Freedom of Speech and Media Plurality in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

19-03-2021
Freedom of Speech and Media Plurality in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Freedom of Speech and Media Plurality in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

This analysis, conducted by the EU-funded Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, focuses on identifying positive and negative changes in Eastern Partnership countries with regards to freedom of speech and media resulting from policies related to COVID-19. The paper examines the role of media in providing reliable information about COVID-19, evaluates the role of digitalisation on independent media, and assesses the impact of the strengthened strategic communication and support for media in the implementation of the 20 Deliverables for 2020.

The extraordinary measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly impacted the freedom of speech, particularly in Azerbaijan and Belarus, where abuses of power are more likely to occur than in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. This document recommends EaP governments to be more transparent and consistent in their communication to society, strike a careful balance between freedom of expression and the fight against disinformation, promote and support media literacy, and address structural obstacles such as media ownership.