Delegates Call for Greater Linguistic Diversity, Efforts to Combat Misinformation, Disinformation, as Committee on Information Continues Annual Session
Emphasizing the importance of trustworthy, verifiable information in a world beset with crises and in an environment rife with inaccurate reports, delegates today commended an ongoing initiative by the Department of Global Communications to draft a code of conduct to promote integrity in public information, while urging it to mainstream multilingualism and redouble efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation.
As the Committee on Information continued its annual session, the representative of Angola, speaking for the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, was among several speakers urging the Department to continue to disseminate the Organization’s ideals and activities in as many languages as possible. United Nations Information Centres in particular play a notable role in developing crisis-communications strategies, he said. With Portuguese being an official language for approximately 300 million people worldwide and the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere, the Department should promote the principles and work of the United Nations in that language and in other non-official ones, he added.
In a similar vein, Cuba’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Spanish, called for content to be created in original languages to ensure parity, and for machine translations to be avoided. While changes made on the Organization’s website reflected linguistic diversity, this is not always the case when messages are broadcasted on social networks, he said, urging the Department to ensure parity in issuing documents in other languages and to redress the substantial difference in content on the Organization’s webpage, noting that the civil society website and the Model United Nations website are only in English.
The representative of Pakistan voiced concern about the digital divide and the issue of growing inequality in access to timely, multilingual communications, with a reported 2.9 billion people never having used the Internet, 96 per cent of whom reside in developing countries. The issue of unequal access to information, due to a lack of linguistic diversity, must be addressed, she said, pointing out that this posed a challenge amid the recent floods in her country, with a report by Translators Without Borders drawing attention to a dangerous information gap that amplified the risk faced by affected communities. She called on the Department to strengthen international support for the dissemination of multilingual information in times of emergency.
Latvia’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Estonia and Lithuania, was among a chorus of speakers voicing alarm over the spread of disinformation, taking particular aim at its deployment by the Russian Federation in the context of its ongoing aggression against Ukraine. Describing the Russian Federation’s creation of an “information vacuum” by destroying civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, as well as the continued censorship and crackdown of independent media, he pointed out that such conditions enabled the spread of war propaganda, hate speech and incitement for violence, including the use of genocidal rhetoric, citing a recent tweet by former President Dmitry Medvedev stating that Ukraine as a country should disappear. He took aim at that country’s representative, stressing: “It is outrageous that the leading propagandist of the Russian regime, Maria Zakharova, sanctioned by the European Union, represents the Russian Federation in this Committee.”
Echoing such points, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, voiced regret that Moscow abuses the Organization, pointing out that its aggression against Ukraine is a blatant example of information-manipulation and disinformation in official meetings, including the Security Council. Questioning how anyone can trust the so-called “information” coming from a State that keeps intensifying its crackdown on civic space, he called on that Government to immediately and unconditionally release all those imprisoned for politically motivated charges and to repeal its oppressive legislation.
For her part, the delegate of the Russian Federation countered that the United States was misusing its privileges as host country, noting delays in providing visas to a group of Russian journalists who planned to attend meetings at the Security Council. Her own visa was not received in a timely manner, as some parties were “scared of hearing the truth”, she said, calling on the Secretariat to rectify this awful situation. She took aim at the actions of some “champions of democracy”, who expunge alternative views from their information spaces so that only officially approved ones remain, allowing biased Western media and non-governmental organizations to disseminate information that is not in line with reality. On the situation of Evan Gershkovich, a United States journalist arrested in her country, she said he was facing criminal proceedings as he attempted to receive a secret document. Her country showed greater tolerance to foreign journalists in the past, she said, citing cases where their visas were annulled and they were asked to leave, due to the merely administrative nature of their offenses.
Countering those points, the speaker for the United States condemned the wrongful detention of the Mr. Gershkovich, rejected the unfounded claims made about him and called on Moscow to immediately release him, Paul Whelan and all others who have been wrongfully detained. He also rejected Moscow’s claims regarding the non-timely receipt of visas for its delegation. The Russian Federation uses disinformation to deflect attention from its brutal assault on the Ukrainian people, diminish international support for Ukraine and justify its war, he stressed.
