UN warns of ‘tsunami of hate’

(SCMP) – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said the coronavirus pandemic keeps unleashing “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering” and appealed for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally”.

The UN chief 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”. Migrants and refugees “have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment”, he said.

“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” Guterres said. “And journalists, whistle-blowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”

Guterres called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences”.

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.

“And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said.

The secretary general stressed that Covid-19 “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction”.