Freedom of Expression
By Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International
Facebook, Microsoft, and LinkedIn are among the tech firms expected to be on a charm offensive with Chinese officials at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, which started November 16.
The new law codifies existing abusive practices and seeks to turn tech companies operating in China into de-facto state surveillance agents.
China has made clear to Western companies what tune they must dance to if they want to gain or keep access to the riches of the Chinese market, currently dominated by national players like Tencent and Sina.
A new Cyber Security Law passed in China last week goes further than ever before in tightening the government’s already repressive grip on the internet, embodied by its “Great Firewall”. It is a vast human and technological system of Internet censorship without parallel in the world. The new law codifies existing abusive practices and seeks to turn tech companies operating in China into de-facto state surveillance agents.
By: Nazila Nik (Iran Coordination Team)
I remember growing up in Iran in the 80s: revolution and war, the dramatic shift of political and social landscape, uncertainty and a sense of suffocation. Among the enormous changes forced upon my generation, was a massive cultural purge that followed the 1979 revolution and affected the whole artistic sphere. Music that was deemed to be non-revolutionary or influenced by the west was banned. History has shown us, however, that music and art usually rebound when faced with censorship. People always come up with ingenious ways to overcome repression, and that is exactly what happened in Iran.
In Amnesty International’s Toronto office there is a bookcase full of 3 inch thick non-descript black binders. Each binder contains 100 Urgent Actions, case files for people around the world at risk of human rights violations – unfair detention or arrest, torture, disappearance, harassment and censorship. Around 350 cases come in every year. They get sent out to letter writers, form online actions, get turned into petitions, spread via social media and power campaigns.
By Gloria Nafziger: Refugee and Migrant Rights Coodinator
On August 21, as Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa finished a marathon at the Rio Olympics, he crossed his arms above his head in a gesture of solidarity with the Oromo people in Ethiopia. He is reported as saying, “The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”
He did not return to Ethiopia, and is reported to be seeking asylum in either Brazil or the United States.
Feyisa Lilesa is right to be concerned about human rights violations targeting the Oromo in Ethiopia.
Early in August of this year, at least 97 people were killed and hundreds more injured when Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters across Oromia region and in parts of Amhara. A disproportionate violent police response to protests has resulted in over 500 protestors’ deaths recorded in Oromia region since November 2015 and over 100 others in the Amhara and Oromia region in the month of August.
By Lin Htet NaingIn March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was locked up for helping to organize a student protest in Myanmar. After eight months in hiding, her husband Lin Htet Naing was also arrested in November. Before his arrest, he told us about his partner and their fight for justice.
My favourite day is April 11, 2007. It’s the day we fell in love. I love my wife because she is simple, honest and very kind to me. I think she loves me because I am a little bit bad :D. We just want a sweet home and a family together.
I met her at a student book class in 2006. I thought she looked like a boy. And she wasn’t afraid of anyone. She was always debating with our classmates, and talking about why globalization is good.
Media workers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are free. Just weeks after a court sentenced them to another three years in prison, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has cut short the rest of their sentences and released them under a presidential pardon.
For more than a year and a half they have been persecuted by Egyptian authorities – forced to endure two drawn-out, politically-motivated trials and months in prison – simply for their work for news channel Al Jazeera English.
Their release is very welcome news, although they should never have been jailed for the ludicrous charges of ‘broadcasting false news’ and operating as journalists without authorisation. We continue to call on Egyptian authorities to drop all criminal charges against them and their colleague Peter Greste.
By Sevag Kechichian, Saudi Arabia Researcher at Amnesty International
Today, like many people around the world, I waited to find out if Raif Badawi would again be hauled out of his prison cell and mercilessly lashed another 50 times in a public square in Jeddah.
The same suspense has gripped people for 23 weeks since the first time this act of cruelty was inflicted on the imprisoned blogger on 9 January this year. That day, a crowd of onlookers gathered in the square immediately after Friday prayers to witness this hateful spectacle.
While flogging and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments are commonplace in Saudi Arabia, they are not necessarily carried out on Fridays and in public. There is often an air of secrecy even around the many beheadings and other executions in the country – which have seen a macabre spike since the beginning of this year.
Amnesty International has campaigned for Raif’s release since his arrest in 2012. Since he was flogged, it joined more than a million activists, journalists and political leaders in calling for an end to the horror and for his immediate release.
By William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. On twitter @williamnee
26 years have passed since the tragic days in 1989 when thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters were brutally repressed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
But even though the tanks have long left the city’s infamous square, President Xi Jinping, appears as determined to quash anyone perceived as challenging the Communist Party’s hegemony.
When President Xi took office in late 2012, he declared power would be put “in a cage”, but it is the independently minded academics, journalists, lawyers, and rights activists that have been thrown in jail.
We are witnessing one of the darkest periods for freedom of expression in China since the bloodshed of 1989.
By Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada's Secretary General. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeve Amnesty
Amnesty International has reviewed the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel regarding Public Diplomacy Cooperation ( MOU) which was concluded between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries on 18 January, 2015.
When 12 people working at the satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo were gunned down at their offices in central Paris in January, the world woke up to the grim reality of the threats thousands of media professionals face daily.
The global campaigns of support for the magazine’s work sent the unequivocal message that no one should pay with their lives the price of exercising their right to freedom of expression.
But behind this single story that dominated the international news headlines are thousands of media professionals who, in every corner of the world, are harassed, intimidated, threatened, tortured and unfairly jailed by governments and armed groups in a vile attempt to prevent them from holding up a mirror to society.
In countries such as Mexico and Pakistan, owning a press card is so dangerous that many media professionals end up quitting their jobs altogether, out of utter fear.
According to Reporters without Borders, 22 journalists and media workers have been killed and more than 160 have been imprisoned in 2015 alone. Nearly 100 media professionals were killed because of their work in 2014.
In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the parents of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was recently released from prison in Egypt, remain concerned about his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.
As we proudly watched our son Peter Greste finally speak outside the Tora fortress that had been his prison for more than a year, addressing an audience filled with politicians and journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra, our pride couldn’t help be tinged by the knowledge this freedom couldn’t be shared by his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed and Baher.
These welcoming faces felt a long way from June 2014, when Peter, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, the ‘Al Jazeera three’ as they’d become known, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This nightmare had followed their arrest on the 29th of December, 2013, for simply doing their jobs and was without a doubt the lowest point in the campaign to have all three released.
At least 77 people died as a result of clashes between police and protesters at Kyiv’s EuroMaydan roughly a year ago and another 1,000 were severely injured.
These numbers may sound like dull statistics, but for me they were transformed into real individual stories of injustice as I attended launch of Amnesty International’s report: A year after EuroMaydan, justice delayed, justice denied in Kiev this morning. One of the most outspoken victims of police violence at EuroMaydan – Vladyslav Tsilytskiy – was present at the report launch.
Fighting for justice
Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnistie Internationale Canada francophone, gives a snapshot of some of the widespread global campaigning for Raif Badawi. Raif has been sentenced to ten years and 1,000 lashes after starting a website for public debate in Saudi Arabia.
When the vigil in Montreal ended, we were all frozen to the bone. It was a gorgeous day, but to motivate activists and supporters to stay outdoors for over an hour in -20 degree temperatures, you have to be creative.
Motivating them to come in the first place wasn’t that hard – I could see the energy and the anger in their faces. They were outraged at what was happening to Raif Badawi, and they wanted to act. Another reason to attend: standing beside me, upright, silent and proud, small in stature but great in spirit, was Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who has taken refuge in Quebec along with their three children. Together, we our determined to reunite this family.