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Russia uses pandemic for crackdown on press freedom - Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

03.04.2020, 17:10
Photo creditr: Counil of Europe Twitter
Photo creditr: Counil of Europe Twitter

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović told to be concerned with Russia authorities and authorities of several other countries could use pandemic as pretext for crackdown on press freedom. “Regrettably some governments are using this imperative as a pretext to introduce disproportionate restrictions to press freedom”, she said.

“Journalists covering the pandemic in Hungary and the Russian Federation are facing a variety of sanctions, including the risk, under new laws, of prison terms of up to five years for spreading “false information”, while in Azerbaijan, recent amendments impose an obligation on owners of internet news outlets to prevent the dissemination of “harmful information” online".

She mentioned several countries where "“in the past weeks, parliaments, governments and local authorities have adopted legislation, decrees or decisions that clearly risk hampering the work of journalists and media actors and restricting the public’s right to receive information."

"In Romania, a decree allows the authorities to remove content and block websites where this content provides “false information” regarding the evolution of COVID-19 and prevention measures, without the possibility to appeal against the decision. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, decrees and legislative proposals aimed at punishing the circulation of information that can cause panic run the risk of limiting the work of journalists and freedom of expression on social media platforms. Finally, in Armenia, a number of newspapers and websites had to delete some information, following the adoption of strict rules prohibiting the publication of information of a medical and epidemiological nature about the virus outbreak which is not fully consistent with official sources.” Mijatovic added some countries reinforced punishment for journalists.

The world is facing unprecedented challenges during this pandemic. But "this cannot however be an excuse to clamp down on the press and thus restrict people’s access to information. Journalists and media actors carry out indispensable work that serves the public good. Their work must be protected, not undermined", she said.


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