This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Fears grow over pre-election violence close to Central African Republic capital
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, has expressed deep concern over growing pre-election violence in the Central African Republic and called for all parties to lay down their weapons, in line with an appeal by the UN Secretary-General.
Citing numerous reports of attacks against security forces, political candidates and election officials, OHCHR said on Wednesday that civilians have fled hotspots, with some seeking shelter in neighbouring countries.
National elections are due to take place on Sunday 27 December amid a backdrop of rumours that former President Francois Bozize and other armed groups were planning on disrupting the poll.
UN human rights office spokesperson Liz Throssell said that the signatories to the political agreement of February 2019 - who included political actors and armed groups - should abide by their commitment to respect human rights and not resort to violence to resolve disputes.
Press freedom more important than ever, says UN body, condemns killing of 59 media workers
At least 59 media workers have been killed this year, four of them women, the UN said on Wednesday, in a call to stand up for access to information “as a public good”.
On average over the past decade, one journalist has lost their life every four days, according to UNESCO, the UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization.
Although 2020 saw one of the lowest tolls in years, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that rarely, if ever, had journalism been so relevant to democracy, and to the protection of human rights.
The pandemic has been a “perfect storm” that has affected press freedom worldwide, Ms. Azoulay continued, before insisting that “protecting journalism is protecting the truth”.
With 22 killings each, Latin America and the Caribbean, together with Asia and the Pacific, registered the highest number of fatalities among journalists.
This was followed by the Arab States Region with nine deaths, and Africa with six.
Impunity for crimes against journalists has continued to prevail in nearly nine out of 10 cases, despite a small improvement in 2020, UNESCO said.
Rights expert: Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court of appeals’ must consider minority rights
A call now for Facebook’s hate speech watchdog to take greater account of the rights of minorities when it reaches decisions on sensitive posts.
The recommendation on Wednesday from UN-appointed Special Rapporteur Fernand de Varennes, comes after the social media platform’s Oversight Board began examining appeals against Facebook decisions to remove online content.
The Oversight Board has been compared by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to the platform’s own Supreme Court; it is an independent body that reviews Facebook’s moderation decisions.
“Minorities are the most likely target of online hate speech”, Mr. de Varennes said, adding that virtual insults often lead to “severe real-world harm”, and even ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The Special Rapporteur commended the panel’s aim to regulate online expression and in particular hate speech, insisting that it was “essential for the effective protection of vulnerable minorities worldwide”.
But he maintained that before making its judgments, it should consider Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN General Assembly’s 1992 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, as well as other legal precedents involving minority rights.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.