#KeepingScore: During FIFA 2014, Rights Group Campaigning to Defend Free Expression

Posted June 16th, 2014 at 11:23 am (UTC+0)
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Brazil's national soccer team coach Scolari gestures towards Neymar as they address reporters before their team's final practice in Sao Paulo


While the world’s are fixed on the 2014 FIFA World Cup games underway in Brazil, the global association of writers PEN International has launched an internet campaign calling on Brazil and eleven other countries participating in this year’s football games to respect and protect free expression.

The campaign calls on PEN members and everyone else who supports free speech and free expression to share information on threats to those rights using the hashtag #keepingscore.

#Keepingscore“Freedom of expression is the corner stone of democracy,” said PEN International Executive Director, Carles Torner.  “A democratic society cannot function without an active commitment to freedom of expression. As the world turns its attention to Brazil, we must demand that the host and participating countries make this commitment and that those individuals being persecuted for this most basic right are not forgotten.”

The campaign focuses on a dozen countries where journalists have been threatened, attacked, jailed or killed:  Brazil, Cameroon, Columbia, Ecuador, England, Honduras, Iran, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Russia and the United States, drawing from cases lists that PEN’s Writers In Prison Committee produces every six months.

Some of the cases of concern among the 2014 World Cup players include:

  • Eric Ohena Lembembe, the former executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), a prominent LGBT rights activist, journalist, writer and blogger. On July 16, 2013, Lembembe was found dead and his body mutiliated.  He appeared to have been dead several days. His murder reportedly came in the wake of several attacks on the offices of human rights defenders, including LGBT rights activists.
  • Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev, the deputy chief editor of a leading independent weekly in Dagestan, Novoe Delo (“New Action”), and regular contributor to the online site Caucasian Knot known for reporting on corruption and rights abuses in Dagestan.  On July 9, 2013, he was shot to death outside his home in the village of Semender near the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala.  Earlier in the year, Akhmednabiev had survived a similar attempt on his life when unidentified gunmen fired at him three times, but missed, and he had received numerous death threats.  A criminal investigation is said to be under way.
  • José Noel Canales Lagos, a reporter for the online news site Hondudiario.  While en route to work in the city of Comayagüela in August, 2012, group of unidentified men opened fire on his car, shooting him in the head.  PEN reports that Lagos had been receiving frequent death threats for three years.  The motive for the shooting is not known
  • PEN is also citing the US National Security Agency’s surveillance program, which it says has greatly expanded since 9/1, monitoring hundreds of millions of Americans and foreigners by spying on their telephone calls, emails and text messages.


Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

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