Silenced and Misinformed: Freedom of Expression in Danger During COVID-19

Silhouette of immigrants against a border wall with US flagThe first amendment of the United States Constitution states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

According to a document recently published by Amnesty International, this freedom has been “attacked globally” since the start of the COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic. By their perspective, “some governments have used legislation and other measures to restrict human rights beyond what is permitted under international law.” Amnesty International argues that because of these restrictions, critical voices such as journalists and human rights activists are silenced, limiting the ability to share information. Furthermore, when widespread panic sets in, governments allegedly use that panic as a means to rush into legislation that does nothing to combat the threat of misinformation.

The document goes into detail about the negative consequences of COVID-19 related misinformation, such as false cures for the disease as well as false information regarding the effectiveness of masking. Concluding the report is a list of recommendations made by Amnesty International to States:

  • stop using the pandemic as an excuse to silence independent reporting, debate and scrutiny;
  • urgently lift all undue restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and guarantee the free flow
    of information as a key approach to protecting the right to health and enabling an inclusive recovery;
  • provide credible, reliable, accessible, objective and evidence-based information, by ensuring
    transparency, creating an enabling environment for independent, public interest journalism and
    independent civil society, and engaging diverse communities.

For more information, you can find the abstract for the document here. Also, be sure to check out HSDL’s Featured Topic on Pandemics and Epidemics. Please note an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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