Jour­nal­ists Pro­vide ‘An­ti­dote’ to COVID-19 Mis­in­for­ma­tion, UN Chief Says Ahead of World Press Freedom Day

Fiji Sun - - SUNFUN - Jour­nal­ists at the United Na­tions. UN Photo/Rick Ba­jor­nas

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.

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