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PEMRA Wants ‘Optimistic’ Coronavirus Coverage

by Newsweek Pakistan

Regulatory body advises broadcast media to exercise caution, avoid spreading panic among populace

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Tuesday issued an advisory to the country’s broadcast media, urging it to avoid stoking panic in the country by covering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic from hospitals or quarantine wards.

In a notification issued to media, and shared on the watchdog’s social media, PEMRA appreciated the media’s role in raising public awareness about the COVID-19 outbreak and its preventative measures. “[PEMRA] has sensitized all licensees to telecast information in objective manner without creating chaos or panic,” it said. However, it added, this goal was being negated by various outlets covering the coronavirus pandemic from within hospitals, isolation wars, or quarantines.

“This sort of reporting [showing hospital arrangements and patient treatment] is unequivocally creating unnecessary fear syndrome among the viewers, which may lead to panic/chaos,” it said, adding that reporting from these locations was also hazardous for reporters and cameramen, as it left them at risk of being exposed to COVID-19. “This act of segment of media is considered to be a willful violation of the directives issued,” it warned.

The regulatory authority reiterated that any reportage from treatment facilities should be avoided to promote positivity. “Channels must promote optimism to fight this catastrophe with perseverance and discipline,” it said. “It is also desired that media houses should avoid creating undue hype and sensationalism by covering patients infected by coronavirus and undergoing treatment, rather invest their energy and resources in mobilizing the whole nation for prevention and necessary measures to curb this menace,” it added.

The PEMRA notification concluded by urging all media outlets in Pakistan to highlight content that would “generate hope among viewers.” This includes prevention and treatment efforts by the federal and provincial governments, state institutions, and medical researchers.

The PEMRA notification follows a media interaction by Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he claimed panic over the deadly disease was worse than its actual effects. Khan has also come out against the lockdowns implemented by the provincial governments, saying these risk worsening poverty in the country and could lead to mass famine.

Nationwide, Pakistan now has 1,102 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 8 deaths and 21 recoveries. Globally, the infected tally has climbed to 471,000 with more than 21,000 deaths.

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