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Freedom of Expression

    September 15, 2017

    In the last week Saudi Arabian authorities have intensified their crackdown on freedom of expression, detaining more than 20 prominent religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and activists, said Amnesty International.

    “In recent years we cannot recall a week in which so many prominent Saudi Arabian figures have been targeted in such a short space of time,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle East.

    “It is clear that the new leadership under Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman is sending a chilling message: freedom of expression will not be tolerated, we are coming after you.”

    Those arrested include prominent Islamic clerics such as Sheikh Salman al-Awda, an influential religious figure who has over 14 million followers on social media, detained on 9 September. He is known for his calls for reforms and as an advocate for greater respect of human rights within the Islamic Shari’a.

    September 07, 2017

    A new report published by Amnesty International today sheds light on the repressive tactics used by the Bahraini government over the past year to crush civil society and violently crack down on protests, leading to the deaths of six people, including one child.

    ‘No one can protect you’: Bahrain’s year of crushing dissent documents how, between June 2016 and June 2017, at least 169 government critics or their relatives were arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel by the authorities.

    “Using an array of tools of repression, including harassment, arbitrary detention and torture, the government of Bahrain has managed to crush a formerly thriving civil society and reduced it to a few lone voices who still dare to speak out,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The majority of peaceful critics, whether they are human rights defenders or political activists, now feel the risks of expressing their views have become too high in Bahrain.”

    September 05, 2017

    Responding to the news today that the Egyptian authorities have blocked access to the website of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s Head of Campaigns for North Africa said:

    “The decision to block access to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms website is the latest signal that the Egyptian authorities are determined to silence independent voices and stamp out online criticism of their human rights record.

    “In recent months the Egyptian authorities have cut off access to dozens of news websites with a wave of digital censorship, and now it looks like human rights NGOs are set to be the next target. Last month, access to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, one of the oldest NGO websites in Egypt, was also blocked.

    “Human rights groups in the country have already come under unprecedented attack through asset freezes and travel bans against their staff, and a draconian NGO law signed earlier this year which has imposed harsh restrictions on their work.

    September 05, 2017
      The arrest of a Palestinian human rights defender today who criticized the Palestinian authorities on Facebook is a shameless attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.   Issa Amro, a Hebron-based coordinator for Youth Against Settlements and a former field researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, was detained at around midday local time today by Palestinian Preventive Security Forces, after he posted comments on his Facebook page criticizing the arrest of a local radio journalist yesterday by the same Palestinian security forces.   “It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” said Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.  
    September 04, 2017

    The Cambodian authorities’ closure of the country’s longest running English-language newspaper today represents a new and disturbing escalation in the pre-election crackdown on government critics, Amnesty International said. The closure comes a day after the prominent opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested on trumped up charges.

    The Cambodia Daily was today forced to shut down after it failed to meet a deadline to pay a multi-million dollar tax bill the government imposed on the newspaper in August. The Daily, founded in 1993, was one of the few media outlets in the country not controlled by the government.

    “This is a disturbing day for freedom of expression in Cambodia. It is chilling how ruthlessly and quickly the authorities have been able to move to shut down one of the country’s few, independent voices in the media,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    September 04, 2017

    The arrest of a Palestinian human rights defender today who criticized the Palestinian authorities on Facebook is a shameless attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    Issa Amro, a Hebron-based coordinator for Youth Against Settlements and a former field researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, was detained at around midday local time today by Palestinian Preventive Security

    Forces, after he posted comments on his Facebook page criticizing the arrest of a local radio journalist yesterday by the same Palestinian security forces.

    “It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence

    that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” said Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    August 17, 2017
    The Hong Kong authorities’ relentless pursuit of jail terms for three leaders of the pro-democracy movement is a vindictive attack on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said.   On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal handed Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law between six and eight months in prison for their roles in a demonstration that helped spark the city’s 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. Prosecutors pursued harsher punishments for the trio, after they were originally given non-custodial sentences at their first trial a year ago.   “The relentless and vindictive pursuit of student leaders using vague charges smacks of political payback by the authorities,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.   “The real danger to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong is the authorities’ continued persecution of prominent democracy activists. Prosecutions aimed at deterring participation in peaceful protests must be dropped.”  
    August 15, 2017
      Reacting to the guilty verdict against pro-democracy activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa (“Pai Dao Din”), who was today sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for violating Thailand’s lèse-majesté law after sharing a BBC article on Facebook, Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:   “This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook. It is outrageous that Pai Dao Din is now facing more than two years behind bars just for sharing a news article.   “Pai Dao Din should never have had to face trial in the first place. His guilty plea should not be considered as an admission of criminal responsibility as the courts regularly halve sentences for defendants who have pleaded guilty in such cases. Pai Dao Din must be released immediately and unconditionally.  
    August 11, 2017

    The arrest of four officials from the opposition in Venezuela, the removal from office of a further 11 and the issuing of arrest warrants against another five, demonstrates the Maduro administration’s tightening stranglehold on any form of dissent, taking repression to a frightening new level, said Amnesty International.

