As Egypt Sentences More Activists, Rights Groups Speak Out

Posted February 26th, 2015 at 3:10 am (UTC+0)
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Alaa Abd El-Fatah, 2008

Alaa Abd El-Fatah, 2008

Just last Sunday, Egyptian President President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi admitted that “innocent youths” may be held in Egyptian prisons, suggesting he would work for their release.

The very next day, however, a Cairo court sentenced prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El Fattah to five years in jail and fined him the equivalent of $13,000.

El-Fattah is a well-known activist and blogger whose name became synonymous with Tahrir Square during Egypt’s revolution of 2011.  He was arrested in November 2013 after organizing a protest against the new constitution, which allows for civilians to be tried in military courts.

Ahmed Abdel Rahman, another defendant arrested at the same street protest, received the same sentence, and roughly two dozen others were given three-year sentences and similar fines.

Earlier this month, RePRESSed reported that prominent Egyptian pro-democracy activist, Ahmed Douma, had been handed a life sentence for violating Egypt’s anti-protest laws, and 229 others were sentenced in absentia to life in prison and fined him 17 million Egyptian pounds–that’s $2 million U.S.

Rights groups have been vocal in their opposition to the political climate in Egypt since Sisi came to power after the 2013 uprising that toppled Mohamed Morsi.

This week, Hussein Magdy of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms spoke with the international advocacy group CIVICUS about the challenges rights defenders in Egypt now face.

“The current regime exercises full control over political liberties enjoyed in the public sphere and orchestrates an intensified crackdown on CSOs [civil society organizations] and HRDs [human rights defenders],” Hussein Magdy of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms told the international advocacy group CIVICUS.

“The authorities have institutionalized arbitrary restrictions on civil society operations by proposing legal provisions that contradict Egypt’s international human rights obligations,” he said.

He said there have been numerous instances in which authorities have threatened to close down CSOs.

“They have also issued harsh prison sentences and pecuniary fines on HRDs for their peaceful advocacy activities. In its current state, it is fair to say that Egyptian civil society is going through a severe human rights crisis.”

In 2002, Egypt passed a new law regulating non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which Magdy calls one of the most restrictive NGO laws in the world.

“This law gives the state full authority to the state to impose unwarranted restrictions on freedom of association,” he told CIVICUS.

Added to that, a new draft NGO law is being considered which, if passed, Magdy says would “practically make it impossible to peacefully associate for any human rights cause” because it would allow the state to shut down non-compliant NGOs, restrict their funding and impose harsh fines for violations, up to three years in jail and heavy monetary fines.

Egypt’s human rights crisis, the most serious in the country’s modern history, continued unabated throughout 2014. The government consolidated control through constriction of basic freedoms and a stifling campaign of arrests targeting political opponents. Former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who took office in June, has overseen a reversal of the human rights gains that followed the 2011 uprising. – HRW World Report 2015: Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, offers his condolences to Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Saint-Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Cairo's al-Abbassiya district, Feb. 16, 2015.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, offers his condolences to Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Saint-Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo’s al-Abbassiya district, Feb. 16, 2015.

Magdy says rights groups and CSOs have continued to campaign for the repeal of these laws and are calling on the international community to speak out and take action.

The United States has come under criticism for failing to speak out more strongly against human rights abuses in Egypt.

“Cases that go after individuals for using freedom of expression and freedom of speech are of concern to us,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Monday.

But Egypt has emerged as an important partner in the fight against the Islamic State, particularly after jihadists beheaded  21 Egyptian Copts in Libya earlier this month, and stands to play an even greater role in preventing its spread into North Africa.

And, as Washington Times noted this week, all this puts the U.S. in a bit of a pickle.

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.

‘I Can’t Breathe’: Pussy Riot Releases Haunting New Video

Posted February 20th, 2015 at 1:23 pm (UTC+0)
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One of my colleagues here at the VOA, corruption correspondent Jeffrey Young, drew my attention today to a new video by Russian “opposition rock” group, Pussy Riot–its first English-language single–titled “I Can’t Breathe.”

It’s a tough video to watch:  Singers Masha Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, dressed in the uniforms of Russia’s special riot police, are buried alive, one shoveful of black dirt at a time, while the following words  are read aloud:

“…Please just leave me alone. please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me…I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe…”

They were the final words of Eric Garner, it will be recalled, the father of six children who died during an arrest by New York City police last July.

Amateur video shot by a bystander at the time of the arrest shows the unarmed Garner being forced to the ground by several officers, one of whom had his arm bent around Garner’s neck in a classic chokehold, a controversial method of subduing violent suspects that was banned by the New York City Police Department in 1993.

