There they go again, the Indian media, peddling fake news about coronavirus. The latest entrant to the is ABP News.
On Friday, the broadcaster claimed that according to research by the Indian Council of Medical Research, had Prime Minister Narendra Modi not imposed a national lockdown, the number of coronavirus infections in India would have surged to around 8,20,000 by now. Instead, the country has managed to limit the number of positive cases to 6,412.
The channel went on to claim that, absent the lockdown, India’s COVID-19 death toll would have surpassed Italy’s and China’s by now. Italy has reported 18,279 deaths from COVID-19 so far, China 3,336. India, in contrast, has officially reported 206 deaths from the deadly disease.
That’s not all. The ABP News reporter on the story, Prashant, even shared a formula which he claimed the ICMR had used to make its projections.
There’s only one problem with this: the ICMR hasn’t published any such research. At its on the coronavirus crisis, the health ministry confirmed there’s no such research.
“There is no such report,” said Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary in the ministry. “It is my request that if we all collectively work very hard, we will be able to manage the cases.”
Not that such a small detail, as the absence of the research the report is based on, was going to keep Amit Malviya from spreading the fake news. He did what he does best.
Malviya is the head of the BJP’s IT Cell but that description falls woefully short of describing his role. It’s like saying Amit Shah is merely one politician.
If you don’t yet know who Malviya is – which is unlikely if you have ever heard the term “fake news”, for the two go hand in hand – read this Newslaundry factcheck.
Or, watch this episode of TV Newsance.
Newslaundry contacted the office of the ICMR director-general, Balram Bhargava, for a comment on the matter, but he was not immediately available. The story will be updated if a response is received.
Update: Scroll has a good explainer on the missing research. Covid-19: Ministry claim India would hit 8.20 lakh cases by April 15 without lockdown is questioned
In troubled times such as these, when much of the mainstream media is buckling under political or economic pressure, India needs free and independent media to report on the coronavirus outbreak truthfully and sensitively, to counter misinformation, and to ask hard questions of the authorities rather than propagate their falsehoods.
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