Archive for the 'Weekly Roundups' Category

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 15-21 October 2011

Canada: Former homosexual’s freedom a high court issue

A controversial case has come before Canada’s Supreme Court involving a formerly homosexual man who is now an anti-“gay” activist. When he was younger, he was gay, but then he became religious and renounced a homosexual lifestyle. Now he is known in his community for “distributing pro-family materials in people’s mailboxes, urging them to keep homosexuality out of the public schools. […] He also distributes leaflets, and has placed a newspaper ad, that quotes the Bible on homosexual conduct.” Naturally, people have complained and the Human Rights Commission of Saskatchewan has ordered him to cease this activity and pay a fine of $17,500. Now that the case is before the Supreme Court, interestingly enough, he has gained a lot of support from the homosexual community. Though they find his comments offensive, they feel that his right to freedom of speech is more important. The case is set to be decided within the year.

Sudan: Sudan’s parliament witnesses heated discussions over press censorship

The Sudanese Parliament organised a seminar this Monday to discuss proposed amendments to the country’s Press and Publication Act (2009). An intense debate took place between parties. The Sudanese constitution guarantees freedom of expression, however in practice, ‘[Sudanese] security authorities routinely censor and confiscate newspapers to prevent publication of information deemed sensitive’ and ‘the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) still contact newspapers by phone prior to printing and conveys a list of issues that should not be covered.’ Much to everyone’s surprise, the leading member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Fathi Shilah, made statements in favor of freedom of press, ‘he described press censorship as an act of backwardness regardless of the authority that implements it.’ The Sudanese Journalists Union (SJN) was adamant that amendments must be made to the press law to ‘accommodate “the forthcoming era of freedom and democratic transformation,” in Sudan,’ but some say it will take more than that; some believe the real problem lies with the National Security Act that grants NISS the power to censor the press.,40458 

UK: A crucial week for the cause of free expression

This week, the UK Supreme Court will hear the Times’ appeals concerning the outcome in the libel case brought against them by Metropolitan Police Officer Gary Flood. Allegations that Flood had taken bribes was found to be untrue; “Flood was found to have done no wrong, he alleged that the continuing presence of the report of allegations on the Times’ website impugned his reputation, and sued”. Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 15-21 October 2011’


Freedom of Expression in the News- Weekly Round Up: 13 – 19 August

Angola: Journalist arrested for reporting on ‘mass fainting’.

Angolan journalist Adão Tiago was detained following a report on Radio Ecclesia on the fainting of 20 students at the local school where he teaches English. Toajo questioned the national wave of ‘mass fainting’ since April 2011. Over 800 people, most of them teenagers, fainted after complaining of sore throats and eyes, shortness of breath and coughs. The media has been blamed for exacerbating the problem by creating mass hysteria. Tiago was released after 23 hours of questioning.

Northern Ireland: News organisations claim police are putting journalists at risk

Chief Constable Matt Baggott was warned by Northern Irish editors that demands from police for media riot footage could endanger journalists. This followed a court order that media companies, including the BBC, must hand over images of the recent riots in Belfast. Seven media groups were concerned that such an order impinged on their duty to be impartial and they feared reprisals from rioters.

Vietnam: Blogger jailed for attempted subversion

A French Vietnamese professor was found guilty of trying to overthrow the government and sentenced to three years imprisonment. He was charged for being a member of a banned pro-democracy group – US based Viet Tan – and editing an anti-communist blog, where he posted 33 articles against the current one-party community government. Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News- Weekly Round Up: 13 – 19 August’

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round Up, 29 July- 5 August

Dominican Republic: Critical Journalist Murder

Director of the magazine La Voz de la Verdad and host of Caña TV programme, José Agustín Silvestre, was brutally murdered after he accused members of the government and a priest of being involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. This follows a local prosecutor’s filing of a defamation complaint against the deceased, Silvestre, in May.


