A New Low for Internet Freedom in Turkey

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

An Ugly Crackdown in Turkey

Turkish policeman detain a protestor during a protest on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul (Photo Credit: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images).

Turkish policeman detain a protestor during a protest on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul (Photo Credit: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images).

Ugly police violence and repression of freedom of speech and of assembly continue in Turkey, where attempts to stage protests in Taksim Square have been repeatedly suppressed with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets in the past few days.

The toll has been heavy. As an Amnesty statement released on July 9 notes, “[according] to the Istanbul Medical Association at least 30 people were injured yesterday including a 17 year-old… who is in a critical condition with head injuries after he was hit with a gas canister.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Ali İsmail Korkmaz succumbed to his wounds this week, the fifth confirmed death in the violence. According to newspaper reports, Korkmaz was injured during protests in Eskişehir on June 2, when he attempted to escape police tear gas and was “brutally beaten by a group wearing civilian clothes.” No arrests have been made in the case. He was nineteen years old.

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What You Can Do NOW to Stop the Abuse of Protestors in Turkey

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister's office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister’s office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

In Turkey, a major human rights crisis looms.  Here is what an update on what you can do about it.

The Crisis

As protests continue to rock Turkish cities, Amnesty International has warned that injuries due to “police abuse will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.” Police excesses have been “disgraceful,” Amnesty says. The number of those injured by excessive police force is as yet unknown, but is believed to be in the thousands. Many of the injuries have been serious. There are as yet unconfirmed reports of deaths.

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How To Use Social Media In Human Rights Campaigning

Social media and digital technologies are increasingly changing the way we document and report on human rights abuses (Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/GettyImages).

Social media and digital technologies are increasingly changing the way we document and report on human rights abuses (Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/GettyImages).

I have previously discussed the many opportunities and pitfalls of social media for human rights research and advocacy, or if social media content could potentially document war crimes in Syria. This week I was invited to participate in a fascinating online discussion on how to incorporate social media into human rights campaigning. The conversation is organized by New Tactics for Human Rights and The Engine Room and is still open until the end of the week. We are off to a great start with around 35 comments, and visitors to the website this week came from more than 100 countries! If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to share your experience and thoughts.

The conversation provides several examples of how social media has been used as a tactic by various human rights organizations and other NGOs. Examples from Amnesty International include our Bahrain Twitter action or Eyes on Syria campaign and use of a YouTube playlist in our campaign to establish a Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in North Korea. Other case studies come from Greenpeace and El Salvador, among others. A current case study – which is still unfolding – is the #SaveBeatriz campaign.

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Eyes on El Salvador: will officials act to #SaveBeatriz?

There has been an overwhelming amount of global support over the past few weeks for Beatriz and those in El Salvador working tirelessly on her behalf to save her life. Much of this support has emerged online via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other outlets. Because of these digital tools, countless people are closely following events unfold in El Salvador and calling on the authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations by immediately granting Beatriz authorization for an abortion.

Will Salvadoran authorities listen to Beatriz’s plea and take action to save her life in accordance with her wishes and at the advice of the medical professionals caring for her?

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Two Minutes to Fight for Freedom in Turkey

Supporters of Fazil Say, a world-renowned Turkish pianist who went before an Istanbul court on charges of insulting Islam and offending Muslims in comments he made on Twitter (Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images).

Supporters of Fazil Say, a world-renowned Turkish pianist who went before an Istanbul court on charges of insulting Islam and offending Muslims in comments he made on Twitter (Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images).

In Turkey, freedom of expression is under attack. But you can make a difference. And it will only take two minutes of your time to add your voice to calls for real freedom in Turkey.

The Criminalization of Dissent

The situation is grave. Overly broad anti-terrorism laws have led to the prosecution of people for their ideas. An elderly grandmother has been convicted under terrorism charges for calling for peace between Turks and Kurds. Students, publishers, scholars and lawyers…all have been targeted under laws that confuse peaceful dissent for criminal violence. Moreover, Turkey has retained a series of laws that directly limit freedom of expression. In its most recent report, Amnesty International documents case after case in which Turkish authorities continue to attack individuals for peacefully expressing their ideas.

The force of these laws ripple through Turkish society. There is a concerted effort to depoliticize universities. The arrest of scores of journalists has justifiably damaged Turkey’s international reputation.

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#Remember #Noxolo, Murdered in South Africa Without Justice

A group of people from the gay, lesbian and transgender community in South Africa demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town (Photo Credit: Rodger Bosch/AFP/GettyImages).

A group of people from the gay, lesbian and transgender community in South Africa demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town (Photo Credit: Rodger Bosch/AFP/ GettyImages).

We often hear the egregious acts of violence perpetrated against women in South Africa. Yet the headlines often forget to mention the violence carried out against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. Violence directed at individuals perceived to be LGBTI has steadily increased, yet there has been a consistent failure of police authorities to address these acts of targeted violence.

April 24, 2013 marks the two year anniversary of the brutal death of Noxolo Nogwaza. The 24-year-old was raped, repeatedly beaten and stabbed, apparently because of her sexual orientation. Two years after her death, no progress has been made into the investigation of her murder and her killer(s) remain at large.

To mark the two year anniversary, Amnesty International, together with Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC), a local community-based organization, are organizing a Day of Commemoration in honor of all LGBTI individuals murdered due to their sexual orientation. A short memorial service will be held and participants will be given the opportunity to write messages of hope/condolence which will remain at the site as a memorial.

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What Happens When You Cry Wolf to the Kenyan Crowd

One of the recurrent challenges associated with utilizing social media outlets to report and monitor a situation during a period of time when ground events may or may not be rapidly developing (such as in Kenya): the situation is often times much more complex than 140 characters can convey, and the incorrect use of just a few words, could easily become an overflow of ingredients to an already bubbling human rights situation (Photo Credit: Till Muellenmeister/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the recurrent challenges associated with utilizing social media outlets to report and monitor a situation during a period of time when ground events may or may not be rapidly developing (such as in Kenya): the situation is often times much more complex than 140 characters can convey, and the incorrect use of just a few words, could easily become an overflow of ingredients to an already bubbling human rights situation (Photo Credit: Till Muellenmeister/AFP/Getty Images)

Like many others, I have been closely watching the Kenyan elections. In fact, these elections may be the most “watched” elections ever. I am not necessarily talking about observers on the ground. Digital tools, including social media outlets, have greatly enhanced remote monitoring capability, and have emerged as a major component in the Kenyan elections.

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Twitter to the Rescue? How Social Media is Transforming Human Rights Monitoring

Syrian youths, inside a vehicle, film a protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with their phones in the northern city of Aleppo.

Syrian youths, inside a vehicle, film a protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with their phones in the northern city of Aleppo on October 12, 2012. (Photo: TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)

Social media is increasingly helpful to not only monitor emerging human rights emergencies, but also to uncover incorrect information. A recent example is when Twitter helped me to spot incorrect contextual information on a newly uploaded execution video from Syria. This is just one instance in which crowdsourced expertise from social media can open up new opportunities for human rights organizations. Having that said, the challenges and pitfalls are numerous. I thought about these issues a lot while preparing for a Truthloader debate last week on how citizen journalism is changing the world. Current case in point is the upcoming elections in Kenya, which are probably the best (citizen) monitored elections in history.

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10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012

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.

belarus teddy bears fly over minsk

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.

2. Tweeting.

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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