Next week, government, business, and civil society representatives will gather at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss the future of the global digital space. This gathering takes place against the backdrop of growing restrictions by repressive regimes on online freedoms. The U.S. and European governments have undertaken significant initiatives to respond to these restrictions, but their initiatives are inadequate to stem, let alone reverse, the decline of freedom on the internet. Stronger action is needed.
Freedom House is deeply concerned over the adoption by the lower house of the Kazakhstani Parliament of a repressive new religion law that would impose numerous hurdles to citizens pursuing their religious beliefs and calls upon the Senate to reject the law.
Freedom House condemns today’s arrest of members of the Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) during a peaceful demonstration, and strongly condemns the continued crackdown on freedom of expression and other basic human rights by Zimbabwean authorities. Freedom House is concerned that those arrested face imminent danger of abuse and torture in prison and calls for their immediate release.
Freedom House condemns the trial of online media editor and human rights defender Prachatai executive director, Chiranuch (Jiew) Premchaiporn, who is accused of allowing comments deemed critical of the monarchy to be posted on the online forum that she moderates. Freedom House urges the Thai government to drop all charges against her and to immediately amend the country’s 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA), so that it conforms to international human rights standards.
Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist with Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, was denied his appeal on September 20 after being arrested in April 2011 for “defaming” Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenka and sentenced to two years in prison. Poczobut argued that investigators and prosecutors “violated his rights,” forbidding witnesses and the lawyer he selected from appearing in the courtroom. Poczobut is a Belarusian citizen from Poland, and one of the leaders of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB). In February 2011, he served a 15-day sentence for participating in protests surrounding Lukashenka’s reelection. In the past, Poczobut had his accreditation revoked and faced harassment in response to his journalistic activities.
The African National Congress (ANC) will reschedule its September 20 debate on the Protection of Information Bill to next quarter due to public outcry and accusations that the legislation threatens freedom of expression. The ANC is divided on the bill and plans to consult with groups against the bill before resuming debate—the groups hope to rewrite the bill, which has no “public interest defense,” threatening journalists who disclose protected information. The Protection of Information Bill would regulate the distribution of state information, “weighing state interests against transparency and freedom of expression.” On August 31, the ANC told a special committee that it would not add a clause to protect the public interest, because it did not consider journalists a separate class.