Public health or digital liberties? Citizens’ tracking during and after COVID-19: Implications for democracy in EaP countries

Sep 21, 2021

The pandemic in the Republic of Moldova has significantly affected the informational landscape and the access to public information. This decline began with the detection of the first COVID case and the establishment of a state of emergency from March 17, 2020 to May 15, 2020. When the first Covid-19 cases were detected in Moldova, authorities started to conduct all press events online, while the journalists were not allowed to attend those events. The access to information of public interest was limited, even though it was imperative for the authorities to communicate in a timely manner with the citizens.

“WatchDog.MD” analyzed the digital measures implemented during COVID-19. Moldovan authorities did not introduce any COVID-19 contact tracing apps or warning tools. Tracing and warning apps could have helped break the chain of coronavirus infections and save lives. The report investigates the developments in access to public information during the pandemic and cases where authorities concealed or disclosed incomplete information. At the same time, “WatchDog.MD” evaluated the ways in which the official websites were adjusted to the needs of the population in the context of  pandemic and how clear were the decisions of the Commission for Emergency Situations.

The number of digital response measures applied in Moldova to combat the pandemic only consisted of an information platform on the number of patients, disaggregated by sex, age, location, and SMS texts about the danger of COVID-19, urging people to stay home during the lockdown. At the same time, the number of attempts to undermine or limit access to information of public interest was significantly higher. We found abuses related to access to information, lack of transparency from the authorities and lack of institutional capacity. That led to a very poor management of the pandemic. Consequently, amid the general panic and the information vacuum, the authorities created room for the emergence of conspiracy theories and generated distrust in the need for anti-COVID measures.

All these deficiencies in communication and pandemic management, together with the irresponsible behavior of some politicians, resulted in a very large number of Moldovans believing that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the common flu (around 55%). This has resulted in an increase in reluctance to get vaccinated.

This report was performed by “WatchDog.MD” Community within the regional study “Public health or digital liberties? Citizens ’tracking during and after COVID-19: implications for democracy in EaP countries” accomplished with the collaboration of 6 Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova). The study aims to analyze the digital measures adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic by the governments of the Eastern Partnership countries.The “WatchDog.MD” Community analyzed and described the situation in the Republic of Moldova.

You can access the report in Romanian and English:

This study was conducted with the support of “The Black Sea Trust of The German Marshall Fund” in a project implemented by the Institute of Innovative Governance and Digital Communication Network.

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