The antidote to the disinformation pandemic amid Covid-19 is fact-based news: UN chief

UNITED NATIONS: Along with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world today is seeing a dangerous outbreak of harmful health advice, hate speech and wild conspiracy theories, and the antidote to misinformation is fact-based news and analysis , UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

This year the world, including the media, is facing a whole new challenge: Covid-19, which is affecting everyone, everywhere. Along with the pandemic, we are seeing a dangerous outbreak of misinformation, by damaging health advice and hate speech to wild conspiracy theories, Guterres said.

He made the comments during a high-level online dialogue in the press Freedom and Address disinformation in the context of Covid-19.

He said blatant lies are spreading online at a terrifying rate, and a recent analysis found that more than 40 percent of Covid-19 posts on a major social media platform were posted by bots: automated programs disguised as people.

The antidote to this disinformation pandemic is fact-based news and analysis. It depends on media freedom and independent reporting, he said, stressing that press freedom is based on a fundamental principle of journalism without fear or favor.

Guterres stressed that when journalists are attacked, societies as a whole pay a price. No democracy can function without freedom of the press, which is the cornerstone of trust between people and their institutions, he said.

The UN chief expressed concern that the media has been under increasing pressure in recent years, with many journalists facing threats, harassment and violent attacks. Last year, 57 journalists were killed worldwide and women are often the target of attacks.

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.

To pay tribute to all journalists working in dangerous 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 couldn't do my job without the brave, creative, and often deeply moving media work, he said.