The representative of Ukraine concurred, noting that, as Moscow sends its military, missiles, drones, warplanes and rockets to destroy Ukraine, it has also attempted to kill the truth and destroy confidence in the United Nations platform. “Ukraine does not and will not resort to terror — it’s a Russian prerogative,” he underscored. To prevent manipulation and misinterpretations by the aggressor State, the Organization’s resolutions and the Secretary-General’s statements should be the only source of language in official communications and documents.
Among a smattering of speakers addressing the issue of disinformation in other contexts, particularly in peacekeeping missions, the representative of Madagascar welcomed the Department’s campaign to spotlight troop- and police-contributing countries and called for strengthened strategic communications to be deployed in the maintenance of peace, as disinformation threatens the safety of contingents.
Before the Committee were three reports of the Secretary-General on “The activities of the Department of Global Communications: campaigns and country operations services” (document A/AC.198/2023/2); “The activities of the Department of Global Communications: news services” (document A/AC.198/2023/3); and “The activities of the Department of Global Communications: outreach and knowledge services” (document A/AC.198/2023/4).
The Committee on Information will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 25 April, to continue its general debate and its consideration of the reports.
GERARDO PENALVER (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the Department of Global Communications has worked “relatively well” against the backdrop of multiple crises facing the world, including climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and a world order under severe stress from proliferating conflicts. Voicing concern over the growing trend of fake news and disinformation, which are exacerbating social discord, as well as the rise of hate speech and xenophobia, he urged the Department to intensify support for the United Nations systems’ efforts in combating disinformation and misinformation. The Group looks forward to actively engaging in an inclusive, transparent intergovernmental process for the preparation of a global code of conduct that promotes integrity in public information and underscores the importance of ensuring that all breaking news stories across United Nations platforms are accurate, impartial and free of bias and editorializing.
He went on to voice concern over digital disparities which are emerging as a new form of inequality among States and called for such imbalances to be rectified. Emphasizing the importance of multilingualism, he encouraged the Department to mobilize adequate resources to promote multilingualism and maximize its reach at the grassroots level. To this end, the Group calls on the Department and all units of the Secretariat to coordinate action to disseminate the Organization’s activities in compliance with the commitments associated with the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Languages.
Speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Spanish, he underscored the crucial role of United Nations News’ web page and social media networks as a source of verifiable and trustworthy information for the world, reiterating that the development and planning of content must be carried out equally in the six official languages. Machine translations must be avoided, and content must be created in original languages to ensure parity. While changes made on the Organization’s website reflect linguistic diversity, this is not always the case when messages are broadcasted on social networks, he said.
As well, he voiced concern over substantial differences in the content of the six official languages on the Organization’s webpage, noting that the civil society website and the model United Nations website are only in English. He called on the Department of Global Communications, in coordination with the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management and the Coordinator for Multilingualism, to ensure that the Organization’s website is updated in real time to reflect parity between the six official languages. Noting the increased demand for content in Spanish and increased hits to the Spanish-language pages of the Organization’s website, he said that, between 1 July and 15 November 2022, such pages registered 7 million views, a 10.8 per cent increase from 2021. He urged the Department of Global Communications to ensure parity in issuing documents, decisions and reports in other languages so that such information reaches a diverse audience.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, encouraged the Department to take further steps in ensuring that the entire United Nations system consistently uses the terminology of Assembly resolutions and the Secretary-General’s statements in all its communications, especially when referring to grave violations of the United Nations Charter. The Department plays a key role in making the United Nations a reliable source of information in a highly polluted information environment. Regrettably, the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine is a blatant example of information manipulation and disinformation in official meetings, including the Security Council. In condemning this deliberate spread of false narratives, he pointed out that Moscow abuses the Organization. How can anyone trust the so‑called “information” coming from a State that keeps intensifying its crackdown on civic space, he asked, calling on that Government to immediately and unconditionally release all those imprisoned for politically motivated charges and to repeal its oppressive legislation.
