Independent media are playing a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. Not only are they providing people with reliable news and information, but also sparking action against injustices and exposing corruption. Here are some examples of how our clients and media partners are impacting on their communities.
In Ecuador, Guayaquil was the epicenter of the pandemic. The city made international headlines as bodies piled up in homes and at times on the streets. GK, a digital outlet based in Guayaquil, reported on the reality of families unable to say a final farewell to their loved ones. It created a virtual memorial so families can post photos and audio-messages to say goodbye to those who died during the pandemic.
In the Philippines, dis- and misinformation about COVID-19 has been spreading as widely as the virus itself. Rappler, an online media company and a verified signatory to Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network, debunked more than 40 false claims about the virus in April alone, from “Aspirin with lemon juice and honey cures coronavirus” to the invented story “Queen Elizabeth II’s quote praising President Duterte”.
In India, among the millions impacted by the pandemic were internal migrant workers stranded in cities because of the lockdown or forced to walk or bike hundreds of miles—sometimes with very little food—to get to their hometowns. Digital media company Scroll.in highlighted the plight of migrant workers stuck in an inadequate temporary shelter in Delhi. The local authorities responded by agreeing to move them to alternative accommodation.
In Ukraine, in the rural town of Novi Sanzhary, at least ten people were injured when protesters attacked a convoy of coronavirus evacuees from China, amidst a fog of confusion and disinformation fuelled by social media. Online outlet Liga published “The Panic Wizards”, an investigation showing how a pro-Russian network organized the “coronavirus riot”. The text was featured by the Global Investigative Journalism Network as an example of “Investigative Journalism on the COVID-19 Crisis”.
In Poland, the coronavirus crisis exposed another pandemic – corruption. The daily Gazeta Wyborcza denounced cronyism of the country’s health minister, after it uncovered evidence showing that his department had purchased more than 100,000 masks which did not meet safety standards from a family friend. Soon after the scandal was revealed, the Ministry notified the prosecutor’s office of a potential crime. Meanwhile, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party rejected an opposition effort to call a no-confidence vote against the minister.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government stopped disclosing comprehensive data on COVID-19 cases and deaths as infections soared. Civic engagement app Colab.re created Brasil Sem Corona (Brazil without Corona) that helps track and map virus risk areas in real-time by allowing citizens to report their symptoms anonymously, in addition to informing them about health measures. An interactive risk map aims to help identify possible outbreaks so that local health teams can make better plans to combat the disease.
In South Africa, there were ten alleged killings by police during the first two months of the lockdown. Viewfinder, an investigative journalism startup and a participant in MDIF’s South Africa Innovation Program (SAMIP), exposed flaws in the decision to close the case of a man who died on the first day of lockdown. Based on the opinion of an expert forensic pathologist and eye-witness accounts, it showed that the fact that he had died from a heart attack did not absolve the police of wrongdoing. Soon after the report was published – as protests against police brutality spread across the United States – the police watchdog reopened its investigation into the case.
In Serbia, hundreds of people were detained for violating self-isolation measures after arriving from abroad. However, as digital and TV production company Insajder showed in its reporting, many were not properly notified about their obligations amid confusion about rapidly-changing government announcements. The outlet also revealed cases of people who were arrested for violating isolation orders that were made retroactively. While some sentences have already been passed on “Skype trials”, others remain in jail awaiting trial.