internet restriction

Enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions increase in Venezuela during pandemic

On 8th May 2020, civil society organisation Foro Penal reported that arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances increased in Venezuela since the beginning of COVID-19 containment measures in March 2020. Read more

Enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions increase in Venezuela during pandemic

COVID-19 used to curtail freedom of expression further

As in many parts of the world, in early 2020 Morocco adopted a state of health emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the state of emergency came restrictions on freedom of expression, including imprisonment and fines for anyone who contravenes the health emergency decree, incites others to contravene the decree through speech or threats uttered in a public space or in meetings, written or printed materials, photos, posters, audiovisual or electronic communications, or any other means. In addition, the publication and distribution of print newspapers was suspended during the pandemic. The Council of Government also approved Bill 22-20 which aims to censor expression on social media, in particular, criminalising calls to boycott commercial products. During the pandemic, 110 citizens were detained for legitimately expressing their views. Police also arrested 450 individuals for breaking the public health emergency law and 56 for publishing false information on COVID-19.
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COVID-19 used to curtail freedom of expression further

Countrywide protests to end police brutality in the United States met by militarised law enforcement

Massive protests erupted in cities across the United States following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer on 25th May 2020. A harrowing video filmed by witnesses shows the officer pressing his knee into the handcuffed man's neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” Outrage brimmed over, bringing hundreds of thousands to the streets to protest entrenched racism and the US’s long history of killings of Black and Brown people by law enforcement agents. Read more

Countrywide protests to end police brutality in the United States met by militarised law enforcement

COVID-19, a pretext to further suppress freedom of expression and association

Since April 2017, Egypt has been under a state of emergency. The state of emergency has been constantly extended since then, with the latest extension on 8th May 2020 where the new amendments were ratified. These amendments were introduced as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak under health emergencies. However, human rights groups in Egypt have raised concerns, as they fear these amendments exploit COVID-19 in order to undermine judicial independence, expand the Military Prosecution’s jurisdiction to investigate civilians and give the President the power to authorise the Military Prosecution to investigate crimes that violate the Emergency Law (Article 4). In a separate development, the family of exiled civil society activist and Deputy Director of HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, Mostafa Fouad, was continuously threatened. The arbitrary detention of journalists continued during the reporting period. In addition, a Guardian and New York Times reporter were censored by State Information Services for their reporting on the pandemic.

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COVID-19, a pretext to further suppress freedom of expression and association

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

Election period sees clampdown on freedoms; Outgoing president Nkurunziza dies suddenly

Ahead of the May 2020 elections,United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi launches an appeal to the international community to join forces to encourage the Burundian Government to reopen the democratic, civil and political space in the country; Opposition face hurdles and attacks ahead of elections; internet restrictions experienced on election day; while journalists and HRDs face prosecution for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression Read more  |  Read in French

Election period sees clampdown on freedoms; Outgoing president Nkurunziza dies suddenly

Oman: Artistic censorship and harassment of online activists continues

Rights groups call on the government of Oman to permanently lift the ban on all Voice Over IP (VoIP) platforms; CSOs criticise widespread censorship at the Muscat Bookfair; Government continues to restrict freedom of expression online by targeting broadcasters and human rights defenders for their posts on Twitter and other social media platforms. Read more

Oman: Artistic censorship and harassment of online activists continues

Cuba cracking down on dissent using internet regulation and COVID-19 pretence

Cuban news media, social movements and human rights organisations have denounced that the government has continued to crackdown on dissent, repress freedoms and silence critical voices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, there have been several reports of activists and journalists being detained or harassed, particularly through police citations, summons and interrogations. At least 30 people have been subjected to harassment from state actors under Decree 370, which has been used to supress freedom of expression in the country. Read more

Cuba cracking down on dissent using internet regulation and COVID-19 pretence

Denialism of COVID-19 pandemic and continuous threats to freedom of expression

The reporting period was marked by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, this was denied by the Tajikistani authorities despite the alarming increase in deaths of patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 throughout March and April 2020. Doctors faced harassment and intimidation as officials urged them not to refer patients for testing. The first cases of COVID-19 were only officially announced on 30th April 2020, when a World Health Organisation (WHO) delegation travelled to the country to investigate the health crisis. Attacks on freedom of expression continued with independent journalist Daler Sharipov sentenced to one year’s imprisonment on what is widely regarded as politically motivated charges. The blocking and disabling of websites, social media platforms and internet messages and the temporary blocking of internet access continued to be part of the authorities’ strategy to silence critical voices. By the end of April 2020, the websites of Asia Plus, Akhbor.com and Radio Ozodi were blocked.
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Denialism of COVID-19 pandemic and continuous threats to freedom of expression

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