By Andrew Firmin and Inés Pousadela
The pattern is now clear. In country after country, those who seek to limit rights attack civil society. Alongside tactics such as censorship and misuse of the criminal justice system, a weapon in growing favour is smearing and vilification.
Smears, of organisations and activists, erode crucial public trust in civil society, positioning civil society as enemies. They normalise and prepare the ground for further attacks. Those levelling smears include government leaders who want to limit accountability over their power, populist politicians who seek office and influence, and ultra-conservative anti-rights groups. Civil society may be smeared as an unpatriotic agent of foreign interests, importer of inappropriate values, partisan partner of political opposition, or enemy of economic development. Many smears are rooted in a right-wing worldview shaped by aggressive nationalism and toxic masculinity, meaning that they disproportionately attack women and anyone else seen as different, including LGBTQI+ people and ethnic and religious minorities.
Read more: Alliance Magazine