Councilor pushes Covid-19 testing for media practitioners

File photo.

A DAVAO City councilor calls for the Department of Health (DOH) and the City Government to conduct immediate coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing among reporters and media personnel.

Councilor Pamela Librado-Morata on Tuesday, August 11, said in her privilege speech that media practitioners are also "frontliners" who "continue to risk their lives to deliver the news to us in all platforms available.”

"For the few who remain at work, they tread on without being tested. They, too, are our frontliners, and they are deserving of all the protection and support that we can provide," Librado-Morata said.

She emphasized the crucial role of journalists as frontliners in providing the public with credible and verified information amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citing a quote from the University of the Philippines (UP) Department of Journalism Assistant Professor Diosa Labiste, she said the journalist's roles amid the pandemic were not recognized despite "taking risks to inform the public on a daily basis about Covid-19."

"It is worth emphasizing here that our media workers are likewise frontliners in our fight to overcome this pandemic," she said.

Her speech, she said, is also in support of the call of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) for immediate Covid-19 testing among media practitioners.

"Specific focus should be accorded to those who came in contact with some legislators in Congress, those who cover hospitals, and others in such similar high-risk situations," she said.

Librado-Morata also highlighted in her speech the need to provide support to media workers who were retrenched, or whose media outlets were forced to shut down due to the economic impact caused by the lockdown restrictions.

"The new situation has forced several media outlets, both at the local and national levels, to close down and cease circulation, leaving their workers without a livelihood and financial support," the councilor said.

Librado-Morata, who is the committee chair on labor and employment opportunities, shared to her fellow councilors that many media practitioners are still working amid the Covid-19 pandemic despite budget cuts, "threats to press freedom” and the risk of possible infection.

While interviews via video conferencing apps and other social media platforms are being used to adapt to the "new normal" of news gathering, she said many are still required to do fieldwork.

The shift to online platforms for safety, she said, has taken its toll on media companies, particularly in newspaper outlets.

"Sunstar CDO and Bandera, as cited by NUJP (National Union of Journalists of the Philippines), have already stopped their printing operation. Such a sudden change has left some workers without employment to confront the pandemic's impact and the subsequent lockdowns. Even in Davao City and many parts in Mindanao, several newspaper outfits have turned to online platforms," she said.

She also highlighted in her speech the affected ABS-CBN employees who lost their job after the House of Representatives denied the conglomerate network's 25-year broadcasting franchise application in July this year.

Despite this, the councilor said laid-off media employees should still be provided appropriate compensation and benefits. She added employers should not justify the Covid-19 crisis as a reason.

Librado-Morata said she will file a resolution to address the issues raised in her speech, emphasizing that her privilege speech will serve as a proposed measure under first reading.


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