Since the outbreak of COVID-19, authoritarian states have used the pandemic as a pretext to silence dissent. Some have done so under the guise of fighting ‘disinformation’; others under the cover of emergency laws. Journalists, bloggers, and ordinary citizens have been arrested for criticizing their government’s policies—or even for just telling the world about the virus. TrialWatch is committed to exposing injustice in their trials and supporting their fight for freedom.
Here are some of the trials TrialWatch has monitored or is monitoring relating to journalism and COVID-19:
Russian journalist Alexander Pichugin was convicted of spreading ‘fake news’ for sarcastic comments he published on social media criticizing Russia for permitting religious gatherings as a stark exception to the general rule of social distancing at a time when COVID-19 infection was prevalent.
Indian journalist and Washington Post Global Opinions Writer Rana Ayyub is facing an array of charges in India. In one recent case, she faces up to seven years in prison for fraud charges based on allegations of misuse of COVID relief funds.
The case was prompted by a complaint from an individual affiliated with India’s ruling party. More broadly, the mounting charges appear to be an attempt to silence her in response to her reporting, in particular on India’s handling of the COVID crisis.
Tunisian blogger Emna Chargui was convicted of ‘advocacy of hatred between religions’ and ‘undermining a licensed religious rite’ for a poem she re-posted on Facebook entitled ‘Sura-Corona’, which discussed the importance of science guiding the response to COVID in the style of a Quranic verse.