Third Eye

Protect journalists from coronavirus

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021 00:00 |
Royal Media Services (RMS) veteran journalist Robin Njogu who died on Monday. Photo/Courtesy

The work journalists do cannot be gainsaid. They risk life and limb to keep society informed.

They keep governments and institutions in check and are the voice of the voiceless in their day-to-day activities.

Journalists have changed lives, rubbed many shoulders the wrong way and stood as the last pillar of good governance when all other institutions have crumbled.

Simply put, journalism is sacrosanct. Yesterday, a senior editor with Royal Media Services succumbed to suspected Covid-19. 

Robin Njogu plied his trade as a radio editor and his contribution to broadcasting has been immense.

As news of Njogu’s death trickled in, a newspaper correspondent in Nairobi developed breathing difficulties associated with coronavirus. With no insurance to his name and no savings (he relies on his story contributions to earn), he was staring at death.

His only saving grace was that he is a member of the Kenya Union of Journalists and the officials came to his aid, rushing him to a city hospital for Covid-19 medication.

After treatment, his only hope of getting discharged would be a fundraiser.

Tributes for Njogu rolled in from the high and mighty: From President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to Cabinet Secretaries, politicians and professional colleagues.

This level of interaction was only made possible through the work he did. Journalists report on politicians and as witnessed lately expose themselves to all manner of risk, including Covid-19 through gatherings and interactions.

They cannot abscond duty because the profession is a calling. For this reason, we are asking the government through the Ministry of Health to prioritise vaccinating journalists as frontline workers.

India has acknowledged this class and so has Zimbabwe, do not leave this important cadre to their elements. 

Media owners and employers should also up their game in protecting journalists.

Provision of protective equipment should be given priority and those not equipped should not be deployed on the frontline.

Insurance for journalists should not be an afterthought. The correspondent’s condition may have deteriorated by the urge to work even when his health was at risk, so as to feed his family.

Proper remuneration, restoration of full pay and salary cushion for journalists is a right.

Indeed, of what use is a scoop or award winning story when the writer, broadcaster or photographer leaves behind a family that has no means of survival because they risked life to tell a story? 

More on Third Eye