Mr António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, has called for greater protection of journalists providing the “antidote” to a pandemic of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.
Mr Guterres made the appeal in a video message to mark World Press Freedom Day, which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by the UN.
In 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed May 3 as World Press Freedom Day following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
The Day serves as an occasion to inform citizens of the violations of press freedom.
Mr Guterres reiterated the crucial role media played in helping people to make informed decisions; adding that under the current circumstances, those decisions could make the difference between life and death.
“As the pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories”, he said.
“The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.”
As the COVID-19 crisis has deepened, both the UN Secretary-General and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been focused on countering the COVID-19 “infodemic”.
It would be recalled that in late March, the Secretary-General announced the launch of a communication strategy to fight the rise in misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the new disease.
The UN Secretary-General urged governments to protect journalists and others who work in media, and to uphold press freedom.
He said while temporary movement constraints were essential to beat back COVID-19, “they must not be abused as an excuse to crack down on journalists’ ability to do their work”.
Mr Guterres expressed his gratitude to the media “for providing facts and analysis; for 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.”