Dear parachute reporters from Delhi, Mumbai and elsewhere, please stop the drama of Lights, Camera, Action. You are a reporter not an actor.
The nation is shocked and pained by the death of scores of children in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and instead of presenting the facts or investigating the causes, instead of sympathy and understanding towards the weeping kin, many journalists have lost their sensitivity and even humanity. They are barging into Intensive Care Units (ICUs) haranguing doctors and staff, and potentially dispersing infections to seriously ill patients.
A couple of days ago Ajit Anjum of TV9 Bharatvarsh reached the Shri Krishna Medical College & Hospital (SKMCH), the nodal centre for AES patients in Muzaffarpur, and stormed into the critical care ward. He shouted, screamed at the doctor and was later hailed as a ‘hero’ on social media. Later, Anjana Om Kashyap of Aaj Tak, following Anjum’s footsteps did the same and instead of questioning the government or the system she tried to grill a doctor and a nurse of the state-run hospital.
Nowhere in the world can reporters and camera persons enter the ICUs like this. There is clear danger of spreading infection to already dying children. These stunts are geared to get the maximum viewership for their news channels and it is not helping anybody in anyway. I can say from my own experience - I was one of the first reporters from the national media to reach Gorakhpur in 2017 when kids were dying due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).
While reporting from Gorakhpur, reporters did not do any piece to camera from inside the ICU even when there was no one to stop them. This happened because senior journalist Manish Pandey who then worked for national Hindi channel Samachar Plus requested all reporters not to go in. Such was the sensitivity reporters donned nose mask, gloves, and other items as precautionary measures. But in Muzaffarpur I could not see any ‘revolutionary’ reporter donning any of these things.
Dr Ved Prakash, a senior surgeon who heads the ICU at King George Medical University (KGMU) in Lucknow says deaths in ICU are more because of acquired infections rather than the initial reason for admission.
“The hospital staff should take care that no one should be allowed in the ICU and if there is a dearth of staff then the reporters themselves should be wise enough not to do so. The doctors who are treating the patients also make some kind of bond with the patients and they are also in trauma when so many of their patients die. People should take care of the doctors also who try their best to save the lives of patients with limited resources,” he said.
After covering the Gorakhpur tragedy for more than two weeks I went to Farrukhabad where many children had died due to various reasons. Doctors requested that medical protocol should be followed and reporting should not be done from inside the wards. The doctors, Dr Kailash Dulhani in Farrukhabad and earlier Dr Kafeel Khan in Gorakhpur allowed us to take pictures and talk to the kin of patients inside the ICU.
Although some of the TV reporters tried their best to perform something like what is happening today in Muzaffarpur but they could not as they had some spark of humanity still left in them.
These stunts to create ‘sansani’ (sensation) by grilling the nurses, doctors and hospital staff instead of questioning the system, the government and the leaders is going to make people mock you. And it will end up with the creation of yet more Dr Kafeels who handled the Gorakhpur tragedy brilliantly to contain the deaths, but was made a scapegoat in the end.
Umesh Kumar a senior journalist based in Patna says that national media is mocking the deaths of the kids by reporting in the most insensitive way.
“Shoving the mic in mouths of doctors and grilling them even after knowing that they are not at fault is not journalism. It is gundai,” he says adding that these scribes should be charged with trying to obstruct the doctors from their life saving duties.
(The views expressed are personal)