Kannada newspaper accuses Muslims of spreading coronavirus

Published : March 29, 2020 20:04 IST

At the 24 X 7 coronavirus Command and Control Room opened at the head office of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike in Bengaluru on March 23. While sharing information with mediapersons, the State Health Department has been particular in identifying COVID-positive patients by a number and the location without providing a name. Photo: K. MURALI KUMAR

In a shocking case of irresponsible journalism, a leading Kannada newspaper, Vijaya Karnataka, accused Muslims of spreading coronavirus in a page one story on March 28. The headline of the story read, “All the Deceased Belonged to One Community”. Leading with the sentence that the three deceased in Karnataka due to COVID-19 belonged to one particular community, the report added, without any evidence or statements from the police, that it was members of this community who were blatantly violating the curfew in place because of the 21-day lockdown.

Leaving no one in doubt as to which this “particular community” is, the report states that of the three deceased, two had returned from Mecca, while the third fell ill on his return to his hometown from Delhi where he prayed at the Jamia Masjid. The report accuses the deceased individuals of violating quarantine norms and freely travelling through many States before their deaths. The report also adds that while Hindus and Christians have stopped congregating at temples and churches, members of “this particular community are congregating for prayers and causing fear in society by freely violating the norms of the curfew”. The report appealed to the State government to “bring in strict measures so that members of this community do not spread the virus”.

While sharing information with mediapersons, the State Health Department has been particular in identifying COVID-positive patients by a number and the location without providing a name. Thus, the expectation is that responsible journalists will continue this practice so that no community or group is profiled and shunned, but Vijaya Karnataka has breached these norms.

In a complaint addressed to the Chief Minister and the Press Council of India, the Karnataka Muslim Jamaath, a State-level representative Muslim organisation, has demanded strict action under the relevant provisions of the law against the editorial leadership of Vijaya Karnataka for its attempt to “target a community and to communalise the Coronavirus issue in an atmosphere of a national emergency”.

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