By Shingirai Vambe
Harare- The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services on July 22 2021 raised concerns on the rising cases of Covid-19 related deaths among members of the media following the demise of several media practitioners in the country.
Rising on a point of privilege, Committee Chairperson, Sipho Mokone told parliament that the ministry responsible ‘should continue to prioritise the safety of journalists’, as they are also front-line workers.
“Just last week we lost Sandra Nyaira and more recently Tawanda Gudhlanga who both succumbed to Covid-19. We are reliably informed that Montrose Studios in Bulawayo is currently battling to cope with the scourge, while more than 4 cases have been reported at Pockets Hill in Harare,” Mokone said.
Since 2020, many people including journalists lost employment due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant number of media personnel ended up settling for freelance journalism.
“Freelancing comes with lot of demands and in this pandemic, one has to buy their own PPE’s and related sundries,” said one freelance journalist, Tarisai (not her real name)
Another female freelance journalist Fungai (not her real name), told this publication that the pandemic was politicized not only in Zimbabwe but across thus making it difficult for her audience to comfortably share accurate information.
“A lot of news either went unreported or remained unverified and inaccurate due to the hostile working environment created by law enforcement.” she added.
According to the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA), freelancers don’t have institutional protection such as salaries, medical aid among many other essentials.
Speaking to this publication, the media watchdog said, “Journalists are essential front-line workers and their jobs involve a lot of interaction which in itself is an added risk. Freelancers don’t have access to PPEs and insurance. However, as an institution we have to keep encouraging that they should be vaccinated, regardless of a lot of questions around the efficacy of the available vaccines.”
“Almost all journalists have been affected by the pandemic but the impact has hit harder on freelancers because they don’t have access to PPEs and medical insurance as they only eat what they kill,” MISA said.
So far eight journalists have succumbed to Covid-19 in Zimbabwe and over 200 media experts in the country are now freelance journalists and a few are permanently employed while other are migrating to other business as a means for survival.
Currently the country has recorded 3583 deaths and 109, 546 cases since 2010.
Contacted for a comment, the minister responsible for Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa could not respond to questions sent to her by time of going to publish.