Stories about Advocacy from March, 2013
This week, journalists in the West African nation of Togo celebrated the Constitutional Court's decision to throw out a recent law restricting media freedom. But with elections approaching, crackdowns on the press have continued, with some turning violent. This post features a series of citizen videos collected from YouTube and Twitter and curated on WITNESS' Human Rights Channel on YouTube.
With general elections fast approaching in Pakistan, advocates are urging the government to cease blocking sites like YouTube which have become vital platforms for the circulation of news and information. YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan nearly continuously since September 2012. In partnership with the Media Legal Defence Initiative, Pakistani NGO Bytes for All is challenging the blocking in court.
On Friday, South Korea's National Assembly will meet with supporters and opponents of the country's "three strikes" law, including Assembly Member Mr. Choi Jae-Cheon, who has moved to repeal provisions of the law that allow authorities to disable a person's web service account or shut down his or her website for violating copyright regulations.
On 21 March, the Sultan of Oman issued a pardon for online activists and writers convicted on charges of insulting the ruler, "information technology crimes" and taking part in unauthorized protests. The move, which came as a surprise to most observers, runs counter to increasing attacks against online freedom of expression in the region.
Last week Microsoft released its first transparency report, which covers all requests for user data from law enforcement and judicial authorities received in 2012. The report offers specific data on Skype, a particularly important step towards building trust with users who may be vulnerable to government surveillance, describes Microsoft's approach to complying with US law, as well as law enforcement and privacy laws in other countries.
The Egyptian Institute for Freedom of Thought and Expression recently issued its first statement on digital freedom, a simplified research paper to propose definitions for digital rights and related principles. This post offers a brief description of the paper, which focuses on universal access, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to privacy, and the right to creativity, development and innovation.
In Mexico last month, a drug cartel offered a bounty of MX$600,000 for information on the identity and location of a person who has been using social media to report on drug violence in the northern state of Tamaulipas. The drug war has had a stark, chilling effect on Mexico's press, with sometimes lethal violence against journalists forcing news outlets to censor their coverage of crime. But this and other recent incidents have shown that both professional and citizen journalists alike are now facing these threats.
UPDATE: Lourdes Alicia Ortega Perez, the Venezuelan woman who was arrested last week after mocking Hugo Chavez on Twitter, was released from police custody on March 16. Ortega was taken to court on charges of spreading false information and committing fraud. She has since been granted her freedom [es], but will be required to appear before the court every 30 days.
One year ago today, Syrian web developer and open technology advocate Bassel Khartabil was arrested and incarcerated in Damascus, where he has remained ever since. Known among open technology advocates as Bassel Safadi, the 31-year-old served as the Creative Commons lead for Syria. Global Voices Advocacy urges readers to support the campaign for his release by visiting the #freebassel website, tweeting about Bassel's case, or attending an event in his honor.
March 12 is World Day Against Cyber Censorship. Reporters Without Borders and other advocates for Internet rights are calling on activists, movements and organizations around the world to participate by reminding their constituents of the importance of protecting free expression online.
Last week, US Army soldier and whistleblower Bradley Manning took the stand in a military hearing to explain, in his own words, why he leaked thousands of sensitive military documents to the website WikiLeaks. Manning told the court that he decided to leak these documents to the media because they left him deeply concerned about American military activities in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chilean billionaire Andrónico Luksic has accused Twitter user Rodrigo Ferrari of “usurpation of identity” for running an account that mocked Luksic. If Ferrari is found guilty, the case could set a disturbing precedent for both free expression and privacy in Chile.
In Latin America, where defamation laws are not consistent, online defamation cases threaten to erode the universal right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined by nearly every national constitution in the region. Definitions of what constitutes a criminal defamation offense - and therefore its consequences - vary throughout the region. A critical comment online could lead to a fine in one country but a prison sentence in another.
Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week, we report on demonstrations in Bangladesh, YouTube's lawsuit against a Russian consumer protection agency, Internet rights advocacy efforts in Azerbaijan and Pakistan, and more.