Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org the voice of free expression Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:09:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=410 the voice of free expression Index on Censorship no the voice of free expression Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/Free_Speech_Bites_Logo.jpg http://www.indexoncensorship.org 30 Oct: We Are the Giant screening + discussion at BFI http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/30-oct-giant-screening-discussion-bfi/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/30-oct-giant-screening-discussion-bfi/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:42:16 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61200 Index on Censorship is partnering with the BFI and others for a screening of We Are the Giant – a documentary featuring inspirational and gripping stories of six individuals who spoke their minds during the Arab Spring including Bahraini activist Maryam Al-Khawaja. The screening will be followed by a discussion featuring Maryam and Index on Censorship’s Melody […]

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Index on Censorship is partnering with the BFI and others for a screening of We Are the Giant – a documentary featuring inspirational and gripping stories of six individuals who spoke their minds during the Arab Spring including Bahraini activist Maryam Al-Khawaja. The screening will be followed by a discussion featuring Maryam and Index on Censorship’s Melody Patry.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Greg Barker and first presented at the Sundance Film Festival 2014, We Are the Giant tells the stories of six ordinary individuals who are transformed by the critical, moral and personal challenges they encounter when standing up for what they believe is right during the Arab Spring.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Bahraini human rights activist Maryam Al-Khawaja with Greg Barker (film director), Kristyan Benedict (Amnesty International) and Melody Patry (Index on Censorship). The chair will be New York Times columnist and Arab spring authority Roger Cohen.

WHEN: Thursday 30th October, 6.20pm
WHERE: BFI Southbank, London
TICKETS: Available to buy here

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Erdogan cartoons: how artists responded to case against a Turkish colleague http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/cartoon-erdogan-turkey-martin-rowson-musa-kart/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/cartoon-erdogan-turkey-martin-rowson-musa-kart/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:15:12 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61184 When political cartoonist Musa Kart faced nine years in prison for “insulting” President Erdogan, his colleagues from around the world showed solidarity through their own caricatures

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When Turkish political cartoonist Musa Kart faced nine years in prison for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his colleagues from across the world fought back in the best way they know how — by drawing their own #erdogancaricature.

Image: Martin Rowson

By: Martin Rowson

The online campaign was started on Thursday by Martin Rowson, cartoonist for The Guardian, The Independent and Index on Censorship among others, as Kart was scheduled to appear in court.

Erdogan himself filed the complaint against Kart over a cartoon published in the daily Cumhuriyet on 1 February 2014 showing the then prime minister as a hologram watching over a robbery. This was a reference to his alleged involvement covering up a high-profile graft scandal.

Erdogan claimed Kart was guilty of “insulting through publication and slander,” reports Today Zaman. And while the court initially ruled that there were no legal grounds for action, this decision was revoked following complaints from Erdogan’s lawyer. Kart was also fined in 2005 for drawing Erdogan as a cat.

In court on Thursday, Kart stated: “Yes, I drew it [the cartoon] but I did not mean to insult. I just wanted to show the facts. Indeed, I think that we are inside a cartoon right now. Because I am in the suspect’s seat while charges were dropped against all the suspects [involved in two major graft scandals]. I need to say that this is funny.”

He was finally acquitted, but many of his fellow cartoonists has already shared their artistic interpretations of Erdogan and the case.

Image: Morten Morland

By: Morten Morland

(Image: Ben Jennings)

By: Ben Jennings

“I was alerted to Musa Kart’s plight by the excellent Cartoonists’ Rights Network International (CRNI) and previously, when an Iranian cartoonist was sentenced to 40 lashes, a bunch of us got together to draw the offended politician who’d had him arrested, the sentence was commuted,” Martin Rowson told Index via email.

(Image: Steve Bright)

By: Steve Bright

(Image: Kanika Mishra)

By: Kanika Mishra

“It seems this kind of international bullying by cartoon does have an effect, as even the chippiest despot out there can usually detect a batsqueak of the shamefulness of not being able to take a joke. In Musa Kart’s case, the threat of up to nine years in prison was such an outrageous abuse of power I didn’t wait for anyone else to organise this and simply put out a call via Twitter for cartoons of Erdogan to show solidarity. No idea if it had any effect on the court (I doubt it) though it may put Erdogan off the idea of taking the case to a higher court. I hope so. And I hope it gave Musa Kart a feeling that he wasn’t on his own in there. Basically, this is cartoonists playing the Spartacus card, because if one of us, anywhere, is persecuted for laughing at power, we all are,” said Rowson.

(Image: Harry Burton)

By: Harry Burton

(By: Brian Adcock)

By: Brian Adcock

“Cartoonists are often the last bastion of free speech in repressive regimes and equally valued for telling the truth as it is, in democratic societies too; some consider their work to be of just as much value, if not more, as journalists, and many respected for the courage and ability to often say and report what others cannot, or fear to do, alongside the just as valued use of satire to reveal a truth which otherwise might not see the light of day,” Patricia Bargh from CRNI explained to Index in an email.

By: Mike Roberts

By: Mike Roberts

(Image: Tjeerd Royaards)

By: Tjeerd Royaards

“Thus as societies we should value and protect their right to do what they do, and if they know there is an organisation out there who will take up their case, should they be targeted, we hope that gives them the confidence to continue to on and assists them in their valuable work too,” Bargh added.

This article was originally posted on 20 October at indexoncensorship.org

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The future of journalism: “the world is going to be less informed” http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/autumn-magazine-launch-future-journalism/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/autumn-magazine-launch-future-journalism/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:48:36 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61177

There was a lively debate about whether future journalism will make the public more informed at the launch of the latest Index on Censorship magazine at the Frontline Club

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“If we do not change, I think the world will suffer enormously … as a world we’re going to be less and less informed,” said Amie Ferris-Rotman, former Reuters Afghanistan correspondent and panellist for Index on Censorship’s future of journalism at London’s Frontline Club on Wednesday. Ferris-Rotman highlighted concerns over shrinking coverage of world news due to reduction in foreign desks’s budgets, as well as the increasing reliance on underpaid freelancers – especially in conflict zones.

The sold-out event was chaired by columnist, author and Index chairman David Aaronovitch. The panel also included journalism professor Richard Sambrook; director of Hostage UK Rachel Briggs; former Reuters Afghanistan correspondent Amie Ferris-Rotman; and Raymond Joseph, a data journalist and former regional editor of the South African Sunday Times, who appeared via Skype from South Africa.

The debate looked at serious issues affecting journalists today, from surveillance and encryption, to kidnappings and how the media, in turn, should cover kidnappings.

Talking points included whether Isis are using techniques of citizen journalism to spread their propaganda; and how verification is crucial when using information from social media.

Sambrook said hearing something on Twitter doesn’t make it journalism, although it could be vital as “raw material, or a lead”. Joseph spoke of the need to “separate the news from the noise”.

In addition to the main panel, a future panel also provided a contrasting view through the eyes of a selection of young people at the beginning of their journalism careers.

Below are some highlights from the Twitter discussion that took place under the hashtag #futurejournalism.

This article was originally posted on 24 October at indexoncensorship.org

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Stricter and subtler: how China has ramped up instant messaging censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/line-app-implements-stricter-advanced-censorship-technology/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/line-app-implements-stricter-advanced-censorship-technology/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:13:58 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61061 The chat application LINE has strengthened its censorship methods in mainland China by targeting phrases and word combinations.

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(Image: Screengrab from linecorp.com/en/)

The instant messaging app LINE has strengthened its censorship methods in mainland China, according to new findings from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. The academic researchers not only found proof that the app now censors more topics than ever before, but also that LINE is censoring in a way that is harder to detect for the average user.

Want to discuss the China’s ruling Communist Party (CPC) with your friends on LINE? Go ahead. Compare foreign leaders to dictators? No problem, chat away. Unless you mention both the CPC and dictatorship in one chat message, you won’t notice LINE’s new censorship policy. That’s because LINE recently “improved” its censorship methods in China by adding almost fifty so-called regular expressions to its long list of taboo subjects; that is, groups of words that users are allowed to use independently, but not in combination.

The findings are interesting because LINE’s novel use of regular expressions allows a more subtle form of censorship, argues Jason Q. Ng, one of the researchers at the University of Toronto. “It allows for a more nuanced censorship for topics such as Xinjiang, instead of just a blanket block,” he told Pao-Pao over the phone, referring to the western province which has long been plagued by tensions between Chinese authorities and the indigenous Uighur people.

That’s positive for the authorities, he explains: “If you hide a smaller set of things, less people will encounter censorship than if you block everything related to a certain topic. Many people might want to speak in a so-called ‘legitimate’ way on a topic like Xinjiang, so if [the censors] block everything related to the topic, it will just make those people curious about the censorship, and the reasons behind its existence.”

Ng says that he thinks that the new method of censorship will only hinder the small minority of people already aware of the existence of censorship. One of the new, blocked combinations of words on LINE includes “Xinjiang”(新疆)and “independent” (獨立). Similar censorship techniques have already been implemented on Weibo, also known as Chinese Twitter.

There’s a whimsical name for the phenomenon that the Chinese authorities are trying to avoid with these new techniques: the Streisand effect, after American singer Barbara Streisand. In 2003, she attempted to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California by suing a photographer. The lawsuit ended up inadvertently generating a storm of publicity: whereas only six people had viewed the photographs before the lawsuits — two of which were her attorneys — the case caused 420,000 people to look up the photos within the month.

But it is a serious principle, as demonstrated earlier this month, during the protests in Hong Kong which were in a sense also a prime example of the dreaded Streisand effect. After a few students were teargassed by the police in an effort to suppress their protest, local outrage and support only swelled, resulting in a much higher turnout at demonstrations on the following days.

The Citizen Lab researchers have been tracking and analyzing LINE’s censorship for close to a year. They have reverse engineered the application, finding that when the user’s country is set to China it will enable censorship by downloading a list of banned words from a website called Naver. Whenever the list is updated, they study the differences compared to previous lists.

In a post on their website, Citizen Lab also show users how they can change their regional settings, allowing them to circumvent censorship on LINE within China.

In Citizen Lab’s report on the new methods, the researchers conclude that the new list “demonstrates LINE Corporation’s continued commitment to filtering keywords for users based in China and a push to improve the underlying technology”.

Still, Jason Q. Ng says that it is hard to say whether LINE’s censorship is better or worse than other chat apps like WeChat. “For LINE it is easier to see the exact way they censor,” he says. “Normally we can’t do that: we have to test the app word by word. We are still working on WeChat. Also, it depends on the way you measure: some apps might censor less, but have the ability to surveil a lot. That might be worse for the users.”

This article was originally published at pao-pao.net

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22 Oct: Eyes wide shut? Will the future of journalism mean we are better informed? http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/save-date-autumn-magazine-launch-22-oct/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/save-date-autumn-magazine-launch-22-oct/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:09:45 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59977 Don't miss the launch of the autumn edition of Index on Censorship magazine

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Index on Censorship autumn magazine

Index on Censorship autumn magazine

This event is SOLD OUT. A live stream is available on this page and you can follow the online discussion via #futurejournalism. You can also email javiera@indexoncensorship.org to be added to the waiting list.

Don’t miss the launch of the autumn edition of the Index on Censorship magazine, where there will be lively discussion around the question: Eyes Wide Shut? Will The Future of Journalism Mean We Are Any Better Informed? The discussion will tackle questions about whether changes within journalism will leave the public knowing more or less than they have in the past. Will new technologies bring us greater depth of information? Will news survive or will celebrity gossip take over? Will citizen journalism carry more weight than traditional TV channels?

The event will be chaired by columnist, author and Index chairman David Aaronovitch, and introduced by Index on Censorship magazine editor Rachael Jolley.

Speakers include:

  • Richard Sambrook: professor of journalism and director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University and former director of global news at the BBC.
  • Raymond Joseph: data journalist and former regional editor of the South African Sunday Times.
  • Rachel Briggs: director of Hostage UK and deputy director of the Institute of Strategic Dialogue.
  • Amie Ferris-Rotman: John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and former senior correspondent for Reuters in Afghanistan.

WHEN: 630pm, Wednesday 22 October

WHERE: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ (map)

This event is SOLD OUT. A live stream of the event will be available from this page on Oct 22.

See footage from the launch of the summer magazine here.

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From drones to floating smartphones: how technology is helping African journalists investigate http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/african-investigative-journalists-technology-raymond-joseph-ioc/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/african-investigative-journalists-technology-raymond-joseph-ioc/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:10:09 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59875 Data journalist Raymond Joseph reports on how low-cost technology is helping African newsrooms get hold of information that they couldn't previously track

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Quadcopters, like this one flown by Ben Kreimer of the University of Nebraska’s Drone Journalism Lab, are being used by African SkyCam to collect images. Credit: AfricanSkyCAM/University of Nebraska

Quadcopters, like this one flown by Ben Kreimer of the University of Nebraska’s Drone Journalism Lab, are being used by AfricanSkyCam to collect images. (Photo: AfricanSkyCAM/University of Nebraska)

Putting old smartphones in plastic bottles in rivers to check water pollution is just one of the ways easy-to-use technology is helping investigative journalists across Africa carry out research, even on small budgets. Raymond Joseph’s feature, below, is taken from the special report on the future of journalism in the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine. You can hear him speak on Index’s expert panel at the Frontline Club on Wednesday 22 October; the event is now sold out but will be live-streamed on indexconcensorship.org. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter via #futurejournalism.  

Deep in Mpumalanga province, in the far north-east of South Africa, a poorly resourced newspaper is using a combination of high and low tech solutions to make a difference in the lives of the communities it serves.

It is also pioneering a new and innovative form of journalism that not only places its readers at the centre of its coverage, but also involves them directly in the newsgathering operation.

What this small newspaper does is a lesson for bigger, more established media outlets, which are searching for new non-traditional revenue streams and which, in the age of online and digital journalism, struggle to survive and remain relevant.

The Ziwaphi community-based newspaper is distributed to communities in the Nkomazi district, situated at the epicentre of the South Africa AIDS pandemic, where there is very little access to news reporting. One of the biggest problems in the area is water contaminated with sewage. Women and young girls spend hours every day collecting water from rivers for drinking, cooking and washing, but these same rivers are also often used to dispose of human waste. As a result the E.coli count sometimes spikes, causing diarrhoea. And every few years, there is an outbreak of cholera.

Using a grant, and technology assistance from the African Media Initiative (AMI), which is spearheading the drive to embed data-driven journalism in African newsrooms, Ziwaphi is placing old smartphones submerged in clear plastic bottles in rivers in the area. Functioning as simple electron microscopes, the phones use their cameras to take regular flash-lit pictures. These photographs are then magnified and compared against images from an existing database to detect dangerous levels of E.coli. The results are delivered via SMS to residents, informing them where it’s safe to collect water.

Completing the circle, the newspaper analyses the real-time data to detect trends, and hopefully even triangulates the sources of contamination.

Once a month, Ziwaphi publishes an in-depth story based on the results, which is shared with other community papers and local radio stations in the area. The hope is the information can then empower ordinary people in the region to force the government to deliver clean water and sanitation. Ziwaphi’s readers also help gather information themselves using a mobile-based citizen reporting app which supplements the smartphone data with eyewitness stories about the impacts of the pollution, and possible sources of contamination.

“The total project only cost $20 000, including a modest salary for a year for a full-time health reporter,” says Justin ­Arenstein, a strategist for AMI. “But the important thing, from a media sustainability perspective, is that Ziwaphi is using the water project to build the digital backbone it will need to survive in the near future.”

Until recently Africa lagged behind the rest of the world where the internet was concerned, because of the high cost of access. But now the deployment of new undersea cables is helping bring down the cost of connectivity, especially in east and southern Africa. This has sparked an exciting new era for journalism, with an explosion of ideas and innovations that are producing “news you can use” tools. Established media is increasingly reaching out to citizens to involve them in their news-gathering and content production processes. The phone-in-a-bottle project is an example of what can be done with limited resources.

In Kenya, the Radio Group, the third largest media house, has set up Star Health, the first in a set of toolkits to help readers do easy background checks on doctors and learn whether they have ever been found guilty of malpractice. In one case a man working as a doctor turned out to be a vet.

The site, which has proved to be a big hit in a country where dodgy doctors are a major problem, also helps users locate medical specialists and their nearest health facility. It can also be used to check whether medicines are covered by the national health scheme. Importantly, the results of queries on Star Health are delivered via a premium SMS service that generates an income stream, crucial in an age when media needs to diversify revenue models away from reliance on advertising and, in some case, copy sales.

“These tools don’t replace traditional journalism, rather they augment journalistic reportage by, for example, helping readers to find out how a national story on dodgy doctors personally affects them,” says Arenstein. News must be personal and actionable and should become an important part of the media’s digital transformation strategies, he stresses.

The reality of journalism today is that, even though outlets may not have the large audiences of conventional media, anyone with a smartphone or basic digital skills has the ability to be a “publisher”.

In Nigeria, for example, the Sahara online community has over a million followers on social media, far more than many media houses. The challenge in the future will be for newsrooms to tap into these grassroots networks, but still keep citizens’ voices at their centre.

A pioneering project in Nigeria’s isolated Delta region has seen the mainstream media working with an existing citizen-reporting network, Naija Voices, to adopt remote-controlled drones fitted with cameras to monitor for environmentally destructive oil spills. The plan is to syndicate the footage to mainstream TV and newspaper partners in Lagos and Abuja. This would allow the newspapers unprecedented reach into parts of the country that had previously been largely inaccessible.

The fixed-wing drones are relatively cheap and simple to fly, but they crash from time to time. “Getting new parts, like the wings or pieces of the fuselage, would be costly and time consuming, so we’re experimenting with 3D printers to create parts onsite and on demand,” says Arenstein.

This citizen-reporting experiment builds on the work of AfricanSkyCam which for the past year has been experimenting with drones in Kenya as part of “Africa’s first newsroom-based eye-in-the-sky”. SkyCam uses drones and camera-equipped balloons to help media that cannot afford news helicopters to cover breaking news in dangerous situations or difficult to reach locations.

In South Africa, Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Reporting is using “geo journalism” and other mapping techniques to amplify its reporting and to analyse stories such as rhino poaching and canned lion ­hunting – breeding tame lions for wealthy trophy-hunters to shoot. Investigations help uncover trends or links to criminal syndicates and the Oxpeckers Center’s reportage is credited with promoting a recent ban on canned hunting in Botswana, and helping to shape laws on trade in rhino and other wildlife products in China and in Mozambique.

But the reality is that poorly resourced African newsrooms seldom have the in-house technology or digital skills to build new online tools.

So, AMI’s digital innovation programme and similar initiatives at Google, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and at smaller donors including the Indigo Trust are all building external support systems to help newsrooms leapfrog into a digital future.

Donors are also focusing on embedding data journalism approaches into mainstream media. They are helping journalists use publicly available digital information from sources such as censuses or government budgets to build decision-making tools to help ordinary citizens make better informed decisions on bread and butter issues affecting their lives.

Helping drive the new-tech approach is Code for Africa, a network of civic technology labs planned for countries across the continent to help drive innovation and to work with media and citizen journalist networks, to help them bridge the digital divide.

Code for South Africa (C4SA) is helping everyone, from the township-based Ziwaphi and its cholera alert project, to national media outlets, such as the Mail & Guardian and City Press.

“The media know they’re in crisis, with their advertising-based business model under threat as audiences shift online, but digital innovation is still a hard sell,” says C4SA director Adi Eyal. “Progress is painstakingly slow because many African media owners are hesitant to invest before they know how these new models will generate revenue. The result is that much of what South African newsrooms are calling home-grown data journalism is just visualisation. They’re creating very little actionable information and virtually no news tools that people can use to make decisions. The investment in a one-off project is high, so it is important that the tools that are built live on, so that newsrooms can use them to report on issues and people can act.”

Progress is painstakingly slow, but nevertheless the building blocks are slowly being put in place as the “root stock” — datasets from across Africa — is collected and collated on the African Open Data portal for both newsroom journalists and civic coders to use. The data means they can create applications and tools which will help them build communities and generate income.

C4SA is also building an “invisible” back-end infrastructure that newsrooms can help build news tools quickly and cheaply. This includes support for initiatives such as OpenAfrica that helps newsrooms digitise and extract data from source documents. C4SA has also built a series of open, machine-readable, data rich application programming interfaces (APIs) that newsrooms can easily plug into their mobile apps or websites. The APIs drive tools like WaziMap, which uses censuses, elections and other data to help journalists to dig into the make up of communities, right down to local ward level. Each of these resources is a tool not only for the media, but also for civic activists and public watchdogs, says Arenstein.

In a recent column on the future of newspapers, Ferial Haffajee, the editor of City Press, a national South African Sunday newspaper that is struggling to reinvent itself in the digital age, wrote: “Nothing is as it was. Nor are most things what they seem. We have a future, and it is tantalising.”

And you just need to look at the smartphones in a bottle and 3D-printed drones to know that this future is slowly, newsroom by newsroom, project by project, becoming a reality.

Read more about the future of journalism in Index on Censorship’s latest magazine. Read more here and find out how to subscribe either in print, digital replica or app. 

This article was posted on 21 October at indexoncensorship.org

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Bahrain: Rights activist jailed over tweet is denied bail http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/bahrain-rights-activist-jailed-tweet-denied-bail/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/bahrain-rights-activist-jailed-tweet-denied-bail/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:08:04 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61097 The trial of Index award winner Nabeel Rajab has been adjourned until 29 November

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Nabeel Rajab during a protest in London in September (Photo: Milana Knezevic)

Nabeel Rajab during a protest in London in September (Photo: Milana Knezevic)

Jailed Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been denied bail and his hearing has been adjourned until 29 November. The decision came on 19 October, the opening day of his trial. Rajab, a well-known activist who has played a prominent part in Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement, is facing charges of insulting government institutions through the following tweet:

According to his Twitter account, which has been run by an associate since Rajab’s arrest on 1 October, Sunday’s court session was “monitored” by representatives from “at least nine embassies“, including the US, UK and France. Family members were denied entry to the courtroom. Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), a 2012 Index Freedom of Expression Award winner, and director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), was released in May after two years in prison on charges including sending offensive tweets and taking part in illegal protests.

While in London in September, Rajab told Index about the human rights and free speech situation in Bahrain, saying that “at least 50,000 people” had been in and out of jail in the past three months alone, “just for practising their right to freedom of assembly, freedom of gathering, freedom of expression”.

Index has joined eight other organisations in asking the UK to speak out on the imprisonment of Rajab and other activists in Bahrain. The Norwegian government has called on Bahraini authorities to close the case against Rajab, while US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has also called for his release.

This article was originally posted on 20 October at indexoncensorship.org

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Grayling’s plans for tougher sentencing are unlikely to act as a deterrent to trolls http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/graylings-plans-tougher-sentencing-unlikely-act-deterrent-trolls/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/graylings-plans-tougher-sentencing-unlikely-act-deterrent-trolls/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:55:14 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61093 The UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced plans to increase the maximum prison sentence for online abuse, or trolling, to two years. Laws already exist for dealing with harassment and threats of violence, and the Crown Prosecution Service last year issued clear and strict guidelines on what kind of online speech constituted a crime. […]

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The UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced plans to increase the maximum prison sentence for online abuse, or trolling, to two years. Laws already exist for dealing with harassment and threats of violence, and the Crown Prosecution Service last year issued clear and strict guidelines on what kind of online speech constituted a crime. Calls for tougher sentencing are unlikely to act as a deterrent to trolls and could have a far more insidious effect — encouraging more arrests and prosecution for free speech that is neither threatening nor harassment, but which simply offends.

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Foreign Secretary: Use UK influence on Bahrain to free Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/foreign-secretary-use-influence-bahrain-free-nabeel-rajab-zainab-al-khawaja-ghada-jamsheer/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/foreign-secretary-use-influence-bahrain-free-nabeel-rajab-zainab-al-khawaja-ghada-jamsheer/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:14:38 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61072 Dear Mr. Hammond, We are writing to you in light of your current tour of Gulf Cooperation Council countries regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer in Bahrain for cases of peaceful expression. Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director […]

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Dear Mr. Hammond,

We are writing to you in light of your current tour of Gulf Cooperation Council countries regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer in Bahrain for cases of peaceful expression.

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), remains in prison following his arrest for a tweet in which he expressed his view about the role Bahrain security institutions play as “incubators of ISIS ideology”.  Mr. Rajab had travelled to Bahrain from the United Kingdom following a European advocacy tour that included a panel at the House of Lords.

His detention has been criticised internationally. The United Nations has warned that it sends a “chilling message”. The Norwegian government has recently advised that the arrest of Mr. Rajab sends a negative message and has called for his immediate release. The European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights has voiced serious concerns over his arrest and detention and the United States State Department has called on Bahrain to drop the charges against him.

We urge the United Kingdom to add its voice to these universal calls. As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain. You will recall that the UK signed a joint statement during the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which urged the government of Bahrain “to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention”. We ask you to follow up on this statement by calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both Mr. Rajab and Ms. Al-Khawaja who have been detained solely for exercising their human right to free expression.

Zainab Al-Khawaja is a prominent activist in Bahrain, who is facing serious charges of “publicly insulting the King” after ripping a photo of him during a court hearing. The case, which runs contrary to Bahrain’s international human rights obligations, was immediately transferred to the Higher Criminal Court in Bahrain meaning that she now faces up to seven years in prison for a peaceful act of expression. It is important to note that Ms. Al-Khawaja is eight months pregnant, and faces the possibility of going into labour in arbitrary detention.

Amnesty International has criticised the decision and called for her immediate release arguing”laws that prohibit insults or the disrespect of heads of state or other public figures are contrary to international human rights law and standards”.

Her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the GCHR, is also facing prison on charges of assault brought against her after she arrived in Bahrain on 30 August to try to visit her father, jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, founder of BCHR and GCHR. She was released after two weeks but is due in court on 5 November.

In addition to these cases, women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer was arrested and imprisoned on 15 September, on charges of defamation on Twitter. She remains in detention and will face court prosecution on charges related to her freedom of expression on 22 October.

The arrest and ongoing detention of both Mr. Rajab and Ms. Al-Khawaja threaten to destabilise further an already unstable country.  It is imperative that human rights advocates are not targeted for exercising their human rights peacefully. The work of human rights defenders often requires criticising governments as noted by the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which call for this role to be “recognised and supported”.

We urge the British government to demand the immediate release of all detained human rights defenders and activists in Bahrain.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

English PEN

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Index on Censorship

Pen International

Redress

Reprieve

 

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Rights groups call on UK to press Bahrain to release human rights defenders http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/rights-groups-call-uk-press-bahrain-release-human-rights-defenders/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/10/rights-groups-call-uk-press-bahrain-release-human-rights-defenders/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:14:30 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=61076 Nine human rights organisations called on the British government on Friday to speak out publicly in the case of activists currently being detained in Bahrain. Prominent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer have all been arrested and face lengthy prison sentences in Bahrain for cases of peaceful expression. Nabeel Rajab, the […]

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BIRD-Logos

Nine human rights organisations called on the British government on Friday to speak out publicly in the case of activists currently being detained in Bahrain. Prominent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer have all been arrested and face lengthy prison sentences in Bahrain for cases of peaceful expression.

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was arrested for a tweet in which he expressed his view about the role Bahrain security institutions play as “incubators of ISIS ideology”.  Mr. Rajab had travelled to Bahrain from the United Kingdom following a European advocacy tour that included a panel at the UK House of Lords. In an open letter to UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, rights groups Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, English PEN, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Index on Censorship and Reprieve urged the United Kingdom to add its voice to these universal calls.

“As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain,” the groups said in the letter. “As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain”.

Last month, the UK signed a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council, which urged the government of Bahrain “to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained.”

 The open letter to Philip Hammond can be read here.

More information about Nabeel Rajab and  Zainab Al-Khawaja

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