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Freedom of Expression

    October 28, 2016

    Authorities in Côte d’Ivoire must stop targeting opposition members by curtailing their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said ahead of Sunday’s referendum on constitutional changes.

    On 20 October, at least 50 opposition members were arbitrarily arrested at a peaceful protest and detained for hours in moving police vehicles. Some of them were dropped in several places in the main city Abidjan, others around 100 km away from their homes and forced to walk back in a practice known as “mobile detention”.

    “This form of inhumane treatment is at odds with international and regional human rights law and standards. Whether people campaign ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for the referendum, everyone, including opposition members, has the right to peacefully express their opinion and to have their dignity respected at all times. Members of the security forces responsible for this must be identified and held to account,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.   

    October 25, 2016

    Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release human rights activist Nabeel Rajab and opposition leader Fadhel Abbas, two prisoners of conscience who are facing long prison sentences for using Twitter to voice concerns about human rights abuses in the conflict in Yemen, Amnesty International said today.

    Both men have criticized the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which includes Bahrain. They have already been wrongfully detained for months and are expecting their respective court verdicts in the next week.

    “It is an outrage that Nabeel Rajab and Fadhel Abbas have spent even one minute in jail – the Bahraini authorities cannot silence every last critic by throwing them behind bars. They must drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab and quash Fadhel Abbas’ five year jail term, and immediately cease their relentless crackdown on freedom of expression,” said Samah Hadid, Deputy Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International's Beirut regional office

    October 24, 2016

    The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release writer and human rights activist Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, following her arrest today, Amnesty International urged.

    Despite the fact that no official summons has been issued, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee’s home was raided this morning by officials, who violently broke through her front door before taking her to Evin Prison in Tehran. It appears that she has been taken to the women’s ward to begin serving her six-year sentence. She has been convicted of charges including “insulting Islamic sanctities,” for writing an unpublished story about the horrific practice of stoning in Iran. Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee’s husband, Arash Sadeghi, a human rights activist and prisoner of conscience, has since started a hunger strike in protest at her imprisonment.

    October 21, 2016
    Ezat Taheri, Mohammad Ali Taheri's mother, sits front and centre as Amnesty International campaigner Gloria Nafziger thanks everyone for their commitment.

    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.

    October 20, 2016

    Tech companies like Snapchat and Skype’s owner Microsoft are failing to adopt basic privacy protections on their instant messaging services, putting users’ human rights at risk, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization’s new ‘Message Privacy Ranking’ assesses the 11 companies with the most popular messaging apps on the way they use encryption to protect users’ privacy and freedom of expression across their messaging apps.

    TAKE ACTION: Tell governments to end indiscriminate mass surveillance 

    “If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise. The reality is that our communications are under constant threat from cybercriminals and spying by state authorities. Young people, the most prolific sharers of personal details and photos over apps like Snapchat, are especially at risk,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights Team.

    October 19, 2016

    The Malaysian authorities must immediately lift an arbitrary travel ban on cartoonist and political activist, Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, (Zunar), that prevented him from leaving the country on 17 October 2016.

    Zunar, an outspoken critic of the government, is facing nine sedition charges. This is in relation to tweets he made following a Federal court ruling on 10 February 2015, which upheld the conviction and five-year prison sentence of former opposition leader and prisoner of conscience Anwar Ibrahim for “sodomy.”

    On 17 October 2016, Zunar was travelling to Singapore to attend a private forum via Kuala Lumpur International Airport. At the immigration check at the airport he was stopped by the immigration officer who informed him that the police had instructed them to stop him from travelling. However, up to now, there has been no date set for Zunar’s trial and he has been previously allowed to travel freely, even after being charged. A valid, lawful reason must be provided by the Malaysian authorities for this ban to be in place.  To date, there has been no explanation and no reasons provided for this action.

    October 18, 2016

    The cancellation of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in the Siberian city of Omsk following pressure from a pro-Kremlin political group is an affront to freedom of expression and the latest example of interference in Russian cultural life by nationalist ‘activists’, said Amnesty International.

    The production was cancelled on Monday night after the Family, Love and Fatherland “patriotic” group wrote to Omsk city authorities complaining of “continuous blasphemy” in the musical's plot, which follows the Biblical story of Jesus’ life.

    “This may be just one cancellation of one performance, but it is symptomatic of pro-government nationalist groups’ increasing influence on the cultural scene in modern Russia, where freedom of artistic expression is shrinking by the day,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    October 11, 2016

    Pakistan’s authorities must immediately revoke a travel ban on a leading journalist and allow the media to operate freely and without fear, Amnesty International said today.

    Cyril Almeida, assistant editor of Dawn newspaper, was placed on Pakistan’s Exit Control List by the Pakistani authorities after the Prime Minister’s Office took exception to a front page report he wrote, dated 6 October, on tensions between the civilian government and the military.

    “The travel ban on Cyril Almeida is a crude intimidation tactic designed to silence journalists and stop them from doing their jobs,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.

