(For ISPI (Italian Institute for International Political Studies))
It seems that not only the economy and health care systems, but also human rights and democracy have proven particularly fragile during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even in more consolidated democracies, governments did not always succeed in ensuring that all the restrictions were necessary and proportionate to the threat to the lives of their citizens. According to the Freedom House report, the condition of democracy and human rights has grown worse in more than 80 countries. As the vaccination campaign is advancing worldwide, although in a patchy way, civil society organizations and activists in countries led by authoritarian regimes face new challenges of coping with the consequences of the accelerated illiberal agenda of their countries’ leaders. During the last one and a half years, one could observe how authoritarian leaders introduced excessive control and surveillance, discriminatory restrictions on freedom of assembly, movement, and speech, often enforced by police or the military. In this regard, this article looks at the strategies that authorities in Russia, Belarus, and Turkey have chosen to use the crisis to deal with civil society activism and strengthen their own position.