ARUA. The government of Uganda and media organizations have been urged to mind about journalists’ safety while covering the increasing cases of coronavirus in the country.
The appeal was made by Mr Robert Ssempala, the executive director of human rights network for journalists Uganda (HRNJ-U) while closing a two-day training for journalists at Desert Breeze hotel in Arua town on Tuesday.
The training that attracted over 30 journalists from different media houses in West Nile was about the existing human rights mechanism.
It was aimed at raising awareness among journalists and media practitioners about human rights mechanisms and equip them with information for remedial measures in case they are aggrieved.
But in his closing remarks, Ssempala said time has come for the government and media houses to ensure safety of journalists by providing them protective gears and sanitizers in the line of duty.
Ssempala said journalists are at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus since they are exposed considering the nature of their work which is predominantly public based.
He said media houses can risk losing lives of journalists over failure to fulfill obligations of protecting them while on duty during this critical time of the pandemic.
“Many journalists in Uganda cannot afford to sustain procurement of these safety materials because of their low-income base, a reason the government through ministry of health should come in to support media houses in providing compulsory face masks and sanitizers for them,” Ssempala said.
“Government of Uganda has always enjoyed the work of journalists in the process of reaching out to the wider public (citizenry) and so, the government needs to think about these journalists but not to be treated as conveyer belts for information,” Ssempala added.
He said there is also need for media houses to set aside budgets for implementing measures against coronavirus pandemic in which journalists’ protection should be catered for both in the field and at work stations.
Ms Gladys Onyai, the Paidha FM news editor in Zombo district said apart from putting hand washing facilities at the station of work, management should also encourage journalists to take maximum precautionary measures while in the field.
She said the financial challenges that many Ugandan media houses face remain a challenge that requires enhanced pay for journalists to buy some of the necessities for protection against coronavirus.
“You know how much journalists advocate for safety and rights of other people, but nobody advocates for our rights. In terms of disease outbreaks and wars, we are at the forefront. What is the government planning to do for us because most of the media houses are struggling to make money?” Onyai asked.
Meanwhile Franco Anwankan, a reporter attached to Voice of Life FM in Arua said the only hand washing facility which is limited to the station will force him to use his own money to buy sanitizers which he intends to move with in the field.
On Tuesday, Uganda confirmed eight more cases which has brought the total cases of coronavirus in the country to nine.