Garner was pronounced dead in a New York hospital a short time later.  His death–and the release of the video which showed him to be unarmed and nonviolent–sparked protests nationwide and drew renewed attention to the ongoing issue of police violence in the United States, particularly against people of color.

Demonstrators protest to demand justice for the death of Eric Garner, at Grand Central Terminal in the Manhattan borough of New York, December 9, 2014. The death in New York of Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, and the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, of Michael Brown, have highlighted strained relations between police and black Americans and rekindled a national debate over race relations.    REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Demonstrators protest to demand justice for the death of Eric Garner, at Grand Central Terminal in the Manhattan borough of New York, December 9, 2014. The death in New York of Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, and the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, of Michael Brown, have highlighted strained relations between police and black Americans and rekindled a national debate over race relations. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Garner’s death was later ruled as a homicide caused in part by the chokehold.  However, in early December, a jury cleared the police officer of any crime and the U.S. Justice Department announced it would conduct its own investigation into the incident.

“But the Pussy Riot music video goes well beyond the streets of New York,” Young points out.
“It speaks clearly to the oppression and smothering of Russians by the state and it also reflects the situation faced by government opponents in many other countries.”

On their YouTube page, Pussy Riot dedicates the video to Garner and to “all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror – killed, choked, perished because of war and state sponsored violence of all kinds – for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change.”

And it adds, “We stand in solidarity.”

 

 

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.

Prominent Egyptian Youth Activist Gets Life In Prison

Posted February 4th, 2015 at 3:36 pm (UTC+0)
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Egyptian political activist Ahmed Douma attends his trial in CairoDecember 3, 2013:

Ahmed Douma, an Egyptian youth activist who had played a prominent role in the April 6 youth movement, tweeted, “Security forces are arresting me this minute and taking me to Al-Basateen police station.”

Later, he tweeted for the last time as a free man: “I’m now at Al-Basateen police station. I don’t know the charge I’m facing or the reason for the arrest‎.”

A few days earlier, Douma had participated in anti-military protests outside of Cairo’s Abdeen courthouse, defying a controversial new law banning public gatherings of more than ten people–a law widely regarded as an effort by the military to clamp down on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other opponents.

This week, in one of the harshest sentences to date against protesters of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, a Cairo court sentenced Douma, 26, and 229 others in absentia to life in prison and fined him 17 million Egyptian pounds–that’s two million US dollars.

The court also sentenced 40 minors–also in absentia–to 10 years in prison.

The judge who handed down the sentence is Mohamed Nagi Shehata, the same judge who jailed three Al Jazeera journalists, including recently-freed-and-deported Australian Peter Greste and still-detained Mohamed Adel, sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death.

As can be seen in the video posted by Masr Al-Arabia, when Douma heard the verdict Wednesday, he laughed and clapped in apparent sarcasm, prompting a rebuke by Shehata, who threatened adding additional years to the sentence.

“I am particularly worried about the responses to the verdict against Douma and others,” said blogger/commentator Nervana Mahmoud. “Egypt is so divided, not just between Islamists and non-Islamists, but between those who worship the state and those who worship the activists.

“The first group thinks that because Douma admitted to throwing molotovs, he is a monster.  The others portray him as an angel.  Douma is neither an angel nor a monster.  He is a victim of irrational anger and erratic justice.” – Nervana Mahmoud

“Egypt’s courts have become a tool of repression rather than a pillar of justice, as the life sentences imposed on Douma and his co-defendants make horribly clear,” Robert Herman, vice president of regional programs at Freedom House, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, said in a written statement.

“President El-Sisi and Egypt’s government should focus on building a democratic system rather than on repression that fuels turmoil.”

In its annual world report released in January, Human Rights Watch noted that since the military regained power in Egypt and ousted Mohamed Morsi, security forces have jailed more than 40 thousand Muslim Brotherhood members, as well as secular activists, and handed down death sentences in mass trials which “make no pretense of individualizing proof or providing a meaningful opportunity for a defense.”

“Egypt is at a post-revolution nadir, and right now there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director, on releasing that report  “The situation for thousands of Egyptians is getting worse by the day.”

In Egypt, “life” sentences amount to 25 years.

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.

‘Darkest Day’ For France, For Journalism

Posted January 7th, 2015 at 4:21 pm (UTC+0)
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U.S._Embassy_France_(@USEmbassyFrance)_Twitter_-_2015-01-07_10.19.03

Irreverent? Admittedly.  Tasteless?  Often.  The French newspaper Charlie Hebdo regularly exercised a right to freedom of speech through satire.

