A Pandemic of Silence

Impact of Authoritarian COVID-19 Policies on Freedom of Expression in the Indo-Pacific


Written by ICNL consultant Meghna Sharma, this briefer examines how authoritarian COVID-19 policies in the Indo-Pacific region have affected civil society’s freedom of expression in Asia. Drawing from the ICNL-ECNL Covid-19 Civic Freedoms Tracker, the briefer examines various repressive measures, including censorship of speech through criminalization measures, harassment in the name of targeting’ fake news,’ cyber-attacks, and other methods used to suppress the free expression of civil society actors. It also highlights the groups targeted by such government action, including journalists and media platforms, pro-democracy leaders and activists, political opponents, protesters, government critics, and medical professionals. It concludes that such measures have limited civic discourse and chilled free expression, to the disadvantage of democratic pluralism and effective COVID-19 management.