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Freedom of Expression

    December 10, 2015

    The Egyptian authorities’ continued detention of photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, exposes the rank hypocrisy behind their claim to uphold press freedom, Amnesty International said, ahead of the start of the photojournalist’s mass trial with 738 others on 12 December.

    In an open letter addressed to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, the organization called for Mahmoud Abu Zeid to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for all charges against him to be dropped.

    “Mahmoud Abu Zeid is a prisoner of conscience who has spent more than two years - 848 days - in pre-trial detention solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “This 28 year-old-man should be free, not languishing behind bars as his health deteriorates. His journalism is not a crime.”

    Mahmoud Abu Zeid is suffering from Hepatitis C and has been denied access to essential medication. His lawyers have appealed to the Public Prosecutor at least 17 times for his release on medical grounds, without success.

    December 09, 2015

    Thailand must stop using the lèse majesté law to criminalize freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today as the US Ambassador to the country faced a police investigation for alleged defamation of members of the Thai royal family.

    Glyn Davies has been accused of alleged lèse majesté offences over comments he made last month expressing concern at the lengthy jail sentences handed down to those convicted of breaking Thailand’s royal defamation law.

    “The authorities’ vicious application of the lèse majesté law has left dozens of individuals in jail for the peaceful exercise of their rights, with some facing military trials without the right of appeal,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research.

    “The fact that allegations of lèse majesté can be made for raising legitimate concerns highlight the current absurd extremes of Thailand’s restrictions on freedom of expression.”

    December 07, 2015

    The arrest of a group of 37 activists in Thailand ahead of a planned anti-corruption protest is the latest evidence that the country’s military government is using arbitrary powers of detention to silence peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

    The group of 36 students and a lawyer were detained on Monday morning while travelling by train to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin, central Thailand, to attend a demonstration against alleged military corruption.

    The authorities detached their train compartment en-route and forcibly removed some of the activists from the carriage before being taking them into custody.  All the activists were later released.

    “These heavy-handed and completely unjustifiable arrests highlight Thailand’s need to remove the military’s powers of arbitrary detention, which are being used to harass and criminalize peaceful dissent,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific regional office director.

    December 07, 2015

    Russia’s jailing of a peaceful opposition activist for violating the country’s new law on public assemblies is a shocking and cynical attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in jail by a Moscow court for repeated anti-government street protests. He is the first person to be jailed using the law, which was introduced in 2014 and punishes repeated breaches of public assembly rules.

    “The shocking sentencing of Ildar Dadin shows that the Russian authorities are using the law on public assemblies to fast-track peaceful protesters to prison,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    “This cynical move shows that compared to the drawn out criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters in the past, the authorities have now created a shortcut for imprisoning activists. It is more dangerous to be a peaceful activist in Russia than at any time in recent years.”

    The recent changes to Russia’s draconian law on public assemblies criminalize anyone found to have violated the law more than twice within 180 days.

    December 07, 2015

    Ugandan police have arbitrarily arrested political opposition leaders and used excessive force to disperse peaceful political gatherings, hindering the ability of Ugandans to receive information and engage with politicians in the lead-up to elections, a new Amnesty International report launched in Kampala today has found.

    Based on 88 interviews including with torture victims, eyewitnesses and senior police officers, as well as analysis of video footage, the report, “We come in and disperse them”: Violations of the right to freedom of assembly by the Ugandan police, documents a range of human right violations between July and October 2015. Members of the political opposition, including their presidential candidates, have been repeatedly placed under “preventive arrest” and police have indiscriminately fired tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators.

    “All Ugandans must be free to attend political rallies and engage with candidates, regardless of their political affiliations,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    November 27, 2015
    Phyoe Phyoe Aung with husband Lin Htet Naing

    By Lin Htet Naing

    In 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.
     

    November 26, 2015

    Venezuela must urgently investigate the killing of an opposition politician or risk further political violence in the country ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, said Amnesty International.

    “The killing of Luis Manuel Díaz provides a terrifying view of the state of human rights in Venezuela. Unless authorities are decisive in investigating this tragedy and bringing those responsible to justice, the door will be wide open to more violence,” said Marcos Gómez, Director at Amnesty International Venezuela.

    Luis Manuel Díaz, leader of the Democratic Action party in Guarico in Central Venezuela was shot dead during a public meeting.

    Opposition candidates and human rights activists have reported other attacks and intimidation during the electoral campaign.

    Parliamentary elections will be held on 6 December.

     

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations
    (613)744-7667 #236 jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

    November 25, 2015

    Posted at 0301hrs GMT  26 November 2015

    Activists and political leaders who speak out against attempts by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to stand for a third term in office are being subjected to arbitrary arrest and, in some cases, prolonged incommunicado detention, said Amnesty International, a year before presidential elections are officially due to take place.

    A new report, Treated like criminals: DRC's race to silence dissent in the run up to elections, reveals how DRC’s justice system is being used to silence critics of a third term by President Kabila. It focuses on the cases of eight individuals who were jailed after peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, one of whom spent 145 days in incommunicado detention.

