Archive for the 'National Security' Category

‘Hactivism’ against Censorship: Civil Disobedience or Criminal Nuisance?

‘Hactivism’ – illegally tampering with websites as an act of protest – has gained unprecedented publicity, thanks to Anonymous, a scattered group of possibly thousands of activists who have collectively launched cyber-attacks on governments and private companies “to keep the internet open and free.” It first launched large-scale attacks in 2010 on the websites of Mastercard, Visa, and other companies who revoked services from WikiLeaks after the U.S. declared WikiLeaks illegal. Anonymous called any “anti-Wikileaks company” an enemy in a “war on data.”

In 2011, the group set its eyes on the revolts in the Middle East and North Africa, hacking into government websites to protest various internet censorship policies. In June, Anonymous launched “Operation Turkey,” disrupting Turkish government websites to protest its new mandate for all online users to sign up for one of four internet filtering settings, which according to Anonymous, not only restricted internet access but enabled the government to monitor individual internet activity. Anonymous launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS), in which numerous websites flooded the target websites with requests, rendering them too busy to function.  An unofficial Anonymous spokesman proclaimed the tactic a valid method of protest: “When truck drivers go on strike they block all the roads. It’s the same principle.” Anonymous also recently targeted Iran and United Arab Emirates, stealing and displaying ten thousand government user names and passwords. Reportedly, the attack on Iranian websites was conducted in view of the second anniversary of the controversial 2009 election.    Continue reading ‘‘Hactivism’ against Censorship: Civil Disobedience or Criminal Nuisance?’


The King’s Speech: Bahrain’s reaction to the events unfolding around the world

What is happening across Africa and the Middle East truly is history in the making. No-one knows this better, one contends, than those still clinging to power in nearby States. Once a seemingly untouchable elite, the rulers of these lands are now very much aware of their own humanity.

In February, in the centre of Manama, when Bahrain saw its first example of a political uprising since the events engulfing Egypt, King Hamad ibn_Isa_Al_Khalifa reacted by releasing some 23 political activists being held. This isolated action, however, is not enough to secure the Monarch’s security. Continue reading ‘The King’s Speech: Bahrain’s reaction to the events unfolding around the world’

The Banished Pharaoh: Lessons in freedom of expression

The 11th February 2011 marked a seminal moment for the right to freedom of expression: the day Hosni Mubarak resigned from his 30 year rule, in response to the expressed will of his people.

The country has been subject to emergency law since 1967. This authorised a number of restrictions on personal freedom of assembly and movement, sanctioned the surveillance of personal messages, and permitted the confiscation of publications. Egypt’s economic climate had deteriorated with increased poverty, rising prices, social exclusion and unemployment, food price inflation and low minimum wages. Two thirds of the country’s population are under 30, with this group comprising 90% of the Egypt’s unemployed. By contrast, personal enrichment and corruption was rife amongst the political elite. Reports suggest that the former president had misappropriated up to £40 billion during his reign, more than double the estimated amount that the notorious Bernard Madoff stole using his Ponzi Scheme. Continue reading ‘The Banished Pharaoh: Lessons in freedom of expression’

Burma: Elections without Free Expression

Burma has been under a military government since a coup in 1962. The last general election held in 1990 was won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) by 392 of 485 seats. Shortly following this, the military leaders ruled out a quick transfer of power due to a lack of constitution and Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD leader, was placed under house arrest for endangering the state. Continue reading ‘Burma: Elections without Free Expression’

UK Anti-terrorism legislations: necessary and proportionate?

“Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

The right to freedom of expression and protest, upheld in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act, are crucial in any democracy as they encourage political debate and democratic participation.  They are also essential in ensuring Government’s accountability and transparency. Limitations of such rights are lawful only insofar as they are proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.

Continue reading ‘UK Anti-terrorism legislations: necessary and proportionate?’

What’s in a Name? Counter-Terrorism Measures v Open Justice

It is a general principle of any justice system that not only must justice be done but justice must be seen to be done. At least part of this second limb is literal: court cases and trials are held in public and reported, in full, to the public unless there are extenuating circumstances which warrant closed proceedings or reporting restrictions (see, in particular, Scott v Scott [1913] AC 417).

This is the principle of open justice and, according to Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, it ‘represents an element of democratic accountability, and the vigorous manifestation of the principle of freedom of expression. Ultimately it supports the rule of law itself. […]’ (§ 39, The Queen on the application of Binyam Mohamed v the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, [2010] EWCA Civ 65) Lord Judge went so far as to state that ‘[…] the principles of freedom of expression, democratic accountability and the rule of law are integral to the principle of open justice and they are beyond question. […]’ (§ 41, supra)

Continue reading ‘What’s in a Name? Counter-Terrorism Measures v Open Justice’

Blackberry encryption and the right to privacy

Digital communications from mobile phones are routed through powerful computers called ‘exchange servers’. Research In Motion (RIM) based in Ontario, Canada runs the exchange servers for its business-friendly Blackberry mobile device. The company has built a reputation for secure communications, basing all its exchange servers in Canada, much to the consternation of governments around the world, who would like to listen in on these communications.

For example, if you were to send an email from your Blackberry, the email goes through as a heavily encrypted* signal to exchange servers in Canada and is then sent encrypted to the recipient. This encryption is difficult to break without the right encryption keys and hence the Blackberry smartphone has a reputation of being secure for communication. Continue reading ‘Blackberry encryption and the right to privacy’

Freedom to incite?

Muslim nations across the world have appealed to the US government to stop plans of a US pastor to publicly burn Korans on the anniversary of September 11. The Indian government has called for a media blackout, urging media outlets not to publish images of the event. Despite widespread criticism, US officials have stated that First Amendment constitutional rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly and religion, prevent them from prohibiting the event.

Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, United States, has said that he will go ahead with the event, insisting that the burning is a way to “confront terrorism”. The controversy comes at a time of heightened tensions in the US about the role of Islam, following heated debate about plans to build an Islamic centre close to Ground Zero in New York.

US military commanders have warned that the burning could spark violent retaliation against US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Senior members of the Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and leading Christian and Jewish figures have condemned the planned event.

Instant messaging: Enhanced communication or security threat?

Several countries have expressed concern over the use of instant messaging services like Blackberry in their countries.  Saudi Arabia was due to ban the service from 6th August, but did not do so. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is due to ban the service in October.

The main complaints of these countries has been the alleged threat to security posed by the service and the fact that it is difficult for them to monitor the communications, because the data is encrypted and sent to Canada to be decoded. The UAE’s telecom regulator, TRA has denied that the suspension of Blackberry in the UAE from 11th October has to do with censorship and claims it is due to Blackberry not complying with UAE telecommunications regulations.  However, there was an alleged attempt by TRA to install spyware on to Blackberry and in 2007, they were refused access by RIM to the code for the encrypted networks to monitor communications. Continue reading ‘Instant messaging: Enhanced communication or security threat?’

Does Thailand’s state of emergency balance national security with freedom of expression?

Following anti-government protests in March in Thailand, the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Thai government declared a state of emergency.  As part of the state of emergency, “public gatherings of more than five people are banned and security forces have the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge.”[1] Since then over 400 people have been detained.[2] Emergency rule is still in force for parts of Thailand and was extended beyond the initial period for another three months.  The reason given for the extension was initially based on fear of security, but now business and tourism are the reasons for imposing and lengthening the emergency state.[3] Continue reading ‘Does Thailand’s state of emergency balance national security with freedom of expression?’

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