Mumbai Press Club urges Maharashtra CM to protect journos covering Covid-19

21 Apr,2020

By A Correspondent


With the Covid-19 situation in Maharashtra showing no signs of abating, the focus is now on journos who are facing the heat in the line of duty. After a record spike in number of journalists testing positive for Covid-19, the Mumbai Press Club has reached out to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray, urging him to protect them with several measures.


The Mumbai Press Club has written a letter to the CM, the full text of which is reproduced below:


Dear Uddhavji Thackeray,


It is with dismay and shock that we have learnt that as many as 53 Mumbai-based journalists, many of whom are our members, have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. The tests were carried out at a special camp held by the BMC for 171 journalists working in the field. Most of the journalists – photo journalists, video journalists and reporters – are fortunately asymptomatic and have been quarantined and being looked after by the BMC health authorities.


It must be pointed out that as Mumbai City locked down to face the challenge of the Coronavirus, these field journalists even today continue to stand by their duty, filing their reports, taking photographs and recording videos in the most hazardous locations.


Most media houses have shut their offices and have not provided any protective gear, or special insurance to these frontline personnel. However, they continue to demand reports and visuals and expect the journalists to move around the city risking life and limb.


In these circumstances, the Mumbai Press Club had taken some initiative to provide some logistical support as well as accident insurance, etc. but that is not enough.


As can be seen, the pandemic shows no signs of dying away, and journalists are forced to continue to work to provide news and information to the public. While some of us have the privilege of working from home, many journalists have still to venture out in hazardous zones and common spaces, and require immediate protection.


As journalists and news media are declared as ‘essential services’ we request you to take the following immediate steps to safeguard our lives and profession:


1. Ensure that all media companies immediately provide proper transport, safety equipment and sanitized space to work. Where it is not possible for the media companies to provide the above, the state government should ensure necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitized space to those venturing in the field.


2. To provide immediate testing facilities for all journalists who are suspecting symptoms, or who have been in proximity of colleagues who have tested positive. There should be no time lost in this, and the testing location must be a captive facility without crowding and only for journalists.


3. The state government has been providing special insurance cover for all emergency and essential category of workers who are tackling the coronavirus pandemic for the sum of Rs 50 lakh. Since journalists are performing an ‘essential service’, it is requested that the category of working journalists be brought under the same umbrella with cover of Rs 50 lakh and provided the protection of an essential worker.


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