Antonio Guterres

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres aims to draw up a global plan to fight a rising tide of hate speech, he said on Tuesday, during a visit to a New Zealand mosque where dozens of worshippers were killed in a mass shooting in March.

Antonio Guterres visited the Al Noor Mosque in the southern city of Christchurch, where a gunman killed more than 40 people on March 15 in one of the attacks on two mosques that killed a total of 51 people.

An Australian man, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder over the attacks.

“Hate speech is spreading and public discourse is being coarsened,” Guterres said in a speech outside the mosque.

“Social media is being exploited as a platform for bigotry. We must all show solidarity in response to this dangerous upsurge in hatred.”

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Guterres has asked the United Nations’ special adviser for the prevention of genocide to form a team to develop a global plan of action against hate speech, he added.

The U.N. chief’s visit to the island nation came as its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern prepared to co-host a meeting in France for global support to combat online expression of violence.

Guterres usually makes a “visit of solidarity” to a Muslim nation during the annual holy month of Ramadan, which began on May 5, but decided to visit New Zealand in light of the shootings, he added.

After his three-day New Zealand visit, Guterres will meet Pacific leaders in Fiji to discuss climate change on Wednesday and visit the low-lying island nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu, which are among the first to feel the impact of global warming.

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