Turning to the code of conduct for information integrity on digital platforms, he stressed that it must consider the entire information environment and the broader digital ecosystem system. As a holistic approach which covers platforms from all regions is needed, it should involve all stakeholders and formulate recommendations for responsible behaviour. On media and information literacy, he underscored that citizens around the world must be empowered to make informed choices and equipped with the necessary skills to build resilience against discriminatory, violent, false or misleading content while ensuring the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. This notably requires striving to reduce inequalities and digital divides. However, such challenges can only be addressed collectively and through a multilingual approach. For its part, the Department should further mainstream this principle in all its operations and communicate more consistently about it.
MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti), speaking on behalf of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, noted that multilingualism makes an inestimable contribution to multilateral action, and added that shortcomings in its implementation by the Secretariat and other bodies harms the equal participation of Member States. Therefore, he called on the Department of Global Communications to ensure balanced use of the Organization’s six official languages across all its websites and on social media to address the skew of content towards English, noting that the French language is spoken across five continents and is a working language of the Secretariat. Multilingualism is important to combat disinformation, which harms democracy and social cohesion, he said, spotlighting, in this context, the work of a Francophone platform to combat disinformation. While taking note of resource constraints faced by the Organization in disseminating communication in all official languages, he said that savings must not be made to the detriment of multilingualism.
JOÃO IAMBENO GIMOLIECA (Angola), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, commended the Department for raising awareness about the Organization’s work, combating disinformation and misinformation by helping people identify credible sources and undertaking innovative actions in social media. The Department should also use traditional means of communication, such as television, printed materials and radio, which are notably available in many households of developing countries where there is still limited Internet access, he encouraged. As the provision of correct, impartial, comprehensive and multilingual information is an important and crucial service to international audiences, the Department should continue to disseminate the Organization’s ideals and activities in as many languages as possible while considering linguistic diversity and the varying degrees of digital development. United Nations information centres in particular play a notable role in developing crisis communications strategies, he said, informing the Committee of the ongoing discussions between the Organization and his Government on expediting creation of a Centre in Luanda to address the needs of Portuguese-speaking African countries.
Through promoting the use of the Portuguese language in national and international contexts, the Community contributes to multilingualism’s strengthening while reaffirming the importance of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, he said. The dissemination and promotion of the United Nations message beyond the Organization’s six official languages reinforces the importance of informing a broader audience, he pointed out, as he encouraged the Department to reinforce its multilingual approach. With Portuguese being an official language for approximately 300 million people worldwide and the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere, the Department should promote the principles and work of the United Nations in that language and in other non-official ones.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIÇS (Latvia), also speaking on behalf of Estonia and Lithuania, said that the Organization’s effective communication improves the global information ecosystem, especially during times of crises, including the current crisis in Ukraine. Amid this crisis, which has global consequences, he said the Russian Federation is spreading massive disinformation, including at the United Nations, as the use of disinformation and propaganda have for a long time been a tool of that country’s warfare. In that context, he outlined measures taken by the Russian Federation, including by destroying civilian infrastructure in Ukraine related to information, as well as the continued censorship and crackdown of independent media. The resultant vacuum enables the spread of the Russian Federation’s war propaganda, hate speech and incitement for violence, including the use of genocidal rhetoric, he said, citing a recent tweet by former President Medvedev that Ukraine as a country should disappear. “It is outrageous that the leading propagandist of the Russian regime, Maria Zakharova, sanctioned by the European Union, represents the Russian Federation in this Committee,” he stressed. Legislation, such as the “fake news” law, passed since the start of the war, has forced many independent journalists to leave the Russian Federation, for his country, Estonia and Lithuania, where their work is supported.
In this context, he called on the United Nations to use the proper terminology, stemming from the six United Nations General Assembly resolutions related to the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, adding: “It should be called either aggression or invasion or war against Ukraine.” He regretted to note that all three Secretary-General’s reports submitted to the Committee make reference to the “armed conflict in Ukraine” or “conflict situation”. The Organization must continue to use all communication channels, not only in all six official languages, to spread information about the war against Ukraine, he stressed, pointing out that, in January, the military prosecutor’s office of the Vladimir oblast in the Russian Federation initiated the blocking of the United Nations webpage. He also underscored the need for efforts to be made to counter disinformation, welcoming the Department of Global Communications’ work on the code of conduct on public information integrity. Welcoming that in last year’s annual resolution, the Committee “reiterated its condemnation of all forms of propaganda” that encourage the “act of aggression”, he said: “This should be part of the forthcoming policy brief on the code of conduct.”
