UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Al Noor Mosque, one of the places of worship in New Zealand's southern city attacked by a self-confessed white supremacist on March 15.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres takes part in a joint press conference with New Zealand's prime minister during his visit to Government House in Auckland on May 12, 2019.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres takes part in a joint press conference with New Zealand's prime minister during his visit to Government House in Auckland on May 12, 2019. (Reuters)

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.

Guterres visited the Al Noor Mosque in the southern city of Christchurch, where a self-confessed white supremacist killed more than 40 people on March 15 in one of the terror attacks on two mosques that killed a total of 51 people.

The Australian shooter, who live-streamed the massacre, 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."

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

The UN 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. 

Source: Reuters