Novel coronavirus (20) Rumours, crackdowns, and tackling the coronavirus ‘infodemic’

14 February, 2020

News item in The New Humanitarian. Read online:


A glut of information – some of it misleading or false – is fuelling an “infodemic” around the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organisation says. But some governments are responding with heavy-handed measures, using controversial “fake news” laws to crack down on misinformation. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, or APHR, says some Southeast Asian nations are pursuing excessive prosecutions against citizens accused of spreading false information about the virus, which has sickened at least 63,000 people, mainly in China, and spread to at least two dozen countries. In some cases, prosecutions hinge on laws that could be used to censure anti-government critics. APHR is calling on governments to boost emergency health campaigns and media literacy instead. In many at-risk countries, local Red Cross societies have prioritised public communications campaigns meant to stave off rumours and panic. But in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, quarantined residents still sift through rumours to find the facts: “I do not know where to turn for information anymore,” one resident told TNH. Read more on why Chinese volunteers are sidestepping official aid channels.


Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA:

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: