Certain limitations on fundamental freedoms are unavoidable during public health crises. But such restrictions must be transparent, and necessary and proportionate to limiting the outbreak. Temporarily curbing mass gatherings can be justified, as long as authorities are transparent and provide details about when restrictions will be lifted. Yet much of the enhanced surveillance and censorship of recent weeks does not meet these standards.
If governments are allowed to impose indefinite and disproportionate restrictions on access to information, free expression, free assembly and privacy in the name of stopping covid-19, the negative effects will extend far beyond this outbreak. People will suffer a lasting deterioration in basic freedoms, and they will lose confidence in the institutions tasked with protecting them.
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