Saudi Arabia: Stop Trial of Journalist

Human Rights Watch has called for the head of the Saudi Judiciary to cease all criminal proceedings against a Saudi journalist who has been charged with defaming a local official. The journalist wrote an article about alleged attempts by an official health inspector to extort money from shopkeepers in Huta, a town south of Riyadh. Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch stated, “Silencing reporters who try to expose corruption sends the wrong message to Saudi officials and the public.”


Africa: Windhoek +20 Draft Declaration Released

The African Platform on Access to Information Working Group has released the second draft of its declaration. The declaration sets out minimum standards for access to information on a national scale and is part of an intercontinental initiative to promote access to information in Africa. It can be found online at


Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round Up, 29 July- 5 August’

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round-up, 18 – 22 July

Georgia: Arrest of Photo-Journalists  

A group of 15 international and regional freedom of expression organisations have expressed serious concern over the arrest of a group of photo-journalists ‘spying on behalf of foreign intelligence services or organisations’ and are scheduled to stand trial in September.  The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists called on Georgian President Michael Saakashvili to intervene in this case to secure release on bail. The union says the arrests may be related to the photographers’ work, including photos taken of police using violence against anti-government protesters.  According to Beth Costa, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, ‘[t]his is a test case to prove [Georgia’s] genuine commitment to the rule of law and tolerance of criticism. The photojournalists are entitled to the presumption of innocence and should be released to defend themselves as free men in a public trial.’


UK: Expert Group for Freedom of Expression on the Internet meets for first time

UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne opened the first meeting of the Freedom of Expression on the Internet subgroup of the Advisory Group on Human Rights, on 20 July 2011.  The meeting was attended by experts from the legal, academic and media communities, NGOs and the business sector.  The Freedom of Expression on the Internet Expert Group is focusing specifically on internet freedom issues, to ensure the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has the best possible information about recent developments and can benefit from outside advice on the conduct of our policy.


Saudi Arabia: Terror law ‘would strangle protest’

A secret new anti-terror law being drawn up by the Saudi authorities would ‘strangle peaceful protest’, Amnesty International has said.  According to the BBC, which has been shown a classified copy of the draft law, measures include lengthy detention without trial, restricted legal access and increased use of the death penalty.  Among the measures proposed is a broadening of the definition of a terrorist crime to include any action deemed to be ‘harming the reputation of the state’ or ‘endangering national unity’.  However, a Saudi Official has said that the legislation is directed at terrorists, not dissidents.  Amnesty has said that a number of provisions in the document contradict the kingdom’s international legal obligations, including the UN Convention against Torture.


Global: Human Rights Committee Continues Discussion of Draft General Comment on the Right to Freedom of Expression

The Human Rights Committee continued its review of a draft General Comment on States parties’ obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, setting out the rights to hold an opinion without interference and to freedom of expression.  The discussion addressed such issues as how to respect diverse cultures, while at the same time acknowledging the universality of the right to freedom of expression and whether freedom of expression also protected certain treatment of flags and symbols.  They also discussed at length freedom of expression in the context of new media and emerging technologies. Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round-up, 18 – 22 July’

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. 

Link: Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 7-14 June 2011’

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round-up 18 June – 24 June 2011

Netherlands: “Netherlands Split as anti-Muslim MP is cleared of hate charge”

An anti-Muslim MP who compared the Koran to Mein Kampf has been acquitted of charges of inciting hatred. The judge ruled that the MP’s comments constituted criticisms of a religion and were therefore protected by freedom of speech. A lawyer announced he intends to take the case of the European Court.


Sri Lanka: “Crippling blow to freedom of expression”

The Right to Information Bill presented by the opposition United National Party was defeated by a government majority in the parliament.  The Bill set out the right to free access to official information, the establishment of a Freedom of Information Commission as well as the procedure to obtain said information.


USA: “Health Experts Welcome Graphic New Warnings on US Cigarette Packages”,

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires now requires that graphic photos and messages cover half of cigarette packages and constitute 20% of cigarette ads. The new health warnings are to be displayed by September 2012. Cigarette companies argue that the requirements violate freedom of speech.

