Last year, a large number of front-line workers such as doctors, health workers and policemen lost their lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Which is why, when India started its immunisation drive, they were given priority vaccination. Priority inoculation had a positive impact as the number of frontline workers who lost their lives in the second wave of the pandemic is significantly lower than the first. But journalists were not so lucky.
Despite constantly being on the field and on duty throughout the pandemic, journalists were mostly not considered as frontline workers and were not given priority in the vaccination drive. And now, a study has found that more than 300 media persons, including many well-known journalists, lost their lives due to the virus.
On average, three journalists died every day in April 2021. In May, this average climbed to four per day.
The second wave has not only claimed the lives of several senior journalists but has also killed many others working in districts, towns and villages across different Indian states.
According to a report by the Delhi-based Institute of Perception Studies, a total of 238 journalists have died due to Covid-19 infection from April 2020 to May 16, 2021 (these are the cases that have been verified).
FOUR JOURNALISTS DIED EVERY DAY IN MAY
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has been far more devastating for the media than the first. According to the report by the Institute of Perception Studies, the first wave of the pandemic, from April to December 2020, killed 56 journalists. In comparison, the second wave claimed the lives of 171 journalists between April 1, 2021, and May 16, 2021. The remaining 11 journalists died between January and April.
— Raju Narisetti (@raju) May 14, 2021
OVER 300 JOURNALISTS DIED OF COVID
Apart from 238 deaths listed by the Institute of Perception Studies, the institute has 82 other names that are yet to be verified. Speaking to AajTak.in, the institute’s director, Dr Kota Neelima, said that so far, over 300 journalists have died from Covid. “Out of which, we have been able to verify 238. An investigation is on regarding the rest.”
The Institute of Perception Studies has included all those journalists who died after getting infected while covering news in the field or working in offices. These range from reporters of media institutions, stringers, freelancers, photojournalists and citizen journalists.
Another group, Network of Women in Media, India, has also said that around 300 journalists have died due to Covid-19.
37 JOURNALISTS DIED OF COVID IN UP, 39 IN TELANGANA
According to the Institute of Perception Studies’ data, Telangana registered 39 journalist deaths due to Covid-19, which is the highest among states. In North India, the highest tally was registered in Uttar Pradesh where 37 journalists died of the infection. This is followed by 30 journalist deaths in Delhi, 24 in Maharashtra, 26 in Odisha, 19 in Madhya Pradesh. These do not include the 82 deaths that are yet to be verified.
According to the report, journalists between 41 and 50 years of age amounted to 31 per cent of total deaths. Around 15 per cent deaths were reported among the age group of 31-40 years, 19 per cent among 51-60 years age group, 24 per cent among 61-70 years age group and nine per cent journalists who died of Covid were above 71 years of age.
SMALLER TOWNS REGISTER MORE JOURNALIST DEATHS
Dr Kota Neelima said that out of the journalists who died due to Covid-19, 35 per cent, i.e. 85 journalists, were from metro cities, while 64 per cent, i.e. 153 journalists, were from non-metro cities, including rural India.
About 55 percent of the journalists who died of Covid-19 were from print media, 25 percent from TV and digital media and 19 per cent from freelance journalism.
PRESS COUNCIL DEMANDS FRONTLINE WORKER STATUS FOR JOURNALISTS
Anand Rana, a member of the Press Council of India, said that a demand had been raised to declare journalists as frontline workers during a press council meeting in September last year. After this, the secretary of the council wrote a letter to all the state governments. Again, in April this year, the chairman of the Press Council of India wrote a letter reiterating the demand to state governments.
He also suggested that states implement the Haryana model to provide protection to journalists. The Haryana government provides journalists health cover ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.
Anand Rana said that about 16 state governments have declared journalists as frontline warriors, including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Manipur, Punjab, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala.
The Odisha government has announced financial assistance of Rs 15 lakh for the family of journalists who die of Covid-19. The Rajasthan government has announced financial aid of Rs 50 lakh. The UP government has also announced Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the deceased journalists.
Over 300 journalists have been killed due to Covid-19 since April, last year
Most vulnerable group of journalists are aged between 41-50 years of age
Majority media deaths have been registered in rural India
Scribes in Telangana and UP are worst-affected