Davao City councilor throws support for journalists’ welfare, safety amid COVID-19

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Aug) – As an expression of support for media workers, Davao City’s First District Councilor Pamela A. Librado reiterated calls for press freedom and protection of journalists against human rights violations, attacks, and unfair labor practices, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.

A group led by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines pushes for renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise in a protest in Davao City. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

In her privilege speech delivered on Tuesday, Librado emphasized the crucial role of the journalists, as frontliners, in providing the public with credible and verified information despite the difficulties and threats that confront them, among those being the pervasiveness of disinformation and the threats to press freedom and job security.

She said that media workers are likewise frontliners in the fight to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this line, I sound the call to the national and local government to heed the workers’ call under the media industry – from mass testing to support in the frontlines, to job security and safety. It is apt to reiterate here the calls for press freedom and the protection of media personnel and journalists against all forms of human rights violations and attacks,” Librado said.

She backed the call of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) for the Department of Health and local government to test reporters and other media personnel for COVID-19, particularly those “who came in contact with some legislators in Congress, those who cover hospitals, and others in such similar high-risk situations.”

Librado added that several media workers have been affected by the outbreak in the country. She noted that many of them have lost their employment, particularly those from ABS-CBN, which was forced to migrate on digital platforms after the Congress struck down its application for franchise renewal.

“Many media workers are confronting lockdowns now without any job security or source of income. In the case of media giant ABS-CBN, thousands already lost their jobs. Those who retain their work face the possibility of salary cuts,” she added.

Citing University of the Philippines professor Diosa Labiste, Librado said: “Sadly, journalists were not even considered ‘frontliners’ when, in fact, they are taking risks to inform the public, on a daily basis, about COVID-19.”

She said that many journalists have lost their jobs due to media closures and layoffs, leaving them without “employment to confront the pandemic’s impact and the subsequent lockdowns.”

“This dismal situation runs parallel to the state of media companies here where lay-offs and closures have become rampant. Sunstar CDO and Bandera, as cited by NUJP, have already stopped their printing operation. Even in Davao City, and many parts in Mindanao, several newspaper outfits have turned to online platforms,” Librado pointed out.

She added that those who have been removed from their jobs must be afforded the proper process, compensation, and benefits.

“Even in a crisis, it will never be justified for employers to simply disregard the welfare of their workers, whether in the media industry or otherwise,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)