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.

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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 epage@icnl.org and simona@ecnl.org to share additional resources.


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Algeria

Law 20-06 Amending the Penal Code

The amendments increase prison sentences for defamation, and introduce new penalties including prison sentences for the dissemination of false information. Under the amendments, new offenders face prison sentences of between one and three years. In addition, penalties are heightened if the offence takes place “at a time of a public health lockdown or a natural, biological or technological catastrophe or any other form of catastrophe,” with first time offenders facing up to five years in prison.

قانون رقم 20-06 بشأن تعديل قانون العقوبات

 تشدد التعديلات عقوبة السجن بتهمة التشهير، وتستحدث عقوبات جديدة تشمل السجن لنشر معلومات كاذبة. بموجب التعديلات، يواجه مرتكب الأفعال المجرمة عقوبة السجن لمدة تتراوح بين سنة وثلاث سنوات. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، تشدد العقوبات إذا وقعت الجريمة "في وقت يخضع لقيود تتعلق بالصحة العامة أو عند حدوث كارثة طبيعية أو بيولوجية أو تكنولوجية أو أي شكل آخر من الكوارث"، ويُعاقب الذين يرتكبون هذه الجرائم للمرة الأولى بالسجن لمدة تصل إلى خمس سنوات.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 29 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: law

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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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Argentina

"Cyber Patrols" of Social Media by the Ministry of Security

The Security Minister, Sabina Frederic, stated in a video conference that security forces are carrying out "cyber patrols" on social networks. In an effort to monitor "social humor" and curb misinformation about the coronavirus, the cyber patrols have resulted in at least 12 criminal cases against individuals accused of "public intimidation," a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 8 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Surveillance, Expression, Privacy

Type: practice

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Armenia

No. 298-N Declaring a State of Emergency

The decree declares a "state of emergency" to respond to the novel coronavirus, and provides for the suspension of certain constitutional rights and freedoms, including freedom of movement and freedom of peaceful assembly. The decree prohibits public gatherings of more than 20 persons. The decree also provides that any dissemination of information, including online, that refers to the coronavirus or activities carried out by health authorities, may only refer to information provided by a special emergency office under the Prime Minister of Armenia.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 16 Mar 2020

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

Type: order

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Azerbaijan

Amendments to the Law on Information

The amendments prohibit the publication online of "false information threatening to cause damage to human life and health… or other socially dangerous consequences."

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 17 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: law

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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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Bolivia

Supreme Decree No. 4200

The decree extends the nationwide lockdown and stipulates additional measures. The Decree prohibits gatherings, and allows one person per residence at a time to leave to acquire essential items. Persons are allowed to leave their residence only during prescribed days and times, as determined by the last digit of their ID number. The Decree also establishes penalities for persons who incite non-compliance, misinform, or cause uncertainty among the population. Violators will be subject to criminal charges for crimes against public health, and can face one to ten years in prison if convicted.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 26 Mar 2020

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

Type: order

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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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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Decree on False News

The government of the Republika Srpska issued a decree that forbids causing “panic and disorder” by publishing or transmitting false news during a state of emergency. Individuals found in violation of the decree will be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 Bosnian marks (approximately 500-1,500 Euros). Organizations face a fine of between 3,000 and 9,000 marks (1,500-4,500 Euros).

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 19 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: order

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Botswana

SI 61 of 2020, Emergency Powers (Covid 19) Regulations

The regulations declare a nationwide lockdown and curfew from 8pm to 8am. Violations are punishable by a fine and up to six months' imprisonment. The regulations prohibit gatherings of more than 2 persons, and close all schools and churches. Persons are prohibited from relaying any information to the public about COVID-19 from a source other than the Director of Health Services and the WHO. Persons are also prohibited from publishing any statement with the intention to deceive any other person about COVID-19. Violators face a fine of up to 100,000 Pula ($8,100), imprisonment for up to five years, or both.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 2 Apr 2020

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

Type: regulation

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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

Arrests and Criminal Penalties for "Fake News"

