Freedom of information can save lives – open letter from 28 editorial offices
April 01. 2021. – 02:37 PM
Translated by Charles Hebbert
Only those working in the health sector know better than you how the life-endangering effect of the coronavirus is most visible inside hospitals. However, under the present regulations doctors and nurses cannot speak about this publicly. At the same time the press is not allowed into hospitals, and so is unable to cover what is happening inside.
Why is this a problem? The importance of showing the work being done inside hospitals during the pandemic has been recognised in many countries. People have made films and written numerous accounts in many places, including the UK, USA, Ireland, Germany, Romania, Slovakia, China, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Australia. It is especially noteworthy that so far the only reports that have given us Hungarians a true picture in Hungarian about how a Covid ward operates have been about hospitals in Odorheiu Secuiesc (Székelyudvarhely) in Romania and Dunajská Streda (Dunaszerdahely) in Slovakia. In Hungary any editor who wants to report in a responsible manner befitting broader social interest about the pandemic and the workload that hospitals face runs up against a brick wall.
The lack of information has serious consequences. Since the government and the pandemic commission (in Hungarian 'operatív törzs') prevent reports being made about the true state of affairs inside our hospitals, many people continue to play down the dangers of the pandemic and do not follow the necessary precautions. This in turn leads to more coronavirus cases and to the worsening of the pandemic.
We, the undersigned editorial boards of Hungarian publications and websites, make the following requests to the government and the pandemic commission:
1. Allow reporters and film crews into Covid wards and vaccination centres in Hungarian hospitals, naturally on the condition that the members of the press completely respect the dignity of hospital staff and patients.
2. Make it possible for health workers to talk to the press about the conditions in hospitals. Let nurses and doctors working on the front line make public statements — and permit them to do so openly, so that our reports do not have to draw on anonymous sources.
3. We consider it of fundamental importance that the government and the pandemic commission present complete and honest information to the press around the clock, in a way that does not happen at present. A press briefing unit should be set up by local health authorities and the National Public Health Centre (NNK) for this purpose. Press conferences should be held in the presence of journalists, either online or (in the interests of health precautions) in the open air.
We await your response to our requests:
Piac & Profit