The war in Iraq is going down as history’s most dangerous for journalists. War correspondents have some idea what they are getting into, however. Reporters covering local funerals of bird flu victims and poultry culling operations are usually general beat reporters and didn’t sign up for ultra hazardous duty. Now the Indonesian press corps is starting to worry.
”I really feel strongly that the issue of health and safety of reporters covering avian flu must be addressed by the management of news organizations,” said Daenk Haryono of the North Sumatra-based ‘Harian Global’ daily.
”Many times I’ve seen my colleagues go out to the field, not aware that they should be at least wearing face masks and gloves,” he added. ”It seems like the editors just want our stories and couldn’t give a damn about our safety,”
Haryono has every reason to worry. Two reporters have so far been admitted to hospital, suspected to be suffering from avian influenza or bird flu. The latest victim from the popular ‘Tempo’ daily was rushed to hospital last week when he developed high fever after covering the mass culling of chickens and the funeral of a bird flu victim in West Java. (IPS)
The News Safety Institute in Brussels has issued some general guidelines to reporters, such as advice to avoid dirct ontact with any poultry, but especially sick or dead poultry or places where they have likely contaminated things; to wash their hands often and defintely after any potential contact; to consider wearing personal protective great such as masks or gloves; be aware of flu like symptoms near a potential exposure for at lest 10 days.
Yeah, right. It’s doubtful how many reporters know these guidelines and even if they do, they present problems. People who have no protection are not thrilled to talk to reporters wearing masks and gloves.
While face masks are deemed as standard protection gear, many journalists complained that villagers often didn’t want to talk to them if they wore one.
”It’s really difficult getting interviews if I were to wear a face mask,” said Iir Sairoh of the West Java-based ‘Radio Cindelaras’. ”I seem to scare off people with it,” she added.
But the radio journalist revealed that not wearing a face mask, each time she conducted an interview has a traumatizing effect on her.
”It’s okay when I’m doing the interview, with the adrenalin flowing to beat the deadline. But after I’ve filed my piece that’s when I become scared,” she told the seminar.
”That’s when I realise that I haven’t had any protection and it just plays on and on in my head that I’m going to get sick and die,” said Sairoh, while sharing her experiences with her colleagues.
Sairoh revealed that once she had a fever after returning from a village where there was a bird flu outbreak.
”That was very scary and I told myself that if the fever persisted for another day I would go to the nearest hospital. Fortunately it did not,” she said. ”Maybe I’m just a hypochondriac,” added Sairoh, laughing it off. (IPS)
So much for the guidelines and so much for surveillance. Masks? No one knows if they do any good or which ones are the right ones (if any). Gloves? How do you dispose of them? Do you reuse them?
So far we know of no confirmed cases of H5N1 in reporters covering the story. But I don’t blame them for worrying. I’d worry, too.