Almost half of UN Member States have obstructed the media from reporting on COVID-19 in their respective countries.
Media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders has been tracking violations of the media’s right to cover the pandemic. It recorded instances in 90 out of 193 UN member countries since the beginning of the crisis.
In Europe and the Balkans, 14 countries were found to be limiting the rights of the press to information and to inform. Kosovo and Albania have all registered violations since March.
“It is particularly disturbing to see the coronavirus crisis serve as a pretext for press freedom violations to grow and spread throughout the world, including in countries regarded as democratic models,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Instead of ‘blaming the messenger,’ as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet puts it, governments should do everything possible to protect the messengers and enable them to provide the reliable information essential to combatting the disinformation that aggravates the crisis.
RSF also noted that in the United States, President Donald Trump had verbally attacked at least eight journalists in his daily press conferences.
In Kosovo, police detained journalist Tatjana Lazareciv while she was on assignment in the north of the country. While going to report on the situation at a local health centre, she was detained for allegedly breaking curfew. The Ministry of the Interior later confirmed that the curfew did not apply to journalists.
RSF added that a number of governments have used the pandemic as a way to push through laws that have proven detrimental to media freedom.