(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Matt Kennis, AIUSA Board of Directors
President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba in March marked a key turning point in U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations. The president’s visit follows a series of efforts made by the Clinton and Obama Administrations to remove sanctions against Cuba. Although strides have been made to strengthen diplomatic relations, the economic embargo against Cuba still stands and continues to undermine human rights in Cuba. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
People hold posters as they mark World Press Freedom Day in Tbilisi (Photo Credit: Vano Shlamov/AFP/GettyImages).
Governments and other organizations across the world are perfecting techniques to prevent journalists from shining a light on corruption and human rights abuses. From trumped-up charges and removing work licenses to murder, here are 10 ways journalists are repressed and prevented from reporting freely and fairly.
1. Physical Attacks
In some countries such as Syria, Turkmenistan and Somalia, governments, military forces and armed groups attack and even kill journalists who are seen to be critical of their policies and practices.
In May 2012, 18-year-old citizen journalist Abd al-Ghani Ka’ake was fatally shot by a government sniper in Syria while filming a demonstration in Aleppo. Armed opposition groups have also attacked and killed journalists.
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Check out our list of 10 absurd arrests and sentences of the year. You might be surprised to learn what can get you thrown in jail in a few places around the world, and how harsh the sentences are once you’re there.
Bears being dropped. Photo via Studio Total
1. Posting photos of teddy bears.
Anton Suryapin of Belarus spent more than a month in detention after posting photos of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane. The bears were part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising company calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Anton is charged of “organizing illegal migration” simply because he was the first upload photos of the teddy bears, and still faces a prison sentence of up to seven years.
After allegedly “publicly insulting the King” on Twitter, a Bahraini man had his six-month prison sentence upheld on appeal, while three others are serving four-month prison sentences. Article 214 of Bahrain’s penal code makes it a crime to offend the King.
3. Opposing the death penalty.
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Brazil’s recent history of siding with some of today’s most oppressive governments must end. As we watch the events in Tunisia and Egypt unfold, Brazil’s track record of supporting and befriending today’s most powerful dictators is downright shameful. This position is not only contrary to the country’s desire to become a leader in global human rights, but also irresponsible.
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s apparent willingness to greet and negotiate with oppressive regimes was counterproductive to the world’s development. Current President Dilma Rousseff has an opportunity to break with this trend by living up to the country’s humanitarian aspirations and expectations, as evidenced in the nation’s involvement with the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations.
Brazil became a member of the UN Human Rights Council when the multilateral body was created in 2006. Brazil’s involvement with the organization has served as a platform for Brazil to contribute to important human rights matters, including resolutions offering access to medicines combating pandemics such as HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Brazil also introduced and championed initiatives to protect children rights and to combat discrimination by defending the incompatibility between democracy and racism.
Although such initiatives are noteworthy, Brazil has been less than helpful with other matters of global importance. In 2009 it stopped supporting the Council’s resolutions dealing with North Korea’s human rights violations. Brazil also refrained from standing up to the international crimes committed under Sudan’s regime. Additionally, Brazil supported Sri Lanka’s resolution, in which the massacre of over 70 thousand people during 25 years of civil war was not recognized.
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Ladies in White march in Havana.
Every Sunday, Reina Luisa Tamayo goes to mass at the church of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, and then, in memory of her deceased son, prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, she marches. But recently she has been repeatedly harassed by Cuban authorities and government supporters, in attempts to prevent her from remembering her son and continuing to protest the detention of political dissidents.
Tamayo and other women have been victim to harassment, intimidation, threats, and arbitrary detention by Cuban authorities and pro-government supporters. This past Sunday, August 15, government supporters arrived early in the morning and surrounded her house preventing her and her relatives and friends from marching and attending mass at the church. Today, Cuban police officers dragged protesters into vans and drove them away.
Reina Luisa Tamayo and many other protesters form the Ladies in White movement, an organization of female relatives of prisoners of conscience campaigning for their release. In remembrance of the mass detention of Cuban political activists, known as the ‘Black Spring’, where 75 activists were detained in 2003, the Ladies in White planned on marching for seven days but have been shouted down by pro-government supporters and intimidated from peacefully marching.
One of the 75 activists detained during the ‘Black Spring’ mass detention was Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died this February after an 85-day long hunger strike, protesting the detention of other prisoners of conscience. Currently there are at least 30 prisoners of conscience in Cuba’s jails. Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release in addition to the cessation of harassment of Reina Luisa Tamayo.