Wednesday, July 01, 2009

H1N1 online ....

66, yes 66 cases of H1N1 as of this afternoon. Since the first case detected ten days ago, the numbers had shot up. Are we supposed to be alarmed? May be we should. Should we panic? May be we should not. Stories, rumours spreading like wildfire about this flu. Every media you can think off, be it official, print, electronic etc. In blogs, forums, facebook, twitters, chat lines stories are exchanged. How many of the stories are true? How many are half truths? How many are straightforward false allegations?

In Brunei, like the rest of the world, more and more people especially the younger generations are sceptical of the government media. Even when the government media is telling 100% the truth, they will not take it totally. Look what is happening in Iran. It is doubtful such voting fraud in a massive scale could have taken place. Yet despite the government effort to explain and to certain extent appease the protestors, they still believe the non government media. In the case of the H1N1 spread here, if we follow the internet chatter via Facebook, Twitter etc, you will get the sense the government media is not fully trusted. In certain extremes, we get the sense there is a perception the government is not totally transparent and trying to hide something.

Being part of the IT generation, I am all for free speech and unrestricted access to information. But at the same time, we must realise, freedom comes with responsibilities. We also must understand the role of the government. Government agencies have responsibilities to ensure the public’s well being and to maintain calm. With these responsibilities, ensuring the right and accurate information reach the public is of paramount importance. Whose reporting we rather believe? The government with its responsibilities or the people online who has no direct responsibilities, some if not all, are strangers to us?

The challenge for the government media and agencies is to provide accurate, up-to-date almost real time information to the public and to be seen as approachable and fully transparent....

The last six days was a roller coaster emotional ride. Scared, beuri, kabak-kabak, ingau, terrified and many more emotions all mixed up. Why? Coming back from an H1N1 affected areas, can’t help feeling all those with any slight changes in the body temperature and other flu like symptoms. If before, any cough, sneeze would be taken on my stride, now, have to pause and contemplate. People nearby will be staring at me like I am an outcast. Endless self checking of the body temperature, to the extent of carrying my own thermometer. Allhamdulillah, so far so good. Another day, can I say our group will be declared H1N1 free? It will be like independence day for our group .....

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