With five journalists tested positive for coronavirus in Nepal on May 12 and 13, fear ran high among the fellow journalists and media houses.
According to Freedom Forum’s representative in Province-2, Rajan Singh, the five journalists are from Birgunj and Janakpur cities. Birgunj is the trade and transit route and business hub while Janakpur is the religious city- both in the southern plains. They lie in Province-2.
Nepal had witnessed the first case of coronavirus in January while the second and third in March. With the exponential growth of infection in the recent days, the total positive cases of COVID-19 have reached 249.
The virus infection found in journalists has deepened fear of further spread. Many journalists, especially reporters, are worried much about their health condition and in need of safety materials. They have been also demanding tests on them as well.
As the lockdown enforced since March 24 to contain the coronavirus in Nepal had already limited the journalists’ movement and declined reporting coverage, the infection in journalists has further heightened fear, which is to result in severe decline in reporting, thereby depriving citizen of their right to information.
The media have been severely dented as are other sectors in the wake of the growing cases of the coronavirus- tens of hundreds of media are closed; many papers stopped publication; many others have cut down pages, faced dearth of advertisements.
To this, Freedom Forum Executive Chief, Mr Taranath Dahal, observes, “Nepali media, especially the community media and small media, are now at the receiving end of COVID-19. At a time when journalists, working in the forefront, have themselves been tested positive to the virus, it undoubtedly mounted fear in entire media. The government should ensure the early tests among the journalists willing for it and proper treatment and distribution of safety gears. Similarly, efforts to save media in crisis are equally important. Collaboration and cooperation among the stakeholders working for journalists’ rights and safety, and government bodies are must to assist journalists and retain the active role of media in this hour of crisis.”