Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 4 – 10 February 2012

US free speech faces Islamic blasphemy law pressure, analyst says

A religious liberty expert has said that attempts to “export” Islamic anti-blasphemy laws to the West could pose a threat to freedom of speech in the U.S. He urged the Obama administration to end the government’s partnership with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; an organisation that has been “aggressively lobbying to restrict free speech through legal controls.” Rather, the government should promote the idea that “in open, boisterous, free societies,” all religions will be likely to be subject to criticism.

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IBA launches first global report examining the impact of online social networking on the legal profession

The International Bar Association (IBA) today published The Impact of Online Social Networking on the Legal Profession and Practice– the first comprehensive IBA report that examines the role of online social networking within the legal profession and legal practice, and also assesses whether there is a need to set principles regarding usage.

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Armenian Journalist Freed Amid Media Uproar

Armenian law-enforcement authorities have released Hayk Gevorgian – a prominent pro-opposition journalist. He was initially detained for allegedly hitting and injuring another man with a car driven on 13 January, but these allegations have been discredited. Gevorgian claims to have been arrested by police in retaliation for his scathing articles about chief of national police Vladimir Gasparian, written in pro-opposition daily Haykakan Zhamanak.

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Media interest in celebrities’ lives is legitimate, European court rules

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled – in cases concerning a German television actress and Princess Caroline of Monaco – that the private lives of celebrities are of legitimate interest to the media; tipping the balance in privacy cases back towards freedom of expression. The judges held that “as long as the media carried out a reasonable balancing exercise, considering privacy issues, they should be able to publish stories about and photographs of ‘well-known people.’” The Princess Caroline of Monaco decision showed that that the context in which the photo was published, rather than the photo itself, was crucial.

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Russia: Government Shuts HIV-Prevention Group’s Website

The Russian government’s anti-drugs agency has ordered the blocking of the website of a public health organization, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, for discussing the addiction medicine methadone, human rights groups said today. The move is an assault on freedom of expression in the midst of pro-democracy protests, the groups said.

For more information see:’s-website


Abdel Aziz-Al-Jaridi face prison time for defaming Al-Jazeera anchor

Abdel Aziz Al-Jaridi, director of two daily newspapers, Al-Hadath and Kul-Anas, appealing a defamation conviction, following his four months jail sentence by the first instance court on 13 June 2011 for defaming Al-Jazeera news anchor Mohamed Krichen. Journalists in Tunisia can face up to six months in prison for defamation. Al-Jaridi, considered to be a supporter to the former regime, is known for his articles defaming opposition figures and dissident voices during the rule of Zeine El Abidin Ben Ali.

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‘France turns freedom of expression into handicap of expression’

Turkey’s Minister of European Union Affairs Egemen Bağış said at a press conference that France “has turned freedom of expression into a handicap of expression,” in response to France’s adoption of a bill that criminalises the denial of Armenian genocide allegations. He continued, saying that “[w]hat France does is to carry Europe back to the Middle Ages. An EU that is afraid of talking and discussing does not have much to give to humanity. The EU, the most extensive peace project in the history of humanity, must be braver.”

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Tunisian human rights minister: No free speech for gays

Tunisian Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou spoke out against an online gay magazine Gayday Magazine, saying that “freedom of expression has its limits” and that homosexuality was a “perversion” which “needed to be treated medically.” Gayday magazine, which claims to be the first online gay title in Tunisia, launched in March 2011, initially received little attention other than from LGBT Tunisians, but soon received homophobic attacks.

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 The ‘Twitter joke trial’ appeal: a review of the High Court hearing

The hearing is important because of “the way it represents the law’s arguably problematic collision with social media” and “because of the freedom of expression issues is raises.”  Paul Chambers was convicted on the basis of a tweet that said “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!” which was held to constitute illegally communicating a message of menacing character by means of public electronic communications network. One of the arguments employed in the appeal is that the law in question had to be interpreted in light of the Article 10 convention right to freedom of expression.  The proportionality argument that is being raised under section 6 of the Human Rights Act is an argument that might prove conclusive.

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 UN declares defamation conviction a free expression violation

The UN Human Rights Committee for the first time has found that jailing a writer for libel represents a violation of freedom of expression, report the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in the Philippines and the International Press Institute (IPI). In response to the imprisonment of former radio journalist Alex Adonis in July 2008, the committee declared that the Philippines’s criminal libel provision in its penal code is “incompatible” with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines is a signatory. The Committee held that Manila was “under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations occurring in the future, including by reviewing the relevant libel legislation.”

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 Editor’s detention exposes regime’s crushing of dissent in wake of December violence

Igor Vinyavsky, the editor-in-chief of one of the last remaining independent national newspapers in Kazakhstan has been detained by Kazakhstan’s security services; a detention that IFEX members are calling “politically motivated” in light of “a long history of being a thorn in the side of the Kazakh government.” Vinyavsky was indicted on criminal charges of “making public calls through mass media to violently overthrow Kazakhstan’s constitutional regime,” which he denies.

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