Index on Censorship https://www.indexoncensorship.org the voice of free expression Thu, 28 May 2015 15:20:31 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=419 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 https://www.indexoncensorship.org Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais receives six-month suspended sentence https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/angolan-journalist-rafael-marques-de-morais-receives-six-month-suspended-sentence/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/angolan-journalist-rafael-marques-de-morais-receives-six-month-suspended-sentence/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 14:54:00 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66470 Angolan investigative journalist and Index on Censorship award-winner Rafael Marques de Morais was handed down a six-month suspended sentence in Luanda on Thursday 28 May 2015, less than a week after celebrating an apparent dismissal of all charges.

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Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Sean Gallagher/Index on Censorship)

Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Sean Gallagher/Index on Censorship)

Angolan investigative journalist and Index on Censorship award-winner Rafael Marques de Morais was handed down a six-month suspended sentence in Luanda on Thursday 28 May 2015, less than a week after celebrating an apparent dismissal of all charges.

Last Thursday, it had been widely understood that the case against him – in which he was accused of defaming several generals in a 2011 book about human-rights violations in the diamond industry – had been dropped. All parties appeared to have reached an agreement, whereby Marques would not republish his book but could continue his work.

However, the public prosecutor said on Monday 25 May 2015 that Marques’ statement was an admission of guilt and called for him to receive a suspended sentence.

Speaking to Index ahead of the sentencing, Marques said: “The public prosecutor put words in my mouth. He said that I had apologised, and had admitted to have written falsehoods.”

Marques’ witnesses, including a mother of a victim who was hacked to death in the Lundas mining region, were never given the chance to speak in court, after the case was “dismissed” in a move that Marques now believes was “a trick”.


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Rafael Marques de Morais: “They can lock me up, but they don’t get to silence me”
Joint Letter: Prosecution of Rafael Marques de Morais
Index condemns decision to move for conviction of Rafael Marques de Morais
Rafael Marques de Morais: I believe in the power of solidarity

Marques has been convicted for malicious prosecution, not defamation. The malicious prosecution charges (saying that he intentionally submitted false evidence)  were added – in another unexpected move – on his first day in court in March.

The six-month suspended sentence has a term of two years, during which if he engages in any behaviour the state deems as criminal, the sentence will be implemented. Marques will be launching an appeal.

Over 50 signatories – including Index on Censorship, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international NGOs ­– have written a letter to Angolan President José Eduardo Dos Santos, demanding urgent action on Marques’ case and calling for Angola’s criminal defamation laws to be abolished.

In March, just days before the trial started, Marques attended Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards in London, where he received the journalism award for his courageous and vital investigations. In a speech, he said: “I am proud and honoured to stand up against such a mighty power to enable many of the victims to speak out through my reports, which I have been producing for the past 10 years.”

Index on Censorship’s CEO Jodie Ginsberg said: “We are appalled to hear that Rafael has been sentenced after an absurd process. This is a clear violation of rights to free expression, to a free press and to a fair trial. We are extremely concerned not only about Rafael, whose work is so incredibly important, but also that cases like this are being used to deter others from speaking out. We feel a suspended sentence over two years will curb his ongoing work, which has recently included highlighting Angola’s press restrictions and reporting on a massacre of members of a sect by police forces.”

This article was posted on 28 May 2015 at indexoncensorship.org

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5 June: Rosewater film screening + Q&A with Maziar Bahari https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/5-june-rosewater-film-screening-qa-with-maziar-bahari/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/5-june-rosewater-film-screening-qa-with-maziar-bahari/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 10:30:07 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66445 In June 2009, London-based journalist Maziar Bahari returns to his homeland of Iran to report for the BBC on the elections, where, finding himself embroiled in the maelstrom of unrest that follows Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration, he documents the protests from the streets of Tehran. The morning after, he is arrested by the Revolutionary Guard on […]

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In June 2009, London-based journalist Maziar Bahari returns to his homeland of Iran to report for the BBC on the elections, where, finding himself embroiled in the maelstrom of unrest that follows Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration, he documents the protests from the streets of Tehran. The morning after, he is arrested by the Revolutionary Guard on a charge of treason and incarcerated for 118 days. Based on real events, ROSEWATER achieves a superb balance between the plight of the individual and the wider, ethical and political implications of the story.

This film screening will be followed by a discussion exploring the threats to, and limits of, our right to freedom of expression featuring Maziar Bahari alongside the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre and David Heinemann of Index on Censorship.

When: Friday 5 June 2015, 7.45pm
Where: Broadway Cinema, Nottingham (map)
Tickets: £8. Book here.

Presented in collaboration with the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre and IranWire’s ‘Journalism is not a crime’.

RELATED: Maziar Bahari’s keynote speech at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards 2010

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Padraig Reidy: We cannot choose which free speech we will defend and which we will not https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/padraig-reidy-we-cannot-choose-which-free-speech-we-will-defend-and-which-we-will-not/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/padraig-reidy-we-cannot-choose-which-free-speech-we-will-defend-and-which-we-will-not/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 10:13:24 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66430 If we are to imagine free speech as a defining value of democracy (as David Cameron has said he does) then we cannot just choose which free speech we will defend and which we will not (as David Cameron has said he wants to)

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(Photo illustration: Shutterstock)

(Photo illustration: Shutterstock)

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Abu Haleema. The poor man can’t catch a break. All he wants to do is establish a global caliphate under the harshest possible interpretation of sharia — a caliphate in which, he hopes, he will play a significant role — and yet he is thwarted at every turn.

First the authorities stop him from travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State. And then, to add insult to injury, they take away his internet, like he’s a naughty teenager. It’s a hard knock life for Abu.

And it’s about to get even harder. In the Queen’s Speech, the government announced a new counter-extremism bill which, will essentially make the existences of Abu Haleema and people like him illegal, without actually making them illegal.

How does that work? To quote the BBC: “The legislation will also propose the introduction of banning orders for extremist organisations who use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of proscription.”

This, in essence, is a thought ASBO, a convenient way of stamping out “extremism” without making any serious attempt to test that behaviour against any kind of proper harm principle.

Whether we like it or not, we do have laws on hate speech and incitement to violence in the United Kingdom. We also have the powers to proscribe terrorist organisations.

But these powers are apparently not enough: and so we must create semi-legal sub-strata of behaviour where people can be censored on the basis of us not liking what they say very much.

This is not some plea for accommodation of the views of Abu Haleema and his friends. Let us be very clear here: these are views which are entirely antithetical to the secular liberal democracy we aspire to be.

But that fact is exactly the test of a secular liberal democracy: if we are to imagine free speech as a defining value of democracy (as David Cameron has said he does) then we cannot just choose which free speech we will defend and which we will not (as David Cameron has said he wants to). As commentator Jamie Bartlett has pointed out, free speech is not something that one pledges allegiance to in the abstract while stifling in the practice.


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Government plans pose serious risk to free expression
Pre-vetting broadcast content? That’s what dictatorships do, not democracies
New extremism laws would stifle free speech
Jodie Ginsberg: “I believe in free expression, but…”

Predictably, we now turn to the life and times of George Orwell for a lesson from history.

In early 1945, a small group of London anarchists found themselves facing prosecution for undermining the war effort — specifically the charge of “causing disaffection among the troops”. Their crime was to criticise basic training, and to suggest that Belgian resistance movements should not hand over weapons to their German liberators, but instead retain their arms and set about building workers’ militias which would form a revolutionary force in post-Nazi Europe.

For this, several of the group were jailed, the British authorities of the time not noticing the irony of fighting for freedom in Europe while jailing dissidents at home.

The failure of the state — and the civil liberties movement — to stand for the right to free speech led to the formation of the Freedom Defence Committee.

