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  • TV channel journalist in trouble: accused of spreading lies about COVID-19
  • N. Wolf says he was only relying on Pfizer documents
  • Restrictions on the dissemination of COVID-19 information also stir passions in the US
Opinions on COVID-19 are often called fake news. Martin Sanchez/Unsplash

TV channel journalist in trouble: accused of spreading lies about COVID-19

"GB News is a UK-based, opinion-oriented news television and radio channel, but the career of one of its presenters was finally ruined by Ofcom, the UK's Office of Communications, the government-approved broadcasting and competition regulator, which ruled twice that the channel's program had breached the Broadcasting Code and had allegedly spread falsehoods about the coronavirus and pandemic.

"GB News journalist and presenter Mark Steyn took to court the regulator's decisions in 2023 that two of his programs broadcast in 2022, both of which related to the coronavirus vaccine campaign, breached Ofcom's rules.

The channel and the journalist asked the court to annul these decisions. Steyn's lawyers argued that they lacked clarity and consistency, but Ofcom's lawyers argued that the regulator was free to make decisions to protect the public from potential harm, misinformation, and the spread of falsehood[1].

However, such regulatory measures destroyed Steyn's career. Jonathan Price, the journalist's lawyer, spoke about this in a London courtroom.

"The rulings on his program have ruined his career, ruined his career across the UK, and led to what he calls gross defamation," the lawyer said.

The Ofcom decisions in question related to two separate prime-time programs broadcast by Steyn. The journalist's lawyer argued that the programs "did not take an antivaccine approach" but rather criticized only a "rigid and purely one-sided position" and "questioned and challenged the official narrative."

Ofcom's first decision related to a program broadcast on 21 April 2022, where Steyn gave a monologue on the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, referring to data from the UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA).

Shortly after the broadcast, the watchdog received four complaints and said it had breached the rules because it "presented a materially misleading interpretation of the data without sufficient challenge or counterbalance", which it said risked "causing harm to viewers". It was also claimed that the program "failed to consider the fact that UKHSA has warned that raw data on vaccines should not be used to conclude vaccine efficacy."

The second decision relates to 4 October 2022. Steyn was interviewed by the writer and journalist Naomi Wolf.

Shortly after the program, Ofcom claimed that during the interview, Wolf had likened the introduction of the vaccine to "mass murder", which could be compared to "the actions of doctors in pre-war Nazi Germany".

The watchdog received 422 complaints following the interview and ruled on 9 May last year that GB News had failed to take "appropriate measures to protect viewers from potentially harmful content" and described Mr Wolf's comments as "the promotion of a serious conspiracy theory".

Both judgments concluded that the programs had potentially harmed viewers' rights by distorting their understanding of issues that were likely to impact their decisions during a health pandemic significantly[2].

Writer and journalist Naomi Wolf. Screenshot
Writer and journalist Naomi Wolf. Screenshot

N. Wolf says he was only relying on Pfizer documents

For her part, Wolf, who was present in court, argued that the material she used in Steyn's program was not directly relevant to her profession or her work but that she had relied on scientific data that was publicly available and interpreted it as a journalist.

"I am a non-fiction writer and journalist. I am not a doctor or a scientist. The material I have provided comes from scientific reports produced by 3 250 highly credible doctors and scientists, the WarRoom/DailyClout Pfizer Document Analysis Research Group, which has been meeting from 2021 to the present to read and produce reports based on 450 000 internal documents that were made public by court order as a result of the successful lawsuit brought by US lawyer, Aaron Siri, against the Food and Drug Administration," she said.

Ms Wolf stressed that in providing her insights, she also relied on Pfizer's internal documents submitted to the FDA to obtain fast-track approval for vaccines.

She said these were the company's original internal documents, which date from November 2020 to February 2021 and record more than 43 000 adverse events and more than 1 220 deaths that the vaccine maker recorded during those three months.

"The dossiers detail serious side effects and explain their mechanisms. "The Pfizer documents include internal reports of stroke, liver damage, kidney damage, multiple forms of blood clotting and blood disorders, and a wide range of neurological events, including dementia, epilepsy, and Guillain-Barre syndrome," said Wolf.

She notes that the dossier contains a section stating that 80% of pregnant women lost their babies and another section in which, in Pfizer's words, the deaths of two babies in the womb were due to the exposure of their mothers to the vaccine. The Pfizer documents, including diagrams, are said to contain a wealth of information showing damage to women's menstrual cycles, including serious damage such as bleeding, tissue passage and daily bleeding. Wolf also stated that documents refer to the harm caused to breastfed babies by vaccinated mothers and one baby who died of multiple organ system failure after receiving milk from a vaccinated mother[3]

"These are just some of the findings our doctors and scientists have summarised in 104 reports. "Ofcom seeks to portray this material as 'harmful'. But can the findings be 'harmful' if they are correct? I am a journalist and I base my opinions on facts," said Wolf.

Restrictions on the dissemination of COVID-19 information also stir passions in the US

The debate on how to deal with the dissemination of information related to COVID-19 and the pandemic is also taking place across the Atlantic. The US Supreme Court is likely to soon side with President Joe Biden's administration in a dispute with the Republican-led states over how far the federal government can go in dealing with messages that do not fit the popular narrative on topics such as COVID-19 and even on election security.

Lawyers in Louisiana, Missouri and other states are accusing Democratic administration officials of relying on social media platforms to unconstitutionally suppress conservative or more alternative public views on a range of topics.

In the past, lower courts sided with the states, but the Supreme Court suspended these decisions. This case was one of several cases before the court involving social media companies and freedom of speech.

Media coverage heavily showed only one narrative. Siora Photography/Unsplash
Media coverage heavily showed only one narrative. Siora Photography/Unsplash

The Court has already heard arguments on laws passed by Republicans in Florida and Texas that prohibit large social media companies from removing posts because of their views, such as hostility to coronavirus vaccines or doubts about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some states claim that White House communications staff, the FBI and the US Cybersecurity Agency are among those who have forced changes to online content on social media platforms.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans previously ruled that the Biden administration probably exerted unconstitutional pressure on media platforms. The appeals panel said that officials cannot attempt to "coerce or materially induce changes in the content of online media".