COVID-19 and freedom of expression: A global snapshot of restrictions

New research brief from the CIVICUS Monitor finds:

  • New censorship controls have been implemented during the pandemic
  • The pandemic has expanded the use of laws criminalising misinformation - new or amended measures in over 35 countries
  • Journalists detained in over 30 countries for their reporting on the pandemic

Over a year has passed since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. During this period, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented ongoing and unjustifiable restrictions to civic freedoms. The latest research brief focuses on the state of freedom of expression and violations committed as a direct response to the pandemic.

The research covers the period from January 2020 to February 2021 and highlights where governments are using COVID-19 as a pretext to censor the media and silence dissent. In some countries, governments have passed laws and regulations which impose undue restrictions on press freedom and access to information.

Censorship and the detention of journalists are some of the violations covered in the research brief. From Tanzania to Turkmenistan, governments have banned and blocked media for their COVID-19 related coverage. While in Chile and China, governments have put journalists in jail for their reporting on the pandemic.

The research brief how of journalists, media workers and civil society organisations have been the target of government overreach and provides over 60 country case studies that illustrate three trends:

  • The use of restrictive legislation to silence critical voices, including the use of misinformation legislation
  • Censorship and restrictions on access to information, including the suspension of media outlets due to their COVID-19 coverage
  • Attacks on journalists over their reporting of the pandemic, including physical attacks and arrests

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