New Delhi [India], June 1 (ANI): A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking immediate direction and or appropriate orders to recognise journalists as "front line warriors" and to lay down guidelines to give the necessary medical facilities to journalists.
The petition was filed by Dr Kota Neelima, researcher and Director of the Institute of perception studies.
The petitioner sought direction for free treatment of journalists in government hospitals and walk-in vaccinations during the COVID19 pandemic.
The petitioner also sought a direction to recognise all the journalists and media persons as "frontline warriors", so that they can avail the benefits being extended to all such workers.
She also sought to formulate a comprehensive guideline with respect to the medical facilities and related benefits for the COVID-19 pandemic to be extended to the journalists and media persons (accredited and non-accredited) to be implemented by all the States and the Union Territories in a uniform manner.
"Free medical assistance to media persons covering COVID-19 is an urgent and immediate need. There have been over 455 journalist deaths reported, with 4 journalist deaths a day in April-May 2021 as per the latest data," the petition said.
The Director of the Institute of Perception Studies, New Delhi, Dr Kota Neelima has approached the Supreme Court by filing this Intervention Application (IA) in the suo motu writ petition for urgent relief measures for journalists and also families of journalists who had died due to COVID-19.
The petition will be argued before the Supreme Court by senior advocate, Salman Khurshid and has been filed by Lubna Naaz, Advocate On Record (AoR).
The petition further sought relief of free treatment, compensatory support, walk-in registration, etc.
Most of the existing schemes of central and state governments do not address unaccredited journalists, technical, managerial, supervisory staff, freelancers, and stringers.
Highlighting the urgency of the petition, Dr Neelima stated, "Media is essential in the fight against COVID-19. People's right to information is served by journalists, which has helped in saving and protecting lives, and therefore supported the responsibilities of the state."
The petition quotes research by the Institute of Perception Studies, which states most journalist deaths had taken place among unaccredited journalists and in the age group of 41-50 years, hailing from predominantly non-metro areas of India.
The petition sought free medical facilities in government and private hospitals for journalists and their families infected with COVID-19 and reimbursement of their bills irrespective of their accreditation status or any other such divides during the pandemic.
The petition also requested the Apex Court to direct governments to provided compensatory support to the immediate families of deceased journalists in form of ex gratia and/or employment support as is applicable.
As per the research findings of the Institute on journalist deaths due to COVID-19 as on May 21, 2021, 253 verified and 93 unverified journalist deaths between April 2020 and May 2021 had taken place, the petition said.
It further stated that 41 deaths per 10 days in April - May 19, 2021, 66 per cent (167) of the deaths occurred in Non-Metro regions, 54 per cent of journalists deaths are from Print Media across India, of 30 per cent journalist deaths are in the age group of 41-50 years which is the highest. (ANI)