Journalists Provide ‘Antidote’ to COVID-19 Misinformation, UN Chief Says Ahead of World Press Freedom Day
The UN Secretary-General is calling for greater protection of journalists who are providing the “antidote” to what he has characterized as a pandemic of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.
António Guterres made the appeal in a video message for World Press Freedom Day, to be observed today, in which he underscored the crucial role media has in helping people make informed decisions. have been focused on countering the COVID-19 “infodemic”.
In late March, the SecretaryGeneral announced the launch of a communications strategy to fight the rise in misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the new disease.
Mr Guterres urged governments to protect journalists and others who work in media, and to uphold press freedom.
He said while temporary movement constraints are essential to beat back COVID-19, “they must not be abused as an excuse to crack down on journalists’ ability to do their work”.
Meanwhile, a UN independent human rights expert reported that since the start of the disease outbreak, he has received “alarming accounts” of retaliation against journalists, under the guise of spreading disinformation.
David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, has documented
journalism so that media workers can report without fear or favour.
Newsrooms should be free to make independent editorial decisions that favour public interest and preserve accountability.
A free and independent press is essential at all times, but is particularly important
these threats in his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, which oversees his mandate.
Mr Kaye underlined the critical role of a free press, especially during a health crisis.
In recent months, independent media has been “an essential lever for public information”, he said, with journalists uncovering stories of government deception while also helping people everywhere to understand the nature and scope of the pandemic.
Therefore, detaining journalists for doing their job runs in direct opposition to the obligation to ensure an enabling environment for the media, he said.
Roughly 250 journalists worldwide are currently behind bars, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“At a time when disease outbreaks spread through detention facilities, detention’s cruelty is exposed, imposing an additionally excessive punishment that carries with it the
during a health crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing.
At a time when many seek information primarily online, the role of professional journalists, who are trained to help sort through the flow and provide necessary guidance, is vital.
No crisis can be resolved
risk of illness and death”, said Mr. Kaye, who is not a UN staff member nor paid by the Organisation.
“The criminalisation of journalism must end. That can start with releasing journalists from detention as a matter of urgency.”
In his press freedom day message, the UN chief thanked the media “for providing facts and analysis; for
without accurate and reliable information.
At all levels, from governments to individuals, the decisions we make can be a matter of life and death and must be based on facts and science.
It is only through joint multilateral co-ordination that these crucial issues can successfully be addressed,
and holding leaders – in every sector – accountable; and for speaking truth to power”.
He particularly recognised those journalists playing “a life-saving role” in reporting on public health. “And we call on governments to protect media workers, and to strengthen and maintain press freedom, which is essential for a future of peace, justice and human rights for all”, he concluded. we are deeply committed to this global effort.
It is also important to help the media and journalists report on the crisis effectively and safely,
and to promote critical thinking to limit the spread of rumours and misinformation.