office raid

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

Authorities embark on major crackdown on expression amid COVID-19 and ahead of elections

Opposition members power-through as elections approach; and HRDs stifled by overly stringent laws, raids and prosecution; Targeting of LGBTIQ+ community continues; Journalists, critics face backlash for reporting and speaking out about COVID-19 measures in the country; Journalists, media outlets and artists targeted for criticising president, politicians Read more

Authorities embark on major crackdown on expression amid COVID-19 and ahead of elections

HRD Azimjan Askarov dies in prison amid growing pressure on civil society and media

A development that has attracted much attention was the tragic passing of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov in prison on 25th July 2020. He was confirmed to have died of pneumonia, known as a serious complication of COVID-19. The news about Askarov’s passing was met with shock and dismay by civil society and the international community, who blamed the Kyrgyzstani authorities for failing to grant him access to appropriate medical assistance and to release him due to his worsening condition. Askarov had spent ten years behind bars, after being given a life sentence for his alleged involvement in the inter-ethnic violence that rocked southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Despite the COVID-19 emergency, a widely criticised draft law on NGOs advanced, with parliament passing it on second reading on 18th June 2020. At a public hearing held prior to this, NGO representatives critical of the law had little opportunity to make their voices heard as participation was seriously limited. Authorities have initiated measures that are problematic for freedom of expression. Following a speedy process, parliament adopted new legislation on “manipulation of information” in June 2020, despite serious objections being raised by media watchdogs. Read more

HRD Azimjan Askarov dies in prison amid growing pressure on civil society and media

Independent Fact-Finding Mission a welcome step, but violations against HRDs, journalists continue

On 22nd June 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) announced the establishment of an Independent Fact-Finding Mission to investigate violations and abuses of human rights in Libya. The mission will cover violations by all parties since the beginning of 2016, with an aim to prevent further deterioration of the human rights situation and to ensure accountability. Both local and international human rights organisations welcomed the mission. Freedom of expression continues to remain under threat. On 29th July 2020 a joint statement issued by 28 media and human rights organisations condemned the practice of security forces searching citizens’ personal devices without permission. This practice is particularly used on activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, media professionals, bloggers, and even immigrants and asylum seekers. In addition the Law on Combatting Terrorism [3/2014] has been used to arrest people exercising their right to free speech. For example it was used to silence dissent of photojournalist and activist Ismail Bouzriba Al-Zoui who was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a military court during a “secret trial” in Benghazi in May 2020.

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Independent Fact-Finding Mission a welcome step, but violations against HRDs, journalists continue

Malaysian police ramp up persecution of Al Jazeera, journalists and activists to stifle criticism

Since April 2020, there has been a systematic campaign of judicial harassment by the Perikatan Nasional government targeting the media and journalists for their reporting, including independent news outlet Malaysiakini and Al Jazeera. The authorities are pursuing activists and government critics, as well as opposition parliamentarians, using an array of restrictive laws to stifle criticism. Individuals calling for or holding peaceful protests have also been questioned or arrested. Read more

Malaysian police ramp up persecution of Al Jazeera, journalists and activists to stifle criticism

COVID-19 used to curtail freedom of expression further

As in many parts of the world, in early 2020 Morocco adopted a state of health emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the state of emergency came restrictions on freedom of expression, including imprisonment and fines for anyone who contravenes the health emergency decree, incites others to contravene the decree through speech or threats uttered in a public space or in meetings, written or printed materials, photos, posters, audiovisual or electronic communications, or any other means. In addition, the publication and distribution of print newspapers was suspended during the pandemic. The Council of Government also approved Bill 22-20 which aims to censor expression on social media, in particular, criminalising calls to boycott commercial products. During the pandemic, 110 citizens were detained for legitimately expressing their views. Police also arrested 450 individuals for breaking the public health emergency law and 56 for publishing false information on COVID-19.
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COVID-19 used to curtail freedom of expression further

Systematic persecution of CSO activists; attacks on freedom of expression and assembly continue

The first three months of 2020 saw ongoing and systematic persecution of civil society activists, journalists, bloggers and other citizens exercising their right to freely express themselves. The situation is currently deteriorating, particularly in connection with the state of emergency, which was declared in the country on 16th March 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Citizens who spoke up about the status of the pandemic in Kazakhstan and the authorities’ handling of it have on numerous occasions been criminally prosecuted. Political activists associated with two unregistered political parties – the new Democratic Party and the new movement “Street Party” - have faced persecution, administrative prosecution and significant harassment, both from the authorities and from unidentified persons. Read more

Systematic persecution of CSO activists; attacks on freedom of expression and assembly continue

Honduras’ new criminal code continues to concern human rights organisations

On 23rd February 2020, the offices of peasants’ organisation La Via Campesina were looted in Tegucigalpa. According to members of the organisation, a computer and some documents were stolen. Some office equipment and furniture were also damaged. Read more

Honduras’ new criminal code continues to concern human rights organisations

Civil society in the Philippines decry restrictive laws, smear campaigns and judicial harassment

Over the last few months, harassment and attacks against journalists and activists have persisted in the Philippines. Attempts were made to shut down ABS-CBN, the largest media network, while cyber-troll armies were mobilised against government critics. Legislation against terrorism is being pushed through that undermines civic freedoms while civil society groups are facing judicial harassment, raids and smear campaigns. Government critic Senator de Lima has spent three years in detention. With the COVID-19 pandemic President Duterte has pushed through legislation that further threatens free speech and abuses against curfew violators have been documented. Read more

Civil society in the Philippines decry restrictive laws, smear campaigns and  judicial harassment

Cuba bans defenders from travelling and exposes their families to harassment

On 4th February 2020, opposition leader Guillermo Fariñas was detained by agents of the State Security Department on his way to a visa appointment at the Spanish Embassy in Havana. Fariñas is a dissident well-known for having conducted several hunger strikes for peaceful political change, who was awarded with a Sakharov prize for freedom of thought by the European Parliament in 2010. Read more

Cuba bans defenders from travelling and exposes their families to harassment