as well as practical tips and resources.

If you are a journalist or media organisation in need of emergency support, see this page.


Physical safety

By covering the pandemic and creating stories, journalists are more exposed to virus and therefore may risk their health, especially if they lack personal protective equipment, such as face masks and gloves. Moreover, journalists may also face an increase in physical attacks connected to their coverage on the pandemic, such as violence used by security forces.

Common tips to protect one’s physical safety while covering the COVID-19 pandemic include, among others:

  • Standard recommendations such as physical distancing (at least 1.5 metres), washing hands regularly and thoroughly, avoiding touching one’s face, wearing face masks, avoiding using public transport etc.;
  • Regularly disinfecting equipment;
  • Avoiding densely packed areas.

The following resources specifically address physical safety in the context of COVID-19:


Digital safety

Transitioning to working from home may be very challenging for journalists and media professionals. More than before, they need to be mindful of their digital safety. Furthermore, they may have to deal with Internet and social network shutdowns, hacking, surveillance, and online harassment.

Common tips to protect one’s digital safety while working from home include, among others:

  • Using a VPN-connection;
  • Using a password manager;
  • Using two-factor authentication;
  • Using secure messaging and co-working platforms;
  • Using secure cloud storage to share files.

The following resources specifically address working from home in times of COVID-19:


Psycho-social safety

Covering the COVID-19 pandemic can be very tough for journalists and media professionals, as the pandemic also impacts them – they are also experiencing the topic that they are covering. That means that they might experience both professional stress and personal stress, which may exacerbate in repressive countries where journalists are struggling to deliver reliable information to their audiences. Furthermore, working extended hours, working remotely and a decrease in in-person interactions may put additional stress on journalists, causing feelings and sensations of anxiety, stress, loneliness and reduced productivity and concentration.

Common tips to protect one’s psycho-social safety while covering the COVID-19 pandemic and working from home include, among others:

  • Developing an awareness of one’s own limits, triggers and weak points;
  • Keeping a routine which involves regular sleep, rest and contact with loved ones;
  • Paying extra attention to boundaries and structure in one’s day.

The following resources specifically address psycho-social safety in the context of COVID-19:


Many governments have called a state of emergency, which is often accompanied by overly broad legal restrictions under the pretext of countering dis-information on COVID-19. As a consequence, many journalists and media professionals have been arrested or detained, as shown by data from the International Press Institute.


Footnotes

[1] Media Foundation for West Africa, COVID-19 Provokes More Attacks on Journalists, Media Houses in West Africa