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27 March 2020

Government: Journalists 'Critical' To Providing Information About Coronavirus To Public

Journalists are critical to providing essential information about coronavirus to the public and it is imperative that they can continue doing so during lockdown, the Government has said. 

In a Lords debate on public interest reporting on the coronavirus outbreak this week, DCMS Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Baroness Barran said Government was working with the industry to ensure that journalists are able to continue their vital work. 

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port asked what steps the Government were taking to ensure that, in the event of any further restrictions on movement to limit the transmission of COVID-19, journalists and photographers carrying press cards will continue to have the freedom to travel for the purposes of public interest reporting.

Baroness Barran responded: "My Lords, the Government are clear that journalists are critical to providing essential information about coronavirus to the public and that it is imperative that they are able to continue doing so. We are working with the industry and others to ensure that journalists are able to continue performing their vital function at this time.

"Relevant journalists, broadcasters and ancillary staff have been included on the list of key workers whose children will be prioritised for school or other educational or childcare places. We are also clear that employers need to be responsible about who needs to be in the office, and we encourage them to help their staff find alternative arrangements and to support them in working from home."

The News Media Association has called on the Government to support the news media sector which is acting as a “fourth emergency service” during the coronavirus crisis by providing independent, verifiable news and information to the public.

Outlining a series of fast measures the Government could take to support journalism at this time, the NMA said: “There is an urgent need for immediate financial and operational support for all UK news publishers, national, regional and local. Maintaining the flow of essential news while avoiding extensive job losses and title closures would be beneficial to the public purse and society in the long-term.”

Baroness Barran said that journalists were a key source of trusted facts and "have a role to play in rallying communities and getting the message across about how we can keep ourselves and our families safe, and protect our NHS." 

Last week, the local media sector launched a campaign urging the community to pull together in response to the coronavirus epidemic which saw the vast majority of daily local media titles across the United Kingdom publish the same front page. 

Over the weekend, almost all national titles carried an ad for the #ThereWithYou campaign. 

ThereWithYou Front - AD