The International Press Institute (IPI) has this week launched a new monitoring page to track attacks on journalists and restrictions on press freedom amid efforts to tackle the covid-19 pandemic.
The aim of the tracker, now active, will be to monitor press freedom violations in relation to the worldwide health emergency.
Ravi R. Prasad, Director of Advocacy at IPI said: “Independent news media provide vital information to the public and ensure open dialogue on the measures taken to combat the virus. Moreover, there is an acute risk that authoritarian-minded governments will use the current situation as a pretext to clamp down on press freedom far beyond the current crisis. We are therefore redoubling are commitment to monitoring press freedom violations, not despite the pandemic, but because of it.”
IPI has echoed calls by the Society of Editors for all countries to protect journalists and news and information during the covid-19 crisis. Today the organisation called on European leaders to protect the free flow of information and ensure that media freedom will be guaranteed as states strive to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.The statement expressed IPI’s profound concerns about the dangers of governments taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to punish independent and critical media and to introduce restrictions on the access of media to government decision making and action.
According to the monitoring service set up by IPI, press freedom attacks have already been recorded in a number of countries including India, Armenia, Albania, Kosovo, Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Egypt, China and Malaysia.
In China, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated, journalists from three US newspapers have been expelled from the country and citizen journalists are believed to have been detained following unfavourable coverage. Responding to the expulsion, the publishers of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post all published an open letter yesterday to the Chinese government critical of the decision to ban its reporters. The letter was printed in each of the rival newspapers’ Tuesday print editions.
Brazil has seen its President Jair Bolsonaro accuse the media of exaggerating the dangers of the coronavirus while Hungary is attempting to pass emergency legislation that could allow journalists and others to be jailed for spreading “false information” about the virus.