Posts Tagged ‘bloggers’

Don’t Shoot the Messenger – also valid in Africa

November 6, 2017

In a new report launched at the 61st session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) finds that amid growing restrictions on civic space in the sub-region, journalists play a critical role in exposing human rights violations and providing vital information and analysis of current events. Simply documenting and sharing information can simultaneously place them at risk and at the forefront of human rights defence.
In “Don’t Shoot the Messenger! Journalists as Human Rights Defenders in the East and Horn of Africa”, DefendDefenders examines the challenges journalists face, and provides an overview of the various strategies they have used to circumvent and continue their work amid these restrictions. Overall trends, legal frameworks, and case studies from 11 countries in the East and Horn of Africa provide an understanding of the capacity, risks, and needs of journalists reporting on human rights issues. Over 60 journalists, bloggers, and media professionals from the sub-region were interviewed, in addition to significant input from civil society organisations dedicated to free expression and the protection of journalists.
Central to the report is the question of whether journalists, by nature of their work, should be considered HRDs. Nearly all journalists interviewed for this report considered themselves to be HRDs, but many had doubts over whether this also applied to all their colleagues. Some interviewees claimed to actively seek out human rights stories, especially in conflict situations, while others also advocated for freedom of expression, often from exile.
Journalists are increasingly faced with new threats to their work and security, including harassment, arbitrary detentions, and imprisonments and prosecutions under spurious laws, both online and offline. These threats intensify amid violent conflicts and political crises, and often force journalists into exile, where they face new challenges. The report offers concrete solutions to online and offline challenges and makes key recommendations to governments and civil society to ensure that a free media environment in the region is protected and promoted.
Download “Don’t Shoot the Messenger!” here.

The 4th Werner Lottje Lecture showcases the Zone-9 Bloggers from Ethiopia (15 February)

January 26, 2017

This year’s Werner Lottje Lecture is dedicated to freedom of speech in Ethiopia, to which two Zone-9 bloggers (Zelalem Kibret und Jomanex Kasayehave been invited. The Zone-9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (of which the late Werner Lottje was one of the founders). See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/

The event “We blog because we careDas Recht auf Meinungsfreiheit in Äthiopien” takes place in Berlin on 15 February 2017 at 17h30 in there building of Bread for the World– Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst, Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1, and is co-organised with the German Institute for Human Rights. To attend please contact Alexandra Prieß: alexandra.priess@brot-fuer-die-welt.de.

2000 appr Werner LottjeSee also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/10/18/2nd-werner-lottje-lecture-on-10-november-in-berlin-with-alejandra-ancheita-and-michel-forst/

UN Rapporteurs urge Ethiopia to end violent crackdown and impunity

February 10, 2016

On 21 January 2016 a group of United Nations Rapporteurs (Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances) called on the Ethiopian authorities to end the ongoing crackdown on peaceful protests by the country’s security forces, who have reportedly killed more than 140 demonstrators and arrested scores more in the past nine weeks. “The sheer number of people killed and arrested suggests that the Government of Ethiopia views the citizens as a hindrance, rather than a partner,” the independent experts said, while also expressing deep concern about allegations of enforced disappearances of several protesters.

The current wave of protests began in mid-November, in opposition to the Government’s ‘Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan’ to expand the capital’s municipal boundary. The ‘Master Plan’ could reportedly lead to mass evictions and the seizure of agricultural land in the Oromia region, as well as extensive deforestation. The UN experts welcomed the Government’s announcement on 12 January 2016 suspending the implementation of the ‘Master Plan’, but were concerned about continuous reports of killings, mass arrests, excessive use of force and other abuses by security forces. “The Government’s decision is a positive development, but it cannot be seen as a sincere commitment until the security forces stop their crackdown on peaceful protests,” they said. “The role of security forces should be to protect demonstrators and to facilitate peaceful assemblies, not suppress them.”

We call on the Government to immediately release protesters who seem to have been arrested for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, to reveal the whereabouts of those reportedly disappeared and to carry out an independent, transparent investigation into the security forces’ response to the protests,” the experts said.  “Impunity, on the other hand, only perpetuates distrust, violence and more oppression.