    “In the lead up to next year’s elections, the justice system has been compromised for political purposes to crush dissent,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    November 20, 2015

    Bassel Khartabil, a defender of freedom expression being held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance may be facing a death sentence, 30 local and international organizations said today. His wife has received unconfirmed reports that a Military Field Court has sentenced him to death. His whereabouts should be disclosed immediately, and he should be released unconditionally, the groups said.

    Military Intelligence detained Bassel Khartabil on 15 March 2012. He was held in incommunicado detention for eight months and was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. He is facing Military Field Court proceedings for his peaceful activities in support of freedom of expression. A military judge interrogated Bassel Khartabil for a few minutes on 9 December 2012, but he had heard nothing further about his legal case, he told his family. In December 2012 he was moved to ‘Adra prison in Damascus, where he remained until 3 October 2015, when he was transferred to an undisclosed location and has not been heard of since.

    November 19, 2015

    Papuan pro-independence activist Filep Karma tasted freedom today after being unjustly jailed for more than a decade for simply raising an independence flag at a political ceremony in 2004, Amnesty International said.

    “Filep Karma spent more than a decade of his life in jail when he shouldn’t even have been jailed for a day. It was an outrageous travesty of justice and he should never have been brought to court,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

    “Every Indonesian should have the right to freely express themselves and to the right to freely assemble but these rights were cruelly denied to Filep Karma.”

    Amnesty International has long regarded Filep Karma as a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his release. In 2011 the organization’s supporters in more than 80 countries sent more than 65,000 messages of support to him as part of its annual “Writes for Rights” campaign and called for his unconditional release.

    November 13, 2015

    The trial of 15 peaceful activists who have been held unlawfully for almost five months and charged with preparing “rebellion and a coup attempt” will be a crucial test for the independence of Angola’s judiciary, said Amnesty International ahead of their expected court appearance on 16 November 2015.

    The 15 men were arrested and detained by Angolan security forces between 20 and 24 June 2015 in Luanda after attending a meeting to discuss politics and governance concerns. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience and it is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
     
    “The continued detention of the 15 activists amounts to a travesty of justice as they have been arrested solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of association and expression,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “The charges against them must be dropped and state authorities must ensure their immediate and unconditional release.”

    November 10, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs CAT   11 November 2015

    President José Eduardo dos Santos’s tightening stranglehold on freedom of expression in Angola and his government’s decades of fear and repression will cast an indelible stain on the 40th anniversary of the country’s independence, said Amnesty International today.

    As dignitaries and foreign leaders gather in the capital Luanda to mark four decades of independence, at least 16 activists continue to languish in Angolan jails.

    “40 years after independence, many Angolans still have a long way before they realize their human rights freedoms. Those who express views that differ from those of the regime are subjected to brutal treatment. Independence should also be about people being allowed to freely express themselves,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “Many human rights defenders are suffering in jail merely for asking for accountability and respect for human rights. The state is using police and the judiciary to entrench fear and to silence critical voices.”

    November 10, 2015

    The long overdue release of a campaigner jailed after he protested against the devastating environmental impact of the Sochi Olympic Games is no doubt a great relief for him and his family, but his imprisonment on absurd charges was a prime example of the disturbing tactics used by the Russian authorities to silence critics, said Amnesty International today.

    Evgeniy Vitishko of the NGO Environmental Watch on North Caucasus was jailed for 15 days in February 2014 on trumped-up charges of “hooliganism" after he was accused of "swearing at a bus stop”. Immediately after serving this term, he started serving the three-year sentence for allegedly damaging a fence that was concealing illegal construction in a protected forested area.

    Today a court ordered his release, effective 20 November, after having served half of his sentence in a prison colony in Russia’s Tambov region.

    November 08, 2015

    The arrest of a prominent advocate of freedom of expression in Egypt today is a clear signal of the Egyptian authorities’ resolve to continue with their ferocious onslaught against independent journalism and civil society, said Amnesty International.

    Hossam Bahgat was summoned by military intelligence to appear for questioning this morning, apparently in connection with articles that he wrote about the Egyptian army, which the military has deemed to be a threat to its security. Amnesty International has learned that he is being charged by the military prosecutor in what could be a flagrant violation of his right to freedom of expression.

    “The arrest of Hossam Bahgat today is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression in Egypt. He is being detained and questioned by the military prosecutor for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and must be immediately and unconditionally released. Any charges brought against him must be dropped,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    November 05, 2015
    TAKE ACTION FOR STUDENT ACTIVIST PHYOE PHYOE AUNG BY JOINING WRITE FOR RIGHTS!

    The jailing of peaceful activists, restrictions on free speech, discrimination and the political disenfranchisement of minority groups – in particular the persecuted Rohingya– seriously undermine elections in Myanmar, Amnesty International said ahead of the vote on 8 November.

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