We have grave concerns about the effects of emergency measures taken by governments in the fight against COVID-19 on the ability of independent media and journalists to do their job and the ensuing effects on people’s access to information.
We have seen arrests, attacks and intimidation of journalists reporting on the virus in their country or asking critical questions about the handling of the virus by their respective governments.
Measures criminalising the spread of fake/false information or panic about the virus are also of grave concern. While we understand the need to fight disinformation at this time, we fear for censorship of critical voices and essential information.
We believe journalism should be identified as a vital sector to create an enabling environment for journalists to take on their crucial role at this time to provide reliable information to the public. This is vital to address this health crisis. Journalists can ensure the voices and concerns of citizens are heard and media can play a critical role in educating the public on the virus.
Over the past few weeks, we have joined several advocacy calls and campaigns in which we express our concern and urge governments to refrain from (further) restricting press freedom. We have been in regular contact with policymakers at the Dutch, European and international level to share the above concerns and call for the recognition of journalism as a vital profession.
Here is an overview of the letters and statements we joined related to COVID-19 (link opens a new tab):
- Letter to social media and content-sharing platforms on COVID-19 Content Moderation Research
- Letter to European Commissioner Vera Jourova on the case of Blaz Zgaga from Slovenia
- Letter to the Council of Europe with 10 press freedom organisations. Read the Council of Europe’s response here
- Call on the Slovenian government by seven organisations to stop harassing an investigative journalist
- Statement by 54 rights organisations calling for a clear end date and oversight of emergency powers in Hungary
- Call to European Commission together with nine press freedom organisations
- Open letter about Hungary: the EU must not sit by idly while a Member State’s democracy is in jeopardy
- Statement Coalition to Make Whistleblowing Safe During COVID-19 and Beyond. Read the response by PACE here
- CPJ #Freethepress Campaign
- Petition No Quarantine for Democracy! By MEP Daniel Freund
Access to reliable information is vital to address this health crisis together. We encourage you to call on your own governments to refrain from restricting press freedom, and instead recognise journalism as a vital profession at this time.
Here are some resources that might offer some support in shaping your advocacy message (link opens a new tab):
- The joint statement of the Alliance for Multilateralism contains a strong paragraph on the need for governments to provide accessible, timely and reliable information and contains an extensive reference to the need for a balanced response by governments to disinformation.
- The Council of Europe toolkit for member states on respecting democracy, rule of law and human rights in the framework of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis
- The Declaration by the special rapporteurs on the need for access to information during the pandemic
- The media freedom tracker by IPI on restrictions to media freedom due to COVID-19
Get in touch
We’d love to hear from you about developments in your country, positive or negative, which we might be able to bring to the international level. Also, we would like to know if there’s anything we can do to support you in your advocacy efforts. Please get in touch with our Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Evelien Wijkstra (firstname.lastname@example.org) or join the Advocacy group on the knowledge sharing platform for partners of Free Press Unlimited.