Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera 2 Apr 2020

COVID-19: India tracks down over 100 attendees of religious event

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Indian health officials are in the process of tracking down more than 100 people who attended a religious gathering in the capital, New Delhi, after dozens of participants contracted coronavirus.
The government has ordered police to file a case of negligence against the organisation behind the event.
Al Jazeera's Elizabeth Puranam reports from New Delhi.


Mexico's COVID-19 deaths are a fraction of the U.S. toll. But suspicions mount over whether the Mexican government is accurately tracking the spread.
Canadian provinces are releasing projections for their best- and worst-case scenarios for the spread of COVID-19. The models vary widely from province to province, but doctors say that makes sense as different factors are at play in each part of the country.

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On The Listening Post this week: From China to the US, the COVID-19 battle is as much medical as it is media. Plus, lessons from the coverage of the 1918 Spanish flu.

The geopolitical battle for the COVID-19 narrative

As they have been isolating their populations to keep the coronavirus contained, some powerful governments are simultaneously waging a worldwide war of perceptions - laying out how the pandemic happened, where the responsibilities lie and which country should lead the fight against it.

China is out to shift the narrative from its initially slow response - the way its censors kept a lid on the story - to the collective effort since then to bring down the infection rate. Beijing has also borrowed a page from Moscow's playbook - using mainstream and social media platforms to spread conspiracy theories and to muddle perceptions. In Washington, DC, a campaign to brand COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" is being led by President Donald Trump himself.

This story has grown into a debate about competing ideologies - a global one, played out through the news media - of what the world will look like once the pandemic is over - and which political system, which superpower - will be best placed to lead.

Contributors:

Mark Galeotti - principal director, Mayak Intelligence and author of We Need to Talk about Putin

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian - China reporter, Axios

Emerson Brooking - resident fellow, DFR Lab and author of The Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media

On our radar:

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Flo Phillips about the COVID-19 emergency laws that are threatening press freedom worldwide.

1918 to COVID-19: 100 years of covering pandemics

How should authorities respond to COVID-19, and what role should the media play? From the beginning of the outbreak, historians have looked to the past for valuable lessons learned - most notably, to the so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

John Barry is an American historian and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

The Listening Post's Nic Muirhead interviews Barry on the role the media played in 1918; how news organisations, through self-censorship and misinformation, helped spread the virus, and how we are seeing some disturbing parallels in the coverage of COVID-19 today.

Contributor:

John M Barry - author of The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.
On The Listening Post this week: Brazil's President Bolsonaro and COVID-19 misinformation. Plus, how well has the WHO performed as a key information source during the pandemic?

Brazil's Bolsonaro: Turning COVID-19 denial into media spectacle

A president at odds with his advisers and scientists over COVID-19, who has said the virus is no worse than the flu, and whose supporters accuse the media of hyping up the story. Not Donald Trump, but Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.

Even as deaths in Brazil surpass China, President Bolsonaro continues to downplay the pandemic. After firing his health minister, he went on to attend a "protest" demanding military intervention to lift the lockdown. He also has the support of two of Brazil's biggest media players, Record TV and SBT. Whether Bolsonaro is in denial, or just playing politics, they are standing firmly by his side.

Contributors:

Andrew Fishman - Managing editor, The Intercept Brasil

Gustavo Ribeiro - Founder, Brazilian Report

Bob Fernandes - Journalist and commentator

Leonardo Custodio, Postdoctoral researcher - Abo Akademi University

On our radar:

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about a media storm in Pakistan, where a religious leader turned a televised coronavirus fundraiser into an attack on the broadcasters.

Who holds WHO accountable?

COVID-19 is the biggest news story most of us have ever seen. Of all the institutions responsible for getting information out, the World Health Organization (WHO) may be the most vital.

The WHO is a specialised agency of the United Nations borne out of the recognition that no single country can manage a global outbreak, and that an international health body is needed to rise above the politics of national interests.

In this pandemic, however, the WHO has been accused of falling short of its mandate and was unable to act independently in accessing and assessing the outbreak. The WHO was only granted access to Wuhan in mid-February. And not only did it fail to verify the early information on COVID-19 coming out of China, but it amplified it by repeating Chinese misinformation.

On January 14, the WHO tweeted that there was "no proof of human-to-human transmission" of the coronavirus. But at the time, media in Hong Kong and other countries, were already comparing the virus to SARS and saying it was most likely transmitting from people to people.

The Listening Post's producer Nic Muirhead reports on the WHO, and how one of the most important news sources in the world may be compromised.

Contributors:

Lawrence Gostin - Director, O'Neill Institute, Georgetown University

Osman Dar - Global Health Programme, Chatham House

Stephen Buranyi - Journalist, The Guardian

Rana Mitter - Director, China Centre, Oxford University

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