Losing Corona warriors: Indian media’s way

Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria

By Nava Thakuria

GUWAHATI, India, 23 October 2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic emerged as a severe health hazard to the Indian media fraternity, many more journalists are falling prey to the disaster. Thousands of journalists along with other media employees got infected with the Novel Coronavirus as they have been playing the role of Corona warriors along with the practicing doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, police personnel, etc. Lately the casualties among media families because of Covid-19 across the country are mounting.

The populous country of India has lost nearly 50 working journalists to Covid-19 complications till date, even as the worldwide media Corona casualties have risen to nearly 450. The increase of media Corona casualties in the Indian newspapers, news channels, and digital news outlets is precisely tempted by the callous approach of editor-management towards the scribes while engaging them in reporting the pandemic from the ground with little precautions or preventive arrangements.

Very recently, a young video journalist from Tripura in northeast India lost his battle against the Coronavirus infection. Jitendra Debbarma (46), who worked for a Kakborok language cable channel named Chini Khorang, succumbed to Covid-19 complications on 20 October 2020 at Khumulwng hospital, which is around 25 km away from the State capital city of Agartala. Hailed from Balaramthakur Para in Jirania locality, the soft-spoken scribe left behind two minor daughters with other relatives. Earlier, Mysuru-based journalist Pavan Hettur (35), who worked for Kannada daily Prajavani died of the virus infection at a private hospital. He was admitted after testing Covid-19 positive and passed away on 18 October. Patna-based photojournalist Krishna Mohan Sharma (63), who worked for Times of India, died of Corona complications on 15 October while undergoing treatment at AIIMS, New Delhi. On the same day, veteran cricket journalist and commentator Kishore Bhimani (81), died after contracting the virus at a hospital in Kolkata.

The robust Indian media family lost at least twelve journalists to Corona complications in September. Ludhiana-based veteran journalist Ashwani Kapoor (70), who worked for the highly-circulated newspaper PunjabKesari, succumbed to Covid-19 at a private hospital on 29 September. Guwahati-based news presenter in All-India Radio, Golap Saikia (52), died from a Corona infection on 26 September at a city-based private hospital.

Patna’s senior journalist Arun Kumar Verma (68), who was associated with various Prasar Bharti outlets, died during Covid-19 treatment on 22 September. Indore journalist Manoj Binwal (55), who was associated with Hindi newspaper Prajatantra, died of the virus infection while undergoing treatment on 20 September. A day back, Agra’s journalist Ami Adhar Nidar (50), who worked for widely-circulated DainikJagaran, passed away with the infection.

Jammu-based scribe Anil Srivastava (68), who was associated with United News of India, succumbed to Covid-19 on 18 September at a government-run hospital. On the same day Jabalpur’s journalist Harish Choubey (60), who worked for popular Hindi newspaper DainikBhaskar, expired with the Coronavirus infection. Aurangabad-based journalist Rahul Dolare (49) died on 14 September at a government hospital. Same day, Chennai’s popular journalist-actor Florent C Pereira (67) died of Covid-19.

Punjab’s Abohar-based journalist Naresh Bajaj (57), who was associated with the SachKahoon newspaper, succumbed to Corona complications on 10 September. Ravinder Kumar (30) from Himachal Pradesh, who worked for DainikJagran, died of Covid-19 on 9 September. Assam’s rural reporter Dhaneswar Rabha (35) died at Guwahati medical college hospital on 6 September. Rabha is the first scribe in the region to die of Covid-19. Next day, senior journalist Ashim Dutta (65) passed away with the infection at Silchar medical college hospital.

Months 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 all succumbed to the virus.

The list also includes senior journalist Prakash Deshmukh from Mumbai, 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 photo-journalist Ronny Roy became the first scribe in India to lose his battle against the virus infection.

With all the casualties, the pandemic has crushed the mainstream media industry. Many print media owners have stopped publishing physical newspapers and shifted to the digital space. Some managements closed down their editions in different localities, reduced the number of pages, cut salaries, and even laid off employees including senior journalists, citing the reason of shrinking advertisement revenues inviting no or little opposition from the salaried editors.

When over a hundred Guwahati-based media persons turned positive for Covid-19, the concerned newspapers, news channels, and other media outlets tried to hide the information. Some infected media persons have however made personal revelations in the social media. Various organisations including Journalists’ Forum Assam, Press Club of Assam, etc., criticized the media outlets for their selective reporting over the issue, arguing that when they identify other Coronavirus patients by name and photograph, how come they collectively remain silent while their own employees turn positive to Covid-19.

About the author

Nava Thakuria is a journalist and media commentator based in Guwahati, Northeast India. He has been covering socio-political developments of Northeast India, along with its neighbours Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, for various media outlets for more than two decades. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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