positive court ruling

Regional ECOWAS Court of Justice rules that 2017 internet shutdowns violated freedom of expression

On 25th June 2020, the Community Court of Justice of the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), ruled that the shutdowns of the internet in Togo in the context of opposition protests in September 2017 were illegal, and violated freedom of expression. Read more  |  Read in French

Regional ECOWAS Court of Justice rules that 2017 internet shutdowns violated freedom of expression

Papuan activists prosecuted while critics face judicial harassment and digital attacks

Attacks on civic freedoms has persisted around the pandemic in Indonesia with the arrests and prosecution of political activists, particularly those from Papua and Maluku, for their peaceful political activism. According to human rights groups, more than 50 political prisoners remain in detention in Indonesia and activists have called for them to be released to minimise the risk of infection with COVID-19. Activists and government critics have also faced digital attacks, smear campaigns and surveillance. Land and environmental activists have also been targeted with one death in custody reported. Read more

Papuan activists prosecuted while critics face judicial harassment and digital attacks

Journalist Samira Sabou acquitted, one HRD released while three others linger in prison

Judicial police in Niamey summoned editor and founder of the newspaper Le Courrier Ali Soumana for questioning on 12th July 2020, on accusations of 'writing and publishing false information'. The accusations relate to an article he published a day earlier, on 11th July 2020, and widely shared on social media, in which he alleges that sources indicated that companies implicated in the corruption scandal in the procurement of military equipment, in which companies overcharged the Ministry of Defence, were renegotiating repayment to avoid legal action against them. Read more  |  Read in French

Journalist Samira Sabou acquitted, one HRD released while three others linger in prison

Disinformation and fake news on the rise during COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak the the State Electoral Commission decided not to allow people who are infected with the coronavirus to vote from home, but it has allowed this for people in self-isolation. However, shortly before the election took place the Constitutional Court ruled that the Electoral Commission must ensure that COVID-19 patients have the right to vote. Following this, the commission announced that coronavirus patients would be allowed to vote by proxy. Allegations against Croatian police of torturing migrants have continued to emerge, but the Interior Ministry dismissed these allegations, while NGOs state that there is evidence and testimonies from eyewitnesses. Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, an increase in the spread of disinformation and fake news regarding the virus has been noted in Croatia. Due to this, the Croatian police have filed dozens of reports against citizens who were spreading fake news. Read more

Disinformation and fake news on the rise during COVID-19

Expression under threat: New law to censor social media

President Erdogan announced this month that regulations to control social media will be introduced. Some articles of the draft law stipulate that “all platforms accessed by over one million users daily must appoint a legal representative in Turkey on whom courts can serve orders to take down content or block access to accounts”. Such a law may further curtail freedom of speech in Turkey and lead to strong control and censorship by the government. This adds to the already concerning situation regarding expression where, during the COVID-19 outbreak, even more journalists were detained due to their reporting on the pandemic and social media users have been interrogated and censored. In addition, doctors have also been censored for speaking out during the pandemic. Hate speech is also an increasing concern in Turkey. It is worrisome that threatening statements are often made against ordinary citizens and minority groups. Read more

Expression under threat: New law to censor social media

Ongoing use of repressive laws, Thai activist abducted, increased surveillance in the South

In the last few months, there have been ongoing use of repressive laws, a prominent Thai pro-democracy activist was abducted in Cambodia, while there have been reports of increased surveillance using biometric data in the southern Malay Muslim provinces including a facial recognition system. A Thai poultry company continues to target human rights defenders while a new report highlights how the authorities are using repressive laws to intensify the crackdown on online critics. Read more

Ongoing use of repressive laws, Thai activist abducted, increased surveillance in the South

Duda narrowly wins election; Public TV serve as a mouthpiece, independent media come under attack

On 12th July 2020, the incumbent president, Andrzej Duda (supported by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party) faced a runoff vote against Rafal Trzaskowski, Warsaw mayor and presidential candidate from the main opposition centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party. Duda narrowly secured a victory, winning 51,2% of the vote. Duda’s campaign focused on emphasising “traditional family values,” and on attacking the LGBTI community. The reporting period saw concerning developments regarding freedom of expression. Independent media outlet Gazeta Wyborcza, for example, has repeatedly been subjected to legal attacks by the governing party. Government also continued to attack domestic foreign-owned media outlets. In addition a report found that during the run up to the first round of presidential elections, public television was biased in favour of Duda, while painting the opposition in a negative light. Read more

Duda narrowly wins election; Public TV serve as a mouthpiece, independent media come under attack

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.

Read more

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

EU court finds that NGO foreign funding law violates EU law, independent media under threat

On 17th June 2020 government announced an end to the “state of danger”, but immediately declared a “state of medical crisis”, which will continue to allow the government to issue a wide range of decrees and restrict certain rights. This declaration cannot be lifted by parliament and human rights organisations are concerned that this will only lead to further powers for the Orbán government. In a positive development, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that a Hungarian law concerning foreign funding of non-governmental organisations “does not comply with the Union law”. The court found that the law imposed "discriminatory and unjustified restrictions" on those organisations affected. Freedom of expression is increasingly under threat, with the biggest and most-read independent news site, Index.hu, reporting that it is currently under threat from external pressures. Read more

EU court finds that NGO foreign funding law violates EU law, independent media under threat

Countrywide protests to end police brutality in the United States met by militarised law enforcement

Massive protests erupted in cities across the United States following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer on 25th May 2020. A harrowing video filmed by witnesses shows the officer pressing his knee into the handcuffed man's neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” Outrage brimmed over, bringing hundreds of thousands to the streets to protest entrenched racism and the US’s long history of killings of Black and Brown people by law enforcement agents. Read more

Countrywide protests to end police brutality in the United States met by militarised law enforcement