A citizen’s Right to Know to hold governments and international institutions to account!
IN MEMORY OF LI WENLIANG AND ALL SILENCED HEROES
NOW IS THE TIME TO CLAIM OUR CITIZEN’S RIGHT TO KNOW
Never like in this moment, where the whole of humanity is facing the same pandemic, has the need for the right to know as a fundamental civil and political right been so clear. A fundamental right suppressed for decades by despot regimes, starting from the Chinese Communist Party, responsible without a doubt of suppressing useful and timely information on the COVID19 outbreak inside and outside its borders. A fundamental right increasingly suppressed by democratic governments around the world, in a move towards a model increasingly reminiscent – and openly invoked by some – of the “Chinese model”. Medics, journalists, citizens, and entire territories have been silenced in an effort to keep citizens in the dark, preventing them from protecting their basic right to health. It is time to say no more! We need a global standard to hold governments and international institutions to account!
The responsibility citizens around the world have been asked to bear, and are bearing with great dignity – from losing their loved ones without a final goodbye, to renouncing to the most basic forms of affection, and many seeing their lives’ work go down the drain -, makes it all the more unacceptable they have not been shown the basic respect that should rightly go with such grave responsibility. Rather than providing them with the necessary information in a timely manner to allow them to take measures of prevention, almost all governments around the world have chosen to wait until it was too late and the only option remaining was to forcefully confine huge amounts of the world population to their homes without a clear exit strategy and suspend constitutional rights and liberties for an undetermined amount of time.
Every country in the world has its examples. Allow us to share Italy’s, the first European country to be hit in such a harsh manner by the virus, whose government openly endorses the “Chinese model”. As was revealed only recently, Italy’s government disposed of a scientific report and plan as early as the end of January, but chose not to share it with its citizens or even Members of Parliament “in order not to cause a panic” as the yet to be disclosed report allegedly spoke of numbers close to 600.000 deaths. The report was kept secret, and while a national health emergency was declared on January 31st, almost no concrete measures were taken, yet the Freedom of Information Act was rapidly suspended. Rather, while the Office of the President of the Council of Ministers made sure adequate protective materials were stocked at the Palace, citizens were publicly invited by members of the government to continue on as they were, amass in public spaces and keep the economy going. Experts and citizens calling for more attention were derided or insulted as public agitators. The result was that when the pandemic erupted in Italy in late February, there was no sufficient stock protective materials for medical staff, for volunteers and for the population at large.
The examples are legion. The conclusion one: for the benefit of those in power, the people were willingly kept in the dark. The very same citizens that have been asked to bear the brunt of this pandemic. Their legitimate representatives, Members of Parliament, were willingly kept in the dark. Warnings and lessons coming from whistle-blowers, governments and citizens in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, where they know the reality of the Chinese Communist Party regime all too well, were ignored not to “disturb” the Chinese regime. It is time to say no more. In a democratic society, the power is held by the people, and that power needs timely information if it is to be exercised in any meaningful way.
While much rightful attention has been paid to the propaganda and disinformation campaigns to which they are subject, such campaigns are nothing compared to the power exercised by a government in function that willingly and knowingly suppressed their citizens’ right to know. A fundamental right with the power of preventing exactly the global horror we are living right now.
A fundamental right suppressed for decades by despot regimes, starting from the Chinese Communist Party, responsible without a doubt of suppressing useful and timely information on the COVID19 outbreak inside and outside its borders. We must never ever forget the brave health professionals and citizen journalists who tried to warn the world of the impending danger and were crushed down by the Chinese regime in a continuous effort to ensure its own survival over the survival of its citizens.
We must never forget the silencing of Taiwan, through its exclusion from the World Health Organisation which willingly ignored and did not share their information. This move did and does not only continue to put Taiwan citizens’ life at risk, it has put the life of citizens worldwide at risk and did not allow them to follow an exemplary and timely model that has not only kept its infection rate exceptionally low but has also allowed citizens to continue enjoying their constitutional rights and liberties.
Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China continues to bully governments and citizens abroad, and outright refuses to allow an international and independent expert investigation into the territory the virus originated. We have no illusions on a change of heart by this regime to allow at least a posthumous right to truth to emerge. But we must not allow our democratic governments to do the same. We must not allow international agencies to do the same.
Therefore, in memory of Li Wenliang and all the other silenced heroes around the world, and in support of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s decision to welcome the proposal of the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational Transparty and the Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella” to put this issue on its list of priorities for this years’ session, and in an Appeal to all other national and international Parliamentary Assemblies:
We global citizens, turn our protest and craving for democracy and rule of law into a concrete proposal.
We must vie for the truth not only after the disaster has been completed, but for public knowledge when it is still possible to prevent it.
We must be clear on the fact that when individual voices are silenced, in China and elsewhere as we see increasingly happening in universities and media around the world, not only their individual right to expression is harmed, but the right to know of all!
For the silencing of every journalist, every medic, every librarian, every blogger, every activist, every lawyer, is the silencing of global civic consciousness as a whole.
We cannot and must let single individuals fight the violation of their right to expression alone, we must stand together and affirm that when one voice is silenced, we are all victims!
We cannot allow our societies to succumb to a model with “Chinese characteristics”. We cannot accept international agencies to abide to a Chinese standard.
We must reinforce our societies with this most basic and fundamental pivot of democratic decision making, and once more represent a beacon of hope for oppressed voices around the world.
It is time to claim our right to know!
Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”
Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational Transparty