On the Ban on Journalists

On the Ban on Journalists

Against the backdrop of an altercation between a doctor and a journalist in the premises of the SMHS, the principal of the Government Medical College(GMC), Kashmir, has banned the entry of journalists in hospitals. There is a caveat here: journalists can enter hospital premises only after seeking permission from Medical Superintendents of hospitals. In effect, despite the qualifier and the caveat, journalists have now effectively been barred from hospital premises. Another back drop to the ban is that medicos took to social media after the altercation incident and attempted to impugn and discredit journalists. All this is not only alarming but also vituperative. The reasons, among other things, pertain to the very nature of the sector and department in contention, that is, the health care sector. It is one of the most critical sectors that should not only be open to scrutiny but also be as transparent as possible. Yes, there are internal management processes , systems and processes at work in various hospitals and allied health care facilities, but no management system and paradigm is perfect. ( In the case of Kashmir, these are far from perfect, so to speak). Moreover, in the public sector in Kashmir, of which health care is a component, there are nagging and glaring issues of accountability, transparency and other systemic malaises. Who, other than the media, can hold these sectors accountable and put them under the public scanner, given accountability and patronage issues? If, as has happened, the media is barred from hospital premises, no wheeling and dealing or issues of management , systems and corruption, can neither come to light nor be remedied. This is all the more salient and poignant given the poor internal processes of the public sector. Given that the interface between the health sector and the people is not akin to a typical public sector organizations and it involves the vital and essential matter of life and death, it is imperative that this sector be held to the highest standard(s). Admittedly, there is always a degree of tension between the public sector and the media, but this does not and should not mean that a blanket ban is imposed on the media persons in entering the premises of hospitals. The bam, to repeat is reflexive, visceral and vituperative. It also reflects poor managerial capacities and capabilities on part of those who have imposed it. The ban should be removed and a healthy dynamic re-infused between the health sector and the media fraternity. This is owed to the public.

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