In times of extraordinary crisis, governments often take the opportunity to roll back on personal freedoms and media freedom. The public’s right to know can be severely reduced with little democratic process. Index has tracked this history, and has many examples published in our archive which covers the years 1972 to today. Index is already being alerted to attacks and violations against the media in the current coronavirus related crisis, as well as other alarming news pertaining to privacy and freedoms.
We have grave concerns about this and we know that once these freedoms are eroded they are hard to get back. We therefore see raising awareness of any attacks at this time as of paramount importance. We have already written about what happened in China in the early stages of the outbreak in relation to reporting there.
Our map reports on the detention or arrest of journalists and physical attacks. It also covers the introduction of new legislation or changes to existing laws that threaten to stop journalists from doing their jobs and social media restrictions that threaten the free reporting of information.
We also feature situations where governments have implemented laws to stop the spread of “fake news” – an idea that may sound sensible but sets up governments as the final arbiters of what is true and what is not.