Pen America’s report documents the horrific impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on freedom of expression


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Guterres also pointed to how some governments have used the public health emergency as an excuse to mount brutal crackdowns. “By using the epidemic as an excuse, authorities in some countries have published strict security responses and emergency measures to crush dissent, criminalize basic freedoms, silence independent reporting, and restrict the activities of NGOs,” he wrote.

In more than a year since the outbreak began, there has been a growing body of evidence to support what the UN leader described as “shrinking” “civic space”. Human Rights Watch It has documented at least 83 governments around the world Which have used the epidemic “to justify violating the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly … and victims include journalists, activists, health care workers, political opposition groups and others who have criticized the government’s response to the Coronavirus.” The Committee to Protect Journalists found that in 2020, A record number of journalists have been imprisoned worldwideSome of them were reporting the epidemic.

The epidemic is the cause, in part. “The writers helped uncover facts and counter the lies in ways that have shaped the global public health response,” PEN America cites its “Freedom of Writing Index”, “Which was issued on Wednesday.” At the same time, the state of emergency provided a cover for crackdowns against human rights and the expansion of the government’s authority over speech and expression.

These campaigns have occurred on nearly every continent: “In Uganda, novelist and journalist Kakuenza Rokirappashaiga was detained and tortured in April, on charges allegedly related to COVID but apparently motivated by the authorities’ discontent with his writings, ”the report indicated. “In China, police officers used the pretext of a“ Coronavirus Prevention Examination ”to find and arrest article writer and activist Xu Zhiyong at the home of his lawyer, and put poet Li Bifeng in“ forced quarantine ”as a form of detention. The health law “related to the Coronavirus in November as a pretext to raid the headquarters of the San Isidro artistic movement, and arrested more than ten members of the movement.”

This is the second year that the organization has conducted what it describes as “counting” detained writers around the world. The pandemic has deepened the plight of those who have watched them, with many writers and dissident voices infected with the Coronavirus in prison. In June 2020, Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehhi may have died of coronavirus-related complications. “The book highlights the ways in which these governments have failed to adequately respond to the crisis,” said Summer Lopez, senior director of freedom of expression programs at PEN America. “The writers try to give insight into how things are different, which is why we’ve seen so many people being targeted.”

China topped the organization’s ranking of imprisoned writers, with a score of 81. Among them are at least 33 artists, academics, and other cultural figures in Xinjiang, the far western region that is the site of the government’s sweeping campaign against ethnic minorities, including the Uyghurs. “This number may be just the tip of the iceberg,” Karen Karlekar, lead author of the PEN America report, told Today’s WorldView, referring to Difficulty with accurate reporting in the regionMillions of people are alleged to have been stormed into concentration camps in recent years. “It’s such an information black hole.”

Karlikar also warned of the deteriorating situation in India, a neighbor of China, the site of “constant attacks on journalists, harassment of dissidents, left-wing intellectuals and people speaking in favor of minority rights.” India was the only recognized democracy in the top ten countries ranked by PEN America for its role in incarcerating intellectuals and public dissidents.

Belarus, which had no documented case in 2019, moved up to the ranking with 18 cases in 2020 – a reflection of the role played by many authors, celebrities and academics. I played in the weeks of protests Against the long-ruling President Alexander Lukashenko last year.

Myanmar had eight cases documented in 2020, including members of a satirical poetry band known as the Peacock Generation. But these numbers do not reflect those who were arrested in the aftermath of the February 1 coup launched by the country’s military, which issued arrest warrants for several outspoken writers and celebrities. “The situation in Myanmar wasn’t really good, but we expect Belarus to be in 2021,” Karlikar said.


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