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SC directs media to publish ‘official’ coronavirus news

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the media — print, electronic or social — to maintain a strong sense of responsibility and publish Covid-19 related news based on information disseminated by the government. The directive came after the Centre, in its affidavit filed in the top court, sought a direction that no media outlet should print, publish or telecast news on coronavirus without first ascertaining facts from the information provided by the government.

A bench comprising CJI S A Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao observed, “The migration of large number of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lockdown would continue for more than three months.

Such panic-driven migration has caused untold suffering to those who believed and acted on such news. In fact, some have lost their lives in the process…It is therefore not possible for us to overlook this menace of fake news either by electronic, print or social media.”The court asked the media to “ensure that unverified news capable of causing panic is not disseminated”. “We do not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but direct the media refer to and publish the official version about the developments,” it said. The bench also called for humane approach by police and authorities towards migrant workers.

In its affidavit filed earlier in the day, the MHA said that in “an unprecedented scenario” of this nature, any deliberate or unintended inaccurate reporting can have a “severe and inevitable potential of inflicting panic” among large sections of society. “…Any panic reaction by any section of society based upon such reporting” would cause grave harm, it added while urging the court to issue a direction that no media shall print/publish/telecast anything “without first ascertaining the true factual position from the separate mechanism provided by the central government”. The SC also directed the government to ensure supply of food, water, beds and medicines to the migrants workers.