COVID-19 Has Unleashed 'Tsunami of Hate and Scaremongering,' Says U.N. Chief

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for an end to the "virus of hate" caused by the novel coronavirus after the pandemic launched "a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering."

Speaking in a video uploaded to social media, he called for "an all-out effort to end hate speech globally" as he appealed for "everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate."

In other comments made to Associated Press, the U.N. chief said: "Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred."

The number of hate crimes has surged in some countries since the outbreak, particularly against those of east Asian origin.

In a letter sent to law enforcement officials and reviewed by CNN, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of "the potential for hate crimes by individuals and groups targeting minority populations in the United States who they believe are responsible for the spread of the virus."

The same can be seen in the United Kingdom.

"We are witnessing a dramatic rise in racial abuse, harassment and violence (race hate crimes)," Suresh Grover, the director of The Monitoring Group, an anti-racist charity, has said. "Since the end of February 2020, calls to The Monitoring Group (TMG) for advice and help have doubled from 140 to 250 and referrals from police and other agencies have skyrocketed from around 20 to 100 cases, if you compare current figures over the last quarter with last year."

In this speech, Guterres appealed to the media, social media companies and societies as a whole to work against the "virus of hate."

The risks, he said, are that "extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences."

He also called on a number of different institutions to lead the global charge any discrimination of any form.

"I call on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of their societies and build and reinforce social cohesion," he said.

"I call on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when billions of young people are online - and when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.

"I call on the media, especially social media companies to do much more to flag and in line with international human rights law, to remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content."

Guterres' appeal comes after his message on April 23 saying that the "human crisis" of the pandemic is "fast becoming a human rights crisis."

"[It has had] disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response," he said.

The speech in full

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is seen on a screen during the video conference of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin Getty

"We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate. That's why I'm appealing today for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.

"I call on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of their societies and build and reinforce social cohesion. I call on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when billions of young people are online - and when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences. I call on the media, especially social media companies to do much more to flag and in line with international human rights law, to remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content.

"I call on civil society to strengthen outreach to vulnerable people and religious actors to serve as models of mutual respect and I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness.

"Last year, I launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, to enhance United Nations efforts against this scourge.

"As we combat the pandemic, we have a duty to protect people, end stigma and prevent violence. Let's defeat hate speech and COVID-19 together."

COVID-19 Has Unleashed 'Tsunami of Hate and Scaremongering,' Says U.N. Chief | World
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