Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Insult laws

8 December 2010

WPFC's 2009 insult laws survey: steps forward, steps back

Spreading defamatory information through the Internet can land you in jail for up to six years in Indonesia - a greater crime than if you defamed someone through traditional means. It's just one example where new media has fuelled restrictive governments to seek even more special protection for public officials, says the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC) in its just-published annual survey of insult laws.

The comprehensive survey, "Insult Laws: In Contempt of Justice", covers 61 countries where journalists were punished, sometimes with lengthy prison sentences, for allegedly "insulting" the dignity of officials or institutions in 2009. It also provides key portions of insult and criminal defamation laws.

While WPFC says there were notable advances for free expression that year, "steps forward in one country seem to be matched by steps back elsewhere." For instance, while international efforts to make "defamation of religion" a crime were resisted, individual Islamic countries enforced laws against the notion of "hisba" - harming society by failing to uphold religious principles.

Ireland even managed simultaneously to abolish libel as a criminal offence while instituting blasphemy as a new crime, says WPFC.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., a small, "incestuous" class of specialised lawyers have made fortunes exploiting an anomalous legal regime, says Peter Preston, former editor of the "Guardian", in the introduction to the survey. British politicians have in fact responded to public outcries over heavy libel penalties and have lobbied hard to remove them. "The people who are fighting hardest to preserve the status quo - or, at least its money-raising aspects - are lawyers themselves," notes Preston.

WPFC's annual guide to insult laws is researched and written by Austrian lawyer Uta Melzer, and sponsored by a grant from the Swiss-based global printing and publishing company Ringier AG.

Hard copies can be requested in North America from Carolyn Wendell at cwendell (@) or from WPFC European representative Ronald Koven at KovenRonald (@)

The report will soon be available on WPFC's website.


8 December 2010

U.K. libel reform group puts out libel guide for bloggers

Picture this: someone writes, emails or phones you to say that something you wrote on your blog is libellous and is threatening to sue. Do you take it seriously? Do you take down your material? Do you say you're sorry? Or do you face your nemesis in court? The independent charitable trust Sense About Science has put together a guide entitled "So you've had a threatening letter. What can you do?"

"So you've had a threatening letter" explains exactly what defamation is, and what to do if you are threatened with it. For instance, the guide proffers that how you react in the first few weeks after you receive a threat is crucial in deflecting an unfounded claim or correcting something you got wrong.

"Stay calm, review the material, and be friendly and open in your correspondence. Lawyers say the best way to avoid ending up in court is to write letters that would go down well if read out in court," says the guide.

The guide is specifically designed for bloggers in the U.K. and has been published as part of a campaign to reform English libel laws. In a recent survey, Sense About Science found that service providers and bloggers are increasingly vulnerable because of their unfamiliarity with media law.

Sense About Science cautions that the guide is not a substitute for legal advice, but "it does provide information which other bloggers and writers who have been through the experience say they wished they had known at the outset."

The guide was compiled in association with Index on Censorship, English PEN, the Media Legal Defence Initiative, the Association of British Science Writers and the World Federation of Science Journalists.

Read "So you've had a threatening letter" here.

Sign a petition for English libel law reform here.

Source : IFEX

Get Liu Xiaobo out of prison in time for Nobel prize ceremony

10 November 2010

Take action!

Get Liu Xiaobo out of prison in time for Nobel prize ceremony

This year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, is serving an 11-year sentence in a jail in the remote province of Liaoning for defending human rights and press freedom. Join Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in calling for the release of Liu - one of China's most famous dissidents - in time for him to attend the Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo on 10 December. Sign the petition here:,38708.html

"We urge you to intercede quickly to obtain his release, the quashing of his conviction and the withdrawal of all charges pending against members of his family, especially his wife, Liu Xia, who is under house arrest in Beijing," reads the petition.

In the weeks since the award was announced on 8 October, more than 100 Liu supporters, students, lawyers, journalists and bloggers have been placed under house arrest or subjected to increased police surveillance, or have disappeared, reports RSF.

News of the award is practically non-existent in China's media and has been blacked out from international news broadcasts on the BBC and CNN. Instead, Liu is being portrayed as a "traitor" and a "criminal" on China's official news agency, Xinhua.

Meanwhile, at least four RSF members and two other human rights activists were arrested in Paris on 5 November after opening umbrellas bearing the words "Free Liu Xiaobo" as Chinese President Hu Jintao passed by in a motorcade during his three-day state visit.

Liu, whose activism dates back to the days of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, was the lead author of a document called Charter '08, calling for multi-party elections in Communist Party-led China. The petition led to his 11-year jail sentence.

Help get Liu to Oslo by signing the petition here

WikiLeaks - Don't shoot the messenger, say IFEX members

8 December 2010

WikiLeaks - Don't shoot the messenger, say IFEX members


Online retail giant Amazon dropped the site from its servers on 2 December, after political pressure from Joe Lieberman, chair of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee. Amazon denied caving into Lieberman's request, posting on its blog that WikiLeaks was violating its terms of service by publishing "harmful" content.

WikiLeaks moved to French Internet company OVH, sparking French industry minister Eric Besson to write to Internet companies warning them that there will be "consequences" for any companies or organisations helping to keep WikiLeaks online in France. This week a French court refused to order OVH to stop hosting WikiLeaks. was also recently dropped by its registry, EveryDNS. EveryDNS claimed that hacking attacks ("distributed denial of service", or DDOS attacks) against WikiLeaks were disrupting its service provided to thousands of other customers. The site's new Swiss registry rejected international calls to force the site off the net, saying there was "no reason" why it should be forced offline.

The reassurances come just hours after eBay-owned PayPal, the primary donation channel to WikiLeaks, terminated its links with the site, citing "illegal activity". Visa and MasterCard have also followed suit, as has Swiss Postfinance, which shut down a bank account of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks's founder.

Meanwhile, DDOS attacks by unknown hackers still bring the site down.

"This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency," said RSF. "It is up to the courts, not politicians, to decide whether or not a website should be closed."

IFEX members say it's not surprising that the usual suspects - China, Tunisia and U.A.E., for instance - have blocked access to WikiLeaks or sites that have been reprinting the cables. What is new is that countries that purport to stand for free expression have also been clamouring to shut down WikiLeaks.

For example, Index on Censorship points out that not even a year ago, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a landmark speech about Internet freedom, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke to China for its alleged cyberattack on Google.

Students at Columbia University in New York have been advised not to download or comment on the cables if they might want a government job. According to WikiLeaks journalist James Ball, writing on Index's website, the 19 million U.S. federal government employees have been told not to read the cables material - or any publication containing them. Agencies have added virtually every mainstream news outlet to web filters and blocks, "a move reminiscent of China's Great Firewall."

Said Index's Jo Glanville, "When one of the world's leading liberal educational institutions advises self-censorship to its students, rather than encouraging them to explore and read one of the most significant publications of our time, it is clear that we are in the grip of such a damaging panic that it is threatening the core principles of freedom of speech."

IFEX members ARTICLE 19, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have also spoken out against the backlash.

Lieberman and other senators are trying to introduce emergency legislation to make it illegal to publish the names of U.S. military and intelligence agency informants - which would ultimately allow the administration to go after WikiLeaks. Whether this tactic gains momentum remains to be seen.

