The Centre on Thursday said Rs 6.15 crore has been approved as financial assistance to families of 123 journalists who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Replying to supplementary questions in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting L Murugan also said it was the responsibility of the state governments to take appropriate action against online harassment of women journalists.

On the number of journalists who died during the pandemic, he said, "We are very much concerned about the journalists' welfare. During the pandemic, we conducted a special drive for journalists. Those who lost lives, we want to support their families.

We received 123 journalists' proposals. All 123 proposals are accepted and we released Rs 6.15 crore amount to the concerned families.

In a written reply, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur said the government undertook a special drive for providing financial assistance to the families of journalists who succumbed to COVID-19.

"On the basis of applications received by the Press Information Bureau and which fulfill the criteria laid under the Journalist Welfare Scheme (JWS), a sum of Rs 6.15 crore has been approved during the financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22 for financial assistance of Rs 5,00,000 per family to the families of 123 journalists who died due to COVID-19," he added.

Since 2017, Thakur said, financial assistance under the JWS has been provided in 247 cases.

During 2017-18, Rs 39.38 lakh was sanctioned under this scheme, while in 2018-19 Rs 99.99 lakh, in 2019-20 Rs 115.25 lakh, in 2020-21 Rs 260 lakh and in 2021-22 (till January 2022) Rs 606.51 lakh, was sanctioned, he said.