Sunday, November 22, 2009



The Martin Ennals Foundation is seeking nominations for its 2010 award for
human rights defenders. The deadline is 9 December 2009.

The award, worth 20,000 Swiss Francs (US$17,500), is given annually to
individuals or organisations that have demonstrated an exceptional record
of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means.
Special consideration is given to those who are at risk and in need of
immediate protection.

This year's award went to Emad Baghi, a leading Iranian human rights
defender based in Tehran. Baghi has been a vociferous opponent of the death
penalty in Iran and has campaigned to challenge interpretations of Islamic
law on the subject. He has spent four years in prison within the last
decade and still faces charges related to his work for prisoners' rights.

To download a nomination form or get more information, please visit:
Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders:



During U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to Asia as president this
month, Human Rights Watch urged him to call on the 10-member Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to resolve issues of impunity and major
restraints on freedom of expression throughout the region. As well, IFEX
members called on the President to press for the release of imprisoned
Chinese journalists and writers on his first official visit to the People's
Republic of China.

Obama met with ASEAN leaders on 15 November, the day after the annual
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore.

Human Rights Watch asked the President to communicate the importance to
ASEAN leaders of joining forces to challenge Burma and call for the release
of all political prisoners, including the democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi, as well as for an inclusive political process ahead of the 2010

The President personally asked Burmese Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein to
free Suu Kyi and other political prisoners while in Singapore, says Mizzima
News. But a post-summit statement by ASEAN did not call for the Burmese
democracy leader's release, allegedly as a result of pressure from the
Burmese junta.

Human Rights Watch also called on Obama to encourage Vietnam to improve its
human rights policies and to begin by releasing the hundreds of peaceful
government critics, independent church activists, bloggers and democracy
advocates currently imprisoned on baseless national security charges simply
for expressing dissent.

As well, Human Rights Watch appealed to Obama to directly challenge
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's authoritarian rule, as he and other
ruling party officials use violence, threats, and the country's notoriously
corrupt judiciary to eliminate dissent by imprisoning opposition party
members, journalists, land rights activists and other government critics.

Elsewhere in the region, Malaysia also takes advantage of overbroad
national security laws. Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore use criminal
defamation laws to control free speech and Thailand makes arbitrary use of
the "lese majeste" law and the Computer Crimes Act.

In China, IFEX members asked that human rights not be ignored in the midst
of discussions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and trade tariffs.
Chinese authorities counted on Obama not to raise human rights, while
society activists, lawyers, and peaceful critics - the people Obama
normally allies himself with - hoped he would, said Human Rights Watch.
Obama himself is a writer and constitutional lawyer.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) reports that police clamped down on
dissidents across the country, with arbitrary detention and intimidation
tactics, so that critics would not be able to attempt to meet Obama or
foreign journalists. Others were strictly warned not to travel to Shanghai
and Beijing during the President's visit.

Obama tried to have a candid discussion with Chinese students in Shanghai
at a meeting of about 500 students. According to the International Press
Institute (IPI), Obama did respond to a question related to Internet
censorship. "I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm
a big supporter of non-censorship," Obama said. However, he also added, "I
recognise that different countries have different traditions."

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports that Chinese
authorities forbade questions to Obama on the Internet, and ordered media
outlets to delete news about questions raised at the student forum. Despite
the ban, Obama responded to a question about Twitter that he got through
the Internet: "I should be honest, as President of the United States, there
are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I
wouldn't have to listen to people criticising me all the time." According
to news reports, he added, "Because in the United States, information is
free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all
kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy
stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear
opinions that I don't want to hear."

In a letter to Obama, the PEN American Center called on the President to
intervene on behalf of more than 40 detained Chinese writers. IFEX members
highlighted several cases. Hu Jia, a freelance reporter and blogger and a
civil rights, environmental and AIDS activist, is serving a
three-and-a-half-year sentence for "inciting subversion." Liu Xiaobo, a
renowned writer, intellectual and literary critic, who has been detained
since December 2008, is facing 15 years in prison. Other detained writers
mentioned: Shi Tao, imprisoned for allegedly "leaking state secrets;" and
Du Daobin, Yang Tongyan and Zhang Jianhong, all serving long prison

PEN said: "Finding writers in prison is a warning sign not only of the
state of fundamental liberties in a country but also of the health,
character, and vitality of the ideas in play and of the ability of citizens
to act on these ideas."

IPI called on Obama to focus on the link between press freedom and elements
of sustainability, poverty and governance, citing the Chinese famine of
1958-1961 in which 23 to 30 million people died. The absence of a free and
independent press meant the central government believed its economic
policies were working; in reality, millions were starving.

