Some leaders use pandemic to hone tools against critics

Some leaders use pandemic to hone tools against critics

BANGKOK (AP)– Health concerns were on artist Danai Ussama’s mind when he returned to Thailand last month from a trip to Spain. He noticed that he and his fellow travelers did not go through medical checks after reaching Bangkok’s airport, and thought it worth noting on his Facebook page.

The airport authorities denied it, lodged a grievance with cops, and he was arrested at his gallery in Phuket for breaching the Computer Criminal offense Act by presumably publishing incorrect information– an offense punishable by as much as five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 baht ($ 3,000).

Danai told The Associated Press that his Facebook post, though public, was truly suggested just for a small circle of 40 to 50 people. Instead it went viral.

He believes the federal government hesitates its challengers would utilize his observation as evidence it was stopping working the fight versus the coronavirus, and acted against him as a cautioning to others.

As federal governments across the world enact emergency measures to keep people at home and stave off the pandemic, some are unhappy about having their bad moves publicized. Others are taking advantage of the crisis to silence critics and tighten up control.

” COVID-19 presents substantial risks to government and regime security as it has the prospective to expose bad governance and absence of openness on issues that affect every person in an offered nation,” stated Goal Sinpeng, an assistant teacher of political science at the University of Sydney.

” As the pandemic is an international problem and is constantly on the news around the world, governments have a harder time controlling messages to the general public without exposing how little/how much they do in comparison to other countries worldwide,” she stated in an e-mail interview.

In Cambodia, where Prime Minister Hun Sen has actually been in power for 35 years, human rights group LICADHO has recorded 24 cases of individuals being detained for sharing info about the coronavirus.

They include 4 advocates of the liquified opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Human Rights View likewise reported the arrest and questioning of a 14- year-old who expressed fears on social networks about rumors of positive COVID-19 cases at her school and in her province. The group withheld more details to safeguard the lady’s privacy.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban might have been the most adroit at exploiting the health crisis.

His nation’s Parliament approved him the power to rule indefinitely by decree, unencumbered by existing laws or judicial or parliamentary restraints. One element of the law ostensibly passed to handle the coronavirus calls for prison terms of as much as 5 years for those convicted of spreading fallacies or distorted facts during the emergency.

” The global health problems caused by COVID-19 require efficient procedures to secure people’s health and lives,” acknowledged Council of Europe Commissioner for Person Rights Dunja Mijatovic. “This includes combating disinformation that may cause panic and social discontent.”

However she said, “sadly some federal governments are utilizing this essential as a pretext to present disproportionate restrictions to press liberty. This is a counterproductive technique that must stop. Particularly in times of crisis, we need to safeguard our precious liberties and rights.”

Legislators in the Philippines last month passed unique legislation offering President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers.

Duterte, already criticized for a ruthless war on drugs that has actually left thousands dead, has been increasingly belligerent toward critics. The brand-new law makes “spreading out false info concerning the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms” a crime punishable by as much as 2 months in jail and fines of up to 1 million pesos ($19,500).

A minimum of 2 reporters have been charged by police with spreading out incorrect information about the crisis.

” It is feared that Duterte will utilize his increased authority to quell dissent and additional catch (his) political opponents,” stated Aries Arugay, associate teacher of government at the University of the Philippines.

Egypt expelled a correspondent for the British paper The Guardian over a report mentioning a study that challenged the official count of coronavirus cases. Iraq suspended the operations of the Reuters news agency for 3 months and enforced a fine of about $20,800 for reporting that the actual number of infections and deaths was greatly more than the government acknowledged. Reuters waited its story.

In Serbia, authorities briefly detained reporter Ana Lalic, who discussed an absence of protective equipment and “chaotic” conditions at a big hospital complex. The medical center said her article “interrupted the public and hurt the image of the health organization.”

The federal government also closed its day-to-day coronavirus news conferences for journalists, asking to send their questions by e-mail. It stated it’s meant to stop the spread of the virus however rights groups and independent media decried it as a form of censorship.

A state of emergency situation invoked in late March gives Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha amazing powers to combat COVID-19, including censoring the media.

More than a dozen people in Thailand are reported to have actually been jailed on charges related to spreading out coronavirus misinformation.

Thailand’s leading public health professionals are worthy of credit for their genuine efforts to counter misinformation, said Joel Selway, an associate teacher of political science at Brigham Young University, who has released a book on politics and health policy in establishing nations.

” This does not imply that the Prayuth-led federal government would not also take advantage of this to crush political opponents,” he included.

Artist Danai, who said he will contest the charge against him, admits to remorses over writing his Facebook post about his airport arrival.

” If I had actually understood that I would remain in a lot difficulty like this, I would not have written it.” he said. “I have never ever been jailed nor litigated before. I was handcuffed and slept overnight in a police headquarters cell. I was devastated, really. It affects my household and myself.

” But deep down inside, I would have wanted to write it anyhow.”


Associated Press correspondents Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia; Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Busaba Sivasomboon in Bangkok, and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, added to this report.

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