COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker

Keep Civic Space Healthy

This tracker monitors government responses to the pandemic that affect civic freedoms and human rights, focusing on emergency laws. For information about our methodology, click here.

For more information and analysis by region, click here.

Country with entries

The COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker is a collaborative effort by the ICNL, ECNL, and our global network of partners, with generous research support from the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin. This is an ongoing effort, and we welcome you to email us at adeblock@icnl.org and simona@ecnl.org to share additional resources.


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Algeria

Crackdown on Opposition Activism during Pandemic

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Algerian government has arrested at least one prominent journalist, has lengthened the sentence of another on charges of "affronting national unity" and "affronting the morale of the army," and has issued summons for dozens of activists. Many of the summons and arrests are related to activists' posts on social media. According to critics, the government's actions amount to a crackdown on dissent, at a time when protests and marches remain prohibited on account of the virus. Although courts suspended some proceedings, they continued to process cases against anti-government activists. Additionally, while authorities granted amnesty to a number of prisoners to reduce prison population density and combat the spread of COVID-19, opposition activists were excluded from the amnesty. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 23 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Discrimination, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Bangladesh

Restrictions on Public Health Officials' Interactions with Media

The Directorate General of Nursing and Midwifery has ordered all of its officials and employees at government hospitals to not to hold public discussions, issue statements, or provide opinions to newspapers or other mass media without prior permission. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also ordered all health directorate officials to refrain from speaking in public or to the media without prior permission.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 17 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Bangladesh

Arrests for Criticizing Government Response to Pandemic

According to rights groups, in two weeks since mid-March, Bangladeshi authorities have arrested doctors, activists, and students for "spreading rumors" and "misinformation" on Facebook, after they published posts that were criticizal of the government’s response to COVID-19. Most of the arrests were based on the 2018 Digital Security Act. The Information Ministry announced that it had formed a unit under the Rapid Action Battalion, the country’s primary counterterrorism unit, to monitor social media and various television outlets for “rumors” about COVID-19 cases.  

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 31 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Militarization

Type: practice

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Belarus

Crackdown on Journalists

Several cases of crackdowns on journalists covering COVID-19 pandemic have been reported in Belarus, including the detention of Belarusian journalist Sergei Satsuk. Several foreign journalists were also stripped of their accreditation. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 1 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Bolivia

Supreme Decree 4200 (Criminalization of COVID-19-related Misinformation)

On March 25, Bolivian interim President Jeanine Añez signed a decree that, among other steps, criminalized the action of "misinform[ing] or caus[ing] uncertainty to the population" about the pandemic. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 25 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Cambodia

Law on National Management in the State of Emergency

The law provides the government with broad new powers during a state of emergency. These include: banning meetings and gatherings; restricting people from leaving their homes; mobilizing military forces; surveilling telecommunications "by any means"; banning or restricting news media that may harm "national security" or create confusion about the state of emergency; and other measures that are "suitable and necessary" to respond to the emergency. "Obstructing" the state's response to the emergency, or noncompliance with the response in a way that creates "public chaos," is punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a fine of up to 5 million riels ($1,200). Organizations found culpable of these offenses may be fined up to 1 billion riels ($247,000).

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 10 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Association, Assembly, Emergency, Surveillance, Press Freedom, Expression, Privacy, Access to Information, Movement, Militarization

Type: law

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Cambodia

Harsh Enforcement of COVID "Red Zones"

The authorities classified six communes and parts of four others in Phnom Penh as COVID-19 “red zones." Residents of these areas face restrictive lockdown measures, including a ban on leaving their homes except for specific medical reasons. Authorities have denied access to local and international groups looking to provide assistance to those unable to access food or other necessities due to the lockdown. Police have reportedly enforced the red zones using violence, including caning violators. The Ministry of Information issued a statement ordering journalists to halt reporting from "red zone" areas and the government threatened legal action against journalists for violating this order. The gathering cap was increased from 15 to 50 people through at least 28 October 2021.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 29 Apr 2021 Extended through at least 28 October 2021

Issue(s): Association, Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Movement

