Trends Report highlights how symptoms of “Long COVID” in Central and Southeast Europe include assaults on transparency and media freedom, infectious disregard for the rule of law, and ideological entrenchment and polarisation.
Governments in Central and Southeast are taking advantage of the pandemic to continue their assault on democratic values and the still-fragile system of checks and balances, Reporting Democracy, a cross-border journalistic platform run by BIRN, warns in its annual Trends Report published on Wednesday.
“While Long COVID symptoms in people include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and problems with memory; symptoms for countries in this region include assaults on transparency and media freedom, infectious disregard for the rule of law, ideological entrenchment and polarisation, and problems with memory,” the report, COVID’s Lingering Effects, says.
Marking the second year of the Reporting Democracy initiative, the report highlights the key “signals to watch” and “what to expect in 2021” as the political, economic and social consequences of the coronavirus crisis continue to unfold.
The report seeks to examine the political and social implications of the pandemic that has exacerbated some pre-existing trends, like assaults on media freedom and eroding of the rule of law, that were also covered in the inaugural edition of the Trends Report. It also identifies some new ones, including the vaccine dimension to disinformation, misinformation and propaganda; the return of rising poverty in the region, and the destruction of the cultural economy by COVID-19 and government partiality over the financial aid provided to it.
“The European Commission called the pandemic a ‘real-life stress test’ for our legal and constitutional systems – and in many regards they are failing. The Trends Report is part of our effort to unleash the power of independent journalism to explore the issues, trends and events that are shaping the future of democracy in Central and Southeast Europe,” Reporting Democracy Editor Nicholas Watson said.
The Trends Report streams from the regular coverage of the most important developments in the Visegrad region, provided by the Reporting Democracy correspondents, grants for in-depth features and investigations available to local journalists and the expert commentary from leaders in policy, civil society and academia.