Thursday, June 11, 2020
Increasingly, misinformation and fake news about COVID-19 have led to fear and unclarity regarding the virus. Free Press Unlimited believes that reliable information should be accessible for everyone. Especially during the global pandemic, it is – quite literally - of vital importance that independent journalist and other credible sources bring trustworthy and factual news to their audiences. Verified, the United Nations’ global campaign to tackle misinformation about the virus, fails to take independent journalism and the trustworthiness of sources of information into account. We urge the UNSG Antonio Guterres to revise the campaign, and to acknowledge these crucial aspects of fighting fake news.

The battle against the global pandemic has demonstrated the crucial role of worldwide access to reliable information. Misinformation about COVID-19, often inducing hate, fear, and uncertainty, takes an increasingly important part in shaping global opinions and debates. In response, the United Nations has launched the ‘Verified’ campaign, an initiative to combat false information about COVID-19 by strengthening the provision of trusted and factual information.

Free Press Unlimited shares the concerns about the spread of misinformation during the health crisis. We believe that protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression through enabling people’s access to information is critical amid COVID-19.

However, Free Press Unlimited and its partners are critical of the Verified campaign. First of all, the campaign does not mention the importance of free and independent journalism. Repressive regimes all around the world are taking far reaching measures to restrict the work of the media, directly or indirectly leading to arrests, intimidation, attacks and other violations carried out against journalists. By not acknowledging the crucial role of independent journalism, which is under huge pressure, the role of independent media is disregarded, which is especially problematic at this time.

Secondly, the Verified campaign fails to adhere to the fact that when addressing the trustworthiness of information, only verifying and ensuring the information itself is not sufficient. The acceptance of information as true and reliable depends on the trust in the sender of that information. We believe that local journalists and independent media that are known by their audiences should be incorporated in the fight against misinformation during the pandemic.

In order to bring the Verified campaign more in line with the rights to freedom of expression and information, and SDG 16.10.2, we have recommended several adjustments to the campaign. In the letter that was submitted by FPU, IMS, Article19, GFMD, Hirondelle Fondation, DW Akademie, IFEX and RSF, you can read more about our concrete requests. 

Download and read the full letter