UN official appeals to end hate speech due to pandemic

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally” as COVID-19 has led to “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering.”

Guterres said that as the pandemic worsened, there has been a surge in anti-foreigner sentiment may it be on the online medium or in the streets.

“Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred,” the UN chief said, adding that migrants and refugees “have been vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment.”

Guterres also pointed out that frontliners comprised of journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers, as well as human rights defenders have been the target of “contemptible memes” even if they are just doing their jobs.

He then appealed to political leaders to express solidarity with citizens, and on educational institutions to help spur “digital literacy” especially during this time of crisis when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.”

With social media a common platform of hateful sentiments, Guterres told the media to “remove racist, misogynist, and other harmful content.”

“And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity, and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said, noting that the disease “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe, or about any other distinction.”

He also called the coronavirus pandemic “a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis,” adding that it has increased the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.

The Philippines is no stranger to a toxic and hateful environment amid COVID-19, particularly on social media where a large troop of trolls spreading pro-government propaganda and dissing spiteful remarks to those critical of the Duterte administration is a common sight.

These pro-admin trolls are also largely behind the prevalence of fake news and false information in the country that’s spreading even faster than the pandemic.

Duterte himself has been a stagnant source of hate speech in his several nation addresses and interviews where he repeatedly told his political enemies curse-laden words and has mindlessly undermined minimum-wage workers like janitors and drivers.

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