Most of the supporters of the Freedom Defence Committee, including Orwell, would have had some sympathy with the anarchist position (Orwell had hoped, in the early days of the war, that the training and arming of the Home Guard would lead to a socialist revolution after the Nazis had been defeated. Apart from that, at least one of the accused, Vernon Richards, was a friend of Orwell’s).

But Orwell and his comrades in the Freedom Defence Committee were alert to the fact that one cannot simply defend the freedom of one’s friends. One also had to stand for the rights of communists and even fascists to hold their views. (Before any reader attempts to refer me to Orwell’s supposedly infamous “list” of communists and fellow travellers, supplied to his friend Celia Kirwan at the government’s Information Research Department, let me point out that it was a list compiled as a favour for a friend, not a blacklist: no one on that list was ever arrested, and they pursued their careers and lives unhindered). This led to the FDC taking the position that those with unpopular views – even those who had been (and still were) on the other side in the war, should be given the same justice as everyone else – demanding, for example, proper rights in cases of dismissal from employment when such a concept barely existed for anyone.

Fascists, communists and Islamists aside, there is probably not a single political grouping in Britain today that does not lay some claim to Orwell’s legacy. But as with free speech arguments, all tend to support the side that supports their side: libertarians cling to the anti-surveillance overtones in his work, while ignoring the long-held demands for state intervention on some issues. Conservatives admire the anti-communism, while ignoring the horror at capitalism, tradition, and the class system. Socialists pretend that Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm were anything else apart from scathing attacks on left utopianism.

Orwell was a far from perfect figure, but he did get a lot of things right — the fundamental one being the consistent application of principles on issues of liberty.

It is fashionable to invoke Big Brother whenever governments introduce new surveillance measures, or suggest censorship of extremist views. It is also, generally, silly and hyperbolic. But when faced with an enemy entirely at odds with democracy, as we are with Islamist extremism, it’s worth noting that, as did Orwell and his comrades, it is possible to attack the ideology while standing firm on freedom.

This column was posted on 28 May 2015 at indexoncensorship.org

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Rafael Marques de Morais: “They can lock me up, but they don’t get to silence me” https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/rafael-marques-de-morais-they-can-lock-me-up-but-they-dont-get-to-silence-me/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/rafael-marques-de-morais-they-can-lock-me-up-but-they-dont-get-to-silence-me/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 07:42:00 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66452 When you go up against the big guns of any state, you know they will throw everything at you. Investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais has learned this hard lesson in the last few days

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Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

When you go up against the big guns of any state, you know they will throw everything at you. Even when they tell you that you have won, you shouldn’t believe a word they say.

Investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais has learned this hard lesson in the last few days.

For months the journalist, who reported on killings and torture related to Angola’s diamond industry, has been awaiting a court appearance on criminal defamation charges that could have resulted in a nine-year prison sentence and a fine of up to £800,000.

As those months went by, additional charges were added, and the pressure on the journalist and his family ramped up and up. Then at the end of last week, an Angolan court announced it was going to drop all the criminal defamation charges against him.

Marques celebrated the “good news” with his supporters. But days later the Angola court system did a complete swivel and decided that instead it was planning to find him guilty and punish him with a prison sentence.

The tension-filled story has enough twists and turns to make it into a Hollywood thriller one day, but this is real and for now Marques has to live through the incredible pressure it puts on him and his family.


Related articles


Joint Letter: Prosecution of Rafael Marques de Morais
Index condemns decision to move for conviction of Rafael Marques de Morais
Rafael Marques de Morais: I believe in the power of solidarity

Marques said today: “I am in disbelief for what I heard in court. The public prosecutor put words into my mouth. He said that I had apologised, and had admitted to have written falsehoods.”