According to "The Washington Post", Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, has been urging WikiLeaks to "redact from the documents the names of any U.S.-supported human rights defenders who might be placed in jeopardy," such as activists who have spoken with U.S. diplomats in countries with repressive governments. At the same time, however, he voiced concern that the U.S. State Department was trying to use the fear of disclosure about human rights defenders "as an excuse to pursue WikiLeaks or restrict access to this kind of information."

"It is perhaps the fallout from Wikileaks's mass publication of diplomatic cables, rather than the content of the cables themselves, that may do the most harm in the end," Glanville lamented.

RSF is also concerned for Assange, who is currently facing sex assault allegations. In a letter to U.K. Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke, RSF says the proceedings should concern solely the private accusations made against Assange in Sweden, "and must not turn into a proxy trial for the publication of leaked documents by WiliLeaks."

In the meantime, WikiLeaks says it is here to stay. On 7 December, the day Assange was arrested, WikiLeaks tweeted, "Today's actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won't affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal." Copies of WikiLeaks are now loaded on more than 300 different servers worldwide. You can still donate at:


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Artist Alert: October 2010

Artist Alert: October 2010

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

China: leading artist’s studio to be demolished

One of China’s leading artists, Ai Weiwei, has been informed by the authorities that his new $1.1 million studio in Shanghai must be demolished. The BBC reports that Ai, who was involved in the design of the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, was initially invited to build the studio in an emerging arts district, but the building has now been ruled illegal for not following proper planning procedures. The artist, a vocal critic of human rights abuses in China, was held under house arrest for two days in Beijing, while supporters held a protest party at the studio on 7 November to mark the demolition. The Tate Modern gallery in London is currently displaying Ai’s latest work of art: a giant installation made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny, hand-painted replica sunflower seeds.

Turkey: Ferhat Tunç acquitted - and immediately charged again

The Kurdish singer Ferhat Tunç has been informed by the Turkish authorities that he must answer new charges only a day after being acquitted by a court in Diyabarkir of crimes brought under anti-terrorism legislation. The Freemuse award winner had been accused of “spreading propaganda for the [Kurdistan Workers' Party] organization” by the prosecution, and “committing a crime on behalf of an illegal organization without being a member of the organization.” Judges in Diyabarkir had ruled that there was no evidence of any crime being committed in a case that gained international support for the singer. After his latest run-in with the government Tunç wrote to Freemuse saying: “Such is my life! Tomorrow I will have to present myself once again to the police.”

Singapore: Shadrake found guilty over death penalty book

British author Alan Shadrake has been found guilty of insulting the Singapore judiciary after alleging that judges were insufficiently impartial in their use of the death penalty, and has been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment. As reported in the previous Artist Alert, Shadrake’s book tour to promote Once a Jolly Hangman - Singapore Justice in the Dock was severely curtailed by the authorities. After landing in Singapore on 19 July, Shadrake was taken into police custody and detained for a series of interrogations, and will now be sentenced for contempt. The crime is punishable by imprisonment or a fine or both, with no maximum limit set on either, although the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) has called for a jail term of at least 12 weeks. ARTICLE 19 partnered with 27 other free speech organisations in calling on Prime Minister Lee to intercede with the authorities and withdraw the charges. Shadrake, who is also facing separate charges of defamation, is expected to be sentenced on 16 November.

Denmark: Artists' exhibition cancelled over royal orgy cartoon

A retrospective exhibition of the satirical Danish duo Surrend (a.k.a. Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen) was cancelled when the pair told organisers they would be using a pornographic depiction of the Danish royal family. According to The Art Newspaper, the show had been due to open at the Danish Poster Museum, in Aarhus on 13 October. Thomas Bloch Ravn, the director of Den Gamble By, the open-air village museum where the Danish Poster Museum is located, accused the artists of attention-seeking and said that he will no longer work with Surrend. Ravn denies censorship, saying that the artists are free to publish their works elsewhere. Egesborg, for his part, has accused the people of Denmark of hypocrisy, arguing that while it was happy to allow Kurt Westergaard’s controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to be published, it has different rules regarding the royal family.

Malaysia: Cartoonist Zunar challenges cartoon book ban in court

Political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anawar Ulhaque, better known by the pen name of Zunar, has brought a legal action challenging a government ban on two of his cartoon books, ‘Funny Malaysia’ and ‘Perak Darul Kartun’.. In a separate case, the cartoonist is facing charges of sedition for a collection of satirical works, ‘Cartoon-o-phobia’. Zunar was arrested and bailed in September, and faces a possible three-year jail sentence if found guilty of the charges. Speaking about his work, Zunar said: “I have always liked political books, which is very different from practising politics. I don’t belong to any party. In my view, a political cartoonist must be well informed, he must know about legal matters, human rights and so on. I hope that, through my cartoons, people understand what is going on. I would like to be a pioneer and for other young cartoonists to take this road. I have already worked with several of them.”

Israel: Funding to be cut for artists who boycott settlement performances

An increasingly impassioned debate over whether government-funded artists have the right to choose where they perform has reached new heights in Israel, after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed to penalise artists who are boycotting a new theatre in the illegal Jewish settlement of Ariel. Three days before the Ariel Cultural Center was set to open in the northern West Bank settlement, artists and academics published an open letter calling on performers to boycott the theatre, arguing that Ariel “is an illegal settlement which violates international law and the Geneva Conditions.” Lieberman has hit back at those who signed the letter, saying that “These artists can practice freedom of speech but not on taxpayer's money. Those who refer to Israel as an apartheid state cannot enjoy its fruits.” According to the Jerusalem Post, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat has announced that her ministry will introduce a legal amendment to force theatre companies to provide services regardless of geographic location.

India: Award-winning author besieged by nationalist protesters

The Delhi home of Indian author Arundhati Roy was surrounded by around 150 members of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) women's faction, who demanded Roy leave India after making remarks about the legitimacy of India’s claims to the disputed territory of Kashmir. Roy, whose novel The God of Small Things won the influential Booker Prize in 1997, had told a conference that “Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact.” According to The Guardian, the BJP protesters gathered outside the author’s home while she was inside, chanting slogans for her to withdraw the statement or leave the country.

Earlier in the month, another leading Indian author, Rohinton Mistry, strongly criticised the decision of Mumbai University to withdraw one of his books from its literature syllabus, following threats from the right wing Hindu political group Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena had publicly burned copies of Mistry’s novel Such a Long Journey, which it claimed contained disparaging comments about the organisation.

Venezuela: ‘Narco-novela’ soap operas banned from television networks

Venezuela's Nacional Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) has banned television stations from airing two ‘telenovela’ (soap operas) whose main protagonists are drug-dealers. Conatel has said that the shows hurt the social and psychological well-being of children and adolescents, and has banned the Colombian-produced shows under the controversial Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law, according to BBC Mundo. ‘El Capo’ tells the story of a drug dealer who becomes president, while ‘Rosario Tijeras’ depicts a young woman drug dealer and killer, and is a spin-off from the successful 2005 movie of the same name. Telenovela writer Leonardo Padrón told El Universal newspaper that the censorship was an act of “absurd puritanism”, adding, “If it's a measure to reduce violence, it should be applied on the streets.” The ban comes weeks after Venezuelan courts prevented the media from publishing “violent, bloody or grotesque images”, and adds to the growing pressure on freedom of expression in the country.

