The public’s reliance on journalists and news media to stay informed is critical during a public health crisis. In their article, Adam Marshall and Gunita Singh survey and analyze how public access to government records and meetings has been impacted by the pandemic while also focusing on the key role the new media plays in informing the public about COVID-19.
Marshall and Singh examine how access to public records has been limited at the federal, state, and local levels through restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act, actions taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of State, and local governments which have suspended access to information. The article also focuses on how the news media has navigated its role in disseminating information during the pandemic despite various roadblocks which limits its access.
In exploring how Canada’s Constitution has affected its response to COVID-19, Amir Attaran explains how the legal and political contours of Canadian federalism have become a brake on the country’s response to the pandemic. Unlike what Canadians may believe, the black letter law of their Constitution is not the cause of the problem, it is the federalism and the struggles between the federal government and provinces that has caused issues.
Worries about inflaming provinces and secession coupled with a federal government that only rarely seeks to assert its full constitutional authority has led to an ineffective response that is arguably the greatest cause of lives lost during the pandemic.
The problem is not the constitution, but rather the self-neutering political disinclination of the federal government to act. Attaran therefore identifies reforms that could be put into place and highlights Australia, Germany, and Switzerland as models for consideration.
Marko Milanovic and Michael N. Schmitt explain that the COVID-19 pandemic has starkly highlighted the need to further international cyber law discourse amongst states. Malicious cyber operations directed against medical facilities and capabilities and campaigns of misinformation have interfered with states’ abilities to effectively fight the virus and treat their populations.
These acts can be qualified as violations of international law, at time violating the state sovereignty, intervening in state internal affairs, and even amounting to wrongful use of force. At the same time, states have a duty under human rights law to combat harmful cyber operations and misinformation campaigns by states and non-state actors alike.
All states, human rights courts, human rights monitoring bodies, the academy, the private sector and NGOs must take up the challenge presented by this tragic pandemic to move the law governing cyberspace in the right direction.