Port Blair, May 3: While the nation is facing oxygen crisis to treat COVID-19 patients, there seems to be a similar situation with the fourth estate in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The crisis is monetary concerns to run the newspapers, especially dailies.

Private media and journalists in Andamans had experienced worst of its times during the first wave of COVID-19 that hit the islands last year. With the Administration attacking the private media to forcing it down to close, the media out here had really struggled keep going considering the pathetic situation of the pandemic at the time, which needed to be reported. The worst of them was that media were never included as essential services, with exceptions for the Administration’s mouthpiece The Daily Telegrams and the Government’s electronic media functioning out here. Movement passes for journalists were issued after lot of protests but were again restricted in numbers as per the choice of the Administration.

The situation grew so pathetic that journalists were arrested and cases filed against them for questioning the basic rights of the islanders. And the employees of the newspapers had to even opt for work without pay or minimum pay to keep the islanders updated of the situation.

When all was said and done and a new ray of hope was rekindling with able and efficient officers like Shri Jitendra Narain, IAS, Chief Secretary, A&N Administration, Shri Satyendra Garg, IPS, Director General of Police and Shri Suneel Anchipaka, IAS, Deputy Commissioner taking over, the importance of private media in disseminating information to the islanders was felt. The private media too had hailed the new Administration and pledged to support the efforts and fight the pandemic together. But unfortunate, the situation seems to be growing bad and worse again.

As the saying goes, even a mother doesn’t feed her baby unless it cries, it would be appropriate to place before the new Administration that the private media in the islands especially the dailies are on the verge of collapse and are running out of oxygen. The result is only because of the step motherly treatment and double standards adopted by the Administration, which needs to be corrected.   

While the new Administration under Shri Jitendra Narain is on war footing to curb the pandemic, and has taken the private media in confidence, Andaman Chronicle would like to highlight that with businesses closing due to the current lockdown and zero advertisement support from the Administration, it will be next to impossible for the private dailies to sustain. A glaring example which was exposed inadvertently today by the IP&T Directorate is the request email to publish and circulate IEC materials on COVID-19 on public interest (Free of cost). At the same time the inadvertent email exposed an offer of approximately Rs. 3 Lakhs to The Daily Telegrams to publish the same and circulate. What could this be termed as?

The private dailies like the frontline warriors in any government department including sanitary workers of PBMC have been equally risking their lives in order to support the Andaman & Nicobar Administration in its fight to curb and end the pandemic. Will it not be a courteous gesture by the A&N Administration to understand the situation of private dailies and voluntarily come forward to help them survive?