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State Govts Declare Journalists as Frontline Workers, As Covid-19 Cases Surge in India

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Photo Source: Silverscreen India Media Library

In the past one week, state governments of Delhi, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Karnataka, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, and Madhya Pradesh have declared journalists as frontline workers. This enables them to get vaccinated against Covid-19 on a priority basis, as India struggles with the deadly second wave of the pandemic. The Central government, however, is yet to declare anything regarding the same.

Thousands of people have been dying due to lack of oxygen supply in hospitals. There has been an acute shortage of hospital beds, ventilators and medicines with people dying due to the lack of them. Many celebrities and people have been using social media platforms to seek help and respond to distress calls for oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, medicines, crematorium and burial ground space.

The pandemic has had a massive impact on Indian journalism with several journalists testing positive and nearly 200 journalists succumbing to the virus while reporting from hospitals, crematorium and burial grounds. With the Legislative Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry, several election rallies were held across the country without following any strict Covid protocols. Journalists also had to cover these rallies as the pandemic raged on.

On May 4, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee and MK Stalin declared journalists as frontline warriors.

Silverscreen India spoke to Kolkata-based journalist Talat Salahuddin who got the first dose of the vaccine on Thursday. She said it was available to all the accredited journalists. One can directly visit the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, fill up the form provided by them, submit it along with a copy of their press card and receive the first dose of Covishield the same day. She mentioned that the Press Club of Kolkata will also be providing vaccination and has started registration.

On May 5, as the vaccination drive for the 18-44 years age group began, the Assam government also declared that journalists and their family members will get vaccinated from the Guwahati Press Club.

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Indrakshi Dutta, a feature editor at the Guwahati Plus said she was part of the first day’s jab. She said that the state government allotted vaccines to the Guwahati Press Club a few days ago following which it floated a circular asking media organisations to submit a list of journalists’ names.

Silverscreen India reached out to a few journalists based in New Delhi who are either recovering or have recovered recently after testing positive for the virus.

Over 50 journalists who succumbed to the virus in April alone include Ashish Yechury (Newslaundry), Vinay Srivastava and Rohitash Gupta from Uttar Pradesh, Kakoli Bhattacharya (The Guardian), Amjad Badshah from Odisha, and Vipin Chand from Kerala.

Expressing its “distress” over the fact that the Centre has not taken any step, the Editors Guild of India on April 30 condoled the death of the 52 journalists in April while demanding the Centre to declare journalists as “frontline workers” and vaccinate them on priority. The Guild has repeatedly been urging the Centre to declare journalists as frontline workers for their relentless coverage of pandemic, elections, and other current affairs in an “effort to ensure that the flow of news and information to readers continues unabated.”

“News media is at is included in essential services,” read a statement issued on April 15.

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