Journalists and quarantine: Newsgathering not exempt says UK gov

Newsgathering abroad is not among essential work exempt from 14-day quarantine restrictions says Home Office

Journalists are not exempt from the new 14-day quarantine restrictions on travellers entering the UK, despite their status as key workers earlier in the pandemic.

Press Gazette sought to clarify the rules after a question from a freelance journalist reader who wanted to know if they can begin travelling for work.

The UK Government has published a list of travellers exempt from having to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in the UK after new rules came into force on Monday.

It includes BBC workers who are engaged in “urgent or essential work for the BBC’s broadcasting transmission network and services”.

The BBC is required by the Government to maintain its TV and radio networks, which are classed as an essential service, meaning critical technical and engineering staff are exempt from the rules to ensure it can meet its obligations.

But the Home Office has confirmed to Press Gazette that the BBC’s journalists, along with all other reporters and correspondents, will still be required to self-isolate by law if they travel from abroad into the UK for any reason.

This is despite the fact the Government has twice classed journalists reporting on the coronavirus or providing public service broadcasting as key workers during the pandemic:

Across Europe, each country continues to make its own rules on travel as detailed in this rolling updates page by the Guardian. The European Federation of Journalists was unable to point to any specific guidelines for journalists who wish to cross borders.

Broadcasters have begun to increase their journalists’ overseas assignments compared to the peak of the pandemic.

The BBC is largely relying on its network of international journalists but has warned any reporters returning to the UK they will have to self-isolate.

Channel 4 News international editor Lindsey Hilsum reported from Bergamo, Italy – previously a Covid-19 hotspot – last month before travelling to Brazil, which is currently the world’s epicentre of the virus.

Meanwhile the programme’s foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Rugman has reported from France and Denmark as they each relaxed lockdown measures.

Hilsum and her team are expected to either work from home or take holiday upon their arrival back in the UK, as their colleagues returning from Europe.

Channel 4 editor-at-large Dorothy Byrne told Press Gazette last month broadcasters had been successfully working with more freelance journalists based in different countries as travel restrictions meant they were unable to go there themselves.

“Some of the very best films that Channel 4 has shown have been filmed by these marvellous journalists in other countries who we have discovered were there all the time,” she said.

You can find all of Press Gazette’s coverage on how coronavirus is affecting the news industry here.

Picture: Gatwick Airport/PA Wire



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