Report: Severe Violations Monitored Against Journalists amid Coronavirus Pandemic
STOCKHOLM_ Skyline International monitors severe government restrictions on press and media crews that obstructs their work in the outbreak of the new Coronavirus pandemic.
The Stockholm-based international organization says that the face of Coronavirus pandemic should not be a cover for violations of the right to freedom of free press work and the basic rights to spread information and express opinion.
Skyline International states that the authorities must ensure a commitment to transparency, an accurate flow of information, and adherence to international human rights principles, including freedom of the media during this tense time and concerns about public health due to the outbreak of the Corona pandemic.
The organization stresses that the risks of the Corona pandemic crisis are not only related to public health, but also threaten public freedoms and freedom of the press due to government practices taking place. It confirms that facing the pandemic requires enabling the media to convey the real image on the ground without restrictions.
Skyline states that it had documented several cases of arrests and detention of journalists, the suspension of others from work, and the suspension of a local and international media business license by government decisions that are not based on legal justification. This is because of their media coverage of developments in the pandemic in their countries.
On 9th April, the Jordanian authorities arrested the director-general of the local "Roya" channel, Faris Al-Sayegh, and the director of news and the presenter of the "Nabd Al Balad" program, Muhammad Al-Khaldi, for 14 days, because of an investigative report they broadcasted. The report talks about citizens working on daily wages, who complain that their work was affected by the precautionary measures from Coronavirus outbreak.
The report reviewed television interviews with citizens complaining about the economic situation due to the curfew in Jordan and their inability to secure a livelihood for their families, suggesting that they might resort to drug trafficking and theft if they were not allowed to work. The authorities considered it an offense on their efforts to control the crisis.
On the third of this month, the government media and communications authority in Iraq issued a decision to suspend the reporting license of Reuters news agency in the country for three months on the grounds of "breach of professionalism", after a report by the agency that talked about Iraq hiding the real numbers of people infected with the Coronavirus.
On the second of this month, three journalists were detained and interrogated in Algeria, due to a newspaper investigation into errors in the laboratory tests of Coronavirus at the Institute Pasteur Reference. The investigative judge charged the three journalists with accusations of harming national unity, presented brochures that would harm the national interest, and issued a decision to place them under judicial supervision.
The "Self-Administration" of North and East Syria operating under the authority of the "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF), also issued a decision on the 2nd of this month, to suspend the work of two journalists on the background of press coverage related to the Coronavirus.
In Tunisia, the correspondent of Radio Shams FM in the Tunisian city of Nabeul, Montaser Sassi, was arrested and interrogated for three hours in a security center for taking photos of the process of transporting a Tunisian businessman and his wife to the compulsory quarantine, after a judicial decision.
Skyline International strongly condemns the violations mentioned and considers it an explicit violation of freedom of the press, stressing that government restrictions on the media can limit the publication of information that helps stop the spread of the virus.
The organization stresses that, under international human rights law, the authorities in Arab countries are obligated to protect the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive, and publish all types of information, regardless of any limits.
It also refers that strengthening the efforts to combat the Corona pandemic requires commitment to transparency and the protection of freedom of press work. Adding to that, any restrictions on freedom of expression for public health reasons should not jeopardize this right.
Skyline International calls to end any restrictions on the work of journalists and release the detainees due to the coverage of the Coronavirus. It also calls for the authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression and access to the information within the limits permitted by international standards.