Tag Archives: freedom of expression

Spain’s hologram protest: Thousands join virtual march in Madrid against new gag law

15 Apr
Getty/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

‘You will only be allowed to express yourself if you become a hologram’

Late last year the Spanish government passed a law that set extreme fines for protesters convening outside of government buildings.

In response to the controversial Citizen Safety Law, which will take effect on July 1, Spanish activists have staged the world’s first ever virtual holographic political demonstration.

After months of massive flesh-and-blood protests against the so-called ‘gag law’, thousands of holograms last night marched in front of the Spanish parliament in Madrid.

Organised by the group Holograms for Freedom, ghost-like figures holding placards took aim at the imminent draconian measures, arguing that holographic people are now afforded greater freedoms than their real-life counterparts.

Getty/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

The ‘NoSomosDelito’ (meaning: ‘We are not crime’) movement – composed of more than 100 different organisations – called upon sympathisers around the world to participate in the landmark event by simply webcamming their face via the campaign website.

More than 2,000 virtual images were sent and used in the hour-long hologram demonstration, El Pais reported.

Under the Citizens Safety Law, it is illegal to gather in front of government buildings without permission from authorities; this includes everything from universities to hospitals.

Organisers of unauthorised demonstrations could be fined up to €600,000, with further €600 fines for disrespecting police officers, and €30,000 for filming or photographing them.

Getty/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

In a video promoting the protest, a spokeswoman said: “With the passing of the Gag Law, you won’t be allowed to assemble in public spaces without risking a fine.

“Ultimately, if you are a person, you won’t be allowed to express yourself freely. You will only be able to do it if you are a hologram.”

Spokesman Carlos Escano told Spanish newspaper El Mundo: “Our protest with holograms is ironic.

“With the restrictions we’re suffering on our freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, the last options that will be left to use in the end will be to protest through our holograms.”

via The Independent.

IIT students raise voice for freedom of expression

7 Jan

The cases of Palghar students Shaheen Dhada, Rinu Srinivasan and Kanpur-based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi have once again ignited the debate on freedom of speech in India. This time, the issue has been raised by students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.

Shaheen Dhada & Rinu Srinivasan [afternoonvoice.com]

Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan

The Entrepreneurship Cell (E-Cell) of IIT-B, a non-profit students’ body through its social campaign ‘Raise Your Voice’ has decided to create awareness amongst fellow students and youth about Section 66A of IT Act. Calling the law “irrational and biased”, the students have also decided to protest against the government through country-wide signature campaign.

“In recent times, there have been numerous instances like the arrest of Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan over Facebook posts and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on charges of sedition, that have shaken the foundation of right to freedom of expression and speech,” said Sumeet Wadhwa, student of IIT-B and manager of E-Cell events.

He added, “Through E-Cell, we decided to run a campaign which will have both online and offline components of debate, competitions and signature campaigns spread over a month-and-a-half. This way, we will be able to reach out to a large number of students and youth.”

“Through this initiative, we want to encourage youth to raise their voice against illegal incidents and bring them to the notice of authorities. Freedom of expression is our fundamental right. Why should we feel helpless or be afraid of expressing ourselves,” said Minal Thukral, another student and organiser of ‘Raise your voice’ campaign.

Five-Point Campaign

Objection! My Lord The organisers posted two images on their Facebook page and asked people to raise objections against those images as to why they felt these were offensive. The aim of this was to put people in the place of authorities and ask them to prove that even the most innocent of images and posts can be offensive.

Expresso The organisers posted an image on their Facebook page, and asked people to share their views on the image.

Post-a-card To protest against this irrational and biased law, students can send postcards to E-Cell, IIT Bombay mentioning why internet is important to them and why is it unfair to gag views in a democracy. The last date for sending a postcard is January 20.

Pehal This segment is an initiative to provoke people to raise their voices against illegal incidents they come across like children being forced to work and contractors taking bribes. People can share images or videos of such incidents. E-Cell will forward it to the authorities and try its best to get the problems solved.

Signature Campaign The E-Cell will launch a signature campaign and visit top colleges in Pune, Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Indore and Manipal (Karnataka). The aim is to collect over 10,000 signatures.

via Indian Express.

Offline Prisons Silence Online Critics

18 Dec

Before autocratic regimes fully grasped the democratic nature of the internet, netizens basked in the sunshine of global intercommunication. But in a backlash against digitally driven uprisings, such as those of the Arab Spring, tyrants are now maneuvering to bring users’ online and mobile activities under the shadow of outdated and arbitrary legal restrictions. One sign of this crackdown is the alarming number of digital activists behind bars around the world.

Of the 47 countries analyzed in its Freedom on the Net 2012 study, Freedom House found that 19 had passed new laws or policies that could violate users’ rights to free expression and privacy during the period under review. In 25 countries, at least one blogger or other netizen was arrested for content disseminated via some form of information and communication technology (ICT). These figures seem to grow worse with each passing month.

