08/06/2020, 16.16
BANGLADESH
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COVID-19: almost 700 journalists infected, 27 dead, a thousand jobless

by Sumon Corraya

After doctors and other healthcare workers, journalists are of the group most affected by COVID-19. Many complain that they have to do their job covering the pandemic from the frontline without personal protective equipment. In recent months 244 out of 340 newspapers have stopped publishing. “I don't know what to do,” says unemployed Catholic journalist.

 

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – After doctors and other healthcare workers, journalists are one of the groups most affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh, with a total of 678 confirmed cases in the last five months and at least 27 deaths, most in the capital Dhaka.

Some reporters have expressed serious concerns about having to work without proper personal protection equipment, like masks, to cover the epidemic, especially in hospitals.

Others note that a spike in cases stems from the need to travel and meet people to gather information. Death in some cases is due to carelessness and negligence by some journalists who failed to respect the safety protocols.

“A doctor or a nurse understands who is infected with coronavirus and who is not, but a journalist, to collect information, goes from a doctor to a fishmonger to a minister,” said Liton Rahaman, a journalist in Dhaka, speaking to AsiaNews. Journalists, “meet all kinds of people, but they can't know who is coronavirus positive.”

For Our Media, Our Rights group coordinator Ahmed Fayez, the actual number of infected people is far greater because many reporters do not want others to know that they are infected; publishers don’t offer any job guarantee or health coverage in case of illness.

According to the government’s Department of Films and Publications, there are 340 newspapers in Bangladesh. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, only 86 are still in business, whilst the other 244 have stopped publishing.

In Dhaka only ten newspapers pay their reporters regularly; the others do not have enough money to pay.

The country’s economic crisis has also affected media companies, so much so that in a few months over a thousand journalists have lost their jobs.

Many of them, due to status and pride, do not want to ask for subsidies and aid; still others have finally decided to change jobs in order to survive.

Victor K Rozario, a Catholic journalist who worked for an online newspaper in Dhaka, says he caught the virus, but is now healed.

He is currently out of work and so went home to his native village of Natore. “I am unemployed and looking for new jobs,” he said. “I don't know what to do.”

The crisis of the media sector offers no openings in the short term.

Another media worker, who preferred not to give his name, slams publishers who do nothing to protect journalists from the pandemic.

“Many newspaper owners do not provide means of transport,” he explained. “They do not care if journalists get infected and become coronavirus positive.

The point is that “we work on the frontline to get the facts and provide news to people,” buy instead of helping, many publishers are using the pandemic to cut staff.

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