Public Health Emergency Does Not Justify Limiting Civil Liberties Argumentative Essay

Introduction: Because pandemics threaten our freedom and liberty, I stand Resolved: A public health emergency does not justify limiting civil liberties

The value I will uphold today is that of our individual rights and integrity of the government. Our rights are a very important value because without it, we would not be able to live life as well as we do today.

The criteria the judge should use is what limits are most effective at preserving human life while infringing on liberties the least.

Criteria for upholding freedom

I have one main Contention 1: Government Overreach


Governments are using Public Health risks to crush Human rights

Hayward, 20 (John Hayward, 12-25-2020, accessed on 6-23-2021, Breitbart,

 "7 Ways Governments Used the Coronavirus to Crush Human Rights", 

“People have died because governments have lied, hidden information, detained reporters, failed to level with people about the nature of the threat, and criminalized individuals under the guise of ‘spreading false information. People have suffered because some governments would rather protect themselves from criticism than allow people to share information, learn about the outbreak, know what officials are or are not doing to protect them,” 

In the past three months, numerous governments have used the COVID [Chinese coronavirus] -pandemic to repress expression in violation of their obligations under human rights law,”  

The International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), an international education and development nonprofit, published a report in September called Freedom of Expression During Covid-19 that took a detailed look at how 20 different governments used the pandemic to curtail freedom of speech.

 The pandemic imposed “previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty, from freedom of speech down to the right to a speedy trial, since almost every activity involving human contact has been restricted.” 

lito suggested – and some other religious freedom activists have explicitly asserted – that statist ideologues are using the coronavirus as an excuse to stamp out the freedom to congregate and worship, while giving free pandemic passes to activities they favor for ideological reasons, like mass protests. This hypocrisy and hostility to religion became especially obvious in New York, where the Supreme Court sided with religious groups against Governor Andrew Cuomo in November. 

 Quarantines, travel bans, lockdowns, and similar restrictions are obviously difficult to square with the freedom of citizens to travel as they desire, which in turn compromises other human rights that involve the movement of people and goods.  

Related to the free speech issue, but distinct enough to consider the subject on its own, is the damage inflicted upon journalism by the pandemic. In a year-end report published last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found more reporters imprisoned around the world than ever before, many arrested for coverage of the pandemic that contradicted official narratives. Unsurprisingly, Communist China was especially brutal about arresting reporters for pandemic coverage that challenged the government

 Internet Freedom Has Taken a Hit During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Cond, ND (Cond, No Date, accessed on 7-25-2021, Wired, "Internet Freedom Has Taken a Hit During the Covid-19 Pandemic",

"Political leaders used the pandemic as a pretext to crack down on free expression and limit access to information," Freedom House director for democracy and technology Adrian Shahbaz told reporters ahead of the report's release. "We traced three commonly used tactics. First, in at least 45 countries, activists, journalists, and other members of the public were arrested or charged with criminal offenses for online speech related to the pandemic. Second, in at least 20 countries, governments cited the pandemic emergency to impose vague or overly broad speech restrictions. Third, governments in at least 28 countries censored websites and social media posts to censor unfavorable health statistics, corruption allegations, and other Covid-19-related content." 


The overreaches go beyond contact tracing and health status apps as well. Freedom House found that the governments of at least 30 countries are taking advantage of the pandemic to specifically expand other mass surveillance capabilities, typically with the help of telecoms and tech companies. For example, Ecuador has developed an entire public health platform that combines personal data from a Covid-19 app and surveillance footage with other location data from satellites and citizens' phones. Yet even with this massive trove of information, little is known about how Ecuadorean authorities store the data and who can access it. Similarly, Pakistan’s intelligence agency has turned one of its anti-terrorism systems into a virus-tracking platform. Freedom House says there are reports of intelligence agents going so far as to tap hospital phone lines to listen in on Covid-19 patients' calls and see whether their family and friends admit to having virus symptoms themselves. 

B.reject rights violations

Petro 74 [Professor of Law @ Wake Forest University. University of Toledo Law Review Spring 1974, page. 480]

It is unacceptable to say that the invasion of one aspect of freedom is of no import because there have been invasions of so many other aspects. That road leads to chaos, tyranny, despotism and the end of all human aspiration. Ask Solzhenistyn. Ask Milovan Djilas. In sum, if one believes in freedom then every invasion of freedom must be emphatically identified and resisted with undying spirit.

As Trust in government and policies increases, compliance and trust in the government increase as well. 

[John Barugahare, lecturer at Department of Philosophy at Makerere University in Uganda, Fredrick Nelson Nakwagala, Endocrinologist at Department of Internal medicine, Mulago National Referral Hospital, Erisa Mwaka Sabakaki, Senior Lecturer and Chair of Biomedical Sciences Higher Degrees and Research Ethics Committee, Makerere, Uganda, Joseph Ochieng, associate professor at Department of Anatomy, School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, & Nelson K Sewankambo, Principal of the Makerere University College of Health Sciences and Dean Emeritus of the School of Medicine in Uganda, Sept. 2020, “Ethical and Human Rights Considerations in Public Health in Low and Middle-Income Countries: An Assessment Using the Case of Uganda’s Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic,” BMC Medical Ethics, vol. 21, no. 1, p. 91. BioMed Central, doi:10.1186/s12910-020-00523-0/] 

The ethical principles such as reciprocity, transparency, non-discrimination, accountability, non-maleficence, equity, and others have been recommended to guide any implementation of restrictive and burdensome public health measures. These ethical principles bear intrinsic value and are important in ensuring the effectiveness of the adopted measures. However, the measures’ inherent potential to achieve a public health goal, and the extent to which such measures satisfy basic ethics and human rights criteria, play complementary roles in ensuring uptake and actual effectiveness of the adopted measures

Therefore, to contain pandemics such as COVID-19, ethical assessment of contemplated measures and their mode of implementation are as critical as their prima facie potential for effectiveness largely depend on voluntary compliance by the public, and the simplicity of their enforcement. These two factors depend on the ethical legitimacy of such measures, which in turn depends on the extent to which those measures satisfy certain ethics and human rights criteria. A careful look at such criteria intuitively reveals that ‘ethically legitimate public health measures are easier to voluntarily comply with and/or enforce’.

Highly Restrictive safely measures will generally weaken a sense of obligation for voluntary compliance among the public and even make enforcement largely unsuccessful, or unnecessarily violate people’s rights.


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