The world is passing through an inflection point that will be long remembered in history. India, and all of us who are part of its citizenry, are presently going through times that are akin to a war — except that it is a different kind of war, and the enemy is one that we cannot see. Even as the government and hundreds of professionals in the health sector battle tirelessly against coronavirus, it devolves upon all of us to remember our collective responsibility too as a thinking public.
Just like in wartime and other emergencies, there is another enemy that stalks us alongside: fear. It manifests itself as a fear of the unknown, and is therefore directly linked to knowledge or its absence. Knowledge is an empowering, enabling thing, and its lack breeds a variety of dark tendencies in human society. It is an ironical fact of contemporary life that, while our information networks buzz along the most sophisticated social media channels, they also carry the very antithesis of real knowledge: rumour, doubt and outright fake news.
One such fake claim doing the rounds is how printed newspapers could be virus carriers. This, despite repeated assertions by medical professionals from all over the world, including India, that there is absolutely no evidence of the same. At least in our country, fighting rapid circulation of fake news seems as challenging as containing the spread of the virus.
We say this because some of the fake news doing the rounds could turn out to be detrimental to public health, with reports indicating that people are even falling prey to the use of wrong drugs. It is here that the role of media, especially traditional print media where every report we publish passes through multiple checks, becomes a vital necessity. We need to appreciate the medical world is only on the fringes of understanding the COVID-19 virus, and thus has only embarked on evolving a correct treatment protocol and, ultimately, a vaccine. In this situation of an expanding, embryonic knowledge, our only defence against ignorance is clear, reliable and authenticated information.
In a world riven by panic and anger, it is only such positive information that acts as the vital antibodies in our body politic. The lack of access to correct information can make fear go out of control: that could lead to social unrest on the one hand and faulty self-medication or protection techniques on the other. The media, therefore, brings oxygen.
Apart from medical and other public related operations, print and electronic media has been rightly categorised as an essential service by the Government of India. It is of utmost importance that smooth passage is assured for our channels of printing and distribution, and all the professionals engaged with the process of collecting and disseminating news.
The New Indian Express allies itself with the people in this hour of anxiety, hopeful that darkness will yield to light sooner rather than later. - Editor