September 20, 2020

Covid-19: UNESCO Clamors for Improved Access to Information

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the four Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists at UNESCO in Paris, France are calling on all states to protect journalists and media workers’ safety, safeguard a free and independent media and ensure unhindered access to information, both online and offline. 

According to a statement, by the chairs and co-chairs of the Group of Friends, a free, independent and pluralistic media play an indispensable role in informing the public during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

The statement notes that everyone has the right to comprehensible, accessible, timely and reliable information concerning the nature and level of the threat COVID-19 poses to their health, allowing them to follow evidence-based guidance on how to stay safe.  

It also states that free and independent media has an important role in pushing back against disinformation by providing access to accurate, fact-based and verified information. 

The statement however expresses concern over an increase in restricting measures taken by states that disproportionately limit the right to freedom of expression and impede journalists and media workers from reporting on the COVID-19 crisis.

Internet access is essential to ensuring that information reaches those affected by the virus.

Governments should end any internet shutdowns, ensure the broadest possible access to internet services, and take steps to bridge digital divides, including the gender gap. 

The statement further says that journalists and media workers are subjected to significant physical and psychological risk by being at the frontline reporting on the COVID-19 crisis.

 It is crucial for societies and the international community as a whole that governments preserve a free, safe and enabling environment for journalists and media workers and ensure that they can report on COVID-19 and inform about responses and consequences without undue interference. 

UNESCO welcomes a range of initiatives aimed at supporting journalists’ and media workers’ safety in the light of COVID-19 undertaken by international organisations, such as UNESCO and civil society, media associations as well as social media companies. 


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