For imprisoned netizens in the states that were rated worst in the report’s category for violation of user rights—Bahrain, Syria, Iran, and China—there are abundant examples of torture and even death at the hands of government forces. In certain other countries rated Not Free—such as Cuba, Ethiopia, and Vietnam—or identified in the report as “Countries at Risk”—such as Azerbaijan, Malaysia, and Russia—internet users and content providers have been targets of allegations ranging from blasphemy or insulting the royal family to threatening national security. Alternatively, they are detained on bogus charges like evading military service or drug possession to mask the fact that they are being punished for their political opinions, religious beliefs, or desire for more freedom.

As the world’s governments wrap up discussions in Dubai this week on regulating the global internet, they should keep in mind the dozens of individuals who languish in prison because their rulers will not tolerate an open internet within their borders. The delegates should reaffirm the UN Human Rights Council resolution that human rights, including freedom of expression, should be promoted, protected, and enjoyed online in all member states. Let the stories of the following 10 netizens serve as a solemn reminder that internet freedom should change the way authoritarian countries are governed, not the other way around.

Worst of the Worst


Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been repeatedly arrested and sentenced to prison terms, most recently on July 9, for having “insulted Bahrainis” in a Twitter message. A month later, the court added a three-year sentence for protest-related charges. On December 11, an appeals court reduced his sentence to two years, clearing him of a charge of insulting police, but upholding the conviction for encouraging “illegal gatherings.”

 Photo Credit: Bahrain Center for Human Rights



On March 15, Bassel Khartabil, an open-source software specialist, was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. The website campaigning for his release reported this week that he has been transferred from a civilian jail to a military prison, where he is denied a lawyer. His family heard reports from a released detainee that Bassel has suffered torture and other abuse. He was included on Foreign Policy’s list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012 for “insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.”


Photo Credit: Joi Ito


Mahsa Amrabadi, an independent multimedia journalist who reports on human rights issues, has faced repeated arrest and solitary confinement since the postelection protests of 2009. She was last detained on May 9, 2012, and is now serving a two-year sentence for “activities against the regime” and “insulting the president.” Amrabadi and her husband, Masoud Bastani, are part of a growing group of Iranian journalists held in deplorable conditions. Concern for their well-being intensified after blogger Sattar Beheshti died from suspected torture in Iran’s notorious Evin prison last month, less than a week after his arrest for alleged “actions against national security on social networks and Facebook.”


Photo Credit: Iran Watch Canada


On November 1, internet cafe owner Cao Haibo was sentenced to a prison term of eight years under the charge of “state subversion,” after being held for almost one year without trial. It is unclear what alleged offense the Kunming resident was punished for in his closed trial, but human rights groups believe it is related to content published on a chat group about Chinese politics that he founded in September 2011. Cao’s lawyer has filed an appeal, but China’s notoriously politicized court system offers little hope of justice.

Other Not Free Countries and Partly Free “Countries at Risk”


Laritza Diversent was arrested on November 7 alongside dozens of other bloggers and civil society advocates arbitrarily detained in consecutive government raids for denouncing human rights abuses in Cuba and protesting against the recent wave of detentions of journalists. A well-known attorney and blogger at Jurisconsulto de Cuba (Cuban Legal Adviser), Diversent is a prominent figure in the human rights community in Havana. Although many of the other detainees have been released, she remains behind bars without charges.


Eskinder Nega, a prominent Ethiopian journalist, was sentenced on July 13 to 18 years in prison under the country’s Antiterrorism Proclamation of 2009. Twenty-three other journalists and opposition politicians were sentenced in the same court ruling. Eskinder was detained in September 2011 after publishing an online column that criticized the government’s use of the antiterrorism law to silence dissent. The website campaigning for Eskinder’s release calls him the face of internet censorship in a country that is among the world’s leading abusers of free speech online.


Blogger Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his penname “Dieu Cay,” is a founding member of the Club for Free Journalists in Ho Chi Minh City. He and other members were charged with “spreading antigovernment propaganda,” and on October 4 he received a sentence of 12 years in prison for “seriously affecting national security and the image of the country in the global arena.” Dieu Cay was first arrested on April 20, 2008, and charged with tax evasion.


Human rights defender Taleh Khasmammadov was arrested on November 12, 2011, and sentenced on April 20, 2012, to four years in prison for alleged hooliganism, disorderly conduct, and resisting the authorities. He worked in Ujar district to document human rights abuses, often posting YouTube videos of interviews with victims of gang violence, organized crime, and human trafficking in which local police are allegedly involved. The judge’s decision is currently being appealed, but the police have asked to extend his jail term.


On August 10, blogger Amizudin Ahmat was sentenced to three months in prison for contempt of court after breaking an order not to criticize the minister of culture, information, and communications, Rais Yatim. Amizudin, a member of the opposition People’s Justice Party, was sued for defaming the minister and required to pay exorbitant damages. Currently the prison sentence is deferred pending an appeal.


On July 31, a Moscow court found anticorruption activist and prominent opposition blogger Aleksey Navalny guilty of embezzlement, and while he is still awaiting sentencing, the conviction could carry a prison term of up to 10 years. Navalny’s detention for two weeks in December 2011, following postelection protests, garnered international media attention, and Navalny suspects that now, rather than risk making him a political prisoner again, the Kremlin is attempting to force him to flee the country.

