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


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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

State of Disaster

The declaration establishes a "state of disaster" under section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002, due to the coronavirus. The declaration includes a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people, as well as border and internal travel restrictions. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 15 Mar 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Emergency

Type: order

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South Africa

Repeal and Replacement of Regulations Issued under Sections 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act

The regulations repeals a number of prior orders and regulations issued under the Disaster Management Act, but retain a ban on all public gatherings except at funerals (which are limited to 50 people), workplaces, and gatherings for purchase of commodities. The regulation also provides for a system of contact tracing, and establishes a national COVID-19 Tracing Database. The Database will include the identification and contact information for all persons tested for COVID-19, and the details of known or suspected contacts of any person who tested positive for COVID-19. Within six weeks of the end of the State of Disaster, the Database information must be anonymized; anonymous information may be retained for research and any other information must be destroyed. (See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 29 Apr 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Surveillance, Privacy, Movement

Type: regulation

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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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South Africa

Police Brutality during Lockdown

Social media users have shared videos of police brutality against violators of the lockdown that was imposed on March 26, and authorities are investigating several reports of police torture and murder of citizens accused of breaching the lockdown orders. One man was beaten to death by soldiers while he was sipping alcohol outside his house in alleged violation of lockdown regulations. As of June 1, at least 11 people had died following police action during the lockdown, and more than 230,000 people had been arrested for lockdown violations. 

(See primary source or citation here)


Introduced 1 Jun 2020

Issue(s): Assembly, Movement

Type: practice

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This is an ongoing effort, and we welcome you to email us at adeblock@icnl.org and simona@ecnl.org to share additional resources.