Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, August 9
There is a journalist in the district who has attended 50 funerals of Covid victims. Then, there are photojournalists getting shots of people undergoing swab tests inside the Covid test centres even during the lockdown. They are vulnerable all along.
Recently, a 70-year-old photojournalist recently lost his life to the virus a few days ago. His nephew, also a photojournalist, tested positive. Meanwhile, after another media professional’s wife succumbed, he was hounded in the name of isolation protocol.
Frontliners: This word says enough for itself nowadays. But after all, it is the actions what gives the word the essence. And journalists here have ticked all the boxes requisite of being considered among the likes of healthcare workers, police personnel, sanitation staff etc. Amid all the lashing of praise, the one community which has constantly been on the ground bringing the Covid updates in the district to the populace from the very first day has been desperately feeling excluded.
Positive persons looked upon as culprits
The mediapersons, like others, have suffered from the beginning. While it was in April that the first positive case surfaced, since then there has been a spate of cases among the group across various major publications. An organisation, which didn’t wish to be named, revealed that a considerable number of employees were recorded positive. Following which, the main office of the said organisation remained closed for three weeks.
Allegations that biometric attendance was being held even during the pandemic have been denied by the organisation claiming it was unduly targeted. On the flip side, many of the hospitals, whose staff had tested positive, continued operations without facing sealing or suspension of work.
Refusing to be named, the authorities of a vernacular media organisation while speaking with The Tribune, said: “We were stigmatised by the media itself and many put out articles ascribing things which didn’t happen at the organisation. We were the prime target and at one point of time the coverage made it look as if we were responsible for the spread in Jalandhar. We had stopped biometric attendance well in time and employees were marking attendance with magnetic cards.”
The contemporaries too weren’t spared. Following the lifting of curbs, police personnel, the DAC complex, health staff, ITBP and various other establishments and communities have taken turns emerging as the Covid hotspots.
Even during the thick of the lockdown, the tradition of press conferences and press meets never ceased in the district. The newspersons were exposed to the risk every time covering such meets. The declaration of the lockdown was announced by the then Jalandhar DC itself at a press meet, and was heavily attended by journalists. All political parties have also regularly been holding press meets. The threat looms large even as they indulge in covering events sporting masks, visiting high risk zones in face shields complimented with sanitisers.
Migrant crisis management
The lockdown affected the day-to-day life of the populace giving way to a huge migrant crisis and their long, taxing walk back home across the country being documented all the while. Jalandhar was no different.
The district also saw a huge migrant exodus with lakhs of factory and farm workers travelling back home to safety and food. And the journalists led from the front bringing to light their plights. Some even chased migrants on foot in the sweltering conditions and documented their overwhelming stories.
The numbers that one sees in the newspapers is not easily received. It is easier said than done. The district Health Department continues to share the daily round-up. However, neither the Health Department nor the public relations department ever reveal information about VIPs or prominent figures testing positive. This is usually leaked or received through sources. To add to work, consistent unresponsive numbers of some of key health officials proves another spring of consternation for the journalists.
“In Jalandhar, the information mechanism also demands more work from us. Since all the health and administrational PR facilities close at 5 pm, journalists often have to scurry for information. The PR department isn’t responsibly disseminating late night updates and information. It is their responsibility to do their job as we do ours,” said Surinder Pal, president Print and Electronic Media Association Jalandhar, who himself tested positive and came out of isolation period on Thursday.
The information flow
The numbers that one sees in the newspapers is not easily received. The district Health Department continues to share the daily round-up. However, neither the Health Department nor the public relations department ever reveal information about VIPs or prominent figures testing positive. This is usually leaked or received through sources. To add to work, consistent unresponsive numbers of some of key health officials proves another spring of consternation
After a recent death, it was claimed that a delay of seven days in results stalled the treatment of a deceased mediaperson. Another claim was that after his wife’s death at a private hospital, it didn’t allow her sample to be tested from a different lab. While risking their lives to bring truth to the public, some journalists faced social stigma when they themselves tested positive.
Kudos to portals
Apart from newspapers and journals, a steady stream of online portals kept the information flowing. The portals are often the first ones to anticipate the major breaks. These news are lapped up by citizens and also act as a source of information before newspapers hit the stands, Many of the employees, who quit various publications, opened their own portals. The online access of news through these plethora of online portals have also been the key source of information amid the lockdown when most of the people discontinued newspapers.
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