Everyone was a target–not just Islam and its radicals:  In a December issue, Charlie published a cover cartoon depicting a garish Virgin Mary giving birth to the infant Jesus.

Today, the publication became a target itself.  Masked gunmen with automatic weapons burst into its newsrooms and began firing.  Twelve are dead, including the cartoonist known as “Cabu,” along with his editor and fellow cartoonist, Stephane Charbonnier, who used the pseudonym “Charb.”

Just minutes before the attack, Charlie had tweeted a satirical cartoon of Islamic State’s self-styled caliph offering wishes for a Happy New Year.

Charlie was firebombed in 2011 one day after it published a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad and has continued to receive threats.

“No barbaric act will never extinguish the freedom of the press,” French President François Hollande tweeted Wednesday.  “We are a united country that will react and unite.”

Hollande

 

“France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world,” President Barack Obama said in a written statement, offering the French government any assistance it would need to bring the shooters to justice.

In a joint briefing with Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna,  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands with France in “solidarity and commitment” in “confronting extremism.”

He noted that France gave birth to democracy, which is exactly what extremists fear the most.

The U.S. Embassy in Paris changed the picture of its Twitter account to read, “Je Suis Charlie,” after the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie–“I am Charlie”–which thousands of tweeps have been using to express their shock and outrage over the incident.

Cameron

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans called Wednesday’s incident “an attack on all of us, on our fundamental values, on the freedoms our #EU societies are built upon.”

Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Without Borders called it “the darkest day of the history of the French Press.”

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.

Update: Letter From Jailed RFE/RL Journalist Khadija Ismailova

Posted December 19th, 2014 at 11:45 am (UTC+0)
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A photo of Khadija Ismayilova's letter from Kurakhani prison (click to enlarge), Photo: RFE/RL

A photo of Khadija Ismayilova’s letter from Kurakhani prison (click to enlarge), Photo: RFE/RL

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty this week published a letter from their Azeri language service colleague, Khadija Ismailova, reporter is being detained in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku, as detailed in an earlier RePRESSed post.

With characteristic cheer, she writes:

My dear friends!

Here in pretrial detention, my thoughts are with you. My only regret is that here I am restricted from helping you.

You are doing an important job helping oppressed people. Happy New Year to you and all like-minded people.

I am full of hope on the eve of this New Year that truth and justice will win.

Arrests and restrictions are part of our mission in telling the truth. My arrest proves one more time that it is important to make change happen: We need to build a new reality where truth will be a norm of life and telling the truth will not require courage.

You all know why I am here in prison. Uncovering corruption is the real reason. And the only way to prove oppressive regimes wrong is to continue uncovering corruption, to continue defending the rights of oppressed people. Yes, there is a price to pay. But it is worth it!

As Nazim Hikmet, the Turkish poet, wrote: “Those who carry the teardrops of their siblings as a heavy burden upon their neck shouldn’t follow our path.”

Stay strong!

Keep doing a good job!

More investigations, more efforts for justice and human rights — this is my wish for 2015.

Peace,
Khadija

Khadija, unfortunately, is in good company this year.  The press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders estimates that in 2014, 180 journalists were imprisoned across the globe, along with 13 media assistants and 178 netizens.

A bit of bright news came out of Iraq today.  The new prime minister, Haider Al-Abadi, has dropped all pending lawsuits filed by his office against journalists, a move that he hopes will demonstrate commitment to freedom of expression and his support for the press.

 

(26)_Khadija_Ismayilova_-_Twitter_Search_-_2014-12-08_14.58.05

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.

In Azerbaijan, Khadija Ismayilova ‘Punished For Her Journalism’

Posted December 9th, 2014 at 10:10 am (UTC+0)
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Courtesy, Khadija Ismayilova Prisoner of Conscience Facebook Administrators

Courtesy, Khadija Ismayilova Prisoner of Conscience Facebook Administrators

If you ask Azerbaijan prosecutors why they have jailed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reporter Khadija Ismayilova, they will tell you it is because she drove a former boyfriend to suicide.

“Ismayilova was arrested for insulting [Tural] Mustafayev’s honour and dignity in the social networks and among her friends due to breaking off their relations and his intention to marry to another woman, achieving his dismissal and making him depend on her…” read an official statement released by the General Prosecutor on Saturday, one day after her arrest..

