Information Saves Lives

Coronavirus map February 28
Photo credit: skynews-coronavirus-map by NASA, March 1, 2020


In a global health crisis, information saves lives.

Access to it can mean the difference between life and death.

It was Globe and Mail journalist Andre Picard’s prescient Shut It Down column, available here, that helped get authorities to act in Canada. JHR ambassador and CTV National News Editor Lisa LaFlamme has been working around the clock keeping Canadians informed on how to navigate this pandemic. Many Canadian media outlets, including the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and The Logic,  have lifted paywalls on covid coverage. Just Thursday, the Premier of Ontario, Doug Fordpraised the media and in particular the Toronto Star for the “massive” role it has played, ensuring people have the information they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

In a crisis, #InformationSavesLives.

In Canada, team JHR is working right alongside our media partners, helping leading journalists and influencers from CTV’s Bill Fortier to the Dallaire Initiative’s Amara Bangura fight misinformation and disinformation on the pandemic right here at home, with the support of Canadian Heritage. Never has the need for such work been more urgent than right now. For more on why this matters, and why it particularly matters right now, please check out our team leader Marcus Kolga’s item here in Maclean’s.

We’ll also be working with the Solutions Journalism Network, funded by the McConnell Foundation, to share and understand solutions to some of Canada’s toughest challenges – including the wicked socio-economic challenges this pandemic represents. This work will be embedded in JHR’s human rights-based framework. Sound worthwhile ? Join us ! We’re taking applications to work on this project here.

Overseas, from Bamako to Kinshasa, Juba to Amman, JHR will adapt our learning from experiences combating misinformation on Ebola to help people understand the threat this virus represents to them, and how to keep themselves safe. We will work with media to ensure people know where to find the care they need. We will help people understand the importance of social distancing, personal hygiene and other drastic changes in our daily habits.

And taking a wider lens, we will help people understand the broader human rights, social and economic implications of this pandemic, in order to help them better navigate those challenges and find solutions to them.

It’s easy to lose perspective on coronavirus. It’s easy to despair. It may be a while before a viable vaccine is developed.

But it’s also a time of heroism and hope. Never before has the globe come together with such commonality of purpose to fight this threat. China is sending testing kits to Italy and the United States. Italians are sharing their stories and their songs from the balconies, both as an inspiration and as a cautionary tale to others to act early. It is not going to be easy. Provided we maintain a commitment to basic human rights at the core of all of our responses to this crisis, there will, also, be positive changes to come.

Recognizing the scope of this new threat, JHR first prioritized keeping our people safe. Based on guidance from Health Canada and the World Health Organization, Canada-based employees have been working remotely since March 13. We brought an international delegation in Mali back as quickly as possible. And working with partner CTV News, we pulled international expert trainer Sarah Plowman on CTV Edmonton back from Jordan. (Check out her blog from Jordan, here or read more here. And, if you’d like to see how Sarah pivoted to cover coronavirus in transit, here is her story *from the airplane.*)

Staff travel is now on hold until the threat has passed.

During this uncertain time, and despite these measures, the incredible people who represent Journalists for Human Rights will be hard at work. Possibly harder than ever.

In a pandemic, having access to the right information literally saves lives.

Thank you for reading, thank you for caring, and thank you for your support of Journalists for Human Rights through these difficult and uncertain times. Please continue your support, as you are able – we’re taking donations specifically related to supporting journalists supporting communities through this pandemic here.

Because in a crisis, #InformationSavesLives.



Rachel Pulfer

Executive Director

Journalists for Human Rights


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