Legal Groups Warn of Free Speech Issues Around Djokovic’s Ejection

Legal Groups Warn of Free Speech Issues Around Djokovic's Ejection

( – The world of tennis has found itself at the center of an unlikely political controversy over the last week or so. Serbian Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked male player in the world, was locked in battle with Australian authorities in a bid to play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated. Australia’s government ultimately opted to remove him from the country before the tournament, and civil liberties groups across the world are up in arms.

Following the global controversy around Djokovic’s exit from Australia on Sunday, January 16, it emerged that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke opposed the player’s entry because it could have spread unwanted negative sentiment about vaccinations. The minister was reportedly aware that Djokovic was unlikely to spread the virus himself.

Civil rights advocates in Australia have railed against this reasoning. Some have stated it sets a worrying precedent with how easy it might be to exclude people from the country in the future based on their political or personal beliefs.

The story of Djokovic’s expulsion from Australia was far from straightforward. Officials initially said they had granted him a medical exemption because of previous infection (he tested positive for the virus in mid-December). However, after two weeks of contentious legal battles, public backlash, and government intervention, the authorities eventually decided to cancel his visa and remove him from the country.

Do you think the Australian government was right to take the steps it did, or did the decision amount to an unreasonable breach of civil liberties?

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