Ambassador Chris Lu
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, New York
April 25, 2023
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and congratulations on your election to oversee the Committee on Information. Let me also thank Under Secretary-General Fleming for your leadership of the Department of Global Communications.
Now more than ever, we need to safeguard the free flow of information, given the proliferation of misinformation, disinformation, and government-imposed shutdowns of the Internet. The work of DGC is essential to providing the international community with accurate information, whether it’s about COVID, climate change, or the war in Ukraine.
We are pleased by the progress of DGC in growing the audience for its informational products. We encourage DGC to continue evolving its offerings to reach people around the world – especially young people and people in countries without a free press – through non-traditional news offerings on a variety of media platforms. We also encourage DGC to do more to aggressively increase the traffic to its non-English websites.
At the same time, we, as an international community, must continue to call out those countries and individuals spreading disinformation and blocking access to information. In Mali and in the Central African Republic, disinformation has undermined local trust in the UN and threatened peacekeeper safety and security.
With regard to the war in Ukraine, disinformation has been used by Russia, even in this room today – just now – to deflect attention from its brutal assault on the Ukrainian people, to diminish international support for Ukraine, and to justify its unjustifiable war.
Maria Zakharova’s comments before the committee are an insult and an affront to all people who yearn for freedom in a peaceful society. I will not respond point by point to her stream of propaganda.
But let me be clear: the Kremlin uses every opportunity to silence its critics, regularly targeting not just journalists, but also opposition politicians, and others for exercising their freedom of expression and working to shed light on what is happening in Ukraine. To that end, the United States condemns the wrongful detention of American journalist Evan Gershkovich and call for his immediate release. We also reject the unfounded claims that have been made about him today, and we call for the release of Paul Whelan and all those wrongfully detained in Russia.
Let me also respond to Ms. Zakharova’s allegations related to the Russian delegation not receiving visas in a timely manner. The United States takes seriously its obligations as host country of the UN under the UN Headquarters Agreement. We reject claims by Russian officials that suggest otherwise.
For this trip alone, we issued nearly 100 visas for Russian nationals, including a number of journalists. Russia’s complaints, of course, are ironic and hypocritical, given their ongoing repression of independent media and freedom of the press that has led to an exodus – not only of foreign journalists – but also Russian journalists and entire media outlets.
In refuting the criticisms that were made by the Latvian Permanent Representative, Ms. Zakharova noted that Latvia is ranked 22nd in the 2022 index of press freedoms by Reporters Without Borders. It is worth noting – in that exact same ranking – Russia ranks 155th. One hundred fifty-fifth out of 180 countries.
Finally, the free flow of information is also jeopardized by government-imposed Internet shutdowns. When the people of Iran – led by women and young people – rose up in protest last summer, the U.S. helped the Iranian people exercise their right to freedom of expression and freely access information via the Internet.
We look forward to the next two weeks of committee meetings and stand committed to work with other member states to strengthen the free flow of objective and accurate information, and all of the work of the Department of Global Communications. Thank you.