Meeting COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation by the Media Regulator of Ukraine - Національна рада України з питань телебачення і радіомовлення

Meeting COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation by the Media Regulator of Ukraine

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, Ukrainian society has faced another epidemic – the “infodemic of COVID-19” – the spread of fakes, misinformation and outright lies. This affects not only people’s health, but also security and confidence in the state as a whole. As a result, Ukraine suffers irreparable losses due to damage to public health and deaths caused by the pandemic.

The concerns of the World Health Organization, posted on the official website, are worth mentioning here:

“Acting on the wrong information can kill. In the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6 000 people around the globe were hospitalized because of coronavirus misinformation, recent research suggests. During this period, researchers say at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19”

In the pandemic people need to decide how to protect their health, the health of their loved ones, their children, and the health of others in the best possible way. People will continuously look for information, mainly in the media, and the accuracy of this information is critical in saving their lives and health

However, Ukraine could not succeed to stay away from spreading in the media manipulative content about COVID-19 and vaccination, the inaccuracy of which was refuted by the world medical and scientific community, along with truthful information.

Here are just several clear examples of fakes and destructive narratives that are now present in the Ukrainian media landscape:

  • Ukraine has refused the Russian vaccine purely for political reasons;
  • Western lobbyists do not allow any vaccines into the Ukrainian market, except for Western developments;
  • The Ukrainian government manipulates coronavirus statistics in accordance with political needs;
  • COVID-19 vaccines cause the disease, which can entail the further infection of coronavirus;
  • The administration of COVID-19 vaccine has serious side effects and/or medical complications that are dangerous to human health, especially vaccination is dangerous for pregnant women who may have a miscarriage;
  • There are alternative treatments for COVID-19, but they are hidden from the public for commercial reasons;
  • COVID-19 is not a cause of death for most people, so more attention should be paid to diseases that are more life-threatening;
  • The scale of the pandemic is artificially exaggerated, because COVID-19 does not spread among young people, the disease affects only elderly people;
  • The pandemic was “planned” and deals with the introduction of the 5G technology;
  • The use of personal protective items, including face masks, is inappropriate and harmful to health;
  • Vaccination against COVID-19 will control the population;
  • Vaccines contain nanochips and are part of the introduction of the so-called “New World Order”; the COVID-19 pandemic is part of a conspiracy of “Big Powers” to reduce the world’s population;
  • COVID-19 testing and vaccination is a fraud and cartel of pharmaceutical corporations, etc.

The situation observed by the National Council with the dissemination of fake information about COVID-19 in the media forced the Regulatory Authority to introduce special media monitoring with the aim to monitor the appearance of such dangerous messages in the media.

Thus, at its meeting on October 28, the National Council addressed the broadcasting companies of Ukraine with recommendations on disseminating information in the context of the pandemic and measures to combat the spread of the disease.

Having launched such monitoring, the National Council calls on broadcasters to disseminate information only from official representatives and sources, and when disseminating such materials to pay more attention to the requirements of the current legislation on the reliability and objectivity of information, so that the information disseminated is based on the scientific knowledge of specialized experts in the area of medicine and contribute to reducing the incidence of COVID-19, accelerating the rate of vaccination of people against COVID-19.

In the pandemic the National Council has recommended broadcasters to:

  • carefully develop and establish editorial mechanisms to verify and disseminate accurate content about coronavirus and vaccination in order to prevent information that could lead to fatal and destructive behaviour of citizens who consume information;
  • disseminate information from officials and official sources, as the information disseminated by public officials or official representatives of the public health system is accurate and reliable primarily due to the increased, set by law, responsibility of officials for their own actions and for the information to be disseminated;
  • when disseminating such materials, pay more attention to the requirements of current legislation on the reliability and objectivity of information, so that the information disseminated is based on scientific knowledge of experts in the area of medicine and helps reduce the incidence of COVID-19, accelerate vaccination against COVID -19;
  • the content of programmes about COVID-19 and vaccination should not contain direct instructions to abandon methods and means of traditional scientific medicine, to ignore visiting a doctor or vaccination due to false information seen or heard on TV or radio;
  • it is appropriate to introduce corrective editorial measures – clarification or refutation of already disseminated unreliable information, critical attitude of creative staff, hosts with regard to statements of guests and/or participants of programmes; it is appropriate to introduce organize special seminars/trainings for creative workers on topical issues related to COVID-19 and vaccination, providing appropriate editorial instructions to the staff of a broadcaster to let them know that due attention should be paid to official communications, scientific and/or medical advice; repeated broadcasting of programmes with inaccurate or false information on COVID-19 and vaccination must be avoided.

Monitoring and analysis of 28 national TV channels recorded that 15 TV channels place permanent logo “Vaccination Saves Lives” on screens. As well 13 conclusions were drafted by the Regulator concerning social advertisements related to Covid. The new disinformation database, including on the pandemics, now includes recordings of 45 fake news pieces related to Covid detected on the Internet and 1 case detected on TV.

On November 4, 2021, the National Council considered the first case with the violations related to the coronavirus pandemic. An unscheduled inspection of the LLC “Teleprostir” (“UKRLIVE” logo) was scheduled. In the programme “The Ukrainian Format” on 29 October 2021, one of the invited guests spread and insisted on information that there is no coronavirus pandemic, but only seasonal flu, measures to combat the pandemic are only a cover for corruption, and therefore vaccination against the disease, which does not exist, should be perceived by viewers of the programme as redundant and unnecessary. At the same time, the statements of a medical nature were made by an expert on economics, and therefore looked particularly cynical.

 

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