Guterres says COVID-19 unleashes tsunami of hate speech

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General.

Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of United Nations on Friday called for a global effort to tackle the tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering” unleashed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a video message, Guterres said; “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’’.

“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes has emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable.’’

He said migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus and denied access to treatment, while journalists, health workers, and human rights advocates have also been targeted.

The UN chief called on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of society and civil society to increase outreach to vulnerable people.

As billions of young people are online and “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences,” schools should focus on digital literacy, he said.

He also urged social media companies to do more to tackle racist, misogynous, and other harmful content.

“We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate,’’ Guterres said.