Kazakhstan: Reject Anti-LGBT “Propaganda” Law

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev  (Sean Gallup/Getty Images))

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Sean Gallup/Getty Images))

Following in the steps of Russia’s draconian 2013 anti-LGBT law, Kazakhstan’s Senate has passed a similar law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation.”

This new legislation – the Law on the Protection of Children from Information Harming their Health and Development – now awaits President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s signature.

Amnesty International calls on President Nazarbayev to reject this discriminatory law. While the legislation’s complete text has not been made available to the public, and while Kazakhstani authorities have not responded to Amnesty International’s request for a copy of the full law, the local media have quoted members of Parliament referring to provisions that clearly discriminate against LGBT people in Kazakhstan. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Azerbaijan: Brutal Crackdown Against Journalists Continues

azerbaijan_journos_grid
By Nic Carter, Amnesty International USA

Over the last year, Azerbaijan has imprisoned dozens of journalists, human rights advocates, bloggers, lawyers, and academics who have criticized the regime. Ilham Aliev’s repressive petro-state has brazenly stepped up its harassment of journalists amidst international criticism. In December, the Aliev regime struck a terrible blow against the freedom of the press by arresting the country’s best-known investigative journalist, Khadija Ismayilova, on fabricated charges. Her pre-trial detention, due to expire on February 5, has been extended for a further two months. Recently, new charges have been brought against her, including embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of power, and tax evasion. She faces 12 years in prison if convicted. Her case has rightfully received a lot of attention. Yet she is only one of an estimated 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, of which around a dozen are journalists. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Who will be silenced next?

MuradBy Alicia Koutsoulieris, Case Coordinator for Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian Authority

Freedom of speech has suffered a tragic start in 2015.

As the world calls for the release of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, there is another person who also deserves our support.  While you read this, Palestinian Murad Shtewi sits in an Israeli prison.  His “crime?”  Daring to protest the Israeli military occupation that his village lives under. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

When Chevron Subpoenas an Amnesty International Activist

 

The lawyer of Ecuadorean people affected by Texaco-Chevron --who have long sought compensation for pollution between the 1970s and early 1990s-- Steven Donziger, gestures during a press conference on March 19, 2014 in Quito. (Photo credit: RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)

The lawyer of Ecuadorean people affected by Texaco-Chevron –who have long sought compensation for pollution between the 1970s and early 1990s– Steven Donziger, gestures during a press conference on March 19, 2014 in Quito. (Photo credit: RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)

In an unprecedented legal move, 17 U.S.-based civil society organizations – among them Amnesty International, Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, and Friends of the Earth – have just filed an amicus brief in federal appeals court defending their First Amendment rights from attack by Chevron.

Let me back this story up by about 18 months.

In November 2012, Chevron subpoenaed me.

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An Ironic Honor: Internet Governance Forum in Azerbaijan

Policemen Man-handle Activist in Azerbaijan

Three policemen man-handle a political activist during a protest in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 12, 2011. ©IRFS

A United Nations initiative called Internet Governance Forum is about to have its annual forum in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, to discuss, among other issues, freedom of speech.

Yet in Azerbaijan, people who exercise this fundamental right to criticize President Ilham Aliyev, his family or government risk being threatened, attacked or imprisoned – whether they do so on- or off-line.

“They don’t jail all the bloggers. They pick up two or three who go – in their view – too far,” explains Emin Mill, an Azerbaijani digital dissenter who served time in prison for “hooliganism.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Google, the Benevolent Behemoth?

google censored

Google's new transparency report documents an alarming rise in censorship by governments, from the US to China.

If you are not familiar with Google’s transparency reporting, you should be.

By monitoring access to Google services and publishing that data in real time, Google’s transparency tool “visualizes disruption in the free flow of information, whether it’s a government blocking information or a cable being cut,” which has great potential to augment early warning efforts for mass repression.

At any time, you can see requests for url removal from search results for copyright claims, and see who those purported owners are. As we know from discussion on this blog around PIPA and SOPA, Google’s efforts to combat infringement of intellectual property rights—at least narrowly defined—are in keeping with human rights law, and important for staving off really bad policies.

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Despite Crackdown, Saudi Ambassador Claims "There Is No Repression"

Hamad Kassawy © Amnesty International

“There is no repression in Saudi Arabia.” – H.E. Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi, ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian national Hamza Kashgari and Amnesty International beg to differ.

In a recent talk with the Saudi ambassador at New York University, he claimed that Saudi Arabia is a “land of opportunity” where there was no oppression of dissidents. “We don’t have a Guantanamo. We don’t have an Abu Ghraib,” he pointed out.

Saudi Arabia may not have a ‘Guantanamo’ or an ‘Abu Ghraib,’ but it has the notorious Al-Ha’ir prison and ‘Ulaysha Prison, and, according to Amnesty International’s report Saudi Arabia: Repression in the Name of Security, a new wave of repression that began in March 2011. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is Internet Access A Human Right?

An internet cafe in Istanbul. (UGUR CAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A curious op ed appeared in The New York Times recently, titled “Internet Access is Not a Human Right.” In this piece—which I read as I do most news and media, via my computer—Vinton Cerf, a “father” of the Internet, makes an argument that despite the critical role of Information Communication Technologies (the internet) in the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, access to the Internet is not a human right.

I should note that his right to express himself so is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to… seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

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Jabbar Savalan Freed!

“We will not be scared off by imprisonment or punishment. They may arrest us, but they can’t break us. Freedom of speech is our right, as it is the right of everyone. We will continue our struggle.” – Jabbar Savalan

Jabbar Savalan, an Azerbaijani student who spent almost 11 months in prison for a Facebook post, has been released!  He was freed after receiving a presidential pardon on December 26th.

Obviously the release of a prisoner of conscience is always a cause for celebration. We are delighted for Jabbar and his family. It is important now that his conviction is quashed and his reputation restored.

His case was part of Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon, during which hundreds of thousands of people in over 80 countries come together and take action to demand that peoples’ rights are respected. Over one million appeals were made as part of the 2011 marathon prior to Jabbar Savalan’s release.

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