He added: “My witnesses were scheduled to be heard on May 22, and I had brought eight victims from the Lundas. The generals were supposed to be heard on May 21, and never showed up. What I stated in court, on May 21, is on the record and of public knowledge. I was asked to make a short statement to enable to generals and their companies, as well as the state to drop the charges against me.”

Marques, an internationally recognised journalist, added: ” All parties agreed that there was no further need for witnesses to be heard or evidence to be entered. By Angolan law, in a case of defamation, slander or criminal libel, once explanations are offered in court, and found to be satisfactory for all the parties, the grounds for accusation cease to exist.”

Without his bravery in exposing uncomfortable truths in his book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, many people would not know of the terrifying practises in the diamond mines of Angola, an industry in which many of the most powerful generals of the country own shares. Those generals have been pursuing libel claims against Marques for the stories in his book.

Angola’s unregulated diamond industry and its connections to the nation’s 27-year-long civil war which followed independence have drawn international concern.

Marques is just one man standing alone, who has taken incredible risks to report on the tragedy of 500 cases of torture and 100 murders related to the gem industry and to get the news out to the rest of the world. When you meet Marques, as I did this year when he received an Index on Censorship award, you realise he is driven by an incredible sense of hope. He believes incredibly strongly that his reporting can help go some way to changing the conditions that the people of Lundas are suffering.

When you meet someone who is that brave and committed, then you realise that most of us never take a decision as difficult and filled with personal consequences as Marques has.

But as this very brave man said in March when he was describing his work; “They can lock me up, but they don’t get to silence me.” Let’s hope that they don’t do either.

This article was originally posted on 27 May 2015 at The Huffington Post

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Nabeel Rajab: Tyrannical regimes like Bahrain’s are buying the silence of democratic governments https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/nabeel-rajab-tyrannical-regimes-like-bahrains-are-buying-the-silence-of-democratic-governments/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/nabeel-rajab-tyrannical-regimes-like-bahrains-are-buying-the-silence-of-democratic-governments/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 06:00:22 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66463 Western politicians choose narrow economic interests over the human rights of millions of oppressed people, the jailed Bahraini human rights defender said in a speech delivered on his behalf to the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum

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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)

Nabeel Rajab, one of Bahrain’s leading human rights activists and the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was set to deliver the following speech at the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum. However, Rajab is currently imprisoned on spurious charges, including some linked to his tweets. Instead, the speech was read out by BCHR Vice President Said Yousif Almahafdah on his behalf.

My name is Nabeel Rajab, and I am writing you from my island country Bahrain, where I am in a prison cell. It was my intention to join you in person today at this exceptional forum and I was looking forward to meeting you human rights advocates and defenders of free expression, thought, and belief. However, I am now behind bars once again.

This is the fifth time that I am being jailed over the past four years. During most of my time in prison I have been completely isolated from the outside world. I am being punished not because I have committed a crime, but because I have defended the human rights of the oppressed and deprived ones, and because I have engaged in exposing the crimes of Bahrain’s rulers and the dictators of the Gulf region.

My people are still living under a repressive regime that rules with an iron fist. A regime that prevents journalists from exposing abuses and rampant corruption; a regime that stifles the voices of intellectuals and advocates of reform and democracy. We, as a nation, are prevented from having ambition, dignity, or even dreams of freedom. Dreams have become crimes in my country of Bahrain, which, on a per capita basis, has more prisoners of conscience than any other country in the world.

I do not want to focus on myself and the suffering that my family and I have gone through, I am just one of the innocent hundreds whose fate is to be behind bars or in exile, simply for speaking or writing about our suffering. Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, are only known for being rich in oil and gas, for possessing the largest arms market in the world and for their wealthy sheikhdoms who hold investments in Western countries. Very few people know or talk about the fact that there are thousands of political detainees and prisoners of conscience in these countries, or that these countries are great violators of human rights.

