Bilawal urges world to counter disinformation

| FM says UN should enhance capacity of member states


ISLAMABAD   –   Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has urged the United Nations to form an inter-agency task force to combat disinformation that could hold regular interactions with member states and other stakeholders.

He said this while addressing the first meeting of Group of Friends on Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms here yesterday.

Bilawal said that Pakistan and its people like many other countries, have been the victims of targeted campaigns of disinformation.

Pakistan has recently formed a “group of friends” the UN consisting of 20 countries including Russia and China to further push forward the objectives of the resolution passed earlier by the UN on countering disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In his keynote address, the foreign minister said that indeed, in this information age, disinformation has emerged as a global pandemic.

He said the exponential proliferation of disinformation, especially through on-line platforms and social media has spread social discord; fostered hate speech, racism, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia; and exacerbated competing nationalisms and inter-State tensions and conflict.

“Disinformation has often justified and intensified the violations of human rights. And, “hybrid warfare”, pursued through disinformation, is often the opening salvo of intervention and conflict”, he said.

The foreign minister said this pandemic of disinformation must be confronted, countered and defeated at the national and international level.

“We can succeed in doing so only through comprehensive international cooperation”, he said.

He recalled that Pakistan, together with a number of like-minded countries, took the initiative last year in the UN General Assembly against disinformation.

Bilawal said these painstaking efforts led to the adoption of the landmark General Assembly resolution No. 76/227 on “Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”.

He said this was the first formal effort by the UN member states to develop an agreed international response to the scourge of disinformation.

Explaining the group’s purpose, he said the “Group of Friends” has been established to promote the implementation of that resolution. “We are grateful to all the countries who have joined the group. They represent all the regions of the world.”

“Utilizing this platform, we should agree on an international plan of action to counter disinformation, on-line and off-line, in the public and private domain”, he said.

Bilawal also presented a charter of action to counter disinformation and said first, we should enhance public awareness about disinformation through information campaigns promoted by member states and the United Nations and build societal resistance and resilience against disinformation.

He said to this end, the UN and its agencies should help to build the capacity of member states, especially the developing countries, to analyze, fact-check and filter information, especially on-line information. Moreover, financial and technical support should be extended to national and international researchers and institutions which are involved in detecting disinformation. The UN Department of Information can play a critical role in this context, he said.

Bilawal said such a concerted international effort can help to expose and dismantle disinformation networks – some of which have been operating against my country for over 30 years.

The foreign minister said finally, the UN, perhaps through its Committee on Information, should open a comprehensive dialogue, led by member states, and with the participation of the private sector, business enterprises, media and social media platforms and civil society stakeholders, to develop a coherent consensus on international cooperation to combat disinformation.

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