High time to adopt the Right to Know

The events of the past months make it painstakingly clear how much the lack of a political and civil right to know has a direct and devastating impact on the life of citizens all around the world. From the secret plan of the Italian government in January – kept hidden from the public in order not to induce a panic, with the consequence of condemning them to months-long mass house arrests for all – and the suspension of the Freedom of Information Act, to the massive propaganda in favor of the Chinese Communist Party by Italian mass media that makes the fake news spread by the Chinese propaganda machine through social media bleak in comparison.

Phenomena that are certainly not limited to Italy. The Chinese propaganda machine is effective across the European continent, thanks to the CCP’s far-sighted effort in co-opting and coercing political and media bodies. Only last week, the BBC broadcasted a service all too reminiscent of the “Chinese aid” stories in Italy, painting the arrival in Scotland of 11 million face masks and 100.000 test kits from the PRC as a gift, nowhere mentioning the products were purchased by the Scottish government, nor the now innumerable complaints on the serious and evident shortcomings in quality of such products from China by almost all allied countries. Or the self-censorship of the European Commission, mandated to combat fake news, on the Chinese propaganda offensive for “fear of retaliation in the supply of essential medical supplies”.

In the meantime, the PRC is vigorously and aggressively rejecting the growing number of requests for an independent and international investigation into the origins of the pandemic and its initial management. In a continuous effort not to “politicize” the crisis, only a few days ago on the TV channel CGTN – a Chinese state-run broadcaster in English – a researcher from the Institute of Microbiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences strongly rejected such requests, declaring the urgency to focus efforts on the common fight against the disease, but – en passant and highlighted in the flash notices – still reiterating the suspected origin of COVID19 in a US laboratory.

It is a PRC which, after having triggered a global health, economic and social pandemic under the leadership of the single Chinese Communist Party – in the best tradition of totalitarian regimes -, is openly intent on denying the emergence of the truth about this novel coronavirus. As it is since years on the bloody repression of its ethnic and religious minorities, on its concentration camps, on its unfair and looting commercial policies, on its theft of intellectual property, on its well-rounded Orwellian society. This is the “model of excellence” presented to us on a daily basis: declared enemy of the rule of law, democracy, freedom of information and opinion.

This is the Chinese virus that risks to remain within our societies even after the end of the health pandemic. This is the virus that with its continuous censorship and its sole purpose of ensuring the survival and strengthening the Communist Party regime will not only deny us the truth about what happened, but will prevent us from taking the necessary measures to avoid incurring the same nightmare when the next virus strikes. In 2017, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber adopted a resolution in favor of the right to know, proposed by Marco Pannella as a human right to be recognized worldwide precisely to avoid the human and social massacre we are experiencing now. A proposal supported also by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, but promptly abandoned by the governmental institutions, both at the UN level and, as the management of this crisis shows, within those same institutions. Certainly the Chinese authoritarian model is more becoming to them. It is easier to control the population without allowing citizens to know and feed them a “truth” convenient to the regime.

It is high time to say “basta”, enough is enough. The lack of that right to know has prevented us from protecting our health in good time. It has reduced us to having to blindly follow orders from above, with indications changing according to the interests of those in power and to mask their grave shortcomings. Suffice it as an example to consider the repeated alleged uselessness of face masks up until a few weeks ago, only to find them now miraculously (almost) mandatory. At a time when government power has never relied as much on the goodwill and sense of responsibility of the population – which has proven to be the true moral authority of this crisis -, that same population has been denied the fundamental tool for exercising this responsibility.

The lesson is clear: it is high time to adopt tools ensuring that next time we do not have to wait for the arrival of a posthumous truth – if it will ever arrive -, but that enable us to know, deliberate and act accordingly when it is still possible to avoid the massacre. We have no illusions on the willingness of the Chinese regime to respect such a rule, but it is to only tool to protect ourselves and fight them in the future. And it is no coincidence that it is the tool that frightens it the most.

Laura Harth

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