It would be easy to dismiss President Rodrigo Duterte’s directions at a July 1 press conference for reporters to remove their face shields and face masks so he can hear their questions as just another example of the inconsistent implementation pandemic guidelines if they didn’t have implications on media workers’ safety.
“Tanggalin mo na lang ‘yan, sabay na lang tayo magka-COVID (Just take it off. Let’s have COVID together),” he told TV5 reporter Maricel Halili at the inauguration of the Light Rail Transit Line 2 East Extension Project last week, saying he could not make out what she was saying.
While Duterte and those close to him have easy access to medical facilities and vaccines, many media workers do not. In fact, many of our colleagues are still waiting to complete their vaccination and many others have yet to receive their first dose.
Because of the nature of their work, many journalists in the Philippines and in the region have been exposed to the risk of COVID-19 since the pandemic started in March 2020.
Many, including most correspondents and stringers, have had to provide their own PPEs and find ways to get themselves tested.
Many, especially those outside Metro Manila, do not have safety nets in case they do contract COVID-19.
Comments making light of the coronavirus and directing journalists to remove protective equipment that the government itself says they should always wear also make light of the risks that media workers face during coverage.