China: Two Tibetan writers released conditionally

Two leading Tibetan writers have been released conditionally by the Chinese authorities. Tagyal, known by the pen name Shogdung, was arrested on 23 April at the Qinghai Nationalities publishing house in Xining, in the province of Qinghai. He spent six months in a detention centre, during which time visits from family members were forbidden, after the Chinese authorities accused him of inciting separatism in his writings. Tagyal was released on bail on 14 October but under a form of parole pending trial that does not protect him from being arrested again. Kalsang Tsultrim, writing under the pseudonym Gyitsang Takmig, was arrested on 27 July in Sichuan province, most probably for expressing his concern about the Tibetan people. He was released on 15 October on condition that he does not participate in political activities.


• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer,, +44 20 7324 2500

UN General Assembly: UN Member States Should Vote Against Proposed Resolution on “Vilification of Religions”

19 November 2010

UN General Assembly: UN Member States Should Vote Against Proposed Resolution on “Vilification of Religions”

London 19.11.10: ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) urge UN Member States to vote against the draft resolution proposed at the current session of the UN General Assembly on “combating religious hatred and vilification of religions”.

“We are extremely concerned about the draft resolution on ‘vilification of religions’ proposed by the Organization of Islamic Conference,” says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “It fails to address our concerns about earlier resolutions on ‘defamation of religions’ or meet the standards set down in Article 20 of the ICCPR. While we welcome the dropping of the phrase ‘defamation of religions’, the content and implications are even more far reaching than earlier resolutions on combating ‘defamation of religions’, which we have found so problematic from an international human rights perspective”.

In response to the draft resolution, ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS have produced a detailed legal analysis which raises three areas of concern:

In response to the draft resolution, ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS have produced a detailed legal analysis which raises three areas of concern:

• ‘Vilification of religions’ is even broader than ‘defamation of religions’ and will have far reaching negative implications for freedom of expression;
• The draft distorts and undermines states’ international human rights obligations, particular with respect to Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and
• The draft continues to legitimise the fundamentally flawed notion of ‘defamation of religions’ and, if adopted, will provide international support to national laws on blasphemy and defamation of religions which are often used by repressive states to silence religious and political opponents, government critics, dissidents as well as religious minorities and critics of religions.

ARTICLE 19 and the CIHRS urge all Member States to vote against the resolution.


• Read the full analysis at:
• For the draft of the resolution on combating defamation of religions
• For more information, please contact Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer +44 20 734 2500, or Jereme Smith, Director-Geneva Office of CIHRS,
• CIHRS is an independent regional human rights organization based in Cairo, Egypt with offices in France and at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hillary Rodham Clinton : Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

Today I join with billions of people around the world to welcome the long-overdue release of Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi has endured enormous personal sacrifice in her peaceful struggle to bring democracy and human rights to Burma, including unjustified detention for most of the past twenty years. The Burmese regime has repeatedly rejected her offers to engage in dialogue and work together, trying instead to silence and isolate her. Through it all, Aung San Suu Kyi’s commitment to the Burmese people has not wavered.

The United States calls on Burma’s leaders to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi’s release is unconditional so that she may travel, associate with her fellow citizens, express her views, and participate in political activities without restriction. They should also immediately and unconditionally release all of Burma’s 2,100 political prisoners.

We urge Burma’s leaders to break from their repressive policies and begin an inclusive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic leaders towards national reconciliation and a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 13, 2010

13 November 2010

Statement by Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, on the occasion of Aung San Suu Kyi’s “release”

For some 20 years, Aung San Suu Kyi has been denied her rights, held by force behind the walls of her home, and punished for her faith in democracy, human rights and in the right of the people of Burma to live free from fear.

Today Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed. One week after the people of Burma were once again denied the right to chose freely, without fear, their political representatives.

Today she has been freed. A few days after thousands fled into neighbouring Thailand to escape the violence that accompanied these unfair elections. A few days after reports of widespread election rigging have finally emerged from the few independent journalists working underground inside the country.

Today Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed. This is an enormous step. And today we celebrate alongside her family, her colleagues and friends, her supporters in Burma, around the world, in the refugee camps, and with her fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners who have campaigned for her freedom. We all celebrate today with joy, warmth and tears. We share a common exhilaration.

Today she has been freed. But tomorrow, we must once again confront, demand, remind, and campaign. For let there be no doubt about it, this major step must be a first step only. It has to be followed by many more. Standing with Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, we will work to ensure that these next steps are taken, so that the Burmese people may also be freed.


• 65 year old Suu Kyi, who is an ARTICLE 19 Honorary Board Member for her dedication to free speech, is the leader of the National League for Democracy and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. Her party secured 80 per cent of parliamentary seats in the 1990 general election, despite her being detained at the time of the vote, but the military never allowed a democratic government to be formed and she has remained in detention most of the time since. Her release comes just days after sham elections organised by the Burmese military government. The national media was not allowed to cover the election freely, foreign journalists were barred from entering, political candidates were highly restricted, and the electorate was never properly informed of the election or the candidates and their opinions. No independent observers were present. The election results are not yet clear, but it appears that the military-aligned USDP has unsurprisingly been declared the winner.
• For more information please contact: Oliver Spencer, +44 20 7324 2500

Friday, November 12, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi : Burma generals sign HER release order

Burma generals 'sign Aung San Suu Kyi release order'

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years

Reports from Burma say military authorities have signed an order authorising the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But hopes she would be freed on Friday were dashed: there has been no official confirmation of a release order.

A leader of her NLD party told 2,000 supporters gathered at its headquarters to go home and return on Saturday.

Ms Suu Kyi has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years, and her house arrest term expires on Saturday.

There has been increased police activity outside her house in Rangoon, Burma's largest city, but no formal statement from military officials.

However, Ms Suu Kyi is not expected to accept a conditional release if it excludes her from political activity.

The 65-year-old was originally due to be released last year, but a case involving an American who swam across Inya Lake to her home, claiming he was on a mission to save her, prompted the latest 18-month detention.

'Significant impact'

The BBC is banned from reporting in Burma but correspondent Alastair Leithead is monitoring developments from the capital of neighbouring Thailand, Bangkok.
At the scene
A correspondent BBC News, Rangoon

All day rumours have circulated that Aung Sang Suu Kyi could soon be free, and all day the crowds outside the offices of the NLD have grown.

The building is constantly watched by government intelligence agents, yet still they came, defiantly wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the face of their icon.

News spread that the papers for Aung Sang Suu Kyi's release had been signed, though no one could actually confirm that, the anticipation grew.

The crowd moved off along the road towards the lakeside house that has been the pro-democracy leader's prison for so long.

Then the word came that the release would not after all be today, but perhaps tomorrow, and still no official statement from the military government.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi and her loyal supporters must, it seems, wait a little longer.
He says a number of sources inside Burma have told the BBC that documents authorising Ms Suu Kyi's release have been signed.

Officials have reportedly visited her home in University Avenue to deliver them.

About 2,000 of her supporters gathered at NLD headquarters in anticipation of her release. Some wore T-shirts saying: "We stand with you."

