Friday, 21 January, 2022

'Disinfodemic' In Pandemic

Sampada Anuranjanee Khatiwada

While the COVID-19 spread has hit all of us hard, the media is making it even more difficult for people, worldwide to live with the pandemic.

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has also called out on news spreading misinformation, stating that the fake news had put more lives at risk amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Some people on social media are seen regarding the floating of false and baseless information about COVID-19 deaths, its symptoms and medical remedies during a pandemic as 'disinfodemic'. The Nepali media are also seen disseminating misinformation about the pandemic.

For instance, on May 20, many online portals had published news about death of a 41-year old COVID-19 patient at Crimson Hospital, Manigram, Rupandehi. After the news started becoming viral all over online platforms, the Crimson Hospital had to issue a press statement to clarify that rumours regarding death of the COVID-19 patient was baseless.

In the thirst of getting more views and likes, many media didn't refrain themselves from calling an alive person dead. This raises a huge question mark on the credibility and authenticity of media houses.

Moreover, when Nepal recorded first coronavirus death, the deceased's name and photo went viral on social media. Almost all online portals published the woman's photo as banner image for their news.

This shows that media personalities, in some extent lack legal knowledge as the deceased's and her family's right to privacy was being violated.

Identity of COVID-19 patients is also being made public in various news portals, thereby making the patient face social stigmatisation.

Disclosure of patients' identity doesn't have any legal backings. On societal level, they will have to face unnecessary prejudice and harassment.
Staying in isolation itself is challenging on both mental and physical levels for COVID-19 patients.

Adding to that, when society harasses him or her for being infected by the deadly coronavirus, chances of facing mental trauma due to social stigmatisation and harassment will increase in COVID-19 infected people even after recovery.

On May 17, even Press Council Nepal (PCN), by issuing a press statement had called all journalists and media persons to be alert regarding disclosure of identity of COVID-19 patients and deceased. Disclosure of patients' or deceased's identity would violate their right to privacy and could hit the victims' lives hard, the NPC stated.

Likewise, many public health experts have said that consuming fake news may give rise to depression and anxiety among people amid pandemic. People are any way frustrated to have been limited within their houses due to the enforcement of two months long lockdown by the government.

They would be more panicky while consuming unproved news of increment in death cases and COVID-19 cases.

Thus, it is high time media attend their duties responsibly. They must understand the vulnerability of COVID-19 patients and suspects and respect their right to privacy.

Furthermore, it would be better if the media, especially online portals focused more on showing the brighter side of the pandemic and stating only the facts while disseminating facts and data about COVID-19 cases or death tolls.