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Friday, 26 June 2020

LOCKDOWN OF RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACIES AMID COVID-19

LOCKDOWN OF RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACIES AMID COVID-19 

Governments world over are using the pandemic as a veil to bring about authoritarian laws and grasp power.

Governments Using the Pandemic to Amass Power While the pandemic has hamstrung the world, the governments of several nations have taken matter into their own hands and ramped up surveillance.  Contrary to the dogma, "With Great Power comes Great Responsibility", the governments of India, Brazil, China, Hungary and Egypt among others have capitalized on these tumultuous times to amass power and silence their harsh critics.  

Transparency in reporting the true Covid case count has been done away with in several nations, while funds allocated for reparation of lives and livelihoods are being seldom used for the same.  

The externalities of this power play have longer lasting consequences, both intended and unintended.  The pandemic will eradicate inevitably, but the overriding power amassed by the governments, under the guise of sovereignty will most likely not.

LockDown Rights

 RISE OF RESTRICTIONS DUE TO COVID-19 

• Due to COVID-19, several countries resorted to imposing restrictions on public movement and gathering.

• Several others also went into lockdowns at different levels (nationwide, statewide, citywide) in order to contain the novel coronavirus. 

• While these measures were essential, there have been instances of countries using the pandemic as a pretext to curb civil liberties and amass more power.

LOCKDOWN OF CRITICISM IN INDIA 

• The "world's largest lockdown" was accompanied with a lack of transparency to donations such as those of the PM-CARES fund. 

 • Instances of police brutality were reported across the country, to 'enforce' lockdown rules, even against those out for 'essential' purposes. 

 • Criticism of the government's response was deemed punishable by gag orders in some states;  even for doctors calling out inadequate equipment supplies. 

 • Other critics, against the CAA-NRC, have also been silenced on social media;  punished under the UAPA and declared a 'threat' to the country.

AL-SISI'S AUTHORITARIANISM IN EGYPT 

• President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi brought about amendments 'to contain the virus' that work towards making Egypt a 'personalist dictatorship'.  

• He did away with his need to leave office in 2022, enabling him to remain in power till 2034;  he also gets direct control over judicial appointments and the judiciary's budget, weakening its independence. 

 • Of the 18 amendments passed, just 5 are related to public health - they work to expand the government's power and enable force to silence critics and the media.

INDEFINITE EMERGENCY POWERS IN HUNGARY

 • The Hungarian parliament passed a granting Prime Minister Viktor Orb├ín emergency powers for an indefinite time.  measure

• Another bill was passed, sentencing spreading 'misinformation that hinders the government response to the pandemic' to 5 years of prison;  fear of media censorship and loss of government accountability accompany the bill.  

• Rights groups and critics state that while the coronavirus brings extraordinary circumstances, a system of checks and balances is indispensable.


BRAZIL'S BOLSONARO REMOVES COVID-19 DATA 

• President Jair Bolsonaro opposed lockdowns and called the virus a 'little flu', which has made Brazil the country with the second-highest case count in the world. 

• As the virus 'kills a Brazilian per minute' Bolsonaro has sought to hide data - he stopped the reporting of a 'total' case count, only showing the figures for the previous 24 hours.  

• The Health Ministry website was wiped of its data in an attempt to improve the reporting of cases';  rather, to prevent people from knowing the virus' true extent.

 CHINA STRENGTHENS POWER IN ALL SPHERES

 • Wuhan was subject to a brutal lockdown with people barricaded inside their homes;  extended surveillance has been seen in Xinjiang, where the Uighur and Turkic Muslims were persecuted.  

• It also violated the 1997 treaty promising greater autonomy to Hong Kong by sending in troops in May, enacting a national security law and ensuring a brutal crackdown on dissent.

 • The country strengthened activity at the India border, the South China Sea, and the Indian Ocean;  a play to amass power while other nations remain distracted.


 PUTIN'S CRACKDOWN IN RUSSIA

 • President Putin approved a 'sovereign' Russian internet to be firewalled from the rest of the world;  it includes surveillance through facial recognition, fining lockdown violators.  

• The government shall geolocate data from the mobile providers of specific persons in order to track 'coronavirus carriers';  the two may be ways to enhance surveillance, violating privacy even outside the lockdown.  

• Russia earlier banned protests in groups with its lockdown, but has even banned single-person protests which do not violate distancing norms.

FREEDOM NECESSARY EVIL OR ABUSE OF POWER EAR

 • Countries have indeed used the pandemic to strengthen surveillance and take greater power into their hands;  However, this could be necessary in efficiently tackling such a problem in future crises. 

• Unfortunately, in practice, these will likely be used to prop-up supporters of the ruling government and silence the opposition not as a means to fight catastrophe;  even today, several measures go beyond what is required and have nothing to do with COVID-19.

 • The pandemic is temporary, hopefully, but the powers are not.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH 66 

The health crisis will inevitably subside, but
 autocratic HUMAN governments' dangerous expansion of power may be one of the pandemic's most enduring legacies. 

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