public vilification

Public vilification of Indigenous peoples and criminalisation of environmental defenders

On 16th July 2020, Maya Q’eqchi Indigenous leader Bernardo Caal Xol was declared a prisoner of conscience by human rights organisation Amnesty International. Bernardo Caal Xol has defended the rights of communities in Santa María de Cahabón, department of Alta Verapáz, which have resisted the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the region. Read more

Public vilification of Indigenous peoples and criminalisation of environmental defenders

Venezuela stifles dissent with political interference in opposition parties and detentions

At the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, presented a new report on the situation in Venezuela between June 2019 and May 2020. Read more

Venezuela stifles dissent with political interference in opposition parties and detentions

Bolivian Ombudsperson accused of political bias by government

On 13th July 2020, Bolivia’s interim government published a statement claiming Ombudsperson Nadia Cruz was occupying this office illegally and that, as a result, they would not recognise any actions undertaken by her after April 2019. Read more

Bolivian Ombudsperson accused of political bias by government

Activists, journalists face smear campaigns, harassment and censorship during COVID-19

Restrictions on the movement of citizens have greatly hindered the normal functioning of CSOs engaged in activities of general interest, especially the ones which provide citizens with certain services that can help them during the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, CSOs were not eligible for permits which allow for movement during curfew hours. The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) has been the constant target of individual smear campaigns for many years. The most recent attacks, from GONGO association National Avant-Garde, aim to discredit the BCSP’s work through public statements, announcements and videos. The introduction of the state of emergency has raised concerns of censorship. For example, the government adopted a conclusion authorising only Crisis Staff to inform the public about the COVID-19 outbreak. Furthermore, it adopted a measure that prevents journalists from attending Crisis Staff press conferences. In addition, journalists were harassed, detained for their reporting or subject to smear campaigns during the reporting period.
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Activists, journalists face smear campaigns, harassment and censorship during COVID-19

Police watchdog raises concerns over abusive policing practices at Black Lives Matter protests

Despite restrictions on public gatherings due to the pandemic, people gathered during May and June 2020 in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter mass protests in the US over the death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer. Protesters were arrested on several occasions and charged with breaching regulation 7 of the coronavirus regulations, but it remains unclear how these individuals were detained while hundreds of others were not. Police watchdog, Netpol and other organisations wrote a letter to the Met Police to express their concerns on policing protests under regulation 7. Netpol campaigners also reported abusive police practices, such as the use of the controversial containment tactic called “kettling” on four separate occasions during protests in the month of June. Netpol also reports that protesters face masks were pulled down by the police to make sure faces were captured and names and addresses of the protestors were demanded, using section 50 of the Police Reform Act. Press freedom has also come under serious threat from UK officials during the reporting period. Read more

Police watchdog raises concerns over abusive policing practices at Black Lives Matter protests

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

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

PM condemned for negative rhetoric against media, attempts to shut down TV station

Although the citizens and activists of Tirana called on the authorities to halt the plan to demolish a cultural heritage site of the city, their attempts were unsuccessful. Many people from different backgrounds took to the streets to protest the decision to demolish the National Theatre. They furthermore accused the authorities of starting the demolition while some of the protesters were in the building, thus endangering their lives. Police also used force to push back masses of protesters. A journalist was also detained during the protest. In a separate development, Prime Minister Edi Rama has been criticised for his negative rhetoric towards reporters and journalists in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Health Inspectorate has requested the closure of the RTV Ora Television station for violating the instructions by the Ministry of Health to allow only two people in television studios at a time. This is viewed as an attempt to silence critical journalism under the guise of the pandemic. Read more

PM condemned for negative rhetoric against media, attempts to shut down TV station

Chilean police forces repress protests with COVID-19 regulations

On 18th March 2020, the Chilean government issued a decree that established an exceptional “state of catastrophe” for three months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The legislation also allowed the president to take further measures such as restrictions on gatherings in public spaces and individuals’ movement, quarantines or curfews. Read more

Chilean police forces repress protests with COVID-19 regulations

Attempts to ban CSOs; activists and journalists come under attack

The Balternativa movement launched a petition to ban NGOs in Serbia. According to the petition, "it aims to ban the work of non-governmental organisations that posed a risk in the past for the national security of the Republic of Serbia”. The Serbian Radical Party of convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj also advocates for banning the work of certain CSOs in his election campaign. They are proposing a law to ban state funding for NGOs. Activists have also faced attacks and threats during the reporting period. The Civic Front announced that an activist of the United Movement of Free Tenants from Nis, Jana Krstić, was verbally attacked by unknown young men who stopped her and threatened her because of a T-shirt she was wearing with the logo of the initiative ‘Don’t let Belgrade d(r)own’. Similarly, after an apperance on N1 Television, sociologist and researcher of the Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI), Zoran Gavrilović, was the target of threats and insults on Twitter. Journalists also faced physical and verbal attacks during the reporting period. Read more

Attempts to ban CSOs; activists and journalists come under attack