Did Chinese state media distort WHO report? Some netizens too quick to make accusation
Published: Apr 14, 2022 10:27 PM
An exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Xinhua

An exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Xinhua

Did China Central Television (CCTV), a Chinese state media outlet, distort a WHO weekly COVID-19 update? 

Some netizens and bloggers on both Chinese and overseas social media platforms have made such an accusation, and said CCTV's "selective" report was deliberate in order to cater to the need to stick to China's dynamic-zero policy. However, a Global Times reporter found that all these accusations were wrong, as CCTV comprehensively presented the WHO's weekly update in its news. 

CCTV quoted the WHO's weekly COVID-19 update as saying that, despite the reduction in severity, massive increases in cases with Omicron have led to large numbers of hospitalizations, putting further pressure on healthcare systems, and in some countries, similar or higher numbers of deaths than in previous peaks. 

Some netizens and bloggers claimed that the WHO actually said the opposite in the update, as the overview of the update said globally, from April 4 to 10, the number of new COVID-19 cases continued to decline for the third consecutive week, with a 24 percent decrease as compared to the previous week. Also the number of new weekly deaths continued the decreasing trend. 

Seeing the contradictions and without thoroughly checking the full WHO report, some netizens and bloggers on Chinese social media began saying that CCTV "cooked up" the WHO's weekly report and "hid the truth" about the global decline trend in COVID-19 cases. Some even suggested that CCTV editors have limited English proficiency. 

Some other netizens started to "explain" why CCTV failed to cover the global decline trend but only mentioned the severity of the epidemic situations. These netizens claimed CCTV's "selective" report was aimed at showing the "tragedies" of foreign countries that have relaxed COVID-19 control measures, so that Chinese people could support China's COVID-19 dynamic zero policy.  

The false claim also spread to overseas social media as some tweets which posted the screenshots of CCTV's report and WHO's overview claimed China's state media "distorted" WHO's report and "cheated" readers. 

But the truth was the full PDF-version of the WHO's update contained the exact same content reported by CCTV. 

After checking the original newsflash CCTV posted on its App, the Global Times reporter found that the newsflash was published at 5 am Wednesday, but at 4:47 am the same day, CCTV published a report titled "Over 7.22 million new global COVID-19 cases reported last week," which contained the part about global decline trend. 

Thus CCTV did not selectively report the WHO's update, but separated it into two news articles. 

What's worth noticing is that in the WHO's update, it immediately warned that the global decline trend should be interpreted with caution as several countries are progressively changing their COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected. 

Upon this revelation, the Global Times found that some bloggers who accused CCTV of lying have since deleted their posts. 

Global Times