The Internet – A Lifeline During the Pandemic

Responses to the coronavirus pandemic led to restrictions on human rights in many parts of the world, including Central Asia. State measures to reduce the virus’s impact, in particular, led to violations of citizens’ rights to education, freedom of movement, and access to justice.

Many experts in the social justice and public domains have noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to creating new challenges, exposed old problems that have long plagued the Central Asian region. The pandemic underscored the urgency of much-needed reform efforts in the sphere of human rights.

The leaders of many countries in Central Asia initially denied that COVID-19 cases existed in their regions. As a result, medical workers were left without personal protective equipment, basic medicines, or supplies to treat the sick. At the same time, governments increased pressure on mass media by censoring and threatening media channels. Moreover, spikes in domestic violence were observed across the region; the introduction of quarantine measures further limited access to shelters and support services.

In the face of these complex challenges, Kyrgyz media portal launched a special series of live videos for social media entitled “The Post-Covid Period and Human Rights” as part of the global “Innovation for Change” initiative, implemented by the I4C Central Asia Hub incubator ARGO. The video series showcased important themes, examples of which are shared below, both at the global level as well as for Kyrgyzstan in particular, taking into account the country’s low economic indicators and the important political processes currently underway.

Topical experts were invited to participate in all of the live videos to discuss important themes and clarify pressing issues. As a result, the poorest populations deprived of their rights to adequate medical assistance and social support, convicts denied their right to adequate legal support, and a civil sector denied opportunities to participate in legislative development processes all received high quality, no-cost assistance to support and protect their rights.

Following the broadcast of the video series, the government initiated discussions on access issues faced by prosoners’ relatives (Episode: The Human Rights of Individuals in Penitentiaries during the Pandemic) and clarified election processes (Episode: Election Rights during the Pandemic). In addition, the public began to discuss considerations related to protests during the pandemic (Episode: The Right to Freedom of Assembly during the Pandemic).

Cumulatively, the videos were watched by more than 200,000 people across two platforms. This number continues to grow as the videos remain available. Notably, the topic of restricted human rights during the pandemic has been picked up by other media channels. In addition, the video series provided a platform for experts who highlighted not only the negative impact of human rights restrictions on the public, but also on state institutions and legislations and their ability to work in a new reality.