Type: order

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Chad

Decree No. 379/PR/2020

The decree announces a state of emergency in select provinces of Chad. The decree empowers local civil and military authorities to prohibit the movement of people and vehicles; to establish protection zones where people are "regulated"; to temporarily close performance halls, bars and meeting areas; to ban meetings "likely to provoke disturbances of public order"; to order nightly home searches; to collect all weapons; to take all measures to ensure control of the press and publications of all types of radio and television broadcasts; and to make arrests. Per the order, this expansion of local authorities' powers ends with the end of the state of emergency.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 26 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Emergency, Press Freedom, Expression, Privacy, Access to Information, Movement, Militarization

Type: order

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Colombia

Resolution No. 385 Declaring a Health Emergency

The resolution declares a "health emergency" throughout the country until May 30, on account of the coronavirus. Among other things, prohibits large public gatherings, and orders television and radio stations and all other mass media to disseminate information provided by the Health Ministry. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 12 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Egypt

Intimidation and Arrest of Healthcare Workers Discussing COVID-19 Crisis

Between the February outbreak of COVID-19 in Egypt and early July, Egypt arrested at least ten doctors and six journalists. Authorities have also instructed health workers not to discuss the health crisis with the press. The Supreme Council for Media Regulation issued a series of announcements, including on March 10, April 21, and June 16, each of which threatens legal action against journalists or media outlets who might depict negative aspects of the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 6 Jul 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Ethiopia

Regulation 466 to Implement the State of Emergency Proclamation No. 3/2020

The regulation prohibits meetings for religious, government, social, or political purposes in places of worship, public institutions, hotels, meeting halls or any other place. The regulation also prohibits regional or federal officials from giving statements to members of the press about COVID-19, without first obtaining permission from the federal committee or from sub-committees at regional level; exceptions are made for professional commentary on COVID-19 laws, professional medical explanations, or daily press briefings by the Ministry of Health. The regulation also prohibits disseminating information about COVID-19 and related issues that would cause "terror and undue distress among the public." The regulation requires public communication professionals and media outlets to ensure that information, analysis, or programs on COVID-19 are "without exaggeration, appropriate and not prone to cause panic and terror among the public." 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 20 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: regulation

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Ethiopia

Regulation No. 3 of 2020 on the Implementation of the State of Emergency Declaration

The Attorney General issued regulations to further define and implement the state of emergency. The regulations prohibit gatherings of more than four people. Under the regulations, spreading information that can cause public confusion or alarm is prohibited. The regulations also require all media professionals to report Covid-related news in a way that is neither exaggerated nor understated, and is not likely to create confusion or alarm. The regulations create a legal duty to report anyone suspected of contracting the virus to the police or Ministry of Health. Violations of these provisions are subject to penalty of up to three years in prison a fine of up to 200,000 Ethiopian Birr ($6,000).

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 8 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Privacy, Access to Information

Type: regulation

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Ghana

Police Brutality in Enforcing Lockdown

During the early stages of lockdown in Ghana, police reportedly used excessive force in enforcing quarantine measures. In one video, a police officer is seen kicking a man and hitting him with a cane, while he struggles to get away. In another incident, police officers reportedly whipped two people with vehicle fan belts and horsewhips, while denying a nearby journalist access to his camera to record the incident. By April 1, twenty-one complaints had been lodged against police for conduct during lockdown. The police have claimed that the videos are outdated or doctored, and urged the public to ignore them. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 1 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Access to Information, Movement

Type: practice

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Hungary

Law on Protection Against the Coronavirus

The law extends the government's emergency powers, and suspends elections during that time. Under the law, the government may effectively rule by decree, for an indefinite period of time, without being bound by current laws. The law also punishes anyone who “distorts” or publishes “false” information on the pandemic with five years in jail.

The law was withdrawn as of 18 June 2020, along with the termination of the "state of danger." (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 30 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Emergency, Press Freedom, Elections, Expression

Type: law

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India

Prior Approval Required for Publishing Information about Coronavirus

The Maharashtra government prohibits organizations or individuals from publicizing information about the coronavirus without ascertaining prior clearance from relevant government health authorities, in order to avoid spread of misinformation. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 24 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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India

The Assam COVID-19 Containment Regulations, 2020

This set of regulations include "geographic quarantine, social distancing measures, enhanced active surveillance, testing all suspected cases, isolation of cases, home quarantine of contacts, [and] social mobilization to follow preventive public health measures." The regulations indicate that house to house surveys are to be used for surveillance purposes. Those surveys involved daily house visits by supervisory officers. Individuals believed to be infected were required to isolate at home until examination by a Rapid Response Team. Surveillance teams reported their activities daily to a central authority. All non-essential services were shut down. Containment zones were established and restrictions were imposed on movement into and out of containment zones. The regulations also indicated that "rumors and myths are to be strictly controlled by the administration." 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 31 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Surveillance, Press Freedom, Expression, Privacy, Access to Information, Movement

Type: regulation

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India

COVID-19 Crackdown on Journalists

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, state and national governmental actors in India have cracked down on journalists' coverage of the pandemic, and have employed lockdown measures in a way that adversely impacts journalists' ability to cover the pandemic. When writing critical coverage of governmental responses to the pandemic, journalists have been refused curfew passes, arrested under charges of spreading false information when covering governmental responses to pandemic, charged with acting negligently to spread infectious disease, heavily interrogated or physically assaulted by police, and charged with disobedience under the Epidemic Diseases Act. In at least one instance, a journalist was held incommunicado for 72 hours before finally being taken before a judge and charged. In July 2021, two newspapers were raided by tax authorities in a move widely believed to be retailiation for coverage critical of the pandemic response.

At a state level, the Manipur government used sedition laws against critics of its handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Notable journalists and activists were detained under India's National Security Act in Manipur for social media posts about COVID-19 alleged to endanger "public order." 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 27 May 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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India

Assam Anti-Disinformation Campaign

The Government of Assam filed charges against a Bengali daily published from Silchar, for carrying a false news report about the state’s first COVID-19 patient. The case was brought against the reporter who filed the story and the publisher of the newspaper under Section 188 of IPC and provisions of Assam COVID-19 Regulation, 2020. Additionally, Assam DIPR has formed a five-member committee for monitoring and checking fake news in all forms of media. The committee includes officials from the information, health, police and disaster management departments. The committee surveilled social media accounts and created WhatsApp numbers for the purpose of tracking information circulating on Whatsapp. As of April 8, 52 cases had been registered for spreading rumours/uploading objectionable comments on social media and a total of 25 people had been arrested, while eight were detained and then released.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 8 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Surveillance, Press Freedom, Expression, Privacy, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Iran

Arrests for Spreading Coronavirus-Related Rumors

A spokesman for the armed forces stated on April 28 that 3,600 people in Iran have been arrested for spreading rumors regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Civil society groups and government agencies outside Iran, including the U.S. State Department, have criticized Tehran for persecuting journalists who reported on the epidemic without obtaining prior approval from the government, or who attempted to report on the real extent of the outbreak in Iran by contacting foreign officials for information. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 29 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Iran

Restricting Internet Access

For 24 hours after announcing that a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader had died as a result of the coronavirus, the government blocked access in Iran to the Farsi version of Wikipedia. A digital rights advocacy group has also reported widespread internet disruptions at night in certain parts of the country, including Qom, where the outbreak is believed to have originated. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 2 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Iraq

Arrest of Journalists and Protesters

At least 8 journalists were arrested in Iraqi Kurdistan while covering a protest by public school teachers and government employees who were demanding their salaries. Kurdish officials said that the journalists and 11 protesters were detained for violating the ban on mass gatherings, imposed due to COVID-19.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 21 May 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Iraq

Arrest of peaceful protesters and journalists

Kurdistan Regional Government authorities arrested dozens of protesters and at least eight journalists in mid-May under the pretext of enforcing COVID-19 prevention measures. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 19 May 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Iraq

Suspension of News Outlet License

Iraq has revoked Reuters news agency's reporting license for three months, after the agency reported that the number of new coronavirus cases in the country was in the thousands--much higher than official figures. In addition to temporarily revoking Reuters's licence, Iraq said it would impose a fine of about $21,000, and asked Reuters to issue an apology for a report that "put social security at risk."

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 3 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Jordan

Suspension of Newspapers

Within the framework of the National Defense Law, the Jordanian Council of Ministers suspends the printing and sale of paper newspapers, on grounds that they contribute to the spread of Covid-19.

