UN Secretary-General: “Pandemic caused tsunami of hatred and xenophobia”
“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.” According to Guterres, migrants and refugees have been “vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment.”
Meanwhile, “contemptible memes have emerged suggesting” that older people, some of the most vulnerable to the virus, “are also the most expendable,” he said. Additionally, “journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs,” Guterres said.
The UN chief appealed for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally,” and singled out educational institutions to help teach “digital literacy” to young people — whom he called “captive and potentially despairing audiences.”
Guterres also called on “the media, especially social media companies, to do much more to flag and… remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content.” His global appeal to address and counter COVID-19-related hate speech follows his April 23 message calling the coronarivus pandemic “a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.”
Guterres said then that the pandemic has seen “disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.”
With “rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a push back against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic,” he warned.
In February, Guterres issued a call to action to countries, businesses and people to help renew and revive human rights across the globe, laying out a seven-point plan amid concerns about climate change, conflict and repression.