Media houses urged to enforce stricter protocols as over 150 Pakistani journalists get COVID-19

In this file photo, Pakistani journalists wearing protective facemasks report outside the Aga Khan University Hospital where a patient of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus has been admitted in Karachi on Feb. 26, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Media houses urged to enforce stricter protocols as over 150 Pakistani journalists get COVID-19

  • Government officials do not follow safety protocols during press briefing, reporters say
  • 156 journalists contracted the virus, over half of them in Lahore

KARACHI: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has appealed to media houses to enforce strict safety rules for their reporters and cameramen, as an increasing number of them are contracting the coronavirus while on duty.
“We have been urging media owners to not unnecessarily put the lives of journalists at risk by sending them to the field without proper protective gear,” Shehzada Zulfiqar, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), told Arab News over the phone from Quetta. 
The call comes as more journalists have been sent into the field without protective wear since Pakistan on Monday lifted the remaining restrictions imposed on businesses to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
According to PFUJ’s report released on Wednesday, 156 journalists have been infected and three succumbed to the disease.
The PFUJ’s COVID-19 rescue committee head, Zulfiqar Ali Mehto, told Arab News that the majority of the infected were reporters, cameramen and photojournalists, which implies that they had contracted the virus while performing their duties in the field.
Over half of infections were recorded among journalists in Lahore.
“We have rigorously worked on collecting data and have analyzed each case, which tells us that protective measures are not been taken seriously. If a single person is infected, given almost zero space between workstations, the virus may spread across the whole office,” Mehto said, adding that at one media office in Lahore, 60 people were infected.
Few media organizations, he said, provided hand sanitizers, face masks and gloves to their staff.
Ahmed Malik, secretary general of the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) said government officials should forgo news conferences and instead share information through videos or written statements, as safety measures have not been taken during government pressers.
“We have noticed that standard procedures are not followed at official press briefings,” he told Arab News.
However, Pakistan’s minister for information and broadcasting Shibli Faraq, said: “Government is relaxing the lockdown situation in phases. Any suggestion from media on media interaction will be welcomed.” 
“The safety and security of media men is our priority,” the minister told Arab News on Saturday. 
Pakistan grapples with a growing health crisis amid gobal pandemic with 53,199 virus cases reported thus far and more than 1,100 lives lost — leaving those at the front-lines to cover the news, most vulnerable. 
While the country has barred television shows from entertaining live audience during coronavirus outbreak, the entire team of a morning show was tested virus-positive, according to media reports on Saturday highlighting the vulnerabilities associated with the news industry.


Waqar urges Afridi and Gambhir to end social media war

Updated 01 June 2020

Waqar urges Afridi and Gambhir to end social media war

  • Both involved in heated social media exchanges over the troubled Kashmir region
  • Gambhir is now a lawmaker in the Indian parliament, while Afridi has his own foundation and is a vocal activist

New Delhi: Former Pakistan star Waqar Younis has called on Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir to end their social media war, and for India and Pakistan to resume playing cricket.
After being fierce on-field rivals, Pakistan’s Afridi and former Indian opener Gambhir have become involved in heated social media exchanges over the troubled Kashmir region, which is claimed by both countries.
Gambhir is now a lawmaker in the Indian parliament, while Afridi has his own foundation and is a vocal activist.
Waqar advised the pair to “calm down” in an online chat show.
“The banter between Gautam Gambhir and Shahid Afridi has been going on for a while now. I think they both got to be smart, sensible, and calm down,” said Waqar.
“It has been going on for way too long. My advice to them is to maybe catch up somewhere around the world and talk it out if you cannot really calm it down.”
India and Pakistan have not played a series since 2012-2013 and have hit a new peak in tensions over Kashmir, which they have fought over since their independence in 1947.
India frequently accuses Pakistan of organizing militant attacks in the sector of the Himalayan region that it administers.
Waqar, 48, said a cricket series would boost relations between the arch-rival neighbors.
“I think that it would be the biggest hit of the world,” said Waqar.
“I think Pakistan (and) India should play, and should play on a regular basis to avoid depriving cricket lovers.”