Expressing concern over a large number of journalists in Mumbai testing positive for COVID-19, Union Minister Pratap Sarangi on Friday urged the cental government to introduce a health insurance scheme for scribes covering the pandemic, in line with the one for frontline health workers.
In the last few weeks, several journalists in Chennai, Bhopal and other places have also tested positive, Mr Sarangi said in a letter to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar.
"This unfortunate development has adversely affected the spirit of our fearless journalists for whom this is the worst and most dangerous kind of occupational hazard," said Sarangi, the Union minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises.
He said scribes who have been infected with the deadly virus should be assured of quality treatment free of cost, besides job security and salary during their absence from duty.
"The government should make provision for a health insurance scheme for journalists... in the line with the insurance for frontline health workers," Mr Sarangi said in the letter to Javadekar.
He also called on the central government to come out with specific guidelines for all field journalists covering the pandemic, such as mandatory use of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and report from designated sanitised areas.
"... It is more important that they are able to discharge their duty freely and truthfully, counter disinformation and ensure that our people have access to crucial and timely information," Mr Sarangi said.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had on Wednesday issued an advisory to print and electronic media, urging journalists covering coronavirus-related incidents to take precautions.