Mental health experts call for moderation in media’s COVID coverage

By Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Mental health professionals wrote an open letter to the media urging them to show restraint in their coverage without compromising on facts or public interest. It said the media has the power to ‘inform, educate and infuse hope in people.

“This includes the sharing of authentic information and allaying of fears. These are extremely important weapons in the fight against the pandemic.”

The signatories included B N Gangadhar, president, Ethics and Medical Registration Board, Pratima Murthy from NIMHANS Bangalore, Gautam Saha, President, Indian Psychiatric Society, and AIIMS’s Rajesh Sagar.

The letter said images of bodies at cremation grounds, and relatives of the deceased, and emotional outbursts would help garner eyeballs but may come at a cost.

“We are sure that reporting on sensitive issues especially during this time of difficulty is not easy, even for journalists. If the news you are reporting affects you so much, then imagine the impact it has on the people who are watching,” the letter said, highlighting that responsibility acquires greater importance in a pandemic.

“Yet again, we are not saying the facts should not be reported. We are saying that hysteria and panic-inducing coverage should be avoided,” the letter added. The letter said specific information empowers people and prepares them to face challenges. 

“Remember that none knows about the exact mental health situation of every person who’s watching you or reading you,” the experts wrote in the letter.