Introducing a Different Type of Social Media Campaign to Help Prisoners of Conscience in Belarus

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By Viachaslau ‘Slava’ Bortnik, Amnesty USA’s Country Specialist for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine

On May 9, the opening day of the Ice Hockey World Championship, the U.S. will play with Belarus in Minsk.

It is very rarely that Belarus holds an event of such large scale, and one would think that it would be in the interest of a country with such a notorious human rights record to provide a safe and comfortable environment for foreign guests and native hockey fans.

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What’s Behind Turkey’s Crackdown on the May 1 Protests?

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Turkish riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters during a May Day demonstration on May 1, (Photo Credit: Burak Kara/Getty Images).

Turkish riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters during a May Day demonstration on May 1, (Photo Credit: Burak Kara/Getty Images).

A History of Protest

For decades, May Day celebrations in Turkey have been an important litmus test of the government’s tolerance for freedom of expression and assembly. At the center of this history have been demonstrations in Taksim Square, arguably the “hub” of modern Istanbul and, where, in 1977, dozens of protesters were killed in what has been termed the “Taksim Square Massacre.”

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How Much Do You Know About Turkey’s “Twitter Trial”?

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Turkey on March 27,2014 banned video-sharing website YouTube, a week after blocking access to Twitter (Photo Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images).

Turkey on March 27,2014 banned video-sharing website YouTube, a week after blocking access to Twitter (Photo Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images).

In Turkey, 29 men and women are about to go on trial for Twitter messages they sent during the Gezi Protests last June. This is another ugly step in the Turkish government’s increasingly intense war on dissent. It is important to let the government – as well as those on trial – know that the whole world is watching.

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How Much Do You Know About Turkey’s Social Media Crackdown?

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Turkish riot police use water cannon to disperse protesters outside the Supreme Electoral Council on April 1, 2014 (Photo Credit: Adam Altan/AFP/Getty Images).

Turkish riot police use water cannon to disperse protesters outside the Supreme Electoral Council on April 1, 2014 (Photo Credit: Adam Altan/AFP/Getty Images).

Despite a number of disputes over vote counts and numerous allegations of impropriety,  the municipal elections in Turkey held this past Sunday clearly gave the Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP a resounding victory.

Just as clearly, however, government actions in the lead up to  elections, along with statements since, have given Turkish human rights advocates ample cause for concern.

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Crimea: A Culture of Fear, Made in Russia

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People wave Russian and Soviet flags as they look at fireworks in the center of the Crimean city of Sevastopol celebrating the annexation of the peninsula by Russia (Photo Credit: Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images).

People wave Russian and Soviet flags as they look at fireworks in the center of the Crimean city of Sevastopol celebrating the annexation of the peninsula by Russia (Photo Credit: Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images).

This post originally appeared in Foreign Policy under the title “A Culture of Fear, Made in Russia.”

By Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General

Two decades of stuttering human rights reform in Ukraine was almost scuppered overnight when, on January 16 this year, the Parliament in Kiev railroaded through a raft of new legislation to restrict the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

A virtual carbon-copy of laws adopted in neighboring Russia in recent years, they were tailor-made to give the Ukrainian authorities increased powers to prosecute those involved in the anti-government protests in Kiev’s central Maydan Square, as well as silence dissent more widely.

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A New Low for Internet Freedom in Turkey

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People hold placards reading 'Will you censor the streets?' during a demonstration against new Internet controls approved by the Turkish Parliament (Photo Credit: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images) .

People hold placards reading ‘Will you censor the streets?’ during a demonstration against new Internet controls approved by the Turkish Parliament (Photo Credit: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images) .

With a little over a week to go before important municipal elections, the Turkish government blocked access to Twitter for millions of its citizens late last night.

Writing from Turkey, Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey described the move as “a desperate and futile measure, the latest move in the AKP’s clampdown on freedom of expression.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST