At least 20 journalists have died and more than 50 are currently infected with Covid-19 in Peru, according to Peru’s National Journalists Association (ANP).
Many of the victims were working in the country’s most affected regions, Zuliana Lainez, ANP's secretary general, told CNN on Tuesday.
Six of them died in Iquitos, one of hardest hit regions by the pandemic. All of them were working actively until days before they collapsed,” Lainez said.
These journalists were also more at risk due to their employment conditions, Lainez added. Eight of the 20 victims were not full-time workers.
“Our colleagues based in the regions and not in the capital don’t have an organization behind them to provide (personal protective equipment), many of them have been going to hospitals and markets just with home-made masks,” Lainez explained
ANP has asked the government to supply freelance journalists with PPE equipment so they can continue their work in the field.
In Peru’s capital, Lima, larger media organizations improved conditions for media workers just a few weeks ago, Lainez claimed.
“Even a month after the lockdown, our colleagues were still interviewing people half-meter away from the interviewee in crowded markets. Now they have finally started to use long microphones for example, but this is only after a photographer from a TV station died,” Lainez said.
But the former president of Peru’s Public TV and Radio institute (IRTP) and journalist Hugo Coya estimates that the figures of journalists among Covid-19 victims could be much higher.
“There are a lot of them who don’t belong to any union and work as freelancers, so they are not officially accounted for anywhere," Coya argues.
Some background: Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications approved a health protocol for TV and Radio employees at the end of May.
The protocol establishes measures related to disinfection and use of PPE equipment for TV and radio employees, according to a statement released by Peru’s Radio and Television Advisory Council (ConcorTV).
The document also states that radio and television companies are responsible for monitoring the health condition of their workers, while the Ministry is responsible for monitoring any breaches to the guidelines.
But the directive does not include print journalists as the ministry is in charge of regulating only the radio and television industry, a member of the council’s communications team clarified.
Peru has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in Latin America, following Brazil.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to remove a photo of a cemetery near Lima that was used in error.