Silenced and Misinformed: Freedom of Expression in Danger During COVID-19   [open pdf - 696KB]

From the Executive Summary: "The right to freedom of expression has been attacked globally in the context of the Covid-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic and thus increased the dangers posed by the public health crisis. The right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, is a human right which enables everyone to enjoy a range of other human rights, including the right to health. Freedom of expression is vitally important during complex public health crises like the Covid-19 pandemic, because a free flow of accurate, evidence-based and timely information increases awareness about health risks and how to prevent and deal with them. Open debate and scrutiny can ensure higher levels of trust in public health measures and help challenge misinformation and allow the necessary exchange of information to find effective ways of tackling the crisis. Freedom of expression is key to holding governments accountable for their policy responses to the health crisis. Indeed, the ability of everyone to engage in a debate about possible solutions and contribute to the response is a crucial element in overcoming the crisis itself. Winning the battle against the virus includes not just government-led actions, but also bottom-up approaches which can only come about if freedom of expression and access to information are enabled. As the World Health Organization puts it, to be able to successfully fight back Covid-19, states should 'inform, empower and listen to communities'. However, in the current Covid-19 context, governments have curtailed freedom of expression instead of encouraging it."

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