Faced with the coronavirus, the media are multiplying the precautions to protect their journalists, exposed during their reports in risk areas and brought to move frequently.
If most of the newsrooms reminded all of their employees of the instructions from the health authorities, some go further, like France Televisions which announced internally the suspension “until further notice” of departures from teams to areas where the virus is actively circulating (China, Singapore, South Korea, Lombardy and Veneto in Italy …).
In addition, returning employees are invited to “stay at home” for 14 days. It is for this reason that the presenter of Telematin, Laurent Bignolas, who returned from Venice, was asked to stay at home and replaced on the air by Damien Thevenot, told AFP the management of the group, confirming information from the Parisian.
The public group even recommends avoiding “ostentatious physical contact”, such as braces, handshakes or kisses.
Finally, specific “support and remote monitoring” measures were taken for film crews still present in the affected areas.
This is the case for journalist Arnauld Miguet, the last foreign television correspondent who stayed in Wuhan and “who wished, for reasons that honor him, to stay put to testify about what is going on”. He benefits, with his JRI Gaël Caron, “from a very particular follow-up”, we assure within the group.
At BFMTV, management asks reporters sent to confined areas to wear a mask and gloves, as well as when interviewing a person returning from a risk area, while respecting a safe distance from a meter.
Teams sent to risk areas are confined for 14 days upon their return and their equipment is disinfected.
– A contaminated Spanish journalist –
TF1 and its subsidiary LCI also provide protective masks and the isolation of people who have traveled to the affected regions. But “we are not saying that we should not cover” the affected regions and “we have to move, we have no choice,” said a group official for the time being.
At France Medias Monde (RFI, France 24 and radio Monte Carlo Doualiya), employees returning from risk areas are invited to contact the HRD and the occupational physician and to stay confined to their home for 14 days (this vigilance also applies to guests with antennas).
Same instructions to AFP where journalists sent to these areas must equip themselves with FFP2 masks (with high filtration level) and protective glasses, and imperatively contact occupational medicine for possible confinement on their return, as do employees returning from leave from affected areas. A prevention unit has been set up.
The same goes for Radio France, where this unit takes part in the case-by-case assessment of all journalists’ trips. In certain areas (China, Hong-Kong, Macao, Singapore, South Korea, Iran, Lombardy, and Veneto) travel is “reduced to its absolute minimum and justified by an absolute professional need”.
Reporters covering the coronavirus crisis are not the only ones exposed: a sports journalist in Spain contracted the virus during a trip to Milan to cover a football match, according to the Spanish press on Thursday.
In Pakistan, the journalists’ union was disturbed to see journalists sent to question unprotected patients and recalled that journalists “have the right to refuse to cover information”.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) tweeted its support and asked: “employers to take responsibility and protect journalists who cover the coronavirus”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ, based in New York) has published a long series of recommendations.