Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Guterres criticizes countries that exploit pandemic to suppress freedoms


In a direct and uncompromising speech, the UN Chief deplores that the restrictions linked to the pandemic are used as an excuse, in some countries, to undermine electoral processes, weaken the voices of opponents and suppress criticism.

It is a big paving stone in the pond that the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has just launched. In his annual speech to the Human Rights Council, which took place by videoconference, Monday February 22, 2021, a first in its history, the boss of the UN organization lamented that the Covid-19 epidemic is used by certain countries, which he did not mention, to silence “dissonant voices” and the media.

“Brandishing the pandemic as a pretext, authorities in some countries have taken tough security measures and emergency measures to suppress dissonant voices, abolish most fundamental freedoms, silence independent media and hamper the work of non-governmental organizations. governmental ”, regrets, in essence the head of the UN.

Illegitimate restrictions
The former Portuguese prime minister devoted much of his speech to the pandemic, lamenting that the restrictions linked to it still serve as an excuse to undermine electoral processes, weaken the voices of opponents and suppress criticism. For example, for Mr. Guterres, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, activists and even medical professionals have been the subject of arrests, prosecutions and intimidation and surveillance for having criticized the measures – or the lack of measures – taken to deal with the pandemic. In addition, access to vital information has at times been hampered, while deadly disinformation has been amplified, including by a few leaders, he continued, without saying which ones.

Along the same lines as her boss, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, also denounced the illegitimate restrictions on public freedoms and the excessive use of the powers of emergency in the context of the epidemic. “The use of force will not end this pandemic. Sending critics to prison will not end this pandemic, ”she regrets, without however mentioning any country. Covid-19 has also exacerbated vulnerabilities and disrupted the lives of hundreds of millions of families who have lost jobs or seen their incomes plummet.

The pandemic has disproportionately affected women, minorities, the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees, migrants and indigenous peoples. The least that can be said is that years of progress on gender equality have been wiped out during this pandemic crisis.



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