International journalism festival cancelled over coronavirus outbreak in Italy

An annual international journalism festival due to be held in Italy next month has been cancelled in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Organisers of the International Journalism Festival in Perugia have said it will not go ahead due to “public health risks” presented by the virus.

Eleven towns in northern Italy are currently in lockdown quarantine measures while the rest of the region is classed as high risk.

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According to the World Health Organisation, Italy has seen the third most cases of coronavirus in the world at 1,689 cases and 35 deaths.

Organisers of the festival, due to take place on 1 to 5 April, said in a statement that cancelling it was a “sad day”, but added: “We hope to return even stronger and more united for the 2021 festival and beyond.”

Speakers at the festival, sponsored by Facebook and the Google News Initiative, were set to include former Guardian columnist Gary Younge, Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s global editor James Ball and impact editor Miriam Wells, Tortoise editor Polly Curtis, BBC journalist Carrie Gracie and FT head of digital editorial development Renee Kaplan.

Other speakers on the line-up included Buzzfeed News Europe editor Alberto Nardelli and media editor Craig Silverman, Rebecca Vincent, UK bureau director for Reporters Without Borders, Full Fact chief executive Will Moy and Channel 4 head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne.

The festival organisers said: “We know that this decision will cause inconvenience for many and have negative financial consequences for some but we believe it would be irresponsible to act in any other way given current circumstances.

“The health and safety of festival speakers, attendees, volunteers, staff, suppliers as well as that of the citizens of Perugia is and must remain our top priority.

“We make this announcement today, one month before the start of the festival, because we are convinced that the entire festival community will benefit from an end to the uncertainty.”

Also in the past few days Google has reportedly cancelled its Global News Initative summit that was due to be held in California in late April.

Google’s vice president of news, Richard Gingras, told CNBC: “We regret that we have to cancel our global Google News Initiative summit but the health and wellbeing of our guests is our number one priority.”

Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow is currently halfway through a 14-day self-isolation period after returning from a reporting trip to Iran to cover the parliamentary elections.

Snow’s cameraman and producer are also undergoing a fortnight alone in line with Government guidance for anyone returning from Iran since 19 February, even if they have no symptoms.

Iran has seen 978 reported cases of coronavirus and 54 deaths.

Snow tweeted last night: “Seven days of coronavirus NHS ordered ‘self isolation’ after our reporting stint in Iran – feeling good if a little isolated – seven more days to go!”

BBC Today presenter Nick Robinson was also in self-isolation for two days while he awaited test results for coronavirus after returning from a holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia with a cough.

He was given the all-clear on Friday morning.

Sky changed its visitor policy last week so anyone invited onto a Sky site – including Sky News guests – must confirm they have not visited any “higher risk” country or been exposed to anyone suspected of having or confirmed to have coronavirus within the previous 14 days.

The “higher risk” areas include China, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Iran, Cambodia and northern Italy.

In a memo to staff sent on Wednesday, Sky said: “We will not allow any visitors who have been in higher risk countries, or have been exposed to Covid-19, to enter our sites. This is to reduce the risk of contagion for our staff.

“All visitors will need to complete a simple form at the entrance to Sky sites as part of the entry process.”

Other news organisations have also taken precautions, including at the FT where staff returning from a Category one country – namely Iran and parts of China, Italy and South Korea – have been told to work from home for 14 days.

Picture: Silvia Mazzocchin/International Journalism Festival

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