The reason for the absence of this painful truth is that our authoritarian regimes have profitable economic ties with Western governments. Democracies in the West help whitewash our regimes, in order to obtain a share of their oil wealth. Western politicians choose narrow economic interests over the human rights of millions of oppressed people in the grip of tyranny in Bahrain and beyond.

Dear friends, as you can see we are not just the victims of autocratic regimes, we are also victims of the democratic West, a democratic West that supports and empowers our regimes and equip them with the tools and weapons they need to repress our people.

Regimes like Bahrain are wealthy and very generous in buying the silence of democratic governments and their media outlets in exchange for contracts and investments. The time to say enough with the silence and hypocrisy has come! The time has come to tell Western governments, do not build your interests and luxury on our people’s misery. Please, consider that human rights should be the foundation of any commercial contract or economic interest.

We appreciate the global and Western commitment against militancy, extremism and terrorism, whose greatest ideological, social and financial incubator has been our region. However, we should not ignore the fact that one of the causes that leads to extremism is the absence of human rights, and the deprivation of any space for youth to express their aspiration for freedom, and the suppression of any calls for reform or opposition. Dissent has been crushed to such an extent in Bahrain that the place for our country’s dignitaries and reformers is now prison or exile. We cannot defeat extremism without promoting freedom, having free and open debates, and involving the people in decision-making. If this will not be done, all efforts to combat militant extremism are meaningless.

Dear attendees, you are the most influential people in the world, you are capable of helping us bring to our region the change that we seek. You can make those changes through what you say and what you write, or if you support civil society and human rights groups. Thus, you are in part morally responsible for supporting the human rights movement in my country Bahrain and in the entire Gulf region. I hope you can consider supporting human rights and pro-democracy activists who work day and night in risky and difficult circumstances. We call upon you to pressure Western governments to respect justice and human rights standards — the same human rights standards that you would work for within your borders.

One excellent example of this kind of support is the way the Norwegian government has sponsored this event. I thank the Norwegian government for giving me a platform to speak, as well as for demanding that my government release me. I also thank Norwegian civil society groups and all of the human rights defenders in the audience that, from across the world, are in this same struggle.

I hope to meet you all soon.

This speech was originally published by Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

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Joint Letter: Prosecution of Rafael Marques de Morais https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/joint-letter-prosecution-of-rafael-marques-de-morais/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/joint-letter-prosecution-of-rafael-marques-de-morais/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 17:20:14 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66426 We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are writing to you to express our strong concerns about the prosecution on criminal defamation charges of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais.

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His Excellency José Eduardo dos Santos

President of the Republic of Angola

Re: Prosecution of Rafael Marques de Morais

Dear President dos Santos,

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are writing to you to express our strong concerns about the prosecution on criminal defamation charges of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais. Despite what was understood to have been a negotiated agreement between Mr. Marques de Morais and government authorities late last week, we are deeply concerned that that agreement is now being reversed. Instead, it appears that the court will issue a verdict in the case later this week; a conviction could result in a prison sentence and the indefinite revocation of his passport.

This case reflects a broader deterioration in the environment for freedom of expression in Angola, including the increasing use of criminal defamation lawsuits against journalists and routine police abuse of, and interference with, journalists, activists, and protesters peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. We urge you to take immediate steps to reverse these worrying trends.

Mr. Marques de Morais has been regularly and repeatedly harassed by state authorities because of his work. The 24 criminal defamation charges lodged against Marques, for example, are only the latest attempt by Angolan officials to silence his reporting. Marques has alleged a range of high-level corruption cases and human rights violations in his blog, and pursued sensitive investigations into human rights violations in Angola’s diamond areas.[1] We are unaware of any serious effort by the Angolan attorney-general’s office to impartially and credibly investigate the allegations of the crimes for which he has been charged.