Similarly, the tragic outcome of the 2008 earthquake that struck China's
Sichuan province, killing more than 80,000 and rendering five million
homeless, was made worse because of poor infrastructure which investigative
journalism might have exposed, reports IPI.

Activists Tan Zuoren and Huang Qi are facing charges of subversion for
investigating the deaths of schoolchildren in the 2008 earthquake and
posting the information they had gathered online, report IFEX members.
Huang Qi remains in prison, along with at least 50 bloggers and 30
journalists throughout China.

PEN American Center concluded: "We do not write to suggest how or when you
should raise these cases or what you should say. We only ask that you not
be persuaded by those who would argue that pressing for the release of
writers is somehow counterproductive or inappropriate to the occasion."

Related stories on
- PEN calls on President Obama to stand up for free expression in China:

More on the web:
- Obama should raise human rights in China (Human Rights Watch):
- Obama should press Asian leaders on rights (Human Rights Watch):
- IPI calls on U.S. President to raise press freedom concerns during trip
to Asia:
- United States President touches upon human rights concerns during
official visit to China (IPI):
- China enforces new restrictions as Obama speaks out (IFJ):
- U.S.-ASEAN meet fails to call for Suu Kyi's release (Mizzima News):

Iran: Government Launches Web Crime Unit

17 November 2009

Iran: Government Launches Web Crime Unit

The government of Iran has bolstered its censorship regime with the launch of a new Web Crime Unit tasked with policing the internet for “insults and lies”. The launch comes just months after the disputed election and the so called ‘Green Revolution’ which saw demonstrators utilise the web as an important tool for organising.

The 12 member Web Crime Unit will search the web ostensibly for cyber crimes and report them directly to the Chief Prosecutor. Although vowing to fight cyber crime in general, the Unit’s political nature is indicated by its emphasis on “insults and lies” – a term often used by the judiciary to describe opposition statements.

Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009 showed that the web is one of the last remaining bastions of free expression. Before, during and after the elections, opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, as well as other reformists demonstrated the web’s potential to communicate views, inspire debate and organise support. The new Unit is the latest attempt to suppress the reform movement’s last real means of keeping its campaign alive. It also shows the Iranian authorities’ attempts to isolate the Iranian media and academic community from its global counterparts, and curtail cross-cultural dialogues and debates, with the view of maintaining tight control over information, ideas, and opinions.

“This new Web Crime Unit is clearly censorship and intimidation under the pretence of fighting crime,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “If the Iranian government arrests bloggers, activists and journalists, they are not only attacking individuals, but also undermining the rights of their fellow Iranians and others to hear the experiences and opinions of others.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and is therefore obliged as a matter of international law to respect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19.


• For more information please contact: For more information: please contact Amir Bayani:; Tel: +44 2073242514.
• Read ARTICLE 19’s Submission on Iran to the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review at:

Document: Aggressions Against Journalists

19 November 2009
Mexico: ARTICLE 19 Releases Third Quarterly Report Documenting Aggressions Against Journalists

ARTICLE 19, in conjunction with its partner Cencos, has launched a report pointing to a continuing deterioration of freedom of expression in Mexico and stating that the authorities remain the principal perpetrators of aggressions against journalists.
This is the third quarterly report detailing a total of 59 attacks against journalists and the media, including the killing of three journalists, from July to September 2009. ARTICLE 19 and Cencos have recorded 201 aggressions so far this year, as well as eight deaths.

In Mexico, journalists work in an evironment where organised crime and drug traffickers operate largely with impunity, often colluding with the authorities. Usually the most serious violations, such as assassinations and forced disappearances, can be attributed to organised crime.

However, ARTICLE 19’s figures continue to point to state authorities as the principal aggressors in nearly 72 per cent of cases. The deployment of the military and police in many parts of the country have not only resulted in an escalation of violence but, in some cases, new human rights violations committed by security forces. The ARTICLE 19 report also details several serious incidents involving government officials, including the harassment of staff at the political magazine Proceso by officials of the Ministry for Public Security.

The report further emphasises an increased number of aggressions commited by supporters of political parties, during recent elections at state level and in Congress. Local police forces and municipal officials are also responsible for attacks against media workers in various states, including Sinaloa, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Guerrero and Mexico City.

Dario Ramirez, ARTICLE 19 Director for Mexico comments: “An assassination constitutes the most severe form of aggression and is an indicator of the adverse environment in which journalists and media workers are currently being forced to operate. Many of these cases have not been effectively investigated or resolved, and this constitutes a real and sustained campaign against the right to freedom of expression in this country.”

