A team of health experts visiting a Bird Flu affected area in Kerala (File Photo, Image credit: Mint)

Irresponsible coverage of Bird Flu wreaking havoc in the society

When all the experts are unanimous that there is absolutely no report from across the country of any transmission of flu from birds to human body and there is no problem in eating chicken or egg why is it that the television channels are unnecessarily highlighting the story of Bird Flu and creating panic in the society.

The common folk is yet to recover from the psychological devastation caused by the hype created by the Indian electronic media over corona virus. As the people were still trying to recover from the trauma of the pandemic the senseless media coverage of Bird or Avian Flu, an annual phenomenon, is wreaking havoc. The sale of chickens and eggs has dropped sharply causing immense economic hardship to thousands of people engaged in this business. The Corona virus had already hit their business hard.

The tragedy is that the government, instead of taking strict notice of this irresponsible media reporting, is becoming a tool in this whole exercise. The government, be it at the Centre or states, should have repeatedly told the people to remain calm and be not carried away by irresponsible media reporting. When the Bird Flu is not harming the people why is the media creating such a hue and cry.

Unlike COVID-19, Bird Flu is not a new disease. In the past people used to slaughter any domestic poultry which would fall sick and eat it. It was a common practice with no impact whatsoever on the human being. Even the print media would hardly give any space to the news of spread of flu among birds.

Experts are of the view that most of the time this flu spreads from the migratory birds which fly down to India from North during the winter season.

It is only in the last quarter century, that is since the advent of television channels, that such a disease started getting undue coverage.

The fact is that these journalists not only give a cursory coverage to such disease among birds, but they over-sensationalize it by making it the first news.

In this post-corona virus days when there is need for the media to take utmost care of the mind and heart of the common masses the ladies and gentlemen sitting in the studios are causing injury to their psyche.

The problem with the television media is that neither the anchor nor the reporter, editor, producer and photographer is aware of the impact the audio-visual journalism causes on the mind of the viewers. This is very much different from the affect caused by reading any newspaper report and listening to news on radio.

Journalists, especially those engaged in electronic channels, must be told—if they do not know—that the number of death due to heart attack and related diseases have increased in a big way in the post-corona days. This is largely due to abrupt lockdown imposed on the country and irresponsible media reporting.

If the television channels are at all so keen to give coverage to Bird Flu as they have a lot of time to fill their 24×7 exercise they can easily telecast the news in a low-key manner at the fag end of the bulletin. If they are making it the first news and sensationalizing it with photographs they are committing a grave ethical crime.

Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views expressed are personal.

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