Index Index – International free speech roundup 18/01/13

On 17 January, the European Parliament endorsed a resolution addressing ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain. The resolution, led by Dutch European Parliament member Marietje Schaake, called for “targeted EU sanctions against human rights violators in Bahrain”. The country has faced ongoing unrest since protests for reform began in February 2011, and the country’s security forces have been condemned internationally for using excessive force against protesters. Schaake condemned the usage of “tear gas and bird shots fired at close range”, as well as a lack of consistency in the judicial system — citing the inconsistencies in the cases of both activists and doctors jailed for treating protesters. The resolution also criticised the country’s failure to implement reforms based on recommendations issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission for Inquiry in November 2011, which was commissioned by King Hamad.  In addition to clamping down on protests, Bahrain has also taken measures against activists online.

Meanwhile, human rights defender Said Yousif was released on bail today, but must return to court on 29 January on charges of spreading “false news with the intention of damaging state security.”  Yousif was arrested on 17 December while monitoring a protest in Manama, Bahrain’s capital.

Said Yousif was released on bail today

A journalist in Somalia who was arrested for interviewing an alleged rape victim has been accused of fabricating the story by Somalia’s police commissioner. General Sharif Sheikhuna Maye issued a statement on 16 January saying that Lul Ali Hassan, who claimed she had been raped by Somali soldiers on 10 January, was bribed by journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur and members of a women’s rights group into concocting a false story. The general said the alleged victim told police she was offered extra rations and money at the displaced women’s camp she had been living in. Medical examinations, he also said, had proven that there was no evidence of a rape occurring.

Dutch football club Ajax Amsterdam has been fined by UEFA, after fans protested the prices of football tickets during a game. During the Champions League match at home to Manchester City in October, fans held banners displaying messages saying “80 euros for the away section is ridiculous,” with others holding banners emblazoned with offensive messages to Chelsea, Manchester City, Red Bull Salzburg and Red Bull Leipzig. The club was fined €10,000 (roughly GBP£8,400) for the “display of a provocative and inappropriate banner.”

An Iranian human rights lawyer who was jailed for defending several human rights activists in court was temporarily released on 17 January. Nasrin Sotoudeh was released on leave for three days from Evin prison, a period that could be extended. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 under charges of promoting propaganda under the regime and acting against national security — initially sentenced to 11 years in prison, but reduced to six years upon appeal. Sotoudeh, an award-winning legal defender of free speech, has criticised death penalties issued to minors. While in prison she went on hunger strike to protest her treatment. She was denied visits from her children and husband, as well as access to lawyers.

Social networking and news websites in Tajikistan were blocked by the government, news sources reported yesterday (17 January). Sites were blocked under Tajikistan’s Association of Internet Service Providers, but remained accessible under other network providers. Asomuddin Atoev, head of the Association of Internet Service Providers said that the government’s communication department ordered the blocking via SMS. Communications chief Beg Zuhurov said the sites would return in “two or three days”, claiming the disappearance of the websites was due to a technical issue. Last year, over 130 websites were blocked for “technical repair” ahead of the December elections.