The ministry of information and broadcasting issued an advisory to the News Broadcasting Association, an industry body of news channels, against spreading panic with their coverage of the H1N1 flu that is fast spreading across the country. The advisory was issued on Friday evening, said editors of two news channels who asked not to be named. The situation has been deteriorating rapidly with panic spread across cities such as Pune, Mumbai and Chennai, where those infected with H1N1 virus, popularly known as swine flu, have died.
The advisory was issued when the panic was not yet so widespread and an atmosphere of an epidemic outbreak prevailed only in Pune. Since then, deaths have been reported from other cities as well. Some schools have been closed in New Delhi. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad adressed the media today afternoon and said the government may set up a war room to deal with the viral disease.
“News coverage is always a subjective thing. Some may feel that we are exaggerating matters, and we respect all viewpoints. But between Friday and now, things have gotten much worse, and may be we were right to point out the severity of the situation from day one,” said the editor of a leading news network, who asked not to be named. “There’s panic among people. Schools, malls and cinemas are being shut. We are not spreading any panic”.