Disinfo: Mainstream media and governments overestimate the coronavirus threat

Summary

There is little doubt that the coronavirus threat is overestimated by mainstream media and governments. Covid-19 is in fact an ordinary viral disease with a slightly higher mortality from complications for people of old age or people with weakened immunity. Another open secret is that the current hysteria over the outbreak is being successfully used by some players to achieve their own economic and geopolitical goals. Looking at the current situation in Europe, one could suppose that some forces have seized an opportunity and are now fueling the coronavirus crisis intentionally.

Disproof

This is a conspiracy theory, presented with no evidence to support the claim that the coronavirus crisis is being intentionally exploited for economic and geopolitical goals.

This is a continuation of pro-Kremlin disinformation efforts about the coronavirus outbreak, aiming to put blame on the West for allegedly exploiting the outbreak for their own purposes, namely isolating China. While many baseless conspiracy theories have emerged all around the world amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, there is no evidence that Western media are deliberately promoting them with malign intent. On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that pro-Kremlin media are spreading disinformation on the disease for political purposes through a coordinated campaign.

The mortality rate of the coronavirus has varied by country and estimates differ, however, it is more deadly than most strains of the flu. Since it is a new disease, humans do not have any immunity to it. The rapid spread of the virus around the world threatens to overwhelm public health systems, particularly in poorer countries, resulting in more deaths and other adverse societal and economic impacts. In a statement on 5 March 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation drove home the gravity of the situation, saying: "this epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor. [...] This is not a drill. [...] Although COVID-19 presents an acute threat now, it is absolutely essential that countries do not lose this opportunity to strengthen their preparedness systems."

For related disinformation cases, see here.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 187
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 10/03/2020
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Italy, China, Turkey, US
  • Keywords: coronavirus, Conspiracy theory, Mainstream media, The West

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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JIT investigation of MH17 crash is not efficient

The JIT investigation of the MH17 crash is neither efficient nor professional due to several reasons. Russia was not allowed to join the JIT, but at the same time, Ukraine has joined and has had the opportunity to influence the results of the investigation. From the very beginning, the investigation was biased against any information from Russia. The JIT ignored arguments and data on MH17 by Buk manufacturer Almaz-Antey.

Disproof

Part of the recurring disinformation narratives around the MH17 crash.

Firstly, Russia's interest in aiding the JIT investigation is not a relevant condition of its membership in the JIT. The crash did not take place over Russian territory and claimed no Russian lives, which precludes any basis for Moscow to be represented in the JIT. Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said that "if MH17 were shot down over Russia, I would have suggested that Russia be made a member of the JIT group." A special team, known as the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), was established to conduct the criminal investigation. The JIT comprises of officials from the Dutch Public Prosecution Service and the Dutch police, along with police and criminal justice authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.

The MH17 trial is “arranged”, it intends to whitewash Ukraine and make Russia the culprit

The prosecutors concocted their arguments in such a way as to whitewash Ukraine as much as possible and make Russia the culprit of the MH17 catastrophe. This arranged “trial” is needed not for the search for truth, but in order to legally consolidate the culprit status for Moscow.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative aiming to undermine the results of the MH17 investigation and the outcomes of the future trial.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) - which is comprised of the Dutch Public Prosecution Service officials and the Dutch police, along with police and criminal justice authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine - has concluded that flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July 2014 by a missile of the 9M38 series, launched by a BUK-TELAR, from farmland in the vicinity of Pervomaiskiy. At that time, the area was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. The BUK-TELAR was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and subsequently, after having shot down flight MH17, was taken back to the Russian Federation. The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has concluded that the BUK-TELAR used to down MH17 originates from the 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile brigade, a unit of the Russian army from Kursk in the Russian Federation.

Coronavirus is a manipulative story

On a global scale, coronavirus is a kind of manipulative story. On the other hand, it is necessary to respond to it in some countries.

Disproof

Conspiracy theories about the 2019-nCoV coronavirus.

The coronavirus (2019-nCoV) comes from a family of viruses that include SARS and MERS. It was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in central China and has been rapidly spreading. As of 15th March 2020, over 153,517 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 143 countries/territories.