Prof K G Suresh,
Dean, School of Modern Media, UPES & Ex-DG, IIMC
The reported presence of several journalists at a party thrown by a celebrity recently in Lucknow has once again raised concerns about the health and safety of journalists, particularly reporters on assignments, related to Corona coverage and otherwise. The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on March 19, 2020 mentioned journalists among those exempted from the Janata Curfew on March 22, thereby treating media as an essential service. In view of the same, the following broad guidelines are recommended for media houses and media persons to protect the members of the fourth estate and prevent the further spread of the Covid 19 disease.
For Media Houses
- Sanitise the premises including all public areas, newsrooms, Production Control Rooms, Server Rooms, Studios, corridors, lounges, canteens, reception & toilets frequently.
- Provision of different gates for entry and exit.
- Provision of masks for staff interacting with public (guards, receptionists etc).
- Provision of sanitisers at entry and exit points. Make its usage mandatory for anyone entering the premises.
- Provision for mandatory checking of temperature before entry to the building.
- ‘Zero’ presence of staff with cold, cough, fever and other symptoms in office premises.
- Work from home option for non-essential staff.
- Suspension of overlapping shifts for the time being. Let one shift leave and another come.
- Suspension of studio discussions till the situation improves. Interaction with guests through Skype and Live view apps.
- Introduction of Mobile Journalism, wherever possible.
- Usage of Zoom, video conferencing and other technologies for official interactions and meetings.
- Social distancing and maximum spacing between staff as per Health Ministry/WHO guidelines.
- No shaking of hands, no hugging, only greeting each other with Namaste.
- Encourage only digital payments and avoids hand to hand cash transactions.
- OB Vans, Live U units, DSNGs, pick up cabs, assignment vehicles to be thoroughly sanitised. Drivers to wear masks and hand sanitisers to be kept in all vehicles.
- All reporters are to be provided with small kits containing alcohol-based sanitisers and paper soap.
- All office toilets and canteens to have liquid soap and tissue papers.
- Do not assign vulnerable Reporters (senior citizens and individuals with underlying conditions) to high risk coverage. Advisable to let them stay at home.
- Provision of Counselling service for staff.
- Provision of private transport facilities including reimbursements to staff to the maximum possible extent to avoid their exposure in public transport.
For Reporters on Duty
- Beware of Fake News. Use My Gov Corona Help desk Whatsapp number 91 9013151515 to ensure you receive accurate and verified information on Corona Virus.
- Ensure you carry hand sanitisers always with you and use it frequently where soap and water are not available.
- Don’t visit crowded places unless unavoidable.
- Avoid public transport and use personal vehicles to the extent possible.
- Inform management immediately and seek medical aid if you develop any symptoms. Go into self quarantine if you have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive.
- Maintain social distancing while interacting with news sources/contacts etc or interviewing anyone showing symptoms, senior citizens, those with health conditions, anyone close to individuals who are symptomatic, health-care workers treating COVID-19 patients, or workers in high risk locations.
- Use directional microphones from a safe distance instead of clip mics. Mic sponge covers need to be sanitised from time to time.
- Use protective gloves/masks/disposable footwear if working in or visiting an infected site such as a hospital/quarantine facility.
- Clean your equipment with fast acting antimicrobial wipes such as Meliseptol, followed by thorough disinfection. Ensure all equipment is decontaminated again when returning it to work place, ensuring that those responsible for the equipment are made fully aware in advance.
- No hand shakes. Only Namaste.
- Journalists from North East India need to be extra vigilant as some illiterate and ignorant people may target them in the name of ‘China Virus’.
- According to cyber safety company Norton, scammers and hackers are reportedly targeting individuals with phishing emails related to COVID-19.
- While researching for stories, exercise abundant caution when clicking on any COVID-19 related links on social media, some of which may direct you to sites that infect devices with malware.
- Keep your family safe. Use sanitisers before entering your house. Maintain social distancing.For Media Coverage
- The underlying principle of all coverage should be to inform and create awareness.
- No coverage should cause any kind of panic among the public
- Please verify and cross verify all information prior to publication/broadcast/telecast
- Follow the golden rule: When in doubt, cut it out
- Don’t give oxygen of publicity to charlatans and publicity seekers who will claim magical cures/remedies for Covid-19.
- Don’t give publicity to groups, individuals making statements against prescribed norms including social distancing.
- Expose fake news and fake narratives.
- Sensitise. Don’t sensationalise.
- Promote hygiene rules such as hand washing in promos and through voluntary programming.
- Support initiatives of Central/state Govts/NGOs in combating Covid-19
Together We Can!