Africa: UN Secretary-General and Who Director-General Asked to Issue Joint Appeal

press release

Two days after filing a complaint with two UN special rapporteurs, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has written to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres and WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asking them to appeal to member states that are press freedom violators to respect the right to information about the coronavirus crisis.

RSF's Tracker-19 - so-called in reference both to Covid-19 and article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - is showing the scale of press freedom violations during the coronavirus epidemic that violate the right to information and, consequently, the right to health.

The letters that RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire sent today to Guterres and Tedros refers to the complaint that RSF filed two days ago with the UN special rapporteur on the right to health and the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, asking them to investigate and report on the governments that are violating these rights.

In his letter to Guterres, Deloire wrote: "You have said that the Covid-19 pandemic is 'the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War.' In these dramatic circumstances, I would like to share with you our concern about the wave of press freedom violations by many governments in response to this unprecedented crisis. Because they prevent access to reliable, freely reported and diverse information about the pandemic, these violations constitute an aggravating factor in the disease and even a threat to the lives of millions of human beings."

RSF is calling on the UN secretary-general and WHO director-general to jointly affirm that the right to information is inherent to the right to health, to condemn the press freedom violations that are being committed despite the coronavirus epidemic (or using it as a pretext), and to call for measures to protect journalists and media outlets so that they can carry out their essential work of providing news and information.

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