Warning that disinformation had become a “global pandemic”, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called on Thursday for international cooperation to confront, counter, and defeat this scourge, which fuelled hate speech.
Addressing the launch meeting of the ‘Group of Friends for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’, Bilawal warned that disinformation had often intensified the human rights violations.
“Utilising this platform, we should agree on an ‘International Plan of Action’ to counter disinformation, online and offline, in the public and private domain,” he said, in his recorded keynote address.
“We can succeed in doing so only through comprehensive international cooperation,” the foreign minister added. He thanked all the countries who joined the group and urged others to also become part of it.
Foreign Minister @BBhuttoZardari message for the meeting of “Group of Friends to Counter Disinformation for the Promotion & Protection of Human Rights & Fundamental Freedoms” @ForeignOfficePk #GoFCounteringDisinformation #APPNews https://t.co/pEe1hRgJGY
— APP 🇵🇰 (@appcsocialmedia) June 23, 2022
Bilawal warned that the exponential proliferation of disinformation, especially through online platforms and social media, had spread social discord; fostered hate speech, racism, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia; and exacerbated competing nationalisms and inter-state tensions and conflict.
Pakistan successfully convenes first meeting of Group of Friends on Countering Disinformation as a follow-up to the implementation of a landmark resolution 76/227, focused on the global approaches to #CounteringDisinformation.
FM 🇵🇰 @BBhuttoZardari delivered keynote address!! pic.twitter.com/RPcdTuv2kZ
— Permanent Mission of Pakistan to UN, NY (@PakistanUN_NY) June 23, 2022
He urged the member states and the United Nations to enhance public awareness about disinformation through information campaigns. “We should enhance the capacity of governments and their relevant institutions to detect, analyse and expose disinformation and disinformation campaigns and networks,” he said.
“We should make a concerted effort, through cooperation, to minimise the negative impact of disinformation on human rights and relations between communities and states, by building firewalls against false information, ensuring transparency, adhering to human rights principles, such as respect for personal privacy and reputation, preventing the propagation of racism, discrimination and hate speech.”
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Earlier, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to UN Munir Akram, who moderated the virtual event, said that “countering the scourge of disinformation is a shared responsibility which requires international cooperation and solidarity”.
A distinguished panel of speakers, comprising key representative and experts of the UN entities, deliberated on approaches to countering disinformation. They included Melissa Fleming, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications ; Nada Al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ambassador Cristian Espinosa of Ecuador and chairperson of the Committee on Information, and Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
The diplomats who spoke at the meeting were Zhang Jun of China; Gennady Kuzmin of Russia; Silvio Gonzato of the European Union; and the delegates from permanent missions of Morocco, UK and Syria.
In his closing remarks, Ambassador Munir Akram said that the deliberations had “provided us the basis to forge international cooperation on countering disinformation as it affects all and we look forward to strengthening our cooperation”.
“[We will] continue dialogue and engagement with all stakeholders to deliberate upon developing a range of global responses to countering disinformation in accordance with international law.
Established by Pakistan, the group, which has representation from all regions of the world, seeks the implementation of last year’s General Assembly resolution on countering disinformation for the protection of human rights and Fundamental Freedoms.