The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the media, the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) lamented on Friday in preparation for World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The human cost of the pandemic is particularly high: at least 1,200 journalists have died from the novel coronavirus.
Journalists are engaged in a profession that is particularly exposed to the virus, as many have been forced to continue working in contact with the population. Until April 29, since March 2020, in 14 months, the PEC has counted more than 1,200 journalists who died from complications related to Covid-19 in 75 countries.
"This is an unprecedented slaughter and a great loss for the profession," said PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen. “On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, we call for honoring eminent colleagues of all ages who have not survived the pandemic,” he added. The PEC asks governments to take action to help the media most affected and to support the families of the victims on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
The PEC also considers there is a need to distribute vaccines equally all over the world, to stop the spread of the virus and its new strains in developing countries. Vaccine production is limited and it is available for the wealthiest countries, preventing access to journalists in South America and South Asia. As long as this situation continues, deaths will keep on increasing.
The rate of deceased journalists accelerated further in April with the deaths of 125 journalists in one month or more than 4 per day.
Since March 2020, four countries have been particularly affected with more than one hundred journalists dead in each country: Brazil with more than 183 journalists deceased from Covid-19, Peru (140), India (121) and Mexico (106).
The situation is particularly alarming in India: in the past two weeks, at least 50 journalists have succumbed to the virus, on average 3,5 every day.
"The deaths of dozens of Indian journalists, often still in full swing, is particularly heartbreaking”, said PEC Secretary-General.
There is nevertheless a positive note in this report: the number of journalists’ deaths has slowed sharply in Europe and North America, thanks to effective protection measures and the progress of vaccination.
By region, Latin America tops the list with more than half of the victims, 673 in 20 countries. Asia follows with 254 in 18 countries, then Europe
with 175 in 19 countries. Africa comes next with 56 dead in 16 countries, ahead of North America with 47 in 2 countries.
The total number of victims is certainly higher because the cause of death of journalists is sometimes not specified or their death not announced.