Picture Credit: Art Of Living
On the occasion of World Health Day, World Forum for Ethics in Business (WFEB) hosted a mega-virtual event on Wednesday, April 7. The public interest foundation held a virtual conference on "The Role of Media during and after COVID-19" as the entire world continues to battle the deadly virus. The panel elaborated on media coverage during the coronavirus pandemic and how governments across the world reacted to the unprecedented situation.
Commencing the session, Peter Marti, CEO, Marti Communications and the moderator introduced the panel which included Kurt W Zimmermann, Journalist, Former Chief Editor of Sonntags-Zeitung, Switzerland, Nirj Deva, Former MEP, Board Member, WFEB, Publisher of Commonwealth Union news website, Jonathan Marland Odstock, former Trade Minister, UK; Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprises and Investment Council.
On being asked about the most surprising observation in the media during the pandemic, the first panellist Kurt Zimmermann said that he witnessed a "rebirth of nationalism" in media. He expressed that "Nationalism" is a new trend in the media for the last 12 months. He asserted, "After the corona arrived we experienced unexpected and fierce nationalism in the media". Kurt noted that the first wave was the international competition of infection rates and death rates. The COVID-19 numbers became a substitute for the political superiority and inferiority of the nation.
Zimmermann added, a few days ago the second wave of nationalism began in the media. This time it is the "champion league of vaccinations." It was the same pattern, "Nation vs Nation". He also said, "In June 2021, the European Football Championship will start, let's hope COVID will be over by then and will give a better nationalism opportunity in the media than the pandemic."
The moderator further asked how do you compare media in Hungary and Switzerland. The journalist said that the media in Hungary were a lot more critical of the government than in Switzerland as criticism against Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban was very "aggressive in the media". The biggest magazines, newspapers and publishers were critical of Victor. Switzerland on the other hand, was very critical of their politicians, suddenly became loyal followers. "It was the cultural shift of the journalist. The balance of power was not working in Switzerland", he added.
On being asked how the pandemic has changed the role of a journalist, he asserted, "I know journalist today who writes on COVID only. The media houses are obsessed with the pandemic. The offices are closed, they sit at home and write about nothing else. You are physically detached from the surrounding and that's how the journalists are working."
Speaking at the event, Jonathan Marland explained how the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson's image for an instance changed from the "Brexit clown" to the "Brexit hero". He said that "the media in the UK, like other countries, has been compromised. Instead of complaining, the media starting encouraging". "The media also challenged the COVID-19 numbers demonstrated by the government and the irony was the experts were also from the government. So, they basically confused and misled the viewers," he opined. Talking about the changing perception of the citizens for Johnson, he said that the Prime Minister himself had a very harsh COVID infection and he was put on a ventilator and received "sympathy" from people.
On being asked, was the media critical 12 months ago against the government, he said that both the "media and the government" were confused on how to react to the pandemic. He expressed, "One thing that changed during the pandemic was the perception of Brexit." Also, the statistics were given adequately by the government in the beginning, he observed.
Speaking at the session, another panellist Nirj Deva talked about the most surprising effect in the media coverage for the "global perspective." Commonwealth news website publisher said "it is extremely disappointing that the issue of global pandemic turned into a 'national competition'. Also, the national competition turned into a 'political competition' between left and right."
He noted, "It is a health issue, it is not something that we have created. However, Commonwealth reported it in a very different way. They appreciated the other countries for their better COVID-19 management."
The moderator asked Deva if the media profited from the pandemic. To which, he replied that the media definitely profited from COVID globally. He explained, "not just mainstream media, other media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on."
Picture Credit: Art Of Living