"Young and old, NLD members and non-members are gathering here with excitement to welcome her. At one point, we got the news that she was released and we all shouted with joy," Yazar, an NLD youth leader, told the BBC's Burmese service.

But by early evening a party leader told people to go home because it seemed unlikely she would be freed on Friday.

A man waiting outside the gate to Ms Suu Kyi's home said little had changed.

"People are waiting in groups here and there, maybe more than 100 in total - many of them are journalists," he told the BBC. "Security is normal as usual. No increase. The gate is closed as before, that's it."
A vehicle passes a checkpoint near the home of Aung San Suu Kyi (12 November 2010) Witnesses said there had been no increased security outside Ms Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon

Ms Suu Kyi's lawyer said: "There is no law to hold her for another day. Her detention period expires on Saturday and she will be released."

"They should release her for the country," Nyan Win added.

Earlier this week, he told the BBC that she would "not accept a limited release".

"[It] must be unconditional. As we all know, she never accepted limited freedom in the past."

Nyan Win said she would meet with the NLD's central committee, members of the media and the public once she was freed.

The British ambassador to Burma, Andrew Heyn, has told the BBC that the UK and EU are pressing hard for Ms Suu Kyi's unconditional release, and that her freedom would have a "significant impact".

Aung San Suu Kyi

* Born 1945, daughter of Burma's independence hero, General Aung San assassinated in 1947
* 1960: Leaves Burma and is later educated at Oxford University
* 1988: Returns to care for sick mother and is caught up in revolt against then-dictator Ne Win
* 1989: Put under house arrest as Burma junta declares martial law
* 1990: NLD wins election; military disregards result
* 1991: Wins Nobel Peace Prize
* 1995: Released from house arrest, but movements restricted
* 2000: Near continuous period of house arrest begins
* Sept 2007: First public appearance since 2003, greeting protesting Buddhist monks
* November 2010: NLD boycotts first election in 20 years and is disbanded

The increasing speculation that the ruling generals may sanction Aung San Suu Kyi's release follows the country's first elections in 20 years on Sunday.

On Thursday, state media announced that partial results showed that the biggest military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), had secured a majority in both houses of parliament.

The USDP had won 190 of the 219 seats so far declared in the 330-seat lower House of Representatives, and 95 of 107 seats in the 168-seat upper House of Nationalities, the reports said.

Those elected included the leader of the USDP, Prime Minister Thein Sein, who retired from the military as a general in April to stand.

The junta has said the election marks the transition from military rule to a civilian democracy, but the opposition, many Western governments and human rights groups have said the election was neither free nor fair.

The NLD - which won the last election in 1990 but was never allowed to take power - was ordered to dissolve after refusing to take part.

A quarter of seats in the two new chambers of parliament will be reserved for the military. Any constitutional change will require a majority of more than 75% - meaning that the military will retain a casting vote.
Source : BBC

Aung San Suu Kyi, soon to be released, faces tough political landscape in Burma

By Tim Johnston
Friday, November 12, 2010; 12:09 PM

BANGKOK - For much of the past 20 years, a crumbling villa on the shores of Rangoon's Lake Inya has been both home and prison to Aung San Suu Kyi, the focal figure in Burma's long struggle for democracy.

Her latest term of house arrest, imposed last year for allowing an exhausted and possibly mentally ill American tourist to stay the night after he swam across the lake, expires Saturday. If she is released, as is expected, it will be into a country suffering its latest bout of dashed hopes for democracy.

Suu Kyi, 65, remains by all accounts unbowed. She has spent the past seven years at the home on Rangoon's University Avenue that she inherited from her father, independence hero Aung San, with only housekeepers for company.

"The energy is still there; the commitment is still there. She has all the things that everyone says - she's poised and elegant and a very impressive figure - but she's also well-informed," said Andrew Heyn, the British ambassador to Burma (also known as Myanmar) and one of few foreigners to have met with Suu Kyi recently. "The message I got when I spoke to her, not only by what she said but by her body language, is that this is a woman who wants to stay involved."

In many ways, Burma's political landscape has changed little since the previous elections in 1990, when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide victory, only to have it snatched away by the military.
Her latest term of house arrest, imposed last year for allowing an exhausted and possibly mentally ill American tourist to stay the night after he swam across the lake, expires Saturday. If she is released, as is expected, it will be into a country suffering its latest bout of dashed hopes for democracy.

Suu Kyi, 65, remains by all accounts unbowed. She has spent the past seven years at the home on Rangoon's University Avenue that she inherited from her father, independence hero Aung San, with only housekeepers for company.

"The energy is still there; the commitment is still there. She has all the things that everyone says - she's poised and elegant and a very impressive figure - but she's also well-informed," said Andrew Heyn, the British ambassador to Burma (also known as Myanmar) and one of few foreigners to have met with Suu Kyi recently. "The message I got when I spoke to her, not only by what she said but by her body language, is that this is a woman who wants to stay involved."

In many ways, Burma's political landscape has changed little since the previous elections in 1990, when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide victory, only to have it snatched away by the military.

Factbox: Facts about Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi
(Reuters) - Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's fight against military dictatorship, is scheduled to be released from house arrest on November 13, six days after a military-backed party won the first election in two decades.

Here are some facts about Suu Kyi, who went from being an housewife in England to a Nobel peace prize laureate incarcerated for 15 of the last 21 years because of her fight for democracy in the former Burma.

-- Born in Rangoon (now Yangon) in June 1945, she is daughter of General Aung San, an independence hero assassinated in 1947. Her mother, Khin Kyi, was also a prominent figure.

-- She studied politics in New Delhi and philosophy, politics and economics at Britain's Oxford University. In 1972, she married British academic Michael Aris.

-- Suu Kyi returned to Yangon in April 1988 to take care of her dying mother at a time of countrywide pro-democracy protests against the army regime. Keen to continue her father's legacy, she entered politics and helped set up the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, becoming its secretary-general and calling for an end to military rule.

-- The junta placed the charismatic and popular Suu Kyi under house arrest in July 1989 for "endangering the state." The next year, even without her, the NLD won 392 of 485 parliamentary seats in Myanmar's first election in almost 30 years. The military refused to relinquish power.

-- Suu Kyi, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been in prison or under house arrest off and on for 15 years since 1989.

-- Her husband died in Britain in 1999. Suu Kyi declined an offer from the junta to go to Britain for his funeral, fearing she would not be allowed back if she left.

-- She was initially freed in 1995, but was not allowed to travel outside Yangon to meet supporters. A pro-junta gang attacked a convoy carrying Suu Kyi, top party officials and supporters near Depayin town in 2003. The junta said four people were killed. Rights groups said as many as 70 were killed in the ambush. She was detained again soon after.

- She was found guilty on August 11, 2009, of breaking a security law by allowing American intruder John Yettaw to stay at her lakeside home for two nights. Critics said the charges were trumped up to stop her from having any influence over the polls.

-- She has since made several offers to the junta to lobby the international community to lift a wide range of sanctions on the country, most of which have been in place for more than two decades. Junta strongman Than Shwe never responded and the regime described her move as "insincere" and "dishonest."

-- Suu Kyi's said she "would not dream" of taking part in last Sunday's election and her NLD boycotted the vote. As a result, the party was officially dissolved.

- A breakaway NLD faction did contest, but won only a handful of seats.

