In the past two years, througout the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, journalists have been reporting on ground, covering the pandemic, protests, and various events. As a result they and their family members have been at considerable risk in contracting the virus. While journalists who are accredited do enjoy relief measures for the frontline work they do, non-accredited journalists have not been given the same consideration.
According to the Rajasthan Press Representatives Accreditation Rules (1995 ), for accreditation to be granted to a journalist, he/she needs to have a “minimum professional experience as a full time working journalist along with a recommendation by the Journalist body.”
Accreditation is the process whereby the Government recognises the news media persons for access to sources of information from the Government and to news materials released by the PIB or other Govt. agencies.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Application has been filed in the Rajasthan High Court highlighting the health risks and lack of securities of non-accredited journalists and media persons, during the pandemic.
The PIL demands that non-accredited media persons and their families be given relief for the work they have done during the pandemic.
“That data gives a stark reality about the journalists who are not accredited by the Central or State Government and they constitute a large portion. Thus, the non-accredited journalists and their families will suffer due to a mere technicality which can be removed by the Government considering the unprecedented time during the crisis of the pandemic”, the petition adds.
In addition, the PIL asks for non-accredited Journalists to receive the title of front line workers/corona warrior.
The petitioner who is a journalist, while highlighting the risks that specifically non-accredited journalists face during the pandemic, stated: “They have no social security benefit and in case of unfortunate death in the line of duty, they also do not have any means of ex-gratia compensation either from the management or from the government.”
The PIL also highlights the work done by journalists and media persons during the pandemic which have put them at such high risk. These include interviews of doctors, visits to hospitals, awareness programmes etc.
According to Live Law, in March 2021, the Rajasthan State Govt. gave accredited journalists the status of frontline worker/covid warrior. They were also included them in the insurance scheme for ex-gratia payment of Rs. 50,00,000/- aid to family of deceased who died while on duty.
Non- Accredted journalists and media personnel however, were not included in this, even though many were reporting from the ground, and were at heavy risk of contracting the virus. As per the 2020 amendments to the Rajasthan State Accredited and Non-Accredited Journalist Medical Facilities Scheme 2020, non-accredited journalists were brought under the ambit of welfare schemes for journalists. However, they lose out on a number of securities specific to the pandemic as they do not have the status of covid warrior/frontline workers.