Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round-up, 24-28 January 2011

Egypt:  Egypt cuts off internet access

Egypt appears to have cut off almost all access to the internet from inside and outside the country from late on Thursday night, in a move that has concerned observers of the protests that have been building in strength through the week.


Uganda:  Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato found murdered

One of Uganda’s most prominent gay rights activists has been murdered in his home weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid that called for homosexuals to be killed.


Denmark:  Decision in Denmark

[Editor’s note: Lars Hedegaard, a Danish critic of Islam, is on trial in Denmark for remarks he made regarding dysfunctions and abuse within Islamic family culture. Under Denmark’s law 266b dealing with alleged hate speech, defendants are not allowed to prove the truth of their comments and all that is needed for conviction is whether any one person feels offended. Below are his final words in the Court of Frederiksberg on January 24, 2011.]

My counsel has instructed me that in cases brought under Article 266b, the only thing that determines whether one is convicted or not is a matter of the perceived insult whereas one is barred from proving the truth of the statement.


Zimbabwe:  Art Exhibit in Zimbabwe Rouses Ghosts of Gukarahundi

The exhibit at the National Gallery is now a crime scene, the artwork banned and the artist charged with insulting President Robert Mugabe. The picture windows that showcased graphic depictions of atrocities committed in the early years of Mr. Mugabe’s 30-year-long rule are now papered over with the yellowing pages of a state-controlled newspaper.


Cambodia:  Hearing today in activist case

 Kampong Chhnang provincial court is set to hand down a verdict today in a case against a local activist that rights groups have branded an attack on freedom of expression. Sam Chankea, the Kampong Chhnang provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, has been accused of defamation and disinformation by the development firm KDC International. KDC is owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem.


Pakistan:  Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s defiant prisoner of intolerance, vows to stay put

All Sherry Rehman wants is to go out – for a coffee, a stroll, lunch, anything. But that’s not possible. Death threats flood her email inbox and mobile phone; armed police are squatted at the gate of her Karachi mansion; government ministers advise her to flee.

“I get two types of advice about leaving,” says the steely politician. “One from concerned friends, the other from those who want me out so I’ll stop making trouble. But I’m going nowhere.” She pauses, then adds quietly: “At least for now.”


Sri Lanka:  Appeal to Boycott Galle Literary Festival

Reporters Without Borders and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), a network of exiled Sri Lankan journalists, announced the launch of an international appeal already signed by Noam Chomsky, Arundathi Roy, Ken Loach, Antony Loewenstein and Tariq Ali, asking writers and intellectuals to endorse a campaign for more freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

In a few days, the family and colleagues of political cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda will be commemorating the first anniversary of his disappearance. He was kidnapped in the heavily-guarded capital, Colombo, on January 24, 2010, a few hours before the most recent presidential elections. The authorities have never given his wife any information about where he might be and the investigation is in limbo. At the same time, writers from Asia and all over the world are planning to gather in the southern city of Galle for a literary festival co-sponsored by the country’s leading tourism promotion agencies (


Canada:  Supreme Court to rule on lawyers’ freedoms

 When can a lawyer criticize a judge? Lawyers -as well as judges and professional orders representing lawyers across Canada -will be closely watching the outcome of a Supreme Court of Canada case that begins next Wednesday. Dore vs. Bernard is an appeal by Montreal criminal lawyer Gilles Dore to overturn judicial proceedings that upheld a 21-day suspension by the disciplinary committee of the Quebec Bar for having written a blistering personal letter to Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Guy Boilard in June 2001.



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