LGBTI

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

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

New law to protect against LGBTI discrimination

On 27th July 2020, the Italian parliament started a debate on making discrimination and hate crimes towards LGBTI people a punishable offence. Past attempts by previous governments to protect LGBTI people by law have been unsuccessful. The proposed law, written by MP and activist Alessandro Zan, would extend an existing law that punishes racist violence, hatred and discrimination, to include discrimination against LGBTI people and misogyny. Violence against the LGBTI community is on the rise in Italy, however far-right groups are opposed to such a law, stating that it threatens family rights. Read more

New law to protect against LGBTI discrimination

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

Press freedom a grave concern during pandemic; attempts to ban gender studies in education

Despite recent political changes, press freedom remains a grave concern in Romania, even more so during COVID-19. As an attempt to counter the spread of coronavirus-related “fake news” online, articles and even entire websites were taken down. Media freedom in the country has declined since the introduction of the state of emergency in mid-March 2020 in the following ways: First, the response time for freedom of information (FOI) requests doubled from a maximum of 30 days to 60 days. Second, it was decided that all official COVID-19-related information would be released from the capital and thus limiting local journalists’ ability to verify any information outside of Bucharest. Third, the government threatened doctors and public servants with criminal charges for releasing any information on the pandemic to the media. However, after press watchdog bodies raised concerns, more information on COVID-19 has been released since. In a separate development a new law has been approved by both houses of the Romanian parliament banning gender identity studies—or “gender ideology”, as termed by right-wing populists—in schools and universities.


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Press freedom a grave concern during pandemic; attempts to ban gender studies in education

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

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

Protests against racism, data gaps on SOGIESC-diverse people highlighted by NZ rights body

In June 2020, tens of thousands of New Zealanders came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd in the US. A new report showed that people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) continue to suffer in New Zealand from discrimination when it comes to basic human rights like access to quality healthcare, education and work. A new privacy bill was passed. Read more

Tags: LGBTI | protest
Protests against racism, data gaps on SOGIESC-diverse people highlighted by NZ rights body

Protests on migrant worker conditions and discrimination against indigenous people in Taiwan

In recent months there have been protests by migrant workers and migrant rights NGOs against poor working conditions. There were also protests linked to the Black Lives Matter movement highlighting discrimination against indigenous people. At the end of June 2020, one of the few Pride marches was held in Taiwan. The country dropped one place in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index in April 2020 Read more

Protests on migrant worker conditions and discrimination against indigenous people in Taiwan

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