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Freedom Alert

The prison sentences reportedly handed down to six men in Oman for criticizing the government online are another worrying sign of escalating efforts by the government to tighten its control online and offline following Arab Spring-inspired unrest. Oman must reverse the sentences against the six men, and repeal all laws that criminalize defamation.

Freedom House welcomes the release of Rimsha Masih on bail of one million rupees ($10,500) after being accused of blasphemy for allegedly burning pages with verses of the Koran.  We remain gravely concerned for her safety and that of her family and call on authorities to ensure their protection as they continue to receive death threats and are in hiding.

The decision of a Cairo court on September 7 to acquit four senior policemen accused of killing civilians during the revolution last year raises serious concerns about the path of transitional justice in Egypt.

Charges announced August 29 against Tajikistan’s main opposition party indicate what may be a sustained campaign to eliminate the government’s main rivals. According to the General Prosecutor of Tajikistan, the leader of the Islamic Revival Party (IRP) in the city of Khorog, Sherik Karamkhudoev, is being charged with collaboration with a local leader to conduct armed activities against the government. In announcing the charges, the General Prosecutor also described other alleged anti-constitutional activities of the IRP.

Freedom House condemns the August 29th decision by Burmese authorities to jail human rights lawyer and activist Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, and calls for his immediate release. The decision serves as a clear reminder that despite recent reforms, the situation for human rights defenders in the country remains precarious.

Draft amendments to Jordan’s Press and Publications Law with regards to website content are the latest attempt by the Jordanian government to muzzle its critics and the media. Freedom House denounces these amendments as an affront to press freedom and calls upon the Jordanian parliament to vote against them.

The decision by Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to bar pre-trial detention for members of the media is ‘window dressing’ designed to draw attention away from the broader campaign against freedom of the press and free expression in Egypt, where journalists still face prosecution for writing articles critical of the government. The ongoing move to silence media is reminiscent of tactics employed by former president Hosni Mubarak.

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