Are Autocrats Using Coronavirus To Usher In A New Age Of Authoritarianism?

Ken Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, has warned some measures touted as necessary to fight the pandemic not only undermine basic freedoms – they can pose a danger to health as well.

“When autocrats censor or grab power or take various other steps that are antithetical to human rights, it actually puts us in a worse place in public health terms,” he said.

Speaking to DW’s Sarah Kelly for Conflict Zone, the head of HRW said people recognize that the world is in an unprecedented situation: “Human rights allow certain extraordinary governmental powers in time of a genuine public emergency or crisis like we’re facing now.”

But he said such action needs to be “proportionate to our public health needs.”
Roth compared the current situation to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US: “People called on their governments to protect them. And what we saw then is, you know, many governments overreached in the name of protection.”

Chinese Censorship:
Roth said the Chinese government had censored doctors who were striking the alarm about the virus. He said time had been wasted that could have been used to save lives.
“What the Chinese authorities did is, you know, rather than listen to them, rather than act, they suppressed them, because this was the kind of bad news that Beijing doesn’t like to hear.”
“Censorship kills. It literally is antithetical to public health,” he added. {DW News}