وقف إصدار الصحف

في إطار قانون الدفاع الوطني، قرر مجلس الوزراء الأردني وقف طباعة وبيع الصحف الورقية بحجة أنها تساهم في انتشار فيروس كورونا لمستجد. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 17 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Jordan

Prior Approval Required Before Speaking to Press About COVID-19

The Jordanian Health Minister institutes a policy requiring that all hospital directors and Health Ministry officials obtain permission from the Ministry before speaking with members of the press. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 13 May 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: policy

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Kenya

Arrests under Cyber Crimes Act of 2018 for Spreading "False" News

Kenya's Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act of 2018, which includes clauses criminalizing "false information" and "publication of false information," has been used to make arrests and to charge persons sharing information related to the pandemic.  One man was arrested for publishing a tweet indicating that he had heard about an outbreak in east Africa. A student was arrested for tweeting that the government was deceiving the public regarding the pandemic. Other bloggers have also been arrested for spreading "false information." These arrests have come alongside a warning issued by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mutahi Kagwe, indicating that, "these rumours must stop... but because I know empty appeals will not work, we will proceed and arrest a number of them to prove our point."

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 22 Sep 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Laos

Order No. 06/PM on the Reinforcement of Measures for the Containment, Prevention, and Full Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Order imposes general restrictions on movement outside the home and on inter-regional travel. The Order prohibits public gatherings of more than 10 persons and "strictly prohibit[s] the advertisement of, release, forward of any fake news via any media platform that can cause misunderstanding, panic and create negative impact on society." An agency is tasked with surveillance responsibilities to that end. The Order also indicates that the military will be involved in the enforcement of lockdown measures. Updates on restrictions and extensions are available here

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 31 Mar 2020 Extended through 15 September 2021

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Surveillance, Press Freedom, Expression, Movement, Militarization

Type: law

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Lesotho

Declaration of COVID-19 State of Emergency Order 26 of 2020

The Prime Minister declares a national "state of emergency" and orders a nationwide lockdown, beginning March 30. All social gatherings are prohibited except for funerals where not more than 50 people are expected to attend. The decree also provides that members of the press must "refrain from publishing fake news." (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 18 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Emergency, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Movement

Type: order

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Liberia

Regulation of "Fake" News under Pretext of Addressing Pandemic

On April 29, Liberia's solicitor general announced that the government would shut down news outlets disseminating "fake news", providing Liberia's COVID-19 state of emergency law as justification.  At the same time, the government announed a shift in press pass policies, rendering journalists unable to cover the pandemic. The shift in press pass policies was accompanied by an announcement that constitutional rights to free movement, assembly, speech and press were being temporarily suspended.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 29 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: order

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Moldova

Parliamentary Decision on the Declaration of State of Emergency

The parliamentary decision declares a "state of emergency," under Article 66 of the Constitution, on account of the coronavirus. Among other things, the declaration provides for a prohibition on meetings, public demonstrations, and other mass events; coordination of mass media related to the crisis; and introduction of "special rules" for telecommunications during the crisis. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 17 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Emergency, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: law

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Moldova

The Audiovisual Council of the Republic of Moldova Provision No. 2

During the state of emergency, all audiovisual media providers under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova are required to present the official position of the competent public authorities (World Health Organization, Exceptional Situation Commission of the Republic of Moldova, the Government of the Republic of Moldova, and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection). All presenters, moderators, and editors must not express their own opinion on topics concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure "maximum accuracy and correctness." (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 24 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Moldova

Stigmatization of Journalists and Restrictions on Access to Information

Government officials have stigmatized journalists and media NGOs reporting on COVID-19 as agents of foreign influence. The Audiovisual Council also forbade talk show hosts from expressing their own views on the crisis or interviewing anyone other than the officials responsible for managing the country during the state of emergency. The government also restricted the access of journalists to online press briefings, threatened doctors with criminal prosecution for speaking with the press, and raised the deadline for resolving requests for access to information from 15 to 45 days.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 3 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: policy

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Mongolia

Law on Preventing and Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic and Mitigating its Socioeconomic Impact

The Law prohibits the dissemination of false information related to COVID-19 prevention and control and "the reduction of its negative socioeconomic impact." It also provides a specific article on the duties of the media. The article prohibits the media from disseminating “false information” on COVID-19 prevention and control and "the reduction of its negative impact on society and the economy" and obliges the media to obtain “true and objective information” from reliable sources.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 29 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom

Type: law

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Morocco

Suspension of Newspapers

The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports announces the suspension of the publication and distribution of print newspapers until further notice.

وقف إصدار الصحف

 ÙˆØ²ÙŠØ± الثقافة والشباب والرياضة يعلن وقف نشر وتوزيع الصحف المطبوعة حتى إشعار آخر.