Your government appears to be using Angola’s criminal defamation laws to deter Mr. Marques de Morais from his human rights reporting. By doing so, the government is violating his right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Preventing him from reporting on human rights violations is contrary to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The prosecution of Mr. Marques de Morais also stands in opposition to the December 2014 judgment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which ruled in the case of Lohé Issa Konaté v. Burkina Faso that except in very serious and exceptional circumstances, “violations of laws on freedom speech and the press cannot be sanctioned by custodial sentences.”[2] Laws criminalizing defamation, whether of public or private individuals, should never be applied, including in these circumstances given that Marques was raising concerns about human rights abuses in the country’s diamond mines. Criminal defamation laws are open to easy abuse, as the case against Marques demonstrates, resulting in disproportionately harsh consequences. As repeal of criminal defamation laws in an increasing number of countries shows, such laws are not necessary for protecting reputations.

We strongly urge you to take immediate steps to make clear that the government of Angola respects the right of journalists, activists, and others to enjoy their right to freedom of expression. Furthermore we encourage you to immediately pursue efforts to abolish Angola’s criminal defamation laws.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely yours,

Sarah Margon, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch
Steven Hawkins, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
Teresa Pina, Executive Director, Amnesty International Portugal
A. Lemon, Emeritus Fellow, Mansfield College, University of Oxford
Aline Mashiach, Head Commercial and Marketing Manager, Royalife LTD
Andreas Missbach, Joint-managing director, Berne Declaration, Switzerland
Art Kaufman, Senior Director, World Movement for Democracy
Beata Styś-Pałasz, P.E. Senior Project Manager, State of Florida Department of Transportation
Ben Knighton, Co-ordinator of the African Studies Research Group, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS)
Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy
Cécile Bushidi, PhD student, SOAS, University of London
Cléa Kahn-Sriber, Head of Africa Desk, Reporters Without Borders
Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director, Transparency International
Daniel Calingaert, Executive Vice President, Freedom House
Deborah Posel, Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA), University of Cape Town
Diana Jeater, Editor, Journal of Southern African Studies, Lecturer in African History, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dorothee Boulanger, Doctoral candidate, King’s College London
Dylan Tromp, Director, Integrate: Business & Human Rights
E.A. Brett, Professor of International Development, London School of Economics
Ery Shin, Doctoral candidate in English literature, University of Oxford
Fiona Armitage
Garth Meintjes, Executive Director, International Senior Lawyers Project
Henning Melber, Senior Advisor/Director emeritus, The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation
Hilary Owen, Professor of Portuguese and Luso-African Studies, University of Manchester
Jaqueline Mitchell, Commissioning Editor, James Currey
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship
Kathryn Brooks, African Studies Centre, University of Oxford
Kenneth Hughes, University of Cape Town
Lara Pawson, freelance writer, Author of In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre
Lotte Hughes, Senior Research Fellow, History Department, and The Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies Faculty of Arts, The Open University
Margot Leger, MSc Student, African Studies
Mary Lawlor, Founder and Executive Director, Front Line Defenders
Matthew de la Hey, MBA Candidate, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Merle Lipton, Research Fellow, King’s College London
Michael Ineichen, Program Manager & Human Rights Council Advocacy Director, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Michael Lipton, Research Professor of Economics, Sussex University
Michael Savage, Cape Town, South Africa
Michelle Kelly, Faculty of English, University of Oxford
Nic Cheeseman, Associate Professor in African Politics, Department of Politics and IR and the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford
Patrycja Stys, Co-Convenor, Oxford Central Africa Forum (OCAF), University of Oxford
Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Phillip Rothwell, King John II Professor of Portuguese, University of Oxford
Raymond Baker, President, Global Financial Integrity
Roger Southall, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand
Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of Partners for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Simon Taylor, Director, Global Witness
Sue Valentine, Africa Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists
Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, PEN American Center
William Beinart, Director, African Studies Centre, University of Oxford

CC:

Adão Adriano António, Attorney General of the Republic and supervisor of the central Huambo province

