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Knowledge, action and responsibility

The bad news is that India is in the grip of a third wave of Covid virus infections and transmissions – although there may be those who argue this is no news at all.

The good news is that the mutant virus Omicron, although highly contagious, evokes mild or no symptoms in most of those affected. Experts say a 7-day quarantine is enough to get over this viral infection and reach a non-infective stage. Indeed, the virus had attained ‘community spread’, experts tell us, and we are witness that so many people around us are complaining of common cold symptoms.

Common cold? Really?

Those with a scientific temperament go for a Covid test: either the RTPCR or the Rapid Antigen test. And when they know the result is positive, they take all the steps being prescribed on media platforms: self- isolation until the fever or symptoms pass; take medications as prescribed by a doctor through online consultation, wash hands frequently and wear face masks to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Such are responsible people, who make use of the information that is conveyed to them through media outlets, public advertisements, by health workers and by many other means.

And those with ‘common cold symptoms’?For them, it appears ignorance is bliss. Those who test themselves may have Covid, but those who don’t, have the common cold! More likely, it is the fear of facing the truth – much like the ostrich that buries its head in the sand to hide from danger.

As responsible citizens of this country, as caring residents of any society, as a good neighbour or a concerned family member, it is the duty of each one of us to know our covid status, to protect ourselves, our loved ones and to not be spreaders of disease.By conveniently ‘not knowing’, many people continue to move about in the market place or participate in gatherings or parties, thereby spreading the virus to the community.

A universally admired scientist, the former President of India and Bharat Ratna, Dr.APJ Abdul Kalaam, is quoted to have said: “Knowledge with action converts adversity to prosperity.”

Knowledge without action is equal to no knowledge at all, which, in consequence, can only lead to adversity. Unfortunately for us, there are many spreaders out there in the public. By choosing not to know their covid status, they feel they are not responsible for the spread, because one can only be responsible if they know.

I do hope India gets well very soon, and that we see the end of the Covid19 pandemic on the horizon at the earliest.

But the spreaders remain. If not of disease, then certainly of false information or of ‘fake news’ as coined by former US President Donald Trump when he attempted to dismiss authentic media that asked him questions to hold him to account as the country’s leader. He much preferred the informal media, which showed a bias towards him and he made no distinction between the two.

So many years later, the average person in India continues to be assailed by ‘fake news‘, spread not only via social media, but even through reputed news channels as media everywhere struggles to survive in difficult times.

Yes, we do need to know the news. We need to be well informed so that we may take decisions that impact us – about voting in elections, of the reopening of schools after two years of closure due to the pandemic, on the economy, taxation, jobs… you name it.

But do we need to heed the noise along with the news?Do we need to know what each politician has to say about each issue? Should some political parties get more screen time? Should some get to set the agenda? Or is it the media that is setting the news agenda?

These are hard times for the media, but harder times for us as citizens of the New Age in which we are bombarded with news, information and falsities from all directions through numerous sources on our numerous high-tech screens – television, computer and mobile… How do we cope with such an onslaught of rumours (or not) disguised as news?

The journalist’s job is to not just bring us news, but to make sense of the noise that surrounds it and filter the news through to the reader/ viewer/ user of technology.  Each one of us needs to be more sceptical about the value of news that we hear each day, and need to ask ourselves, “Does this make sense? Is an agenda apparent? Is the source of the news trustworthy?

We, as responsible citizens must think twice rather than blindly accept what is being told to us, lest we too become spreaders of fake news causing society to become sick.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

About the writer:

Nasima H Khan spent her early childhood in the United States, and thereafter grew up and lived in New Delhi. She has worked as a journalist for 15 years with The Economic Times and later as an editor with India Today news magazine. She was also an editor with newspapers in Oman. For the past 12 years, she has been teaching Journalism and Communication to undergraduate students.

Email: [email protected]

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