Saturday, December 4, 2010

IFEX members speak out on WikiLeaks

1 December 2010

IFEX members speak out on WikiLeaks

First some background: according to the "Guardian", there are 251,287 dispatches in all, from more than 250 U.S. embassies and consulates. "They reveal how the U.S. deals with both its allies and its enemies... all behind the firewalls of ciphers and secrecy classifications that diplomats assume to be secure."

WikiLeaks posted a selection of the cables on Sunday, while the "Guardian" has published bits independently but simultaneously with "The New York Times", "Der Spiegel" in Germany, "Le Monde" in Paris and "El País" in Madrid. The papers have redacted information likely to cause reprisals against vulnerable individuals and have sought stories of public interest.

"We're more or less satisfied with WikiLeaks' evolution," the head of RSF, Jean-Francois Julliard, told AFP. "We like this partnership with the newspapers and this work to put things in context, verify the information and draw lessons from it," he said.

ARTICLE 19 reiterated its call for governments to improve the public's access to information, and only limit access if governments can demonstrate it would cause a specific and articulated harm. "The rules should not be used to hide other interests. Indeed, the existing U.S. rules on secrecy prohibit classifying information about crimes and as a means to prevent embarrassment. Those rules are ignored far too often," said ARTICLE 19.

That view is echoed by Index on Censorship. In an editorial this week, chief executive John Kampfner lamented that in the U.K. "free speech is regarded as a negotiable commodity. An interest group's right to be offended is seen as just as important as the right to air an opinion. A government's right to secrecy is seen as more important than the public's right to know." He said that as with all free speech, when reviewing material posted by WikiLeaks, "context is key."

"It is vital to know when governments collude in torture or other illegal acts. It is important to know when they say one thing in private (about a particular world leader) and do quite another in public. It is perturbing to know that aid agencies may have been used by the military, particularly in Afghanistan, to help NATO forces to 'win hearts and minds'," said Kampfner.

He continued, "These questions, and more, are vital for the democratic debate. The answers inevitably cause embarrassment. That too is essential for a healthy civil society. Good journalists and editors should be capable of separating the awkward from the damaging. Information that could endanger life, either in the short term or as part of a longer-term operation, should remain secret."

Kampfner said what is most curious is that the WikiLeaks revelations were delivered by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and not by the media, "who should be asking themselves why they did not have the wherewithal to hold truth to power."

All three members are adamant that Assange and other WikiLeaks contributors should not be prosecuted under state secrets or espionage legislation in the U.S. or other countries.

"It is a well established principle that public authorities bear sole responsibility for protecting the confidentiality of official information. Other persons and entities, including WikiLeaks and journalists, should never be subject to liability for publishing leaked information, unless it was obtained through fraud or another crime," ARTICLE 19 said after files on the war in Afghanistan were leaked.

Similarly, ARTICLE 19 said, whistleblowers should be protected if there is a strong public interest in the release of the information and the benefits of disclosure outweigh the harm - even if the whistleblower acted without authorisation.

RSF has for years been campaigning for a U.S. federal "shield law" to protect sources - including for sites such as WikiLeaks. According to RSF, 40 U.S. states have laws that protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources but there is no such law at the federal level. RSF pointed out that the House passed a limited version in July 2008, but with the recent scandal, senators are now trying to exclude whistleblowing websites from it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Article 19~~~~~~~~~~
10 September 2010

WikiLeaks and Internet Disclosures

The current debate around WikiLeaks highlights the potential of the internet to make previously secret information of public interest widely available.

ARTICLE 19 calls for governments to improve their regimes for public access to
information, refrain from punishing WikiLeaks and other sites that are releasing
information in the public interest, and to protect and encourage whistleblowers.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the use of the internet by new and established organisations
as a mechanism to expand and democratise the availability of sources of information.
We believe that this represents a powerful extension of the media’s role to receive
information from confidential sources and make it available to the public.

The recent debate around WikiLeaks and the disclosure of secret US government
documents related to the Afghan War Diary and Baghdad airstrike video underscores
the need for strong legal rights to be in place in all countries for the public to seek,
receive and impart information as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and other international, regional and national human rights instruments. This
includes recognition of the right to information, protection of whistleblowers, and
facilitating the media’s ability to obtain and publish information without barriers.
It should be recognised that WikiLeaks is not the only site on the Internet that
provides a forum for whistleblowers. Other sites, including and, have provided an important public service making information of this type
available for many years.

ARTICLE 19 believes that the Johannesburg Principles on National Security,
Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, developed by a group of experts
and endorsed by the UN Human Rights Commission, is a proper starting point for
evaluating concerns related to national security information in the Wikileaks debate.
Moreover, we identified the following issues that must be considered in ensuing that
the public’s rights under international law are respected:

1. Ensuring the Public’s Right to Information
It is well established that the right of the public to information held by government
bodies is essential in ensuring democracy. Over 90 countries have adopted laws that
guarantee that right and it has been recognised in international agreements including
the UN Convention against Corruption, the UNECE Convention on Access to
Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters,

and by many international bodies including the UN, Council of Europe, African
Union and the Organisation for American States.
However, while there has been a significant increase in laws and other instruments
guaranteeing the public’s right to information around the world in recent years, access to information is still inadequate in many counties, even those such as the United States with its long history of right to information. This is particularly a problem in the area of information classified as ‘state secrets’.

Under international law, governments must show that any restrictions on access to
information are prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society to protect a
national security interest. Limits on access to information should only apply to
information that governments can demonstrate would cause a specific and articulated

The rules should not be used to hide other interests. Indeed, the existing US rules on
secrecy prohibit classifying information about crimes and as a means to prevent
embarrassment. Those rules are ignored far too often.

A number of military logs in the Afghan War Diary and the Baghdad airstrike video
footage appear to demonstrate attacks on civilians by coalition forces which might
amount to violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Full official disclosure of
information about the allegations of ill treatment of civilians by the coalition forces in
Afghanistan and Iraq would allow light to be shed on what has occurred. It would also
enable a transparent and fair judicial review. Hence, the Baghdad video and much of
the material in the Afghanistan War Diary should have been subject to mandatory
disclosure under access to information laws in the respective countries of coalition
governments, where, again, the overall public interest should trump secrecy

2. Prosecution of Web Sites for Releasing National Security Information
There has been considerable discussion about the possible prosecution of WikiLeaks
founder Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks activists under state secrets or espionage
legislation in the United States or other countries. ARTICLE 19 believes that this
would be an improper use of these laws and urges all governments to refrain from
taking this step.
The statements of defence and state officials, calling for or warning of prosecution,
might amount to censorship of media at a time and on issues – the war in Iraq and
Afghanistan -– where transparency and the public right to know should govern the
government’s relationships with the media and the public.
Moreover, it is a well established principle that public authorities bear sole
responsibility for protecting the confidentiality of official information. Other persons
and entities, including WikiLeaks and journalists, should never be subject to liability
for publishing leaked information, unless it was obtained through fraud or another

3. Protection of Whistleblowers
ARTICLE 19 also believes that those who provide information to WikiLeaks should
not be prosecuted if there is a strong public interest in the release of the information.
Officials who act as whistleblowers and release information in the public interest
without authorisation should not be prosecuted for releasing information that reveals
crimes, abuses, mismanagement and other important issues in the public interest.
Although we recognise that civil servants may legitimately be placed under
obligations of secrecy, these should be limited by their obligation to serve the overall
public interest. Anyone disclosing classified information should benefit from a public
interest defence whereby, even if disclosure of the information would cause harm to a
protected interest, no liability should ensue if the benefits of disclosure outweigh the
harm. Instead, there should be strong legal protections and structures to facilitate
Countries should adopt comprehensive whistleblowing laws which apply to the public
and private sector and apply in national security cases. Secrets laws should recognise
that whistleblowers should be protected from prosecution and should include public
interest exemptions for revealing information such as human rights abuses and
Countries should also enact laws based on international standards protecting
journalists from revealing their confidential sources and materials and those laws
should apply to every person who is engaged in the business of making information
available to the public.

