Coronavirus restrictions across the globe have met with criticism from some corners of society, with dissident voices claiming the restrictions violate citizens' rights and free speech.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed daily life for many, regulating activities and restricting practices which were previously taken for granted. Naturally, such changes have led to voices of dissent criticising the measures and claiming the pandemic is founded upon lies, or at least viewing it with a sense of scepticism.

RTL's Lynn Cruchten met with the University of Luxembourg's Prof Dr Jörg Gerkrath to discuss the concept of free speech and human rights in times of crisis.

Protests such as the recent anti-Covid-restriction gatherings in Germany were characterised by signs stating "stop the coronavirus madness", "we want our rights back", "right to free speech" and many more.

Demonstrators claim their right to free speech has been limited during the pandemic. Prof Dr Gerkrath, an expert in European law, refuted these claims, stating free speech is still valid, as is the right to an opinion. The only aspect which could be limited is the liberty of expression, but this has not been reined in despite the health crisis.

In contrast, said the professor, social media allowed more options for freedom of expression than ever before, but was often misused for hate speech. In principle, the same rules should apply to the internet as in real life.

Prof Dr Gerkrath explained that realistically, many of our fundamental rights can be limited if it is for the greater good - for example, one reason could be the protection of society's health, as is the case at present. Public health, protection of others were all acceptable reasons. He cited the example of hate speech, in which laws seek to protect people in private from being abused.

Protest and demonstration rights are still permitted even during the pandemic, as has been the case; however, Prof Dr Gerkrath stated that protests such as those seen in Berlin could legally be banned as demonstrators were not observing safety and sanitary regulations, such as physical distance or wearing face coverings.

Meenungsfräiheet a Corona-Zäiten / Reportage Lynn Cruchten