The medical fraternity of India to stop using crematorium and funeral pyres visuals to the media: Is it a solution or an escapism from reality?

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Pandemic is leaving scars on everybody physically and emotionally. In India situation is worse, where countless deaths, struggle for healthcare facilities and shortage of oxygen is captivating all the worried eyeballs globally. The situation has mentally drained mass of population and is affecting people of all age groups in different ways.

On 28th April 2021, an open letter was released by four medical professionals belonging to a prominent hospital and National institute of mental health and neurosciences. The letter emphasized on requesting media organizations to stop using visuals of crematoriums and funeral pyres as it can have negative impact on the mental health of the people. Under signed by Dr. BN Gangadhar (Director of NIMHANS) along with Pratima Murthy (H.O.D. of Psychiatry, NIMHANS), Gautam Sinha (President, Indian Psychiatric Society) and Rajesh Sagar (Professor of Psychiatry, AIIMS Delhi), letter read “Images of bodies burning in cremation grounds, relatives of the deceased wailing inconsolably, emotional outbursts and hysterical reporters with cameramen swarming over the bereaved who are going through deeply emotional moments – these may help garner eyeballs. But when they see such depressing and disturbing visuals, they are pushed much deeper into the abyss.” Doctors appealed to show restraint in the coverage without compromising upon facts or public interest.

“In such times, the media has great power to inform, educate and most importantly, infuse hope in the people. This includes the sharing of authentic information and allaying of fears”, letter conveyed.

Lot of people from other countries are keeping track on the situation through visuals and news as it is the only option for them. One such person who is delivering these truthful and actual visuals to people worldwide is Indranil Aditya. Born and brought up in Kolkata he is a trained freelance photojournalist based in Kolkata and working for an Italian Press Agency for the last 5 years. While commenting on the open letter that was recently released, he said, “As a photojournalist I think we are doing our responsibility to showcase the scenario to the world. Our job is as important as the Doctor, Heath worker and any other frontline workers.”

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Photo: Indranil Aditya

On asking, does he think there has to be some sort of limitations while broadcasting or publishing the visuals by media organizations considering the level of sensitivity and sensationalism to what he respond, “Considering the level of sensitivity and sensationalism, I don’t think we as a news media person needs to draw boundaries because most of the global aid is coming in our country due to the coverage we have done to showcase the condition of the health infrastructure which is struggling to cope up with the oxygen requirement and other health facilities which many of the patient are not able to get due to the shortage of beds and other medical facilities.”

Although the letter talks about the mental health being affected due to the coverage, but it is important for us to look at the reality around us and deal with it as people are taking precautions keeping in mind such drastic truth. As you can see population of India is 1.39 billion (approx.), people need to get aware of the real situation, where people are taking this pandemic very casually by attending Hindu festivals like Kumbh mela (a biggest gathering of earth), attending election rallies which are getting more importance in our country than pandemic”, said Indranil. He added, “So I think, newspaper, online news websites are the medium which helps to make people aware of the current scenario which the country is facing.”

Indranil Aditya told Eat News, that it is heart wrenching and emotional at times as a photojournalist or video journalist while working on ground zero. He said, “Only a Photojournalist or a video journalist can do the work on ground zero to showcase the naked truth. It is of course heart wrenching and emotional while covering the scenario, but as a responsible photojournalist or a video journalist they are working in the line of duty like the doctors, health workers and other frontline workers do.”

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He shared his experience while he shot some sensitive visuals during this pandemic. He quoted, “During these pandemic times, I have shot a few photographs which are sensitive as well as emotional while covering near a government hospital in Kolkata. Yes, I take my work as a responsible photojournalist who is covering these critical and vulnerable assignments as a documented history for future generations.”

The letter got circulated on the social platforms and people have different opinions about this. One of the users commented, “Closing your eyes and thinking that there is nothing to be scared of Is foolishness’ while the other posted, ‘They should show images in a limited number only so that truth is known as well as people won’t be traumatized regarding their mental health.”

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ and currently visuals coming from Indian media are carrying all kind of emotions, from pain to grief, struggle, anger, hassle, united and communicating it to the world.

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