4. Ethical Obligations of New Media
ARTICLE 19 believes that new media – including WikiLeaks and similar sites,
should follow good ethical practices to ensure that the information made available is
accurate, fairly presented and does not substantially harm other persons. While such
ethical codes have not yet been developed for new media, we believe that existing
journalistic codes provide a useful basis from which to begin.
Sites such as WikiLeaks should also recognise that technical protections to protect the anonymity of sources only have limited effectiveness. If the whistleblower is
identified through other means, they can face serious employment and legal sanctions and even physical danger.

ARTICLE 19 is not qualified to take a position on whether the release of all of the
Afghan documents by WikiLeaks was appropriate in these terms. To date, no credible
information has been made public that links the release of the information to the harm of any individual.

ARTICLE 19 therefore recommends:

• The governments of coalition forces and other states should refrain from
criminal investigation and prosecution of WikiLeaks activists for the
publishing of the materials on Iraq and Afghanistan as well as their sources
• All states should adopt and properly implement right to information laws
which recognise the public interest in disclosure of information. Restrictions
on access for national security reasons should be strictly limited
• All states should adopt comprehensive whistleblower-protection laws
• State Secrets Acts should only apply to those public officials and others who
have agreed to be subject to them. Journalists and publishers should not be
liable under these laws for disclosing information of public interest. The laws
should also include public interest defences for protecting whistleblowers
• Internet sites should follow good ethical practices in their reporting activities.


 For more information, please contact David Banisar, Senior Legal Counsel,
ARTICLE 19, at, +44 207 324 2500
 The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and
Access to Information, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information are
available at

• ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the
world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name
from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free

ARTICLE 19, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7324 2500 / Web: / Email:

How 250,000 US embassy cables were leaked

From a fake Lady Gaga CD to a thumb drive that is a pocket-sized bombshell – the biggest intelligence leak in history

David Leigh, Sunday 28 November 2010

Bradley Manning, left, is accused of stealing classified files released by Julian Assange, right
US soldier Bradley Manning, left, who is accused of stealing the classified files and handing the database to the WikiLeaks website of Julian Assange, right. Photograph: Associated Press/AFP/Getty Images

An innocuous-looking memory stick, no longer than a couple of fingernails, came into the hands of a Guardian reporter earlier this year. The device is so small it will hang easily on a keyring. But its contents will send shockwaves through the world's chancelleries and deliver what one official described as "an epic blow" to US diplomacy.

The 1.6 gigabytes of text files on the memory stick ran to millions of words: the contents of more than 250,000 leaked state department cables, sent from, or to, US embassies around the world.

What will emerge in the days and weeks ahead is an unprecedented picture of secret diplomacy as conducted by the planet's sole superpower. There are 251,287 dispatches in all, from more than 250 US embassies and consulates. They reveal how the US deals with both its allies and its enemies – negotiating, pressuring and sometimes brusquely denigrating foreign leaders, all behind the firewalls of ciphers and secrecy classifications that diplomats assume to be secure. The leaked cables range up to the "SECRET NOFORN" level, which means they are meant never to be shown to non-US citizens.

As well as conventional political analyses, some of the cables contain detailed accounts of corruption by foreign regimes, as well as intelligence on undercover arms shipments, human trafficking and sanction-busting efforts by would-be nuclear states such as Iran and Libya. Some are based on interviews with local sources while others are general impressions and briefings written for top state department visitors who may be unfamiliar with local nuances.

Intended to be read by officials in Washington up to the level of the secretary of state, the cables are generally drafted by the ambassador or subordinates. Although their contents are often startling and troubling, the cables are unlikely to gratify conspiracy theorists. They do not contain evidence of assassination plots, CIA bribery or such criminal enterprises as the Iran-Contra scandal in the Reagan years, when anti-Nicaraguan guerrillas were covertly financed.

One reason may be that America's most sensitive "top secret" and above foreign intelligence files cannot be accessed from Siprnet, the defence department network involved.

The US military believes it knows where the leak originated. A soldier, Bradley Manning, 22, has been held in solitary confinement for the last seven months and is facing a court martial in the new year. The former intelligence analyst is charged with unauthorised downloads of classified material while serving on an army base outside Baghdad. He is suspected of taking copies not only of the state department archive, but also of video of an Apache helicopter crew gunning down civilians in Baghdad, and hundreds of thousands of daily war logs from military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was childishly easy, according to the published chatlog of a conversation Manning had with a fellow-hacker. "I would come in with music on a CD-RW labelled with something like 'Lady Gaga' … erase the music … then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing ... [I] listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history." He said that he "had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months".

Manning told his correspondent Adrian Lamo, who subsequently denounced him to the authorities: "Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public ... Everywhere there's a US post, there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed. Worldwide anarchy in CSV format ... It's beautiful, and horrifying."

He added: "Information should be free. It belongs in the public domain."

Manning, according to the chatlogs, says he uploaded the copies to WikiLeaks, the "freedom of information activists" as he called them, led by Australian former hacker Julian Assange.

Assange and his circle apparently decided against immediately making the cables public. Instead they embarked on staged disclosure of the other material – aimed, as they put it on their website, at "maximising political impact".

In April at a Washington press conference the group released the Apache helicopter video, titling it Collateral Murder.

The Guardian's Nick Davies brokered an agreement with Assange to hand over in advance two further sets of military field reports on Iraq and Afghanistan so professional journalists could analyse them. Published earlier this year simultaneously with the New York Times and Der Spiegel in Germany, the analyses revealed that coalition forces killed civilians in previously unreported shootings and handed over prisoners to be tortured.

The revelations shot Assange and WikiLeaks to global prominence but led to angry denunciations from the Pentagon and calls from extreme rightwingers in the US that Assange be arrested or even assassinated. This month Sweden issued an international warrant for Assange, for questioning about alleged sexual assaults. His lawyer says the allegations spring from unprotected but otherwise consensual sex with two women.

WikiLeaks says it is now planning to post a selection of the cables. Meanwhile, a Guardian team of expert writers has been spending months combing through the data. Freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke obtained a copy of the database through her own contacts and joined the Guardian team. The paper is to publish independently, but simultaneously with the New York Times and Der Spiegel, along with Le Monde in Paris and El País in Madrid. As on previous occasions the Guardian is redacting information likely to cause reprisals against vulnerable individuals.


Cablegate leaks divide opinion on freedom of information

Tue Nov 30,

AFP Photo: Australian founder of whistleblowing website, 'WikiLeaks', Julian Assange holds up a copy of the Guardian..

PARIS (AFP) - WikiLeaks' mass exposure of US diplomatic cables has divided liberal intellectual opinion between supporters of total government transparency and those who see a threat to democratic rule.

While the world's press has splashed the revelations across its front pages even some journalists have begun to wonder whether too much exposure is a good thing in an era of instant global electronic communication.

"Much, but not all state information should be public," argued the Financial Times, in a leader. "In order for states to conduct their affairs effectively, and ensure the security of their citizens, some secrets must remain."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defended previous leaks of US military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan by declaring he was "trying to stop two wars" -- but some fear his latest stunt could provoke new ones.

News that Arab leaders and Israel are pushing for US air strikes on Iran and that China is rethinking its protection of North Korea's erratic regime has increased tensions in two of the world's most dangerous flashpoints.

And some fear that if diplomats can no longer be confident that they can exchange frank views in private, then it will be harder for capitals to resolve disputes without inflaming public opinion or angering rival players.

"In a world criss-crossed by violent conflict, a state can not permanently operate under the constant gaze of opinion," warned Laurent Joffrin, editor of France's left-wing Liberation daily, a champion of media freedoms.

The stolen cables were downloaded from a supposedly secure US government network that was set up in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 in order to allow analysts to rapidly share and compare information.

Some have expressed concern that diplomatic and intelligence agencies will retreat inside their shells and fail to prevent future attacks if clues are scattered across different, more tightly-controlled networks.

During previous WikiLeaks revelations, the group was also accused of putting the lives of US informants and locally recruited agents at risk.

Such concerns even motivated groups more usually associated with campaigning for openness and press freedom to criticise the all-or-nothing character of an operation that exposed tens of thousands of documents.

This time round, however, there has been praise for the professional investigation run by the five newspapers which got first sight of the files -- the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel.

Rather than splashing a quarter of a million cables unmediated onto the public domain, reporters from the dailies pored over them for weeks, seeking stories of public interest and evaluating the risks of exposure.

"We're more or less satisfied with WikiLeaks' evolution," said the head of independent press watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Jean-Francois Julliard.

"We like this partnership with the newspapers and this work to put things in context, verify the information and draw lessons from it," he said.

Others are less convinced and fear the leaks will erode the bonds of trust between rival capitals without really advancing the cause of open government, especially in the democratic world.

"There's demagogy and a naive faith in thinking that radical transparency will help us reach another democratic level," French political scientist Philippe Braud told AFP, branding the publication an elite parlour game.

"The enlightened few learned very little and the others still think we're hiding everything from them, which can only feed anti-democratic instincts," he said, arguing it is normal to allow leaders special rights and duties.

And, at a time when social networking sites can expose a citizen's private life at the touch of a button, some see in the WikiLeaks exposure another sign of how the Internet itself can erode freedoms.

"There's no reason that democratic checks and balances have to take the form of a sort of electronic 'Big Brother,'" complained former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine in a newspaper op-ed.



Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority

You should never shout “fire” in a crowded theatre. Once you have accepted this old adage, you accept that there are limits to free expression. The important word in the first sentence is not “fire”, but “crowded”. A crowded theatre would lead to a stampede. Where there is a real and identifiable danger, restraint should be shown. Context is everything in the free-speech debate; risk to life is an undeniable caveat. Most other caveats are, however, mere ruses by the powerful to prevent information from reaching the public domain.

It is within these parameters that the furore over Wikileaks and its exposures should be seen. The latest document dump is larger than the Iraq files and potentially more embarrassing, with its State Department assessments of governments and statesmen – from Hamid Karzai to Silvio Berlusconi to Nicolas Sarkozy. Diplomats have launched a frantic round of damage limitation. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during the excruciating conversation between the US ambassador and Downing Street. The Americans are entitled to put their side of the story, to seek to assuage any inconvenience caused.

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, believes the Americans are going much further than that, carrying out a concerted campaign to undermine and discredit him. I have no information on the cases that have led two Swedish women to press charges of rape and sexual harassment against him. Only those involved do. Mr Assange’s legal representatives in the UK suspect that the Swedish authorities are playing the Americans’ game, cutting corners in terms of correct legal procedures. So highly charged is the environment that it is extremely difficult to separate information from disinformation

Mr Assange is an unconventional figure, a man who lives in the shadows and enjoys doing so. He is difficult to deal with and holds himself in high regard. When he contacted me through an intermediary two months ago, suggesting that Index on Censorship host him in a London event, I was happy to accept but made clear that I did not want to give him an open forum. I would engage him in debate with a detractor.

He accepted; then he disappeared for five days, not answering phone calls or emails. When he finally surfaced, he stipulated no cameras or photographers, and that we should sneak him in through the back door. I argued that this would not look great for a free-expression organisation. In the end we compromised, and the television crews were allowed in halfway through what turned out to be a fascinating debate with the columnist David Aaronovitch. The sell-out crowd did not give Mr Assange an easy ride. But there was a virtually unanimous presumption towards free speech, something that is woefully lacking in so much of British public life.

This must surely be the starting point. In the US, with its First Amendment, restrictions are seen as an exception to the rule. In the UK, free speech is regarded as a negotiable commodity. An interest group’s right to be offended is seen as just as important as the right to air an opinion. A government’s right to secrecy is seen as more important than the public’s right to know.

The mainstream media in the UK are serial offenders. Newspapers that have no compunction about invasions of privacy or about shrill comment devote precious little time or energy to challenging authority through rigorous investigative journalism. Most political “scoops” are merely stories planted by politicians on pliant lobby hacks. Editors and senior journalists are habitually invited into MI5 and MI6 for briefings. These are affable occasions, often over lunch. There is no harm in that. What tends to happen, however, is that journalists are tickled pink by the attention. They love being invited to the “D-notice” committee to discuss how they can all behave “responsibly”. It makes them feel important. Many suspend their critical faculties as a result.

Far from being “feral beasts”, to use Tony Blair’s phrase, the British media are overly respectful of authority. Newspapers and broadcasters tend to be suspicious of those who do not play the game, people like Mr Assange who are awkward outsiders. Some editors are quite happy to help the authorities in their denunciations of him, partly out of revenge for not being in his inner circle.

All governments have a legitimate right to protect national security. This should be a specific, and closely scrutinised, area of policy. Most of our secrecy rules are designed merely to protect politicians and officials from embarrassment. Documents are habitually over-classified for this purpose. The previous government made desperate attempts to stop legal evidence of its collusion in torture from reaching the public. Ministers argued, speciously, that this was to protect the “special intelligence relationship” with Washington. It will be intriguing to see how much information is allowed to be published when Sir Peter Gibson begins his official inquiry. Precedent suggests little grounds for optimism.

As with all free speech, as with Wikileaks, context is key. It is vital to know when governments collude in torture or other illegal acts. It is important to know when they say one thing in private (about a particular world leader) and do quite another in public. It is perturbing to know that aid agencies may have been used by the military, particularly in Afghanistan, to help Nato forces to “win hearts and minds”.

These questions, and more, are vital for the democratic debate. The answers inevitably cause embarrassment. That too is essential for a healthy civil society. Good journalists and editors should be capable of separating the awkward from the damaging. Information that could endanger life, either in the short term or as part of a longer-term operation, should remain secret.

Once this latest flurry is over, prepare for the backlash. Mr Assange’s industrial-scale leaking may lead to legislation in a number of countries that makes whistle-blowing harder than it already is. Perhaps the most curious aspect of the Wikileaks revelations is not that they have happened, but it took someone as mercurial as Mr Assange to be the conduit. Rather than throwing stones, newspapers should be asking themselves why they did not have the wherewithal to hold truth to power.

John Kampfner is the chief executive of Index on Censorship

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Islamists' Twin Assault on Free Speech

Islamists' Twin Assault on Free Speech

Daniel Huff is director of the Middle East Forum's Legal Project, which defends the free speech rights of authors and activists commenting on radical Islam and related issues. A graduate of Columbia Law School, he previously served as counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee to then Ranking Member Arlen Specter, handling a host of national security, civil and criminal matters. On October 28, he addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call on the twin assault Islamists have launched against free speech rights.

According to Daniel Huff, the first assault is a legal attack. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is shaping international law at the UN to prohibit criticizing Islam. Their proposed ban on "defamation of religions" would silence even the most legitimate discourse. For example, he cited a 2008 presentation in the Human Rights Council on Islam and female genital mutilation which was halted after two OIC member countries objected to the discussion.

Mr. Huff said the First Amendment provides a "false sense of security." People assume it would invalidate any international law banning speech. However, an appellate court case held the government's compelling interest in complying with international law trumped free speech. Moreover, the Administration has softened traditional US opposition to the OIC's efforts. In 2009, the US cosponsored a resolution with Egypt calling on member states to adopt measures to cease negative stereotypes about religion particularly in the media.

Next Mr. Huff turned to the Islamists' second tactic—physical intimidation of artists or speakers. As examples, he cited Comedy Central's censorship of South Park after its creators' lives were threatened by and cartoonist Molly Norris' being forced into hiding following her call to hold an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."

In response, Mr. Huff proposed expanding existing federal law protecting abortion rights from extremist threats to cover free speech rights.

During question-and-answer, Mr. Huff addressed whether fired NPR reporter Juan Williams could sue on First Amendment grounds. He noted both the difficulty of establishing that NPR should be considered a government employer bound by the First Amendment and of Williams proving actual damages, because of his lucrative Fox contract.

Finally, Mr. Huff set the Legal Project's mission in a broader context. Protecting free speech is the first defense against the imposition of an Islamic order. Shielding Islam from critical examination confers upon it a privileged status. From there, it is a smooth segue to the Islamists' ultimate goal of Western inferiority and dhimmi status.

Summary written by Sean Alexander

Help determine where BlackBerry servers are

10 November 2010

Help determine where BlackBerry servers are

Who's watching your BlackBerry? Thanks to the Canadian research group Infowar Monitor, you can help find out. With the recent discovery that governments are demanding access to encrypted BlackBerry data and other content, Infowar is inviting BlackBerry users to take part in Project Rim Check at to find out exactly "who has access to what."

This summer, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a number of other governments threatened to ban Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry services if the company did not make encrypted BlackBerry data and other content available to them. A major concern of these regimes is that BlackBerry data can be encrypted and routed through servers located outside of their jurisdictions - thus making it near impossible to scrutinise.

Rumour has it that RIM has made data sharing agreements with India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Other countries are also demanding that the company locate data centres within their jurisdictions.

Enter Project Rim Check, which will monitor BlackBerry data traffic flow and help Infowar researchers determine the location of RIM's servers - and see if RIM is indeed making any concessions.

The site will automatically collect some of your information, such as your IP address. You are asked to specify the country you are in, what type of BlackBerry service you have, and your carrier's name and location, among other options.

The project is "inspired by a broad need to monitor the activities of private sector actors that own and operate cyberspace, particularly as they come under increasing pressure to cooperate with governments on national surveillance and censorship laws," the makers told Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which has endorsed the project.

Infowar Monitor is a partnership between the University of Toronto's famous Citizen Lab, a technology and human rights research centre, and SecDev Group, an Ottawa-based think tank.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Judicial harassment stifles free expression

13 October 2010

Judicial harassment stifles free expression

An ailing Tunisian journalist is languishing in jail on trumped up charges, while another faces two years in jail for being the target of a physical attack. This is just some of the evidence of how the authorities use the courts to crush dissent, says the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG). Meanwhile, judges who dare to criticise the authorities are being uprooted from their jobs or are even having their salaries withheld, adds IFEX-TMG, which has stepped up its campaign to promote judicial independence.

Fahem Boukaddous, correspondent for the satellite channel "Al-Hiwar Ettunisi", is serving a four-year jail term for "forming a criminal association liable to attack persons." His crime was to report on protests against unemployment and corruption in the mining industry in Gafsa in 2008.

According to family sources, Boukaddous has difficulties breathing and speaking and his asthma attacks have increased. On 8 October, Boukaddous began a hunger strike to protest his prison conditions.

In a separate case, the authorities continue to harass Mouldi Zouabi, a journalist with the independent station Radio Kalima. He was attacked in April, but police decided not to charge the attacker. Instead, they are accusing Zouabi of violent behaviour and bodily harm. The case was referred to a higher court on 6 October, and he now faces up to two years in jail.

"This is more evidence of the way that a politicised judiciary is being used to silence free speech by denying yet another honest Tunisian journalist a fair trial. I'm positive that a truly independent court system would free Zouabi in a heartbeat," said IFEX-TMG chair Rohan Jayasekera.

The problem is confounded by the various forms of harassment of judges who criticise the authorities or demand that they work without government interference.

Since 2005, when IFEX-TMG started its fact-finding missions to Tunisia, the group of 20 IFEX members found that judges openly committed to judicial independence have been arbitrarily transferred from Tunis to remote locations, hundreds of kilometres away from their families.

Just this August, for instance, the secretary general of the legitimate Association of Tunisian Judges (AMT), Kalthoum Kennou, was moved from Kairouan, in the centre of the country, to the southern city of Tozeur.

Other targeted colleagues have seen their assignments outside the capital of Tunisia extended, have had their salaries withheld, or have been denied promotions.

IFEX-TMG is currently appealing to the International Association of Judges (IAJ), which is meeting next month in Senegal.

Find out what happens next on IFEX-TMG's recently launched Facebook page, where you can also join the call for Boukaddous's release as well as share the International Federation of Journalists's (IFJ's) poster to "set Boukaddous free".

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Artist Alert: August 2010‏


Artist Alert: August 2010

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

Zimbabwe: No show for atrocity

Works by popular visual artist Owen Maseko have been banned by the government of Zimbabwe, according to VOA. The series of video clips, effigies and paintings depict the ‘Fifth Brigade atrocities’ of the 1980s which claimed the lives of more than 20,000 civilians. The massacre perpetrated by Mugabe’s army has since been dismissed by the President as “a moment of madness”. As soon as the show was launched at the National Art Gallery, police closed the exhibit and arrested both Maseko and the museum’s Director, Vote Thebe. It is thought the latter will face charges under the Censorship and Entertainment Act for allowing Maseko to stage the exhibition without a licence.

Guatemala: Mayan musician tortured and killed

A Mayan musician has been found dead after being abducted on 25 August, reports FreeMuse. Leonardo Guarcax, a promoter and defender of indigenous Maya culture in Guatemala, was discovered the day after his kidnapping, bearing marks of torture on his body. For many years Guarcax had taught indigenous music and dance at the Sotzil Cultural Centre, advocating for the rights of Guatemala’s Mayan population. His death was not the first tragedy to befall the Guarcax family with his cousins, Ernesto and Carlos, meeting similar fates in May 2009. Leonardo’s death is a reminder of the violence continually perpetrated against those attempting to maintain pre-hispanic culture in Guatemala.

Russia: Rapper jailed for lyrical 'hooliganism'

According to online news source,, Russian rap idol Ivan Alekseev has been detained and subsequently jailed for ‘hooliganism.’ On 2 August, following his band’s performance at a Volgograd concert, the town’s magistrate court sentenced the rapper to ‘administrative imprisonment’ for a period of ten days. Allegedly, law enforcers at the concert were enraged when Noize MC, Alekseev’s performing name, dedicated a song critical of the Russian police force to the festival authorities, climaxing with the chorus: “A Citizen, stop-stop, the pockets, bang-bang in the kidneys.” Attempts to pacify the police resulted in Alekseev’s immediate arrest at the end of his act.

Another Russian musician, recently interviewed by the International Herald Tribune, highlighted how music as a channel for popular dissent in his country is being marginalised. Yuri Schevchuk, lead singer in Russian rock act DDT, has been an outstanding critic of the Kremlin over three decades of song-writing and performance. The rocker claims that a broadcasting blackout on political musicians continues with a subsequent trend of self-censorship, silencing political artists.

