UN panel approves Pakistan-backed resolutions

By Staff Reporter | The Express Tribune May 15, 2022

UNITED NATIONS: A United Nations committee Friday adopted two resolutions, steered by Pakistan in its capacity as Chairman of the Group of 77 (developing countries), that spell out member states' priorities for the UN Department of Global Communications, from fighting misinformation to helping states protect the fundamental rights to expression and opinion.

In doing so, the Committee on Information ended its 44th session held under the shadow of the tragic killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh - who was reportedly shot dead by Israeli forces earlier this week while covering a military raid in the occupied West Bank.

Pakistani delegate Mariam Shaikh led the efforts to promote consensus on the texts, reconciling differing views and positions on a range of issues under discussion.

The committee finally approved the two draft resolutions contained in the session's report, which was introduced by Darren Camilleri, the Maltese delegate and rapporteur, and will be forwarded to the General Assembly for adoption.

By their terms, the assembly would urge all countries, organisations of the United Nations system and others to take a range of actions in support of the free flow of accurate information.

Among other elements, those included specific calls to ensure the free and effective performance of journalists and resolutely condemn attacks against them, and to increase assistance for communication infrastructure and capabilities in developing countries.

The assembly would reiterate its concerns about the exponential spread and proliferation of disinformation and misinformation and emphasize the need for all member states to stand together to address those challenges, including on the Internet.

It would also re-emphasise the importance of ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of the press and the right to privacy. By other terms of the resolutions, the assembly would call for intensified cooperation with the United Nations system for the effective dissemination of scientific knowledge, best practices and information regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and Covid-19 vaccines.

It would also support a range of activities and programmes of the Department of Global Communications, from its strategic communications services to its promotional campaigns to its role in peacekeeping and peacebuilding and the work of the network of United Nations information centres around the globe.

Shaikh, press counselor at the Pakistan Mission to the UN, speaking on behalf of the ‘Group of 77’ developing countries and China, said that as facilitator of negotiations on the draft resolutions, the bloc sought to ensure renewed momentum and support for the Department of Global Communications.

"We believe we have made important progress in this regard," she said, while thanking the delegates.

The Pakistani delegate also condemned the killing of Abu Aqleh, the Palestinian-American journalist, and called for an independent investigation into her death.

In her national capacity, she urged the international community to take urgent action to put an end to the Israeli occupation, which continues to fuel conflict, tension, and instability in the region and remains a matter of grave concern for the entire Muslim world.

"Durable peace in the Middle East can only be achieved through the two-state solution and the establishment of a viable, independent, and the contiguous State of Palestine, with the pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital."

Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division of the Department of Global Communications, welcomed the Committee's ability to reach consensus at a time of growing global challenges and rising tensions and divisions, particularly around the war in Ukraine.

Thanking delegations for their hard work and flexibility, he said the Department's work to build support for peace, justice, human rights, equality, climate action and a healthy environment is inspired by Member States' guidance and priorities.

"When these are reached by consensus, that represents the spirit of multilateralism."

Prior to approving its report, the Committee observed a moment of silence to honour journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, conveyed the sorrow of the Palestinian people at her passing.  He condemned the Israeli occupation for murdering the Palestinian media icon even as she was clearly dressed in a press jacket and called for accountability.

Outlining their views on the contents of the Committee's report, many delegates also referred to the death of Abu Aqleh - describing it as a "crushing blow to truth and justice" - and emphasizing that attacks on members of the press are wholly unacceptable.  Many called for an urgent, impartial and independent inquiry aimed at holding those responsible for her death to account.

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