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Freedom of Expression

    September 29, 2020

    By Marco Peronlini, Amnesty International researcher. Follow Marco on Twitter @esteban80paris

    A year ago, monitoring the G7 protests in Biarritz, I was kettled for more than two hours by police under a baking sun. The following day, I was almost choked by tear gas in Bayonne. What I experienced in the southwest of France was part of a heavy-handed police and judicial response to peaceful protest that is being that is being increasingly rolled out across many parts of Europe.

    September 23, 2020

    By Stefan Simanowitz, Amnesty International's media manager for Europe, Turkey and the Balkans

    The first day of Julian Assange's extradition hearing, which started on Monday 7 September, drew more than two hundred people to gather outside the Old Bailey in London. People in fancy dress mingled with camera crews, journalists and a pack of hungry photographers who would disappear regularly to give chase to any white security van heading towards the court, pressing their long lenses against the darkened windows.

    Arriving at the court each morning was an assault to the senses with the noise of samba bands, sound systems and chanting crowds and the sight of banners, balloons and billboards at every turn. One of the vans had come from Belmarsh high security prison, Julian Assange's home for the last 16 months.

    September 17, 2020

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the organization’s lack of access to the Julian Assange extradition hearing, which began on 7 September at the Old Bailey in London, undermines the recognition of trial observers as guardians of international fair trial standards. The organization lodged three separate applications to request access to the premises of the Court for the hearing. All applications were rejected, signaling a retreat on the part of the UK authorities from the principle of open justice.

     Amnesty International has called on the US government to drop all charges against Julian Assange for his publishing activities and on the UK authorities not to send Assange to the USA or any country where he would be at risk of serious human rights violations. As part of its research, advocacy and campaigning work on the Assange case, Amnesty is committed to monitoring the UK extradition hearing by engaging expert international trial monitors to observe and document the proceedings.

    September 08, 2020

    By Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on human rights in Europe

    The last time I saw Julian Assange he looked tired and wan.

    Dressed neatly in casual business attire, the Wikileaks founder was sitting in a glass-enclosed dock, at the back of a courtroom adjoining Belmarsh high security prison in London, flanked by two prison officers.

    I had travelled from the US to observe the hearing. He had travelled via tunnel from his cell to the courtroom. 

    Today, Julian Assange will be in court again, for the resumption of proceedings that will ultimately decide on the Trump administration’s request for his extradition to the US.

    But it is not just Julian Assange that will be in the dock. Beside him will sit the fundamental tenets of media freedom that underpin the rights to freedom of expression and the public’s right to access to information. Silence this one man, and the US and its accomplices will gag others, spreading fear of persecution and prosecution over a global media community already under assault in the US and in many other countries worldwide.

    July 17, 2020

    On 30 June, China’s top legislature unanimously passed a new national security law for Hong Kong that entered into force in the territory the same day, just before midnight. The law is dangerously vague and broad: virtually anything could be deemed a threat to “national security" under its provisions, and it can apply to anyone on the planet.

    The Chinese authorities forced the law through without any accountability or transparency: it was passed just weeks after it was first announced, bypassing Hong Kong’s local legislature, and the text was kept secret from the public and allegedly even the Hong Kong government until after it was enacted.

    Here are 10 reasons why everyone should be worried about this new law:

    June 18, 2020

    This virus won’t kill me; what will kill me is your system. 

    Lorry driver Malik Yılmaz

    Corona virus is devastating lives worldwide, whether because of the illness itself or the social and economic impact of lockdowns and other government measures. Everywhere, the poorest are being hit hardest. In Turkey, the authorities are making the situation worse by using the pandemic as an excuse to further stifle the right to freedom of expression. They are hounding social media users, journalists, doctors and others, and invoking legal provisions that criminalize dissent, in efforts to silence their critics.

    Crackdown on social media

    Around 54 million people use social media in Turkey, nearly two-thirds of the population. The country ranks seventh on the list of active Twitter users (13.6 million people) and tops the list for legal requests by the state to remove content.

    December 18, 2019

    By Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director at Amnesty International

    Mesut Ozil’s social media post about the political situation in Xinjiang has prompted an angry response from the Chinese authorities. The Arsenal footballer’s accusation that China is persecuting the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority has been dismissed by Beijing as “fake news”. Meanwhile, a Gunners match was pulled from the state TV schedule and Chinese football fans have reportedly burned Arsenal shirts in protest at the player’s comments.

