Executive summary
The Corona Virus Disease popularly known the COVID-19 is a life-threatening virus that has spread
across the globe including the African continent and has plunged the world into a global health crisis
whose impact is felt across the economic, political and social spectrum.

Governments across the world have had to adopt crisis response mechanisms to contain the spread
of the virus and protect public health. These responses have included the introduction of national
lockdowns, restrictions on movement and curfews among other measures. Regulations were thus
enacted for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. In that regard, these regulations
also impacted the exercise of fundamental rights including the right to freedom of expression.

It is imperative that while emergency measures are adopted to reduce the spread of the virus, human
rights are respected. This research therefore analyses those regulations and scans at the nature of
their impact on the right to freedom of expression. This paper also analyses the laws that have been
adopted by SADC governments to address disinformation that spreads through social media platforms.

What has been noted is that as governments respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the threats on freedom
of expression are worrisome as they undermine democracy which is underpinned on respect of civil
and political rights including freedom of expression and access to information. Any restrictions on
freedom of expression induced by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic (although not desirable) must
be specific, time bound and in the interest of public health.

The purpose of this study is to map the current measures and levels of restrictions on freedom of
expression imposed by SADC governments. The study also provides recommendations for the present
and future circumstances and intends to inform further interventions and advocacy strategies to
promote media freedom and freedom of expression in the SADC region. The study is a desktop research
review based on the literature that has been surveyed including academic literature, relevant reports
by development organisations and civil society and also governments’ regulations. The review employs
the human rights based approach as a conceptual framework which is based on the understanding of,
or advancement of human rights generally. In this regard, reference has been made to international
human rights law and standards.


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