Mental health as a safety issue afflicting many Journalists

Picture credit: UNESCO.

MENTAL health is a serious safety issue afflicting journalists around the world especially in the South and yet it is: Less researched, less reported about and less addressed in many newsrooms.

In many societies, mental health is a taboo something not spoken about. Infact – many newsrooms do not have it on the agenda nor budget. In any case Journalism is percieved as a profession for the tough and Journalists must toughen up.

So, day after day, journalists go out there and must report on: complex, traumatic, difficult and distressing issues – like war, natural disasters, political violence, climate change and human suffering, the pandemic… Many times, they are exposed to the very dangers they are covering – death, disease infection, political persecution, jail, harrasmment and intimidation – the list is endless.

This was one of 12 Flash Talks (2 minutes) held on 28.04.21 and organised by UNESCO conference series on Journalism safety organised by UNESCO in collaboration with the Journalism Safety Research Network.

They do this while worrying about layoffs, low salaries and the looming demise of a troubled industry. They are often burnt out under the now unforgiving and insatiable demands of the 24/7 news cycle. Journalists are not safe from the physical and psycological impact of their work hazards. In fact according to a Reuters report (2020) many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders – like depressions, anxiety, fatigue, insomina.

Research is not sufficient and is needed on the: Nature and scope of Mental health in global newsrooms – especially local contexts from the South; Individual challenges and copying mechanisms; how newsrooms are addressing the challenge and perhaps on the impacts of structural and existential challenges and shifts the industry is experiencing.

Multi-stakeholder research, collaboration and dialog – Including but not limited to Industry, civil soceity, academia/Journalism education, and others is vitalto help us understand and more importantly address the mental health issue as it is a serious safety problem.

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