The Sabail District court in the capital city Baku has ordered her to be held in pre-trial detention for up to two months.  If she is convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison.

But if you ask RFE/RL and international rights group, they will tell you her arrest it is part of a government effort to silence her.

Ismayilova is a well-known investigative reporter and talk show host with Radio Azadlig, RFE/RL’s Azeri language service. She has written extensively about rights abuses and corruption in the former Soviet republic, particularly the business dealings of the first family.

Khadija Ismayilova, photo courtesy of Khadija Ismayilova Prisoner of Conscience Facebook Administrators

Khadija Ismayilova, photo courtesy of Khadija Ismayilova Prisoner of Conscience Facebook Administrators

“Today’s detention order comes hot on the heels of a long series of attempts to silence her. The Azerbaijan authorities must stop this harassment of journalists just for doing their jobs,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

RFE’s chief editor, Nenad Pejic, says “Khadija is being punished for her journalism.”

According to reports, the government has been trying to silence Ismayilova since at least March 2012, when she received an anonymous letter containing intimate photos of her, along with a threat:  Stop writing or else more embarrassment would come.

Ismayilova decided to go public and posted the following statement on her Facebook page: “…this is not the first time that these acts of blackmail have been used against fellow journalists. The motives of these acts are  very well known to the public. It is done to silence people who are outspoken…”

One week later, an embarrassing video of Ismayilova appeared online.  The rights group ARTICLE 19 says it had been shot by a camera secretly installed in her apartment.
In spite of the intimidation, Ismayilova continued writing articles connecting President Ilham Aliyev and family with huge construction and gold mining projects.
Pro-government newspapers and websites continued the smear campaign against Ismayilova, throughout 2013, posting links to embarrassing videos of her and casting aspersions on her moral character.

In October of this year, Azeri prosecutors banned her from travel, which precluded her from attending an international conference on freedom and human rights issues, held in Prague.

According to U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.),  Ismayilova was scheduled to testify in front of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on Nov. 19, but was prevented from doing so because of that travel ban.

“The current charge levied against Ms. Ismayilova of ‘incitement to suicide’ is just an escalation of the years of harassment by the authorities that she has endured.

“I am deeply concerned about the detention of Ms. Ismayilova, who has been the target of unrelenting persecution by the government of Azerbaijan because of her efforts to expose corruption within the country, as well as her advocacy on behalf of political prisoners. The current charges against her are bizarre and only seem designed to silence one of the few independent voices left in Azerbaijan.” – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

Last week’s charge was brought the day after Ramiz Mehdiyev, chief of staff to the Azeri president, issued a scathing 60-page statement accusing Ismayilova of “defiance” and displaying a “destructive attitude.”  The statement also accused RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service of working “for a foreign secret service.”

Tural Mustafayev, Ismayilova’s alleged boyfriend and a former reporter for RFE/RL’s Meydan TV, claims that Ismayilova became jealous when he began seeing another woman, harassed him online and used her influence to prevent him from getting his old job back.

He reportedly tried to hang himself in May of this year–and last October, swallowed rat poison, but survived both suicide attempts.

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.

USA: Art Or Assault? Supreme Court Considers Free Speech In Social Media

Posted December 2nd, 2014 at 3:38 pm (UTC+0)
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National Crime Victim Bar Association Director Jeff Dion speaks with reporters about victims' rights after arguments in the case of Anthony Elonis, who was convicted in 2010 on the grounds of threatening his wife via social media, at the Supreme Court building in Washington December 1, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court appeared conflicted on Monday over whether to uphold the conviction of a Pennsylvania man found guilty of making threatening statements to his estranged wife, law enforcement officers and others on social media.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

National Crime Victim Bar Association Director Jeff Dion speaks with reporters about victims’ rights after arguments in the case of Anthony Elonis, who was convicted in 2010 on the grounds of threatening his wife via social media, at the Supreme Court building in Washington December 1, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court appeared conflicted on Monday over whether to uphold the conviction of a Pennsylvania man found guilty of making threatening statements to his estranged wife, law enforcement officers and others on social media. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

This week, U.S. Supreme Court is considering the issue of free speech in the digital age, reviewing the case of a Pennsylvania man who was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for posting graphically violent rap lyrics on his Facebook  page.

Court documents show that back in May 2010, life wasn’t going very well for Anthony Elonis.  His wife of seven years, Tara, moved out of the couple’s home taking their two children with her.  Elonis, despondent, began having troubles at the amusement park where he worked.  Matters only got worse after a co-worker accused him of sexual harassment.

