From: Alice Taylor
EFJ: Albanian Journalists Should be “Essential Workers” During COVID-19 Pandemic

Journalists should be classed as “essential workers” according to the European Federation of Journalists and its affiliates in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.

In a campaign launched this week, they called on governments to give them essential worker status and to provide them with adequate compensation.

EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutierrez said:

“Journalists have been critical to the governments’ COVID-19 response. They have verified information, held officials accountable, investigated many angles of the pandemic, interviewed experts. The news media have become an essential public service, it experienced a huge increase in news consumption. This should be reflected somehow.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many journalists worked longer hours, had reduced salaries, had travel restrictions placed on them, a lack of protective equipment, childcare limitations, and inadequate health insurance. Despite this, the EJF said they played a crucial role.

“During the health crisis, journalists have been playing a crucial role. When most of us are required to stay home, they act as our eyes and ears on the ground bringing trustworthy and reliable information to us.”

They continue:

“Journalists are critical to the health and safety of the population as well as to democracy. They put their health at risk in order to inform us. With this campaign, the journalists’ trade unions and associations remind us that behind people’s screens and the news feeds that we scroll through several times a day, there are journalists and media workers who are working hard in difficult conditions to inform the public in the best possible way.”

In Albania, many journalists and media platforms struggled during the pandemic. Not only was access to information restricted, but at least 40 journalists contracted COVID-19. In addition to this, salaries were slashed as funding and advertising revenue was reduced, some were laid off, and several media’s were on the brink of collapse. Despite this, the Albanian government specifically excluded media from its economic packages providing aid to those in need.

Furthermore, an investigation by Exit revealed that many journalists were suffering trauma from both the 2019 earthquake, and then reporting in uncertain times and difficult conditions on the COVID-19 pandemic.