COVID-19: Govts “must promote free flow of information” during pandemic

In light of the growing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all the governments have been urged to robustly implement their freedom of information laws to ensure that all individuals, especially journalists, have access to information.

The monitors for freedom of expression and freedom of the media for the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issued a joint statement in this regard.

The experts are David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and Edison Lanza, IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

“We share the grave concern of people everywhere in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a moment of such gravity, we fully understand and support the efforts of public health professionals and governments to develop and implement strategies to protect human health and human life. The fundamental and non-derogable right to life is at stake, and governments are obligated to ensure its protection," the statement reads.

It said the human health depends not only on readily accessible health care, it also depends on access to accurate information about the nature of the threats and the means to protect oneself, one’s family, and one’s community.

"The right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, through any media, applies to everyone, everywhere, and may only be subject to narrow restrictions."

They said it is essential that governments provide truthful information about the nature of the threat posed by the coronavirus, according to the statement issued from Geneva on Thursday.

"Governments everywhere are obligated under human rights law to provide reliable information in accessible formats to all, with particular focus on ensuring access to information by those with limited internet access or where disability makes access challenging."

The experts closed by thanking all the medical and health care professionals putting themselves at the frontline of treating the unwell.

Source: United News of Bangladesh