Intriguing Media, Increasing Tensions

Yesterday, I, a conscious fellow, went to the hospital for an emergency checkup. I had a mild fever because of the toothache. With the hope of having treatment, I was happily marching towards the hospital. But I was bound to return from the hospital gate because I hadn’t had the report of RDT (Rapid Diagnostic Test). In spite of taking precautions and doing diagnosis, the staffs told me to return. Sadly, I had to return home and take Ibuprofen without prescriptions—to cure myself instantly from the toothache and fever. There are many “I” in Nepal who are suffering from these kind of problems.

Yesterday’s incident is a representation of what is happening now in Nepali society. Blaming those people who are doing these kinds of immature behavior will not lead us toward a solution. We shouldn’t blame the people only. Despite of being tagged as “educated” the hospital staffs’ behavior was awkward. What’s the reason behind this kind of constant fear? We have to find out the root cause for this fear and foolishness. Talking about the root cause, there is one—the major one—the media.

There is an old saying “No news is good news”, what it means is when people are worried, they need to hear something that will soothe them. But people and the media will report exactly opposite things. Those who want to hear good news will hear bad news. The same thing is happening during this pandemic. Most of the time, when people open their TV screens, social media and news portals they see bad news.

Stuart Hall, a cultural studies theorist says “If you think the meaning that representation is giving…would be measuring the gap between what one might think of as the true meaning of an event or whatever and how it is presented in the media.” He is trying to say that the media somehow manages to misrepresent the facts. Nowadays, single-handedly managed portals, views seeking social media profiles, TRP seeking channels—are playing a major role in dismantling the facts—about the pandemic, in countries like Nepal.

A huge portion of Nepalese are fed up with the government during this pandemic. Side-effects of lockdown has risen and protests are now conducted daily. Lack of government’s clear policy has created a gap among people and government. Most of the daily news coverage are only about COVID-19. In the current situation, people are desperately searching for good news. But the media only triggers intriguing headlines and show sensitive pictures. This only increases tensions for the people about COVID-19. The visual representation of crying patients in ventilators is a topic of attention for everyone. But why wasn’t it displayed before the pandemic despite the facts that, a massive number of people required ventilators before COVID-19?

The Lancelet reported, “2-38 million deaths were resulted due to the cause of lower respiratory infections in 2016”. The World Counts reports till now, 4,285,415 deaths caused by air pollution in 2020. COVID-19 deaths are happening, this is a sad thing for the world, but only COVID-19 deaths are not happening in the entire world. The media should stop showing the sensitive images of patients struggling in the ventilators as it never happened before.

The media “terror” of COVID-19 is absurd—and it’s growing day by day. Today, I, who wasn’t permitted to the hospital, decided to see what they’re doing with others. I saw a bunch of people gathering near hospital to see something. A bus moved towards the gate. I was curious about this and I asked someone from the crowd. I asked why people gathered together. The answer came from the other side: “We’re here to see how COVID-19 infected people look like”. When I heard this, I was stunned. There are many “I” who are struggling with these answers. The answer carries shame. This event clearly describes that people are getting wrong information through the media and social media.

Epidemiologists and Virologists are now saying that we have to learn to live with the virus. Not only the people, but the media should also have to learn to live with it. The media should portray positivity among the depressed and desperate people. There are some media channels, newspapers and social media profiles in Nepal reporting the genuine public issues and coronavirus in a parallel way. They are displaying good public works which are happening during the lockdown and are trying to create a positive sphere for hopeless people.

Credit: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

The absence of good news during a pandemic is creating depression among people, suicides rates are exponentially growing during the lockdown. The role of media should be targeted for the sensitive people who are struggling to see the contents. Conveying good news also can change the narrative of terror. People’s mental and psychological health can get balanced through listening to the good news. Information about COVID-19 and reports about positive news, both can go in a parallel way. Why wouldn’t every media house think like that? Why good news is absent during pandemic?

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