De Lima pushes for hazard pay, additional insurance coverage for journalists


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure requiring media entities to grant additional insurance coverage and hazard pay to journalists and other media persons on field assignments, including those who are assigned to cover disease-infected areas and disaster-stricken zones.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, introduced Senate Bill (SB) No. 1523, which also seeks to grant additional benefits for journalists caused by injury, hospitalization and disability.

“At present, members of the media are facing a new threat as the COVID-19 virus has managed to spread far and wide across the Philippine archipelago. Many journalists and field reporters risk getting infected with the virus just so they can provide timely and factual information to the Filipino people,” she said.

“In spite of the dangers of contamination, they willingly place their own health and well-being at risk out of a sense of duty to the Filipino people and commitment to their craft,” she added.

Aside from health risks, De Lima pointed out that media persons continue to become target of abuse or even killings for fulfilling their mission as watchdogs against abusive governments and as representations of the critical voices of the citizens.

A report by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) found that there have been a total of 154 attacks and threats against the news media since Mr. Duterte assumed power from June 30, 2016 to Dec. 5, 2019

“These cases thus far include 15 journalists who have been killed under the Duterte administration, 28 incidents of intimidation, 20 cases of online harassment, 12 threats via text messages, 12 libel cases, 10 website attacks, eight assassination attempts, and eight cases of journalists who were barred from coverage,” she noted.

The benefits outlined in SB No. 1523, or the “Journalists Protection Act of 2020”,

include disability benefits of PhP350, 000 for all mass media practitioners and employees who shall suffer total or partial disability sustained during performance of duty and death benefits amounting to PhP300, 000 for all mass media practitioners and employees on field assignment who shall perish in the line of duty

The benefits likewise cover the reimbursement of actual medical costs up to PhP200, 000 for all mass media practitioners and employees on field assignments who shall be hospitalized or who shall require medical assistance for injuries sustained while in the performance of duty.

“The media entity shall have the option of selecting the insurance company and shall be responsible for paying the insurance premiums for their journalists and employees,” De Lima said.

Under the proposed measure, the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) are mandated to create a special insurance program for freelance journalists that shall include, among others, a coverage of risks incurred while working in war zones, conflict-stricken areas, and calamity-affected places.

In filing the measure, De Lima said it is imperative that media persons be provided with adequate social safety nets so as to create a work environment where they can effectively perform their duties and serve as agents of freedom of expression and right to information.

“There is a pressing need to safeguard the welfare of our journalists in light of the dangerous and even life-threatening circumstances they encounter on a daily basis,” De Lima, a staunch advocate for press freedom, said. (30)

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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Direct Lines:
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