Governments should do everything in their power to maintain the freedom of the press, a key player in the fight against coronavirus, said the editors, journalists and media executives of the International Press Institute (IPI) March 17.
The IPI said that governments should vigilantly ensure that extraordinary health precautions should not be used as a pretext to “censor news or implement regressive regulations against media freedom.”
“The free flow of independent news is more essential than ever in this situation, both in informing the public on vital measures to contain the virus as well as in maintaining an open dialogue and debate on the adequacy of those measures, which is essential for winning the necessary public trust for them,” said IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi.
Trionfi also said that governments should support the work of the free press during the coronavirus outbreak, as the public needs news it can trust now more than ever.
Governments should allow equal and fair access to all information about the health crisis, the IPI noted, including providing an alternative medium for access when a press conference is not open to journalists.
Governments should protect the media’s freedom of movement, as well as their access to “decision makers, health care professionals and others combatting the pandemic,” the IPI said.
The IPI also noted the importance of the media’s ability to scrutinize and criticize government measures taken against the coronavirus pandemic.
“[Governments should] not recklessly misrepresent media scrutiny as disinformation or misuse the crisis to restrict or punish critical media.”
Lastly, the IPI said that governments should provide all “journalists on the front line of reporting the health crisis” access to protective gear.
Trionfi also expressed concern about a pattern of limitations on liberties.
“This pandemic is seeing some of the most wide-ranging restrictions on individual freedoms in peacetime. We therefore urge all states to ensure that any measures taken to tackle COVID-19 and that infringe on fundamental rights are necessary, proportionate, temporary and limited to solving the immediate health crisis”, she said.