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Indonesian-controlled newspaper’s alarmist coronavirus coverage

THIS certainly is another case that proves the wisdom of the Constitution’s framers when they banned the slightest foreign participation in media.

The Philippine Star, ultimately controlled by Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim through PLDT Inc., last Monday had a banner headline that shocked many: “PH nCoV patients jump to 80.”

That is so patently false: we have had only two 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) cases so far, both involving two Chinese who came from Wuhan, one of whom died the other day. The Health department’s latest official bulletin reports that only 48 individuals are being monitored to determine if they have been infected with the virus.

There is no way for anyone, journalistically or linguistically, to claim that even just these 48 persons are “nCoV patients.” They are not patients. Period. The dictionary definition of a “patient,” as any English-speaking person knows, is a person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment for a disease. But these 48 haven’t been infected with the virus, they haven’t received treatment for anything.

The Philippine Star itself revealed its stupidity — or nefarious intention to disseminate fake, alarmist news — when it reported that out of these 80 supposed nCoV patients, there were “74 who may have come into contact with the victim.” Some 66 have been advised to “undergo home quarantine for 14 days,” while eight are “people under investigation.”

Nope, only two infected so far.

So, even as it reported that 66 have been asked to go home and eight are still under investigation, the Star still headlined the report that “coronavirus patients” in the Philippines “jump to 80.”

The Philippine Star banner headline was as shocking as it was patently false: out of 17,386 coronavirus patients in 27 countries (February 3 data), 17,205 or 99 percent are in China, which also accounts for a total 361 deaths except for one (here in the Philippines). The next most-infected country is Japan, which has 25 cases.

Seven other countries have nCoV patients of 10 or more, which, significantly, are the top countries most visited by Chinese tourists: Thailand with 19; Hong Kong, 15, South Korea, 15; Singapore, 13; Australia, 12; the United States, 11; Germany, 10; and Taiwan, 10.

The Philippine Star would have the world think that next to China, we have the most cases of nCoV patients with 80.

First boo-boo this year.

The Star is part of the multimedia empire controlled by the Indonesian Salim, whose Maynilad Water Services Inc. has been in President Rodrigo Duterte’s crosshairs as allegedly having concluded a water concession contract with previous governments that have only now been found to be disadvantageous to consumers.

Salim controls the Star though the holding firm MediaQuest, set up by the pension fund of PLDT, which the son of Suharto’s biggest crony has commanded since 1998. Other than the Star, Salim’s media empire — now the largest in the country — includes BusinessWorld, Channel 5, about a dozen radio stations and Cignal, now the largest cable TV operator.

The coronavirus outbreak has generated a wave of misinformation through social media, mostly exaggeration of the epidemic’s deadliness and speed of contagion. There has also been a surge of anti-China sentiment, because the virus originated from Wuhan, and accounts for 99 percent of those infected. What makes the Star’s fake news so condemnable is that it is the first, and apparently only, newspaper of significant circulation to spread such disinformation.

The disinformation in social media has spread so fast that Facebook announced that it would delete content “with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities. “

Here, the Yellows have disgustingly been using the disease outbreak to fan anti-China xenophobia, and even blame Duterte for the virus also being here. This insanity comes from their odium against him who has pivoted our foreign policy form one of servility to the US that they preferred to an independent one, with more emphasis on closer ties with the emerging superpower in our part of the world.

This is the second time this year that the Philippine Star bannered (i.e., put as its main news, in the largest fonts for the issue) alarmist news that distorted facts.

Its January 21 banner read: “Phivolcs: Taal recharging for powerful eruption,” which was republished by not a few news outlets, including Microsoft News (Msn.com). The news sensationalized the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology’s report the previous day that there “appear[ed]” to be a resupply of magma beneath Taal. There was no such categorical statement from Phivolcs or any of its officials that Taal would soon have a powerful eruption. Two days later, the Phivolcs lowered the alert levels for the volcano from 4 to 3.



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