Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round-up, 9-14 January 2011

Iraq: Free Speech Protests in Kurdistan

Protestors in Iraq’s Kurdistan region gathered to oppose a new Iraqi law that requires all demonstrations to have a government permit. This new law is said to be amongst several others that have emerged in the past six months, that function to curtail freedom of speech in the region. Iraq has sued several media organizations for publishing work that is critical of the government. Iraq has defended its actions on the grounds that the country is experiencing a period of instability.


 Pakistan: Life in jail for two Pakistani Muslim blasphemers

A terrorism court in Pakistan’s eastern province of Punjab has sentenced a Muslim prayer leader and his son to jail for blasphemy. The sentence carries a mandatory death penalty. The charges came after the pair allegedly tore down and trampled on a poster created for a gathering to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The charges are said to be motivated by sectarian differences and that blasphemy laws are in fact often used to target minority faiths. The attorneys for the men have said they intend to appeal the sentence.


 Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech

A man in Cambodia has been charged with incitement for sharing with his co-workers, web articles from a website that is critical of the Cambodian government.  Commentators have stated that such a charge is a “profound setback” for freedom of expression in Cambodia. More than 10 critics of the government have been criminally prosecuted under Cambodia’s penal code over the past two years for criminal defamation and disinformation. Commentators suggest that the new penal code that Cambodia has adopted has the potential to hinder freedom of expression, as this charge shows that the government is willing to criminalize peaceful expression.


United States: US wants Twitter details of WikiLeaks activists

A United States District Court in Virginia has subpoenaed Twitter user information, including that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in connection with possible charges the United States Department of Justice is investigating. The US has demanded Twitter to release information such as billing accounts, IP addresses, and email addresses. Assange has accused the US of harassment for seeking such information.


 Zimbabwe: Giant screen ‘suffocating’ Zimbabweans with propaganda

Concern is mounting as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is being accused of one-sided media coverage. The ZBC is allegedly airing only liberation songs from the ZANU PF party and not from other political parties.


United States: WikiLeaks demands Google and Facebook unseal US subpoenas

Following the coverage that a US District Court subpoenaed Twitter for user information in connection with the investigation of WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks has demanded that Google and Facebook reveal information about any subpoenas they may have received from the Government. Although the order was originally sealed, Twitter took action to disclose the contents of the subpoena. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and others are urging Google and Facebook to follow in Twitter’s footsteps.



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