Kathmandu: Journalists in South Asia continued telling stories with professional integrity, compassion, and deep humanity despite facing a multitude of challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, says a report.
The 19th annual South Asia Press Freedom Report 2020-2021, “Truth in a Time of Contagion: The Viral Frontline” by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stated that the raging pandemic, accompanying lockdowns and economic crises were only piled on to existing barriers that the region’s journalists already faced.
The report states that as the second wave of the pandemic surged across South Asia in early 2021, journalists found themselves in the thick of the storm, without a safety net and scant institutional support.
Huge numbers of media workers were also rendered jobless or forced to resign in the wake of the economic impacts of Covid-19
“Battling not only the deadly virus, they mounted stiff resistance to states trying to control the narrative and plaster over the horrific reality,” reads the report.
According to the report, journalists breaking stories of rising deaths, collapsing health systems, and unpreparedness and mismanagement at the highest levels of government were silenced, hounded, arrested, and penalized.
Huge numbers of media workers were also rendered jobless or forced to resign in the wake of the economic impacts of Covid-19, the report added.
“The year 2020- 2021 was a year of economic harassment. Hundreds of media workers including journalists faced economic harassment by the media houses. Shut down of media, pay cut, and leave without pay and nonpayment and delayed payment of the salary on the pretext of Covid-19 pandemic were documented by the IFJ. As the result of the same, journalists faced the severe financial crisis even during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period,” said Umesh Pokharel, South Asia Coordinator of IFJ.
Journalists found themselves in the thick of the storm, without a safety net and scant institutional support.
Pokharel said that this year the government in Nepal came up with tougher bills and regulations which have clauses that could undermine press freedom and freedom of expression.
“Following the criticism by the journalists association including FNJ, NPU, and civil society members, some of the controversial provisions have been removed. However, there is a possibility that the bills can be tabled any day,” said Pokharel.