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Wednesday Jul 15 2020
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World Solidarity Forum slams govts for failing to protect human rights, freedom of press

Authorities have been exploiting the situation to suppress dissenting voices and in some cases, rush through legislation, it was discussed, speakers at the World Solidarity Forum said. Photo: Reporter

BRUSSELS: Speakers at the World Solidarity Forum (WSF) experts seminar titled: "Pandemic: Democracy and Human Rights" shave lammed various European, Asian and Latin American governments for their lack of action to protect human rights during the COVID-19 crisis.

Th speakers said that, in some cases, governments took full advantage of the pandemic to exploit the situation and use it to violate human rights of citizens. Authorities have been exploiting the situation to suppress dissenting voices and in some cases, rush through legislation, it was discussed. 

There has been an increase in disinformation, with marginalised groups being disproportionately targeted . Press freedom has been curtailed and journalists imprisoned without any charges or formal trail, noted the speakers.

It was also discussed during the occasion as to how COVID-19 measures give an opportunity to authoritarian leaders to violate human rights, with special focus on Europe, Pakistan and India.

Unfortunately, five democratically-elected leaders, President Trump of USA, Hungarian President Orban, Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro all used the pandemic to curtail press freedom one way or the other, noted the speakers. 

With reference to the Indian lockdown in occupied Kashmir, the people of the occupied territory have been facing the same harsh conditions since August 5th 2019 in the wake of the removal of Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution which recognise the autonomous status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi administration sees the pandemic as an opportunity to suppress those of Kashmiri decent, who aspire for freedom and independence, said the speakers. 

Similarly, they noted that the government of Pakistan used the pandemic to curtail freedom of the press and arrest Jang Group of Newspapers Editor-in-Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, 68, to exert pressure on the newspaper's editorial policy in a 34 years old property case. Keeping MSR in jail for more than four months illegally without any charges and during the trial stage, is absolutely a gross violation of law and basic human rights, stressed Farooqi, one of the speakers.

Speaking to the seminar, Hanna Molly of the International Consultant of European Institutions Brussels, said "The world is on fire, and we can no longer look the other way. The other side is no longer there because the problems are coming at us in every direction. The Back lives Matter movement shook the world to its foundations and the refugee crisis showed the Europeans' worst side to the world.

"Instead of open arms, those who survived the Mediterranean crossing were met with racism, fear and incarceration," she said.  Molly quoted a famous Martin Luther King when he said "if peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace."

Talking on the sub topic “Confinement Period in Latin America and Europe" the speakers noted how, during the pandemic, the immigrants community, particularly women, were hit very hard for presenting and filing complaint that led to discrimination, abuse and doubts on the part of authorities at different levels.

Many didn't even register their problems or complaints to authorities due to irregularities in their official papers' residence status, said Tamara Cruz. Moreover, she expressed, the pandemic was a disaster for the Latin American immigrants community in Europe and the Americas .

The European Union reserved €800 Euros to help the NGO sector to provide relief to the people, €750mn proposed for helping European Union's citizens and businesses, still to be approved by the European council of the European Union.

After months of lockdown in Europe, it was the first experts' seminar that took place with special permission under strict social distancing rules, organised by WSF Brussels .