Link:   Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly Round-up 18 June – 24 June 2011’

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 13-17 June 2011

Kurdistan: Journalist Sentenced to over a Month in Prison for Publishing Statement by PKK Leader

Journalist Ercan Atay was sentenced to one month and seven days of imprisonment after he published a statement by Murat Karayilan, head of the Steering Committee of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK). Atay was tried on charges of “praising crime and a criminal.”


United Kingdom: Facebook contempt case: juror sentenced to eight months

A juror serving at London’s High Court admitted to using Facebook to communicate with a defendant already acquitted in an ongoing narcotics case. She also admitted to conducting an internet search into another defendant and revealing details of the case while the jury was still deliberating.


United States: New Tennessee raises freedom of speech issues 

A new Tennessee state law originally designed to combat cyber-bullying also impacts free speech and is scheduled take effect July 1st. The law extends harassment laws to include communication through email or internet, and it requires internet service providers to release information about who posts certain images to law enforcement. It would also criminalize causing “emotional distress” through displaying certain images.

Link: Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 13-17 June 2011’

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 4-10 May 2011

Global: Internet Access is a Human Right, United Nations Report Declares

The Special Rapporteur for the United Nations recently released a report stating that there exists a positive obligation on states to promote or facilitate enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and the means necessary to exercise that right, such as access to the internet.


Palestine: ‘PA bans journalists from reporting human rights abuses’

Palestinian Authority recently issued instructions to editors forbidding them from allowing their journalists to report on the findings of the Independent Commission for Human Rights concerning the abuse of human rights by the PA and Hamas. According to some sources, journalists in the West Bank have been subject to physical and moral assault, including having their equipment confiscated or destroyed.


Kuwait: Kuwait arrests man over Twitter post

Kuwait has arrested Nasser Abul, a Shi’ite Muslim man, for publishing criticism of the ruling families in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on social media site Twitter. State security charges, including charges of damaging the country’s interests and severing political relationship with brotherly countries have been filed against him. Abul denied the charges and told prosecutors that hackers who hacked his account were the culprits, not him.


Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 4-10 May 2011’

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 21 May to 27 May 2011

 Morocco: Journalist facing trial tomorrow should be released

According to Amnesty International (AI), the Moroccan journalist “must be released immediately and unconditionally if he is being held solely for his writing,” as it is wrong to detain a journalist only for criticising the counter-terrorism law and corruption. Furthermore AI held that “the Moroccan authorities continue to curb freedom of expression on sensitive issues that touch upon national security, territorial integrity and the monarchy. Human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and others still face intimidation and even prosecution when they transcend certain ‘red lines’.”


European Neo-Nazi websites setting up in the U.S. to take advantage of free speech laws

The U.S. norm is that people are free to say anything as long as it doesn’t infringe upon another person’s rights. In Austria, freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution but is limited by a ban on propagating Nazi ideology. Nowadays, groups on the extreme-right are turning to U.S.-based web servers to spread extremist rhetoric.


UK: Human Rights Act ‘may need amending’ in privacy row

 “The Human Rights Act may need to be amended to resolve the conflict between privacy and freedom of speech in UK law, a senior MP has said.”

Link: Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 21 May to 27 May 2011’

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 14 May to 20 May 2011

USA: Americans sue Baidu over censorship

Claiming violations of the US Constitution, the eight pro-democracy activists, New York residents, are sueing Baidu Inc and the Chinese government, accusing China’s biggest search engine of conspiring with its rulers to censor pro-democracy speech.


China / Germany: Web freedom debated in Berlin

The second China-Germany Media Forum was held in May, with 20 media executives from both countries attending and exchanging views on the future of Sino-European relations.  Among a wide range of topics, political systems and freedom of expression were of prime concern during the forum. Both sides felt content that the forum offered a good opportunity to achieve mutual understanding.


Morocco: Journalist facing trial tomorrow should be released

Rachid Nini, a Moroccan journalist and editor of the el-Massa daily newspaper, was detained on 28 April following the publication of several articles criticising the counter-terrorism practices of the Moroccan security services, including prison sentences handed down after unfair trials against Islamists.

Link: Continue reading ‘Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 14 May to 20 May 2011’

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