    “Journalism is not a crime. They should be able to work freely and without fear. The Pakistani authorities must break with a longstanding practice of subjecting media workers to intimidation, threats, restrictions on movements, enforced disappearances and violence.”

    Earlier this year Reporters without Borders ranked Pakistan 147th out of 180 countries for press freedom, the lowest position in South Asia.

    October 05, 2016

    The decision to deny Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong entry into Thailand underscores the government’s willingness to suppress the right to freedom of expression and raises serious concerns about how China is using its influence over Thai authorities, Amnesty International said today. 

    “The detention and deportation of Joshua Wong are yet another indicator that Thailand’s military government will use any available means to stifle political discourse in the country,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Senior Research Adviser for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    Wong is a student activist and the Secretary General of Demosistō, a recently formed pro-democracy political party in Hong Kong. Wong rose to international prominence in 2014 as one of the leaders of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that came to be known as the Umbrella Movement. Wong and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement have become a source of inspiration for some student activists in Thailand.

    September 30, 2016

    Following today’s vote by Bulgaria's parliament to ban the wearing of face veils in public, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, John Dalhuisen said:

    “Women in Bulgaria should be free to dress as they please and to wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs. This ban violates their rights to freedom of expression and religion.”

    “This law is part of a disturbing trend of intolerance, xenophobia and racism in Bulgaria. Legitimate security concerns can be met with targeted restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined high risk locations and not through a blanket discriminatory ban such as this.” 

     

    For more information, please contact:
    Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations
    416-363-9933 ext 332
    Bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

    September 26, 2016

    The shooting to death of a prominent journalist outside a court in Amman yesterday is an alarming attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    Nahed Hattar was in court to face charges of “offending religion” and “inflaming religious feelings” under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, after he shared a satirical cartoon deemed to be offensive to Islam. His family warned he had received a number of death threats since his arrest in August.

    “This deplorable murder of a journalist in broad daylight sends an alarming message about the state of freedom of expression in Jordan today.  By using strict blasphemy laws to prosecute a person for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression the Jordanian authorities are fuelling a climate in which violent threats against people whose views are deemed offensive by others are allowed to flourish,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    September 23, 2016

    A prison disciplinary board has sentenced Chelsea Manning, who is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, to 14 days in solitary confinement following her suicide attempt in July.

    She was found guilty of the charge of “conduct which threatens” for attempting to harm herself. Following is a statement from Justin Mazzola, researcher with Amnesty International USA:

    “Chelsea Manning is already serving an exorbitant sentence, and this latest conviction is just more cruel and inhumane punishment from the government. It is unconscionable that instead of giving her the medical help she needs, the government has put her in solitary confinement.

    “In addition to the cruelty of isolating someone who has just attempted suicide, this punishment will be reflected in Manning’s disciplinary records and could prevent her from being paroled.

    “Manning’s previous treatment in prison before her trial and this most recent conviction pose serious risks to her mental health. We urge the government to give her the support she needs and to commute her sentence.”

    September 22, 2016

    In response to a Bahraini court’s decision today to uphold the dissolution of the country’s main opposition political group, Al-Wefaq, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther said:

    “The decision to uphold the dissolution of Al-Wefaq is a flagrant attack on freedom of expression and association and a brazen attempt to suppress criticism of the government in Bahrain.

    “The Bahraini authorities have not presented any credible evidence that Al-Wefaq is anything but a peaceful opposition movement which has been seeking reform in the country in the face of increasing government repression.

    “In the absence of independent institutions to scrutinize the government and hold authorities to account, peaceful opposition movements are particularly important. Silencing critical voices encourages further human rights violations and abuse of power.”

    Background

    September 16, 2016

    Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez must be immediately released from administrative detention unless he is charged with recognizable criminal offences, Amnesty International India said today.

    The 39-year-old, who is the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Organisation (JKCCS), a prominent human rights organization, was arrested from his Srinagar residence and detained by the state police on Thursday evening, a day after he was prevented from traveling to the ongoing UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    “Preventing a well-known activist from traveling abroad for human rights advocacy, and then locking him up on spurious grounds, is a shameful attempt to suppress a peaceful dissenting voice from Kashmir,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India.

    “The JKCCS has been consistently working on several human rights issues including mass graves, torture and extrajudicial executions. Khurram Parvez has a right to raise these important human rights concerns abroad, but his attempt to exercise this right is now being painted as an imminent crime.”

    September 15, 2016

    The authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have overseen a systematic crackdown on opponents of President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to stay in power beyond the constitutionally mandated second term, Amnesty International said today.

    In a new report, ‘Dismantling dissent: DRC’s repression of expression amidst electoral delays’ Amnesty International says the DRC government is using state institutions to prevent people who oppose a prolongation of President Kabila’s term in office to organize and express themselves.

    “The government is violating the rights of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly while expelling foreign researchers and threatening human rights organizations that are working to monitor these violations with closure,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

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