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COVID-19: Tamil Nadu Media Persons Let Down by Govt During Second Wave

While the government announced increased cash relief and compensation for the infected and deceased media persons due to COVID-19, it is limited to accredited people who reportedly account for less than 5% of the media persons.
Covid TN 19

The second wave of the COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu has claimed the lives of more than 10 media persons in the month of May alone. However, employers have shown little concern over the reportedly increasing number of infections among the employees. 

While the journalists’ associations have been demanding compensation for the infected and the deceased, the announcement of the government on increased cash relief and compensation are limited to accredited persons who reportedly account for less than 5% of the media persons.

The journalists’ bodies have demanded the state government to extend the compensation for all media persons, who were reportedly announced as frontline workers. The associations have also reiterated the demand to publish the government order (GO) declaring all members of the print, visual and digital media as frontline workers without delay.

‘SWITCH TO ONLINE PRESS MEETS’

The Federation of Tamil Nadu Print and Visual Media Organisation, which includes 20 journalists’ organisations, has raised several demands pertaining to the journalists and other media persons. 

Highlighting the issues faced by journalists, Haseef Mohamed, joint secretary of the Centre of Media Persons for Change (CMPC), said, “The government is continuing to hold physical  press meets and sending invitations to media organisations for inauguration of COVID-19 wards. The chances of contracting infections in such an atmosphere is very high. So we demand the state government to shift to online press meets to prevent infection among media persons.”

“To avoid more infections among the media persons we are requesting the state government to stop sending invitations to media organisations for such events. The journalists are forced to cover such events by the media houses, since the government is sending invitations,” he said, adding that in the absence of PPE kits, such journalists are exposed to grave risks.

‘EXTEND RELIEF WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS’

The state government on May 26 increased the interim cash relief for infected media persons from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 and compensation on death from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. The order also mentioned that the measures are applicable to journalists with accreditation cards issued by the government. While the journalists’ organisations have welcomed the announcement, they have pointed out the limitations of the move.

Also read: COVID-19: With Rush for ICU and Oxygen, Situation Slipping Out of Hands in Tamil Nadu

“In the case of Chennai, one organisation is provided with 10 accredited identity cards irrespective of the number of employees in the organisation. Only 50% of the cards are made available for the reporters and camera persons. The number of people benefiting from this announcement is very very less,” said a press statement of the CMPC. 

The condition of employees in the districts are even worse. The accredited identity cards are issued to reporters and camera persons in the district headquarters alone, as per reports.

“There are a number of taluk reporters and camera persons in each of the districts, who are not eligible for this compensation. Moreover, other employees in the media companies, including sub-editors and others are employed in the office. We demand that not even a single person working in the media companies should be excluded from the reliefs announced by the state government,” Haseef said.

The government is yet to publish the GO announcing the media persons as frontline workers. The precondition of accredited journalists should be done away with, which excludes around 95% of those employed in media organisations, the CMPC said.

'COMPANIES MUST EXTEND RELIEF'

The journalists’ bodies have also pointed out the lack of initiatives from media companies in extending preventive and safety measures for the staff. They have also said that the employers have not paid any compensation to those who lost their lives due to COVID-19 infection. 

“During the first wave, the employees were provided with hand sanitisers, masks and isolation facilities by the companies. The employees were given duty on alternate weeks as well. But nothing has been done in the second wave so far,” Haseef said.

Amid this, the ‘Vikatan Group’, a leading media group, has announced that the organisation will pay the next two years' salary to the family of a deceased cameraman. The company has also announced that the education of the children will also be taken care of. 

Commenting on this, Haseef said, “The decision of the Vikatan group is a welcome one. Other organisations should be following such steps to protect the family of the affected media persons. But, the Vikatan group, during the first wave retrenched 176 employees, which should not be forgotten. The present move seems more of a damage control step rather than that of compassion.”

Also read: COVID-19: Tamil Nadu Media Houses Retrench Employees Suddenly

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