UN chief meets NZ mosque victims, decries online hate

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) pauses after laying a floral tribute to the victims to the twin mosque attacks at the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch on May 14, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2019
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UN chief meets NZ mosque victims, decries online hate

  • Guterres warned hate speech was spreading online “like wildfire”
  • The UN chief said he also wanted to show his support for Christchurch’s Muslim community

CHRISTCHURCH: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned hate speech was spreading online “like wildfire” at a meeting with victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings Tuesday, vowing the world body will lead efforts to extinguish the problem.
Guterres visited the Al Noor mosque, one of two Muslim centers in the New Zealand city where a self-described white supremacist killed 51 people in a March 15 shooting that the attacker live-streamed on Facebook.
The UN chief is traveling the South Pacific to highlight the impact of climate change but said he also wanted to show his support for Christchurch’s Muslim community during Ramadan.
“I know there are no words to relieve the hurt and sorrow and pain, but I wanted to come here personally to transmit love, support and total and complete admiration,” he said.
He told victims of the worst mass shooting in modern New Zealand history that there had been “a dangerous upsurge in hatred” as social media was exploited to promote bigotry.
“Hate speech is spreading like wildfire in social media. We must extinguish it,” the Portuguese diplomat said.
“There is no room for hate speech — online or offline.”
He highlighted a previously announced plan for his special adviser on genocide prevention Adama Dieng to combat online extremism.
He said Dieng’s mission was to “bring together a United Nations team to scale up our response to hate speech and present a global plan of action.”
His remarks come as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who hosted Guterres when he arrived in Auckland on Sunday, embarks on her own quest to tame social media in Paris this week.
Ardern will co-host a meeting of world leaders and tech firms to promote a “Christchurch call” aimed at curbing online extremism.
She has been highly critical of social media giants in the wake of the Christchurch killings, saying they should be “taking ownership and responsibility over their platforms.”


Merkel suffers new trembling spell on eve of G20

Updated 27 June 2019
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Merkel suffers new trembling spell on eve of G20

  • The shaking went on for two minutes, according to a DPA photographer who was present at the event
  • Her previous bout of shaking last Tuesday had been blamed on dehydration on a hot summer’s day

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday suffered another episode of uncontrolled trembling, a week after a similar incident that sparked questions about her health.
The latest lapse came hours before Merkel was due to board a plane for the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
The German leader began to tremble as she stood next to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was giving a speech at a ceremony to formally appoint a new justice minister.
The shaking went on for two minutes, according to a DPA photographer who was present at the event.
Merkel folded her arms visibly in a bid to stop the trembling.
She only finally brought it under control once she was able to take a few steps.
She was offered a glass of water but turned it down.
Her previous bout of shaking last Tuesday had been blamed on dehydration on a hot summer’s day.
Despite the latest incident, a German government spokesman said Merkel would not be canceling any appointments on Thursday and Friday.
“The chancellor is well,” he said, adding that she will be flying as planned to Osaka for the G20 summit.
Merkel, frequently called the European Union’s most influential leader and the most powerful woman in the world, turns 65 next month.
She has said she will leave politics at the end of her term, in 2021.
There were brief concerns about her health in 2014 when she was taken ill during a television interview. The broadcast was briefly interrupted when she experienced a drop in blood pressure.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert explained at the time the leader did not feel well for a moment, then ate and drank something and continued the interview.