A government’s fear of scrutiny and criticism often determines how repressive it is toward the press. The greater the fear, the greater the loss of press freedom.

Of course governments dislike appearing afraid, so they hide their fear under the cover of “a reasonable excuse”. Such an excuse is often related to protecting national security or the public interest. Even better is the cover of a national emergency.

The non-government organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which compiles the World Press Freedom Index, knows this. And so it has adopted a sceptical approach to what governments around the world have been saying about how COVID-19 requires new measures for dealing with the press during this time of emergency.