With the spread of COVID-19 impacting the world, the United States Agency for Global Media and its networks have remained committed to providing accurate and unbiased information about the coronavirus, clarifying any misinformation, and exposing disinformation related to the pandemic.
Refugees and the Pandemic
- Radio Free Asia reported on Human Rights Watch’s call for Myanmar to end the country’s year-long internet shutdown, which has prevented more than a million citizens, refugees and aid workers from receiving accurate information about COVID-19.
- RFA also reported on the detention of Rohingya refugees who arrived in Malaysia by boat, as countries neighboring Myanmar shut their borders amid the pandemic. Reports suggest Malaysian officials deny these reports, but sources suggest more refugee boats are in the water.
- Voice of America published a special graphic novel-style report on how the pandemic has affected one Syrian refugee family.
Disinformation in the Age of COVID-19
- Voice of America Mandarin reported on a recent medRxiv study that suggests that the coronavirus infection and death toll in Wuhan, China could be ten times higher than official figures and that the outbreak may have occurred months earlier than suspected.
- VOA Persian reported on a campaign by officials in Tehran to underplay the severity of the outbreak in Iran, and reported on the significant increase of cases within the country.
- Polygraph investigated claims by the Mexican President that the pandemic was over in Mexico, and reported on Latin America emerging as a continental epicenter of coronavirus — evidenced by outbreak and containment figures in five countries.
- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service debunked and investigated the country’s coronavirus-related conspiracy theories, and further explained the use of these theories as sources of danger and disinformation for the public.
- RFE/RL’s Tajik Service also documented the Tajik government’s attempts at enacting anti-misinformation laws in response to the pandemic, and the concerns that some reporters have about potential areas for government exploitation.
Press Freedom Under Fire
- RFE/RL’s Russian Service analyzed the persecution and targeting of reporters and social media users in the country, specifically highlighting the case of RFE/RL reporter Tatyana Voltskaya who was accused of spreading fake news of the availability of protective gear for doctors in Saint Petersburg.
- VOA reported on the increased threats and harassment claims experienced by cartoonists worldwide, in the wake of government measures meant to restrict freedom of expression amid the pandemic.
- VOA also reported on the restriction of press freedom and citizen journalists in Beijing, where Chinese officials are trying to contain the spread of a second outbreak. Some citizen journalists have been warned to stay away from foreign media.