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Sri Lanka’s defence ministry requests media to respect privacy of COVID-19 patients

Image credit: ITU Pictures/Flickr

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence requested print and electronic media today to respect the privacy of COVID-19 patients and to refrain from recording and airing footage of their homes being inspected by health workers.

The electronic media, in particular, has come under heavy criticism for breaching the privacy of suspected novel coronavirus cases and for allegedly stigmatising the disease.

Ethics Eye, a media ethics watchdog run by private think-tank Verité Research, reported that between 6 to 10 April, only one TV channel did not violate media guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

The Defence Ministry said in a statement that contact tracing and other pandemic related activities carried out by Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) and police officers have been featured in a number of news telecasts, other programmes and feature articles in newspapers.

“Appreciating the critical role played by media personnel in educating the public on the coronavirus pandemic, Defence Secretary Maj Gen (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne said protecting patients’ privacy is important to encourage patients to come forward for testing,” the statement said.

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The ministry is also of the view that covering such events would also cause inconvenience to health officials on duty in addition to posing a risk to the journalists and TV crews themselves, it added.

The ministry went on to request media institutions to educate respective journalists to refrain from accompanying health officials in tracking suspected COVID-19 cases. (Colombo/Apr28/2020)

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