 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 22 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Morocco

Arrests for Fake News

At least a dozen people were arrested on charges of spreading fake news related to the coronavirus pandemic by mid-March, including individuals that criticized the government's response to the coronavirus. At least one other was arrested in April, and at least one other was arrested in August.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 19 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Myanmar

Stay-at-home order in Yangon region (Order 107/2020)

The Ministry of Health and Sports issued a stay-at-home order (Order 107/2020) in Yangon region. The stay-at-home order bars residents from travelling between townships. Members of several professions may seek an exemption to the travel restrictions (including doctors, emergency workers, and police officers). However, journalists are not exempted and the restriction stops the work of drivers of newspaper delivery trucks. Rights groups said the restriction would make it more difficult for news organizations to cover Myanmar’s national election, which is scheduled for Nov. 8.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 21 Sep 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Movement

Type: order

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Myanmar

Media Blocked from Reporting on Vaccine Rollout in Rohingya IDP Camps

The police have reportedly prevented journalists from covering COVID-19 vaccination efforts in camps for internally displaced Rohingya.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 10 Sep 2021

Issue(s): Discrimination, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Myanmar

Arrests and Criminal Penalties for Exercising the Right to Freedom of Expression

Myanmar authorities have prosecuted several individuals, including human rights defenders and journalists, who have criticized the government response to Covid-19 or shared information on Covid-19. They were  held on numerous charges (spreading misinformation, defamation, sedition, "causing fear or alarm to the public") based on different provisions of the Myanmar's Penal Code, the Telecommunications Act, or the Natural Disaster Management Law.  

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 21 May 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Myanmar

Mass Censorship

Between March 19 and 31, 2020, the Ministry of Transport and Communications issued directives to major telecommunications companies in Myanmar under Section 77 of the Telecommunications Law, which allows the Ministry to take restrictive actions during "emergencies". The directives ordered telecommunications companies to block access to nearly 70 websites based on claims they spread "fake news" surrounding the pandemic. The blockages have received significant criticism from both domestic and international civil society organizations. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 31 Mar 2020 In early September, three websites were reopened.

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Nepal

Intimidation and Harassment of Journalists Reporting on COVID-19

There have been ongoing threats and attacks against journalists by government actors in Nepal for their reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic.  Police have detained reporters for the act of reporting during lockdown on multiple occasions. In at least some cases, the relevant reporters were covering the impact of the pandemic on Nepali society and the government’s handling thereof.  Public health workers have threatened a journalist for reporting on the smuggling of medical supplies. One reporter was beaten by soldiers for photographing a lockdown checkpoint.  A parliamentarian threatened a bureau chief for reporting that the parliamentarian’s wife had violated lockdown restrictions. Additionally, a leader of an opposition party was at one point phoned and threatened by a politician after reporting that the politician had not cooperated in quarantining someone suspected of carrying the virus. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 3 Jul 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Militarization

Type: practice

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Nepal

Closure of Online News Portals

The Press Council, an independent statutory authority, shut down 17 online news portals for allegedly publishing disinformation related to Covid-19. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 16 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Nicaragua

Repression of Press Freedom and Access to Information

The government has obstructed access to information requests from civil society and journalists for accurate information about the effects of and government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Civil society groups also report that the government has repressed criticism of the official pandemic response.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 28 Jun 2021

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Oman

Suspension of Newspapers and Ban on Gatherings

The Supreme Committee for Dealing with COVID-19 orders all newspapers, magazines, and other publications to cease printing, and prohibits the circulation and sale of imported newspapers, magazines, and publications as well. The order also bans gatherings of any kind in public places, and provides that violators will be sanctioned.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 22 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Pakistan

Use of Counter-terrorist Tactics to Track COVID-19

The Pakistani government has involved the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in tracking the spread of the coronavirus. Geo-fencing and phone-monitoring systems normally used to track militant non-state actors have been employed to monitor neighborhoods on lockdown and to listen in on conversations COVID-19 patients have with their contacts to assess whether contacts have shown symptoms. In June 2020, two Pakistani reporters were tortured by the Anti-Terrorism Force for covering a protest at a quarantine centre on the Afghan border. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 28 May 2020