(Compiled by Bangkok Newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel and Ron Popeski)

She was a fighter. She fought for the people in her

country. She does not live for wealth, prosperity and fame.

She was imprisoned for reasons that are not clear. Denied

her right to form a government. Her country is not

developed and its people are still living below the poverty

level while they are able to live better. She needs the

support of the international community to change the

current situation towards a better life. Let her free, gave

her the opportunity to bring a better life to the people of

her country.

International Human Rights Activist and Democracy Leader

Nobel Peace Prize, Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award,

Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient .

Nobel Peace Prize 1991

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in

1991. The decision of the Nobel Committee mentions:[113]

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the

Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 to Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar

(Burma) for her non-violent struggle for democracy and

human rights.

Monday, November 8, 2010

British journalist convicted for condemning death penalty

British journalist convicted for condemning death penalty

British author Alan Shadrake stands outside Singapore's Supreme Court in this undated picture
British author Alan Shadrake stands outside Singapore's Supreme Court in this undated picture

Source IFEX and pressgazette

The death penalty is still legitimate in Singapore - but apparently talking about it isn't. British journalist Alan Shadrake, who condemned Singapore's use of capital punishment in his new book, has been convicted for contempt, report Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and news reports. He will be sentenced on 9 November when he is likely to get jail time. Sign a petition calling on the government to drop the charges and allow Shadrake to leave the country.

At his trial which opened on 18 October, Shadrake was accused of making comments "against the independence and integrity of the Singapore judiciary" in his book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock".

The book questions Singapore's use of capital punishment and alleges that well-connected defendants, particularly in drugs-related cases, often get off relatively lightly while the poor and less well-connected are sentenced to death. So a wealthy Tunisian drug dealer goes free while young drug mules from various countries face death.

It also examines the independence of the judiciary, and highlights criticisms of Singapore's justice system by Amnesty International and the International Bar Association.

Contempt of court in Singapore is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both. Shadrake could also now face separate charges of criminal defamation - which could mean a two-year jail sentence.

According to the UK's "Press Gazette", the judge said in his decision that Shadrake had used a "selective background of truths and half-truths, and sometimes outright falsehoods" in the book.

The court had no interest in stifling debate on the death penalty and was constitutionally bound to protect every citizen's right to engage in such debate, the judge said. But the law would step in when "such debate goes beyond the limits of fair criticism," he went on.

Hema Subramanian, a lawyer for the Attorney General, said last week that Shadrake's book contained "baseless, unwarranted attacks... that directly attacked the Singapore judiciary."

Shadrake's counsel, well-known human rights lawyer M Ravi, argued that the book was a "serious-minded and compassionate examination of the death penalty in Singapore."

RSF is urging the Singapore judiciary to accept Shadrake's innocence and allow him to leave the country. "The book contains no defamatory remarks, no personal attacks or verbal assaults aimed at undermining the operation of the justice system.

"Given that it is simply a critical analysis of the institution and its methods as a result of a rigorous and well-documented investigation, this work cannot constitute contempt of court," said RSF.

Singapore did give Shadrake an option: apologise and the charge would be dropped. But Shadrake refuses to be silenced. In an open letter distributed widely online, he wrote, "I am being prosecuted and facing jail for exposing prosecutorial scandals in Singapore - scandals this PAP [leading political party] dictatorship doesn't want decent Singaporean citizens to know about."

In addition to legal concerns, Shadrake, 75, has serious health problems together with the financial strain of his enforced stay in Singapore, says RSF.

RSF has launched an international petition to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, calling for charges against Shadrake to be dropped.

Sign it here

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jailed Iranian journalist receives WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom

13 October 2010

Jailed Iranian journalist receives WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom

Jailed Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeid-Abadi is this year's winner of WAN-IFRA's 2010 Golden Pen of Freedom award
Jailed Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeid-Abadi is this year's winner of WAN-IFRA's 2010 Golden Pen of Freedom award
Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, an Iranian journalist who was thrown in jail following Iran's disputed presidential election last year, has been awarded the 2010 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Zeid-Abadi, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for plotting to overthrow the government, was honoured during a ceremony at the World Editors Forum in Hamburg, Germany, last week, for "his courageous actions in the face of persecution and for his outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom."

Zeid-Abadi was among at least 110 journalists arrested following the disputed re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. At least 23 remain behind bars, about a fifth of all journalists imprisoned worldwide, says WAN-IFRA.

His award was accepted by Akbar Ganji, the 2006 Golden Pen laureate who had also been imprisoned by the Iranian regime.

"I have no doubt that if Ahmad Zeid-Abadi was here with us, he would have shared the honour of this prestigious prize with other political prisoners. One must interpret these awards as a kind of ethical and moral endorsement of democratic activists who are committed to liberty and human rights," Ganji said when accepting the award.

Zeid-Abadi, an academic and political commentator as well as a journalist, is known for an open letter he wrote from prison in 2000 protesting the judiciary's treatment of imprisoned journalists. The letter was widely distributed despite attempts by the authorities to suppress its publication.

In presenting the award, WAN-IFRA put out a resolution calling for the release of all jailed journalists in Iran.

At the forum, the board also issued resolutions urging: African governments to immediately abolish criminal defamation and insult laws; South African President Jacob Zuma and his party to withdraw a proposal for a government-appointed Media Tribunal, as well as to withdraw the Protection of Information Bill, which would allow officials to classify documents as "confidential" on vaguely defined grounds; the government of Bahrain to put an end to its recent spate of online censorship, arrests and intimidation of journalists; and Argentine President Cristina Kirchner to ensure that the government reverse recent actions that undermine the independent press in Argentina, such as distributing official advertising funds to pro-government media.

WAN-IFRA also used the forum as a launching pad for its annual review of press freedom. In the report, WAN-IFRA says that at least 56 journalists were killed so far this year and at least 120 media employees have been jailed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Government ramps up Internet control and leans on Hong Kong to erase dissent

21 July 2010

Government ramps up Internet control and leans on Hong Kong to erase dissent

The Chinese government has targeted micro-blogging services in its  latest attack on Internet freedom.
The Chinese government has targeted micro-blogging services in its latest attack on Internet freedom.
China Rights Forum

In a series of surgical strikes against Internet freedom, Chinese authorities have imposed restrictions on micro-blogging services and shut down an estimated 60 blogs by prominent legal and political commentators, report Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). China's influence is also reducing space for dissent and independent press in Hong Kong, says a new report by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA).

The People's Republic of China routinely deploys major resources to control political discussions on the Internet. Four of the leading Chinese micro-blogging services, Netease, Sina, Tencent and Sohu, were displaying messages on 15 July saying they were down for maintenance or had inexplicably reverted to an earlier "beta" testing phase, says RSF. "Testing" is often a euphemism for strengthening internal self-censorship systems following government pressure, says Freedom House. China's micro-blogging services are closely examined by censorship filters which analyse both the posts and the shortened URLs that appear in them.

"This latest censorship attempt shows that the Chinese authorities, who are obsessed with maintaining political stability, mistrust micro-blogging and its potential for spreading information and mobilising the public," said RSF.

Human Rights in China (HRIC) recently released a translation and analysis of a report that provides insight into the Chinese authorities' approach to controlling the Internet. It is a comprehensive and detailed report by Wang Chen, the country's top official responsible for managing online information, delivered in a speech in April to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The report reveals how the Chinese government plans to control the Internet to keep out "harmful information" from abroad and to harness its power for guiding "correct" public opinion, "unifying thinking," and countering "the hegemony of Western media."

China has the most sophisticated, multilayered Internet control apparatus in the world, says Freedom House. Twitter and Facebook have been completely blocked for approximately a year. In addition to censorship within the country, Chinese hackers are attacking organisations and companies outside of its borders.

"Internet freedom and free access to information are not simply luxuries but critical avenues for advancing democratic reforms and enabling the Chinese people to protect themselves and their families from threats such as tainted food or environmental pollution," said Freedom House.

Free expression is also under threat in Hong Kong as the political scene deteriorates, says a new report by the HKJA. "The Vice Tightens: Pressure Grows on Free Expression in Hong Kong" details arrests and prosecutions of protesters, as well as scuffles between police and demonstrators.

"These incidents give a taste of the political atmosphere in Hong Kong - an atmosphere in which… there is growing intolerance of dissent and greater emphasis on social harmony - a catch phrase used in mainland China to denote adherence to the Communist Party line," says the HKJA.

For example, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) will remain government-owned, "despite pleas from the public and non-governmental organisations, including the HKJA, that it should be separated from the administration to become an independent public service broadcaster." In addition, HKJA is challenging the constitutionality of the government's superficial changes to the law about licensing radio broadcasters, saying it needs major restructuring to create media diversity. "Broadcasting legislation should ensure that the airwaves are open to all those who wish to set up broadcasting operations, irrespective of political orientation," says the report.

Three journalists arrested for leaking report on corruption

21 July 2010

Three journalists arrested for leaking report on corruption

Three journalists in the Ivory Coast who refused to reveal their sources after publishing details of a government report on corruption in the coffee and cocoa trade were arrested on 13 July, report the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Press Institute (IPI).

The journalists published a front-page story in the private daily "Le Nouveau Courrier" leaking findings of a government report on 23 industry figures charged with corruption in an ongoing investigation ordered by President Laurent Gbagbo in 2007.

Managing editor Stéphane Guédé, news editor Théophile Kouamouo and editor-in-chief Saint-Claver Oula were arrested the same day the article hit the newsstands and accused of stealing confidential documents. Police raided the newspaper's office in search of the leaked report.

Ivory Coast law does not permit criminal penalties or pre-trial detention for journalists; however, for publishing offences, the theft of secret documents carries a prison sentence, reports IPI. The journalists were formally charged on 16 July with "theft of administrative documents", which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Saint-Claver Oula began a hunger strike and has refused medication despite suffering from a stomach ailment at the time of the arrest, says CPJ.

On 16 July, media groups at a news conference in Abidjan, the capital, threatened to publish the full report on the alleged embezzlement in their respective media outlets if the three journalists were not released.

In court on 20 July, the prosecutor called for a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 15,250 Euros against each journalist, as well as for the daily to be suspended and for the confiscation of the computer used in the story.

"Journalists have the right to refuse to divulge their sources where it is in the public interest to do so," said IPI. "This right is the cornerstone of the profession."

In another case, journalist Guy-André Keiffer was abducted in 2004 while investigating corruption in the cocoa industry. He remains missing.

Political blogger and radio journalist slain

21 July 2010

Political blogger and radio journalist slain

A Greek radio journalist and blogger who was about to publish results of an investigation into corruption in the country was lured out of his home in Athens and shot dead on 19 July, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). This is the first murder of a journalist in Greece in more than 20 years.

Sokratis Giolias, 37, stepped out of his apartment after three men dressed in security uniforms told him his car was being stolen. He was then riddled with bullets.

Giolias was the director of the private radio station Thema 98.9, and contributor to the popular online news blog Troktiko, which often covers social and political scandals.

"Somebody wanted to silence a very good investigative reporter who had stepped on a lot of toes with his stories," said Panos Sobolos, president of the Athens journalists' union, report IPI and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO).

British author arrested for book on death penalty; film on political prisoners banned

British author arrested for book on death penalty; film on political prisoners banned

British journalist Alan Shadrake is facing up to two years in  prison for his book on the death penalty in Singapore.
British journalist Alan Shadrake is facing up to two years in prison for his book on the death penalty in Singapore.

The Singapore government's pattern of repressing free expression continues with the recent arrest of a British journalist for writing a book critical of the city-state's death penalty, and the ban of a film about ex-political prisoners by a Singaporean filmmaker, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Amnesty International.

Alan Shadrake, 75, is the latest in a long list of international journalists and newspapers charged after publishing critical opinion of Singapore's leaders. He was arrested on 18 July while in Singapore to promote his book, "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock." He is facing charges of defamation and contempt of court. Freed on bail on 19 July, Shadrake is due to appear before the Singapore high court on 30 July. If he is found guilty of criminal defamation, he could face up to two years in prison and a large fine. The case is an abuse of judicial authority, says RSF.

The book contains interviews with a former executioner, human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers on cases involving capital punishment in Singapore. The government doesn't like to release statistics about the death penalty, so the publishers' claim that the book "cuts through the façade of official silence to reveal disturbing truths about Singapore's use of the death penalty," has "clearly ruffled some feathers," writes British journalist Ben Bland for Index on Censorship. Bland was denied a visa and forced to leave Singapore last October after working in the city-state for a year as a freelance journalist.

According to "The Guardian", after being released, Shadrake told reporters: "I'm feeling pretty shaken at the moment... I've been sitting at a desk being interrogated all day long explaining all the chapters of the book: going into the history of the book, my research, why I did the book."

The government's heavy-handed approach sends a clear message that anyone thinking of "research and debate about sensitive issues such as the death penalty risks severe consequences," says Bland.

But the book has not been banned. Although it has been removed from one of Singapore's biggest bookshops, it will apparently be available in Singapore's National Library to reference readers, although it cannot be borrowed.

In another episode of censorship, a film by Singaporean filmmaker Martyn See was banned - effective 14 July - because it was considered "contrary to public interest." The Media Development Authority (MDA), which also made the police complaint that led to Shadrake's arrest, ordered See to remove all digital copies of the film uploaded on YouTube and his own blog. The film, "Ex-political prisoner speaks out in Singapore" or "Dr. Lim Hock Siew", registered 49,903 views as of 12 July.

The Singapore government said See's film "gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Dr. Lim's arrests and detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1963." This is the second of See's films to be barred from being publicly shown in Singapore.

Amnesty International also reports that Singapore Democratic Party leader Dr. Chee Soon Juan - who has been repeatedly arrested and fined - was convicted of yet another offence. He was charged with illegally "giving a public address" in 2006, and fined S$5,000 or five weeks in prison, because he asked people to buy his party's newspaper when they walked by.

Source :

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Artist Alert June 2010


Artist Alert
June 2010
Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.
Russia: martyred for their art

In May 2008, Yury Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev were accused of inciting religious hatred through their Moscow exhibition – Forbidden Art. On Monday, 21 June, Prosecutors demanded a three-year jail term for the two curators, according to the magazine The Economist, for “debasing the religious beliefs of citizens and inciting religious hatred.” The verdict is due on 12 July. An ARTICLE 19 source claims that out of 134 prosecution witnesses, only three had in fact attended the exhibition. Samodurov has faced similar charges in the past, having been fined one hundred thousand roubles for his 2003 show, Caution: Religion! The Forbidden Art exhibition featured many works previously shown in Russia as well as internationally, items of particular controversy included a Jesus figure surmounted with the head of Mickey Mouse and a veiled crucifix covered in sexual slang. The venue for Forbidden Art was the Sakharov Centre and Museum, an institution whose core ideology firmly supports the tradition of human rights. The trial continues.

