TV channels ‘speed over accuracy’ race leaves UP govt. red face

 By Kulsum Mustafa 

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh government has completely sealed the 15 hotspots in the 15 districts of the state. from midnight of 8th April, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. While curfew passes issued earlier for these areas have been revoked, the residents in these areas have been assured by the government of all essential goods to be delivered at their doorstep by the district administration. The police are vigilant and residents in these lockdown localities, which are places where a cluster of COVID-19 positive cases have been found, are being called on the phone by them to check if they require any essential items or medicines. Things appear to be under control unlike yesterday when there were total panic and chaos on the roads as false news of imposition of lockdown in the entire 15 districts went viral.

Rush for breaking news

A section of the media fraternity, especially the electronic media’s mad rush for breaking news and to be one up on rival channels proved to be detrimental for the 23 crores odd population of the state. All the hard work is done by the district administration since the call of the Prime Minister for imposing a lockdown from March 25th went for a toss as hundreds of self-quarantine people came out in hoards for panic buying of essential commodities, fearing total lockdown in 15 districts, including Lucknow. The fearful people failed to follow any rules and regulations of social distancing and safety preventive steps as they flocked to local markets, fruit and vegetable kiosks and started panic buying. In many places, the police had to use force to disperse them.  

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In their defence, some channels are saying that they were confused by the statement of a senior government official and that there was a miscommunication between it being 15  hotspots in 15 districts or complete sealing of these 16 districts. This news was shown as breaking news by the channels and was immediately picked up every ready social media. Within minutes the news travelled all over the state resulting in all-round panic. The government immediately issued an advisory and many senior journalists used the social platforms to ensure the public that all was well and that it was hotspots which will be sealed and not entire districts but it seems that it was already too late. The damage had been done. The human-friendly virus had once again got a chance to spread its fangs.

Responsibility of giving correct information

No doubt speed is the  fundamental emotion that rules the dispersal of news and all media especially the electronic media thrives on speed. But the responsibility of giving correct information is also the responsibility of newspersons, which in this case seemed to have been totally ignored. It is a mistake that has cost damage to all the good work done by the government in the past few weeks.

There is a demand by many to take bold and punitive action against those who committed this grave mistake and washed away the efforts of all the citizens who stayed home and the warriors of all essential services stayed out.

 “Inhoney to sarkar ka kaam aur aam aadmi ki ghar per rahney per baani pheer diya ,” says  Manoj,  a daily wager who is already feeling the pang of want as days go by and he looks at a bleak future.

Social media warriors who immediately posted the news without checking it as posts must also not be spared and must be taken to task.  They helped promote false and baseless news and need to be punished too.

And as for government communiqués the  vital question being asked by the average Indian is can we at this critical time afford the miscommunication when Uttar Pradesh has a very high number of COVID-19 positive cases/

It is important that clean, detailed and advance communication by designated authorities is provided to the press and through them to the people. The advisory should enlist clearly the measures being undertaken by the government in the public interest, including doorstep delivery of essential commodities and medicines. There should also. be time to time monitoring of these lockdown localities by senior officials. These measures will instil confidence in the common man and ensure his cooperation and goodwill to the mission.

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