Press Freedom Day: 200 violations of press freedom in Asia-Pacific
Over 200 press freedom violations linked to the pandemic were reported in the Asia-Pacific region, of which about half were from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal, stated a press release by International Press Institute (IPI).
"Seventy-one journalists faced arrests and charges for their coverage of the pandemic and its consequences in those countries, while 32 cases of physical attacks and verbal threats were reported," said the statement.
So far, IPI's has recorded 635 press freedom violations around the world related to Covid-19, it added.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered a debilitating blow to press freedom across the globe. Governments have tried to stifle independent media, while an alarming number of journalists have come under attacks for their coverage of the health crisis," said the statement.
This trend has been observed to be perpetrated by "authoritarian and illiberal-minded" regimes, it added.
Myanmar's military junta has arrested more than 70 journalists, revoked licences of independent media outlets and repeatedly blocked internet access, it said.
Meanwhile, India's increasingly illiberal government, stung by widespread criticism in the media over its response to the pandemic and the large-scale farmers' protest, has stepped up legal harassment of journalists, notably through its notorious sedition law, said IPI.
"Journalists in Indian-administered Kashmir continue to face an agonising clampdown aimed at controlling news related to the territory."
The coronavirus pandemic has aided the negative trend as governments use the public health crisis to restrict reporting, said IPI. Authorities have blocked access to information, arrested journalists for their coverage of the virus, and passed sweeping "fake news" laws that can be used to silence criticism, it added.
Africa ranks second in terms of arrests and charges against journalists and media outlets. Zimbabwe reported the greatest number of arrests in the region, it said.
"Numerous states have imposed restrictions on access to information, preventing journalists from speaking to health officials or medical workers, or blocking independent media from attending press conferences," said the statement.