IPI: COVID19 measures offer governments chance to restrict media freedom | DW Freedom | Speech. Expression. Media. | DW | 31.03.2020
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DW Freedom

IPI: COVID19 measures offer governments chance to restrict media freedom

So far there have been 46 attacks on the press related to the coverage of the coronavirus crisis, the new International Press Institute (IPI) monitor shows.

Bangladesh Journalist mit Schutzmaske (picture-alliance/Zumapress/R. H. Khan)

Journalist in Bangladesh protecting himself from the coronavirus

For a while now, the IPI has been  closely monitoring press freedom restrictions during this pandemic while advocating for the free flow of news and information, open dialogue and the exchange of vital information.

DW Freedom spoke to IPI’s deputy director Scott Griffen in Vienna, Austria. 

DW Freedom: How does your organization manage to gather credible, verified information about press freedom violations related to the OVID19 situation?

Scott Griffen: IPI’s strength lies in its global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists around the world. We constantly monitor media reports and check the veracity of news reports with our members or partner organizations before including those in our data.

DW Freedom: Which cases are currently the most surprising or frightening ones? 

Philippinischer Präsident Rodrigo Duterte (picture-alliance/Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division/K. N. Alonzo)

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines

Scott Griffen: The coronavirus pandemic offers an opportunity to authoritarian-minded governments to increase their level of control over news and information. These governments know that they can take advantage of emergency situations in which fundamental rights are already under pressure to push through agendas that are not related to combating the health emergency but to consolidating power far into the future. These countries, such as Hungary, the Philippines or Honduras to name just a view, are our biggest areas of concern at the moment.

We also know that measures adopted by any government, even well-meaning ones, in a state of emergency tend to outlive the emergency. Any restrictions on fundamental rights must be proportionate, necessary and targeted to solving the immediate health crisis.

Indien Kalkutta Lockdown Zeitungen (DW/P. M. Tiwari)

Newspaper distribution is currently on hold in many parts of India.

The pandemic also reinforces how valuable independent news and press freedom are for protecting public health. Press freedom is a crucial ally in this situation: it provides the public and authorities with vital information needed to combat the crisis, and builds trust in the public for decisions taken by the authorities. We will continue to gather information as long as the situation demands.