Crematorium voyeurism under the garb of journalism in vogue now, practiced by propaganda journalists like Barkha Dutt and others is in gross violation of fundamental rights to privacy, causes mental depression in Covid patients and spreads a doomsday atmosphere of panic and negativity in the country.

It has been fashionable for some journalists in India to show pictures of burning bodies in crematorium of Covid patients to portray how people are succumbing to the deadly pandemic in multitudes in India to earn few silver coins abroad.

Barkha Dutt and Company thrive on creating propaganda driven sensationalism devoid of any semblance of ethics or moral scruples. So, the second deadlier wave of Covid is only yet another opportunity for making hay out of tragedy.

While intellectuals like Brahma Chellaney, Kanwal Sibbal, Madhu kishwar and others have been objecting to the voyeurism of crematorium journalism, which is not only grossly insensitive but also violates the fundamental rights to privacy of the bereaved families and the deceased themselves.

These voyeuristic journalists get away making money by garnering international eyeballs by filming bodies of poor, lower middle class and middle class Covid victims burning in huge numbers in crematoriums as they do not have a voice to protect their privacy.

The same Barkha Dutt was not seen covering on camera and reporting her own father’s cremation and burning pyre as news, WHY? Because she wanted to protect her own and her family’s right to privacy, while she happily violates others’ for earning some US Dollars.

Yesterday, India’s top notch medical health experts wrote an open letter to the media against unabashed crematorium voyeurism journalism, as their irresponsible actions spreads negativity and panic in mild and severe Covid patients who give up their fight against the virus mentally resulting in more deaths and mental illnesses.

The letter was written by BN Gangadhar (President Ethics and Medical Registration Board, National Medical Commission), Pratima Murthy (Professor and Head Dept of Psychiatry, NIMHANS), Gautam Saha (President Indian Psychiatric Society) and Rajesh Sagar (Professor of Psychiatry, AIIMS, N.Delhi).

The experts wrote, “With great power comes greater responsibility… Mass media has the power to communicate to millions at the same time. When the reach is so huge, every word, every image and every nuance matters. However what we are seeing on our TV screens, mobile screens and newspapers is disconcerting, to put it very mildly.”

The experts lashed out at the media by stating that the images of burning bodies in the crematorium, inconsolably wailing relatives and hysterical reporters and camera men swarming over the bereaved may garner eyeballs. But there is a very heavy price to be paid for such coverage.

The experts pointed out that the pandemic related restrictions and guidelines is already taking a toll on peoples normal social life and already fostering a hidden mental health epidemic with people becoming depressed, lonely and anxious.

They wrote, “Being stuck at home people turn to television and social media even more than earlier. but when they see such disturbing and depressing visuals, they are pushed much deeper into the abyss”.

The experts wrote about the dangerous impact such gory coverage has on Covid patients. Seeing such ‘panic inducing’ coverage from cremation grounds, puts mental pressure on the patients’ and their loved ones’ minds.

The mental health experts ask the media to introspect whether several Covid patients with mild or moderate infection, while recovering at home would heal better and faster by positive news informing them about medications, precautions, exercises, etc. to fight the disease in a positive frame of mind or by seeing the depressing scenes of mass burnings in crematoriums?

The experts point out that while it is a fact that a huge majority of people infected by Covid recover, but this positive fact just remains as an aside and the focus is on death and gloom as covered by the media.

The experts did acknowledge that it is the duty of the media to report ground realities and facts, without hiding any details, but the reportage should be done creatively and not pictorially disturbing.

The experts also pointed out a very important aspect of reporting shortage of commodities related to the pandemic. They very aptly pointed out that while the report of shortages should be made but it should be also specific about the place as general reports of shortage creates panic buying and hoarding mentality among people, which creates further wide spread scarcity.

The experts warned the media by stating, “As mental health professionals,we can tell you that specific information empowers people and prepares them to face any challenge . But panic weakens them.”

They cautioned the media, that “no one knows about the exact mental health situation of every person who’s watching you or reading you. There’s no way to say which imageor which word can be that straw for someone, causing grievous damage to their mental health. Therefore, responsibility matters”.

They concluded by saying, that, “In such times, the media has great power to inform, educate and most importantly infuse hope in the people and most importantly infuse hope in the people. This includes the sharing of authentic information and allaying fears”.

The mental health experts thus called upon the media to exercise restraint in their coverage without compromising on facts or public interests.

The problem begins when journalists are not factarians but mere propagandists of their political ideology and religious biases. For such people every tragedy is an opportunity to make hay, in fact these characters fabricate fake news and spread them like a pandemic which creates panic and riots in society.

There is a very urgent need to put an end to the culture of vulture journalism and cadaver politics if civilized society has to survive with humanity intact. It is time we book people like Barkha Dutts for causing mayhem, panic and deaths be it during pandemics or riots or fighting terrorists.

By the way an open question to Barkha, why did she not broadcast her father’s cremation with a wailing family adieu? Or are only the poor people’s emotions and grief to be exploited for her avarice?

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