Civic Space Developments

Ongoing concerns about lack of impartial investigations into "Bloody January’’ events

During the reporting period, the fallout from the ‘’Bloody January’’ 2022 events continued to evolve. While the authorities have pledged to ensure that reported abuses are investigated, an ongoing concern was the lack of effective, impartial and thorough investigations into allegations of the use of excessive force to end the January protests and unrest, arbitrary detentions of protesters, as well as due process violations, torture and ill-treatment of people detained during these events. Hundreds of people remained under investigation on criminal charges relating to the January events. Among these are activists who are facing charges believed to be retaliation for their legitimate civic, human rights and pro-democracy engagement. The trials against some activists began in May 2022. Two Shymkent-based activists were convicted on charges of rioting, although they both insisted that they only peacefully protested to voice misgivings about socio-economic problems and call for political change. Some activists have been charged with the broadly worded offence of ‘’knowingly spreading false information”, which has been repeatedly used to stifle free speech. In the aftermath of the January events, President Tokayev has vowed to promote political modernisation and create ‘’a new Kazakhstan’’. As part of this initiative a constitutional referendum was organised on 5th June 2022. However, at the same time, fundamental freedoms continue to be seriously violated in the country.
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Ongoing concerns about lack of impartial investigations into "Bloody January’’  events

Malaysian police continue to harass protesters and activists and criminalise online expression

In recent months the police have hauled up scores of protesters to be questioned for demonstrations related to the war in Ukraine, police accountability, the death penalty, workers’ rights and judicial independence. The government has also continued to use the Sedition Act, Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) and other legal provisions to arrest individuals for online speech including an environmentalist, graphic artist and writer. The government has also failed to take effective action to protect Rohingya activists from threats and has detained activists for blocking a forced eviction. Read more

Malaysian police continue to harass protesters and activists and criminalise online expression

Calls for justice after journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh killed in ‘targeted attack’ by Israeli forces

On 11 May 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist from Jerusalem, was killed while she was covering the aggression in Jenin Refugee Camp in the occupied West Bank, despite her wearing her press uniform. An investigation by CNN suggests that Abu Akleh was killed in a targeted attack by Israeli occupation forces with a direct bullet in the head. Restrictions on representatives of civil society organisations have continued. For instance, on 1st June 2022, Israeli authorities prevented Ubai Al-Aboudi, the Executive Director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, from traveling to Amman, Jordan to attend a two-day expert meeting with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Separately, in an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, civil society representatives raised their concerns after Israeli authorities denied the entry of European Members of Parliament into Palestine. Read more

Calls for justice after journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh killed in ‘targeted attack’ by Israeli forces

Prominent human rights organisation ceases operation as violations continue

Amid growning repression, on 10th January 2022, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued a statement saying that it had decided to suspend its activities as a result of increasing disregard for the rule of law, the growing violations of human rights and police harassment. Separately, civil society organisations criticised a bill which aims to amend several articles of the law regulating religious preaching and lessons. The proposed amendments seek to expand the scope of the law to include the prohibition of “talking about religious matters on visual, audio or electronic media” except with an official licence from Al-Azhar or the Ministry of Endowments, and increases penalties for violating the law, in some cases amounting to life imprisonment with hard labour. Meanwhile, authorities continued to use charges of joining a terrorist group, inciting a crime, and spreading false news against journalists. Read more

 Prominent human rights organisation ceases operation as violations continue

The Taliban continues to target activists, journalists and stifle protests by women with impunity

In recent months, there have been reports of the growing pattern of arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions and enforced disappearances by the Taliban. Detained women’s rights activists have been forced to make video confessions saying they had been incited to protest by foreign activists. There have been ongoing restrictions, detention and attacks on journalists by the Taliban, the banning of international broadcasts and forcing of female news presenters to cover up. Despite harassment and threats, women’s rights activists have continued to protest for their rights to education and employment. Read more

The Taliban continues to target activists, journalists and stifle protests by women with impunity

Mass arrests of activists; HRDs and journalists hacked with Pegasus Spyware

The Law on Cybercrime Prevention has been used as a tool to detain activists and thus continues to restrict civic space. According to Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) at least 150 activists were arrested during March 2022. Separately, in April 2022, Citizen Lab and FrontLine Defenders revealed that Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and journalists in Jordan had been hacked with Pegasus spyware. The key finding of the investigation revealed that between August 2019 and December 2021, Pegasus spyware was used to hack the phones of four HRDs, journalists and lawyers. Read more

Mass arrests of activists; HRDs and journalists hacked with Pegasus Spyware

Crackdown and arrests reported by the Fact-Finding Mission

A report published by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya in March 2022 cites multiple violations affecting the transition to democracy and the integrity of the electoral process in Libya, including the intimidation and harassment of activists, attacks on the judiciary as a protector of human rights, and mass violations affecting vulnerable groups including migrants, women, peace activists and detainees.
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Crackdown and arrests reported by the Fact-Finding Mission

Freedom of expression at risk as cybercrime legislation used to prosecute online critics in Vanuatu

There are concerns about restrictions to freedom of expression in Vanuatu following the arrest of individuals for allegedly posting comments on social media speculating that politicians were responsible for the country’s current COVID-19 outbreak. Read more

Freedom of expression at risk as cybercrime legislation used to prosecute online critics in Vanuatu

Freedom of Expression violations during elections

The outcome of the May 2022 elections in Lebanon saw some moves in the right direction with the bloc led by Hezbollah losing its majority and independent candidates winning 13 of Parliament’s 128 seats. However, concerning developments on civic space continue to take place, which include violations on freedom of expression. Read more

Freedom of Expression violations during elections

TransIndex staff resign citing political pressure; Senate approves anti-LGBTQI+ law

On 15th February 2022, after 23 years of operation, the entire editorial staff of the Hungarian minority media platform Transindex in Romania resigned, on grounds of facing suffocating political pressure on their journalistic work. Following this it was reported that the staff of Transindex would be launching a new media project with the Hungarian independent news outlet Telex, named Transtelex. Separately, several attacks against journalists were documented, including against journalist Emilia Sercan who filed a police report after being threatened online and discovering that old private photographs had been stolen from her hard drive and put on porn sites. In another concerning development, the Romanian Senate, the parliament’s upper house, approved an anti-LGBTQI+ legislative draft which mirrors Hungary's law on on disseminating LGBTQI+-related information. Read more

TransIndex staff resign citing political pressure; Senate approves anti-LGBTQI+ law