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Freedom of Expression

    March 10, 2017

    "Now I know they jailed me to teach me a lesson - and that lesson, I learnt it."

    Celebrated novelist Aslı Erdoğan

    Turkey has earned an accolade which holds no glory: according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, it is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.

    Globally, one third of all imprisoned journalists, media workers and executives are in Turkey’s prisons, with the vast majority among them waiting to be brought to trial.

    Some have been languishing in prison for months. An ongoing state of emergency was declared in July, following a violent coup attempt, blamed by the President and the government on those loyal to the cleric Fethullah Gülen. Journalists have been targeted in an unprecedented crackdown on all strands of opposition media.

    Coupled with the closure of more than 160 media outlets, the message - and the resulting effect on press freedom - is clear and disturbing: the space for dissent is ever-shrinking and speaking out comes at an immeasurable cost.

    February 14, 2017

    Authorities in Bahrain must refrain from using excessive force against protesters, Amnesty International urged as mass protests are under way on 14 February, to mark the sixth anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

    Bahrain is on the verge of a human rights crisis, as recent weeks have seen a pattern of increased repression, characterized by violence against protesters, executions, arbitrary detentions and a crackdown on freedom of expression.

    “Bahrain is at a tipping point. The first two months of 2017 alone saw an alarming upsurge in arbitrary and abusive force by security forces as well as the first executions since the uprising in 2011,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.

    “The authorities must rein in the security forces, respect the rights to peaceful assembly, association and expression, and stop executions, otherwise a full blown human rights crisis risks breaking out.”

    February 10, 2017

    On the second anniversary of the politically-motivated conviction of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Amnesty International calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

    “The ongoing political persecution of Anwar Ibrahim is symbolic of Malaysia’s crackdown on human rights. He has unjustifiably spent the past two years behind bars on trumped-up charges intended to silence him and end his political career,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    At the last elections, the ruling coalition lost the popular vote but managed to cling on to power. Anwar Ibrahim’s five-year imprisonment makes it impossible for him to contest the next general elections, due to take place by 2018.

    Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction was a major blow to human rights as the Malaysian government escalated its attacks on civil society.

    February 08, 2017

    Released  06:00 GMT / 13: 00 BANGKOK TIME

    Thai authorities are waging a campaign to criminalize and punish dissent by targeting civil society and political activists who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, a new briefing from Amnesty International said today.

    Dozens of human rights defenders, pro-democracy activists and others are currently being investigated and prosecuted under draconian laws and decrees, which are used as tools to silence critics by Thailand’s military government.

    “The Thai authorities have created a fearful environment where people cannot speak or assemble peacefully without risking arrest and prosecution,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    “The severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly speak volumes to the actions of a government that cannot tolerate different opinions on issues of national importance.”

    January 10, 2017

    Saudi Arabia’s authorities have begun the year with an intensified crackdown against human rights activists dealing another heavy blow to the last vestiges of the country’s embattled civil society, said Amnesty International.

    A string of activists have been detained or appeared in court in recent weeks in connection with their peaceful human rights work signalling that the authorities plan to continue with their ruthless crackdown on peaceful dissent. Among those affected is an activist who faced charges for providing information to Amnesty International.

    “The latest string of arrests has sparked fears that 2017 will be yet another dark year for human rights in Saudi Arabia, as the authorities continue with their attempts to crush any semblance of a human rights movement in the country,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut Regional office. 

    December 15, 2016

                                       

    Armoured vehicle sales, forgotten residential school survivors, Bangladeshi climate refugees and Tanzanian girls fleeing FGM are among the human rights issues recently explored by Canadian journalists. Today, journalists who have pursued these stories, are recognized as winners of the 2016 Amnesty International Canada Media Awards.

    December 14, 2016

    The Ethiopian government systematically and illegally blocked access to social media and news websites in its efforts to crush dissent and prevent reporting of attacks on protesters by security forces during the wave of protests that started in November 2015 and led up to the state of emergency, a new report released today shows.

    Research conducted by Amnesty International and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) between June and October 2016 shows that access to WhatsApp was blocked, as well as at least 16 news outlets.

    “It’s clear that as far as the Ethiopian government is concerned, social media is a tool for extremists peddling bigotry and hate and therefore they are fully justified in blocking internet access. The reality, though, is very different. The widespread censorship has closed another space for Ethiopian’s to air the grievances that fueled the protests,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    December 12, 2016

    Today’s appeal court ruling reducing the prison sentence of trade union leader Han Sang-gyun cannot mask the authorities’ intolerance of the right to peaceful assembly in South Korea, Amnesty International said.