    “By removing opposition officials from their posts for no legitimate reason, the Maduro administration is crossing a very delicate line,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “The justice system should never be abused to silence the opposition, particularly those who have been elected to office.”

    “First they came for those taking to the streets, then for those who represent them in office. How much further is the Venezuelan government willing to go in order to silence those who think differently? The answer is terrifying,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

    August 10, 2017

    Responding to the arrest of Medha Patkar, of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India said:

    "The right to protest peacefully and without arms is a fundamental right in India. The Madhya Pradesh government must immediately release Medha Patkar and 11 others who were arrested on 9 August when they were on their way to meet people protesting against their displacement by the Sardar Sarovar Project".

    Medha Patkar, a former commissioner on the World Commission of Dams, along with others, joined the evictees from the Sardar Sarovar dam, to stage an indefinite fast demanding the satisfactory rehabilitation of the evictees. According to Patkar, there are no basic amenities, including water, for evictees in the rehabilitation sites. Patkar, along with 11 others, were forcibly removed from the protest site on 7 August and then admitted in different hospitals. After being discharged from hospital, they were arrested by the Madhya Pradesh Police on charges of kidnapping, criminal intimidation, rioting and assaulting a public servant.

    August 10, 2017

    Amnesty International welcomes the release of Lim Hyeon-soo to receive urgent medical treatment. The Canadian pastor and humanitarian worker has been detained in North Korea for the past two and a half years.

    He was convicted of “plotting to overthrow the government” and sentenced to life in prison with hard labour in December 2015 after spending almost one year in detention. The Canadian government has confirmed that Lim Hyeon-soo will be soon be reunited with his family in Canada. According to North Korean state media, Lim Hyeon-soo was released “on sick bail” for “humanitarian reasons”.

    He had developed a host of health problems including malnutrition, high blood pressure, arthritis, and stomach problems as a side effect of medicine that was not properly administered prior to his release. International civil society and governments have been pressuring North Korea to release Lim Hyeon-soo and to allow him to return to Canada. His release took place amid high military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and after the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was previously imprisoned in North Korea and returned to the United States in a coma.

    August 09, 2017

    Kenyan police must not use unnecessary force in their handling of any election-related protests, said Amnesty International today amid fear and uncertainty in the country after the opposition rejected the initial publicly announced results.

    In a live press briefing this morning, opposition candidate Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, alleged the electoral commission’s website had been hacked and the results manipulated in favour of the ruling Jubilee Party. He claimed the system had been hacked using the log-in details of Chris Msando, the top election body official who was found murdered on 31 July.

    Initial publicly announced results showed the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta leading in the votes.

    July 31, 2017
      A new law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin banning anonymizers and virtual private networks (VPNs) is a major blow to internet freedom in Russia, Amnesty International said today.   “With the Russian authorities increasingly intolerant of dissent, technologies that help internet users evade censorship and protect their privacy are crucial for freedom of expression online. Today the authorities have given themselves an instrument to ban the use of VPNs and other technologies that help people to freely access information online,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.   “This is the latest blow in an assault on online freedom which has seen critical sites blocked and social media users prosecuted solely for what they post online, under vaguely written anti-extremism legislation. The ban on VPNs takes this shameful campaign a whole step further.
    July 25, 2017
    Dr Stella Nyanzi

    Photo Credit: GAEL GRILHOT/AFP/Getty Images

    Download PDF of most recent update to UA 89/17 Uganda

    89b Uganda.pdf 89b Uganda.pdf

     

    July 21, 2017
      Responding to the Ugandan police’s announcement that they have arrested 56 people for allegedly holding illegal meetings under the deeply-flawed Public Order Management Act (POMA), Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:   “The Ugandan police are no strangers to making arrests in utter disregard for constitutionally-guaranteed rights, but this most recent case is patently absurd. These 56 individuals are guilty of nothing more than attending a peaceful meeting. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.   “The Public Order Management Act is deeply flawed and has previously been used by the police to crack down on the opposition and civil society. This latest mass arrest is no exception.”  

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