Boom carried out a fact-checking study termed “Fake News In The Time Of Coronavirus.”
The study has been conducted through evidence of viral information, such as trending news topics and types of media through which this information was circulated. The study has revealed that 35 per cent of false and misleading claims were made through videos and April saw a spike in clips targeting Muslim vendors for allegedly spitting on food items to spread the coronavirus pandemic with a small number of audio clips (2.2 per cent) going viral with false contexts. About 4 per cent of BOOM’s fact-checks were on news reports by mainstream media organisations. Overall, the study shows the maximum number of fact checks of fake news are related to Coronavirus Pandemic.
A large number of fact-checks on the pandemic were on communal rumours, most of which were fabricated allegations against Muslims of purposefully spreading the virus. These messages appeared in April after several members of the Tablighi Jamaat tested positive for the virus.
Since the Nizammudin Markaz became one of the hotspots from which the virus was proliferating, fake news and communal hatred proliferated as well. Since the day the hotspot came into light, mainstream media came with headlines that showcased their crystal clear bigotry.
While some called it as “Coronajihad”, “Corona Bomb“, others went far ahead and called the Jamaatis “Betrayers of the nation” and “willingly spreading the virus.”April 24, Zee News published a report titled, “Kabab was served with bodily waste, the mentality of Jamaatis prevails even abroad”, showing a video from 2014 giving it a forged communal angle. They also reported a piece of news proclaiming that people stone pelted the team that went to take the corona positive jamaatis However, the Firozabad Police downright confuted the news.
Amish Devgan, an anchor from News18 India, reported with a fake video, “There is big news coming from Kurla. A huge crowd has assembled from the mosque after namaz. The police were manhandled when they reached the area. We are showing you these visuals…” said Devgan. Alt News reached out to Mumbai police and was sent a press release dated May 2, 2020. According to the press release, the incident occurred on Wednesday, April 29. This disproves the initial part of the claim that “Friday prayers” led to the scuffle. An FIR is also lodged against Devgan.
While all this wasn’t enough, social media found another door to spread hatred. “Fake News” soon found it’s track and started spreading like the virus.
The #CoronaJihad hashtag became one of the most trending phrases on and off social media. “Since March 28, tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times in India and potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter,” according to data shared with TIME magazine by Equality Labs, human-rights advocacy.
Another news claimed that the Tablighi Jamaat members defecated in open when they were denied non- veg food. The news was also published in Amar Ujala stating, “After Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor, a new case of Jamaatis has also come to light in Saharanpur. When they did not get non-vegetarian food, the Jamaatis here threw away the food and defecated in the open.” In a statement released by the Saharanpur police, they have denied such allegations. Apart from this, there were several other fake news like a jaamat member roaming naked in isolation ward or video with a false claim that Muslims scatter notes on the road to spread coronavirus.
Since the Coronavirus Pandemic and countrywide Lockdown, the Indian Media has been called out numerous times for spreading fake news and communalising the pandemic. The news telecasted by our mainstream media is viewed daily by 135 crore Indians. When the highly acclaimed Media channels will concoct such bigoted news, it is no wonder that communal hatred will double itself. What is fake, is being unfurled with utmost vehemence while the fact-checking is lost in the void space. The majority see the news daily on television while only seldom do people go for other websites to find out the whole truth. Forged and made up tidings is shown day in and day out, circulating on social media and news is being communalised in the name of debate and discussions and when the allegations are debunked by the different fact-checking organizations such as Alt news and Boom, then there is no apology or remorse from the media houses.
The media houses haven’t even spared the pandemic from the communal angle. While daily hundreds of thousands of labourers tread surpassing the heat and hunger, there is a trivial coverage around them. More than 383 migrant labourers have lost their lives. It’s high time now that all of us unite and find solutions for the real actual problems instead of fighting against news that doesn’t even have the legitimacy or truth most of the time.
Sources- Alt News
Cover image- Economic Times.