More than half of the journalists were under the age of 60
As of November 15, 462 journalists have died of Covid-19 in 56 countries across the globe, the Geneva-based international media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) said on December 1.
Since that time, the number of total worldwide pandemic deaths has risen five-fold, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, reports International Journalists' Network (IJNet).
In an interview with Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), Blaise Lempen, PEC secretary general, said the true tally was likely much higher than 462, as researchers were limited to cases officially confirmed to be virus-related, through testing or certification.
“We fear a hundred more victims by the end of the year,” Lempen added. “But in some countries, like in Europe, journalists have now learned to take essential precautions such as wearing a mask, keeping a distance, avoiding direct contacts and travel, and we have seen a decrease in casualties among them.”
Latin American countries account for more than half the tally of journalist deaths (251), added with a recent surge striking India and Bangladesh.
Lempen said India and Bangladesh had suffered a sharp increase in reporter deaths in the past few months compared to the first half of the pandemic, but noted that mortality rates remained far worse in several Latin American countries, given their smaller population sizes compared to India and Bangladesh.
Their count shows that Peru’s journalism community has been the hardest hit, with 93 reporter deaths, followed by India with 47, Ecuador with 41, and Brazil with 36.
The PEC has recorded 35 reporter deaths in Bangladesh. In addition, the Dhaka-based journalism group Our Media, Our Rights, has counted 1,010 Covid-19 infections from 191 media houses in Bangladesh, as well as 942 recoveries.
Ahammad Foyez, coordinator of Our Media, Our Rights, is concerned that mounting economic pressures — including the fear of layoffs — are forcing staff reporters to take greater infection risks both in the field and within newsrooms.
“A large number of journalists are attending their offices to secure their jobs, as a huge number of media workers have lost their jobs during the pandemic,” said Ahammad.
“Some are doing office work even when colleagues there are positive for Covid-19. Media houses should make guidelines immediately on how they cover events and the seating arrangements within the offices,” he added.
Most journalists were relatively young
Meanwhile, the PEC has found that most recent deaths involve reporters under the age of 60.
“What surprises me is that, contrary to common belief, many journalists have died relatively young,” said Lempen.
“Since early October, more than half of these journalists were under 60 — in their 40s or 50s — according to our count. It is always difficult to know the origin of the infection, but many have been infected at work,” he added.
Making matters worse is the attitude of certain political leaders, said Lempen, singling out the presidents of Brazil and the United States: “I personally regret that political leaders like Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro are so oblivious that they endanger the journalists they speak to.”