Marking the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Saudi Arabian blogger and prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi, Samah Hadid, Middle-East Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International said:
“Raif Badawi has already served half of his prison term, but he shouldn’t be locked up in the first place. Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
“Blogging is not a crime. The harsh punishment of Raif Badawi shows the Saudi Arabian authorities’ blatant contempt for freedom of expression and the extent to which they are willing to go to crush all forms of dissent.”
By Erika Guevara-Rosas
The tragic news of the brutal murder of Javier Valdez Cárdenas, a Mexican journalist renowned for his fearless reporting of the drug war wreaking havoc across Mexico, has sent shockwaves through the country.
His journalism was particularly well-known in his home town of Culiacán, in Sinaloa. There, thousands of people are virtual hostages of a war between ruthless drug cartels and a government that is at best, unable to protect its people and, at worse, in collusion with those it claims to be fighting against.
Javier was gunned down by unidentified men near the office of Riodoce, the weekly newspaper he founded and one of the few in the state still reporting on the wave of deaths sweeping through the area.
"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.
The Kenyan government must halt its crackdown on media freedom and allow Jerome Starkey to return to the country, said nine human rights organizations today, two months after the British journalist was detained and deported.
The organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and PEN International, have sent a letter to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Internal Affairs and Coordination of National Government Joseph Nkaissery, and other senior government officials, calling for Jerome Starkey to be allowed to return to Kenya to resume his work, and that the government publicly reaffirm its oft-expressed commitment to the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.
“It’s a travesty that Jerome Starkey, a well-respected international journalist was detained and deported under questionable circumstances and is now no longer able to carry out his work in Kenya. But this is just one of many cases of media harassment and intimidation of journalists carried out by the Kenyan authorities,” said Justus Nyang’aya, Amnesty International Kenya Country Director.
As Turkey enters its second week of a three month state of emergency, the ongoing crackdown on civil society and the assault on media freedom has reached disturbing and unprecedented levels, said Amnesty International.
Arrest warrants have been issued for 89 journalists, more than 40 have already been detained and others are in hiding. A second emergency decree passed on 27 July has resulted in the shutdown of 131 media outlets.
“Rounding up journalists and shutting down media houses is the latest assault on a media already weakened by years of government repression. The passing of this second emergency decree leaves little room for doubt that the authorities are intent on silencing criticism without regard to international law,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director, Fotis Filipou.
Responding to news that Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists, Amnesty International issued the following quote:
“This is the latest alarming development in what is increasingly becoming a brazen purge based on political affiliation,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe.
“By rounding up journalists the government is failing to make a distinction between criminal acts and legitimate criticism. Rather than stifling press freedom and intimidating journalists into silence it is vital that Turkish authorities allow the media to do their work and end this draconian clampdown on freedom of expression.”
On 24 July, Amnesty International revealed that it has gathered credible evidence that detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centres.
This morning’s killing of prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet by a car bomb in central Kyiv is a reprehensible act that has sent a shockwave for freedom of expression in Ukraine, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said.
Pavel Sheremet, who writes for the country’s top internet news site Ukrayinska Pravda, was driving to work when his car exploded at 7.45 a.m.
“This attack on a journalist is a heinous crime and the ultimate violation of the freedom to expression. Pavel Sheremet's killing must be thoroughly, impartially and independently investigated and those who are responsible must be brought to justice in a fair trial,” says Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International. “We call for better protection of journalists in Ukraine that has sad record of violence committed against media workers.”
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Khatiya Dekanoidze, head of Ukraine’s National Police has said she will personally supervise the investigation.
Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the owner of The Post newspaper, Fred M’membe, his wife Mutinta M’membe and the newspaper’s Deputy Managing Editor, Joseph Mwenda, Amnesty International said today.
The three of them were arrested in the early hours of 28 June and are currently being held at the Lusaka Central Police Station without any charges.
“The continued persecution of Fred M’membe, his newspaper and staff is a disturbing attack on independent media and contrary to the rights to freedom of expression and association,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for Southern Africa.
“Fred M’membe and his newspaper are victims of an attempt by the state to silence critical media and those who speak truth to power. It is unacceptable and must be brought to an end.”
The arrests followed their return to the newspaper’s premises after a court ruled against the Zambia Revenue Authority to allow the newspaper to continue publishing. The newspaper was shut down last week by the authorities, alleging it owed taxes.
Tomorrow’s trial of seven journalists and activists in Morocco for training citizen journalists could set a dangerous precedent for restricting freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.
Seven defendants face trial in Rabat after running a citizen journalism training programme using smartphones.
“The trial of these journalists is a worrying test case for press freedom in Morocco. The accusations that journalists and citizens reporting freely in their country are compromising state security, and the risk that they may be imprisoned, are deeply alarming,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
Five of the defendants, including historian Maati Monjib, are accused of “threatening the internal security of the state” through “propaganda” that may threaten “the loyalty that citizens owe to the State and institutions of the Moroccan people” under Article 206 of the Penal Code, according to official court papers. They could be imprisoned for up to five years if found guilty.
Bangladeshi authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop trumped-up charges against a prominent journalist who could be jailed for more than a decade for a Facebook post, Amnesty International said today.
Probir Sikder, editor of the daily newspaper Bangla 71, was arrested in August 2015 and has been out on bail since. He is due in court in Dhaka on 26 June, when the charges against him are expected to be formalized.
“Any charges against Probir Sikder must be dropped immediately and unconditionally. It is a sad state of affairs when a respected journalist could face more than a decade in prison simply for posting on social media,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
The decision to shut down the independent newspaper, The Post, is a deliberate ploy to silence the media ahead of the election, said Amnesty International today.
Zambian authorities ordered the closure of the publishing company, Post Newspapers Limited, on 21 June 2016, demanding US$6.1 Million tax in arrears. However, the newspaper is alleging selective application of the law by authorities to target the critical news organization.
"The closure of The Post newspaper is a disturbing development clearly designed to silence critical media voices. The shutting down of one of Zambia’s main independent newspapers in the run up to an election is an affront to media freedom and the authorities should immediately reverse their decision,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for Southern Africa.
"If the newspaper owes taxes, necessary arrangements should be made to settle the dispute. Shutting down the newspaper threatens the right to freedom of expression."
The arrest today of the head of the Egyptian Press Syndicate and two colleagues is an alarming setback for freedom of expression and the most brazen attack on the media the country witnessed in decades, said Amnesty International.
Yahia Galash, head of Press Syndicate and senior board members Khaled Elbalshy and Gamal Abd el-Reheem were summoned for questioning on 29 May by the public prosecution. After 13 hours of questioning, the three men were charged with ‘harbouring suspects against whom an arrest warrant has been issued’ and ‘publishing false news, which threatens public peace, related to their arrest’. The prosecution ordered that the three men be put in custody, with bail set at 10,000 Egyptian pounds (USD$1,123), which they have refused to pay.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group must immediately and unconditionally release two journalists and a cameraman that are believed to be hostages and must ensure that the three are treated humanely at all times, Amnesty International said today.
Colombian-Spanish journalist Salud Hernández-Mora was last seen in the northern region of Catatumbo on 21 May, while Colombian journalist Diego D'Pablos and cameraman Carlos Melo disappeared two days later in the same region.
This is a clear violation of international humanitarian law and risks undermining recent efforts to start peace talks with the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla group.
The Colombian authorities must take all necessary measures to locate their whereabouts and to secure their release without jeopardizing their safety
The Bangladeshi authorities must intensify efforts to hold to account the killers of secular blogger Ananta Bijoy Das and to end the impunity that exists for a wave of killings of human rights defenders and others, Amnesty International said on the anniversary of Ananata Bijoy Das’ death.
On 12 May 2015, while on his way to work Bijoy Das was approached by masked men carrying machetes in Sylhet, Bangladesh. They struck him on the head and body and then reportedly fled into the crowds. Bijoy Das was taken to hospital where he was declared dead. The attack was claimed by a violent group purporting to act in the name of Islam, Ansar al-Islam (also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team), which claims to have links to al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.