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the imperative nature of United Nations information centres as the principal source of information regarding the Organization in countries where they are located. Member States have a duty to support the work of these Centres by playing a bridging role that can further strengthen the link between the Organization and the global community. It is vital that content is disseminated in local languages to a wide range of people, she emphasized, voicing her country’s deep concern over the increasing amount of disinformation and misinformation targeting peacekeeping operations. In that vein, she requested the Department to continue providing content that is accurate and reliable in local languages and in coordination with national authorities to manage expectations, garner support and build trust among all relevant stakeholders. She also underlined the need to address the digital divide within and between nations.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica), associating herself with the Group of Friends of Spanish, pointed out that the infodemic following the first months of 2020 exemplified the challenge the international community faces in countering false, unverifiable and unscientific information that deliberate seeks to information, and among other things, incite hatred. Against this backdrop, States must provide present and future generations with the necessary tools to not just discern truth but also understanding the world. Strategies must counter disinformation while facilitating education in information management and promoting access to quality information. There must be standards on digital technology use to allow Governments to address online violence and discrimination in all its forms, she continued, urging all countries to also protect journalists, human rights defenders and the media’s independence and plurality. For its part, the Department must continue its efforts to disseminate information in all its areas and make it accessible to all, she urged.
BRETT JONATHAN MILLER (Israel), noting that the spread of misinformation and the distortion of facts is not new, called on the international community to combat Holocaust denial and antisemitism. For its part, Israel will continue to combat such denialism around the world and in all fora, he pledged. The rapid spread of malicious lies and hate have the power to cause real harm on the global scale, as is often the case in relation to the situation in the Middle East. His country is the target of unfair and disproportionate singling out, half-truths and outright lies which have regrettably permeated the United Nations where, alongside the bias of special committees, his Government is condemned in one-sided and unbalanced resolutions. Disinformation is also prevalent regarding the Organization’s peacekeeping operations, he said, spotlighting the tragic death of an Irish peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The permanent exhibit on the question of Palestine promotes a biased, one-sided narrative which complete ignores Palestinian incitement, terror glorification and rejectionist policies. For the United Nations to remain in acting sustainable peace processes, it must recommit to objectivity and impartiality, he stressed.
MARIA ZAKHAROVA, Spokesperson and Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, voiced concern over the misuse by the United States of its privileges as host country, noting delays in providing visas to a group of Russian journalists, which prevented them from attending meetings at the Security Council. Noting that her visa was not received in a timely manner, due to some parties, who were “scared of hearing the truth”, she expressed hope that the Secretariat will take steps to rectify this awful situation. Several States, which style themselves as champions of democracy, are cleaning up their national information spaces, removing alternative views so that only officially approved ones remain, she said, noting that this destructive agenda has led to the liquidation of some Russian outlets’ media presence, allowing biased Western media and non-governmental organizations to disseminate information that is not in line with reality.
Addressing the comments by the representative of Latvia, she noted that his country appears twenty-second on the Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, calling on States to tackle issues relating to the freedom of media in their countries. Further, she condemned the killing of the Russian journalists Darya Dugina and Vladen Tatarsky, noting that such acts of intimidation and terror have not been spoken about widely. She condemned the open bias demonstrated by the media of some countries, which coerce journalists to work for special interests and to interfere in the affair of States. Further, she voiced concern over the United States’ use of “cancel culture”, and the global digital monopoly that blocks content and manipulates public information, risking the fragmentation of the global information space, and exacerbating the trend of amplifying wrongful interpretations of foreign policy. She called on the Secretariat to carry out its work without a political bias to prevent the promotion of some States’ selfish agendas.
