Why blame media for Corona spread, asks Editors Guild

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 4/4/2020 1:00:09 AM

NEW DELHI, Apr 3: Four days after the Supreme Court agreed to the government's blame on the media for causing panic among migrant workers leading to their exodus in the wake of the lockdown, the Editors Guild of India said such actions could obstruct the process of dissemination of news.
In a strong-worded statement, it said no democracy is fighting pandemic by gagging its media and blaming the media at this juncture can only undermine the current work being done by it under trying circumstances.
Intimidation of the media or blaming the media for mass migration of workers will be counterproductive, the Guild said, adding that such actions will tantamount to disabling the messenger.
"The Guild believes for sure that the media must be responsible, free and fair. But such interference can only undermine those goals," the statement said.
The Guild also hit out at the FIR under criminal laws lodged against the editor-in-chief of the news portal The Wire. "A police action in the form of an FIR is an overreaction and an act of intimidation," it said.
Stating that it holds the Apex Court in the highest respect, but it finds the advice based on the government's stand as "gratuitous and unnecessary" that "the media should refer to and publish the official version of the developments pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic."
Meanwhile, the Press Club of India (PCI), in a statement on Friday, said it is dismayed by the pleading of the Union government that practically appears to suggest that only the official version of the situation arising out of the massive COVID-19 crisis be reflected in the media.
"This borders on censorship and we forcefully reject such an approach and express our sharp criticism of it," the PCI said.
"The Supreme Court evidently was also not persuaded by the official approach. It asked the government to make its version available on a routine basis for the media. This thankfully makes facts disseminated by the government easily accessible," it said.
The top court was careful not to stop the media from doing its work, the PCI noted.The mainstream media has on the whole rendered splendid service in making available reliable information, often dispelling sensationalism and fake information circulating on social media that can hamper the work against the COVID-19 pandemic or can spark social tension, it said.In doing its work, the mainstream media has on some issues attempted to show lapses in the official effort, it said, adding that this is very important for society and for the government.
The PCI also hit out at the Uttar Pradesh government over the filing of an FIR against Siddharth Vardarajan, founder-editor of the "The Wire", saying it is reprehensible.
"This media outlet had merely reported that UP CM Adityanath had presided over a religious ceremony in Ayodhya recently with a large body of people in attendance after the national lockdown announced by the PM," it said.
Chief ministers, other high political and executive functionaries should present a good example to society and it is not expected that they threaten the media in doing an honest job, the PCI said in the statement signed by its president Anand K Sahay and secretary-general Anant Bagaitkar.
The guild also hit out at the lodging of a First Information Report against the editor-in-chief of ''TheWire''.
"A police action in the form of an FIR under criminal laws at this stage is an overreaction and an act of intimidation," the Guild said. Any such intimidation of the media or blaming the media for mass migration of workers will be counterproductive, it said, adding that such actions will be tantamount to disabling the messenger.
"The Guild believes for sure that the media must be responsible, free and fair. But such interference can only undermine those goals," the statement said.
Taking a serious note of the panic caused among migrant workers due to fake news, the Supreme Court had earlier this week said it expects the media including print, electronic and social to maintain a strong sense of responsibility and ensure that "unverified news" with regard to Coronavirus pandemic is not disseminated. The top court had said the migration of a large number of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lockdown would continue for more than three months.

 

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