NEW DELHI: An application has been filed in the Supreme Court raising the issue of death of several journalists across the country due to COVID-19 and seeking directions to ensure that proper treatment is provided to them and their family members.
It has sought to recognise all journalists and media persons as ‘frontline warriors’ so that they can avail benefits being extended to all such workers.
The application filed by Kota Neelima, who is the Director of Institute of Perception Studies and its media initiative ‘Rate the Debate’, has sought to intervene in the ongoing suo motu case related to distribution of essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said that since April last year, the institute has been conducting research into the deaths of journalists due to COVID-19 and has found “stark data” on the lack of medical facilities for scribes.
“There have been 253 deaths of journalists due to COVID-19 which have been verified and 93 death which are unverified between April 1, 2020 to May 19, 2021.
The said list is not exhaustive.
On an average, four deaths of journalists have taken place between April 1, 2020 to May 19, 2021,” said the application, settled by senior advocate Salman Khurshid.
The application has sought the apex court’s direction to the government to provide free treatment to journalists in private as well as government hospitals during the pandemic and also for reimbursement of their bills.
The plea, filed through advocate Lubna Naaz, said the Central government has launched special drive under Journalist Welfare Scheme (JWS) to help immediate families of those scribes who have died due to COVID-19.
“The requirement of accreditation, which is a pre-requisite to obtain benefits under the scheme, has proved to be the largest obstacle for the journalists to avail the same,” it said.
“The government may be directed that differentiation between the accredited and non-accredited journalists, employed and freelance, rural and urban, technicians and assistance be removed for the purpose of all the schemes being provided so that it is more inclusive,” it said.
The application said the apex court may formulate a comprehensive guideline regarding medical facilities and related benefits to be extended to journalists for COVID-19 which would be implemented by all the states and Union Territories in a uniform manner.