Issue(s): Surveillance, Press Freedom, Privacy

Type: practice

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Palestine

Emergency Order No. 1 of 2020

The decision, issued by the Prime Minister pursuant to his emergency powers, among other things restricts individuals' movement among governorates; prohibits gatherings of people including meetings, workshops, conferences, and demonstrations; and closes educational facilities and houses of worship. The decision also prohibits officials from making "any statement" to the press without permission from the Prime Minister. The decision generally prohibits all individuals from "dealing with any rumors or untrustworthy information, and the transferring and broadcasting thereof," and indicates that individuals should obtain information "from official sources only." The Prime Minister's decision orders all national security forces to ensure the decision's implementation, while protecting individuals' rights and freedoms.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 6 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Movement, Militarization

Type: order

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Papua New Guinea

National Pandemic Act

The National Pandemic Act restricts they following rights in the face of public health emergencies: the liberty of persons, the freedom from arbitrary search and entry, the freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly and association, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of information, and the right to freedom of movement. The Act was explicitly passed as a non-emergency law, meaning that its provisions do not expire with the end of the COVID-19 emergency. The Act affords power to declare and to revoke a "Public Health Emergency" to the Head of State, "acting on advice." The Act enables the Head of State to appoint the Controller, who has the power to impose measures such as forced medical observations and domestic movement restrictions. The Act empowers the Head of State to involve the Defence Force in the Controller's activities.  This Act was passed quickly through the parliament without adequate consultation of civil society, and was met with significant opposition due to the risks that it poses to human rights and its failure to include certain Constitutional protections (such as limiting the potential duration of an emergency delcaration to two months). The Act was invoked in early August 2020, and then the declaration of a Public Health Emergency was revoked on September 3, 2020. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 16 Jun 2020

Issue(s): Association, Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Movement, Militarization

Type: law

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Papua New Guinea

State of Emergency

The State of Emergency was originally declared by the Prime Minister in a statement given on March 22, for period of 14 days. The declaration allowed the Commissioner of Police to "assume control" of the emergency situation and to call upon the military to "ensure lawful order, control and response to SOE control measures." The order indicated that during the 14-day period, there was to be no public transportation and no movement from one province to another. Workplaces and educational institutions were closed. The Prime Minister released a statement on March 23 with an additional State of Emergency provision that "spreading false rumors and organising public gatherings will be charged appropriately."

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 22 Mar 2020 Extended through 2 June 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Emergency, Press Freedom, Expression, Movement, Militarization

Type: order

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Philippines

Arrests for Spreading "Fake" News about COVID-19

As of April 6, at least 32 people have been arrested in the Philippines for spreading "fake" news about the coronavirus. The government of the Philippines has also established a website, which indicates that spreading false information "that may affect overall unified response to the COVID-19 pandemic" is a criminal act, and sharing a tipline and a Facebook page where community members can report "fake news and other cybercrimes."

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 9 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Romania

No. 195 on the Establishment of a State of Emergency in the Territory of Romania

The decree declares a "state of emergency" on account of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the decree, the following rights may be restricted during a state of emergency: freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, privacy, education, private property, and the right to strike. Additionally, the decree provides that the National Authority for Administrative and Regulatory Communications has powers to make "reasoned decisions" to censor online transmission of information related to COVID-19. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 16 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Emergency, Press Freedom, Expression, Privacy, Access to Information, Movement

Type: order

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Russia

Law No. 100-FZ Introducing Changes to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code

The amendments to Russia's Criminal Code establish new penalties for violations of quarantine orders, according to which an individual who violates the orders may be punished with fines or prison time--ranging from 40,000 rubles ($640) to up to 7 years in prison if the quarantine violation causes two or more deaths. The amendments also establish that public dissemination of false information that threatens the public health during an emergency is punishable by 3 years in prison, or up to 5 years if it leads to "grave consequences." (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 1 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Movement

Type: law

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Saudi Arabia

Arrests of Individuals Spreading "Fake News" about Pandemic

The Public Prosecutor of Saudi Arabia has arrested a number of individuals for spreading "fake news" about the pandemic. The Public Prosecutor also tweeted: “Receiving information from its official sources is a moral obligation and commitment, and a legal responsibility. Do not fall victim to malicious rumors and news from anonymous sources that violate the procedures and effort, and cause terror regarding the Coronavirus, in order to avoid strict criminal accountability in this regard.”