    Amnesty International has extensively documented the situation in Xinjiang over the past several years. We have interviewed more than 400 people outside of China whose relatives in Xinjiang are still missing, as well as individuals who said they were tortured while in detention camps there. We also collected satellite photos of the camps and analysed official Chinese documents that detail the mass-internment programme. This is what is really happening:

    October 28, 2019

    The past few months have seen a seemingly massive surge in protests globally. From the streets of Hong Kong to La Paz, Quito, Barcelona, Beirut and Santiago, we have witnessed a huge wave of people taking to the streets to exercise their right to protest and demand change from those in power.

    Sadly, a common thread throughout these protests has been an extremely harsh response from the state, which in many instances have amounted to gross violations of human rights.

    May 03, 2019
    Nasrin and her 2 children
    Iranian lawyer and women’s rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh’s heartbreaking letters from prison reveal the trauma inflicted on families by the government that claims to protect them.

    Nasrin Sotoudeh is a lawyer who has never shied away from doing what’s right in Iran. In her long and impressive career, she has exposed the injustices of the death penalty and campaigned for children’s rights. Most recently, she defied degrading laws that force girls as young as nine to wear a hijab or face prison, flogging or a fine. Nasrin has been sentenced to a total of 38 years and 148 lashes after two unfair trials because she demanded choice for women and girls. She will have to serve 17 years of this sentence.

    April 01, 2019

    To see a loved one wrongfully detained is a painful ordeal. But to not know where they are detained, or if they are even alive at all, is even harder.

    This is the situation faced by hundreds of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic Muslim people living overseas while their relatives languish in Chinese political detention camps.

    To make matters worse, their desperate search for information is being hindered by their own family members still in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). This is not because those relatives don’t want to help; instead, it’s because they fear cooperating could mean they are the next ones sent to the notorious camps.

    “Transformation-through-education centres” is the euphemistic term the Chinese government prefers to use for these facilities. It claims the individuals held there receive “vocational training” to help them with their “radical thoughts”.

    Terrified to talk

    August 02, 2018

    Renowned Ethiopian journalist, Eskinder Nega, has been imprisoned nine times simply for doing his job. He was released earlier this year after spending his longest stint in prison. In this letter to Amnesty International’s supporters, he reflects on his time in prison, how he survived and why the voice of human rights needs to continue…

    Dear Amnesty International supporters,

    I became a journalist by accident. I was in my twenties. For the first time in Ethiopia’s history, we had independent magazines. I knew we had to venture into freedom of expression and push the boundaries, so I wrote articles criticizing the Ethiopian regime’s abuse of power. My newspaper became the first to be charged under the press law; my editor and I the first to be imprisoned.

    July 13, 2017


    Nobel Prize Winner leaves a lasting legacy for China

    Chinese authorities announced today that Liu Xiaobo, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has passed away.

    Information on Liu Xiaobo’s ill health, who was suffering from terminal liver cancer, was released only after he became too ill to recover. Several Western countries have previously asked that Mr. Liu be allowed to seek treatment abroad. The request was refused. Worse yet, he was kept under guard in a hospital and kept silenced.

    Because of his demand for greater human rights in China, he was branded as a criminal by the Chinese government. 

    Liu Xiaobo developed a conviction for the cause of democracy and human rights after witnessing the brutal government crackdown of the peaceful protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He once said, “as a survivor of the Tiananmen Square Democracy movement, I feel that I have a duty to uphold justice for those who died in the event.”

    June 17, 2017

    Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was detained on June 17, 2012 and sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam. He was also sentenced to a cruel and inhuman punishment of 1,000 lashes. On January 9, 2015 he received the first 50 of these in a public square in Jeddah.

    #FreeRaif - 5 Years

    10 years in prison. 1000 lashes for writing words of peace. Today marks 5 years since Raif Badawi's arrest, and his children have a message for Saudi Arabia. ACT NOW! Join their demand to #FreeRaif >> http://amn.st/61818mLd3

    Posted by Amnesty International Canada on Saturday, 17 June 2017

    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.

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