The impact of Covid-19 on journalists in Africa

A report on the challenges African journalists and others in the global south faced as a result of the global pandemic

JAMLAB Contributor
Apr 6 · 4 min read

The global media landscape has changed over the past 10 years with journalism facing a range of problems such as the disruption in traditional media as a result of the fast changing digital space, to fake news and the rising distrust in journalism. When Covid-19 hit, it exacerbated these and other existing problems within the journalism industry.

In a new report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Damian Radcliffe unpacks seven main themes, which were challenges faced by journalists over the past year in emerging economies and the global south. Journalists from various countries on the continent contributed to this report, sharing their personal experiences over the past tumultuous Covid-19 year as the first recorders of history from the frontline.

The themes featured in this report ranges from new limits to media freedom, reporting challenges and restrictions, misinformation and ‘infodemic’, health and safety, negative economics, digital dependency and mental health and wellbeing. These challenges are explored through the day to day personal experiences of journalists reporting during the pandemic.

New Limits to media freedom

A senior newspaper reporter in Malawi said that when the government rushed to implement a lockdown with only 36 cases identified it raised suspicion. When the lockdown was successfully blocked it reinforced the narrative that the government was using the lockdown to prevent elections from happening. The report notes how governments were using Covid-19 to manipulate and control a narrative.

Reporting challenges and restrictions

Misinformation and ‘infodemic’

Kandani Ngwira, a newspaper journalists in Malawi suggested some solutions in fighting fake news. “Good governance can help reduce fake news. Even civic education can work only in an environment where citizens trust their political leaders,” he said.

Health and safety

The report also notes that 30% of field reporters were not given any personal protective equipment (PPE) during the first wave of the pandemic. “…there were times when I would not attend an important diary [event] on the pandemic due to the lack of PPE,” said a Zimbabwean journalist.

Negative economics

Digital Dependency

A journalist in Zimbabwe said it was a challenge working from home due to high data costs and poor internet connections which was worsened by a 50% pay cut.

Mental health and wellbeing

Although the main focus of the report was on the challenges faced by journalists reporting on the pandemic, it offers inspirational examples for newsrooms and journalists as many countries go through the second and third wave of Covid-19 and shares news ways to cover this crisis. Some of the suggest solutions include finding new approaches to storytelling and new products; seek collaborations and partnerships ranging from content sharing, to data sharing and research.

Read the full report here

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The Jamlab Africa Newsletter is produced by Wits Journalism. The Journalism and Media Lab supports innovators to bring new information, new ideas and new conversations to new audiences in Africa.

JAMLAB Contributor

Written by

jamlab

The Jamlab Africa Newsletter is produced by Wits Journalism. The Journalism and Media Lab supports innovators to bring new information, new ideas and new conversations to new audiences in Africa.

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