Are Kannada media houses over-hyping Covid-19 related issues and spreading fears instead of facts? The general perception in the minds of the public is "yes." From the day, the government imposed lockdown in March, the pandemic has got extensive coverage from all the media outlets, which have set agenda for the public debate.
In the process, the TV channels have spread more fear than information with frightening phrases to fear-inducing stories. Misinformation and fake stories have only made people's situation worse. The latest report which caused panic is the story of people returning to their natives with the rapid rise in the Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru.
Channels continue to speculate
Over the last few weeks, some channels had speculated that there might be a fresh lockdown in Karnataka. With the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and fearing their safety, an exodus of people left the Garden City.
A TV channel has relentlessly reported that people are leaving Bengaluru as the government has failed to give an affordable health treatment for the middle-class and poor. "I am struggling for two square meals. Under this situation, how can we survive in this city if we test positive for Covid-19? How can we spend lakhs of rupees for the treatment? Neither we have money for treatment nor enough money in the bank accounts for survival if the lockdown is imposed. So, it is better to settle in my hometown," a person, who was on his way to his native, told the channel.
Another channel reported that the government is not fully prepared to face the situation and predicted the numbers of coronavirus cases to rise at a shocking rate in the days to come.
The fear of coronavirus has been built over a while by TV channels with phrases like 'Killer Corona', 'Corona Hemmari', and 'Corona Bhootha'.
"People are now fearing their life more than money. They think it is safe to be at their home town than staying in the city. This situation arose because of fearing-mongering media," a localite named Prasad Reddy blames the local channels.
If this is not enough, many channels have spread misinformation about the cases, causes, and prevention. There are plenty of occasions when the media reported false news over Covid-19 in a particular place without confirmation from the concerned officials.
"A channel said that five cases have been found in our area. There was a panic among the citizens here, but those reports turned out to be fake once we check Aarogya Setu app," Suhas, a resident of Vasanthapura, tells International Business Times, India.
"They are simply getting away by adding a question mark in the headline," he adds.
"A section of media has not done responsible journalism during this difficult situation. The fine example is when most media outlets put the entire blame on Muslims who attended Tablighi Jamaat event, for the rising cases in March-April," Kiran Kumar, a techie tells the IBT Media.
Howver, Santhosh, a software engineer, feels that there are some media outlets which have behaved responsible during the crisis. "It is pertinent to note that regional media, by and large, plays a vital role in democracy and for the public good. It is the sensationalisation in times of crisis by a select few which brings a bad name to all," he added.
He adds, "Not all regional Kannada media houses out for sensationalism. But those who do need to introspect as to the effect they have on the people's minds."
Last but not the least, misleading and harmful coronavirus information circulated on social media platforms have added to the woes.
Bengaluru cop's message
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao, IPS has now requested people not to panic while asking them not to spread fake news.
Not surprisingly, he received lots of requests to issue advisory to TV channels to prevent them from spreading fear.