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50 pandemic deaths of Indian journos, yet editors 'don't think' scribes are covid-warriors

By Nava Thakuria*

As the Covid-19 pandemic emerged as a severe health hazard to the Indian media fraternity many more prominent print journalists start falling preys to the disaster. Thousands of journalists along with other media employees are infected with the novel corona virus as they have been playing the role of corona-warriors along with the practicing doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, police personnel etc.
Casualties among media families because of Covid-19 across the country have been mounting. India has lost nearly 50 working journalists to the corona virus infection aggravated ailments, a higher stake compared to worldwide media casualties of around 400 till date, and lately it recorded demises of ten journalists to Covid-19 complications in 50 days.
More significantly, eight victims among them represented various print media outlets, where the recent one was Ludhiana based veteran journalist Ashwani Kapoor (70), who used to work for highly circulated newspaper “Punjab Kesari” and died of Covid-19 on 29 September 2020. Earlier Guwahati based news presenter in All India Radio Golap Saikia (52) died with corona-infection on 26 September in the hospital.
Indore-based journalist Manoj Binwal (55), who was associated with Hindi newspaper “Prajatantra”, died of the virus infection while undergoing treatment on September 20. A day back, Agra’s journalist Ami Adhar Nidar (50), who worked for widely circulated “Dainik Jagaran”, passed away with the infection at a hospital.
Jammu-based scribe Anil Srivastava (68), who was associated with the United News of India, succumbed to Covid-19 on September 18 at a government hospital. The same day, Jabalpur’s journalist Harish Choubey (60), who worked for popular Hindi newspaper “Dainik Bhaskar”, expired with the corona virus infection.
Aurangabad-based journalist Rahul Dolare (49) died on September 14 in a government hospital. The same day, Chennai’s popular journalist-actor Florent C Pereira (67) died of Covid-19 in the hospital. Punjab’s Abohar-based journalist Naresh Bajaj (57), who was associated with “Sach Kahoon” newspaper, succumbed to the virus complications on September 10.
Ravinder Kumar (30) from Himachal Pradesh, who worked for “Dainik Jagran”, died of the virus infection on September 9. Assam witnessed two journo-victims in the pandemic as Udalguri-based correspondent Dhaneswar Rabha (35) died at Guwahati medical college hospital on September 6. Rabha is the first scribe in northeast India to succumb to Covid-19 complications.
The next day, Barak valley’s senior journalist Ashim Dutta (65) passed away at Silchar medical college hospital. The printer-publisher of Asomiya Khabar (Rantu Das) also died at a Guwahati hospital few days back, who later tested positive for the virus infection.
Weeks back, Dhanbad’s journalist Sanjiv Sinha, Gorakhpur’s photo journalist Rajiv Ketan, Mumbai’s senior film-journalist Shyam Sarma, Nellore’s scribe Narayanam Seshacharyulu, Pune’s television reporter Pandurang Raikar, Kanpur’s television journalist Neelanshu Shukla, Patiala’s photojournalist Jai Deep, Tirupati’s television reporter Madhusudan Reddy and video journalist M Parthasarathy succumbed to the virus infections.
The list also includes veteran journalist Ashok Churi from Palghar, television reporter Ramanathan and news videographer E Velmurugan from Chennai, news presenter Davinder Pal Singh from Chandigarh, television scribe Manoj Kumar from Hyderabad, print-journalist Pankaj Kulashrestha from Agra, Orissa’s journalists Simanchal Panda, K Ch Ratnam and Priyadarshi Patnaik. Kolkata’s photojournalist Ronny Roy became the first scribe in India to lose his battle against the virus infection. 
Only few editors have raised voice against arbitrary retrenchments, as others continue to carry on with humiliations in work places
With all these casualties, the pandemic has also crashed the mainstream media industry. Worried owners have already stopped publishing hundreds of physical newspapers and those surviving managements closed down their editions in different localities, reduced the number of pages, cut salaries and even layoff employees including senior journalists citing the reason of shrinking advertisement revenues.
Only a few editors could raise voices against the arbitrary retrenchments of managements and the rest continue to carry on with humiliations in work places. When hundreds of journalists in Guwahati too turned positive for Covid-19, the concerned newspapers and other media outlets tried to avoid making news out of the development.
Some infected media persons however made personal revelations in social media. Various organizations including Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA), Press Club of Assam, etc. criticized the media outlets for their selective reporting over the issue arguing that when they identify other Covid-19 patients by name and photographs, how come they remain silent collectively when their employees turn positive.
What is amazing is that Assam (read state health minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma), unlike the other Indian states, used to name all individuals who turned Covid-19 positive and the local media outlets used the entire information.
The logic behind this was that one should be publicly named and photographed after testing positive for Covid-19 to make others, who came in contact with the concerned individual in the last few days, aware of it so that they can go for screening. It was termed as a social responsibly as the concerned group of people could take it as a caveat and take all necessary initiatives.
But shockingly when the scribes and media workers tested positive for Covid-19, no media outlets made revelations that their employees were also infected by the virus. What would have been wrong, if the editors could name their employees as corona-warriors as a part of their social responsibilities!
After all, testing positive for Covid-19 by anyone is quite a normal phenomenon (and no way it’s a crime or a matter of shame). Rather, the editors should (could) have done it as a pride asserting that their employees got infected by the virus while performing their duties during the pandemic.
---
*Northeast India based media activist

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