SITUATION UPDATE BRIEF – Increased Media Restrictions to Drive Long-Term Governance Concerns

Key Takeaways

• The spread of Covid-19 has provided leaders in numerous countries in the region an opportunity to enhance and repurpose digital surveillance technologies and tighten their grip on the media. With little to no public oversight, this trend will drive the risk of an entrenchment of governance concerns.

• Albeit to varying degrees, numerous governments in the region now have access to an unprecedented, even by the region’s standards, amount of data regarding individuals’ daily lives. The misuse of this information to stifle dissent, pre-empt potential uprisings, and control media narratives will likely further undermine the region’s human rights track record.

• Several countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan have recently either taken or are pursuing more formal legislative steps to further curtail media freedom, including a controversial Media Bill in Ukraine. With reports of increased attacks on journalists widespread across the region,concerns are rising over the rights lost during the pandemic being restored in the future.

• As such, increasing data concerns and greater state control over the information sphere highlight enduring governance concerns and add to the opaque operating environment. Threatening further cancellations of current projects and deterrence of future investment, an increased state presence in society is likely to undermine supervision quality across the region in the months ahead.

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