Re-Imagining The Effect Of Covid-19 On Freedom Of Expression And Access To Information On Selected Arab Countries

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Majed Numan AlKhudari & Miral Sabry AlAshry


Since COVID-19 emerged, the Arab world continues to face a diverse set of health and sociopolitical challenges. As the world has just celebrated World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2020, it is a reminder of the essence of the freedom of expression by the media and society. Paradoxically, media professionals in some countries continue to experience some kind of violence that ranges from harassment and imprisonment by those supposed to protect them, cyberbullying, censorship, and gender-based violence. These forms of violence are not only an attack on press freedom but also human rights. This study was premised on these and other aspects. It aimed to establish the extent to which some governments limited the freedom of expression and access to information to journalists while they reported COVID-19 related issues. In order to achieve the objectives of the study, focus group discussions were done with 20 journalists from Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Tunisia. The results of the study indicated that journalists in these countries experience violence in many forms such as torture, imprisonment, closure of their websites and censorship of content. In the four countries investigated, the results revealed that there is severe censorship from both ( self-censoring or the governments ) censoring content presented to the public, an element that is inconsistent with the Arab constitutions and the international law, thus violating human rights laws. In addition, the governments publish COVID-19 misinformation without supporting an independent media environment. Based on these findings, the following recommendations were made. Arab societies need freedom of expression and the right to access information to allow journalists to cover news during the epidemic period and not to obscure the COVID-19 statistics takes precautionary measures.

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