Elonis posted something menacing about the woman on Facebook.  When his supervisor saw the post, he fired Elonis.

The Pennsylvania man then began posting a slew of angry rap lyrics.

“There’s one way to love you, but a thousand ways to kill you,” he wrote about his wife. “I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

When Elonis’ sister-in-law posted about shopping for Halloween costumes for his two children, Elonis posted, “Tell [my son] he should dress up as matricide for Halloween. I don’t know what his costume would entail though. Maybe [my ex-wife’s] head on a stick?”

His wife said she was afraid for her life and obtained a court order forbidding Elonis from having any contact with her.  But her ex continued his Facebook rants, suggesting violent attacks on police and the FBI, and even a school shooting:

“That’s it, I’ve had about enough…I’m checking out and making a name for myself…Enough elementary schools in a ten mile radius…To initiate the most heinous school shooting ever imagined…And hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a Kindergarten class…The only question is … which one?” he posted.

Anthony Elonis pictured in this Twitter screenshot

Anthony Elonis pictured in this Twitter screenshot

Eventually, his posts attracted the attention of the FBI, who came to his house to interview him.  After they left, he posted another set of lyrics, clearly directed at federal investigators:

“So the next time you knock, you best be serving a warrant…
And bring yo’ SWAT and an explosives expert while you’re at it…
Cause little did y’all know, I was strapped wit’ a bomb…
Why do you think it took me so long to get dressed with no shoes on?
I was jus’ waitin’ for y’all to handcuff me and pat me down…
Touch the detonator in my pocket and we’re all goin’ [BOOM!]”

Elonis’ lawyers and his supporters argue that he was just letting off steam, that his lyrics were, in essence, an art form, and that he never intended to hurt anyone.  They say Elonis was heavily influenced by Eminem, who, after all, once rapped about killing his ex-wife and was never prosecuted.

Jurors in the Elonis case were instructed to consider whether a reasonable person would consider his Facebook posts to be threatening. It took them only three hours to deliberate:  They found him guilty of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to threaten another person and sentenced him to four years

Elonis appealed his case, claiming his right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  After the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld his conviction, Elonis filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, which Monday began its review of the case.

Elonis has the support of interest groups like the Student Press Law Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and PEN American Center, who want to see the appeals court decision reversed, worrying that if it stands, it sets a precedent for “increasing, excessive censorship of constitutionally permissible speech.”

They quote psychologists who reason that “people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say and do,” and that internet users may vent emotions they would never dare act out in person.

But tell that to Tara Elonis, who said she believed her estranged husband’s threats.

“I felt like I was being stalked. I felt extremely afraid for mine and my children’s and my families’ lives,” she told jurors in the original trial of October 2011.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence  (NNEDV) filed a brief in the case arguing that whether Elonis meant the threats or not, they still caused harm.

“The recipient of a threatening message does not—and indeed cannot—know the private motivations the speaker had for sending it. She can only react to the message based on its objective character. If it is objectively threatening, she will predictably fear for her life and will likely take various precautions in order to protect herself. The harm is created by the threat itself,” reads the NNEDV statement.

NNEDV argues that threats of violence commonly precede domestic violence and that the internet offers abusers a new tool for threatening victims. calling in If threats on social media and that these threats cannot be protected by free speech laws.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech in the United States, but for decades, the Supreme Court has struggled over the question of whether some speech should not be protected.

In previous rulings, the Court has determined that free speech does not include the right to, for example, make or distribute obscene materials, yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater and therefore cause dangerous panic.

Monday’s hearing, whose transcript is available online, demonstrated just how tough it will be for justices to draw the line between offensive ranting and true threats, and to come up with a legal standard for differentiating the two.

The government lawyer argued that online threats should to be taken as seriously as any other threats, and while no ruling has been made, the justices seemed to agree.

 

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.

Syria: lslamic State Group Issues Repressive New Press Guidelines

Posted October 7th, 2014 at 3:20 pm (UTC+0)
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An image grab taken from an AFPTV video on September 16, 2014 shows a jihadist from the Islamic State (IS) group standing on the rubble of houses after a Syrian warplane was reportedly shot down by IS militants over the Syrian town of Raqa. The plane crashed into a house in the Euphrates Valley city, the sole provincial capital entirely out of Syrian government control, causing deaths and injuries on the ground. AFP PHOTO / AFPTV / STR

An image grab taken from an AFPTV video on September 16, 2014 shows a jihadist from the Islamic State (IS) group standing on the rubble of houses after a Syrian warplane was reportedly shot down by IS militants over the Syrian town of Raqa. The plane crashed into a house in the Euphrates Valley city, the sole provincial capital entirely out of Syrian government control, causing deaths and injuries on the ground. AFP PHOTO / AFPTV / STR

 

The Syria Deeply blog today (SD) posted new guidelines for journalists covering the Islamic State (IS) in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province, now largely under IS control.

