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Media unlocking communal harmony amidst COVID-19

By Parvinder Bhatia

The ongoing challenges of coronavirus have brought out the best of the media. Stories on communal harmony and the role being played by the corona warriors have made headlines and have helped people to co-exist in the society. Whether it was the plight of migrant labourers or stories of communal harmony while meeting hunger pangs, the media played a key role.      

With WHO announcing �mystery pneumonia� on 31 December 2019, the media started playing its role by educating the people worldwide. Since then the virus has been identified (SARS-CoV-2), the disease named (COVID-19), and there has been global spread, with cases identified in 72 countries and tens of thousands of people testing positive for the virus.

However, the biggest challenge faced by the media is from social media with Facebook and other social media companies spreading fake news surrounding coronavirus. Be it foreign or domestic in origin, the misinformation threat seemed familiar.

The novel coronavirus, however, has opened up an entirely different problem: the life-endangering consequences of supposed cures, misleading claims, snake-oil sales pitches and conspiracy theories about the outbreak. Dealing with such fake news is a major challenge for the media.

 �Irrespective of their religion we have been serving food among the needy. There were several Muslim labourers who come to our Gurudwara to break their fast. We happily serve them food so that they can break their fast. Media has highlighted our stories and it has brought to the fore the true essence of our social fabric. Our kitchen is open all the time to feed the hungry,� said Mahendrapal Singh, president, Station Road Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee.   

Sardar Shailendra Singh, president, Jharkhand State Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee lauds the efforts of Station Road Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and also the role of media. � Media has helped us to progress and spread awareness in society,� he says.

The media have been following every step of the journey of pandemic with multiple stories, incessant headlines and continuous updates across the past few weeks.

COVID-19 has affected many areas: the travel restrictions being imposed by different countries have turned it into a story about tourism and travel; the economic impact of fear on the stock market and the impact of people not attending work in the most-affected countries have turned it into a finance and business story; and the cancellation of football matches, and the potential cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have made this a sports story. This poses a challenge, with so many journalists now covering and learning about the COVID-19 outbreak � not just journalists who might be more familiar with the field � could there potentially be more scope for error or accidentally misleading information.

Media is the ‘fourth estate’ of democracy.  It is ideally the watchdog of democracy. The authenticity of the news is very important as it has a direct impact on society.

There are good and bad elements to the way news has been covered during the pandemic, and that the public�s trust in the media is on the line.

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