On The Listening Post this week: Brazil's President Bolsonaro and COVID-19 misinformation. Plus, how well has the WHO performed as a key information source during the pandemic?

Brazil's Bolsonaro: Turning COVID-19 denial into media spectacle

A president at odds with his advisers and scientists over COVID-19, who has said the virus is no worse than the flu, and whose supporters accuse the media of hyping up the story. Not Donald Trump, but Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.

Even as deaths in Brazil surpass China, President Bolsonaro continues to downplay the pandemic. After firing his health minister, he went on to attend a "protest" demanding military intervention to lift the lockdown. He also has the support of two of Brazil's biggest media players, Record TV and SBT. Whether Bolsonaro is in denial, or just playing politics, they are standing firmly by his side.

Contributors:

Andrew Fishman - Managing editor, The Intercept Brasil

Gustavo Ribeiro - Founder, Brazilian Report

Bob Fernandes - Journalist and commentator

Leonardo Custodio - Postdoctoral researcher, Abo Akademi University

On our radar:

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about a media storm in Pakistan, where a religious leader turned a televised coronavirus fundraiser into an attack on the broadcasters.

Who holds WHO accountable?

COVID-19 is the biggest news story most of us have ever seen. Of all the institutions responsible for getting information out, the World Health Organization (WHO) may be the most vital. 

The WHO is a specialised agency of the United Nations borne out of the recognition that no single country can manage a global outbreak, and that an international health body is needed to rise above the politics of national interests.

In this pandemic, however, the WHO has been accused of falling short of its mandate and was unable to act independently in accessing and assessing the outbreak. The WHO was only granted access to Wuhan in mid-February. And not only did it fail to verify the early information on COVID-19 coming out of China, but it amplified it by repeating Chinese misinformation.

On January 14, the WHO tweeted that there was "no proof of human-to-human transmission" of the coronavirus. But at the time, media in Hong Kong and other countries, were already comparing the virus to SARS and saying it was most likely transmitting from people to people.

The Listening Post's producer Nic Muirhead reports on the WHO, and how one of the most important news sources in the world may be compromised.

Contributors:

Lawrence Gostin - Director, O'Neill Institute, Georgetown University

Osman Dar - Global Health Programme, Chatham House

Stephen Buranyi - Journalist, The Guardian

Rana Mitter - Director, China Centre, Oxford University

Source: Al Jazeera News