Australia on Tuesday lashed out at Russia and China for spreading disinformation amid the COVID-19 pandemic and asserted that it would continue to push for reform of global bodies such as the World Health Organisation.
Delivering a speech at the Australian National University in Canberra, Foreign Minister Marise Payne underlined that the European commission last week issued a report which revealed that foreign actors and countries led by Russia and China, had carried out targeted disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining democratic debate and stoking confusion about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following day, she said, Twitter suspended over 32,00 accounts linked to state run propaganda operations in China, Turkey and Russia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Payne said, It was troubling that some countries are using the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine liberal democracy and promote their own, more authoritarian models.
She added, the disinformation contributes to a climate of divison and fear when what we need is understanding and cooperation.
The minister underlined that multilateral organisation such as WHO must serve as unimpeachable repositories of information that governments can rely upon to take decisions to protect their citizens. And they must serve as bulwarks against disinformation. Let's be clear disinformation during COVID-19 pandemic will cost lives.
Payne said there have been disinformation promoted and pushed around the COVID-19 pandemic and around some of the social pressures that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nothing that there had been intense scrutiny of performance of the WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said Australia would continue to support reform efforts in the UN and it's agencies to improve accountability, effectiveness and transparency.
In the wake of the global health crisis, Australia wants to see a stronger World Health Organisation tha is more transparent and independent..Frankly, there is no other institution that can marshal collective efforts to improve health security across the world, the minister said.
Australia has been calling for an independent investigation into the origin of the virus outbreak, which began in Wuhan before spreading around the globe.
She said, we have seen how world public health action or inaction can affect Australians at abroad and home. So there is a strong incentive for Australia to show leadership on making the World Health Organisation as effective as possible.
As many as 62 countries, last month backed the joint Australian and EU motion for an independent enquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak, ahead of a World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva.