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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saudi Gazette report
GENEVA — Saudi Arabia has affirmed that its efforts to combat coronavirus pandemic are within the framework of its approach toward human rights.
Mishal Bin Ali Al-Balawi, head of the human rights section of the Kingdom’s delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, said this approach has two parallel tracks: combating the epidemic and limiting its spread on the one hand, and not affecting human rights while addressing its impact or taking precautionary measures to limit its spread.
Al-Balawi made the remarks while addressing the interactive dialogue session with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and the impact of COVID-19 on them.
Al-Balawi said the Kingdom’s laws, foremost of which is the Basic Law of Governance, strive to enhance freedom of opinion and expression while observing other rights, given that human rights are complementary, interdependent and indivisible, as stated in 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA), which is fully consistent with the relevant international standards. “Article VIII of the press and publishing regulation included that freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by various means of publishing within the scope of legitimate and legal provisions,” he said.
With regard to disseminating information and enabling everyone to access them, Al-Balawi stated that the competent authorities in the Kingdom are publishing all information related to COVID-19 epidemic. “The ministry of health has published and is publishing, on a daily basis, statistical figures of cases, as well as the spread of the pandemic and all that related to it, in addition to creating a continuously updating electronic board that includes accurate details that can be accessed by everyone,” he said.
Al-Balawi said press conferences are being held periodically by the ministry of health and other concerned parties which are open to all media outlets. “Journalists are provided with the necessary protection in light of this pandemic in recognition of their vital role. The number of users of the Internet represents a clear picture of the implementation of this right,” he said while referring to access to the Internet.
Al-Balawi said that as an extension of efforts to promote freedom of opinion and expression, many laws related to freedom of opinion and expression are currently being reviewed, in light of the Kingdom’s regulations and international human rights standards. “This is to ensure that such regulations play their pivotal role in protecting the fundamental principles set forth in the international standards, including public health, so as not to negatively affect everyone from having enjoyed his full right to express his views,” the official added.
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