Freedom House presented the Freedom of the Press 2012 survey on May 31st, at Alberto Hurtado University in Santiago, Chile. Viviana Giacaman, director for Latin America programs, discussed Freedom House’s concerns over the rapid deterioration of press freedom in the region.
Charles Taylor, one of West Africa’s most infamous political figures, was arrested and handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2006 to be tried for crimes committed during that country’s brutal civil war. Last month, after a trial that lasted almost five years, featured 115 witness testimonies, and cost approximately $250 million, the court found Taylor guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and the conscription of child soldiers. The prosecution requested an 80-year prison sentence. Today, the former Liberian president was sentenced to 50 years, to be served in a British correctional facility. Taylor’s legal team is likely to appeal.
Freedom House condemns the verdict on May 30 sentencing Thai webmaster, Chiranuch (Jiew) Premchaiporn to an eight-month suspended prison sentence and to pay a fine of 20,000 Thai Baht ($630) for comments posted by visitors to her online forum that were deemed “offensive” to the monarchy. She was convicted under the Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), which holds internet service and content providers criminally liable for content they host or transmit. The verdict is yet another chilling indicator of the ever-shrinking space for free expression in Thailand.
The massacre of 116 people in Houla, Syria over the weekend is a clear indication that the Annan plan has failed. Freedom House calls for stronger international action, including by the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to intervene and prevent further atrocities against the Syrian people. We applaud the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States, for their decision to expel Syrian ambassadors residing in their countries.
Until recently, it could at least be said that countries with objectionable political systems played host to major global sports competitions only occasionally. Forty-four years elapsed between the Berlin and Moscow Olympics, and it was another 28 years before the games were held in Beijing. Second-tier events in dictatorial states tended to be limited to low-profile sports like weightlifting and wrestling. But all that is changing fast. Some of the most prestigious international athletic competitions have recently been held, or are now set to be held, in countries that regularly make world headlines with their rigged elections, state-dominated media, repression of minorities, or full-bore retreat from democracy to authoritarianism.
We, the undersigned regional and international non-governmental organizations, write to express our grave concerns regarding the arbitrary arrest and mistreatment of 13 women human rights defenders at the Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) development site in Phnom Penh on May 22, 2012. We strongly condemn their prosecution on trumped-up charges and summary trial, just 48 hours later, resulting in their conviction and sentencing to lengthy prison terms.