ARTICLE 19 and Cencos calls on the authorities to make a serious effort to tackle these violations of fundamental human rights and bring Mexico into line with international standards. This includes developing prevention policies, including adequate and effective human rights training for security forces, at all levels of national, state and local government.

ARTICLE 19 and Cencos reminds the Mexican State that the right to freedom of expression, which is established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights implies a double obligation. The state is not only obliged not to violate the right, but also to protect it and promote an environment in which free expression is allowed to flourish.

ARTICLE 19 and Cencos reiterates its call on the Mexican State to tackle the impunity that is being allowed to prevail in the majority of cases of violations of the right to freedom of expression. This can only be achieved through the effective investigation of such crimes and the sanctioning of those responsible, as well as the strengthening of the bodies that are responsible for dealing with crimes against freedom of expression.


• To view the full report Attacks on Freedom of Expression in Mexico: Third Quarterly Bulletin go to:
• For more information please contact: Ricardo Gonzalez, Programme Officer Freedom of Expression and Journalist´s Protection, +52 55 10546500
• For more information please contact: Iñigo Prieto Beguiristáin, Education and Research Unit, CENCOS,, +52 (55) 55 33 64 75; +52 (55) 55 33 64 75 / 76 Ext. 108
• The Social Communications National Centre (Cencos) was the first organisation documenting attacks against the media in Mexico. Its work focused in promoting freedom of expression and press freedom as an individual right of all journalists and as a collective right of society to be informed.

New Attempts to Legitimise Religious Defamation using Principles of Blasphemy

20 November 2009

UN/Ireland: ARTICLE 19 Expresses Concern at New Attempts to Legitimise Religious Defamation using Principles of Blasphemy

ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned that the submissions on defamation of religions brought by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (“OIC”) before the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards (“Ad Hoc Committee”) adopted the exact wording of the provisions of Irish legislation on blasphemous libel contained in that country’s Defamation Act, passed in July 2009. This clearly shows that the Irish legislation is being used to legitimise the proposals of Pakistan and the OIC to establish defamation of religion as a principle of international law.

The Ad Hoc Committee is mandated to “elaborate, as a matter of priority and necessity, complementary standards in the form of either a convention or additional protocol(s) to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, filling the existing gaps in the Convention, and also providing new normative standards aimed at combating all forms of contemporary racism, including incitement to racial and religious hatred” (Human Rights Council resolution 6/21). Pakistan and the OIC seek to establish defamation of religions as a new normative standard. The Irish Defamation Act 2009 has also reintroduced the offence of blasphemous libel this year. This represents a dangerous trend towards the standardisation of blasphemous libel internationally.

ARTICLE 19 has previously raised its concerns with both the Irish legislation and the Pakistan proposal to the Ad Hoc Committee, and warned that both pose serious threats to freedom of expression and have no basis in established international standards. International human rights standards protect individuals and groups on the basis of their religion or ethnicity, but do not protect religions per se. Constituting defamation of religion in international law or domestic legislation distorts and undermines existing international human rights protection of both the right to freedom of expression and the right to equality. Furthermore, the concept of defamation of religions has been abusively relied upon to stifle religious dissent and criticism of religious adherents and non-believers in a number of countries around the world.

At the adoption of the Irish Defamation Act, the Irish Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, referred to the constitutional basis of the Act and assured that the Act is formulated in a way to make it almost impossible to successfully prosecute. However, the reliance by representatives of Pakistan on the Irish legislation shows that the Irish law has provided an extremely dangerous international precedent.

Sweden, on behalf of the European Union, responded to Pakistan’s submission to the Ad Hoc Committee specifically opposing defamation of religions as a human rights concept. It is ironic that the text to which the European Union is opposed is extracted directly from the law of a Member State and consolidated democracy.

ARTICLE 19 therefore urges:
• The Government of the Republic of Ireland to recognise the effect its legislation has globally on freedom of expression, and to amend its legislation concerning blasphemy and blasphemous libel in order to uphold the right to freedom of expression and set an important example to other states;
• The Ad Hoc Committee not to accept the proposals for a convention or additional protocol that oversteps in any way the long-established limits of international human rights law, principles and values which protect individuals and groups, rather than religious ideas, objects and symbols; and
• The European Union to call on the Republic of Ireland to comply with its obligations under international law to safeguard freedom of expression.


• For more information please contact Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law, ARTICLE 19, at or +44 20 7324 2500;
• For a copy of the submission of Pakistan to the Ad hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, see
• For a copy of the Defamation Act 2009 of Ireland, see
• For a copy of open letter of ARTICLE 19 to UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, see: For a copy of the ARTICLE 19 statement on the Irish Defamation Act 2009, see