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News in Brief 27 February 2020

News in Brief 27 February 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations

COVID-19: UN rights chief warns against stigmatization

Discrimination against those affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus, must be tackled head on by Governments everywhere, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday.

In an appeal for “transparency and information” to help combat the disease, she told the Human Rights Council in Geneva it had “set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity”.

Amid reports of xenophobic abuse aimed at Asian people in Europe and elsewhere, she called on Member States “to do their utmost to combat this and other forms of discrimination.”

Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the situation could still develop into a full-blown pandemic.

He spoke to journalists in Geneva:

“Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with sustained community transmission…These are four scenarios, and it must preparing for all of those scenarios at the same time. No country should assume it won’t get cases; that could be a fatal mistake and quite literally. This virus does not respect borders.”

Social media hate speech is poisoning minds

Also on Thursday, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues denounced the propagation of hate speech through social media, pointing to its direct contribution to a rise in hate crimes.

Independent UN expert Fernand de Varennes called for the “poisoning of minds” online to be fully acknowledged and confronted. 

 “The last decade”, he said, “has seen minorities around the world facing new and growing threats, fueled by hate and bigotry being spewed through social media platforms”.

The UN expert stressed that “the more hate speech is widespread, the more it becomes part of the mainstream”, and effectively normalized.

“This propagation of hate against minorities online must be stopped”, he concluded.

Northwest Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe

And finally to Syria, where a military escalation in the country’s northwest is taking a catastrophic humanitarian toll.

Senior UN Humanitarian Adviser Najat Rochdi expressed her gravest alarm at the rising number of civilians killed and the unprecedented number of people displaced.

At a Humanitarian Task Force meeting in Geneva, Ms. Rochdi reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for an immediate ceasefire and urged those present to ensure the protection of civilians and humanitarian access.

As airstrikes and shelling continue in Idlib and Hama, she underscored that “civilians need immediate safety, protection and a respite from fighting”.

Ms. Rochdi said that all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure – such as medical facilities, schools and markets – must cease immediately.

Liz Scaffidi, UN News.

  • COVID-19: UN rights chief warns against stigmatization

  • Social media hate speech is poisoning minds

  • Northwest Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe

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Liz Scaffidi, UN News
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