Thursday, February 25, 2021

Guterres says pandemic is being used to suppress freedoms


“Using the pandemic as a pretext, authorities in some countries have taken tough security measures and taken emergency measures to suppress dissenting voices, abolish most fundamental freedoms, silence independent media and hamper the work of non-governmental organizations”, lamented the UN leader at the opening of the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“The restrictions linked to the pandemic serve as a pretext to undermine electoral processes, weaken the voices of opponents and suppress criticism,” he added.

“Human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, activists and even health professionals have been subject to arrests, lawsuits, intimidation and surveillance for criticizing the measures – or their lack – taken to deal with the pandemic,” he said.

In addition, “access to vital information has sometimes been hampered, while misinformation has increased, including that passed on by some leaders,” he added, without saying which.

In his annual speech to the Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General devoted much of his intervention to the pandemic, noting that the covid-19 “worsened vulnerabilities” and interrupted the lives of hundreds of millions of families, who lost their jobs or have seen their earnings plummet.

“The pandemic has disproportionately affected women, minorities, the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees, migrants and indigenous peoples” and “extreme poverty is gaining ground”, he stressed.

“Years of progress on gender equality have been eliminated,” he said, denouncing “vaccine nationalism”: “more than three quarters of vaccine doses have been administered in just 10 countries, while more than 130 nations have yet to receive one. a single dose “, underlined the UN secretary-general.

“Equal access to vaccines is a human rights issue, ‘nationalism of vaccines’ goes against that. Doses should be a publicly accessible asset, accessible to all,” he defended.

“The impossibility of guaranteeing equitable access to vaccines represents a new moral flaw that makes us go back years,” he said.

Guterres also called for “intensifying the fight against the resurgence of neo-Nazism, white supremacy and racially and ethnically motivated terrorism” and concerted action on a global scale to end this “serious and growing threat”.

“More than an internal terrorist threat, the situation is becoming a transnational threat,” he said.

“This is a current problem that requires serious discussion,” he stressed, adding that “a safe, equitable and open future, which does not infringe on privacy or dignity, is needed.”

The covid-19 pandemic caused at least 2,461,254 deaths worldwide, resulting from more than 111 million cases of infection, according to a report made by the French agency AFP.

In Portugal, 15,962 people died from 797,525 confirmed cases of infection, according to the most recent bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health.

The disease is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected in late December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.

Read also: UN Secretary-General asks the Burmese army to “stop the repression”

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