Amnesty International revealed that the UAE and Bahrain have used the Coronavirus (Covid-19) as an excuse to continue their previously existing methods of suppressing the right to freedom of expression in 2020, and instead of focusing on disseminating accurate and trustworthy information about measures being taken to protect public health. In the face of the pandemic, they turned their attention to the prosecution of people who were simply discussing issues of national interest.
The organization confirmed in a statement published recently on its website that since last March and with the start of the spread of the virus in them, Bahrain and the UAE systems have issued statements to all residents of the country warning them of the criminal liability of publishing “false news” or spreading misleading information, “and in many cases have prosecuted the people who published On social media, there is content about the epidemic or these systems’ response to it.
According to the statement, the organization did not discover in any of these cases that it analyzed that Abu Dhabi and Manama had made any effort to prove that the restrictions and fines imposed on comments posted on the Internet were really necessary to protect public health, not to mention that they were appropriate as the “least restrictive” method available. To meet a well-defined need for public health.
The organization has reviewed the official data issued by Bahrain and the UAE through government social media accounts and comments made by government sources for publication in local newspapers subject to censorship, for the period from March to the present time, as the organization found in the cases it conducted an analysis of their failure to prove that Restrictions on freedom of expression can be justified by the narrow exceptions permitted by international human rights law and standards, which may be allowed to protect public health, among other legitimate aims.
The statement emphasized that investigations, summons, and prosecutions are often pursued specifically to target online criticism directed at these governments’ response to the epidemic, which clearly falls under the right to freedom of expression. Such a policy is totally inappropriate as a response to the epidemic.
The organization also called on the governments of the UAE and Bahrain to stop using Corona to prosecute people who exercise their right to freedom of expression, and to urgently redouble their efforts to ensure that it publishes reliable, available, evidence-based, and reliable information, including about measures being taken to protect health. Public and responding to the epidemic, and this is very necessary to combat false and misleading information.
The statement added that, given that prisons are a particularly conducive environment to the outbreak of the new Corona virus, the priority should be reducing the prison population.
The statement touched on the restrictions imposed on communications technology during the Corona outbreak in the UAE, as the statement affirms that the UAE, which maintains some of the broadest restrictions on communications technology in the Gulf – in particular lacks transparency about its policies related to external communications, ignoring inquiries from the press about This topic.