Human Rights Commission launches campaign targeting COVID-19 hostility

Human Rights Commission launches campaign targeting COVID-19 hostility

December 13, 2021

The Human Rights Commission’s new Dial if Down campaign aims to dial down the hostility around COVID-19 and keep the kōrero flowing. The campaign is a reminder that we’re in a better position to support a public health response if we can keep the channels of communication open. 

Across Aotearoa -- in person and online -- anger, tension and hostility around COVID-19 is high. Whether the aggressions are between strangers, colleagues or whānau, the rhetoric is dividing us. People may have been separated by geographical borders but they’re also increasingly parted by viewpoints.

Dial it Down recognises that we all have a right to freedom of opinion and expression, but that entrenched, polarised views are a danger to society and to people. Encouraging us to consider our netiquette and “Take a break from the heat”, the campaign reminds people to “comment with dignity” and “be nice”.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon is asking New Zealanders to dial down the heat a notch and keep conversations civil, whether online or in person. Mr Foon says judgement should be dialled down and respect dialled up.

"It’s okay to be passionate about topics like Covid, but it’s not okay to personally attack people. You may feel like you are banging your head against the wall because of an argument, but keep in mind that you have more in common with the person on the other side of the discussion than you have differences."  

Asking whether you’d say the same thing in person when commenting on social media; acknowledging that you have more in common than not; and staying passionate without getting personal; are all tips being promoted by the campaign to dial down the anger a notch.  

"We're hoping to remind people that it's okay to have disagreements but that your words have power. Try to show empathy. Focus on having a conversation with someone rather than getting into conflict with them," says the Race Relations Commissioner.  

The Commissioner points out that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He says social cohesion builds on that by creating a climate where everyone feels a sense of belonging.  

“This means people have access to the best opportunities, have their voices heard, and live in communities that are safe and free from discrimination. Unfortunately, we're seeing a rise in anger directed towards each other. We all need to work together to create conditions that make social inclusion a reality."  

Dial it Down comes in response to hundreds of complaints related to COVID-19 flowing into the Human Rights Commission from across the country, many of which are about being on the receiving end of divisive, derogatory and damaging sentiments.

Kiwis are encouraged to take part of Dial it Down this summer by sharing social media content. Resources for sharing are available on the campaign website www.dialitdown.co.nz, or share directly from the Human Rights Commission Twitter and Facebook accounts.