130 countries sign up to "infodemic" pledge

Acting on an initiative inspired by Latvia, 130 countries of the United Nations Organization (UN) on June 12 delivered a cross-regional statement on countering widespread disinformation -- the neologism "infodemic" is used to describe it -- in the context of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Latvia is one of the co-authors of the text alongside Australia, Chile, France, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Senegal and South Africa. 

The statement points to the role and responsibility of states, regional organizations, the UN system and other stakeholders - such as the mass media, social media platforms and NGOs - in helping people to deal with disinformation and misinformation and increase societal resilience.

"We are... concerned about the damage caused by the deliberate creation and circulation of false or manipulated information relating to the pandemic. We call on countries to take steps to counter the spread of such disinformation, in an objective manner and with due respect for citizens’ freedom of expression, as well as public order and safety. We reaffirm the importance of ensuring that people are accurately informed from trustworthy sources and are not misled by disinformation about COVID-19," the cross-regional statement says.

"The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that access to free, trustworthy, science-based information is of crucial importance. States are called upon to take action to fight the spread of disinformation, and do what it takes so that their residents can have available to them factual and accurate information from reliable sources on COVID-19. The statement underlines the significance of freedom of expression including that of the press, and it highlights the need to protect and ensure the safety of journalists and other media workers," said a statement by the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

Signed by 130 countries, one of the most notable absentees is Brazil, which recently stopped publishing some official COVID-19 data as cases soared. The Russian Federation, China and the United Arab Emirates are also not on the list.

The full list of countries is here.

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