The Department of Global Communications should provide a stimulus to support linguistic parity, and allocate resources to address the skewing of content towards English, she said, adding that there is an increasing demand for information in Russian. Turning to discussions on the verification of data, she said that the views of Member States must not be ignored, questioning the process of selection of experts to investigate the flow of information on Internet platforms. On the upcoming press conference by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, where he is likely to be asked about the situation of a United States journalist in her country, she said that this individual was facing criminal proceedings as he attempted to receive a secret document. “In the past, we showed tolerance,” she said, noting her country’s lenience in other cases, including that of a Portuguese journalist who sold souvenirs, and a French individual who prepared false documents. Due to the merely administrative nature of those offenses, those individuals’ visas were annulled and they were asked to leave, she added.
ADAM KUYMIZAKIS (Malta), associating himself with the European Union, cautioned that the threats of disinformation and misinformation will continue to grow as their spread becomes increasingly complex unless they are addressed through safe, affordable, secure and sustainable digital technology. Against this backdrop, he urged the Department to continue its work in countering disinformation and misinformation on the climate crisis, on war and conflict, and on health care, particularly vaccination. Turning to multilingualism and the efforts towards inclusion and diversity beyond the six official languages, he underlined the importance of ensuring accessibility for persons with disabilities to legitimate and factual information. His Government is notably seeking to prioritize the importance of literacy as a peacebuilding tool in its current capacity as a Council member. Investing in literacy can promote peacebuilding by not only improving the economic, political and democratic participation of literate persons but also their capacities to seek, analyse and distinguish between facts and falsification, he explained.
Mr. PEÑALVER PORTAL (Cuba), speaking in his national capacity, voiced his regret that illiteracy is still a reality in this century of information and communication technology (ICT). His Government has prioritized the development of its ICT sector and will continue to do so despite the illegal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States. As the main impediment to better information-flow and wider Internet and ICT access, this embargo has caused alarming economic damage of an estimated $105.6 million between August 2021 and February 2022 alone. His Government rejects and condemns the United States’ radio and television aggression and its improper use of cyberspace against Cuba, he said, underscoring that such actions flagrantly contravene the United Nations Charter and the provisions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Cuba also firmly condemns these violations of its sovereignty, particularly its ability to regulate information-flow and mass media use, and rejects the use of the Internet to transmit illegal programmes for political purposes of subversion. He then reaffirmed Havana’s support for a new, more justice and equitable world information and communications order.
CHRISTOPHER P. LU (United States), underscoring the pressing need to safeguard the free flow of information, encouraged the Department to reach people through non-traditional news offerings on a variety of media platforms and aggressively increase the traffic to its non-English websites. At the same time, the international community must continue to call out countries and individuals spreading disinformation and blocking access to information. In Mali and the Central African Republic, disinformation has notably undermined local trust in the Organization and threatened peacekeeper safety and security. The Russian Federation uses disinformation to deflect attention from its brutal assault on the Ukrainian people, diminish international support for Ukraine and justify its war. His Government condemns the wrongful detention of United States journalist Evan Gershkovich; rejects the unfounded claims made about him; and calls on Moscow to immediately release him, Paul Whelan and all others who have been wrongfully detained. He also rejected Moscow’s claims regarding the non-timely receipt of visas for its delegation. The free flow of information, he continued, is notably jeopardized by Government-imposed Internet shutdowns. For its part, the United States helped the Iranian people exercise their right to freedom of expression when they rose up in protest in September 2022.
EDUARDO MANUEL DA FONSECA FERNANDES RAMOS (Portugal), aligning himself with the European Union and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, pointed out that more access to information has not equaled access to reliable information. The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine — which his Government firmly condemns — continues to show how information-manipulation is used in an attempt to justify an illegal and unprovoked military aggression against another State. Against this reality, States must act now with determination to prevent the spread of disinformation and hate speech while preserving hard-won gains in protecting the freedom of speech. They must work together with an inclusive and whole-of-society approach, he underscored, commending the elaboration of a code of conduct as an important initiative for addressing concerns regarding technologies and the digital space. Since communication must be a two-way street, States should keep listening, especially to the voices of vulnerable groups. Providing information on and by the United Nations in as many languages as possible is also a powerful way of leaving no one behind, he added.