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 1 May 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Serbia

Decree Centralizing the Distribution of Information on the Coronavirus

The decree provided that the Crisis Headquarters led by the Prime Minister is the sole source of information about the pandemic, and that information from unauthorized sources must not be considered accurate or verified. The order also provided for legal consequences for spreading disinformation during the state of emergency. Following criticism of the decree and the arrest of at least one journalist for her reporting on the pandemic, the Prime Minister announced on April 2--less than one week after the decree's introduction--that it would be revoked. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 28 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Solomon Islands

Emergency Powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020

The regulations, issued under the Emergency Powers Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, grant the Prime Minister a range of powers, including the power to: (1) temporarily close public spaces or declare public spaces to be emergency zones and restrict the freedoms of movement and assembly in these emergency zones; (2) suspend access to media outlets and online media outlets if these are found to publish and/or disseminate false information that is likely to create public alarm or that constitutes a threat to public peace and safety; (3) suspend any trade union for any duration during the emergency period and deregister any trade union that contravenes an official government Order; and (4) terminate any public servant that publicly criticizes or contradicts the government or its policies. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 26 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Association, Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Movement

Type: regulation

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South Africa

Disaster Management Regulations of 2020

Among other things, the regulations criminalize making statements intended to deceive another person about any measure taken by the government to address COVID-19. The regulations also prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 18 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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South Africa

Electronic Communications, Postal and Telecommunications Directions

The regulations create numerous obligations for private actors: radio services are required to stream public announcements on COVID; internet providers are obliged to remove "fake news" from their platforms immediately after identifying it; and national address systems and databases must be made available to assist government in tracking and tracing individuals infected or exposed.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 26 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: regulation

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Sudan

Emergency Order No. 1 of 2020 Declaring a Public Health Emergency

The order declares a "state of public health emergency" in Sudan due to the coronavirus pandemic. The order criminalizes "disseminating incorrect statements or information, including rumors, through any means of publication or misleading the authorities regarding the pandemic." The order also criminalizes a failure to quarantine and interference with transportation of those suspected of being infected with COVID-19. The order criminalizes as well non-compliance with lockdown measures by "being present in public places" and failing to maintain social distance in several different contexts. Non-compliance with authorities requesting medical examinations is also criminalized. The order affords police the authority to close public places in violation of the order, to seize vehicles, to detain and arrest persons in violation, and to take "all necessary measures" to implement the order. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 12 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Emergency, Press Freedom, Expression, Privacy, Movement

Type: order

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Tanzania

Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2020

This set of regulations was signed in July by the Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports. The regulations apply to all content published online, whether on blogs, public accounts, messaging tools like WhatsApp, live streaming, or otherwise. The regulations prohibit citizens from publishing or sharing information on "the outbreak of a deadly or contagious disease in the country or elsewhere without the approval of the respective authorities," under penalty of a fine of more than US$2,000 and imprisonment of one year. The regulations also prohibit online calls for protests, including any "contents that are involved in planning, organizing, promoting and calling for demonstrations, marches or the like that would lead to public disorder." The regulations, issued just prior to elections in Tanzania, have been criticized as being in violation of Articles 13 and 18 of the Constitution.  

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 17 Jul 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: regulation

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Thailand

Declaration of a State of Emergency

The Prime Minister declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, asserting that the escalating protests by pro-democracy groups contravened the law and the constitution, undermined measures to curtail Covid-19, and harmed national security and public safety. The decree prohibits gatherings of more than five people in Bangkok and institutes a nationwide ban on publishing and broadcasting news that could incite fear. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 15 Oct 2020 Lifted on 10/22/2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: order

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Thailand

Order Issued under 2005 Decree on Administration in Emergency Situations

The ministerial decree among other things bars reporting or spreading of information regarding COVID-19 which is untrue and may cause public fear, as well as deliberate distortion of information which causes misunderstanding and hence affects peace and order or public morals. The decree empowers authorities to order journalists and media groups to correct reports deemed incorrect, and allows authorities to pursue charges against journalists under the Computer Crimes Act, which allows for five-year prison penalties for violations. The decree also bans all gatherings.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 25 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Thailand

Regulation No. 27 Issued under Section 9 of the Royal Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005)

The Regulation establishes a curfew for certain provinces, including the Bangkok metropolitan area, between 9:00pm and 4:00am. Gatherings of more than 5 persons are prohibited. The Regulation also "prohibits the spread or dissemination of news (whether by books, publications or any other media) that includes content which may: (i) incite fear among the public, or (ii) intentionally distort information to cause misunderstanding in emergency situations which affects the security of the state or the public's good morals across Thailand." Violators could face a fine of up to THB 40,000 and/or imprisonment up to 2 years.

