Freedom of expression and fundamental rights

Health Communication and Media Responsibility

Kamani Hettiarachchi

The whole world is currently living with the expectation of getting a relief from the prevailing pandemic situation due to Covid 19. Some consultant physicians predict that the world will have to live with this pandemic at least for a few more years. Most of the countries are in confusion whether to pause all the regular activities and defeat the pandemic or to adapt to the new situations with the pandemic and engage in their regular activities. Out of the two options, the world has now selected the second to defeat the pandemic while engaging in their regular activities. Clearly, it is the most practical methodology even though it is a bit challenging.

Meanwhile, it has become a relief to the world to know that many vaccines against Covid 19 are being experimented all over the world. The United States of America, Russia, India and Oxford University in the United Kingdom are some of these countries and organizations that are working on it. However, according to the World Health Organization, it will take some time for the vaccines to be used on patients. 

As society is still in a dilemma about the pandemic, they are prone to work on different official and unofficial cures for it. Some of these experiments are based on proper scientific research and some others are based on traditional beliefs and practices. Some of the experiments among them are based on Sri Lankan traditional indigenous medicine. However, citizens follow different methods to secure their physical health and immunity. They also use traditional drinks for that purpose because such things will not do any harm to the citizens or society. 

In present, the traditional media, as well as social media, are interested in publishing news with headings such as “A drink to defeat corona, a medicine/cream to kill any virus, a new invention of  indigenous medicine, precautionary medicine, indigenous doctors who treat corona.” As the society is expecting at least a little relief from the pandemic, such headings provide hope for them. Even though many parties can experiment on various indigenous medicines against Covid 19, there is no possibility of recommending them in an official way.

However, it will be an obstacle to face the prevailing situation in a productive way if the citizens keep their trust on indigenous medicines that are being experimented without any guarantee of curing or preventing the virus. Therefore, the government, traditional media, new media and social media hold a special responsibility when they deal with such sensitive situations. When the government sponsors something in that type, they automatically get the official acceptance of the government. Even though most of the social media cannot adhere to that, the web media and traditional media can regulate that kind of news with proper management. It is a common agreement that every media should accept when they engage in health communication in a global pandemic like this. To be brief, the media should not create false beliefs in the minds of the citizens. It is a huge responsibility of present media. If this responsibility is ignored by media, it suggests that they have misused the right of expression. 

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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