UN Accuses Asian Nations Of Censorship During COVID-19 Pandemic

The UN rights chief warned Wednesday that China and other Asian countries were using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to clamp down on free expression and tighten censorship.

In a statement, Michelle Bachelet expressed alarm over how censorship had been tightened in several countries, along with arbitrary arrests and detention of people who criticise their government’s response, or even who simply share information or views on the pandemic.

“Arrests for expressing discontent or allegedly spreading false information through the press and social media, have been reported in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam,” the statement said.

The UN High Commissioner said she recognised the need to restrict harmful disinformation to protect public health, or any incitement of hatred towards minority groups.

But she insisted that this should not result in purposeful or unintentional censorship.”

“While governments may have a legitimate interest in controlling the spread of misinformation in a volatile and sensitive context, this must be proportionate and protect freedom of expression,” Bachelet said.

“This crisis should not be used to restrict dissent or the free flow of information and debate,” she said.

– ‘Crucial debate’ –

Her statement listed problems in each of the Asian countries identified.

For China, the UN rights office said it had received information on “more than a dozen cases of medical professionals, academics and ordinary citizens who appear to have been detained, and in some instances charged, for publishing their views or other information on the situation related to COVID-19,” or for being critical of the government’s response to the crisis.

“These cases include two young graduate students who were reportedly detained in April after setting up an online repository of web content related to the COVID-19 outbreak in China,” it said.

 

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Shawn Solomon Elliot

Ukpiebo Solomon Elliot is a talented and well motivated Professional Associate Writer, Proofreader and Political scientist. He is a graduate of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Benin and also holds a Diploma in Desktop Publishing and Computer Science.

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