Pakistan: music market bombed

Pakistan Press Foundation - on 26 June, a Lahore market was blasted by two separate explosives in a planned attack on the Plaza’s music outlets. Two shopkeepers and several customers were injured by shattered shop windows, responsibility for which was claimed by the Nazria Pakistan Group. In the lead up to the attacks store owners had received threats, demanding that they stop selling western video and music products. Police are investigating connections between the market bombings and previous attacks on cultural events in the Punjab capital.

Netherlands: Snoop Dogg ousted

Calvin Broadus, a.k.a Snoop Dogg, was banned by Dutch authorities from performing at a free festival in The Hague on 27 June, reports the BBC. The US Hip-Hop artist’s controversial lyrics and persona were considered at odds with the ‘open and friendly’ character of Parkpop festival. The Mayor, alongside the police and public prosecutors, , requested his removal from the bill.
Indonesia: a new Islamic Iconoclasm

Authorities in Bekasi, Indonesia, have demanded the destruction of a statue in a private residential complex, following pressure from local hard-line groups. The Three Girls sculpture represents a symbol of local West Javan culture, according to the artist Nyoman. Three Sundanese women are depicted in traditional attire, welcoming residents on a three-path intersection of the housing complex in which it stands. The sculpture’s creation involved over fifty people and cost an estimated $260,000, reports The Jakarta Globe. Bekasi’s Islamic Defenders Front protested that the women were depicted in “tight costumes” and that any artist that attempts to “copy real living human beings” is being anti-Islamic. Accusations that the women’s composition reflected the Christian Holy Trinity were also aired. The artist denies any attempt to depict the figures as sexual objects and stated, “people of certain cultures should not force their cultural understanding onto others.”

Jordan: director’s plea denied

On 21 June, a film documenting the plight of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, missing in the aftermath of war and displacement, was dropped from its premier slot at Jordan’s Franco/Arab Film Festival. According to Human Film Inc, Sons of Babylon, by Iraqi director Mohammed Al-Daradji, was pulled out of the festival following the organisers’ decision to prevent the director’s letter being read to an expectant audience. The letter details the film’s importance to Iraq’s Missing Campaign, an initiative striving to help families torn apart by the country’s recent legacy of war and disruption. Festival organisers claimed Al-Daradji’s message was “political...and not related to cinema.”

Japan: dolphin ‘bloodbath’ banned in cinemas

National Geographic photographer, Louie Psihoyos, had his latest Oscar winning documentary stalled from general release in its country of origin, Japan. The Cove, an undercover film infiltrating the coastal town of Taiji, assembled a team of divers, climbers, effects artists and technicians in a bid to document the epicentre of Japan’s annual dolphin slaughter. The Cove has struggled to find theatres willing to screen it in Japan, due to issues raised around the industry and the graphic nature of the film’s finale. The film has faced additional censorship from US sources, including an American Airbase near Tokyo, which prohibited screenings. ABC News quotes Psihoyos, a founding member of the Ocean Preservation Society, insisting his message will still be heard, “This kind of information needs to be freed. We're going to get it out there, one way or another."

Germany: no dancing in the streets

On Thursday, 24 June, in Hannover, Germany, a Jewish folklore group was attacked while trying to perform a traditional dance in the city’s Sahlkamp district, which has a large immigrant community. Before their performance had even begun, the Chaverim dancers were forced to seek shelter in the wake of a stone barrage from the teenage crowd. The attackers were identified as a group of Muslim youths aged from 10 to 20 according to the BBC. Charlotte Knobloch, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, commented, "It particularly saddens me that those anti-Semitic views can already be seen with such vehemence among children."

Malaysia: political cartoons censored

The Malaysian Government has banned three separate cartoon publications that allegedly pose a security threat, according to ABC News. The censored works focus on the creations of Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, and other local cartoonists, questioning current events in Malaysia. Subjects include police shootings and the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The cartoon ban further questions the Government’s attitude toward freedom of expression and prohibiting dissenting voices. Zunar describes drawing cartoons as his social obligation and vows to continue his commentary.

Czech Republic: ID artist arrested

A leading member of the controversial Czech art group, Ztohoven, has been arrested following the opening of the Citizen K exhibition in Central Prague. On 18 June, local police stormed the gallery seizing exhibits alongside the group’s figurehead, Roman Týc. According to Czech News site Actuálně, the show was intended to highlight the ease with which people exploit personal information and contained identity cards alongside other phony official documents. The group has previously courted prosecution through installing ‘drunk’ traffic lights in urban streets and inserting recorded images of nuclear explosions into public weather broadcasts.


• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer,, +44 20 7324 2500

Thursday, June 10, 2010

UN Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS Support Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

9 June 2010

UN Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 Highlights Need for Action to Tackle “Culture of Impunity” Surrounding Attacks on Journalists
ARTICLE 19 submitted an oral statement at the Panel Discussion on Journalists in Armed Conflict at the UN Human Rights Council’s 14th session.

In the statement to the Human Rights Council on 4 June, ARTICLE 19 emphasised that journalists around the world have been subject to very serious attacks in situations of armed conflict and other violent circumstances. It is a human rights issue that “deserves more focussed attention and action by the Human Rights Council.”

“Too often, a culture of impunity surrounds attacks on journalists. The denial of journalists’ human rights during conflicts leads to a ‘chilling effect’ on journalists’ freedom of expression, impedes the public’s ‘right to know’ and is a significant restraint upon the media’s role as a watchdog on the state,” said Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, in her address to the Human Rights Council.

ARTICLE 19 urged states to properly implement their existing obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law to protect journalists in conflict situations.


• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, +44 20 7324 2500.
• For ARTICLE 19’s oral statement at the Panel on the Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflict see
• ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

9 June 2010
Correction to the press release 7 June 2010
UN Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS Support Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) submitted a joint oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council’s 14th session welcoming the annual report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr Frank La Rue.
In the statement to the Human Rights Council on 4 June, ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS expressed their strong support for the Special Rapporteur’s opinion that laws on “defamation of religions” are incompatible with international human rights law on freedom of expression.

“We hope that the emerging consensus in support of this position signals a shift in attitude amongst some states that will lead to a more constructive approach towards tackling global challenges of violence, discrimination and hatred on racial and religious grounds. ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies support all governments who seek to promote such an approach,” said Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, in her address to the Human Rights Council on behalf of ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS.

The organisations urged all states to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur by accepting his requests for country visits and to positively support him in carrying out his mandate.

• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, +44 20 7324 2500 or Jeremie D Smith, Director, Geneva Office, Cairo Institute of Human Rights or +41 (0) 22 788 5272.
• The oral statement of ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression is available here
• The report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression, Mr Frank la Rue, 20 April 2010, A/HRC/14/23 is available here
• ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.
• The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies is an independent regional organisation based in Cairo, Egypt with offices in Geneva and Paris

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Authorities crush online dissent; activists detained incommunicado

2 June 2010

Authorities crush online dissent; activists detained incommunicado

In a two-pronged attack, Vietnamese authorities have detained, interrogated and at times physically abused at least seven independent bloggers in the past two months, simultaneously carrying out a series of insidious cyber attacks on websites critical of the government, reports Human Rights Watch. Meanwhile, rights defenders continue to face sham trials and severe prison sentences for organising for the rights of workers or supporting opposition political groups.

On 8 May, authorities disconnected the telephone and Internet at the home of Ha Si Phu, one of Vietnam's best-known dissident bloggers. His blog and website have been regularly subject to cyber attacks in 2010. On 28 April, Lu Thi Thu Trang, an Internet activist linked to the pro-democracy group Block 8406, was beaten by police officers in front of her 5-year-old son. Another blogger was detained three times in April, interrogated and then released.

The cyber attacks are being inflicted on Vietnamese computer users worldwide, infecting the computers of tens of thousands of users who download Vietnamese keyboard language software, says a member of Google's security team. "These infected machines have been used both to spy on their owners as well as participate in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against blogs containing messages of political dissent. Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country."

Since September 2009, dozens of sites have been attacked, including sites operated by Catholics criticising government confiscation of church properties, political discussion forums and opposition parties, and an environmental site against bauxite mining.

The Vietnamese government manages information flow in many ways. In the last six months, Vietnamese BBC service and Facebook have been blocked. In addition, Internet cafe owners are required to obtain photo identification from Internet users, monitor and store information about their online activities, and block access to banned websites.

There is simply no tolerance for anyone who expresses views on human rights or dissent of any kind, says Human Rights Watch. Rights activists Le Cong Dinh, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and Le Thang Long were convicted in January 2010 on charges of attempting to "overthrow the government," for supporting the formation of an opposition party, and sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 16 years. All opposition political groups are banned in Vietnam.

Three other activists have been held incommunicado since their arrest in February. Doan Huy Chuong, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung and Do Thi Minh Hanh were working to help impoverished workers and landless farmers to seek redress from the government.

"Vietnamese prison authorities routinely mistreat and torture political detainees during interrogation to pressure them to sign pre-written confessions and to disclose information about other activists," said Human Rights Watch.

Journalists under surveillance by intelligence forces

2 June 2010

Journalists under surveillance by intelligence forces

A witch-hunt of journalists and activists critical of the government during outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's two terms in power has been detailed in a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). "Chuzadas: Colombian media targeted by intelligence services" was released three days before presidential elections on 30 May after an RSF delegation visited Colombia from 16 to 20 May. At the same time, a delegation of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - Latin America and the Caribbean (AMARC-ALC) travelled to Colombia to determine the state of free expression and community radio.

President Uribe prided himself on creating security, while he colluded with paramilitaries to target critics, the RSF report explains. Uribe has been known for publicly vilifying journalists and saw journalists, opposition politicians and activists as a nuisance. Meanwhile, extra-judicial killings of civilians dressed in rebel uniforms were carried out under his watch to bolster the idea of victory over the guerrillas.

Uribe has been blamed for the corruption of his intelligence services - the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) - which has directed wire-tapping, acts of sabotage and intimidation at journalists.

Eighty members of parliament are facing charges with a quarter already in jail. The report says wire-tapping was run by military officials. And now, Uribe's former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, is the lead vote-getter in this week's elections.

Among those targeted were 16 journalists subject to phone-tapping, says the report. DAS took a particular interest in journalists Hollman Morris and Claudia Julieta Duque who were investigating the 1999 murder of editorialist and satirist Jaime Garzón. Journalists did not feel safe using any telecommunications and would meet face to face to share information.

Now, journalists continue to be vulnerable. "The results of these revelations were intimidating for the practice of journalism in itself and relations between journalists and their sources, while the press already suffered from marked self-censorship," said Andrés Morales, the director of the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).

Currently, under the twisted guise of protection, former DAS agents working for security firms act as bodyguards for journalists under threat, and continue to monitor their clients for their former employer. Aware of being under surveillance by a mixed escort of DAS and police, one journalist said, "If you reject the security system it amounts to giving tacit permission for someone to kill you."

During AMARC-ALC's mission, delegates found that communities still suffer from the violent actions of state security forces, paramilitaries and the guerrillas, limiting free expression. None of these armed groups differentiate between military and civilian targets. Journalists are especially under threat as they may be suspected of being guerrilla sympathisers and targeted by paramilitaries or state forces. There is an urgent need to safeguard community-based radio stations, says AMARC-ALC.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Images of Mohammed provoke censorship

26 May 2010

Images of Mohammed provoke censorship

Caricatures of Prophet Mohammed on Facebook sparked outrage and censorship in Pakistan last week. Authorities embarked on a large-scale crackdown of the Internet, blocking up to 1,000 sites, including Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, report the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

"Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" was an event created by Swedish Facebook users, inviting people to post drawings of Prophet Mohammed on the social networking site. Any depiction of the Prophet is forbidden by Islam.

In response, demonstrations took place throughout Pakistan on 19 May condemning Facebook, and the site itself was blocked by Pakistani officials for being "blasphemous and sacrilegious". Thousands have supported the ban, and some have called for the blocking of all Western websites.

But one local cyber activist disagrees. According to PPF, he told the press, "While we recognise that sites on the Internet are used to spew hatred and incite violence, we steadfastly believe that governments have no right to control access to information."

After the cartoons were made available on YouTube, the Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, Google, Twitter, some parts of the BBC, and Internet access through BlackBerry mobile service, reports ARTICLE 19.

Participants of a media forum who met in Karachi to discuss the ban were assaulted by protesters who accused the group of blasphemy.

In the past, Pakistan has blocked access to YouTube, Blogspot and Flickr, as well as sites that revealed information about corruption linked to political officials and human rights abuses by the army.

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Pakistanis protest in Karachi yesterday against Facebook. Access to YouTube has now also been blocked. Photograph: Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Editor sentenced to 166 years in prison

19 May 2010

Editor sentenced to 166 years in prison

A Turkish newspaper editor accused of being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was sentenced to 166 years and six months in prison on 13 May, and charged with spreading PKK propaganda, report the IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He had been facing an equally absurd 525 years in prison. The disturbing sentence comes on the heels of a new BIANET media monitoring report, which reveals that 216 people, including 69 journalists, were tried in free expression-related cases during the first three months of 2010.

Editor Vedat Kurşun was convicted on 103 counts of "helping and abetting the PKK organisation by spreading propaganda" and "glorifying crimes and criminals" in articles published in 103 issues of Turkey's only Kurdish-language newspaper, "Azadiya Welat". The court's decision is viewed as highly disproportional and politically motivated, says BIANET. RSF called the decision a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Turkey is a signatory.

The numbers in the BIANET report present an increase from the first quarter of 2009, when a total of 110 people were tried in free expression-related cases; 60 of those were journalists.

The report documents the cases of Vedat Kurşun and "Revolutionary Democracy" editor Erdal Güler; both are presently in prison because of their work. At least 32 journalists were in jail during the first three months of 2010 for alleged participation in illegal organisations. While ten journalists were released from prison during this time, 21 are still behind bars.