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Freedom of Expression

    December 09, 2010

    International controversy over the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables continues to rage. In recent days, Paypal, Visa and Mastercard have barred their users from donating to Wikileaks, alleging that the site may be engaged in illegal conduct. Amnesty International examines some of the human rights issues at stake.

    Would prosecution of Julian Assange for releasing US government documents be a violation of the right to freedom of expression?

    The US government has indicated since July 2010 that it is conducting a legal investigation into the actions of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange for distributing secret documents. A range of US political figures have called for a criminal prosecution of Assange.

    According to Amnesty International, criminal proceedings aimed at punishing a private person for communicating evidence about human rights violations can never be justified. The same is true with respect to information on a wide range of other matters of public interest.

    December 09, 2010

    There is going to be one empty place at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony. Amongst the pomp and circumstance, before a packed house of a thousand invited guests and dignitaries gathered for the century-old event, the chair of this year’s recipient, Liu Xiaobo, will be vacant. Liu Xiaobo would have sat on the podium alongside the members of the Nobel Committee in Oslo’s cavernous City Hall as he was honoured for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. He would have given a speech, accepted his medal and diploma and continued his call for peaceful legal and political reform in China. He would have posed for pictures, given interviews, briefly enjoyed the glow of international recognition and then he would have gone home.

    December 08, 2010

    Amnesty International is today calling on the Chinese government to end its intensifying crackdown on Chinese human rights activists ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in Oslo on 10 December.

    Amnesty International and Chinese human rights groups have documented hundreds of cases of people being detained, interrogated, or arrested in advance of the event honouring jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

    “The Chinese government’s travel restrictions target not just human rights defenders, but also ordinary travellers who somehow trigger the government’s suspicion,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “This reaction violates Chinese law as well as China’s international obligations and constitutes a serious breakdown in the rule of law.”

    Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power" for his part as the leading author behind “Charter 08”, a manifesto calling for the recognition of fundamental human rights in China.

    December 08, 2010

    Chinese diplomats in Norway have been systematically pressurizing Chinese residents into joining anti-Nobel demonstrations, which are planned to take place in Oslo on Friday, Amnesty International has learned. Amnesty International has been informed by reliable sources in the Chinese diaspora that mainland Chinese residents in Norway have been repeatedly visited and called to meetings over the last two months by representatives of the Chinese government.

    The pressure exerted by these representatives is perceived by those visited or attending the meetings as threats, with concrete and serious consequences for the future livelihood of Chinese residents who fail to show up for these demonstrations.

    “We are shocked that Chinese authorities would bring the oppressive atmosphere of Beijing to Oslo,” said John Peder Egenæs, Director of Amnesty International Norway. “It’s shameful and saddening that Chinese people feel pressured to demonstrate against the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize on a day that should be one of pride and celebration.”

    December 08, 2010

    Amnesty International is concerned that the decision to close Libya Press, the only privately owned news agency in Libya, is the latest in a rising series of government attacks on the privately-owned press, and risks further narrowing the Libyan media landscape and the scope of freedom of expression. On 7 December, the Libya Press agency, an outlet of the al-Ghad corporation affiliated with Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, announced that it had decided to close its Tripoli office due to “ security harrassment” and its inability to protect its correspondents in Libya. According to the Libya Press agency, the decision was taken after security agencies told the leadership of the al-Ghad corporation that the “presence” of the Libya Press agency inside Libya “was not desirable.”

    December 07, 2010

    On December 10th, International Human Rights Day, Chinese prisoner of conscience and co-author of CHARTER ‘08 Liu Xiaobo will be awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Despite this tremendous international honour, he remains imprisoned in China for his peaceful advocacy for human rights and democracy. Chinese authorities have refused to release him and have also refused to allow his wife to travel to Norway to accept the award on his behalf. On December 10th, a delegation of leading human rights advocates will seek to deliver to the Chinese Embassy petitions signed by thousands of Canadians from across the country urging the Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo immediately. The advocates have written to the Ambassador, seeking a meeting. It is not yet clear whether Embassy officials will meet with the delegation or agree to receive the peitions.

    The human rights advocates will make comments to the press at the time of the petition delivery.

    Place: Embassy of the People's Republic of China
    515 St. Patrick Street, Otttawa

    Date: Friday, December 10, 2010

    Time: Between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m.

    Amnesty International’s Moscow office is currently being inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors – part of the wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Russia in recent weeks. Three other prominent Russian NGOs are also being inspected today: Public Verdict Foundation, For Human Rights Movement and Agency for Social Information. The stated version of the inspections was to check compliance with Russian legislation on NGOs.

    Amnesty International, along with other NGOs, has repeatedly condemned the new legislation imposing increasing restrictions on NGOs and expressed its fears that the NGO laws would be used to harass and seek closure of those highlighting abuses and critical of the government.

    Amnesty International is also concerned that the recent wave of inspections has been carried out in such a way as to deliberately stigmatise and discredit NGOs in the eyes of the public.

    Amnesty International is confident that all its activities comply with Russian legislation. The organization expresses regret that its time and that of the inspectors involved is not employed in a more useful manner.

     

    In June 2012, Raif Badawi was sentenced 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals (about $290,000 CDN) for setting up a website. Since then over 1 million people around the world have been part of a phenomenal groundswell of action. This outpouring of international pressure appears to have put the flogging on hold following the first 50 lashes in January 2015, yet the full sentence remains in place. Raif faces not just another five years in prison, but also the ongoing ordeal of wondering whether the flogging will resume. 

    The photos above display how embassies around the world have been bombarded with urgent pleas to release Raif, and Amnesty International activists have spread the word on the internet and taken the message to the streets in Ottawa, Montreal, Oslo, London, Rome… 

    AI Canada and PEN Canada, for freedom of expression, are co-hosting the film screening of Silenced Voices: Tales of Sri Lankan Journalists in exile, at the Robert Gill Theatre, located on the north-west corner of College and St. George Streets, on the 3rd floor of the Koffler Student Services Centre of U of T, the entrance being on St. George St.

    The one hour film will be followed by a discussion between the film's director Beate Arnestad and Frances Harrison, as well as Questions & Answers with participants. John Argue, AI Canada's Sri Lanka co-ordinator, will moderate the discussion.

    From 7-9pm

    November 23, 2012

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