Singapore: Book tour ends for the jolly hangman

British author, Alan Shadrake, 75, has had his planned book tour severely curtailed by accusations of criminal defamation. On landing in Singapore on 19 July, Shadrake was taken into police custody and detained for a series of interrogations. The veteran writer had flown to the city-state in order to promote his new book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. Shortly after his arrest, authorities ordered several bookstore chains to stop sales of the new title. Shadrake’s book is an expose of Singapore’s harsh judicial system, where a range of offenses carry a mandatory death penalty. The attorney general’s office has accused the author of trying to “impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary.” The case continues.

Austria: Chinese pressure censors gun sculpture

Following intense pressure from a Chinese delegation, a controversial UN exhibition has been censored in Vienna, reports All Voices. The Art of Peacekeeping, a monolithic fusion of decommissioned guns, reclaimed ammunition and deactivated landmines forms the centrepiece of a new show at The Vienna International Centre. The sculpture, by Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal, has been exhibited across the world but its current context, surrounded by photographs of violence in Tibet, led to a Chinese outcry, with complaints made to the exhibition organisers and departments within the UN. The photographs have been removed at short notice leaving the stand-alone sculpture, “We were absolutely shocked,” said Bromley. “This was done without any consultation or permission.”

Malta: The death of the artist

The Maltese Independent recently highlighted the case of Aleksandar Stankovski, a painter whose work has stirred considerable controversy in Malta and its neighbouring island of Gozo. During the celebrations that surrounded the annual Malta Arts Festival, paintings submitted by Stankovski were banned from gallery displays across the two islands, due to their nude content being labelled ‘obscene’. The ban was a sad indictment of the festival, hailed as a symbol of Malta’s pluralism and creative diversity. A local rights group, The Front Against Censorship (FAC), criticised the organisers’ decision, “Isn’t it ironic that while Malta is supposed to be celebrating culture through The Malta Arts Festival, art is still being censored?” In a dramatic response to the state censorship the FAC staged a Funeral March of Art through the capital Valetta, with participants attired in all-black, mourning the demise of Maltese art in the 21st century. The painting ban is only the latest development in a worrying trend that has marred Malta’s reputation, including the prohibition of an ‘obscene’ play and the trial of a student group for writing an ‘indecent’ story.

United Kingdom: Grassroots mown down

A Cambridgeshire festival has been crippled by continuing restrictions. The Grassroots Festival, scheduled to take place in September, was abandoned by its organisers following what they describe as aggressive interference from the local council and police. Statements on the festival’s website blame “overbearing licensing conditions” for the event’s cancellation. Mooney, one of the festival’s volunteers claimed, “They didn’t want it to happen so they played their games. They couldn’t use legislation so instead they used dirty tactics.” Constant demands for a revised programme and increased security took its toll on festival financing and repeated delays led to the event’s disbandment. Commentators said the festival’s demise reflected a common trend in local authorities using bureaucracy to stultify new events.

USA: New legal protections for video artists

A landmark legal ruling has paved the way for re-instating artists and consumers’ legal rights to legitimate use of copyrighted materials in the USA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reported on its victory in winning three critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). EFF’s Civil Liberties Director, Jennifer Granick, commented, “We are thrilled to have helped free jailbreakers, unlockers and vidders from this law’s overbroad reach.” The DMCA has been heavily criticised for infringing on free speech, fair use and competition through blanket restrictions on how individuals use digital material. The ruling is particularly welcome for video artists, whose legitimate re-mixing of content could previously have led to being sued.

Columbia: Local hero sings banned ballads

According to the International Herald Tribune, Uriel Henao is known in Columbia as the King of Corridos Prohibidos or ‘prohibited ballads’. His brand of rock and roll describes the exploits of guerrilla commanders, paramilitary warlords, lowly coca growers and cocaine kingpins alongside Columbia’s government forces. It is a historical encapsulation of the country’s protracted drug wars, an ode to many who have fallen in a decade of bitter internal conflicts. Henao is the most prominent purveyor of a genre that encompasses more than 600 bands in Columbia. In spite of its popularity the music is often shunned by radio stations and concert arenas for its graphic depiction of the drug wars. The flamboyant Henao carries on regardless, stating, “Colombia needs people like me to tell it the truth about what takes place in this country,” he said. “The truth sells.”

New international coalition for arts and human rights

A new coalition is beginning to take shape to bring together people and organisations worldwide that are interested in the intersection of arts, culture, human rights and social justice. The vision of a stronger and closer relationship was just one of the decisions taken during a conference attended by ARTICLE 19 titled ‘Intersecting networks & support for people using creativity to fight injustice’ organised in July by freeDimensional, a group linking art spaces to social justice movements on a global level. ARTICLE 19 is now looking at how best we can support this exciting initiative. More to follow!


• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer,, +44 20 7324 2500 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +44 20 7324 2500 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Appeal for urgent intervention as activists are tortured for speaking out

Take action!

Appeal for urgent intervention as activists are tortured for speaking out

Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace (left) protesting human rights violations.
Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace (left) protesting human rights violations.

IFEX member Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is urgently calling on concerned individuals to write to the Bahrain government to end the systematic torture and imprisonment of those expressing their views, including political, religious and human rights activists. Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace, Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, Sheikh Saeed Al-Nori, Abdul-Ghani Khanjjar and BCHR's Dr. Mohammed Saeed are among those who have endured brutal physical and mental torture.

In an unprecedented wave of torture, detainees have been handcuffed, blindfolded, held in solitary cells, denied food and water for long periods, hung by their hands, their legs tied and their bodies beaten until swollen and bruised, deprived of sleep, and forced to listen to the screams of others being tortured.

BCHR strongly believes these arrests are connected to the activists' work in exposing human rights violations in the country. The Bahrain government is brutally silencing voices of dissent not only by prohibiting peaceful and legitimate activities related to democratic reform, but also by punishing human rights activists for engaging in these activities.

"They beat me on my fingers with a rigid instrument; they slapped me on my ears and I was pulled by my nipples and ears by tongs, and I was hit with a rigid object on my back... to force me to sign papers I had no knowledge of what was written on them," Al-Singace told a public prosecutor.

Bahrain is currently in an unofficial state of emergency with a security campaign launched against government critics. In addition, Shiite villages have been surrounded by militias, where arbitrary searches, arrests and kidnappings continue. At least 200 people have been detained. Most detainees are being held incommunicado and denied contact with lawyers and family members.

As well, state-owned media have published articles inciting sectarian tensions and smearing the reputation of the detainees, incriminating them before they are brought to the Public Prosecution and Court. The state-owned media, particularly "Al Watan", has been targeting the past and current presidents of BCHR directly as leaders in a so-called "terrorism network", although they have not been arrested. Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President, and Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former BCHR President, were pictured in a 1 September "Al Watan" article about the violence.

The crackdown is also targeting online activists. Blogger Ali Abdulemam, who founded Bahrain's popular BahrainOnline forum, was arrested on 4 September for allegedly spreading "false news" on the portal. His website was shut down the next day. He is a pioneer among Arab online activists and has inspired young Bahrainis and Arabs to use the Internet to engage in spirited debate. It is believed that by the government taking control of BahrainOnline, many of the users and contributors to the online forum are now at risk of being exposed and arrested.

Please write to the Bahrain government to ask them to:
- release all the detainees and especially human rights activists who have been arrested for practicing their fundamental rights to free expression and peaceful assembly;
- immediately stop the systematic torture by the National Security Apparatus, dissolve this Apparatus, bring those responsible to a public trial and redress the victims of its violations;
- allow access to the detainees by international observers;
- allow detainees to contact and meet their families and lawyers, and access appropriate health care;
- immediately stop implementing the Anti-Terrorist Law that allows arbitrary arrests and unjust trials.

Please send appeals to:
Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Fax: +973 176 64 587

Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa
Prime Minister
Fax: +973 1753 2839

Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Tel: +973 172 27 555 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +973 172 27 555 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax : +973 172 12 603

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Tel: +973 175 31 333 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +973 175 31 333 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: +973 175 31 284

Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva
1 chemin Jacques-Attenville
1218 Grand-Saconnex
CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50.
info (@)

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

For more information, please visit:
Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Sample letter to country embassies in Bahrain

Sample letter to Bahrain embassy officials

Two media workers killed in bomb attack; journalist kidnapped and tortured

Two media workers killed in bomb attack; journalist kidnapped and tortured

A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a Shiite procession in Quetta, Pakistan on 3 September, triggering chaos, killing two media workers and injuring eight other journalists, report the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). At least 64 people were killed and 185 injured. In a separate episode on 4 September in Islamabad, a journalist critical of the government was abducted and tortured.

Individuals at the Al-Quds rally, a protest in support of Palestinians, started firing in panic immediately after the blast. Angry protesters fired at media crews. Muhammad Sarwar, a driver for Aaj News TV, was struck by a bullet and died instantly. Aijaz Raisani, a cameraman for Samaa TV, was injured in the blast and also received two bullet wounds; he died on 6 September. Eight other reporters and cameramen were wounded. Journalists at the scene said some colleagues were wounded by the blast while others were injured by shots fired at them by demonstrators. There were also clashes with police and cars and motorcycles set on fire.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) pointed out that the media workers were not trained for a potentially lethal environment and no protective gear was given to them.

The next day, Umer Cheema, an investigative reporter for the English daily "The News", was kidnapped by 12 men wearing police uniforms in Islamabad. He was handcuffed and blindfolded, taken to an unknown place, stripped naked, beaten and hung upside down. The abductors warned him to stop writing about the government and threatened to target his colleague, editor Ansar Abbasi.

"The News" is highly critical of President Asif Ali Zardari and its journalists are often under attack, says RSF. The government has withdrawn state advertising from the entire Jang media group, which owns "The News".

Two targeted killings of journalists in two days; 230 journalists killed during Iraq War

Two targeted killings of journalists in two days; 230 journalists killed during Iraq War

Iraqi journalists continue to be killed with impunity even after US combat troops withdraw from Iraq. Journalist Riad Al-Saray was killed this week.
Iraqi journalists continue to be killed with impunity even after US combat troops withdraw from Iraq. Journalist Riad Al-Saray was killed this week.
Violence against journalists continues after the formal withdrawal of United States combat troops from Iraq in August. An Iraqi journalist was shot dead this week on his way to Karbala in southern Iraq when gunmen travelling in another car fired at him, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The next day, a television journalist was gunned down outside his home in Mosul. RSF has released a survey of media deaths during the US Army's presence in Iraq, "The Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll for the Media".

Journalist Riad Al-Saray, 35, was killed in the early morning in western Baghdad on 7 September, according to local group Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) and IFEX members. "We are concerned that journalists are once again becoming easy prey in the renewed violence which has rocked Iraq in recent days," said IFJ.

Al-Saray was an anchorman for Al-Iraqiya television, which belongs to the Iraqi Media Network, and wrote columns for a number of local newspapers. He joined Al-Iraqiya in 2005 and hosted programmes that sought to reconcile Shiites and Sunnis. At least 14 other Iraqi Media Network journalists have been killed since 2003.

Then, on 8 September, Safaa Al-Dine Abdul Hameed, a presenter for Al-Mosuliyah TV station was killed as he left home for work.

Just weeks after the US Army's last combat brigade withdrew from Iraq in August, RSF issued a report examining the country's seven years of occupation by the coalition forces and the impact on press freedom. RSF focused on journalists who were killed during the conflict simply because they wanted to do their jobs, noting the impunity in 99 percent of the murders of journalists and media workers since the invasion in 2003.

RSF also re-examined the more than 93 cases of journalist abductions during the war; at least 42 were later executed. Iraqi journalists were also frequently suspected of collaborating with insurgent groups and arrested, either by the newly established Iraqi administration or the US Army.

RSF concludes, "Although the US intervention in Iraq put an end to Saddam Hussein's regime and paved the way for a major expansion of the Iraqi media, the human toll of the war, and the years of political and ethnic violence which followed, were nothing short of disastrous – too many people died."

The number of media contributors killed in the country since the conflict began stands at 230, more journalists killed than at any time since the Second World War. That is more than the number of journalists killed during 20 years of the Vietnam War or the civil war in Algeria.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Venezuela: Supreme Court Restricts the Right to Information

23 July 2010

Venezuela: Supreme Court Restricts the Right to Information

The Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled, in a biding decision, that a plaintiff must explain the reasons for requiring public information, which also must be limited to the scope of the intended use. ARTICLE 19 condemns the ruling and calls on the Venezuelan Government to conform their practices to international standards.

Asociación Espacio Público had appealed to the Constitutional Court following the refusal by the Office of the Comptroller General to disclose the salaries of its public officials. In its 15 July ruling, the court argued that such disclosure would violate the officials’ constitutional right to privacy.

The acceptance of the right to information will sometimes require balancing with other rights. However, best practices around the world have indicated that the public interest resulting from transparency and openness of public accounts takes precedence over the rights of civil servants to keep their salaries confidential. Also, there are ways to disclose the salaries of officials by ranks, while preserving their identity.

Furthermore, the right of access to information is based on the assumption that information held by public institutions is the property of the public, so there should be no obligation placed upon the public to explain why they need the information requested.

The right to information fosters accountability and efficiency in governments by allowing civil society groups to participate in public affairs, not only monitoring salaries, but also public policies.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Venezuelan government to refrain from demanding the reasons behind information requests and from limiting the amount of information disclosed. We also urge the Venezuelan authorities to adopt a progressive jurisprudence on the right to information, highlighting clearly the prevalence of public interest and the proactive disclosure of public information.


• For more information please contact: Arthur Serra Massuda,, +55 11 3057 0042.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

India - Kashmir: Journalists barred from reporting on demonstrations; journalist slain

India - Kashmir:

Journalists barred from reporting on demonstrations; journalist slain

Indian troops crack down on Kashmiri journalists.
Indian troops crack down on Kashmiri journalists.
via AP
Weeks of anti-India street protests have left 15 people dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir and authorities are striking hard with a complete lockdown on local coverage of the unrest. Local journalists have been beaten by police and barred from covering the government crackdown on demonstrators, and thousands of police have been deployed in the region to enforce a curfew, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Authorities have also attempted to control the flow of information by shutting down publications and confiscating newspapers prior to distribution. At the same time, in two other states, a journalist was killed and an editor arrested.

Widespread demonstrations began in early June in the Kashmir Valley, and cities have been under curfew for several days. Curfew passes issued to journalists last week were cancelled. New passes were then issued to a few editors and senior journalists.

But on 9 July, BBC Urdu service journalist Riaz Masroor was stopped at a police check point and beaten as he was on his way to collect his curfew pass. And on 6 July, at least 12 photographers and cameramen working for local, national and international media suffered serious injuries after being assaulted by security forces trying to stop them from recording the demonstrations. Some had their equipment confiscated. "Senior police officers were heard remarking that without media attention the demonstrations would soon lose momentum," reports IFJ.

Many of the area's more than 60 newspapers decided to suspend publication because of the small number of curfew passes issued to staff and continued attacks on media.

In the region of Jammu, authorities sealed the premises of three publications on 2 July alleging they had carried false news reports that aggravated tensions between religious communities. The next day, two newspapers in English and Urdu, were seized. Text-messaging services remain suspended and telephone services are frequently disrupted in the Kashmir region.

But not all journalists are being denied access. Journalists flying in from Delhi, the capital, are being given armed protection and considerable freedom of movement, while local journalists are confined to their homes under curfew, say IFJ and CPJ. "The story of the ongoing troubles in Kashmir needs to be told," IFJ said. "But it also should be told by journalists based in Kashmir."

Government forces have arrested dozens of suspected separatists and activists, say news reports.

Meanwhile, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, freelance journalist Hem Chandra Pandey was killed on 2 July while covering an armed conflict between police and Maoist cadres of the Communist Party of India. Pandey had travelled to Nagpur to interview the leader of the party. He "was well within his rights in seeking to interview an insurgent leader, especially in the context of ongoing peace moves," said IFJ.

And in another southern state, Kerala, magazine editor T.P. Nandakumar was arrested on defamation charges on 3 July after writing about an Indian businessman, who is a resident in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi. Nandakumar was under court injunction not to publish any material on the businessman, the complainant. His arrest came after an article was posted on the "Crime Magazine" website. Nandakumar was released on bail the next day.

"Crime Magazine" is widely read because of its coverage of alleged misdeeds of several major political parties in the state, having a significant political impact.

Source :

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pakistan against Free Speech

Pakistan is with a few other countries in Asia, uncivilised , root of corruption/violence /terrorism. Its policy keeps people illiterate, ignorant and helpless. It gags who protest for a fair deal. and violates International Law. Look back to its History.It survives on compassion of other countries. UN should do something for its People.

Pakistan poised to vote on restricting media
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani Pakistan's PM said that he would remove restrictions

Pakistan is poised to clamp down on the country's independent media industry.

The government has introduced a bill in parliament which, if passed, would usher in harsher regulations for broadcasters and online organisations.

It seeks to amend a law enforced by Pakistan's former military ruler, Gen Pervez Musharraf, in a bid to regulate parts of the media.

Political analysts fear the government is using the law to rein in broadcasters critical of its policies.

The bill, which targets radio and TV and some online news services, is likely to be voted on within days.

The extent to which new media will be affected by the proposed law is unclear, while print remains unaffected.

The current government, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, has sought to placate censorship fears by claiming that it is diluting the harsher methods introduced by the former dictator.

"We are introducing the bill after disposing of those parts introduced by Musharraf," Belum Hasnain, chairwoman of the parliament's media committee said in a statement.

'Reining in TV'

The committee has to vet the bill, known as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Act, before parliament votes on it.

Ms Hasnain said the bill would remove restrictions on the media, as promised by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani in his inaugural speech.

However, political analysts believe that the government is using the law to rein in local television channels which have grown highly critical of its policies.

According to the bill, broadcasters in Pakistan will be banned from showing images or programming of suicide bombings, terrorists or the bodies of victims of terror attacks.

They will also be prevented from showing related material.

Further, they will not be permitted to broadcast statements by militants or extremists, or activities deemed to be connected with the spread of militancy and extremism.

The broadcaster will also be bound to assure the government that none of its programmes will promote hatred or militancy.

In addition, the law states that programmes opposing the ideology, sanctity, independence and security of the state of Pakistan cannot be broadcast.

Companies that violate the law will have their licences cancelled. They can also be fined up to 10 million rupees ($117,647; £78,740) and jailed for three years.

The bill is likely to raise questions about the government's policy on freedom of speech and dissent, which has hardened considerably over the past three months.

Pakistan has recently blocked several internet sites for allegedly promoting blasphemous content. It has also started monitoring of search engines and email providers including Google, Yahoo and Hotmail.

The electronic media regulatory bill is likely to be presented for vote before the parliament in a few days.


Pakistan to monitor Google and Yahoo for 'blasphemy'
Google website - file Pakistan says the main website will be unaffected

Pakistan will start monitoring seven major websites, including Google and Yahoo, for content it deems offensive to Muslims.

YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail and Bing will also come under scrutiny, while 17 less well-known sites will be blocked.

Officials will monitor the sites and block links deemed inappropriate.

In May, Pakistan banned access to Facebook after the social network hosted a "blasphemous" competition to draw the prophet Muhammad.

The new action will see Pakistani authorities monitor content published on the seven sites, blocking individual pages if content is judged to be offensive.

Telecoms official Khurram Mehran said links would be blocked without disturbing the main website.

Cartoon controversy

The ban on Facebook was lifted after about two weeks, when the site blocked access to the page, called Everybody Draw Muhammad.

Protesters condemn a page of Facebook - May 2010 The Draw Muhammad page on Facebook sparked protests in Pakistan

Facebook itself is not on the new list of websites to be monitored. A number of links from YouTube will be blocked but not the main site itself.

Many Muslims regard depictions of Muhammad, even favourable ones, as blasphemous.

In 2007, the government banned YouTube, allegedly to block material offensive to the government of Pervez Musharraf.

The action led to widespread disruption of access to the site for several hours. The ban was later lifted.


Pakistan blocks access to YouTube in internet crackdown
Women supporters of Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami hold a  placard during a protest against Facebook in Karachi May 19, 2010. Many Pakistanis are angry at the 'Draw Muhammad' competition

Pakistan has blocked the popular video sharing website YouTube because of its "growing sacrilegious content".

Access to the social network Facebook has also been barred as part of a crackdown on websites seen to be hosting un-Islamic content.

On Wednesday a Pakistani court ordered Facebook to be blocked because of a page inviting people to draw images of the Prophet Muhammad.

Some Wikipedia pages are also now being restricted, latest reports say.

Correspondents say it remains to be seen how successful the new bans will be in Pakistan and whether citizens find a way round them.

Because YouTube is a platform for free expression of all sorts, we take great care when we enforce our policies.

YouTube statement Pakistanis divided over bans

YouTube says it is "looking into the matter and working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible". The site was briefly blocked in Pakistan in 2008 - ostensibly for carrying material deemed offensive to Muslims.

Facebook said on Wednesday that the content did not violate its terms.

There have been protests in several Pakistani cities against the Facebook competition.

'Derogatory material'

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said it had ordered internet service providers to "completely shut down" YouTube and prevent Facebook from being viewed within Pakistan.

It said the move came only after "all possible avenues" within its jurisdiction had been used.


Zoe Kleinman

Countries, companies and even individuals can easily block various websites if they choose. China has a notorious firewall in place to control internet activity and many Western organisations choose to block access to social networks in the office.

In this case, Pakistan will probably have instructed its internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent any pages containing the phrase "" in the address from loading on web browsers.

There are various ways of implementing a block and sometimes it can go awry - Pakistan accidentally pulled YouTube offline around the world in 2008 when it tried to implement an internal ban by "hijacking" the address in order to re-direct links to a different page.

There are also ways to duck underneath a ban - most commonly by accessing the internet via a "proxy" server based abroad. This can fool an ISP into thinking a computer is actually based in another country and therefore not subject to the ban.

"Before shutting down (YouTube), we did try just to block particular URLs or links, and access to 450 links on the internet were stopped," said PTA spokesman Khurram Ali Mehran.

"But the blasphemous content kept appearing so we ordered a total shut down."

One of the links blocked is to a BBC News website article about Pakistani soldiers apparently beating Taliban suspects in a video posted on Facebook.

A YouTube spokesperson said: "YouTube offers citizens the world over a vital window on cultures and societies and we believe people should not be denied access to information via video.

"Because YouTube is a platform for free expression of all sorts, we take great care when we enforce our policies. Content that violates our guidelines is removed as soon as we become aware of it."

The controversy began with the Facebook feature called "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day". Depictions of the Prophet are forbidden in Islam.

A message on the item's information page said it was not "trying to slander the average Muslim".

"We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Muhammad depictions that we're not afraid of them."

The page contains drawings and caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and characters from other religions, including Hinduism and Christianity.

"Such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world and cannot be accepted under the garb of freedom of expression," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said about the page.