According to police spokespeople, more than 40 people have been arrested for spreading coronavirus-related "fake news." A number of those arrested are affiliated with the dissolved opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 16 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: practice

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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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China

Opinions on Strictly Punishing Violations and Crimes that Obstruct the Control of the Coronavirus Epidemic

The Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Justice jointly issued COVID-19 judicial opinions to clarify standards in the application provisions of PRC's criminal law. According to the opinions, the commission of certain crimes during the period of epidemic prevention and control may be subject to heavier punishment. Notably, the opinions call to "strictly punish crimes of fabricating or spreading rumors in accordance with law," and criminalize a variety of types of dissemination of "false" information on information networks. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 10 Feb 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: order

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China

Secret Detention of Opposition Figures under Pretext of Quarantine

According to rights activists, the Chinese government has detained opposition figures upon being released from prison, under the pretext of quarantining them. "Quarantines" in this context involve detention without families' knowledge, and deprivation of individuals' ability to communicate with the outside world while they are held in secret locations. On one occasion, a woman was held in "quarantine" in a windowless room for more than a month, even though she had been tested and quarantined before her release from prison. On another occasion, a human rights defender was detained in the midst of standard day-to-day activities, interrogated, and "quarantined" in a hotel 500 miles away. Local officials have suggested these types of detentions go even beyond emergency powers granted to the Chinese government under the national emergency law. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 30 Jul 2020

Issue(s): Expression, Movement

Type: practice

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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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Egypt

Supreme Council for Media Regulation Limits Access to Online News

The Supreme Council for Media Regulation has blocked or limited access to dozens of news websites and social media accounts for allegedly spreading false information about the coronavirus. The SCMR has not made public the targets of the blocking nor the allegedly false information.

المجلس الأعلى لتنظيم الإعلام يقيد الوصول إلى الأخبار على شبكة الإنترنت

 قام المجلس الأعلى لتنظيم الإعلام بحظر أو تقييد الوصول إلى عشرات المواقع الإخبارية وحسابات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي بحجة ضلوعها في نشر معلومات كاذبة حول فيروس كورونا المستجد. لم يقم المجلس الأعلى لتنظيم الإعلام بنشر أهداف الحظر ولا المعلومات الكاذبة المزعومة.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 3 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

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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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, physically assaulted by police, and charged with disobedience under the Epidemic Diseases Act.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 3 Aug 2020

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

Type: practice

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India

Arrest of Protesters and Activists

Over a matter of weeks, nearly a dozen prominent activists and potentially dozens of other demonstrators were detained while coronavirus restrictions blocked prisoners' ability to file bail applications and to meet with attorneys. Although the arrests mirrored practices that preceded the virus, the fact that the arrests were conducted during lockdown meant that activists were unable to quickly file responses to charges that human rights groups assert were brought on limited evidence. The arrests have had the effect of controlling dissenters' ability to protest social and political issues.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 19 Jul 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Expression

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.

اعتقال الصحفيين والمتظاهرين

 تم اعتقال ما لا يقل عن 8 صحفيين في كردستان العراق أثناء تغطيتهم لاحتجاج من قبل معلمي المدارس الحكومية وموظفي الحكومة الذين كانوا يطالبون برواتبهم. قال مسؤولون أكراد أن الصحفيين و 11 متظاهراً اعتُقلوا لانتهاكهم الحظر المفروض على التجمعات العامة؛ الذي تم فرضه بسبب فيروس كورونا المستجد (كوفيد-19).

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 21 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."

إلغاء ترخيص وسيلة إخبارية

 ألغى العراق ترخيص وكالة أنباء رويترز لمدة ثلاثة أشهر، بعد أن أفادت الوكالة أن عدد حالات الإصابة بفيروس كورونا المستجد في البلاد كان بالآلاف – وهو أعلى بكثير من الأرقام الرسمية. بالإضافة الى إلغاء ترخيص رويترز مؤقتاً، قال العراق أنه سيفرض على وكالة رويترز غرامة قدرها حوالي 21 ألف دولار أمريكي؛ وطلب من رويترز نشر اعتذار عن تقرير "يعرض الأمن الاجتماعي للخطر".

