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Freedom of Expression

    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
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    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.

    November 05, 2015

    Malaysian authorities must immediately drop politically motivated charges against one of the country’s best-known cartoonists, who could face a long prison sentence for a series of tweets, Amnesty International said ahead of his trial, which is starting on 6 November.

    Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known by his pen name Zunar, is facing nine charges under Malaysia’s draconian Sedition Act – a colonial-era law the government is using to harass and silence critics. The charges relate to a series of tweets critical of the government that Zunar sent after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed on sodomy charges in February 2015.

    “These charges against Zunar are clearly politically motivated and must be dropped immediately. Zunar has for years highlighted government corruption and repression through his cartoons – this is what he is being punished for,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

    “It is absurd that Zunar is facing potentially decades in prison for a series of tweets.”

    November 04, 2015

    President Abdulla Yameen’s declaration of a 30 day state of emergency in the Maldives ahead of planned anti-government protests raises the prospect of further attacks on dissent and human rights in the country, said Amnesty International today.

    “The declaration of a state of emergency must not be a precursor to a further crackdown on dissent or other human rights violations. The government should not use this state of emergency to silence free speech or infringe on other human rights,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.

    “The Maldivian authorities have a disturbing track-record of supressing freedom of expression and any form of opposition, which has intensified over the last two years. It is vital that authorities respect their obligations under international human rights law during this period of emergency.”

    November 03, 2015

    The detention of three journalists arrested for publishing a story linking senior police officers to a poaching syndicate is a shocking attempt to threaten freedom of the press, said Amnesty International today, as it called for their immediate release.

    The editor of the state-controlled The Sunday Mail, Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba and journalist Chinawo Farawo were arrested on 2 November 2015. They were charged with “publishing falsehoods” after implicating some senior police officers as part of a group behind elephant killings in Hwange National Park. They are set to appear in court tomorrow.

    “Arresting journalists on the basis of ‘publishing falsehoods’ has a chilling effect that may restrict the ability of the media to expose alleged criminal activities by the authorities,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “These actions create a climate of fear in Zimbabwe and perpetuate impunity.”

    November 02, 2015

    Malaysian authorities must halt plans to charge one of the organisers of a peaceful anti-government rally staged in August. These moves are clearly politically motivated and highlights a wider, vindictive push to silence others who took to the streets to voice their opposition, Amnesty International said.

    Police are expected to charge Maria Chin Abdullah, chairperson of the NGO coalition Bersih 2.0, on Tuesday 3 November under the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) for failing to give prior notice of at least ten days for a demonstration.

    In late August, Bersih 2.0 organised the Bersih 4 rally when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Malaysia to voice frustration with government corruption and human rights issues.

    “These vindictive charges against Maria Chin Abdullah are clearly politically motivated and should be dropped immediately. The authorities in Malaysia are trying to punish those who voice their opposition peacefully and create an overall climate of fear to deter other activists from doing the same,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

    October 31, 2015

    The brutal attacks against two publishers of the slain blogger Avijit Joy and their colleagues in Bangladesh today is further chilling evidence of the horrific pattern of violence against people exercising their freedom of expression in the country.

    “We are deeply shocked by today’s news of yet more attacks against independent voices in Bangladesh,” said Abbas Faiz, Bangladesh Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The situation in Bangladesh is becoming increasingly dangerous for those brave enough to speak their own minds. The latest heinous criminal attacks are a deliberate assault against freedom of expression in the country.

    “Given the horrific pattern of violence, we have reason to believe many other lives are now at risk.  

    “We are calling on the Bangladesh authorities to urgently act to ensure the protection of others in the country against such horrific and targeted violence.

    October 30, 2015

    Spokespeople available for interviews

    Azerbaijan’s dire human rights record is rapidly deteriorating as people prepare to head to the polls on Sunday 1 November amid a backdrop of crackdowns on freedom of expression and the right to assembly, said Amnesty International today.

    “Azerbaijani authorities must uphold their human rights obligations and immediately release all prisoners of conscience, as well as stop persecuting civil society activists, including human rights defenders,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia.

    At least 20 people are currently imprisoned in the country merely for having challenged the government’s policies or having attempted to help victims of human rights abuses. Most of the country’s independent human rights organizations – around 20 – have been shut down, with their most prominent leaders arrested or forced into exile.

    October 30, 2015

    Cameroon's authorities must urgently reveal the whereabouts of a journalist who has been held in secret detention since his arrest three months ago and give him access to lawyer and his family, Amnesty International said today.

    Journalist Ahmed Abba, a Hausa language correspondent for French radio Radio France Internationale (RFI) was arrested on 28 July in the city of Maroua while investigating the Boko Haram conflict in the north of the country. Despite repeated attempts by his lawyer, RFI and his family, he has been refused any contact with the outside world and subject to secret detention - prohibited under international law. In addition, Ahmed Abba has been deprived of his right to be brought promptly before an ordinary civilian court, as well as the right to challenge the lawfulness of his detention. It is unclear if any charges have been brought against him.  

    October 21, 2015

    South African police must use restraint in response to students participating in nationwide protests, said Amnesty International.

    Police have used teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against students in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

    University students have been protesting against proposed fee hikes for 2016.

    “We are alarmed by reports of police officers using teargas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. Students have a right to express their grievances peacefully and police must respect this right,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “Law enforcement officials must comply with international standards governing the use of force in policing protests,” said Deprose Muchena. 

     

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

    October 21, 2015

    An armed raid on a journalism NGO in Cairo today marks a dangerous escalation in the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and association, said Amnesty International.

    Members of the security forces carrying guns and wearing masks stormed the office of the Mada Foundation for Media Development this morning and arrested all staff members present. The reasons for the raid are not clear but, according to information available to Amnesty International, security forces did not have a search or arrest warrant from the prosecutor’s office as required by Egyptian law.

    “Carrying out an armed raid against an NGO which works to expand the skills of journalists sends a chilling and clear message that independent journalism and activities of civil society will not be tolerated in today’s Egypt. This is an unlawful assault and has all the hallmarks of yet another attempt to clamp down on independent journalism in the country,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    October 21, 2015

    The Algerian government must cease its relentless campaign of censorship of private broadcasters if it is going to live up to its pledge to uphold and strengthen media freedoms in the country, said Amnesty International as the country marks National Press Day on 22 October.

    Only last week police raided and shut down El Watan TV, confiscating equipment and escorting staff out of the station’s office in the capital Algiers after it broadcast an interview with a controversial government critic.

    In 2014 the government introduced restrictive licensing laws which have left many broadcasters in legal limbo operating under the constant threat of censorship.

    “The government’s repeated shutdowns of private TV stations that dare to criticize it, such as El Watan TV, is a clear and present danger to the survival of a free media in Algeria,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Director of North Africa and the Middle East.

    October 21, 2015

    Today’s appeal verdict against Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, confirming her conviction on charges of “insulting” the King of Bahrain and reducing her three-year prison sentence to one year, is the latest example of the authorities’ total disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    The verdict, confirming a conviction for ripping up a photo of the King in court in October 2014, coincides with Zainab Al- Khawaja’s 32nd birthday and leaves the mother of two facing a prison sentence of a year and at risk of immediate re-arrest

    Zainab Al-Khawaja's family have told Amnesty International that if she is imprisoned she intends to keep her baby son - just under a year old- with her while she serves her sentence.

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