Friday, 27 November, 2020
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OPINION

Role Of The Media During Crisis Time



Kushal Pokharel

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has appeared as an unprecedented global crisis. Economic activities have shut down, social life has come to a standstill. More than the crisis, an innate psychological fear of the devastation that follows is deeply entrenched among public. With the World Health Organization already confirming that COVID-19 has affected 196 countries of the world, the gravity of the situation can be inferred. Various countries of the world have shut down with no signs of the pandemic coming to a complete halt. Although efforts are underway to find a vaccine for the cure of the virus, the real solution is looking unlikely in the near future. In this scenario, it is important that the state and citizens go hand-in-hand to minimize the adverse effect emanating from the COVID-19. The role of various state institutions including media and civil society will be pivotal to alleviate the crisis.
The manner in which the media is carrying the news and information pertaining to COVID-19 needs critical scrutiny. In our context, media seems to be creating deep confusion among the public about the real status of the coronavirus. While this is not to undermine the role of those media that are performing their duties responsibly, the issue is how to bring the entire media fraternity on track in term of abiding by the journalistic values. With an urgency to get themselves heard and seen over the rival media, some media have carried misleading headlines without verifying the source in the past few days. In the drive towards becoming first to give breaking news, some media have compromised the cardinal principles of journalism. One such case appeared this week when some media disseminated the news of a Birgunj resident being infected of the coronavirus which was later disproved by the concerned authority.
Another aspect of dissemination has to do with the choice of information and the manner of presentation. As the public is in a state of anxiety and fear during such difficult circumstances, media needs to provide content that increases optimism and hope among the public. This could in the form of making the headline news of the positive developments towards combating the coronavirus globally. Instead of reporting only the number of deaths as top news stories, successful stories of the virus treatment and the ongoing initiative towards finding a solution to this crisis can be the major headlines. Devising captivating promotional messages related to COVID-19 in a bid to generate mass awareness should continue.
Moreover, media can also carry videos of the successful treatment cases and the encouraging words of medical practitioners involved in curing the disease for public respite. Running interviews of psychotherapists and motivational speakers could alleviate the perturbed public mind. Broadcasting infotainment programmes related to history, litereature, music and sports could be interesting for the public.
Media can also support the state in its intiative towards combating the global crisis. Circulating the relentless efforts being made by the state will also serve the general welfare. Nonetheless, media as a watchdog of the state activities needs to bring into attention the public ethos. Bringing the stories of low wage laborers and other menial workers and calling for the state to address their hand-to-mouth problem could be one constructive way of media reporting during the crisis.
Since people are in self-quarantine at this hour of crisis with the government’s decision of total lockdown at least for a week now, contents related to self-introspection, happiness and family relationships among others could appeal to the common people. With the predominnce of news and information pertaining to coronavirus, breaking the monotony also requires providing some refreshing materials to entertain the audience. In doing this, media ought to cater to the interests of segmented audience – children, youths and the aged.
As WHO has rightly pointed out, ‘infodemics’- an overabundance of information which exaggerates the severity of the problem and makes the solution difficult have posed a severe threat in the battle against the deadlly COVID-19. The need of a responsible journalism is all time high at the moment.

(Pokharel is a social science faculty and a researcher. kushalpokharel03@gmail.com) 

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