SARAH SAFYN FYNEAH (Liberia), applauding the Department for recognizing the service of its uniformed personnel serving in peacekeeping missions, commended it for striving to remain a credible source of accurate information. Amid multiple global crises of armed conflicts, a worsening climate emergency and the upsurge in misinformation and disinformation, it is critical that the United Nations remains impartial in its global reportage. The public information that the Department provides and the audiences it serves are as varied as the Organization itself, she noted, welcoming its endeavours to implement thematic campaigns on a diverse range of subjects, innovate products and structures, and focus on Africa’s social and economic development, as well as its peace and security. Efforts towards creating a code of conduct in particular must consist of an inclusive and holistic process that involves digitally advanced countries, those still developing and other relevant stakeholders. As many communities still do not have access to the Internet, the United Nations must do more to secure greater connectivity, continue its partnership with traditional media and empower its information centres while building staff capacities.
TIÉMOKO MORIKO (Côte d’Ivoire), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, voiced concern that the pandemic and persistent geopolitical crises have been conducive to the spread of disinformation and misinformation, which underscores the urgent need for timely, multilingual, factual and science-based information. Against this backdrop, he welcomed the Department’s initiatives, including its campaigns against disinformation and hate speech, and those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Turning to the global code of conduct, he called on all stakeholders to work towards elaborating it in order to establish trust on digital platforms. Welcoming the General Assembly resolution on multilingualism (document A/RES/76/268), he commended the work of the Department in aiming to achieve linguistic equity across the United Nations system. In this context, he urged stronger commitment to promote the equal use of the Organization’s six official languages in meetings and across all communications platforms. The Department needs adequate resources to see through all its activities, and to bridge the gap between English and the other five languages, he added.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends of Spanish, called on the Department to redouble its efforts in encouraging all stakeholders to act urgently on the Sustainable Development Goals and on climate. To that end, the United Nations should publish summaries of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for political decision-makers and ensure that its technical content can be understood by the largest audience possible. Turning to the increase in disinformation and misinformation which her Government has observed as a troop- and police-contributing country, she called for strengthened strategic communications. On the concerning increase in misinformation regarding immigration, she urged the Department to help all stakeholders, including Member States, on implementing the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. She then underscored the need to strengthen publications in Spanish, pressed for parity among all six official languages and asked the Department to publish a guide on Model United Nations for universities in all official languages and organize online seminars. States must also convey the work of the Assembly in the broadest possible manner, she added.
VERO HENINTSOA ANDRIAMIARISOA, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, welcomed campaigns spearheaded by the Department to counter disinformation and misinformation, hate speech, xenophobia and to support climate action. Turning to multilingualism, a fundamental value of multilateralism, she hoped to see equal use of the Organization’s six official languages across its documents and websites. To this end, she encouraged the drafting of documents in all six official languages, and for these documents to be uploaded to relevant platforms in a timely fashion. Further, she called for a greater focus on the dissemination of fact-based, targeted, accessible, science-based information, encouraging the Department to explore innovative financing options to bridge gap between the use of one language compared to others. As a country with uniformed personnel, Madagascar welcomes campaigns to spotlight troop- and police-contributing countries, and called for strengthened strategic communications to be deployed in the maintenance of peace, as disinformation threatens the safety of contingents.
HANA BINTI NORDIN (Malaysia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the importance of multilingualism in ensuring inclusivity, diversity, tolerance and increased stakeholder participation. In that vein, she called for continued cooperation towards fostering the positive appreciation of language diversity, stressed the importance of an equal, balanced and inclusive approach in disseminating information on the Organization’s three pillars, and highlighted the need to boost awareness in the field of disarmament. Turning to the concerning and continued spread of disinformation and misinformation, she pointed out that information battles in today’s world can pose a threat to peace and security. Improving communications strategies that account for the peculiarities of local situations in that regard are crucial for improving both the effectiveness of United Nations missions and the protection of personnel and peacekeepers. She also underlined the need to address the digital divide to enable inclusive and resilient development towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Department must modernize the Organization’s communication system and strengthen local and global partnerships.
