It’s an old saying, ‘Ignorance is bliss’. It is used to persuade us that it is better for you if you do not know all the facts.
Today, 27th of January 2021, is Holocaust Memorial Day. It is a day where we remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution : gypsies, communists, journalists, in fact anyone who didn’t ‘fit in’ or who tried to resist. It is also a day where more recent atrocities are remembered in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated on 27th of January 1945 by Soviet troops of the USSR.
What was found was as horrifying then as it continues to be to this day. What the Nazis had put in place, a network of 40 concentration and extermination camps, was known about both in Germany and in the rest of the world. Some people, including political leaders, chose to ignore it, play it down or simply not believe what was happening. Neighbours ‘disappeared’ never to return. The extremely brave resisted and suffered dreadful repercussions for that – The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Fear and hatred is stoked by ignorance.
We’ve seen that recently in the Trump incited deadly insurgence that stormed the US Capitol building. Fake news and conspiracy theories, some of them aided by ‘news’ channels and given a wide audience today with social media.
Election fraud, vaccination deniers, science deniers, and failure to hold to account the politicians who prey on these fears.
The job of journalists is to present the facts and to question politicians on behalf of the public – to bring out the truth.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult.
The Yorkshire Post uncovered, through excellent journalism, what was happening to the distribution of vaccines to their region. Their reporting, accurate and well researched uncovered a story of plans which would limit covid vaccines to the region because they were ahead of other English regions. Vaccines – A national effort in the national interest: Letter from the Editor They were then subjected to a campaign to discredit their report despite its veracity. The linked letter from the Editor explains what happened.
The world is in the throes of a highly infectious virus which causes lifelong health conditions and is fatal to many of our citizens. In public health, the dissemination of clear and accurate information so that citizens can make well informed decisions is vital. In Scotland and the rest of the UK the death toll is horrific. We have one of the best free health care systems in the world but failures at the start of the pandemic by government to take preventative action and to dispel myths and misinformation has brought us to this point.
The UK: population 66.65million, covid cases 3,689,746, deaths due to covid 100,162
Not every country has this death toll:
Australia: 25.36million, covid cases 28,780, deaths due to covid 909
Taiwan: population 23.78million, covid cases 890, deaths due to covid 7
New Zealand: population 4.9million, covid cases 2,290, deaths due to covid 25
The Faroes: population 48,678, covid cases 652, deaths due to covid 1
Key in what these very different countries and islands have done is having a public which understands the virus because they have been kept educated about it by their governments and public health authorities. People in New Zealand are not more compliant in observing restrictions and thus limiting the spread of covid because they are somehow less questioning – it is because they have been kept informed by both politicians and by their media. And they have trust in what they have been told.
The BBC attempted to limit the broadcasting of the Covid Briefings by the FM of Scotland and the public health team. This shocking move by the state broadcaster was stopped after a public outcry . What now happens is that on its main TV and radio channel it cuts away from the questioning by journalists to allow opposition politicians to comment on what has been announced. This has reduced the clarity of the public health messaging. It creates confusion and reduces trust in the message.
Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director, has been widely praised for his straightforward explanations of the virus and the rules we require to follow to protect ourselves and others. He has appeared on a wide range of shows and on social media to try and get the public health messaging across to a wider range of people.
It is vital that journalists question politicians, especially those in government, with vigour and report accurately on what they uncover. The role of the media in public health messaging is crucial. Scare mongering that administering a vaccine to people over 70 will be delayed because of the colour of an envelope (as reported on the BBC website) is not good journalism and is why so many members of the public no longer trust in what they are being told.
As today we remember the millions murdered through the spreading of lies, fear and state murder and say this must never be allowed to happen again we need everyone to ‘Be A Light In The Darkness’. To resist the spread of misinformation stirring up fear and hatred in our communities. To support those journalists here and around the world who dare to ask questions and to report with accuracy and courage. Question what you read, hear and listen to. Trust in our superb health and social care workers and support them by staying safe.
Click on this link to find out more about Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK
Reporter: Fiona Grahame