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 3 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Press Freedom, Expression

Type: practice

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Jordan

State of Emergency

The decree declares a "state of emergency" under Art. 124 of Jordan's Constitution, on account of the coronavirus pandemic, and activates emergency provisions of Defense Law 13 of 1992. According to the decree and the Defense Law, the Prime Minister is charged with enacting measures to respond to the emergency. He has authority to suspend certain individual rights, including freedom of movement and expression.

إرادة ملكية بتفعيل العمل بقانون الدفاع بسبب حالة الطوارئ الصحية

 قرار ينص على إعلان العمل بقانون الدفاع بموجب المادة 124 من الدستور الأردني بسبب جائحة فيروس كورونا المستجد، وينطوي على تفعيل أحكام الطوارئ الواردة في قانون الدفاع رقم 13 لسنة 1992. بموجب القرار وقانون الدفاع، فإن رئيس الوزراء مكلف بسن تدابير للاستجابة لحالة الطوارئ، ويتمتع بسلطة تعليق بعض الحقوق والحريات الفردية مثل حرية التنقل والتعبير. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 17 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Emergency, Expression, Movement

Type: order

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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

Ministry of Health Measures

The order suspends all public gatherings and meetings for 30 days. The order also states that Kenyans must not "abuse" social media platforms or spread misinformation that "can cause fear and panic." (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 13 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Expression

Type: order

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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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Malaysia

Arrests and Criminal Penalties for "Fake News"

Malaysian authorities are arresting individuals for spreading "fake news" related to COVID-19. Individuals are charged with provisions of the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act that carry penalties of up to one year in prison and 50,000 Malaysian Ringgit ($11,400). (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 29 Jan 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: practice

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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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Morocco

Decree No. 2-20-292 on Special Provisions for a State of Health Emergency

The decree enables the government to declare a "state of health emergency" and take exceptional measures to stop the spread of disease. Anyone who contravenes the decree that declares a health emergency, or incites others to contravene the decree through speech or threat uttered in a public place or meeting, written or printed materials, photos, posters, audiovisual or electronic communications, or any other means can be imprisoned one to three months or be fined 300 to 1,300 dirhams ($30-$130).

 

مرسوم رقم 2-20-292 بشأن الأحكام الخاصة لحالة الطوارئ الصحية

 يمنح المرسوم الحكومة سلطة إعلان "حالة الطوارئ الصحية" واتخاذ تدابير استثنائية لوقف انتشار المرض.يعاقب المرسوم  أي شخص يخالف بنوده ، أو يحرض الآخرين على مخالفته   من خلال الخطاب أو التهديد الصادر في مكان عام أو في اجتماع عام أو مواد مكتوبة أو مطبوعة أو صور أو ملصقات أو اتصالات سمعية بصرية أو إلكترونية أو أي وسيلة أخرى بالسجن من شهر إلى ثلاثة أشهر أو بغرامة تتراوح بين 300 و 1,300 درهم (30130 دولار أمريكي).

 

 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 23 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Emergency, Expression

Type: order

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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

 وزير 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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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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North Macedonia

Measures and Recommendations from the 23rd Session of the Government

The Ministry of Interior has the mandate to undertake "appropriate measures" against people that spread disinformation on social media in relation to COVID, and against media outlets that further disseminate that information. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 3 May 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: order

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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.

وقف إصدار الصحف وحظر التجمعات

 اللجنة العليا للتعامل مع كوفيد-19 تصدر قراراً بوقف طباعة جميع الصحف والمجلات والمنشورات الأخرى، وتحظر تداول وبيع الصحف والمجلات والمنشورات الخارجية أيضاً. يحظر القرار أيضاً التجمعات من أي نوع في الأماكن العامة وينص على معاقبة المخالفين.