OSHIMA MASARU (Japan), voicing his support to the Department’s efforts to curtail the ongoing infodemic, stressed that fake information not only threatens the international community’s values, but it is also one of the greatest threats to human security. For its part, his Government has launched a new unit to counter disinformation and held a national-level discussion with multiple stakeholders to take stock of current practices in December 2022. United Nations information centres and resident coordinator offices in particular play an instrumental role in disseminating information on United Nations activities, connecting people with the Organization’s work and inspiring actionable hope. Among other things, the Information Centre in Tokyo, for example, is making a significant contribution to the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals through the campaign “Act Now”, leveraging media to support climate action through “The promise of 1.5: Act now to stop global warming” and promoting social change for larger climate action through “Media is Hope”. Turning to the indispensable role of free and independent journalists, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to protecting the freedom and safety of journalists worldwide. Efforts to limit and intimidate the media should be met with strict opposition, he underscored.
SERHII DVORNYK (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, reminded all that the Committee was launched to promote the establishment of a new, more just and more effective world information and communication order intended to strengthen peace and international understanding. “That is how most of us perceive information — as a tool to communicate, bridge divergences and settle international disputes by peaceful means,” he underscored. Weaponizing information and making it serve the aggressor’s purposes have been a deliberate strategy of Russian Federation President Vladimir V. Putin, starting with the destruction of independent media and the killing of independent journalists. That country’s society — saturated with anti-Ukrainian facts and war mongering for two decades — has finally succumbed. Moscow’s powerful propaganda machine — as can be seen through the horrendous footage posted by its propaganda accounts and the comments under such media posts — has incited hatred towards Ukraine and its people. That Government has a leader which ordered a bloody invasion of a sovereign neighbouring country, pretends to defend itself under so-called security concerns and systematically denounces pacifists, he pointed out.
As Moscow sends its military, missiles, drones, warplanes and rockets to destroy Ukraine, it has also attempted to kill the truth and destroy confidence in the United Nations platform, he said. “Ukraine does not and will not resort to terror — it’s a Russian prerogative,” he underscored. To prevent manipulation and misinterpretations by the aggressor State, the Organization’s resolutions and the Secretary-General’s statements should be the only source of language in official communications and documents. He then honoured various media workers who have become victims to Moscow’s aggression and encouraged the Committee to look at the proposals within the report of non-governmental organizations from his country, Poland and Lithuania.
JUAN RODRIGUEZ GOMEZ-ALLER (Spain), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Spanish, commended the Department for the activities it has been undertaking since its inception in 1978, including the combating of complex disinformation and the promotion of human rights and gender equality. “To get to people on the ground, we can only reach them through their own language,” he stressed, underscoring the mutually reinforcing nature of multilingualism and diversity. He congratulated the Spanish team of United Nations News, noting that their audience experienced an increase of 10 per cent since 2020. However, much remains to be done to address the adequate balance of information in the Organization’s official language, he said, adding that, 45 years after the Department’s founding, delegates continue to clamour for this balance. Therefore, he hoped that the existing gap for content in Spanish will be corrected, and that resources will be rebalanced to cater to the needs of more than 500 million people who speak Spanish. Global information centres and local United Nations offices can help expand the reach of the Organization. Turning to disinformation, he pointed out that multilingualism can also help address the challenge, adding: “Misinformation can be heard from loudspeakers in all languages; we must respond in the same way, or lose the battle.”
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends of Spanish, pointed out that there is still a long way to go to achieve a new world information and communication order. Real, significant and tangible results are needed to ensure greater democratization in efficient, inclusive and affordable ICT access. Moreover, the policies of aggression advanced by some through unilateral coercive measures undermine national efforts and hinder better connectivity. Against this backdrop, he renewed his call on the international community to advance action to close the digital divide which includes raising awareness on the harmful effects of sanctions and calling for their immediate and complete repeal. All efforts that the Department can advance to face fake news, disinformation campaigns and misinformation is vitally important, he underscored as he highlighted the systematic endeavours of the United States and United Kingdom in subverting his country’s constitutional order. He then reiterated his serious concern over the editorialization of publications and the sensationalizing of news on the Organization’s news portal and its Twitter account. The United Nations must be a tool for peace, dialogue and understanding — not one which fosters mistrust or undermines State cooperation.
