COVID-19 has made governments that were already controlling, tighten their grip on society and the press. “In El Salvador, President Bukele is continuously attacking digital media, discrediting anyone who opposes him. In Honduras there is practically no opposition left. The army has control over the country and the information flow about COVID-19’’ says Enayda Argueta, co-founder of Fundación Latitudes.
All four governments are implementing a strategy of centralising information. “They create a vertical information flow, which means there is only one source of information that starts with the president, who then discredits every dissonant voice,’’ Argueta explains. Overall, journalists are experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety due to isolation, lack of protective materials, and financial insecurity. “The economies of the Central American countries are basically paralysed right now, the economic crisis looming in the region may be more catastrophic than the pandemic itself,” Argueta says.
Supporting in every way possible
Fundación Latitudes, with support from Free Press Unlimited, has equipped more than 100 journalists with protective materials like glasses and masks to help them continue their vital work in a safer way. To help journalists cope emotionally, digital platforms are set up where individual and group meetings can be held, with colleagues, but also with psychologists. The training and security team of Fundación Latitudes has also created a resource guide together with biosafety specialists to inform journalists about working in an infectious environment.
Riesgo Cruzado, the safety training programme that Fundación Latitudes created together with Free Press Unlimited, has created a space on Instagram where journalists from different regions can get in touch and share information, under the hashtag #covidriesgocruzado. It also increases the visibility of the work of journalists, showing through photos how journalists in different areas are coping with the situation, and what challenges they face.
Photo credit: Jorge Astola.
Podcast: Together for reliable information
Episode #1: Journalism during COVID-19 in Central Ameria. As a part of the campaign ‘Together for reliable information’ we are producing a series of podcasts to highlight the inspiring initiatives from our partners all over the world to keep bringing reliable information to the public. In every podcast one of our programme coordinators will talk about the latest news from our partners on the frontline. In this podcast we speak with Mira Chowdhury, our programme coordinator in Central America.