Saleem Shahzad, a journalist found dead in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 31, is likely the victim of a deliberate attempt by ISI, Pakistani intelligence services, to silence him, according to U.S. intelligence sources, despite public denial by Pakistani officials. It is believed that Shahzad’s piece for Asia Times on al-Qaeda’s retaliation after arrested naval officers were accused of ties to the group, written three days before his disappearance, was a factor in the killing.
On June 3, the Ugandan government finally put in place regulations to implement an Access to Information Act (ATIA) that was passed by parliament nearly six years ago. The ATIA grants every citizen the right to access information “in the possession of the state” or any other state agency except when the release of information affects state sovereignty or interferes with privacy rights. Ironically, the government passed the regulations in secret, only revealing them after they were leaked by local civil society organizations. These actions utterly miss the point of such legislation, which is designed to increase transparency and accountability.
Journalist and academic Antoine Sfeir filed a defamation suit against Tunisian blog Nawaat.org over an article published online in March 2011: “Ben Ali’s dictatorship’s Lebanese sycophants.” The site received a letter from Sfeir’s lawyer on June 16 demanding the article be withdrawn within 48 hours, or face libel action. Four additional websites that reprinted the article received the same warning to take down the piece, but refused to comply in an effort to uphold freedom of expression and press freedom. Sfeir claimed he did not want the entire article removed, just the portions that accused him of personally receiving money from the former president Ben Ali.
The Mexican Supreme Court ruled on July 12 that military officers should be tried in civilian courts instead of military tribunals when accused of human rights abuses or murder. The ruling also ordered all civilian judges to comply with the international court and “assume responsibility” for cases involving human rights violations. The decision by the Mexican Supreme Court is likely to influence the way cases involving the military are handled.
Riot police attempted to stop a demonstration in Amman, Jordan, attacking demonstrators who were advocating for reform. Nearly 2,000 Jordanians were walking from a local mosque to the city hall when police attacked protesters with wooden clubs and batons. Government officials gave journalists orange vests to wear and claimed they would not be harmed. Yet, reporters from Reuters, Al Jazeera, AFP, New York Times and other media outlets were among the 10+ journalists hurt in the protests. The protests were organized by youth groups, and attended by labor unionists and Muslim Brotherhood members.
Today Freedom House honors the life and work of Natalya Estemirova, a brave Russian human rights defender and journalist, who was abducted and murdered in the North Caucasus region of Russia on July 15, 2009.
At least twenty people were killed and more than 100 injured on July 15, as hundreds of thousands of Syrians demonstrated across the country against President Bashar al-Assad and the imprisonment of Syrians. Citizens attempted to block security forces from entering the area and damaging buildings. Forces fired live ammunition and teargas at protesters in the capital of Damascus and various suburbs. Activists organized the countrywide demonstrations via Facebook—these have been the largest demonstrations held to date.