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Freedom of Expression

    October 29, 2018

    Reacting to the election of Jair Bolsonaro and Hamilton Mourão as president and vice president of Brazil, Amnesty International said today:

    “The president-elect has campaigned with an openly anti-human-rights agenda and frequently made discriminatory statements about different groups of society. His election as Brazil´s president could pose a huge risk to Indigenous Peoples and quilombolas, traditional rural communities, LGBTI people, black youth, women, activists and civil society organizations, if his rhetoric is transformed in public policy” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    Bolsonaro’s campaign promises include loosening gun control laws and granting prior authorization for law enforcement officials to kill. These proposals, if adopted, would worse the already dire context of lethal violence in Brazil, where there are 63,000 homicides each year, more than 70% of them from firearms, and police commit approximately 5,000 homicides a year, many of which are indeed extrajudicial executions.

    October 26, 2018

    Amnesty India is the latest target of the Modi government’s assault on civil society. On Thursday,  the Enforcement Directorate, an agency that looks into financial crimes, raided the organization’s office and froze its bank accounts, effectively stopping its vital human rights work.

    Swift on the heels of its assault on Greenpeace India earlier this month, when the environmental group’s bank accounts were frozen, the Indian government is claiming violations of foreign funding regulations to shut down another prominent NGO.

    “The Enforcement Directorate’s raid on our office today shows how the authorities are now treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises, using heavy-handed methods that are commonly found in repressive states. Our staff have been harassed and intimidated,” said Aakar Patel, Amnesty International India’s Executive Director.

    October 20, 2018

    Responding to the Saudi public prosecution’s investigation findings revealing that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi died after a ‘fist-fight’ inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of campaigns said:

    “We are shocked and saddened by the dreadful news confirming the death of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate. The investigation findings by the Saudi authorities claiming that Khashoggi died as a result of a “fist-fight” inside the consulate are not trustworthy and marks an abysmal new low to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

    “We call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately produce Jamal Khashoggi’s body so an autopsy can be performed by independent forensic experts in accordance with international standards. They must similarly produce for independent investigation any other evidence they have on the killing of Khashoggi to establish the circumstances surrounding his death.

    October 18, 2018

    From the beginning of June, the government of President Daniel Ortega intensified its strategy for repression in a so-called “clean-up” operation, targeting protesters with arbitrary arrests, torture, and the widespread and indiscriminate use of lethal force by police and heavily armed pro-government groups, said Amnesty International today in a new report.

    Released six months after a state crackdown began in response to public protests over social security reforms, Instilling terror: From lethal force to persecution in Nicaragua documents possible grave human rights violations and crimes under international law that the Nicaraguan authorities committed between 30 May and 18 September.

    “Not only did President Ortega deploy police to arbitrarily arrest and torture demonstrators, he also used heavily armed pro-government groups to kill, wound and intimidate all those brave enough to stand up to his repressive strategy,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    October 17, 2018

    Responding to this morning’s arbitrary detention by Russian police of Aleksandr Golovach, a lawyer for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, on spurious charges of breaking a repressive law on public gatherings months ago, the Director of Amnesty International’s Russia office Natalia Zviagina said:

    “The detention of Aleksandr Golovach is the latest example of the Russian authorities’ ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and activists and illustrates how they will resort to any excuse to target those who dare to criticise them.

    “This case reveals that Russia’s repressive law on public assemblies is not only being used as a tool of wiping protests from the streets; it can also be a reason to arbitrarily arrest and detain anyone at any time.

    “The police have used the draconian law as a false pretext under which to detain Golovach.

    “For as long as Aleksandr Golovach is deprived of his rights to liberty, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly solely in connection with his anti-corruption activism, he is a prisoner of conscience. He must be freed immediately and unconditionally.”

    October 16, 2018

    Responding to comments by the governor of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) northwest China, who described the camps in which up to a million predominantly Muslim people are currently detained as “free vocational training” centres, Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International said:

    “The governor’s remarks fly in the face of all available evidence and are an insult to both those suffering in the camps and the families of those missing. No amount of spin can hide the fact that the Chinese authorities are undertaking a campaign of systematic repression in the XUAR with up to one million people arbitrarily detained.

    “The mass internment camps are primarily places of punishment and torture, not learning. There are consistent reports of beatings, food deprivation and solitary confinement. This is having a devastating toll on the lives of up to one million people. It’s time the authorities come clean on what is really happening in the XUAR.”

    Background

    October 15, 2018

    An Amnesty International researcher sent to observe demonstrations in the Ingushetian capital Magas was abducted, beaten and subjected to terrifying mock executions by men claiming to be members of the security services.

    Oleg Kozlovsky, a Russian national working as a researcher for Amnesty International, arrived in Magas on 5 October to monitor ongoing peaceful protests against the border agreement recently signed by the leaders of Ingushetia and Chechnya.

    On the night of 6 October, Oleg was lured into a car by a man claiming to be a representative of protest organizers. He was driven to a location outside the city where he was stripped, threatened, beaten and abused in an ordeal that lasted two hours.