Lucas Miguel Janota, Magistrate of the Public Ministry

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6 June: Artistic censorship in repressive regimes https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/6-june-artistic-censorship-in-repressive-regimes/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/6-june-artistic-censorship-in-repressive-regimes/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 15:08:55 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66407 A panel discussion exploring different aspects of freedom of expression in repressive regimes

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Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat are singrs from Iran. Read the Songlines article about how they deal with censorship in Iran

Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat. Read the Songlines article about how they deal with censorship in Iran

Panel discussion including acclaimed singers and a past Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award winner Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat alongside Natalia Koliada, co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre, and Lisa Peschel of the University of York who has recently rediscovered extensive archival material of performances, scripts and revues performed in the Nazi ghetto Terezinstadt. The event will be chaired by Julia Farrington of Index on Censorship.

The panel will be asked to explore from their personal and political perspective different aspects of freedom of expression in repressive regimes; the interface between artistic inspiration and life in repressive regimes, and the role of the media in terms of raising awareness of the increasing restrictions placed on artists to curb freedom of expression.

When: Saturday 6 June 2015, 5.00pm to 6.15pm
Where: National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, YO1 9TL (map)
Tickets: Free admission. Booking required. Additional information: 01904 658338.

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Government plans pose serious risk to free expression https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/government-plans-pose-serious-risk-to-free-expression/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/government-plans-pose-serious-risk-to-free-expression/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 11:37:28 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66397 The new UK government's plans to tackle extremism and introduce a British bill of rights, as outlined in the Queen's Speech on 27 May, raise the stakes significantly for freedom of expression in the United Kingdom.

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The new UK government’s plans to tackle extremism and introduce a British bill of rights, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech on 27 May, raise the stakes significantly for freedom of expression in the United Kingdom.

“The government’s plans to introduce a Snoopers’ Charter, introduce new extremism laws and introduce a yet-to-be-determined bill of rights, all present a serious risk to civil liberties in Britain.

“We see no need for the introduction of new legislation in these areas: current laws on incitement to violence and hatred can already be applied to extremist individuals or groups. The new plans won’t stop terrorism, they will simply stifle free speech,” Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg said.

Under the proposed extremism bill, extremists would be banned from TV and stricter controls imposed on what can be said on the internet. The proposed law would be applied to those seeking to undermine vaguely defined “British values”, and is a broad brush that could end up being applied to anyone who simply disagrees with the government.

The government’s plans for the proposed British bill of rights aims to undo the “damaging effects of Labour’s Human Rights Act” of 1998, according to a government briefing pack on the Queen’s Speech. According to The Times, the move against the Human Rights Act will be delayed while the government undertakes a consultation on draft legislation.

Index remains convinced that driving debate underground is not the answer in tackling extremism or terrorism.

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Index condemns decision to move for conviction of Rafael Marques de Morais https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/index-condemns-decision-move-for-conviction-rafael-marques-de-morais/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/index-condemns-decision-move-for-conviction-rafael-marques-de-morais/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 10:20:50 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66382 Index is appalled to learn that a decision to pursue charges against Index award winning investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais is moving forward despite apparent agreement between the parties.

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Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Index is appalled to learn that a decision to pursue a conviction of Index award winning investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais is moving forward despite apparent agreement between the parties.

Last week, a court in Angola indicated that libel charges against the anti-corruption campaigner would be dropped, but on Monday 25 May 2015 the public prosecutor said he would proceed with a conviction.

“This backtracking by Angola in the case of Rafael Marques de Morais is outrageous,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “Rafael’s investigations into human rights abuses in Angola are crucial and should not be impeded.”

On Monday 25 May, Marques said he felt “tricked” in the wake of last week’s deal he had secured with the generals, according to AFP.

“After all this, the state asks that I be sentenced, saying that I had failed to give evidence,” Marques was quoted as saying as he left the courtroom.