Freedom House.

China – Report on artistic expression in China submitted to UNESCO

23 Oct

ARTICLE 19 urges UNESCO to accept our shadow report on the state of artistic expression in China, which finds that the country has failed to create an environment conducive for diverse cultural expressions.

The shadow report is published today to mark the seven year anniversary of the adoption of the UNESCO convention on cultural expressions. The convention requires states to submit a report every four years on how they are implementing provisions to protect and promote cultural expression in their national laws and policies. 2012 is the first year that countries have been asked to present these national reports to the UN body.

While the convention on cultural expression encourages states to include the opinions of civil society in their quadrennial reports, ARTICLE 19 is concerned that few states will actually do so.

“ARTICLE 19 has produced this shadow-report on China to ensure that the review process of the implementation of the UNESCO convention does not amount to a bureaucratic, box-ticking exercise. For the Convention to be a meaningful instrument, the review of its implementation must be open and transparent and it must allow for a range of voices and perspectives to be shared, including those dissenting from official state reports.”

“Such a process is the norm with UN-based review processes, such as the Universal Periodic Review and the Human Rights Committee. We urge the UNESCO convention committee to accept ARTICLE 19’s shadow report and to truly recognise the importance of the voice of civil society.”

“By accepting the report, they will be laying a precedent that this convention will ultimately defend the diverse cultural environment that we all want,” Callamard added.

ARTICLE 19’s shadow report argues that China has failed to create an environment conducive for diverse cultural expressions. The constitutional and legal framework , including legislation, contain a number of provisions that undermine the state’s obligations relating to the protection and promotion of diverse cultural expressions, and the right to freedom of artistic expression more broadly.

China does not protect cultural expressions at risk in its territory. It actually further endangers them by implementing a policy of cultural homogeneity.

The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted on 20 October 2005 and has been ratified by 124 states and encourages states to include civil society when writing the national report.

Read the full submission:
China_A19_artisticexpression_report.pdf (396 KB)

via IFEX

Democratic Republic of Congo – Free expression groups ask Congolese rebel leader to protect journalists

22 Oct

22 October 2012

(RSF/JED/IFEX) – 19 October 2012 – Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its partner organization in Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote today to Jean-Marie Runiga, the political coordinator of the M23 rebel movement, voicing concern about the dangers for journalists working in M23-controlled territory, especially Rutshuru, in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu, and asking him to take action to stop the threats and guarantee their safety.

Here is the text of the joint letter:

Mr. Jean-Marie Runiga M23 Political Coordinator Democratic Republic of Congo
Paris and Kinshasa, 19 October 2012
Re: Climate of danger and threats to journalists

Dear Mr. Runiga,

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) and Journalist in Danger (JED), two organizations that defend freedom of information, are writing to you as head of the armed movement called M23 to express their concern about the climate of danger for journalists working in the territories under your control, especially Rutshuru, in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu.

Our two organizations would like to draw your attention to your responsibility to guarantee the safety of journalists as they go about their work and to ensure that media freedom and the right to information are respected in the areas where you operate.

RWB and JED condemn and reject the threats that representatives of your movement have been making in recent days against local journalists and reporters working for the foreign media.

According to our information, Jean-Baptiste Kambale, the manager of Radio Communautaire Ushirika (RACOU), a community radio station based in Rutshuru, in territory controlled by M23 and located 75 kms from Goma (the capital of Nord-Kivu), was harassed following a series of reports on the French television station TV5 Monde showing mistreatment of the civilian population and other human rights violations by your troops.

He was threatened on 25 September by this territory’s administrator, Benjamin Sibomango, who accused him of facilitating the TV5 Monde crew’s work.

He also received a call from the administrator of the Rutshuru territory, who expressed the following death threat: “You led the Whites to Rutshuru for them to criticize us. You know we are rebels. For us, killing someone is not a big deal.”

The next day, it was M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama who openly expressed his discontent with the journalist over the French TV channel’s reports, calling him an “enemy” paid by the government in Kinshasa to sully M23’s image. He was back on the offensive against the journalist on 15 October, accusing him of having trapped him and abused his good faith.

As a result of all these direct threats, Mr. Kambale is now in hiding and fears for his life and that of his family.

In view of the above, RWB and JED urge you to clearly disown the threats that have been made against journalists and to use all your prerogatives in order to guarantee Mr. Kambale’s physical safety. We further ask you to put a stop to all the acts of intimidation and harassment against RACOU’s journalists.

Our two organizations will in any case hold the M23 armed movement, which you lead, responsible for anything unfortunate that may befall this journalist and his family.

We thank you in advance for taking account of our request.


Christophe Deloire
Reporters Without Borders

Tshivis Tshivuadi
Journalist in Danger

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

Journaliste en danger
B.P. 633 – Kinshasa 1
374, av. Col. Mondjiba
Complexe Utexafrica, Galerie St Pierre, 1er niveau, Local 18 Kinshasa/Ngaliema
République Démocratique du Congo
direction (@) jed-afcentre.org
Phone: +243 81 99 29 323
Fax: +44 20 7900 3413

via IFEX

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