Opinion

Reporting on the coronavirus pandemic and its response

| Updated on April 10, 2020 Published on April 10, 2020

Letter to All Media Houses & Editors

We the undersigned collective of doctors, public health professionals, health care organisations and concerned individuals seek your urgent cooperation in combating the stigmatisation of COVID-19 affected individuals, communities and health professionals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the need of identifying those who are either at a high risk of contracting the infection or are infected, and ensuring isolation of such patients and their contacts to minimize risk of transmission to others.

However, while the health workers and public health authorities need to know the details of suspected or infected persons, disclosure of their names in the media has led to stigmatization and targeting of the person or family concerned.

Not only does it infringe on privacy and has the potential to promote discord between the infected/ suspected/ high risk person and their family and community, it also instills fear among people, and they may not come forward for testing.

Realizing this, Government of Odisha has issued a notice prohibiting disclosure of names, contact details of the affected person or his/ her family member or the names of the treating doctors or health workers. It also prohibits the media from disclosing the name or other identifiers of the affected person.

However, we do recognize that the media has the responsibility of meeting the information needs of people about the magnitude and progress of the epidemic in their communities, cities, states and in the country as a whole, and the critical role played by Indian media played in this regard.

While fulfilling this need, several media outlets (print and electronic) have also been reporting on identifiers such as occupation of the infected person (doctor, nurse etc), religion, employer (e.g working in Mohalla clinic), or location (such as living in the colony abc).

While such identifying information may be helpful for epidemiological purposes, it serves no useful purpose for the common media consumer.

On the other hand, such information can promote fear, and worse, promote targeting and stigmatization based on occupation, religion or place of residence, among others. We have seen how such reporting and subsequent labeling has led to targeting and stigmatization of people belonging to a particular sect in South Korea.

We have also read with concern how doctors and nurses have been harassed by house-owners, migrants have been ostracized by their own communities and a religious fervor has been added to many reports, communalizing the spread of the epidemic.

In view of the above, we urge the media to follow all norms of journalistic conduct specified by the Press Council of India and others, in matters related to reporting on COVID-19, specifically the following

Maintain privacy and confidentiality of infected people, suspects, their families and affected  

Refrain from mentioning religion, occupation, place of residence, social class etc and circumstances of the infection.

Follow the principles of preventing harm to the infected people, suspects and their contacts

We support fair, transparent and timely sharing of information on the epidemic and reporting on the ground situation but with due regard for patient rights, and respecting the privacy and confidentiality of patients, doctors and citizens in general.

We are always available to work with media to support its endeavor to fight COVID 19, in a constructive manner.

Yours Sincerely,

(Undersigned)

List of signatories

1. Abraham OC

Dept of Medicine, CMC Vellore

2 Anna Oommen

Gudalur Adivasi Hospital

3 Atkuri Ramani

Public Health Physician

4 Aziz, Nuzhat

Fernandez Foundation, Hyderabad

5 Dr Balachandran, Amith

PG Registrar, CMC Vellore

6 Bhan, Anant

Public health professional, Bhopal

7 Bhogal, Ranu Kayastha

Director, Policy Research and Campaigns, OXFAM India

8 Bhooshan, Bharat

Journalist, ex-News Editor, Press Trust of India

9. Biswas, Rakesh

Physician and Independent Researcher

10 Bose, Sanjana

Student, CMC Vellore

11 Chandra Sekhar, G

Ophthalmologist, Vice-Chair, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad

12 Chatterjee, Jagannath

Patient Health Advocate

13 Chatterjee, Prabir

Independent Public Health Consultant

14 Chokkar, Jagdeep

Former Dean, IIM, Ahmedabad

15 Dalal, Arnaz

CEO, Equitable Access to Health Care Consortium

16 Dasgupta Jasodhara

Independent Researcher, New Delhi

17 Datar, Shrinidhi

Physician

18 Devi Shylaja

Obstetrician, Gudalur Adivasi Hospital

19 Duggal, Rahul

Director, Shram Sarathi

20 Fernandez, Evita

Senior Obstetrician & Director, Fernandez Foundation

21 George, Regi

Community Physician, Tribal Health Initiative

22 George, Tarun K

Dept of Medicine, CMC Vellore

23 Gour, Anami

Pediatric Intensivist, NHS Foundations Trust, London

24 Govil, Shalini

Senior Advisor, Naruvi Hospital, Vellore

25 Gupta Narendra

Advisor, PRAYAS, Rajasthan

26 Gupta, Manisha

StartUp! India

27 Gupta, Subodh S

Public Health Practitioner, Maharashtra

28 Gutta, Smitesh

PG resident, Internal Medicine, CMC Vellore

29 Ignatius Nithin

Gudalur Adivasi Hospital

30 Inbarani, Esther

PG Registrar, Internal Medicine, CMC Vellore

31 Inderjeet Kaur

Midwife, Fernandez Foundation

32. Jacob, Suraj

Visiting Faculty, Azim Premji University

33 Jesani, Amar

Independent Researcher and Teacher (Bioethics)