    “They held a gun to my head and told me they were going to kill me. The men identified themselves as being officers of the local Center for Combating Extremism, a special police unit. They demanded to know the names of my contacts in Ingushetia and threatened to kill my wife and children if I reported what happened,” said Oleg Kozlovsky.

    October 09, 2018

    Responding to the convictions of activist Jolovan Wham and opposition politician John Tan by the High Court on charges of "scandalising the judiciary", Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International's Singapore Researcher said:

    “Jolovan Wham and John Tan criticised the Singapore courts for not being sufficiently independent. Such criticism falls squarely within their rights to freedom of expression and should not be criminalised. This first prosecution under the Administration of Justice Act is exactly the type of politically motivated use of the law which observers warned against.

    “This is a very concerning escalation in authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and other human rights – even by this government’s standards. These convictions should be quashed immediately.”

    Background

    October 05, 2018

    Amnesty International condemns the conviction on 3 October of activist and artist Seelan Palay, who was sentenced to two weeks’ imprisonment after refusing to pay a fine of SGD 2,500 (USD 1,800), for holding a piece of art outside Parliament in 2017. The organisation considers the conviction a violation of the right to freedom of expression and calls for the quashing of the conviction and sentence.

    September 20, 2018

    The crackdown on freedom of expression under Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi has reached alarming new levels unparalleled in Egypt’s recent history, Amnesty International said today as it launched a campaign calling for the unconditional and immediate release of all those who have been detained solely for peacefully expressing their views.

    The campaign, “Egypt, an Open-Air Prison for Critics”, is being launched in response to the unprecedented severity of the crackdown in Egypt, as people around the country increasingly express discontent with the economic and political situation. Amnesty International invites supporters from around the world to show solidarity with those risking their freedom to express their views by writing to the Egyptian government and calling for an end to the persecution.

    “It is currently more dangerous to criticize the government in Egypt than at any time in the country’s recent history. Egyptians living under President al-Sisi are treated as criminals simply for peacefully expressing their opinions,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director.

    September 19, 2018

    The order by an Istanbul court to remand 24 construction workers and union leaders in prison pending trial is a blatant attempt by the authorities to silence legitimate protest, Amnesty International said today.

    The workers and union leaders were amongst the hundreds of others who had been detained in police custody since 15 September following protests in Istanbul about working conditions at the construction site of a new airport due to open in the city next month. Clashes ensued after the police intervened to end the protest.

    “Rather than stifle legitimate peaceful protest with water cannons, tear gas and detentions, the Turkish authorities must listen to the complaints of the workers and ensure they have a safe and dignified place of work,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey Expert.

    Workers complained of inhumane working and living conditions at the site and lack of workplace safety as well as delays or omissions in receiving their salaries and social security payments.

    September 10, 2018

    Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations, Minar Pimple, has been refused an entry visa to speak at this week’s World Economic Forum on ASEAN event in Hanoi, further evidence of the Vietnamese government’s ongoing crackdown against freedom of expression.

    Minar Pimple, who is part of Amnesty International’s senior leadership team, was due to speak on diversity and pluralism, yet has been refused permission to attend.

    World Economic Forum (WEF) officials who communicated with the Viet Nam government were told Pimple’s visa had been earmarked for refusal.

    Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said, “We condemn this decision to stifle debate from a regular contributor to the WEF who has spoken at the highest levels on human rights issues around the world. This comes at a time when freedom of expression is under deep threat in Viet Nam. The government’s actions undermine an event that depends on a plurality of views, and they are giving ASEAN a bad name.”

    August 30, 2018

    AI UK Press release

    In response to the news that the Australian government is considering denying American activist Chelsea Manning a visa to enter the country for a series of public talks, Claire Mallinson, National Director of Amnesty International Australia said:

    “Amnesty International is very concerned that the Australian government is seeking to silence American activist Chelsea Manning by intending to deny her a visa into Australia.

    “By refusing her entry, the Australian government would send a chilling message that freedom of speech is not valued by our government. It is not too late for the Government to change their mind.

    "Chelsea Manning is travelling to Australia for a series of talks which will include discussion of the potential human rights violations she exposed as a whistle-blower and her human rights activism since she got out of prison, including as an outspoken LGBTQI rights advocate.

    August 03, 2018

    In response to prominent Chinese activist Sun Wenguang, 84, being taken away by police as he gave a live TV interview at his home, Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International said:

    “It's shocking and outrageous to see Sun Wenguang taken away in this way. If he is being detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, he must be immediately and unconditionally released. 

    "This disgraceful police action against a prominent intellectual is a vivid example of the Chinese authorities’ ruthless clampdown on freedom of expression. It is disturbing that police can harass dissidents anytime and anywhere they like in this way.”

    Background

    Professor Sun Wenguang was in the middle of an interview with US broadcaster Voice of America when police broke into his home in Ji’nan and forced him off air on Wednesday. The 84-year-old has been openly critical of the Chinese government in the past. He was last heard to say "I have my freedom of speech”, before being stopped from speaking further.

     

     

    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.

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