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DOC // No press conferences with the participation of journalists at the Ministry of Health. Officials’ arguments

19 February 2021
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At the repeated requests of the Journalists’ Crisis Cell to resume online press conferences with the participation of the media, the representatives of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection (MHLSP) say that they will not do it. According to an official reply from the ministry, media’s access to information is ensured through “press releases, replies to requests, and participation in programs.”

The latest such request of the Journalists’ Crisis Cell was sent to the ministry at the end of January. Media representatives repeatedly requested the organization of conferences with the participation of journalists and relevant authorities, especially that the institution’s management had earlier promised to resume this communication format.

This time, however, a reply signed by the state secretary of health, Tatiana Zatic, says that MHLSP “ensures journalists’ right to access information by holding a weekly conference on the epidemiological situation, answering the journalists’ requests, having specialists participate in webinars, briefings, interviews, online programs on topics of major interest.”

Tatiana Zatic also says that the ministry created a group for communication on vaccination against Covid-19. “Currently, the priority of MHLSP is efficient management of the pandemic, and specialists are constantly open to provide information to citizens on issues of public interest, through various sources of communication,” the reply said.

On the other hand, the journalists who report daily on the health crisis insist on the need for press conferences and say that they would facilitate efforts to inform the public. At the same time, according to some media professionals, the Ministry of Health does not respond to their requests for information or provides the requested information selectively.

Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Journalists’ Crisis Cell launched an appeal to the ministry to hold online press conferences with direct answers to journalists’ questions. For a long time, especially during the summer of last year, journalists participated in those conferences, with the presence of various specialists in the field. In September, these events were suspended. Representatives of the Journalists’ Crisis Cell repeatedly addressed the ministry for the organization of extended conferences and  received assurances that they would be held “in an updated format,” which did not happen.