34 JV Punitha

Department of Medicine, CMC, Vellore

35 Karpagam, Sylvia

Public health doctor and researcher

36 Kathuria, Poonam

CEO, SWATI, Ahmedabad

37 Khetan, Neelima

Development professional, Udaipur

38 Khera, Reetika

Development Economist

39. Khandelwal, Rajiv

Director, Aajeevika Bureau

40. Kollannur, Antony

Public Health Consultant, Kochi

41 Koshy, Roshine Mary

Makudna Christian Leprosy and Gen Hospital

42. Kumar, Chandan

Angmehnati Kashtkari Sanghathan Samiti, Maharashtra

43 Kumar, Raman

President, Academy of Family Physicians of India

44 Kurian, Susan

PG Registrar, CMC Vellore

45 Kuruvilla Dawn

MD Registrar, CMC Vellore

46 Malempati, Amaresh Rao

Head, Dept of Cardiothoracic Surgery, NIMS, Hyderabad

47 Manjula, P

Fernandez Foundation, Hyderabad

48 Mehta Aditi

IAS (Retired)

49 Mehta Ajay

President, Vidya Bhawan

50 Menon, Gayatri

Faculty, Azim Premji University

51 Menon, Nandkumar

Surgeon, Gudalur Adivasi Hospital

52 Mohan, Pavitra

Public Health Physician, Basic Health Care Services

53 Mohan, Sanjana

Paediatrician, Basic Health Care Services

54 Nagarajan, Doraiswamy

Volunteer, Healthcare

55 Nagsen, T

Fernandez Foundation, Hyderabad.

56 Nair, Tara

Researcher, Ahmedabad

57 Nandy, Amrita

Researcher, New Delhi

58 Naraynanan, Raja

Ophthalmologist, Equitable Access to Health Care Consortium

59 Ninan Pradeep

Consultant Pediatric Surgeon

60 Nithin P

Physician

61 Oza, Apoorva

Aga Khan Rural Support Programme

62 Oommen John

Community Physician, Bissumucuttack Mission Hospital

63 Padmaja Y

Fernandez Foundation, Hyderabad

64 Panchal, Vidit

General Physician, Indore

65 Paul, Priyanka

Physician, St. John's Hospital, Trivandrum

66 Peter, Benoy

Centre of Migration and Inclusive Development

67 Prasad, Ramakrishna

Family Physician, Bangalore

68 Ramaswamy, Mary

Family Physician, Lower Kodaikanal Hills

69 Ramaswamy, Rajkumar

Family Physician, Lower Kodaikanal Hills

70 RamPrakash, Rajalakshmi

Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Tamil Nadu

71 Rangaswamy Vasundhara

Microbiologist, Independent

72 Rattanani, Jagdish

Director, Foundation of the Billion Press

73 Rattanani, Lekha

Managing Editor, Foundation of the Billion Press

74 Samson Sheetal

Midwife, Fernandez Hospital, Hyderabad

75 Sandhya Gautam

National Alliance of Maternal health & Human Rights

76 Sandhya YK

SAHAYOG

77 Sashi, Latha

Chief Nutritionist, Fernandez Hospital, Hyderabad

78 Seshadri, DVR

Professor, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad

79 Shah Rohit

IIT, Bombay, Mohash Research Academy

80 Shankar, Mehul

Student, CMC Vellore

81 Sheshadri, Veena

Gudalur Adivasi Hospital

82 Shiva Mira

Public Health Physician

83 Sisodia, Swati

84 Srinivas, Prashanth

N Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru

85 Srinivasan, Sandhya

Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, Mumbai

86 Srivatsan R

87 Suraj Jacob

Visiting Faculty, Azim Premji University

88 Tarakeshwari S

Consultant, Obstetrics Medicine, Fernandez Hospital

89 Tharyan, Prathap

Former Professor of Psychiatry, CMC, Vellore

90 RD Thulsiraj

Aravind Eye Care System, Madurai

91 Vadera, Meenu

Founder and CEO, Azad Foundation

92 Zachariah P

Retired Professor of Physiology, Vellore

93 Zachariah, Anand

Professor of Medicine, Christian Medical College, Vellore

94 Iyengar, Sharad

Public Health Physician, ARTH

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Published on April 10, 2020
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