David Mendes, Marques de Morais’ lawyer, told AFP that the prosecution is seeking a one-month suspended sentence despite the agreement between the parties. The verdict in the case is expected 28 May.

The new developments are the latest twist in the case against Marques de Morais, who was being sued for libel by a group of generals in connection to his work exposing corruption and serious human rights violations connected to the diamond trade in his native Angola.

The case was directly linked to Marques de Morais’ 2011 book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola. In it, he recounted 500 cases of torture and 100 murders of villagers living near diamond mines, carried out by private security companies and military officials. He filed charges of crimes against humanity against seven generals, holding them morally responsible for atrocities committed. After his case was dropped by the prosecution, the generals retaliated with a series of libel lawsuits in Angola and Portugal.

Marques de Morais originally faced nine charges of defamation, but on his first court appearance on 23 March was handed down an additional 15 charges. The proceedings were marked by heavy police presence, and five people were arrested. The trial opened just days after he was named joint winner of the 2015 Index Award for journalism.

The parties had been negotiating to try and find some “common ground”, Marques de Morais told Index in late April, but the talks broke down. His case was postponed to 14 May while the talks were ongoing.

The resumption of the trial came amid allegations of a massacre of members of a religious sect that Marques de Morais reported on for The GuardianMakaAngola, Marques de Morais’ investigative journalism site, was knocked offline for a short period after The Guardian article.

This article was posted on 26 May 2015 at indexoncensorship.org

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Pre-vetting broadcast content? That’s what dictatorships do, not democracies https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/pre-vetting-broadcast-content-thats-what-dictatorships-do-not-democracies/ https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2015/05/pre-vetting-broadcast-content-thats-what-dictatorships-do-not-democracies/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 15:52:46 +0000 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=66367 The idea that the government should have a role in assessing content before it is broadcast should set alarm bells ringing, writes Jodie Ginsberg

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Home Secretary Theresa May (Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Home Secretary Theresa May (Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, would — apparently — like to pre-approve programmes before broadcast that may include “extremist” content. We know this thanks to a leaked letter to the prime minister from the former Culture Secretary Sajid Javid who expressed his objection to the plans of his fellow cabinet minister.

Javid pointed out, quite rightly, that such a move could (and would) have a damaging effect on free speech — a freedom that David Cameron himself identified earlier this month as being part of the “British values” he wants to protect (values and freedoms that are systematically being attacked by the current government though proposed measures such as the Snoopers Charter and planned abolition of the Human Rights Act).

The world’s most repressive regimes largely have no need to pre-vet content. This is simply because they control all media outlets, and thus the messaging of the broadcasts and press. Why bother pre-vetting content when you’ve decided everything that goes out in the first place. If you can’t do that, pre-vetting is the next best step for an authoritarian government. China, which has one of the most sophisticated and far-reaching censorship regimes in the world, pre-censors TV documentaries, as well as non-fiction films, and has strict guidelines for broadcasters — including online companies — that forces them to self-censor huge swathes of content. Burma, whose military dictatorship finally ended in 2011, had pre-publication censorship for more than four decades.

As Javid himself notes in his letter: “It should be noted that other countries with a pre-transmission regulatory regime are not known for their compliance with rights relating to freedom of expression and government may not wish to be associated with such regimes.”

Yet with every step Theresa May makes she seems — under the guise of protecting our national security — to be bringing us closer and closer to the practices of countries who restrict the rights of their citizens to speak openly, countries who spy on their people indiscriminately, and countries who issue vague and obscure directives about the kinds of people and opinions deemed “unacceptable”.

We already have plenty of laws in Britain dealing with incitement to violence and the promotion of terrorism. We also have strict broadcasting rules addressing these areas. But the idea that the government should have a role in assessing content before it is broadcast, or in developing lists of speakers banned, not for inciting violence or hatred, but because their ideas are extreme, should set alarm bells ringing.

This article was posted on 22 May 2015 at indexoncensorship.org

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