Online freedoms of expression and association deserve to be protected as diligently as offline rights, a leading authority told the World Movement for Democracy’s 7th assembly in Lima this week.
Cyber-activism is coming under a growing threat from authoritarian regimes – and even some democracies, said Maina Kiai, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
The new curbs are a further manifestation of autocrats’ efforts to curb the new political spaces that have been carved out by civil society, said Maria Leissner, secretary-general of the Community of Democracies.
Since the Second World War, the historical dominance of states in international politics has been challenged by civil society and the assertion of individual sovereignty encapsulated in the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, said Iranian historian and rights campaigner Ladan Boroumand, a member of the World Movement’s steering committee.
In a helpful but disturbing round-up of current threats to free speech, RFE/RL reports that:
In Russia, Left Front movement leader Sergei Udaltsov (above) and his aide Konstantin Lebedev have been formally charged with conspiracy to organize mass riots.
Both could be jailed for up to 10 years after being the subject of a film that purportedly shows them plotting to launch large-scale disturbances aimed at toppling President Vladimir Putin. Brian Whitmore’s Power Vertical blog notes of the state-controlled NTV, which aired the film and often smears opposition leaders with material “leaked” by the security services.
“If you happen to find yourself featured in an NTV documentary[like National Endowment for Democracy grantee, GOLOS], then you’d best watch your back.” Two Pussy Riot members are facing transfer to one of Russia’s notorious penal colonies, where disease, abuse, and recidivism are depressingly commonplace.
Recent comments by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suggest that the feminist group Femen could soon face a crackdown.
Captain Houshang Shahbazi, who came to fame last year after safely landing a Boeing727 following the failure of its nose landing gear, has told Iranian news agencies that Iranian authorities have forced him into early retirement and accused him of calling Iran’s airline industry unsafe. Shahbazi has been campaigning against sanctions that have prevented Iran from updating its fleet of civilian planes.
A top Turkish pianist has appeared in an Ankara court on charges of insulting Islam with his tweets, in a case that is raising concerns over freedom of expression in Turkey.
But sometimes decent society fights back. The shooting of Pakistani girl peace campaigner Malala Yousafzai (left) by extremists has prompted growing calls for the government to deliver a final deathblow to the Taliban in its stronghold of North Waziristan.
(See the transcript of RFE/RL’s Facebook chat on Malala Yousafzai.)