The pandemic has generated an enormous amount of information and content around the world. The focus has primarily been on health and safety.
The media had to provide the daily number of deaths and infected persons. They couldn’t have not done so. It’s their job. And, in the process, the media has played a very active role in raising the awareness of the people.
Our media in Bangladesh has also done a tremendous job by trying to make people aware about the dangers of living nonchalantly in the midst of the virus. We have seen many reports everyday of how the people were risking their own lives by not following the health and safety rules and guidelines suggested by our government and the World Health Organization.
We the people have hardly followed any health directives. But the media kept on reminding us about the measures which were mandatory to remain safe from the virus.
Many newspapers have allocated special spaces both in their online and print versions where they published various kinds of awareness materials for their readers as well as the people. I work in a bank where we had to keep about 10,000 people informed about the corona-time health issues.
Our people and organization have been immensely benefitted by the information provided by those newspapers. We then ran those directives by a few physicians before sending them out to our personnel.
Our colleagues — who were out there working to serve the customers — eagerly wait for the information that we provide them frequently. There were instances that many had called me if I didn’t send anything to them for two or three days.
We have seen our personnel meticulously follow the advice we provided them. We had no other sources for information. The newspapers have engaged many physicians and healthcare experts to write and talk about health issues during this difficult time.
If we look at the television channels, we see that the presence of the healthcare professionals on their screens are at an all-time high. I believe this is the first time TV media has behaved like they were health-focused channels. And indeed, in doing so, they generated content that helped the citizens to take care of themselves.
The media has brought forth physicians like Dr Tareq Alam whose advice has cured thousands of infected persons.
There were, of course, some mistakes as far as their content was concerned; often, they showed images that they should not have. Images such as those created more panic among the people.
We have also seen how social media was flooded with fake information. Anybody and everybody was trying to provide information which had not been approved by the healthcare specialists. This has, of course, created a lot of confusion among the members of the public. Too many people were saying too many things.
Many claim that we now have an “infodemic” which is not good for our mental health. But the media has also provided information on how their readers and viewers can keep their calm during this disaster and look after themselves.
Infodemic has come a new term in the media. And yes, this could be an important aspect that the media can work on. Watching the news too much could also be a health hazard for people.
The infodemic is not only happening in the media but also on our cellphones. Suddenly, we have experienced a steep rise in receiving SMSes on our phones. Keeping track of these texts has also created a pressure on our mental health.
Many are now trying to sell fake cures of coronavirus. The journalists are the some of the courageous Covid fighters who have shouldered their responsibilities despite the high health risks. Although most of the newsrooms are running with only half of their staff, the output of the media agencies have increased phenomenally. We have never seen that before.
The media personnel are trying their best to play the most active role to save lives now. We — the people as well as the government — should thank them for their valuable work. This is the right time to do so.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.