Civic Space Developments

Court finds German mass surveillance law disregards press freedom, large turnout at BLM protests

German CSOs report that they were not consulted when the first confinement measures were introduced during to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, warnings about the effects that the lockdown might have on domestic violence were not heard in time. They state that government prioritised corporate interests over social interests and that CSOs cannot count on financial support from the government. During May 2020 several protests were staged by far-right groups in various cities against lockdown measures. Black Lives Matter protests took place in several German cities with large turnouts. In Berlin which drew one of the largest numbers, police and protesters clashed and several protesters were arrested. In a win for press freedom, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Germany’s foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) law, which enables mass surveillance, disregards both the freedom of the press and the freedom of telecommunications as it does not recognise that foreign surveillance must be conducted in conformity with the Basic Law. The ruling makes clear that journalists must be granted special protection.

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Court finds German mass surveillance law disregards press freedom, large turnout at BLM protests

COVID-19 restrictions affect peaceful assembly, expression

Commemorative march cancelled due to COVID-19, Residents protest demolition of cultural building, Police arrest 252 people during a politically motivated protest in Yerevan, Concerns over media censorship in guise of COVID-19 restrictions , Civil Society raises concern over draft law on freedom of information, Armenia ranked 61st in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Read more

COVID-19 restrictions affect peaceful assembly, expression

Civil society group’s funds seized in the Maldives while women’s rights organisation smeared online

In the last few months the authorities have seized funds from a leading human rights organisation which the government dissolved in late 2019. A women’s rights group has faced a smear campaign online for its reporting. Protesters were dispersed for holding a protest outside parliament, while an individual was terminated for ‘defaming’ the President and parliamentary speaker. Read more

Civil society group’s funds seized in the Maldives while women’s rights organisation smeared online

Afghan human rights and media workers face attacks while new NGO law threatens civil society

Over the last few months, human rights workers and journalists have been attacked and killed. 24 were killed when a group of heavily armed militants stormed a Médecins Sans Frontiéres run maternity wing in Kabul. A new NGO law could lead to undue regulations, oversight and interference for civil society while government backtracks on proposed amendments to a media law. Protests in Afghanistan have been met with deadly force from the authorities. Read more

Afghan human rights and media workers face attacks while new NGO law threatens civil society

Indigenous defender killed and others threatened and attacked in Guatemala

On 15th June 2020, Indigenous land defender Medardo Alonzo Lucero was found dead with signs of torture in Olopa, Chiquimula department. Read more

Indigenous defender killed and others threatened and attacked in Guatemala

Critics detained for COVID-19 related remarks

Civic activists, opposition leaders and journalist under attack amid COVID-19 pandemic, Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli released from detention, Azeri activist detained for a Facebook post one day after release from psychiatric clinic , Azeri activist detained for demonstrating police brutality on social media, March for women rights ends with police violence, Student protest ends with arrests, Protesters, journalists beaten during protest in Baku, Civil society publishes report highlighting challenges faced by NGOs and issues recommendations, Read more

Critics detained for COVID-19 related remarks

Swedes take protests online as freedom of assembly is further restricted due to pandemic

Following mass protests against racism in the US, after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer, Black Lives Matter protests have spread across the globe, including in Sweden. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish government has temporarily banned gatherings of more than 50 people, which includes public protests and demonstrations. Several Black Lives Matter demonstrations which intended to stay within this limit of 50, attracted vastly more people. A demonstration of 8,000 people in Stockholm was eventually broken up by the police.
As a result, Swedish police have issued a statement saying that they will be stricter in granting permits for demonstrations. In the meantime people have also taken their protests against racism online. In a separate development, Swedish cartoonist Mahmoud Abbas received hate messages on social media after posting a cartoon on Facebook during April 2020 which commented on the collapse of oil prices. Read more

Swedes take protests online as freedom of assembly is further restricted due to pandemic

Military forced to admit that journalist Samuel Wazizi died in custody, 10 months after his death

Under pressure from civil society groups following a news story by private television station Équinoxe Télévision, the Cameroonian military admitted in a statement read on the radio on 5th June 2020 that journalist Samuel Abuwe Ajieka, also known as Samuel Wazizi, had died on 17th August 2019 while he was in custody. Wazizi was arrested on 2nd August 2019, was never presented before a court, nor were his relatives or his lawyer informed of his whereabouts during the ten months since his arrest. The circumstances of Wazizi's death are unclear and disputed. Read more

Military forced to admit that journalist Samuel Wazizi died in custody, 10 months after his death

Thousands gather for Black Lives Matter protests

While Denmark was quick to impose far-reaching measures on its citizens at the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is now one of the first European countries that has begun to relax these rules by slowly allowing public life to open up again. From 10th May 2020 onwards, gatherings no larger than 500 people were allowed again. Despite the limitations on gatherings, several protests took place demanding racial justice, including in the Danish cities of Aarhus, Odense and in Copenhagen, where 15 000 people gathered. All protests took place in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests, which started in the United States following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer on 25th May 2020. officials raised concerns about the spread of the coronavirus due to large protests taking place, with Denmark's ruling party calling on protesters to get tested for COVID-19.
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Tags: protest
Thousands gather for Black Lives Matter protests

Enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions increase in Venezuela during pandemic

On 8th May 2020, civil society organisation Foro Penal reported that arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances increased in Venezuela since the beginning of COVID-19 containment measures in March 2020. Read more

Enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions increase in Venezuela during pandemic