The UN independent experts also expressed grave concern over the Ethiopian Government’s application of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 to arrest and prosecute protesters, labelling them as ‘terrorists’ without substantiated evidence. This law authorises the use of unrestrained force against suspects and pre-trial detention of up to four months. “Ethiopia’s use of terrorism laws to criminalize peaceful dissent is a disturbing trend, not limited to the current wave of protests,” they experts noted. “The wanton labelling of peaceful activists as terrorists is not only a violation of international human rights law, it also contributes to an erosion of confidence in Ethiopia’s ability to fight real terrorism. This ultimately makes our world a more dangerous place.”

How the law was used recently is clear from the case of the “Zone 9” bloggers. Fortunately, on 16 October 2015 Front Line was able to report that all “Zone 9” bloggers were cleared of terrorism charges by the Federal Court in Addis Ababa. All bloggers and journalists whose terrorism charges have been dropped are members of the “Zone 9” and prominent social media activists. With the exception of Soliana Shimelis, the other human rights defenders, namely Mss Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassaye and Messrs Natnael Feleke, Befekadu Hailu, Atnaf Birhane, Zelalem Kibret, Abel Wabela, Tesfalem Weldyes and Asmamaw Haile Giorgis, were arrested on 25 and 26 April 2014 and remained in detention for over a year before being freed.  The human rights defenders’ lawyer stated that “all the evidence presented was very weak to prove they were planning any kind of terrorism”. However, charges of inciting violence remain pending against Befekadu Hailu, who might face a ten-year imprisonment sentence if convicted. See: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29137

On Ethiopia: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/suffocating-dissent-in-ethiopia-counterpunch-tells-the-facts-and-names-the-names/

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16977&LangID=E

Homegrown African decision promotes press freedom and protects human rights defenders

February 5, 2015

A court has ruled that criminal defamation laws cannot include custodial sentences or sanctions that are disproportionate, such as excessive fines. (Gallo)

Simon Delaney, a media lawyer and advisor to the Decriminalisation of Expression Campaign, in The Guardian of 4 February reports on an important judgement by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on press freedom by ruling that criminal defamation laws cannot include custodial sentences or sanctions that are disproportionate, such as excessive fines.

[In 2012, Lohé Issa Konaté, the editor of a weekly newspaper in Burkina Faso, was found guilty of criminal defamation and sentenced to 12 months in prison after he published two articles accusing a public prosecutor of abusing his power. Konaté‘s paper was shut down for six months and he was ordered to pay an exorbitant fine, plus compensation and costs. Konaté argued that he was wrongfully punished for legitimate investigative journalism and his rights to freedom of expression were violated. A coalition of 18 media and human rights organisations added that criminal defamation laws undermine the democratic rights of the media and citizens to hold their governments to account. The court found that, although the Burkinabé law served the legitimate objective to protect the honour and reputation of public officials, the penalty of imprisonment was a disproportionate interference in the exercise of freedom of expression by Konaté and journalists in general. The court ordered Burkina Faso to change its criminal defamation laws and pay compensation to Konaté.]

The judgment is significant not so much because of the content of the decision (which is in line with international standards] but because it is homegrown ‘African’ decision.

The judgment, which is binding on African Union member states, gives impetus to the continent-wide campaign to decriminalise defamation. It also paves the way for the decriminalisation of ubiquitous laws prohibiting “the publication of matter with intent to bring the president into hatred, ridicule or contempt” and “the publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public”.

Homegrown African decision promotes press freedom | Opinion | Analysis | Mail & Guardian.

2014 Oslo Freedom Forum wants to defeat Dictators

October 20, 2014

As from tomorrow, 21 October, you can follow the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum [OFF] in real time at www.oslofreedomforum.com. This year’s theme—“Defeating Dictators”—will explore nonviolent ways to challenge these regimes and stop other countries from falling under the rule of a strongman. Panel discussions are on “Tyrants and Technology” and “Dangerous Words”

OFF speakers include Egyptian comedian and TV host Bassem Youssef; Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez; Ukrainian pro-democracy activist Yulia Marushevska; North Korean refugee and rights activist Hyeonseo Lee; Mexican journalist Marcela Turati Muñoz; and Jordanian comic book artist Suleiman Bakhit.  The forum will conclude on Wednesday, October 22, with the presentation of the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent to Turkish performance artist and “Standing Man” Erdem Gunduz, Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen (represented by his wife Lhamo Tso), and Nadezdha Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, members of the Russian feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/vaclav-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent/]

Interesting novelty (to get more people to follow the forum on-line) is a social media contest on how the speakers inspire the audience. One winner will join the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum in person.

