The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is urging media companies to better protect their employees as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infected at least 58 media workers testing and causing the death of at least two cameramen.

“Although media workers are considered essential workers during the quarantine, the lack of support and assistance for them suggests they are not seen as that important after all,” the national union said in a statement released Thursday.

“While we hold the administration accountable for the rate of infection, we would like to remind media companies of their obligation to protect their employees, including correspondents and contributors.”

The NUJP called for media companies to provide their workers with free swab testing, hazard pay “especially for those covering on the ground” and health insurance.

The group also urged the media companies to provide emergency cash assistance, access to quality health care, and psychosocial support to those who got infected while in the line of duty.

“Those who are willing to be inoculated must also be given access to safe and effective vaccine,” they added.

“Our friends, colleagues and families are not just ‘maliit na bagay’ (small things),” the NUJP said, referencing President Rodrigo Duterte, who used the phrase to downplay the pandemic’s effect to the country disrupting and claiming lives and sending the economy in a downward spiral.

As we call for support for our colleagues struck by the virus, we stand with the Filipino people in demanding a comprehensive and scientific COVID-19 response.

The NUJP pins the blame on the Duterte administration’s “inefficient government response to the pandemic” describing the country’s situation as “staying alive is a daily struggle.”

“It pains us to see how the Duterte administration resorts to the same failed Covid-19 response, ignoring calls for scientific approach in battling the spread of the pandemic. More than a year since the lockdown, the Duterte administration has been adamant in implementing mobility restrictions without raising the bar of the health care system nor implementing free mass testing, effective contact tracing and isolation, among others.”

As of Thursday, the Philippines recorded 828,366 total Covid-19 cases with 14,119 dying from the disease. – Rommel F. Lopez