Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday stressed on the importance of tackling the spread of pessimism, negativity and rumour mongering while fighting the coronavirus pandemic and specifically asked the print media, which he said has “tremendous credibility” to act as a link between government and people and provide continuous feedback, at both national and regional levels to help in the fight against COVID-19.
At an interaction with stakeholders from print media from across the country through video conferencing, the Prime Minister urged media houses to not only ensure their credibility is maintained by reporting facts, but also give a platform to efforts being made to control the spread of the global pandemic that has led to nine deaths in India.
Union minister for information and broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar, was also present on the occasion.
According to a statement issued by the government, the PM said that while the media has played a praise-worthy role in disseminating information about the pandemic to every nook and cranny of this nation, it needs to take the message to micro levels. He reminded the media of its social responsibility towards the less privileged and said it is critical to improve social cohesion to safeguard our national security, said the statement issued by the government. According to a person aware of what transpired at the meeting, the Prime Minister asked print media to provide readers with news they could use.
While the PM, in his address to the nation on Thursday, urged people to follow the protocol of social distancing, on Tuesday he underlined the need to inform the public about the steps being taken to ensure health checks and the protocols to be followed to stem the virus from spreading. Citizens need to be assured that the government is committed to countering the impact of COVID-19, he said.
The PM said it is imperative to keep the fighting spirit of the people up; and pointed out that newspapers carry tremendous credibility. The local pages are widely read, he added. It is therefore imperative that awareness about coronavirus is spread through articles published on this page, the statement said.
The statement further said, the PM also asked newspapers and their websites to carry essential information about where the testing centres are, who should get tested, whom to contact to get tested, and how to follow home isolation protocols.
He also suggested that information about the location of availability of essential items during the ongoing lockdown should be shared on the regional pages. To step up measures to create awareness about the virus, he said media should highlight the impact of spread of the virus, through inclusion of international data and case studies about other countries in the papers.
“The PM also took suggestions from the participants who joined the video conference from across the country. There were over 20 participants from 14 locations and represented both national and regional media, representing 11 different languages,” said a second person familiar with what happened at the meeting.
The second person said that media representatives apprised the PM of various concerns including the difficulties being faced by newspaper vendors and deliver people in collecting and distributing newspapers and in combating rumours that papers can be carriers of the virus. It was suggested that the government make it easier for the newspaper vendors and delivery people to move around during a lockdown.
“They also suggested that in this time of crisis, the government should organise regular briefings and have systems in place for information dissemination,” the person quoted above said.
Some of the media representatives also apprised the PM about the steps being taken by them to convey information to the masses such as focused coverage on the local pages; highlighting the protocols for social distancing to be followed and highlighting success stories and efforts being undertaken by healthcare workers.
“The stakeholders from print media appreciated the role played by the Prime Minister in communicating effectively and leading the country from the front. They said that they will work on the suggestions of the Prime Minister to publish inspiring and positive stories. They also thanked him for reinforcing the credibility of print media and noted that the entire nation has followed his message of coming together to face this grave challenge,” the statement said.
The PM, who is scheduled to address the nation at 8pm on Tuesday, also met stakeholders from electronic media channels through video conference on Monday and spoke about the emerging challenges in the wake of COVID-19 spread.