A joint press release issued by the Permanent Mission of India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam here said the primary focus of their governments in these “unprecedented times is to ensure that precious lives, particularly of the most vulnerable, are not lost to COVID-19”.
“The OHCHR needs to recognize this and play a responsible role in a manner that adds to rather than detracts from such efforts,” the release said.
The joint release came in response to the press release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, entitled “Asia: Bachelet alarmed by clampdown on freedom of expression during COVID-19”, on June 3.
The joint release said that across the world, the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic requires extraordinary and unprecedented measures.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, our respective Governments have employed a ‘whole of government, whole of society approach in the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. This approach continues to be implemented with the understanding that success in the handling of the pandemic is predicated on the success of multistakeholder collaboration and public trust in the Government’s efforts to combat COVID-19,” it said.
The release recalled that on May 18, during the Virtual 73rd World Health Assembly, a consensus resolution on COVID-19 Response was adopted which, inter alia, calls on member states to provide the population with reliable and comprehensive information on COVID-19 and take measures to counter misinformation and disinformation.
“In the context of the ongoing pandemic that has already strained our resources and capacities to the limit, our governments reiterate the view that the spread of harmful misinformation and falsehoods that guide segments of the public to disengage themselves from crucial, science-based information and policies enacted by relevant government agencies, thereby worsening the spread of COVID-19, represents a clear and present danger to public health,” the joint release read.
The release said it is in this context that “our respective Governments have taken necessary measures, in accordance with our prevailing laws and regulations, to hold those who spread misinformation and mislead the public accountable for their irresponsible actions”.
“These measures are carried out in accordance with the due process of law, while also safeguarding the freedom of expression with the aim of curbing falsehoods that have harmed or have the potential to harm all sectors of society during this pandemic,” said the joint release.