To commemorate the 30th year of the Foundation for Medical Ethics Society (FMES) – Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME), The Department of Communication, Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad has collaborated with them on a series of two virtual round tables discussing the ethics of reporting in health emergencies.

Professor Usha Raman

The first event (Oct 10) focused on journalism, while the second (Oct 13) will focus on public health communication.

Professor Usha Raman, Department of Communication, and Sandhya Srinivasan, Consulting Editor, IJME, Mumbai, moderated the discussion on communicating ethically in crisis – what, how, and with whom?

Professor Raman set up the stage for the discussion by highlighting gaps in health and economic policies and the mismanagement of communication and information mechanisms during the recent pandemic. “In a context of uncertainty where everyone was seeking reassurance and direction and what was required was transparency and trust. What we got was false certainty and bravado on the one hand and stonewalling on the other”. She applauded the journalists for playing the dual role of holding the public health institutions accountable while fulfilling their job as news providers.

Sandhya Srinivasan

Sandhya Srinivasan introduced the diverse set of panel: Banjot Kaur, IIMC Delhi; Menaka Rao, Independent Journalist, Suno India; Murad Banaji, Middlesex University, London; B.R.Shamanna, School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad and Sayatan Datta, Centre for Writing and Pedagogy, Krea University and invited them to give their opening remarks.

Sayatan Datta

It is become important to look at the public health emergency not as discreet events but as spikes in the socio-political reality,” says Sayatan Datta. He stressed the active marginalization in a country like India, where the public health infrastructure is torn apart. It is essential to locate these spikes and create a new socio-political reality.

Menaka Rao

Taking the discussion further, Menaka Rao gave insights into how journalists take stories with a resolution. She mentioned how the stories on health and disease have no end. It’s high time we should stop looking at public health emergencies as collateral damage.

Murad Banaji

Adding further, Murad talked about how the data around public health communication should be honest and accessible. He insisted upon the essentiality of knowing the social reality behind the numbers. These are not just numbers. They are human stories that are complex in nature.

I am not sure if it was an infodemic or a pandemic. We boxed the people, not the virus,” said Prof. B.R. Shamanna. He presented a chronicle view of ethical communication at the policy level in case of a public health emergency.

The session concluded with notes on the framework needed to approach these emergencies with a layer of ethical consideration. Professor Raman conveyed the vote of thanks to the panelists and the participants for their enthusiastic participation.

You can watch the webinar at:

Contributed by Ms. Hemlata Rawat, Department of Communication