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.
Exclusive reporting in Iran
In Iran, RFE/RL’s Persian Service featured an exclusive report from the pandemic hotspot city of Karaj, that directly challenged the government’s narrative on the city’s new spike in infections. The report included hard-to-get footage from a cemetery, as well as interviews with people who shared their concerns about the government’s mishandling of the situation and the growing economic challenges they experience.
Continued battle against Russian disinformation
Both VOA and RFE/RL covered – in numerous languages – the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center’s “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” report released in early August. The report included a special focus on the Kremlin’s recent efforts to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and the web of actors and proxies that support these efforts around the world.
According to a recent poll by the Levada Center, 66% of Russians do not trust or only partially trust official information on the pandemic. RFE/RL published an infographic summarizing the results of the poll and highlighted a case that could explain the distrust. In an effort to show a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases, RFE/RL reported, authorities in Kaliningrad have seemingly stopped proper testing.
Russian disinformation is spreading outside the country as well. Alhurra covered a false report claiming five Ukrainians had died after taking an American-made coronavirus vaccine that spread in just a matter of days from a small pro-Kremlin website to an audience of thousands in U.S.-based Facebook groups. Russian media picked up the bogus claim, and before long American social media users shared screenshots and links to these articles.