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The coronavirus isn’t just a health story. It’s a press freedom story, in the US and the world

May 3, 2020

“A healthy society should not have just one voice.”  — Dr. Li Wenliang, persecuted by the Chinese government after warning about the 2020 coronavirus. Dr. Li died on February 7.

When all this started, the coronavirus was a local news story.

Dr. Li Wenliang sounded the alarm just as the virus was just spreading from a local market through one city, Wuhan. Government officials tried to silence him. Officials censored local news, then national news as the sickness spread through China and beyond. Weeks were lost; actions not taken, as Covid-19 spread.

If local media coverage had not been suppressed, governments around the globe could have prepared for the pandemic weeks earlier. The economic cost might be lessened. Fewer people might be dead and dying now. 

Today is World Press Freedom Day.

This year, it falls as Covid-19 has killed more than 240,000 people, sickened at least 3.4 million and disrupted lives around the globe. 

As we mourn our losses, let’s also mark and remember Dr. Li’s words. 

We need uncensored doctors and scientists who are free to speak. 

We need health journalists who keep us forewarned and forearmed. 

We in the U.S. must fight for the same kind of reporting stifled in China. We can’t just point a finger at Chinese censorship. Many American officials are trying to bar health experts from informing the public or prevent the media from reporting public health issues.

The need for free and fearless health reporting is clear. 

So on this World Press Freedom Day, let’s remember Dr. Li’s words.

And let’s get behind the strong reporters who lift many voices and provide free and fearless reporting on health and the crisis around it now. Please join us in supporting their work:

Find and donate to nonprofit news organizations at

Help us support them all through INN, the Institute for Nonprofit News at

“A healthy society should not have just one voice.”

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