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The World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), suggests that the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism. The 2020 edition of the Index, which evaluates the situation for journalists in 180 countries and territories, identifies five converging crises: geopolitical (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes); technological (due to a lack of democratic guarantees); democratic (due to polarisation and repressive policies); trust (due to aggravated suspicion of the media); and economic (impoverishing quality journalism). These are currently compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even faced with COVID-19, despotic regimes will stop at nothing. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed its concern at some Middle Eastern governments taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to increase state censorship and to clamp down on the dissemination of news and information.

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text]Civil liberties are most fragile during times of crisis. As conflict the world over has shown, digital communications infrastructures can easily be used to censor, to silence, to monitor, and ultimately to sanction. In China, WeChat and Weibo are extremely popular. China introduced new laws and hired hundreds of people to monitor content on these platforms, forcing netizens to be vigilant and to self-censor. The Chinese government claims that monitoring cyberspace betters society, but many believe that the authorities have an ulterior motive: suppressing alternative views and dissent in public and in private.

Trade relations must not be allowed to threaten hard-won universal rights. The United Kingdom appears to be trying to wriggle out of applying the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to its post-Brexit existence as a non-member of the European Union (EU).

Collecting personal data for the best of reasons – such as tackling the coronavirus pandemic – has triggered a wave of misgivings. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) has responded to growing concerns with a statement (10 March 2020) urging “a balance between collective good and civil liberties.” The EFF statement says:

A report from Lebanon’s Maharat Foundation examines the role of freedom of expression and media during the 2019 uprising. Maharat’s aim is to create societal and political conditions that enhance freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline. It equips a progressive community in Lebanon and the region with the skills and knowledge necessary to bring about change.