Dangers for Press Freedom in times of pandemic

By Paola Molina Noguera

Journalists are little-recognized heroes in this pandemic, even though they are on the front line of battle, carrying truthful information and "inconveniencing governments" that are not acting with transparency in the management of public funds.

In this sense, the All with Voice movement served as a framework for the development of a discussion with representatives of the media and the journalistic union of the continent, to publicize the dangers and challenges facing Freedom of Expression and of the Press, particularly in Latin America.

This event had the participation of Diego Quijano, President of the La Prensa Corporation of Panama; Gesell Tobias, Head of the Digital Division of the Voice of America VOA; Angelica Cárcamo, President of the Association of Journalists of El Salvador APES and Syria Miranda, TVN Panama journalist.

The meeting served to make visible that today they number more than 186 journalists who have lost their lives infected by COVID-19, the highest number of deaths is led by the United States and several Latin American countries.

In countries with authoritarian governments, such as Nicaragua and Venezuela, they have used quarantine to impose greater control on citizens and persecute the press., that tries to carry out its work aligned to the right that we all have to be informed and be able to express ourselves freely, journalists are arrested, others persecuted and others subject to theft of their equipment, among others.

In the case of El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele has called press conferences without giving the right to ask the representatives of the media, or has incurred excesses in the use of national channels.

During recent protests in the United States, stemming from racial social tension, journalists were the target of attacks by police forces in the course of their work.

Panama is particularly experiencing an excessive attack, this is the La Prensa Corporation, independent media, which is currently subject to the freezing of their bank accounts, judicial processes and government pressure that may lead to the closure of this, which is the main newspaper in Panama.

That is to say, the flow of information is not quarantined and the current situation in different countries jeopardizes fundamental rights in any democratic system. In addition to this reality, the media do not escape the world economic crisis either, Thousands of workers have lost their jobs when their income in companies is reduced, some newspapers have their circulation interrupted due to lack of paper and restrictions on regular traffic.

Likewise, many media are currently undergoing a digital transformation. With changes in news consumption habits, they were forced to migrate to the digital space to continue their work of informing. Journalism has to implement greater security measures for those who do news coverage.

To preserve free and fair societies it is essential that there be Freedom of Expression and of the Press.