The numbers of reporting, advice and fact-checking after a month of COVID-19 crisis
The coronavirus has reshaped societies around the world, with people changing their lifestyles on a huge scale amid travel restrictions and instructions to work from home and avoid unnecessary social contact.
The pandemic is also deeply affecting the global economy, while policy makers around the world are initiating and imposing serious measures on citizens to stop the virus from spreading.
During these difficult times, over the last month KALLXO.com’s (BIRN Kosovo and Internews Kosova joint product) team has been continuously and accurately reporting from home, the office, as well as in the field.
In that month, KALLXO.com’s team has produced more than 800 articles, including analysis, news, and live reporting – as well as 100 video reports and 30 infographics and illustrations on coronavirus and its rapid spread.
KALLXO.com has also published up-to-date information and expert advice on the latest situation regarding the coronavirus epidemic, as well as checking and reporting fake news stories that media outlets have produced for personal and financial interests.
When news of the coronavirus’ spread to Europe broke, KALLXO.com began its reporting by providing advice on how to protect oneself from the virus, as well as investigating the capacity of health institutions in Kosovo to cope with an epidemic.
At the end of February, KALLXO.com’s team of graphic designers and illustrators produced three educational infographics, one providing advice on how to protect oneself and others by washing hands regularly, one providing guidelines on how to protect oneself during trips and the other providing advice on how to protect others from becoming infected.
KALLXO.com also published more than 100 articles on the spread of the virus throughout the world and the risks posed.
By analyzing the level of preparedness in Kosovo’s institutions, KALLXO was part of preparing the country to help prevent the crisis.
During the past month, KALLXO.com reported on irregularities found during investigations in the field, including an article on police and border officials lacking protective equipment to help protect against the virus.
KALLXO.com also initiated an inspection of bathrooms at Kosovo’s health institutions, as well as at the University of Prishtina, to check whether they possess basic sanitary supplies such as antibacterial soap and toilet paper.
Hospitals and Family Health Centers were inspected in Prishtina, Gracanica, South and North Mitrovica, Gjakova, Prizren, Peja, Ferizaj and Gjilan, where soap and toilet paper were missing. Reporting on the lack of basic sanitary products in Kosovo’s health institutions helped raise the alarm over a wider lack of sanitary supplies in the health system.
KALLXO.com also received reports during the coronavirus crisis that the University Clinical Center of Kosovo does not possess a contract for supplies of sanitary equipment, and investigated, publishing the findings.
The introduction of preventive measures, including the suspension of schools, further alarmed Kosovo society to the severity of the situation and increased the need to provide reporting from the field.
The news of the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kosovo, in the municipalities of Klina and Viti, resulted in a shift of KALLXO.com’s reporting focus. As a widely used regional and municipal reporting platform, KALLXO.com has continuously received reports from both quarantined municipalities.
Two of KALLXO.com’s journalists who live in these municipalities have constantly provided the editorial team with real time pictures and videos of the situation in the municipalities, including the supply of citizens with food and medication.
In the first two days alone, KALLXO.com published more than 20 articles illustrating the situation, as well as broadcasting live video interviews with mayors and municipal health directors.
KALLXO.com teams have also broadcast every live press conference involving the Minister of Health, as well as with municipal health directors, medical experts and other significant policy-makers on management of the situation.
With the spread of coronavirus in Kosovo, KALLXO.com built a live discussion platform broadcast through KALLXO’s social media accounts. It has streamed around 10 live interviews with doctors, epidemiologists, surgeons, and neuropsychiatrists to provide advice to people on how they should behave in a pandemic situation.
Ten live interviews with municipal mayors and municipal officers on managing the situation from the field were also broadcast, while KALLXO.com has also continuously reported on the lack of basic sanitary supplies when interviewing health directors in different municipalities in Kosovo.
During the epidemic, our investigative team specialising in public procurement looked into reports that the University Hospital and Clinical Service of Kosovo purchased oxygen at double the foreseen price.
When discussion arose on allocating municipal funds to clean and disinfect roads and other public spaces, KALLXO.com investigated and reported that municipalities lack the necessary funds and capacities to disinfect the roads.
Several media outlets in Kosovo have used the coronavirus crisis to serve personal interests and financially profit from the situation.
However, KALLXO’s team of fact-checkers have monitored the work of other media outlets at all times, and have been highly engaged in identifying and reporting fake news circulated in the media and on social networks.
Some of the reports debunking fake-news include:
1) Media reported the first case of a patient infected with coronavirus, a claim denied by the Infectious Disease Clinic.
2) Media reported that helicopters will disinfect the air, when no such thing has been reported or confirmed by the authorities.
3) Media reported that American troops have landed in Europe, when no such event has happened.
4) Media reported that coronavirus tests have been sent to Albania to be tested and confirmed, a statement which was immediately denied by the National Institute of Public Health.
Declaring a public health emergency
After the declaration of the crisis as a public health emergency, KALLXO.com’s legal office concluded that the government has not provided enough advice for citizens who violate the strict measures. Therefore, the night that the situation was declared a public health emergency, our legal office drafted three legal analyses illustrating the legal consequences for individuals who violate the measures.
KALLXO.com’s legal office also analysed and investigated reports submitted by citizens regarding violations of labour regulations and price increases in shops. Within a week, the legal office was in communication and coordination with the Tax Administration of Kosovo and six actions were taken on businesses that raised prices.