PEOPLE’S ADVOCATES REITERATE THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION OF THE POPULATION AND THE MASS MEDIA DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.
People’s Advocates recall that the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, applies to everyone, anywhere and can only be subject to restricted restrictions.
According to General Comment no.29 in Article 4 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 2001 by the Human Rights Committee, the restrictions and prohibitions imposed in the most urgent situations must comply with non-discriminatory principles, be legitimate, necessary and proportionate, and with the least restrictive option accessible.
People’s Advocates note that people need to be sufficiently well informed about the seriousness and nature of the threat, the means of protection, to take appropriate security measures and thus contribute to reducing the danger to their health and public health. In this way, people will be ensured the respect of the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds”, as well as the right to have access to health information.
Ombudsmen argue that it is equally important to provide truthful information on developments in the current epidemiological situation, that the actions taken by the authorities to this end target all categories of people, including children, so that all citizens, including those who do not have access or have limited access to the Internet, to receive information in an accessible language and on their understanding.
Also, People’s Advocates point out that ensuring access to the Internet is imperative during emergency times and that the authorities must not allow its blocking, to avoid suspending some web pages without being based on clearly defined criteria.
Ombudsmen recommend fighting false information about the pandemic through the operative presentation by authorities and widespread distribution by the mass media of truthful and reliable information.
Limiting access to important information for public health, the application of restrictions on Internet access can only be admitted if it meets the criteria of necessity and proportionality.
The Ombudsmen warn that during the critical period we are going through, the role of journalists, which monitors the actions of the authorities and provides the general public with information on the latest developments in the management of the epidemiological crisis, is crucial. And in order to effectively exercise their professional duties, they need access to information about the real state of affairs. People’s Advocates urge authorities to maintain close collaboration with media representatives to provide them with information of public interest, but also to make sustained efforts to protect journalists, who, along with medical staff, police, are on the front line in the efforts to combat COVID-19
Department for Human Rights Promotion and Communication
Tel .: 060002656