Freedom of Expression News Round Up for 25 September 2010

International: ‘Writers urge U.N. to abandon efforts to prohibit defamation of religions, concentrate instead on respect-building initiatives’, 25 September 2010

Writers and freedom of expression advocates from around the world caution against recent U.N. efforts aimed at prohibiting defamation of religions stating that such restrictions could also be used to ‘stifle creative freedom and suppress minority views’. They also observed that such a restriction would do little to reduce religious hatred or promote respect.

El Salvador: ‘El Salvador’s High Court Deals Blow to Press Freedom’, 27 September 2010

The El Salvador Supreme Court ruled on 24 September that the exclusion from criminal rulings provided by Article 191, clause 3 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. This means that media and television station owners, managers and editors can now be tried for slander, injury or defamation. The rest of Article 191 was maintained so that criticism in general would continue to escape punishment.

Ireland: ‘Law still patchy on protection of anonymous sources’, 28 September 2010

An overview of law and practice in Europe in the light of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment confirming the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and requiring a balancing of this protection with other protection guaranteed in a democratic society.

European Court of Human Rights: ‘Major victory for press freedom, protecting journalist’s sources’, 29 September 2010

IFEX reports on the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling confirming the ‘vital importance’ of journalists’ sources with reactions from some of the interveners including Article XIX and WAN-IFRA, the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) and the World Editors Forum.

Uganda: ‘Joint Mission Calls on Uganda to Safeguard Free Speech ahead of 2011 Elections’, 30 September 2010

The International Freedom of Expression Partnership undertook a four day mission to Uganda in September 2010. The aim was to assess the deteriorating conditions for freedom of expression following the killing of two journalists and taking into account the 2011 elections. The mission observed that journalists and media activists ‘face grave and pervasive systemic and legal challenges to their liberty and safety’ and work in a state of widespread impunity.

Syria: ‘How Syria controls its dissidents’, 1 October 2010

Travel bans in Syria, revived in 2002, have been on the increase. Now not only seasoned human rights campaigners and journalists are prevented from travelling abroad but also younger, lesser known Syrians including writers and artists. An opposition report suggests that as many as 400 travel bans are in operation in Syria. They are a very effective way of controlling people.

Philippines: ‘Carlos Celdran walks free after family posts P6,000 bail’, 1 October 2010

Carlos Celdran, an advocate of the Reproductive Health Bill currently going trhough Parliament and often seen handing out condoms to Manila’s Intramuros residents, was arrested on Thursday under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code prohibiting ‘offending religious feelings’: he held a protest in Manila Cathedral during an interfaith prayer service against the Catholic Church’s interference in the government’s birth control programme. He was freed on bail on Friday after his family posted P6,000.

USA: ‘Is it free speech? Supreme Court to rule on church’s anti-gay rallies at U.S. military funerals’, 1 October 2010

The US Supreme Court is to rule on the Westbro Baptist Church anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military personnel fall within the protection afforded to freedom of expression. The case arose out of the church’s protest and subsequent blog postings at the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder in 2006. The demonstrations seek to draw attention to the church’s view that the deaths of U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan and Iraq are God’s punishment for the country’s tolerance of homosexuality

USA: ‘Free speech group fights lawsuits vs. news sharers’, 1 October 2010

In litigation in Nevada, the Defendants, a San Francisco group defending free speech, entered a counterclaim against Righthaven LLC, the Plaintiff, arguing that its business model infringed the right to freedom of expression. At stake is Righthaven’s policy of buying up the copyright in media and published material then immediately beginning copyright infringement proceedings against those blogging or linking to that material instead of issuing a cease and desist order giving them time to remedy the infringement.


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