Stoppage of briefing on coronavirus situation unexpected

The decision of the Directorate General of Health Services not to hold briefings on the coronavirus situation from Wednesday cannot be a welcome move. Although the directorate has assured transmission of data through press releases, the decision will deprive journalists of the opportunity to seek information on what is not normally stated in press releases or handouts. In other words, the media will have to remain satisfied with what is made available through the said press release.
The briefing which was aired by the electronic media did also gave the people an opportunity to hear directly from the DGHS officials on the latest coronavirus situation in the country. More so as the pandemic has been affecting all aspects of life.
What prompted the DGHS to take the decision has not been specifically spelt out. One can understand the discomfort the department had as the news media wrote on corruption at different stages of healthcare services. This led to the resignation of one director general Dr. Abul Kamal Azad. The new Director General Prof. Dr. Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam who has taken charge has come up with a blunt statement that corruption cannot be blamed on their department alone.
What one can say is, a briefing is important, and this is why the American President, the most powerful man on earth, comes before journalists regularly for briefing. One extreme example of the importance that President Donald Trump has given to briefing is that on Monday, August 10 he came back to the briefing room after being taken away by secret agents following a shooting near the fence of the White House.
The DGHS had started briefings on the coronavirus pandemic on 8 April last, one month after the first cases of the disease were detected in the country. The people welcomed this because every day they were updated on the health problem that affected not only Bangladesh but also the rest of the glove.
A press release cannot be the substitute for briefing because it is a one-way communication and does not give the receiver the opportunity to seek relevant information that normally remains not-served through the press release. In other words, the DGHS will reserve the right to serve or withhold information as it likes.
But this is not the time for DGHS to pick and choose while addressing an all-pervasive problem. On the Covid-19 issue Bangladesh, like the rest of the globe, has to suspend other activities to the extent that people have been deprived of their sources of income. People who were solvent in normal times are facing food shortage because of the loss of their earnings. It is hoped that DGHS would not minimise the importance of information in this situation of unprecedented distress.