Regulation No. 28 of 19 July 2021 further tightened movement restrictions in Bangkok and other areas with high COVID-19 rates.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 12 Jul 2021

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Movement

Type: regulation

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Thailand

Intimidation of Whistleblowers and Journalists

Whistleblowers and journalists have faced retaliatory lawsuits and intimidation by the Thai authorities after they reported alleged corruption related to hoarding and profiteering of surgical masks and medical supplies. Some medical staff were also threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out about shortages of essential supplies needed to treat Covid-19.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 19 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Tunisia

Arrests for Criticism of Government's COVID Response

Authorities have arrested journalists, bloggers, activists, and others after they criticized the government's response to the pandemic. Individuals who have criticized officials' failure to abide by COVID-19 safety measures, or officials' distribution of pandemic aid, have faced various charges under Tunisia's Penal Code, including “causing noises and disturbances to the public” (Article 316); “insulting a civil servant” (Article 125); and “accusing public officials of crimes related to their jobs without furnishing proof of guilt” (Article 128), among others. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 28 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Turkey

Censorship of Media Criticism

Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) has imposed administrative fines on media outlets after those outlets have presented coverage that was critical of the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government also jailed or detained broadcast and print journalists for criticizing the official pandemic response.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 14 Aug 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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United States

Banning Spread of False Information in Puerto Rico

The order by Puerto Rico's governor makes it illegal for media outlets or social media accounts “to transmit or allow the transmission” of “false information with the intention of creating confusion, panic, or public hysteria, with regards to any proclamation or executive order declaring an emergency, disaster or curfew.” (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 6 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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United States

Delays in Responses to Freedom of Information Requests

A press freedom organization has documented more than 130 instances of state and local officials citing the pandemic as a reason for delayed responses to freedom of information (FOIA) requests. Some state and local jurisdictions have indicated that they plan not to respond to FOIA requests until the end of the pandemic. These delays have adversely impacted coverage of the pandemic, among other issues, as journalists are unable to obtain public records and other government information. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 1 Oct 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Uzbekistan

Amendments to the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedural Code, and Code on Administrative Offenses

The amendments substantially increase liability for violation of medical and quarantine procedures, including criminal liability for distributing "false" information related to quarantine or infectious diseases, with more severe penalties for sharing such information in the media or internet -- up to a $10,000 fine and three years imprisonment. The amendments also introduce administrative fines for failure to use medical masks in public places while in a quarantine regime, amongst other provisions. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 26 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: law

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Vanuatu

State of Emergency Regulation Order No. 35 of 2020

The Regulation prohibits social gatherings of more than 5 people and "prohibits all media outlets to publish any articles on COVID-19, unless it has the respective authorization by the National Disaster Management Office after consultation with the Ministry of Health." Vanuatu had zero suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 when the Regulation went into force. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 26 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Press Freedom, Expression

Type: regulation

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Venezuela

Harassment of Individuals Who Question Coronavirus Statistics

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has detained or raided the homes of dozens of journalists, social activists, and opposition leaders for questioning the government’s coronavirus figures. As of early May, at least 10 journalists had been detained and more than two dozen threatened due to their reporting on the pandemic. Journalists have also been denied access to hospitals. In at least one case, a journalist was arrested and detained under the (false) claim that the journalist was infected with COVID-19.

 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 28 Jul 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Yemen

Decree 6 of 2020

The decree temporarily suspends production and distribution of paper copies of government and private newspapers, to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

قرار رقم 6 لسنة 2020

ينص القرار على وقف إصدار وتوزيع النسخ الورقية للصحف الحكومية والخاصة وذلك لمكافحة انتشار فيروس كورونا المستجد.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 25 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information

Type: order

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Zimbabwe

SI No. 83 of 2020 on Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order

The order imposes a national lockdown for 21 days and prohibits all public gatherings of more than 2 people, with very limited exceptions, on account of the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone who violates the lockdown can be punished with a Level 12 fine and one year's imprisonment. A person found further than 5km from his home may be arrested without a warrant and put in detention, isolation, or quarantine. Any person who publishes or communicates false news about any official involved with enforcing the national lockdown, or about any private individual with the effect of harming the state's enforcement of the lockdown, shall be liable to a penalty of up to a Level 14 fine or 20 years in prison or both.

SI 2020-110 Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 8) extends the national lockdown for an "indefinite" period subject to fortnightly review. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 30 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Press Freedom, Expression, Access to Information, Movement

Type: order

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