Index relies entirely on the support of donors and readers to do its work.
Help us keep amplifying censored voices today.
Launched on International Human Rights day on 1 December 2021 by a team led by Nadja Houben (Human Rights in the Picture foundation) and Laure Siegel (Mediapart), Visual Rebellion is a platform to showcase and support the edited work of journalists, filmmakers and artists across post-coup Myanmar. The activities of Visual Rebellion consist mainly of a free public information service on what is happening in Myanmar and in Thailand, continuing education for their members in English, Thai and Burmese language on a range of topics including cybersecurity, investigations, photojournalism, as well as coordinating the production of photo exhibitions, documentary screenings and book publications to finance their studies or visas.
Salehi is a well-known Iranian hip-hop artist who has released protest songs including Mousehole, Turkmenchay and Pomegranate. Many of his songs explicitly reference the human rights situation in Iran, as well as threats to civil society. This has led him to being targeted by the authorities, long before his recent detention.
Following the release of Mousehole, Toomaj was arrested in the middle of the night on 12 September 2021. He was charged with "spreading propaganda against the state," but after more than a week he was released on bail. In January 2022, he was sentenced to six months in prison but was released on a suspended sentence in February. He later appeared in front of the prison where he had been imprisoned as part of a music video for a song written in memory of the victims of Aban.
Due to Toomaj’s support of the the protests that erupted after the killing of Mahsa Amini while in custody, he was violently taken into custody on 30 October 2022. In November, Iran's judiciary charged Salehi with a number of crimes, including spreading "corruption on Earth," a charge that could see him sentenced to death, as well as charges that each carry 1-10 years of imprisonment: “propaganda against the state,” “formation and management of illegal groups with the aim of undermining national security,” “collaboration with hostile governments,” and “spreading lies and inciting violence through cyberspace and encouraging individuals to commit violent acts.” While in detention, state media published a video purporting to show Salehi blindfolded, with bruising on his face, apologising for his words. Family members and human rights organisations have accused the authorities of torturing Salehi in prison to force him to make a false confession.
In July 2023, Toomaj was sentenced to over 6 years in prison for “corruption on earth”, as well as being banned from leaving Iran for 2 years. He is also banned from preparing, singing and producing music for 2 years. It has also been reported that he has been acquitted of two other charges - “insulting the supreme leader” & “communicating with hostile governments”.
Maria Lanko (right) was a co-curator of Kyiv-based gallery, The Naked Room, who was selected to co-curate the Ukrainian national pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale. The piece selected to represent Ukraine was entitled ”Fountain of Exhaustion” by artist Pavlo Makov (left), which is a kinetic sculpture consisting of 78 bronze funnels, arranged in the form of a pyramid. The water poured into the top funnel divides into two streams, feeding the funnels below. “Only a few drops reach the bottom, symbolizing exhaustion on a personal and global level,” the curators said in a press release.
On the evening of 24 February 2022, the day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Lanko packed the installation into her car and she drove, heading for Venice. The journey took three weeks, after taking a week just to make it to the border between Ukraine and Romania. Due to Maria’s decision, the piece was able to be presented at the Biennale to enable Ukrainian art to be seen in this unique and important showcase of international art. The importance of this was highlighted by Lanko in an interview with Deutsche Welle: “When the sheer right to existence for our culture is being challenged by Russia, it is crucial to demonstrate our achievements to the world".
“As a child Aung San Suu Kyi was a celebrated heroine in my family home and Myanmar, an authoritarian regime determined to squash democracy. For a few years there was hope, although not for the Rohinghya community (thanks to Min Aung Hlaing), until the military coup of 2021,” says Index on Censorship CEO Ruth Anderson.
In February 2021 Min Aung Hlaing seized power - declaring himself commander-in-chief of Myanmar and consolidating all political power into the State Administration Council - a body which he also chairs. He has since sought to quash all dissent. Challenge is not tolerated, politicians have been arrested and imprisoned on spurious charges. Since the coup 2,530 civilians have been killed by the military, 13,000 people remain in detention and 128 political prisoners have been sentenced to death, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
In a series of court cases since the military coup, former leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi has now been sentenced to 26 years’ imprisonment.
“These acts alone would warrant his crown as Tyrant of the Year but when you also consider his personal treatment of the Rohingya community then it's difficult to see how anyone else qualifies for the title,” says Anderson. “Even before the coup Min Aung Hlaing was accused of acts of genocide against the Rohinghya minority - over one million Rohingya have been forced to flee Myanmar, and available data suggests that over 24,000 Rohingya have been systematically murdered by the state, over 18,000 women and girls raped and 36,000 thrown into fires. All by direct order of Min Aung Hlaing. The UN has declared that he should be tried for war crimes at the Hague. This man is a tyrant by every definition.”
Index on Censorship condemns the sentencing to four years in prison of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and calls for all charges to be dropped. She was convincted of incitement and also of breaking Covid regulations during the campaign for the election last year.
It is the first of eleven charges she faces which, if convicted on all counts, could mean she spends the rest of her life behind bars. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since a military coup in the country in February 2021.
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has expressed her concerns that “the arbitrary detention of elected politicians only risks further unrest”.
While Suu Kyi has attracted criticism for her silence over the Rohingya genocide she remains a respected political figure who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights in the country. Before her current house arrest, Suu Kyi was state counsellor of Myanmar, similar to the role of prime minister in the UK, and also as minister of foreign affairs, roles she took on in 2016.
Suu Kyi has also been a frequent contributor to Index on Censorship over the years, including in March 1996, just after her release from a previous period of house arrest.
At the time, she wrote: “The regaining of my freedom has in turn imposed a duty on me to work for the freedom of other women and men in my country who have suffered far more - and who continue to suffer far more - than I have.”
In an article in 2012, she wrote about taking responsibility for the words we say.
“Can freedom of speech be abused? Since historical times it has been recognised that words can hurt as well as heal, that we have a responsibility to use our verbal skills in the right way”, she wrote.