Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee on Questions Related to Information

Elijah Waterman
Counselor for Public Affairs
New York, New York
October 21, 2022


Mr. Chair, Representatives of the Under-Secretary General, and Distinguished delegates.

I want to thank Under Secretary and the Department of Global Communications for the reports submitted to the Committee on Information – and for their work to keep committee members informed through regular updates and exchanges.

The work of the Department of Global Communications has never been more important, nor more challenging than it is today, and we applaud the Department’s efforts to improve the UN’s strategic communications and to remain a credible source of accurate information that can counter the spread of disinformation.

Disinformation undermines the free exchange of accurate information and the ideas that underpin political discourse and representative government. It stifles the freedom of expression that is a bedrock of democracy and all governments by and for the people.

We see this dynamic in Russia, where the Kremlin has intensified its repression of independent civil society, media, and political opposition, including through the adoption of military censorship laws intended to silence those speaking the truth.

Russia is also of course using disinformation in its war against Ukraine. From debunked claims of bioweapons facilities to deflecting responsibility for the mass graves in Bucha, Izyum, and other cities. But the world knows the truth of Russia’s actions and atrocities. We remind the Department and my fellow delegates of the disinformation and lies Russia used at the start of its unprovoked war against Ukraine. Despite all the evidence we could see with our own eyes, Russia told us – again and again – that it was not going to invade Ukraine, that it was engaged in war games, that it was interested in diplomacy. And yet, here we are.

Unfortunately, Russia has continued to use the UN as a platform to lend credibility to its disinformation, spreading lies in the Security Council and the General Assembly. We know that Russia’s continued disinformation is a sign of its desperation, and we will continue to ensure the world sees it and hears it.

And so, we urge the entire UN system to be consistent in all UN documents, whether resolutions, reports, or policy papers, to ensure Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is referred to in an accurate manner consistent with the language used by the Secretary General and in resolutions adopted – overwhelmingly – by the General Assembly. The world is not falling for Russia’s tricks, and its behavior In Ukraine is abhorrent, as is its behavior in this important institution, where we should be working together to solve the world’s problems and challenges.

However, misinformation and disinformation is not confined to Russia’s activities in Ukraine. We also remain concerned at the spread of misinformation and disinformation in conflict areas, which put UN peacekeeper safety and security at risk, erodes public trust in UN peacekeeping missions, and obstructs missions’ efforts to implement their mandates. We hope that all UN Member States will join us in strongly condemning all actors that spread misinformation and disinformation or incite violence against UN peacekeepers.

And in Iran, we are deeply concerned by the regime’s stifling of the Iranian people’s freedom of expression. The Iranian government has cut off access to the Internet for most of its 80 million citizens to prevent them – and the world – from watching its violent crackdown on peaceful protestors. It is clear from these actions, that the Iranian government is afraid of its own people. Mahsa Amini is senselessly, tragically dead, and now the government is violently suppressing peaceful protesters rightfully angry about not only her death, but the long history of government repression and abuse her death represents.

We welcome the efforts of the DGC and all delegations who have worked diligently to protect the freedom of expression and to counter the spread of misinformation and disinformation. We must continue to work together to defend the UN Charter by speaking out whenever disinformation is used to manipulate the truth in this institution or around the world.

Thank you.