Health Desk-26 Sep 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) together with the UN, specialised agencies and partners called on countries to develop and implement action plans to promote the timely dissemination of science-based information and prevent the spread of false information while respecting freedom of expression.
WHO, the UN, UNICEF, UNAIDS, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNESCO, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN Global Pulse initiative and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), together with the governments of Indonesia, Thailand and Uruguay held a webinar on the margins of the 75th UN General Assembly on Wednesday to draw attention to the harm being done by the spread of misinformation and disinformation, the latter being deliberate misinformation to advance an agenda.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, ‘As soon as the virus spread across the globe, inaccurate and even dangerous messages proliferated wildly over social media, leaving people confused, misled and ill-advised.’
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, ‘Misinformation and disinformation put health and lives at risk, and undermine trust in science, in institutions and in health systems.’
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said, ‘On top of the immediate impact on pandemic responses, disinformation is undermining public trust in democratic processes and institutions and exacerbating social divides.’
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, ‘Misinformation is one of the fastest growing challenges facing children today.’
WHO and partners urged countries to engage and listen to their communities as they develop their national action plans, and to empower communities to build trust and resilience against false information.