Kathmandu- In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists have the challenging task of gathering and distributing accurate information. Journalists exist as a part of an ecology in which their work influences and is influenced by the environment that surrounds it. The normative role of a journalist is to share information of consequence with the public, and this is particularly important in the midst of a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. The fulfillment of this purpose is more needed than ever in the current situation to not only keep the citizens informed about Covid-19 but also report the government’s decisions in the time of crisis.
One of the basic needs in the face of the global spread of the Covid-19 disease is access by as many people as possible to reliable, credible, unbiased and understandable information on all aspects of such a crisis. The first need is for public service, medical and health information on the virus and how to protect oneself from it.
It is a question of informing, but also of countering the disinformation that is spreading faster than the virus. At the same time, there is also a need to understand the social, political and economic consequences of the pandemic. For journalists, this means being able to question the authorities about their choices and the implementation of their decisions.
Journalism plays a vital role during a crisis like the current pandemic. The public finds out key information regarding coronavirus through newspapers, television, radio and social media.
The spread of information regarding prevention measures through news has helped greatly to minimize the number of cases. Information regarding corona emergency helplines have also proven important to save lives during the current crisis.
Journalists in Nepal have united to help provide Covid-19 patients with emergency services. With the lack of enough essential resources such as ventilators, ambulances, oxygen cylinders making the situation more dire in Nepal, some journalists have dedicated their time and effort during the pandemic to help patients find hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and ambulance services. Not only have these efforts helped save lives but it has also helped maintain transparency amongst the medical sector and citizens.
Reports of the current situation in Nepal have circulated worldwide which has led to Nepal receiving foreign aid from various countries such as China, USA, European Union and many more. This is one of the positive impacts journalism has had during the pandemic.
However, like everything else journalism has had both pros and cons during the pandemic. Reports of hundreds of deaths and thousands of confirmed cases both inside and outside the country has set a grim mood over the nation. This has had a harsh psychological effect on people of all age ranges. Over- consumption of grim news during the lockdown has caused one of the worst mental health declines the country has ever seen.
Another problem faced during the pandemic is the prevalence of fake news and information. In this day and age of modern communication, it is exceedingly easy to spread misinformation. “There is a lot of news in the mainstream press also that has caused confusion and panic, and that is because we cannot get hold of sources or government officials, and telephone conversations will never bring out originality and depth as a field report does,” said Janakraj Sapkota, an investigative journalist at the daily Kantipur. This is a problem Journalists must unite to overcome for the betterment of all.
The press and media have played a major role during the pandemic. It is well recognized that the media plays an enormously influential role in public responses to health issues. The mass media – print, television, radio and internet – has an unparalleled reach as a communication mechanism. If utilized properly the public health sector can benefit from Journalism in the current situation.
The information provided by journalists in both written an audio/ visual form helps people make the best well-informed decision for themselves and their families to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.