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Today: Jun 14, 2024

End ‘tsunami of hate’ over COVID-19 pandemic says UN chief

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United Nations: UN chief Antonio Guterres has voiced concern over the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia” unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic and appealed for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.

Recalling that he had launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech last year to enhance the word body’s efforts against this scourge, Guterres said on Friday that as the world combats the pandemic, “we have a duty to protect people, end stigma and prevent violence. Let’s defeat hate speech – and COVID-19 – together.”

“COVID-19 does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction. We need every ounce of solidarity to tackle it together. Yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering,” the Secretary-General said in his global appeal to address and counter COVID-19-related hate speech.

The UN chief lamented that as the pandemic spread across the world, “anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.

“Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment,” he said.

He also disapproved of “contemptible memes” that have emerged suggesting that older persons, among the most vulnerable, are also the most expendable.

Journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs, he said.

Guterres urged that all nations must act now to “strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate,” making his appeal for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.

“I call on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of their societies and build and reinforce social cohesion,” he said.

The UN chief called on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when billions of young people are online – and when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences and also urged the media, especially social media companies, to do much more to flag and, in line with international human rights law, remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content.

The civil society too should strengthen outreach to vulnerable people, and religious actors to serve as models of mutual respect.

“And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” he said.

COVID-19 has now reached practically every country on the planet, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting more than 3.6 million cases and over 251,000 deaths as of Thursday.