United Nations chief António Guterres has said the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a “tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering”, and appealed for an all-out effort “to end hate speech globally.”
The UN secretary-general said anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and on the streets and highlighted the spread of antisemitic conspiracy theories and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks.
As speculation swirled about where the virus originated, Guterres said migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus and then denied access to medical treatment.
“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable, “he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”
He called on the media, especially social media, to remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content, on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as models of mutual respect.
The secretary-general stressed that Covid-19 “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction”.
His global appeal to address and counter COVID-19-related hate speech follows his April 23 message calling the coronavirus pandemic a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.