The National Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) released a press release expressing “deep concern” over various news outlets in Guam citing specific Micronesian ethnicities as the source of the recent COVID-19 surge.
A series of articles, “sourced from print, radio, television, and online news sources”, claimed that the newest COVID cases were caused by FSM citizens in Guam avoiding social distancing guidelines, singling out the Chuukese community as the main source.
The FSM Government stated that “such categorization ultimately erodes public trust and undermines the FSM National Government’s capacity to effectively serve its citizens abroad.”
The news reports have claimed that FSM citizens, specifically from Chuuk, are ignoring social distancing laws while engaging in cultural practices such as funeral ceremonies. Many of the reports reference a video in which Teresa Filepin, Consul General of the FSM in Guam, calls for the Micronesian community in Guam to follow Guam’s COVID-19 guidelines, but erroneously quote her as singling out the Chuukese.
“This is the third time the media has misreported and misrepresented my statements,” Consul General Filepin said. “All three times our Chuukese community was the target. I never singled out our Chuukese community, but because media reporting has done so—and in a manner that suggests I singled them out—both myself and the Consulate are receiving hate-filled messages and calls.”
The FSM Government stressed that this type of reporting causes unnecessary divisions, and is counter-productive to the Consulate’s ability to support its citizens residing in Guam. The Government called for all media to refrain from singling out Micronesian groups from different islands.
“Whether a citizen of the FSM residing in Guam is Yapese, Chuukese, Pohnpeian, or Kosraean, the FSM National Government urges media entities to refer to all of us as Micronesian,” the Government said.
It followed this up by saying that “recognizing the unintended but nonetheless cascading negative effects of categorizing groups of people” should be something which all media personnel are mindful of.
The FSM Government went on to urge its own citizens to take in news responsibly, and to “temper their immediate emotional response”.
“Media organizations are a crucial component of a free and democratic society, but the responsibility of interpreting the information as a whole, considering its accuracy or potential bias, rests with the person reading the article,” it said.