Mariam Shaikh

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 26 (APP):Reaffirming its support to a UN initiative aimed at countering misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic by spreading fact-based information about the disease, Pakistan has called for broadening its scope to include other diseases such as polio and Hepatitis.

“We think that this effort may be continued in a much broader scope and should include, not only other diseases that come in the crossfire of misinformation, but also on clearing the misconception about getting vaccinated,” Mariam Shaikh, press counsellor at the Pakistan Mission to the UN, said during a discussion on the initiative.

Under the initiative called “Verified”, the UN urges people around the world to sign up to become “information volunteers” to share accurate content on COVID-19.
Described as “digital first responders”, the volunteers receive a daily feed of verified content optimized for social sharing with messaging that directly counters misinformation or fills an “information void” online.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who announced the initiative in May last year, said at the time: “We cannot cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate.”
“Misinformation spreads online, in messaging apps and person to person,” the UN chief said. “Its creators use savvy production and distribution methods.”

In her remarks, the Pakistani delegate said that battling misinformation still remains the biggest challenge to end the menace of diseases other than Covid-19, such as Polio and Hepatitis.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Ms Shaikh said, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran khan recently instructed the country’s telecoms regulator to take action against misinformation spread on social media discouraging polio vaccination and other diseases.
Pakistan, she said, remains committed and stands firm in combating the menace of false information.

“We look forward to contributing a constructive role in partnering with the department of Global Communication, which is leading the initiative, for the next phase which focuses on vaccine equity and vaccine components.”