COVID-19: Role Of Newspapers

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Ever since 21 day lockdown was announced by the prime minister Narendra Modi on March 25,  the newspapers in J&K are not receiving any government advertisements. This has made their survival difficult. Government advertisements form a significant part of revenue for local newspapers and it would be difficult for them to continue their operations in absence of that. True, it is not possible for the government to give adverts to newspapers considering all government departments are shut which, in turn, has brought all official activity to a stop. All government attention is focussed on fighting the spread of coronavirus in the union territory. So, only the essential service departments like healthcare, police, food, power and public health engineering departments are functional.  These are challenging times  and the government is doing everything in its power to halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, that had so far claimed around 55 victims in the union territory.

But at the same time, media is an important part of the fight against the disease. It plays the critical role in spreading the awareness about the disease. And it has been doing that over the past week, despite having to publish under very tough circumstances. This is a fact that was acknowledged by no less than prime minister himself. In an interaction through video conferencing with representatives of some of the largest national and print media organizations representing eleven languages, the PM Modi said that newspapers enjoy “tremendous credibility”. The PM said that the newspapers should share information about ‘the testing centres, who should be tested, whom to  contact to get tested and follow isolation protocols”. Similarly, Modi said that the information about the essential items, where to buy them, should also be published in newspapers.

And newspapers have been doing it. In Kashmir too. What is missing is the government support, to make it economically affordable to do so. The newspapers have to bear the entire cost of publishing. More so, at a time when there is also no advertising from the small private sector which is similarly shut.

It is a well known fact that the Government adverts form around three-fourths of newspaper revenue in J&K. So, it is important that in current situation when people have limited means available to gain critical information for their wellbeing, given that the social media here too is unavailable due to curbs on internet, the government should launch public awareness campaigns through local newspapers. While newspapers are doing everything to create awareness about the COVID-19, the government should do its part by making it affordable for them.

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