The Campaign for Ethical Media Reporting—a Bengaluru-based group of activists, parents, lawyers and academicians—has put out a statement against the communalisation of the coronavirus outbreak by sections of the media. The group, which works towards making media more accountable, says: “This disturbing trend emerged following the increase of Covid-19 positive cases following the religious gathering in Delhi—hosted by Tablighi Jamaat.”
It also goes on to state: “Some sections of the media took to labelling the entire community as ‘corona criminals’ propagating a ‘corona jihad’, and laying the blame for the entire pandemic at the doorstep of the Muslim community. There were also wild and baseless allegations by news anchors and politicians that the virus is being spread on purpose to defeat the lockdown. All of this has given a dangerous communal colour to the reporting of the pandemic.”
The statement concludes with the reminder that “Any approach which bases itself on the stigmatisation of a section of the population detracts from our fight against Covid-19 and puts the entire country at risk.”
A number of newspaper publications have jointly issued a statement saying that newspaper distribution has largely stabilised across India barring a few cities and “ranges from 75 percent to 90 percent of the base number of February”. The statement was issued by major publications like Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran, Eenadu, Hindustan, Patrika Group, Amar Ujala, Daily Thanthi, Sakshi, Dinamalar, Deccan Herald, Hindustan Times and Divya Bhaskar.
The statement adds that the government has for the right reasons categorised newspapers as an essential commodity. Regarding the measures in place, the statement said: “We had to move swiftly to address the sanitation at the plant floors, education, safety and sanitisation of the vendor network and the safety of our large workforce,” adding: “We have undertaken education and sensitisation drives with our reader base to apprise them of the safety we have deployed at every level to make the newspaper safe in their hands.”
Despite that assurance, major centres like Mumbai, Pune and the NCR are still facing problems of distribution and shortage of vendors.
Victims of the Virus
Apart from news magazines like Outlook which have suspended print publication, and newspapers feeling the pinch due to vendors and subscribers fearing safety issues to do with the coronavirus outbreak, it is now the turn of publications devoted to lifestyle and entertainment.
Last week, Worldwide Media suspended the print content production of its publications—Filmfare, Grazia India, Femina, Lonely Planet India, Good Homes and Hello!. The statement from the group says: “In consideration of the current lockdown, the safety of its team and vendors across the country and the unprecedented disruptions caused in the supply chain, Worldwide Media will follow a digital-first publishing schedule for its content, until further notice.”
Worldwide Media is owned and operated by The Times of India group, India’s largest media conglomerate.
In the midst of the coronavirus crisis and the rising viewership of news channels, this is the last thing any channel would want. Network 18, owned by Mukesh Ambani, has lost three of its top journalists. Last week, the trio—Bhupendra Chaubey, executive editor, CNN-News 18; Sudeep Mukhia, executive editor, CNN-News 18; and Praveen Thampi, executive editor, News18.com put in their papers.
In an internal memo, Managing Director Rahul Joshi said they were vital to the institution but “with a heavy heart, I wish them the best for their future endeavours”. What those endeavours are is not quite clear but media insiders say they are in talks with a rival TV network.
Chaubey will be especially missed—he has been with the channel for two decades (TV 18 was earlier owned by founder Raghav Bahl) and was a prominent face of the network’s political coverage. As Joshi admitted: “Bhupen was the lead prime-time face of this channel for almost a decade. It’s difficult to imagine CNN-News18 without the face that launched a thousand quips!”
Lead picture: UNI