A local journalist called “Amer” is alleged to have provided SD with  the new rules, which he says came out of a meeting between ISIS media staff and independent journalists.

The blog notes the conditions are not negotiable.  They are as follows:

1.  All journalists are required to allegiance to the Caliphate.

2.  Journalists must be licensed by the IS and will answer directly to its media offices.

3. Journalists may directly with international news and wire services such as Reuters, AP, etc., but they may not work with or provide any material to international or terrestrial satellite TV channels–especially networks that are blacklisted, i.e., Al-Arabiya, Al Jazeera and Orient TV.

4.  Journalists are allowed to cover events in the governorate with either written or still images without ISIS media office permission.

5.  Nothing may be published without providing journalists’ and photographers’ names.

6. Journalists may not write or broadcast any news without permission ISIS media office first.

7. Journalists may blog, tweet or post to Facebook, but must provide the ISIS media office with full web addresses and user IDs.

8. Journalists must abide by the regulations when taking photos within ISIS territory and avoid filming locations or security events where taking pictures is prohibited.

9.  Journalists will be held accountable for all violations.  Punishment is not specified.

10. The rules are not final and can be changed at any time.

Syria Deeply notes that local journalists who attended the meeting were required to sign an agreement; those who did not have fled Syria.

 

 

 

 

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.

#RePRESSed in Ferguson, Missouri

Posted August 19th, 2014 at 4:32 pm (UTC+0)
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Riots continue in Ferguson, Missouri–and so, too, have the arrests of journalists–at least 11 so far.

Getty Images photographer Scott Olson (C) is arrested by a highway patrol officer during a protest for the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. He was arrested because police required media to be within certain areas, media quoted another journalist as saying. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to help quell days of rioting and looting spurred by the fatal shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white policeman.    REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Getty Images photographer Scott Olson (C) is arrested by a highway patrol officer during a protest for the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. He was arrested because police required media to be within certain areas, media quoted another journalist as saying. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to help quell days of rioting and looting spurred by the fatal shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white policeman. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Here’s a sampling of some of the criticism heaped on officials in Missouri:

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.

USA: Journalists Covering #Ferguson Unrest Are Harassed, Detained

Posted August 15th, 2014 at 3:32 pm (UTC+0)
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A television position is pictured empty while riot police clears a street of demonstrators, in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fourth night of demonstrations over the fatal shooting last weekend of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, 18, by a police officer on Saturday after what police said was a struggle with a gun in a police car. A witness in the case told local media that Brown had raised his arms to police to show that he was unarmed before being killed. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A television position is pictured empty while riot police clears a street of demonstrators, in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fourth night of demonstrations over the fatal shooting last weekend of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, 18, by a police officer on Saturday after what police said was a struggle with a gun in a police car. A witness in the case told local media that Brown had raised his arms to police to show that he was unarmed before being killed. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Police firing on news crews with tear gas.

Reporters handcuffed and thrown in jail.

No, this isn’t Tehran or Beijing, but Ferguson, Mo., smack-dab in the center of the United States, where for days, demonstrators have taken to the streets in reaction to the police killing of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown on August 9. And reporters trying to cover events say they’ve been treated badly.HC_(Heycameraman)_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two journalists–Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly were briefly detained on Wednesday and released without charge. Lowry’s firsthand account of the incident, published in the Post Thursday, is chilling:

“’My hands are behind my back,’ I said. ‘I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.’ At which point one officer said: ‘You’re resisting. Stop resisting.’  That was when I was most afraid — more afraid than of the tear gas and rubber bullets. As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser…”

Al Jazeera America journalists reported that they were attacked by police with tear gas and rubber bullets, and one news photographer was attached by local residents.

Eli_Rosenberg_(EliKMBC)_on_Twitter_-_2014-08-15_11.40.05President Barack Obama expressed his concern in a statement on Wednesday:

“…And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has also voiced alarm:

“We are concerned by the detention and harassment of reporters trying to cover the news in Ferguson,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists have a right to work freely on the streets of any American city, and authorities in Ferguson have a duty to ensure that they can do so there too.”
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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About rePRESSEDed

VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary monitors the state of free expression and free speech around the world.

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