There needs to be an inquiry into the media's coverage of the coronavirus

8 Apr 2020

 

Once we emerge from this coronavirus crisis, there must be a review of the media’s coverage of this pandemic. 

 

When all is said and done, many questions will be asked about whether or not the government got it right. Of course, we can’t answer that question right now, but we can assume a review will be carried out to ensure we’re better prepared should we face another pandemic in the future. 

 

Several issues have concerned me throughout this crisis, not just the worry of catching COVID-19, but the media’s coverage of this pandemic. 

 

As a trained journalist and someone who worked in the newspaper industry for several years before working in political communications, my criticism is based on my time as a journalist.

 

I’m not some political party member with a vendetta against the press for questioning the government.

 

China has many questions to answer, not least their delay in telling the world about this new, deadly virus, but how will the UK media play their role in holding China to account when they regurgitate Communist Party propaganda. 

 

“The number of deaths in the United States is now higher than China”, the newsreader said on the BBC’s flagship News at Six (March 31st). There was no caveat at all that medical professionals and scientists from around the world, including whistle-blowers in China, believe the real death toll to be far higher than Beijing is willing to tell the world. 

 

However, just days earlier on BBC News, Russia was being discussed and, rightly, the newsreader reminded viewers that Russia’s ‘official’ coronavirus statistics have likely been played down by the Kremlin. 

 

I’ve seen no such disclaimer when China’s figures are discussed. We must not accept Beijing’s propaganda. 

 

I’m afraid the UK media are all too willing to accept what China says. We shouldn’t. We should be questioning China more than ever. 

 

We’re also seeing a complete disconnect between social media, in particular Twitter, and polling which shows a plurality of people support the actions of the government. Now, this, of course, isn’t the fault of the media, but this disconnect feeds into the line of questioning journalists are asking at the No.10 daily press briefings. 

 

Are those journalists who get to ask the Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister a question live on TV, in front of millions of people, asking questions based on trends they’ve seen on social media. 

 

Are they asking that ‘gotcha’ question because it will get thousands of likes and retweets on Twitter and lots of praise which does not reflect the make-up of our society? These are the questions which a review must ask. 

 

I do believe we have the most balanced and impartial press and media in the world, but to ensure it remains that way, we must hold our media to a higher standard and therefore a review into their coverage of coronavirus will be needed.

 

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