Some European countries have gone too far with measures to fight COVID-19 and eroded citizens’ basic rights, according to a new report.
Civil Liberties Union for Europe said that some EU countries have disproportionately restricted freedoms during the pandemic.
But as infections begin to rise again the question of how to ensure protect public health without limiting people’s rights is being asked again.
“What we are asking is that people can assemble peacefully and there are lots of ways in which you can do that, without harming public health. For example face masks, for example social distancing, for example caps on the numbers of protesters who are assembled,” Sebastien Pant from Civil Liberties Union for Europe told Euronews.
“So it is sort of a false narrative to be equating, as a lot of people sometimes do, civil liberties or one hand and public health on the other because our civil liberties are what allow our governments to take measures that act in our best interests,” he added.
The report includes examples, such as:
• A Romanian student fined €200 after criticising her town’s mayor
• Two Polish activists who were charged over a poster campaign challenging the government’s statistics
• Critics who have claimed Hungary’s so-called fake news law of actually criminalising free speech
But not all MEPs are on the same page, as Spanish member, Herman Tertsch, explains.
“It is always this mantra, that Poland and Hungary are the baddies in this community and that is simply not true in many cases and it is not true in this case, one reason is the situation and development in Hungary and in Poland was by far not so bad as it was in other countries, as it was for example in Spain or France. So the restrictions in itself [sic] haven’t been so hard.”
The response to the coronavirus crisis has varied by region and country, but today’s report argues that basic freedoms are under threat across the continent, which leaves one question – when the pandemic ends, will government restrictions too?