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Pandemic Has Unleashed a ‘Tsunami of Hate’, Says UN Chief

Antonio Guterres called for worldwide solidarity and end the spread of hate speech globally

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on May 8 that the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 2,60,000 lives worldwide, unleashed a “tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering” and appealed to end the prevalence of hate speech globally. He further said that there has been a surge in anti-foreign sentiments both online and on the streets, especially due to the worldwide spread of antisemitic theories about the COVID-19 pandemic. “Anti-foreign sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread and COVID-19 related anti-muslim attacks have occurred”, Mr Guterres said. 

“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.” The Secretary-General mentioned the conditions of migrants and refugees, how they have been accused of being the source of the virus and then being denied access to medical treatments and facilities. He further asked political leaders to show solidarity with the people and asked educational institutions to shift their focus to digital literacy, especially “at a time when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences”.

In his attempt to bring awareness about the recent spread of hate speeches online, chief Guterres called on the media, especially social media, to regulate and remove misogynistic, racist and other harmful content. He also asked the civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people as well as religious leaders to establish and inspire mutual respect. “And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness”, Guterres said.