United Nations: Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is today seeing a dangerous outbreak of misinformation about harmful health advice, hate speech and wild conspiracy theories, and antidote to this pandemic of misinformation is fact-based news and analysis, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
"This year on World Press Freedom Day, the world, including the media, faces an entirely new challenge: COVID-19, which is affecting everyone, everywhere. Along with the pandemic, we are seeing a dangerous outbreak of misinformation, from harmful health advice and hate speech to wild conspiracy theories, Guterres said.
He made the remarks during an online high-level dialogue on Press Freedom and Tackling Disinformation in the COVID-19 context. He said blatant lies are spreading online at a terrifying rate and a recent analysis found that more than 40 per cent of posts about COVID-19 on one major social media platform were posted by bots automated programmes disguised as people.
"The antidote to this pandemic of misinformation is fact-based news and analysis. It depends on media freedom and independent reporting, he said, underscoring that press freedom is rooted in a fundamental tenet of journalism without fear or favour.
Guterres underlined that when journalists are attacked, societies as a whole pay a price. No democracy can function without press freedom, which is the cornerstone of trust between people and their institutions, he said.
The UN chief expressed concern that media has come under increasing pressure in recent years, with many journalists facing threats, harassment and violent attacks. Last year, 57 journalists were killed around the world and women are often targeted for attack.
He noted that the winner of this year's World Press Freedom Day award, the Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, is a courageous woman reporter. Paying tribute to all journalists working under hazardous and difficult conditions around the world, Guterres said he has seen how journalists risk their lives to make sure people's stories are heard.
"I could not do my job without the courageous, creative and often deeply moving work of the media, he said.