The full program can be viewed here: 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum | Events | Oslo Freedom Forum.

Europe’s Sakharov Prize in trouble with regard to Arab nominees

October 11, 2014

Under provocative title “Can Arabs be Human Rights Defenders?”  the on-line newspapers Mada Masr and Jadaliyya published a piece setting out how 3 Arab nominees were suddenly dropped by their nominators in the European Parliament  over a few Israeli-bashing tweets that were indeed on the verge of acceptability (even in the context of rough twitter talk) especially when calling for or condoning killing of Zionist civilians.

I referred to the nominations in my post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/nominees-for-sakharov-prize-2014-announced/.

I consider the post’s title  provocative (or perhaps ironic) as even a cursory glance of human rights documentation – including this blog – shows that there are hundreds of human rights defenders in the Arab world whose credentials are not disputed or totally defensible.

Please read the whole piece for yourself as this is both a complicated and sensitive matter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sakharov Freedom Award Goes to 98 Azeri Political Prisoners

October 11, 2014

October is awards season, so you should know that the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award recognizes 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. [Note : there is also the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize – of more info please go to: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards]

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Secretary General, Bjørn Engesland, announced the award in Oslo on 6 October, noting the sad fact that Azerbaijan’s political prisoners “are too numerous to all be mentioned here.” The Committee has documented 98 political prisoners, among them 13 journalists and bloggers.  In addition, the prisoners include 10 human rights defenders and civil society activists, nine youth activists, a prominent opposition leader, “and many other opposing voices and religious activists.” The Committee noted that Azerbaijan assumed the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers this year.“Just weeks after Azerbaijan took over the chairmanship in May 2014, a new wave of detention of activists started. In what appears as a sign of contempt against the Council of Europe institutions, this wave in particular hit human rights defenders who have worked hard with the Council for the recognition and release of Azerbaijani political prisoners.

via Sakharov Prize Goes to Azeri Political Prisoners.

Let Ukraine not distract from ongoing repression of human rights defenders in Russia

May 18, 2014

In an excellent piece written for CNN, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, on 15 May gives an overview of the different measures that threaten human rights defenders in Russia. While attention is on Ukraine,  a vicious crackdown on civil society in Russia itself also escalated with every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal:HRW_logo

  • The authorities have blocked or essentially took editorial control over a number of independent news portals and are pushing new laws to stifle freedom of expression.
  • A week ago, President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring Russian bloggers with significant followings to register with the authorities and comply with media regulations.
  • The same law requires blogging services and social networks to store user activity for six months.
  • Another legislative proposal would introduce administrative and criminal offenses for editors who publish “false anti-Russian” information or offer media support to “anti-Russian extremist and separatist forces.”
  • Another new draft law introduces a ban on publishing negative information about the Russian government and military.
  • Also, amendments presently under review by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, would enable the authorities to throw people behind bars for up to five years for repeated participation in unauthorized public protests.

At the same time the infamous Russian law “on foreign agents”, Read the rest of this entry »

Six Members of Blogging Collective “Zone 9” Arrested in Ethiopia

April 29, 2014

zonenine

On April 25, six members of the Zone Nine blogging collective were arrested in Ethiopia. They are now reported to being held at Maekelawi, a detention center in Addis Ababa. News of the arrests first broke on Twitter, where fellow bloggers and social media users voiced support for those arrested and expressed their own fears about what may be to come. Writer Bisrat Teshome, who lives in Addis Ababa, tweeted: “Terrified with the rant of EPRDF on journalists & bloggers. I almost fainted when my door was knocked at about 7pm. #Ethiopia — Bisrat Teshome (@_Bisre)“. As of this evening, no charges had been issued to the members of our group.

[Formed in 2012, the Zone Nine group has leveraged significant critiques of ruling government policy and practice through online campaigns in an effort to raise awareness about political repression in the country. Translating international news for local audiences — through partnership with Global Voices, launched Global Voices in Amharic two years ago. Have been a surveillance target of the Ethiopian government.]

[Kality prison is divided into eight different zones, the last of which — Zone Eight — is dedicated to journalists, human right activists and dissidents. Thus the name of the blog for the proverbial prison in which all Ethiopians live: Zone Nine]

via Six Members of Blogging Collective Arrested in Ethiopia – Global Voices Advocacy.