Free my Father, the World’s Longest Imprisoned Journalist

By Aigul Bekzhanova

My name is Aigul, and I am writing to you about my father, imprisoned journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov.

My father is the world’s longest imprisoned journalist, together with his codefendant Yusuf Ruzimuradov from the same paper, jailed at the same time in 1999.

My father’s crime? He dared to speak the truth about human rights abuses by the Uzbekistani government. In 1999, security forces tortured him nearly to death, and forced him to confess to “anti-state” crimes. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Civil Society and Human Rights Continue to Disintegrate Under Russia’s Heavy Handed ‘Rule of Law’

Yekaterina VologzheninovaBy Courtney Dobson, Country Specialist for Russia at Amnesty International USA.

There is a clear juxtaposition between Putin’s ambition for Russia to be a superpower in the global arena and the disintegration of human rights and civil society at home. In recent months, Putin may have gained diplomatic points in the global arena for commanding the world’s attention to its aggressive activities both in eastern Ukraine and its military action in Syria. However this grandstanding on the world stage should not be cause for distraction; the attack on Russian civil society continues, as a single mom and shop assistant from the Sverdlovsk region of Russia has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred for sharing links on social media.


Gao Yu: “History will prove my innocence”


By T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA’s International Advocacy Director

Freedom of expression is under constant attack in China. But the recent sentence of prominent journalist, Gao Yu is not just another dissident being silenced. 71-year-old Gao Yu has been speaking out for nearly 30 years. She was detained without charge or trial for 15 months after the June 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Upon release in 1990, she continued to work as a freelance journalist. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Journalists Silenced in Myanmar: Free the Unity Five


By Laura Haigh, Amnesty International Myanmar team

Journalists critical of the authorities in Myanmar pay dearly for their stories. Five journalists at the Unity newspaper paid with their freedom. On World Press Freedom Day we remind the government of their promises to foster a free press and demand freedom for the ‘Unity Five’.

“What I want is more media freedom.” These are the words of Tint San, Chief Executive Officer at the Unity newspaper in Myanmar during his trial. His crime? Doing his job. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Saudi Arabia: 10 Brutal Facts Beyond Raif Badawi’s Case


Tomorrow marks eight weeks since the Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flogged the blogger and activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam” and founding an online forum for political debate.

After his first session of 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January, a doctor advised prison authorities that his wounds had not healed sufficiently for him to undergo the second round of this brutal punishment. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

#DearObama: Freedom of Expression and the State of the Union – An Opportunity for the President



This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

By Adotei Akwei and Cindy Tsz-nga Ko

On Tuesday January 20, President Obama will have an opportunity to address the nation and underscore the priorities for his administration in 2015. Much of the speech is expected to focus on domestic economic issues but the White House has also indicated that issues such as policing in the United States, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo and violent extremism will also be addressed. Given that a key the underlying theme connecting these issues is human rights, the central question is whether the Obama administration will shape foreign policy that will help build a safer world where rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

The President’s framing of key human rights concerns in this evening’s State of the Union address may be an indication of whether or not the Obama administration will use 2015 to champion human rights, as so many hoped, or whether he will pursue misguided policies that sideline human rights in the name of security. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Don't Fear the Tweets, Fear the Tweeters

twitter activist protesterLast week, UN Secretary General Ban delivered the keynote address at the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, in which he made the pointed remark:

“Some dictators in our world are more afraid of tweets than they are of opposing armies.”

Being a mere 86 characters, that quote made its way through the Twitterverse in fairly short order, with some glib derision in response.


Repressive Regimes Rejoice, Twitter to Censor Content

twitter bird censoredTwitter dropped quite the shocker last week when it declared its new policy to remove Tweets in certain countries to abide by specific national laws. While a tweet will remain visible to the rest of the world, specific messages will disappear in the target country (e.g., following requests by governments).

The ensuing backlash saw a lot of people screaming “censorship” (ironically, on Twitter). While the first wave of criticism has quickly calmed down, for a human rights watchdog, the announcement is quite alarming:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. …. Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.


Justice for Hrant Dink: More Work to be Done

Hrant Dink was shot dead outside his Istanbul office in 2007. © Private

The murder of Hrant Dink on a cold Istanbul street in January, 2007 sent shock waves across Turkey and around the world.

Dink, an ebullient public intellectual and journalist, was a key figure in Turkey’s dwindling Armenian community and an important activist in Turkey’s long struggle for a more liberal, tolerant society.  For this, he was rewarded with state harassment, a public vilification campaign, and, finally, an assassin’s bullet.

The triggerman, Ogün Samast, was quickly arrested and, earlier this week, was sentenced to more than twenty years in prison.  This is an important step.  But given the remarkable discrepancies in the case, it is clear that more needs to be done.


Internet Freedom in Turkey: System Error

Computer users are pictured in an internet cafe in Istanbul. (UGUR CAN/AFP/Getty Images)

For some reason, Turkey, which boasts one of the most educated and technologically savvy populations in the region, has had a particularly hard time addressing internet freedom. In a country that boasts of its capacity to serve as a model of democracy in the Middle East, freedom of expression on the internet has been a long-standing problem; the Turkish government’s instinct has consistently been to apply broad, clumsy bans on any content that might possibly be objectionable.

It is part of a more general problem of creeping censorship. The Turkish press, as discussed in previous posts, has come under increased pressure. In recent years, Turkey has been particularly aggressive in attempting to police radio and television for “undermining the morality of minors.” Sex and the City II, for example, was banned from cable television because its representation of gay marriage was deemed dangerous to the Turkish family. Tobacco smoking villains in the famous cartoon TinTin similarly resulted in fines from the ever watchful – and humorless – eyes of Turkish bureaucrats. The result has been a media culture that has increasingly engaged in self-censorship to avoid fines and possible closure.