(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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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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Philippines

Act No. 11469 for the Nation to Heal As One

The law grants the president numerous broad and exceptional powers to deal with the pandemic. The law also provides in Section 6(6) that “spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms” is punishable by up to two months in jail and fines of up to one million pesos ($19,500). (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 24 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: law

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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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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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Sri Lanka

Arrests for False Information

Sri Lanka’s police announced that it would arrest those who disseminate false or disparaging statements about government officials combating the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The next day, five persons were arrested on charges of posting false and misleading content about COVID-19 on social media.

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 1 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: practice

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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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Tanzania

Suppression of Pandemic Statistics

The government refused to publish official COVID-19 data at least from April 29 until mid-August. The President also declared Tanzania to be free of COVID-19 in early June, despite ongoing reports of the virus being present at least through late July

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 14 Aug 2020

Issue(s): Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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Thailand

Order Issued under Thailand’s 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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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. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 14 Aug 2020

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

Type: practice

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Turkey

Arrests for Covid-Related Social Media

According to the Interior Minister, the government has arrested more than 400 people for "provocative" posts about the coronavirus outbreak on social media. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 25 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: practice

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United Arab Emirates

Council of Ministers Decision Regarding the Publication and Exchange of Health Information Related to Communicable Diseases and Epidemics

The decision prohibits any person from publishing or circulating false or misleading health information that is not officially announced or approved by the Ministry of Health. Violations are subject to a fine of up to $5,500.

قرار مجلس الوزراء بشأن نشر وتبادل المعلومات الصحية الخاصة بالأمراض السارية والأوبئة

 يحظر القرار على أي شخص نشر أو تداول المعلومات الصحية الكاذبة أو المضللة غير المعلنة رسمياً أو غير المعتمدة من قبل وزارة الصحة. يتم فرض غرامات على مخالفة القرار تصل قيمتها إلى 5,500 دولار أمريكي. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 18 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

Type: order

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United Arab Emirates

Action Under the Federal Criminal Law and the Federal Law to Combat Cybercrime

The Attorney General states that UAE security authorities will impose harsh penalties ranging from one to several years in prison for spreading false information about the coronavirus on social media. Individuals will be held accountable according to the articles of the Federal Criminal Law and the Federal Law to Combat Cybercrime. 

إجراءات بموجب القانون الجنائي الاتحادي والقانون الاتحادي لمكافحة الجرائم الإلكترونية

 يشير النائب العام إلى أن السلطات الأمنية في الإمارات العربية المتحدة ستفرض عقوبات قاسية بالسجن تتراوح بين سنة إلى عدة سنوات لنشر معلومات كاذبة حول فيروس كورونا المستجد على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي. سيخضع الأفراد للمساءلة وفقاً لمواد القانون الجنائي الاتحادي والقانون الاتحادي لمكافحة الجرائم الإلكترونية

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 16 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

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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United States

Arrests for False Information Related to Coronavirus

According to multiple reports, individuals in the state of Texas have been arrested and accused of publishing false reports related to coronavirus. Arrests have been carried out by state police as well as the FBI. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 24 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

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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Venezuela

Detention, Threats, and Surveillance of Healthcare Workers Who Comment on COVID-19

Venezuelan authorities have arrested and jailed health care workers who spoke out against the government's failure to protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic. From April to August, at least a dozen health workers were detained, including many who were not informed of the charges against them. Other health care workers who have publicly questioned government statistics on the virus say they have been threatened. The governor of one Venezuelan state also announced that he had deployed military counterintelligence to investigate a doctor who had made public statements about possible infections. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 18 Aug 2020

Issue(s): Surveillance, Expression, Access to Information

Type: practice

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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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Vietnam

Fines Issued Under Decree 15/2020/ND-CP regarding Law on Cyber Security

The Government's Department of Information and Communications has fined hundreds of individuals for posting incorrect information about the coronavirus outbreak. The fines are based on the Law on Cyber Security, which prohibits the spread of "fake news," broadly defined to include not only incorrect or misrepresented information, but also slander, insulting a person's "honor and dignity," and "causing confusion." Decree 15/2020/ND-CP, which came into effect on April 15, imposes fines of VND10m to VND20m ($425-$850) for posting or sharing fake news online. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 15 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Disinformation, Expression

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. (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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