/ Open Society

Our open and plural society faces threats on many fronts. Actions taken to contain the pandemic have caused isolation, travel bans, fears and insecurities that are fuelling conspiracy theories and radicalising the debate. Quite a few countries have banned demonstrations, suppressed freedom of expression and of the press, and extended their control over citizens’ behaviour, citing the pandemic as the reason.

Freedom of opinion and the right to demonstrate are fundamental rights in a free democracy, as are the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Debate, arguments and demonstrations about the proportionality of the response to the pandemic or specific measures are not harmful to democracy. They are part of the democratic process. As a Foundation for freedom we campaign for diversity and tolerance in our open society. Everyone should have the freedom to determine their own lives. Discrimination, exclusion and oppression are the enemies of democracies that are increasingly coming under threat from authoritarian agendas and attacks against the constitutional state.  There have been massive restrictions on rights of freedom in 2020, both in the analogue and in the digital world, as a result of the pandemic. In our human rights work with project partners in more than 60 countries around the world, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom promotes, assists and supports non-government organisations, oppositionists and human rights activists. One of the global issues we are currently focusing on is the prevention of disinformation and fake news, so that citizens can form their own opinions without manipulation and one-sided information. We continue to reinforce liberal values in the pandemic with our studies, projects, campaigns and education on human rights. In 2021 we will be celebrating 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany. Against racism and antisemitism. The Foundation will be implementing various projects and activities to prevent right-wing extremism and hate on the internet. 


Author: Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Deputy Chairwoman of the Management Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and former Federal German Justice Minister

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