    The judges reduced Han Sang-gyun’s jail sentence to three years for public order offences and violations of the problematic Assembly and Demonstration Act, during a series of demonstrations in 2014 and 2015. Han was also held responsible for sporadic clashes with police at a series of anti-government protests he helped organize.

    “Han Sang-gyun should not be held criminally responsible for violent acts taken by a small number of individuals, simply because he was one of the organizers of protests that were largely peaceful,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s East Asia Research Director. 

    “His prosecution and upheld conviction underlines the authorities’ intolerance of the right to peaceful assembly.”

    Han, who is president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, was originally handed a five-year prison sentence at his initial trial in July.

    December 09, 2016

    Authorities in Cameroon must investigate the use of excessive and unnecessary force that led to the deaths of between two and four people during a protest in the north western city of Bamenda yesterday, Amnesty International said today.

    Eye witnesses recounted that security forces fired live rounds and teargas in reaction to people throwing stones, describing how they saw the bodies of two men who had been shot dead. Media reports quoting police sources have reported that at least four people were killed.

    Security forces were also seen launching teargas into an area apparently unrelated to the protests, as well as firing live ammunition in the air.

    “Authorities in Cameroon must shed light on the circumstances of these killings and injuries by immediately conducting thorough, impartial and effective investigations. Those reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for these deaths must be brought to justice,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher.

    December 08, 2016

    A 10-year jail sentence handed by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes in Azerbaijan to Bayram Mammadov, a youth activist who has been detained since May 2016 after spraying graffiti on a statue of the former President of Azerbaijan, is a shameless attempt by the Azerbaijani authorities to crush dissent out of existence, Amnesty International said today.

    “Bayram Mammadov was arrested for painting a slogan on a statue, and was later tortured into ‘confessing’ to serious drug crimes. The charges against him were clearly fabricated with the sole purpose of punishing him for his activism. This outrageously long sentence following already prolonged, unnecessary and arbitrary detention is a blow to all peaceful activists in Azerbaijan,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    December 08, 2016

    Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release photojournalist Mohammed Abu Zeid, popularly known as Shawkan, who has spent more than three years in detention and whose court hearing takes place on Saturday 10 December, Amnesty International said today. The authorities must also drop all charges against him.

    “Mohammed Abu Zeid was simply doing his job when he was arrested, taking photographs of the violent dispersal by security forces of a sit-in at the Rabaa al-Adaweya Square in Cairo in 2013 that led to horrific mass killings. His detention by the Egyptian authorities is clearly politically motivated and he should not be held for another day – taking pictures is not a crime,” said Najia Bounaim, Deputy Director for Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Tunis Regional office.

    December 02, 2016

    In response to announcement that President Yahya Jammeh has accepted his defeat following the presidential election, Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s Researcher for West and Central Africa currently in Gambia said:

    “For many years the people of Gambia have suffered numerous abuses, including horrific human rights violations and oppression.”

    "The last two weeks have shown how much Gambians of all parties value free speech. There is a huge obligation now for the future administration to transform the human rights situation in Gambia, freeing political prisoners, removing repressive laws and entrenching newly found freedoms."

    Background

    Today the President of the Electoral Commission announced that opposition candidate Adama Barrow (Coalition 2016) has won yesterday’s election by more than 50,000 votes. President Yahya Jammeh (APRC – Alliance for Patriotic Reconstruction and Construction), has accepted his defeat. 

    December 01, 2016

    In response to the news that access to Doha News, Qatar’s leading independent English language daily news site has been blocked to internet users inside the country, James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Global Issues said:

    “This is an alarming setback for freedom of expression in the country. Deliberately blocking people in Qatar from accessing a legitimate news website would be an outright attack on media freedom.

     “As the nation that founded the Al Jazeera media network and which hosts a centre dedicated to promoting global media freedom, Qatar should be at the forefront of those championing freedom of the press.

    November 22, 2016

    Israeli authorities must drop all charges against Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro, who is facing prison time for his internationally recognized peaceful activism against Israel’s illegal settlements in the city of Hebron, Amnesty International said today.

    Issa Amro’s trial is due to begin on 23 November at Ofer Military Court in the occupied West Bank.

    “The deluge of charges against Issa Amro does not stand up to any scrutiny. In their determination to silence him and stifle his human rights work, the Israeli authorities have apparently even reopened a closed case file. If he is convicted we will consider Issa Amro a prisoner of conscience,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    “As well as dropping the baseless and politically motivated charges against Issa Amro, the Israeli authorities should investigate his allegations of beatings in custody, and the physical and verbal abuse hurled at him by settlers, the army and the police. People who speak out about human rights abuses should be protected, not assaulted and harassed.”

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