Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 7-14 June 2011

United Kingdom:  Police investigate destruction of evidence by suspect in phone-hacking scandal

Millions of emails between News of the World editors, reporters, and private investigators may have been deleted by a News International executive currently under investigation.  If true, the acts would go directly against News International claims that they are fully cooperating with police in the investigation. 


Iraq:  Proposed law would curtail freedom of assembly

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW)a recent law drafted by the Iraqi Government would violate both international law as well as the Iraqi Constitution, due to ‘vague wording’.


China:  Shuts down 1.3 million websites in 2010

A state run think tank reports a 41% decrease in websites from 2009 to 2010.  The State argues that this has no impact on China’s protection of freedom of online speech, citing data that shows that while the total number of websites has decreased, the content remaining websites increased by 78%.  Civil rights groups continue to strongly argue that web content in China is heavily censored. 


Egypt:  Reinstatement of Information Ministry considered a setback for media freedom

The committee to Protect Journalists reported that the reinstatement of the Information Ministry of is a great set back for media freedom, as the removal of the Ministry was a key demand of the revolution and considered a great step forward for free media. The new position has been filled by Osama Heikal, sworn in by the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.  Civil Rights groups argue that the information Ministry, and others of its kind, only exist in totalitarian states and dictatorships.  It is seen as the latest in a series of steps curtailing media freedom in Egypt.


United States:  Court orders end to ban on gays openly serving in the military

A ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is being seen as potentially speeding up the process of repealing the existing ’Don’t Ask Don’t Tell‘ policy that barred gays from openly serving in the military.  The policy was repealed last year by President Obama, however the actual process of removing the policy has taken longer than expected due to an injunction in place for the purpose of allowing the military time to prepare admittance of openly gay soldiers.  The 9th Circuit ruling ends this existing injunction. 


Turkey:  Despite improvements, Council of Europe urges increased protection for freedom of

Despite recent changes to the Turkish Constitution, in a recent report, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, calls for further protections ifor freedom of expression.  Areas of concern include, inter alia, the Criminal Code, Anti-Terrorism Act, civil and criminal defamation provisions, Internet censorship, lengthy criminal trials and pre-trial detention.  Hammarberg ends his report with a further call or the Turkish government to make efforts to protect the media and journalists from intimidation and violence.


Israel:  Law passed banning settler boycotts is seen as violation of freedom of expression

Opposition and civil liberties groups have called the recently passed Law, banning settler boycotts, un-democratic and a violation of freedom of expression.  The new law broadly defines boycotts and provides for large fines as well as for those calling for boycotts to be sued by any who claim economic, cultural or academic damage as a result of the boycott.  Critics claim this is a blatant attempt to end peaceful dissent and campaigning. 


United Kingdom:  Former aide to the Prime Minister, Andy Coulson, is arrested

Mr. Coulson, former aide to the UK Prime Minister,  was arrested under suspicion of conspiracy in the on-going phone hacking scandal.  As a former editor of The News of the World, it is thought that he had knowledge of the scandal as it was developing. 


Iran:  Judicial Killings

Human rights groups have accused the Iranian government of attempting to intimidate and covertly kill political opposition within the country, literally and figuratively, while concealing these acts with simple claims of an increased crackdown on criminal activities.  While the 2010-2011 period is only half over, official execution records show that execution totals have already reached 75% of total reported executions for the entire 2009-2010 period. 



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