RSF addresses Human Rights Council on pandemic-linked press freedom violations

In a statement today to the United Nations Human Rights Council in the presence of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the many violations of media rights in connection with coverage of the coronavirus crisis in more than a third of UN member countries, and pointed out that these violations put everyone’s health in danger.
RSF also called for the release of all journalists imprisoned during the pandemic whose lives are threatened by the virus, and urged governments to stop all intimidation of the media.

Madam High Commissioner,

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) thanks you and expresses its deep concern about the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on press freedom throughout the world.

Those whose job it is to inform the public have been targeted by many governments, which have used physical and verbal attacks against journalists, arbitrary detention, intimidation and withdrawal of accreditation.

Between the start of the pandemic and 29 June, RSF registered violations of the media’s right to cover the Covid-19 crisis in no fewer than 90 UN member nations. Governments must stop “blaming the messenger.” We urge them to take measures to protect press freedom and to allow journalists to provide reliable information, because journalism can save lives.

Reliable information about the pandemic is essential for citizens and societies to be able to protect themselves. Violations of media rights in the context of the pandemic are direct violations of the right to health and must be condemned as such.

RSF calls on all governments to free all those who are detained simply for expressing critical or dissident views and whose detention during the pandemic puts their lives in danger. We therefore again urge the United Kingdom to immediately release Julian Assange, whose state of health, as the UN special rapporteur on torture has attested, is extremely worrying, as is that of Amadou Vamoulke, a journalist imprisoned in Cameroon.

Finally, we ask the Human Rights Council to demand an independent investigation into the causes of the deaths of the Saudi journalist Saleh al-Shehi and the Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir, who are said to have died as a result of catching the coronavirus in prison.

I thank you.

Oral statement delivered by Isabel Amosse, Head of Advocacy at RSF

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Updated on 15.09.2020