From: Alice Taylor
Union of Albanian Journalists Calls for Priority Vaccination Following Eight Media Worker COVID-19 Deaths

The Union of Albanian Journalists has asked that journalists and media workers be included as a priority group for vaccinations against COVID-19.

“Vaccination and health care for journalists and field operators should be a priority of public health institutions,” reads the press release of the Union of Journalists.

The Union of Albanian Journalists also expressed their condolences to the family of colleague Arben Kosturi, who passed away at the age of 53 from COVID-19.

Other journalists who have lost their lives from COVID-19 include Lek Plani, Zenepe Luka, Prend Shota, Nuri Dragoi, Arben Çeli, Koço Devole, and the owner of Fax News, Kasem Hysenbelliu.

The International Federation of Journalists and its European counterpart, the European Federation of Journalists have called on governments to include journalists as essential workers in terms of vaccinations.

Through a campaign called “Journalists are #EssentialWorkers”, they highlighted the crucial role journalists play during the health crisis. The campaign was launched in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.

“In the region, the COVID-19 pandemic meant for many journalists longer working hours, lower salaries, travel restrictions, the lack of protective equipment and health insurance exposing them further to the virus. While some governments decided to categorize journalists as essential workers, alongside workers in the health and social care, food industry, or teachers, others have failed to do so. This ‘essential worker’ status gives them access to a number of benefits such as freedom of movement, paid sick leave, protective equipment, financial compensation, or access to childcare,” they wrote.

The EFJ added that journalists are critical to the health and safety of the population, as well as to democracy.

“They put their health at risk to inform us,” they added.

The EFJ General Secretary, Ricardo Gutiérrez, called on all European governments to consider journalists as essential workers and provide them with adequate compensation:

“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.”

Koloreto Cukali from the Albanian Media Council said that following the vaccination of high-risk categories, and when professional category vaccinations have been completed such as health workers and teachers, journalists should receive the vaccine.