Civic Space Developments

Covering COVID-19, December 2020 elections: journalists assaulted, intimidated and harassed

Ahead of Ghana’s general elections on 7th December 2020, in which voters will elect the president and members of parliament, there have been attacks against journalists who were reporting on the elections, in particular the primaries and the registration of voters. Read more

Covering COVID-19, December 2020 elections: journalists assaulted, intimidated and harassed

Protest against police killing suppressed in Cuba and Sunflower Uprising proceeds despite repression

Several political dissidents and protesters were detained for supporting and participating in activities of a peaceful day of protest, the “Revolución de los Girasoles” (“Sunflower Uprising”) convened on 8th September 2020 by Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU). Read more  |  Read in Spanish

Protest against police killing suppressed in Cuba and Sunflower Uprising proceeds despite repression

Wave of protests prompts growing pressure on activists as government continues COVID-19 denial

During the period covered by this update, the government continued to insist that Turkmenistan was a COVID-19 free country, although reports from independent sources pointed to an increase in the outbreak of COVID-19, with hospitals being strained by the influx of people with acute respiratory conditions and a growing number of deaths due to such conditions. The authorities put pressure on doctors to participate in covering up the COVID-19 outbreak and intimidated medical professionals who raised concerns about the lack of adequate resources for the diagnosis and treatment of people with acute respiratory conditions. The authorities stepped up preventive measures in connection with a World Health Organisation (WHO) mission to the country in July 2020. The WHO mission called on the authorities to act as if COVID-19 had begun to spread in the country. However, the experts stopped short of stating that the COVID-19 pandemic was already affecting the country. In a separate development, Turkmenistani citizens living abroad staged a series of peaceful protests against the policies of Turkmenistan’s government, in particular its failure to adequately respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and the devastating hurricane that struck the country in April 2020. The wave of anti-government protests and growing expressions of discontent with the government on social media prompted the Turkmenistani authorities to step up pressure on critical voices. Activists based abroad faced intimidation and harassment both directly and indirectly through their relatives in Turkmenistan. Read more

Wave of protests prompts growing pressure on activists as government continues COVID-19 denial

Several killed in protests, violence after President Ouattara announces third term bid

President Ouattara’s announcement to run for a third term in the upcoming October 2020 presidential elections sparked deadly protests and violence throughout the country, killing several. Authorities 'suspended' all protests on the public road and arrested one HRD and two of her colleagues who had called for protests . Read more  |  Read in French

Several killed in protests, violence after President Ouattara announces third term bid

New law seeks to threaten media freedom as journalists face attacks

Post-election celebrations in Montenegro, following the victory of three opposition coalitions, have caused several incidents in Budva, Niksic, Herceg Novi, Podgorica, Pljevlja and Bar. According to the police, during the celebrations there were cases of attacks on police officers, physical attacks on other persons, insults on nationalistic grounds and mass fights. Just before the elections, hundreds of people staged the largest protest so far against the proposed controversial Law on Religion which makes provision for a list of religious sites in the country. However following a ban on religious gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Serbian Orthodox Church found new ways to mobilise its supporters, through online or “automobile gatherings” on the streets. In a concerning development for media freedom, in late July 2020, the Parliament of Montenegro adopted a new Media Law which states that a journalist must reveal their sources at the request of the Prosecutor's Office if it is "necessary to protect the interests of national security, territorial integrity and health". Read more

New law seeks to threaten media freedom as journalists face attacks

Activists, academics and journalists in India face judicial harassment despite pandemic

The Narendra Modi government has continued its persecution of human rights defenders, activists, student leaders and journalists. Political activists and student leaders continue to be the government’s prime targets, with some detained under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and for sedition. A raging pandemic and national lockdown has not stopped the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from making more arrests in the controversial Bhima Koregaon case of 2018. Human rights groups have continued to remain concerned about violations in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
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Activists, academics and journalists in India face judicial harassment despite pandemic

Organisations denounce judicial harassment of press in Panama

On 17th July 2020, eleven civil society organisations sent a letter to Edison Lanza, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, requesting that he speak up against judicial harassment of members of the press in Panama. Read more

Organisations denounce judicial harassment of press in Panama

Austria civic space rating upgraded to open

Political gains made by the Green party and increasing dialogue between government and civil society has led to an improvement in civic space in Austria, prompting a ratings upgrade from narrowed to open. This ratings decision by the CIVICUS Monitor was taken following a thorough assessment of conditions in the country for the free exercise of civic freedoms, as protected by international law. In 2018 under the ÖVP-FPÖ (Peoples Party - Freedom Party Austria) coalition government, Austria was downgraded to narrow following a deterioration in civic space. However, the September 2019 election outcome has resulted in a positive change, as the far-right FPÖ party was replaced in the coalition by the Green party. The Green party has been more open to dialogue with CSOs, which presents the sector with the unique opportunity to make themselves heard again.
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Austria civic space rating upgraded to open

Argentina’s former government accused of spying on journalists, civil society leaders and others

In early June 2020, a federal prosecutor conducting an audit of Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) presented evidence to the Eleventh Federal Criminal and Correctional Court, which indicated that the agency had conducted illegal espionage during the administration of former president Mauricio Macri. Read more  |  Read in Spanish

Argentina’s former government accused of spying on journalists, civil society leaders and others

El Salvador’s Congress creates group to investigate harassment of the press using state funds

On 6th August 2020, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) published a statement condemning President Nayib Bukele and Salvadoran public officials’ threats against journalists and the press. Read more  |  Read in Spanish

El Salvador’s Congress creates group to investigate harassment of the press using state funds