INDIRA GOHIWAR ARYAL (Nepal), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the urgent need to bridge the digital divide. Her Government notably hopes that the proposed Global Digital Compact can facilitate an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future, and looks forward to a global code of conduct to reduce harm, promote information access and ensure accountability. Turning to the Department’s commendable initiatives, she encouraged it to continue prioritizing pressing agendas, such as the 2030 Agenda, gender equality, peace and security, and climate actions. It should also highlight the contributions of troop- and police-contributing countries in an equitable manner while raising public awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations. She further encouraged the Department to expand its basket of languages beyond the official ones, including through more content in Nepali, strengthen information centres and explore innovative financing options to maximize its outreach services. Since collaborating with regional, subregional and local organizations can promote greater awareness and understanding of the Organization’s work, the Department should continue partnering with youth, women, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society.
MARIAM SHAIKH (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, commended the launch of the United Nations News service in Urdu, and welcomed the Department’s coverage of climate events, as well as the Secretary-General’s solidarity visit to her country following the historic floods it experienced. Voicing concern about the digital divide and the issue of growing inequality in access to reliable, timely, multilingual communications, with a reported 2.9 billion people never having used the Internet, 96 per cent of whom reside in developing countries. Therefore, she called for support to be lent to the digital transformation of developing countries. Further, she called for efforts to be made to address the issue of unequal access to information, due to a lack of linguistic diversity, pointing out that this posed a challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the recent floods in Pakistan, with a report by Translators Without Borders drawing attention to a dangerous information gap that amplified the risk faced by affected communities. To address this issue, she called on the Department to strengthen international support to the dissemination of multilingual information, enabling it to be available in multiple languages in times of emergency. Further, steps must be taken by the Department to raise awareness about assistive technologies and to promote their design and distribution, she added.
FATIMATOU FAYE (Senegal), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, called on the Department to strengthen its measures to combat disinformation within the principles of multilingualism, diversity and accuracy. It must disseminate information in a timely manner and increase its efforts to reach as many people as possible, particularly those in developing countries. To that end, bolstering the capacity of United Nations information centres, services and offices to produce multilingual communication can ensure the rapid and timely spread of information. For its part, her Government will continue to support the sub-office in Dakar. Turning to the global code of conduct, she stressed that Member States must have the space and time to not only decide on proposed avenues, but also identify others. The United Nations must convey reliable information on priority issues such as climate change and the 2030 Agenda, focus on solutions to main challenges, mobilize populations, call them to action and stress the transnational nature of such challenges. As all Member States must be able to champion their position in the languages of choice, the Organization must ensure the equal treatment of all six official languages, especially French. She also emphasized the importance of accounting for language in peacekeeping operations and bridging the digital divide.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) aligning with the Group of 77 and China, commended the various initiatives of the Department, including the Verified initiative in the context of the pandemic. Highlighting the importance of close coordination between Headquarters and the network of United Nations information centres for the implementation of campaigns of targeted messaging and content adapted to national contexts and delivered in multilingual formats, he spotlighted a campaign by the Centre in Dhaka that complemented his Government’s efforts towards multilingualism by promoting the language of ethnic minorities. Echoing concerns about information gaps, he urged the Department to maintain and improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries. Bangladesh commends the Department’s efforts in highlighting some important communications of the Secretary-General in non-official languages, in addition to official languages. He welcomed the fifth phase of the Department’s “Service and Sacrifice” campaign, thanking troop- and police-contributing countries for their service in United Nations peacekeeping operations, emphasizing the need to combat anti-United Nations propaganda.
ELENA CURZIO VILA (Mexico), associating herself with the Group of Friends of Spanish, said communicating effectively is an art which requires constant updates and adaptations, audience understanding, language fine-tuning and strategic channel choices. The Department has an enormous challenge, especially since credibility in the world of communication depends directly on offering objective, verifiable information. As multilingualism is a guiding principle of the United Nations, her Government hopes that the Department will continue its work on parity between English and the other official languages. To that end, resources and content must be guaranteed in all official languages. This not only responds to the principle of inclusion, but also fosters understanding and tolerance, she pointed out. Disinformation must not be used as a shield to censor or silence dissidents, she stressed, emphasizing that the promotion of one basic right cannot curtail another.