Facebook said in a statement that it would take action if any content "becomes an attack on anyone, including Muslim people", but that in this case its policies were not violated.

"Facebook values free speech and enables people to express their feelings about a multitude of topics, even some that others may find distasteful or ignorant," the statement said.

A hotline has been set up in Pakistan, asking members of the public to phone in if they see offensive material anywhere.

Islamic parties say they are planning nationwide protests in Pakistan.

Five people were killed in the country in 2006 during violent demonstrations following publication of Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

BBC website readers have been telling us what they think of the ban. Here is a selection of their comments.

I am a university student and use Facebook and Youtube as a way of interacting and staying in touch with friends. But all students are willing to give up this source of entertainment for the sake of principles.

Zahara Sohail Khan from Lahore, Pakistan

The strict policies of Facebook regarding racism and harassment are only for individual users. Now a page on Facebook is harassing billions of Muslims world-over and Facebook's management is not bothered. What hypocrisy.

Maroof from Lahore, Pakistan

I am a Muslim girl, just a normal student. When my religion is insulted, it is me who is insulted. I can live without Facebook but I definitely cannot live in humiliation. I am with my country on this and if Facebook does not take action on this, then ban or no ban, I would never go back to it anyway.

Maham Tanveer from Rawalpindi, Pakistan

As a Muslim growing up in America, I am frustrated that neither side takes the time to understand the other. For Muslims, directly insulting the sacred is beyond petty 'freedom of speech' privileges we mortals have. In the West, people think arrogantly that they are free to say anything without limits whatsoever, no matter how ridiculous or insulting.

Qureshi from Florida, USA

I am now living in Karachi, Pakistan, and I never thought I'd have to endure blocks on websites ever again after I moved from Saudi Arabia. Even though I have found a way to access blocked websites, I can't believe the government would put a ban on them.

Omar from Saudi Arabia

I did use Youtube and Facebook but I have removed my accounts from both sites and have communicated this to all my family and friends who have been using them.

Hassan Mehmood from Pakistan

This is ridiculous. I find these to be ill-advised measures. Blocking websites in countries does not prevent the content from existing in the first place. I think the Pakistani government should move to ban pornography (which is still easily available) before they ban Facebook and YouTube which are obviously on the better side of human development.

Myra from Karachi, Pakistan

This has been outrageous and infuriating. I feel disconnected from the world, from my friends, and from the easiest modes of expression available today.

Uzma from Lahore, Pakistan

It is not only Facebook and YouTube which have been blocked in Pakistan, but parts of the BBC website too, for example the link given below, many stories about Pakistan and the entire South-East Asia section. In fact, I am forced to use a proxy server just to post this comment. As a Pakistani, I feel very frustrated and angry about this crackdown on the internet and can only hope that this is temporary.

Schyan Zafar from Pakistan

Know more about Pakistan :

  • Full name: Islamic Republic of Pakistan
  • Population: 180.8 million (UN, 2009)
  • Capital: Islamabad
  • Largest city: Karachi
  • Area: 796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles), excluding Pakistani-administered Kashmir (83,716 sq km/32,323 sq miles)
  • Major languages: English, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Life expectancy: 66 years (men), 67 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Pakistani Rupee = 100 paisa
  • Main exports: Textile products, rice, cotton, leather goods
  • GNI per capita: US $980 (World Bank, 2008)
  • Internet domain: .pk
  • International dialling code: +92
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Kenya: against Harmful Speech

28 June 2010

Kenya: Timely National Conference on Freedom of Expression and Regulations against Harmful Speech

On 17-18 June, over 25 experts and 150 stakeholders from key national reform agencies, the United Nations, and civil society organisations including ARTICLE 19 debated the values and limits of freedom of expression and regulations against harmful speech in Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya has witnessed repeated ethnic violence during general elections and national referenda from 1992 to the present.

The conference was organised by ARTICLE 19 Kenya & Eastern Africa together with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. It came on the heels of recent prosecutions against political leaders charged with hate speech and incitement to violence in the conduct of their campaigns against the proposed Constitution of Kenya. The new draft constitution will be the object of a national referendum on 4 August 2010.

The Conference sought to move the acrimonious debates to a sounder international human rights basis, through a focus on Article 19 and Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The conference created a platform for technical readings and debates on freedom of expression and its permissible restrictions under the international human rights law. It also offered an opportunity to assess whether Kenyan hate speech regulations – particularly the National Cohesion and Integration Act, Section 13, Penal Code, Media Act, Kenya Communications Act and the Broadcasting Regulations – meet international standards.

The meeting was opened by Michael Hasenau, Deputy Head of Mission, German Embassy; Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia, Chairperson of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission in Kenya; and Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19.

“The rights to freedom of expression, equality and freedom from discrimination are universal and mutually reinforcing. They transcend ethnic, racial and cultural specificities. It does mean that censorship is not only a violation to freedom of expression. It also violates the right to equality and to be free from discrimination. Hate speech and incitement to violence strives on censorship, says Callamard.

Some of the key points highlighted by the experts included:

• A recognition that incitement and advocacy to hatred on the basis of sex, ethnicity, race, disability, age or religion must be prohibited (it is an obligation placed on states under international human rights law). However such restrictions must be provided in law, meet a legitimate aim, such as to protect the rights and reputations of others, and be necessary to a democratic society

• There is convergence between freedom of expression (as provided for by Article 19 of ICCPR) and the restrictions imposed by Article 20. Hate speech is “valueless speech and therefore not protected in international law”

Restrictions of freedom of expression should be clearly and narrowly defined to ensure that they are not overbroad, and do not restrict legitimate speech or go beyond the scope of harmful speech

Kenya has adopted a number of legislations prohibiting any advocacy of national racial, ethnic or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. However, there is still need for the state authorities to review and harmonise laws on hate speech to ensure they conform to acceptable international standards

There was general agreement that there was no need for an additional legislation on hate speech in Kenya, but the need for testing the effectiveness of current legislation through litigation and norm-setting, including by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission

There were debates as to the role played by the criminalisation of hate speech; for some it sets a society’s normative standards and may have an educational function. But we need to consider a range of sanctions against hate speech, not only those resulting in a restriction of freedom of expression. We need to take into account possible misuse of criminalisation, including against minorities, marginalised groups and those expressing political dissent

A series of other mechanisms and options should be considered, such as those aiming at strengthening the participation of all minorities to the public and political life of Kenya; strengthening human rights education and knowledge, for example on religion; protecting minority and community media; ethical journalism and particularly reporting in a multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural society; intra-ethnic and intra-religious dialogue; meaningful and enforceable code of conduct for MPs and political leaders

The 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the 2001 UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa should be promoted.

Hate speech regulations are required under international law. But we must be aware that this is a blunt instrument, which must be implemented carefully and wisely. In too many places around the world, hate speech regulations are used to prohibit legitimate speeches and political dissent. We must allow for a range of policies and best practices to guide interventions in Kenya,” says Callamard.

“We admit that the National Cohesion and Integration Commission Act was quickly assembled and some aspects of it may have been left out as has been pointed by the various speakers during the conference, especially that fact that the borderline between freedom of speech and hate speech is very thin and care must be taken to balance the two issues,” Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia, the Chairman of the NCIC notes.

“I appreciate that such discussions are essential because, talking about the hate speech is an important step towards solving the issue of hate speech in this country. The debates during the conference therefore produce an introductory and broad framework to facilitate future interventions on the issue without necessarily infringing on other freedoms” he adds.

All participants to the conference emphasised the need for a continued dialogue and exchange on the issues of freedom of expression, equality and non-discrimination to build on the Conference key findings.


• For more information please contact: Victor Bwire, Programme Officer, ARTICLE 19 Kenya/Eastern Africa,, +254 20 3862230/2.

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