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ROUGH CUTS | Information dissemination must be managed




WE DO not know if the country is still under a health emergency situation. But we would like to think so. In an emergency, though, we have to admit that there are some restrictions on the enjoyment of certain rights.

However, we believe that there is supposed to be one critical restriction or shall we say, control that should have been properly imposed in order to lighten the people’s burden in this time of the pandemic.

We are pretty sure many will disagree with us on this idea. But to be honest this unabridged freedom of giving out information on the various aspects attendant to the raging pandemic is exacerbating the situation and the angst felt by the Filipino people.

We are actually referring to the daily bombardment of the population with the rising number of new COVID-19 infections in the country, more specifically in the cities of Metro Manila and in Cebu Province. We feel that somehow, the authorities erred in this aspect of managing the impact of the pandemic in the country.

The Department of Health is somehow unaware of the repercussions of its freewheeling dishing out of raw information to the various media sectors which compete to disseminate the same first to the public. Moreover, there appear to be so many sources of information also trying to reach out to the media or all too willing to share what they have in connection with COVID 19 pandemic not thinking of the possible implications these might bring to the public and even to the overall efforts of the government to arrest the spread of the deadly virus.

As we mentioned earlier here, the daily dishing out of the number of new cases may appear to be helping instill discipline to the people so they may have to follow or obey the many health protocols demanded to be observed. But the question is, does it serve its supposed purpose of instilling disciple to the people? Isn’t it that it is creating panic and fear and eventually doubts about the capability of the government to handle the pandemic?

We remember a few weeks back when the DOH as the source, and the media as vehicle, broadcast or reported daily the top five provinces or cities in terms of new infections. It became the people’s day-to-day expectation to find out which city or province is tops of the day. So pre-occupied were the people then in monitoring the news that there were those who developed some kind of paranoia expecting which one is in the most critical situation.

In fact, for some time Davao City was almost beyond reach on top and the once top producer of new cases, Cebu, was nowhere to be found in the Top 5. And suddenly, the practice by the DOH was stopped and the daily pre-occupation of watching which area has the most number of new cases also died down.

But here we are again. The DOH, and the other this and that expert and research institutions are now painting a grim scenario of what could be the figure of new infections in the days to come. The picture indicates only one thing: That all the efforts of the government are failures. That despite the arrival of the vaccine, the pace of its roll-out is no match to the speed with which the new cases are rising.

So, we are now thinking about how much the health emergency has given the government leeways in handling information dissemination so as not to create panic and a sense of false hope on the already very COVID-wary population?

No. We are not suggesting that there has to be some kind of censorship in the freedom of the people to information in relation to the pandemic situation. But we believe that the government, under the emergency situation, has the authority to manage the appropriate handling of information for dissemination to the public.

Meaning, not just any Tom, Dick, and Harry can blubber figures to the media without first learnedly processing it so that all the parameters in arriving at such information or figures will duly justify the same.
We also believe that in times of not just national but also global crisis, we in the media have the responsibility to exercise self-restraint in our own freedom of disseminating what we think is real information. Maybe it’s now the time when we have to put premium in religiously determining all the premises that have led to this and that information on the pandemic and the results of government efforts to control it.

Is it not disturbing to find oneself being discriminated against when identified to be coming from places where there are so many COVID cases?

Yes, this practice of projecting and reporting daily of the fast increasing figures in new infections may send a warning to the authorities that there is a weakness in its response to the pandemic. But it is giving more chills to the people than instilling in them disciplined compliance to the protocols.

Maybe it is in this context that the government should revisit the various strategies allowed under the health emergency rules especially in the matter of managing information dissemination.

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