LAHORE: At least three Pakistani journalists have tested positive for novel coronavirus.
The news came to the forth on Twitter that two journalists working with News 24 HD TV and one with AbbTakk TV had contracted COVID-19.
All three, whose names have not been disclosed, are based in Lahore.
Mohsin Naqvi, CEO 24 NewsHD, confirmed the development and said: “We are investigating the possibility of further infected individuals by tests and have quarantined few staff members. We have and will continue to assure that all precautions possible are taken.”
Meanwhile, head of a newspaper union claimed three more reporters (two in Punjab and one in Karachi) were infected of the virus that emerged in China last December.
He lamented the lack of safety kits for beat reporters.
“Most of the reporters covering hospitals asked me for safety kits. After our request to the federal government, they have taken up the responsibility for the treatment of only those reporters and their families who have tested positive,” Chairman All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation (APNEC) Siddique Anzar told Anadolu Agency.
He said reporters from smaller towns such as Dera Ismail Khan and Larkana, besides being ill-equipped, were also facing financial difficulties because of delays in salaries.
While staffers in digital newsrooms have been asked to work from home, TV reporters have to be out in the field to update the masses.
Sibte Hassan, who reports for Hum News from Karachi, said: “Channels are demanding extensive coverage of this issue… we have to give live hits in every headline and bulletin but they haven’t provided us with any safety kits. I am roaming around in hospitals… I got my safety kit on my own, but many of the field reporters cannot even afford these.”
Apart from the above mentioned issues, it is claimed that media houses haven’t been paid their advertising dues for long.
Hamid Mir, a senior journalist said: “I have even used safety kits in war zones that were very heavy but for corona, it is very light… hand gloves, masks, plastic capes, and sanitisers. We have demanded the government to pay the overdue bills of media houses that are around Rs6 billion so that their staff can get through this lockdown and take care of themselves.”
After Sindh, even Punjab announced a lockdown. Only essential services such as hospitals, grocery stores and pharmacies remain open.
The global death toll from the virus has exceeded 17,000, with 398,000 cases confirmed worldwide, according to data compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.
In the face of the pandemic, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have called on media executives in Pakistan not to send large number of reporters into the filed.
“Everything must be put in place so that they can work from home and avoid any potential source of infection,” it said in a statement.