How coronavirus appears to be an enemy of democracy

  • Video report by ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

Coronavirus appears to be an enemy of democracy.

Gone are freedom of movement and freedom of assembly. In some countries the virus has also claimed freedom of speech.

Covid-19 killed off (or at least made critically ill) its first European democracy on March 30 when the Hungarian parliament agreed to allow Prime Minister Viktor to rule by decree indefinitely.

He can quash all existing laws and imprison all those spreading ‘false information’ – which will presumably include all those who voice or publish criticism of his policies.

The lockdown looks more like a crackdown in some countries. Credit: AP

For the world’s poorest people in the slums of India, the Philippines and Bangladesh, the lockdown looks more like a crackdown.

The pictures of police officers beating people who must get out to work to eat, are distressing insights into the thinking of rulers who have adopted extraordinary powers in the name of saving us from the coronavirus.

In Pakistan doctors who dared to protest over the lack of PPE were beaten and arrested.

In the UK criticism or questioning of our own government’s policy was somewhat stymied by the invoking of the blitz spirit.

The virus has claimed freedom of speech in some countries. Credit: AP

The Queen sought to reassure with her “we’ll meet again.” But didn’t talk of war help make us obedient? Back then too much criticism of the government might have seemed disloyal?

It’s only now, a few weeks later, that journalists are exercising freedom of speech by asking the tough questions.

Deep down we all know the value of freedom. When we saw it in Captain Tom Moore we showered him with millions.

His rank and medals proved he’d fought for freedom and won, and although he could only exercise its writ the length of his garden, we were inspired by a light burning so bright aged 99.

In Israel civil liberties groups have staged protests over the conduct of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A woman takes part in a protest over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: AP

At the start of this crisis not only did he suspend the Knesset, which appeared then to have an opposition majority, he closed most courts, including the one that was about to hear his trial on corruption charges.

There is also concern that the internal security agency, the Shin Bet, is using surveillance powers normally reserved for the fight against terrorism, to spy on any Israeli they choose, in the name of battling coronavirus.

We’re told the measures that have been introduced at home, in America, Israel and elsewhere are temporary. But how do we know some of them won’t become permanent.

In the past we have had the moral high ground when it comes to condemning the world’s autocrats.

But having encouraged them to be like us, there’s the danger that coronavirus has made us more like them.