How does COVID-19 quarantine impact work of the media? What are the existing international recommendations on safe operation of media (including measures to ensure personal safety and health of journalists covering the events) these days? What are the most widespread violations of freedom of expression and threats to safety of journalists during the pandemic? What new Ukrainian regulations on quarantine envisage for media and journalists? These questions were discussed during a webinar organised by the Joint Project “EU and Council of Europe working together to support freedom of media in Ukraine” (JP-Media) on 9 April and engaged about 25 participants from all over Ukraine, editors and journalists of regional media outlets.
Advisor on the issue of safety of journalists at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ – partner of the CoE Platform on safety of journalists), an independent NGO advocating press freedom and protecting journalists’ rights, David Oades, made lively presentation on CPJ recommendations on safe operation of media and measures to ensure health and safety of journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic and answered a number of participants’ practical questions.
Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Coordinator of programs in Europe and Central Asia, said the coronavirus pandemic has created global challenges for press freedom, especially in countries with fragile democracy. Often, journalists cannot work because of a ban on quarantine or restricted access to public institutions. In addition, there were financial issues, including small local media that stopped receiving funds from advertisers. Ms Said also stressed that the CPJ provide and pay legal assistance to journalists if their rights are violated.
The Council of Europe consultant, Ukrainian media lawyer Liudmyla Opryshko, presented the situation in “Ukrainian context” – what Ukrainian regulations on quarantine envisage for media and journalists. She noted that there are currently two regimes in Ukraine: emergency and quarantine. In March, two new laws were adopted in Ukraine concerning measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the expert also stressed that journalists have the right to move freely through the territory of Ukraine and perform their professional duties, even where an emergency is declared.
On 10 April the JP-Media organised another webinar “What can be enhanced during quarantine: ideas for teleworking. Special projects”, where trainer, a newspaper published in a Kharkiv region, Kostantin Grigorenko, presented participants with fresh ideas concerning how to improve work of media in the period of quarantine.