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New report from CIVICUS Monitor on increased restrictions to freedom of expression and attacks on critical voices during Covid-19 says companies should not facilitate censorship

'Freedom of expression and the Covid-19 pandemic: a snapshot of restrictions and attacks', May 2021

Over a year has passed since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. During 2020, the CIVICUS Monitor documented a range of restrictions on rights introduced by governments under the pretext of protecting people’s health and lives... This brief aims to provide an overview of the most common trends recorded under the pandemic so far that have negatively impacted on the right to the freedom of expression...

The CIVICUS Monitor identified the following trends:

  • The use of restrictive legislation to silence critical voices, including through the proposal, enactment and amendment of laws on the basis of curbing disinformation.
  • Censorship and restrictions on access to information, including through the suppression or imposition of content relating to COVID-19 and the suspension of media outlets due to their COVID-19 coverage.
  • Attacks on journalists over their reporting of the pandemic, including physical attacks, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention.

...

Recommendations to governments

  • Make sure that any legislation enacted, or measure implemented is necessary and proportional to the public health need...
  • Ensure that the freedom of expression is safeguarded... Private corporations must also not capitulate to censorship demands that are not in accordance with international human rights standards.
  • Maintain reliable and unfettered access to the internet and cease internet shutdowns...
  • Repeal any legislation that criminalises expressions based on vague concepts such as “fake news” or disinformation...
  • Protect HRDs and journalists and take steps to address impunity for violations against them...