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Measures to combat disinformation must never prevent journalists and media actors from carrying out their work or lead to content being unduly blocked on the Internet, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement

“The global health problems caused by COVID-19 require effective measures to protect people’s health and lives. This includes combating disinformation that may cause panic and social unrest. Regrettably some governments are using this imperative as a pretext to introduce disproportionate restrictions to press freedom; this is a counterproductive approach that must stop.  Particularly in times of crisis, we need to protect our precious liberties and rights,” she noted. “In the past weeks, parliaments, governments and local authorities have adopted legislation, decrees or decisions that clearly risk hampering the work of journalists and media actors and restricting the public’s right to receive information.”

She also touched upon the situation in Armenia.

“Finally, in Armenia, a number of newspapers and websites had to delete some information, following the adoption of strict rules prohibiting the publication of information of a medical and epidemiological nature about the virus outbreak which is not fully consistent with official sources,” she added.

“I therefore urge all Council of Europe member states to preserve press and media freedom and ensure that measures to combat disinformation are necessary, proportionate and subject to regular oversight, including by Parliament and national human rights institutions. Measures to combat disinformation must never prevent journalists and media actors from carrying out their work or lead to content being unduly blocked on the Internet. Those countries which have introduced restrictions that do not meet these standards must repeal them as a matter of urgency.”

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