surveillance

Critics detained for COVID-19 related remarks

Civic activists, opposition leaders and journalist under attack amid COVID-19 pandemic, Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli released from detention, Azeri activist detained for a Facebook post one day after release from psychiatric clinic , Azeri activist detained for demonstrating police brutality on social media, March for women rights ends with police violence, Student protest ends with arrests, Protesters, journalists beaten during protest in Baku, Civil society publishes report highlighting challenges faced by NGOs and issues recommendations, Read more

Critics detained for COVID-19 related remarks

Judicial harassment and arrests of activists continues unabated

On 9th April 2020, Ali Idrissa, national coordinator of the anti-corruption organisations Réseau des Organisations pour la Transparence et l'Analyse Budgétaire (ROTAB; Network of Organisations for Transparency and the Budgetary Analysis) and Publish What You Pay Niger was summoned by the judiciary police following a complaint by a former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. The latter accuses Ali Idrissa of defamation in relation to the case of alleged embezzlement and irregularities in the purchase of military material. Read more  |  Read in French

Judicial harassment and arrests of activists continues unabated

Journalists in Bangladesh face criminalisation amid the pandemic while critics are silenced

The Bangladesh government has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to ramp up its assault on civic freedoms. Journalists have been systematically targeted since March 2020 under the draconian Digital Security Act for their reporting on the pandemic and on other critical issues. There have also been reports of journalists allegedly being tortured or forcibly disappeared. Further, other critics who have been targeted include students, opposition activists, academics, cartoonists and writers. There has been failure to hold to account those involved in violations related to the 2018 student protests. Read more

Journalists in Bangladesh face criminalisation amid the pandemic while critics are silenced

Government uses the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to curtail civic freedoms

On 13th March 2020, a new right-wing coalition government was constituted, with Janez Janša being appointed as the new PM. Janša, who is the leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) is known for being one of the biggest allies of Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. In its first week the government took many concerning decisions regarding COVID-19. For instance, the Intervention Measures Act was introduced to provide support measures for different spheres in Slovenia. However there were unsuccessful attempts to pass articles which broaden police powers and surveillance. Freedom of expression also came under attack during the pandemic. For example, under the pretence of public health safety, the government’s press conferences were closed to the press. A compromise was later reached by journalist unions and the government. Critical journalists have also been harassed on social media and through SDS Party channels. Read more

Government uses the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to curtail civic freedoms

Government responds to COVID-19 and hurricane with denial, cover-ups and intimidation tactics

As coronavirus (COVID-19) spread across the world, the Turkmenistani government insisted that there were no registered cases of infections in the country, although independent sources reported such cases. Authorities detained and intimidated people who spoke out about COVID-19 related issues in public places and ordered the heads of medical facilities to suppress any discussion about the virus amongst their staff. Another example of the government policy of covering up crises in the country was seen in connection with a devastating hurricane which hit parts of Turkmenistan in late April 2020. State-controlled media largely ignored this natural disaster. Instead of assisting the victims, the authorities went after citizens believed to have shared photos and video clips of the havoc caused by the hurricane with relatives and others living abroad.
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Government responds to COVID-19 and hurricane with denial, cover-ups and intimidation tactics

Further attempts to curtail freedom of expression during COVID-19

As part of the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency measures, the Turkish government enacted strong general restrictions on assembly that especially relate to the work of CSOs. With a total ban on public gatherings, citizens have turned to online spaces for creative means of protest. During COVID-19 pandemic there was an increase in journalists being jailed on charges of “causing people to panic and publishing reports on coronavirus outside the knowledge of authorities”. Moreover, the Turkish government discriminated against journalists when it announced the release of approximately 90,000 prisoners in order to relieve overcrowded prisons during the pandemic, but excluded journalists, human rights defenders and all political prisoners. Read more

Further attempts to curtail freedom of expression during COVID-19

Targeting of LGBT+ people, anti-Chinese racism and privacy concerns in South Korea amid COVID-19

Surveillance guidelines were revised in March 2020 after the National Human Rights Commission criticised the detailed logs of patient travels and contacts were made public. There have been increased reports of homophobia and online harassment of the LGBT+ community after LGBT+ friendly nightclubs were linked to the spread of the coronavirus. Anti-Chinese racism has also increased. Read more

Targeting of LGBT+ people, anti-Chinese racism and privacy concerns in South Korea amid COVID-19

Continued concerns about privacy and freedoms in Australia, following civic space rating downgrade

The Australian government has continued to introduce bills that could undermine fundamental freedoms. These include the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2020 that expands counter-terrorism powers and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill 2020 which raises privacy concerns. Further, the coronavirus contact tracing app has raised human rights concerns while Australia’s press freedom ranking has dropped. Read more

Continued concerns about privacy and freedoms in Australia, following civic space rating downgrade

Social leaders and journalists at increased risk during COVID-19

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Colombia’s government declared a sanitary emergency and banned public gatherings on 12th March 2020. On 22nd March 2020, a new decree established a nationwide mandatory quarantine which was subsequently extended into May 2020. Despite the obligatory isolation measures, several protests have taken place since the beginning of the public emergency – often mobilised by people denouncing the lack of food, financial aid and access to medical services. Read more  |  Read in Spanish

Social leaders and journalists at increased risk during COVID-19

Violations of freedom of expression continue unabated during COVID-19 pandemic

Measures imposed to address coronavirus (COVID-19) in Palestine and the declaration of a state of emergency, which has now been extended to 5th June 2020, further targets digital rights. During the reporting period, Amnesty International issued a statement about the arbitrary detentions carried out by Fatah-led Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip of those who were critical about the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, several NGOs raised their concerns on the appointment of the former General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, Emi Palmor, to Facebook’s Oversight Board. Under her leadership there were several attempts to censor journalists and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) because their comments were considered ‘politically undesirable.’ Read more

  Violations of freedom of expression continue unabated during COVID-19 pandemic