politics of cyberspace
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Dhaka Feb. 27 to denounce the murder of Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, hacked to death with machetes earlier that day while walking near a book fair he was visiting in the city. Roy was founder of Mukto-Mona (Free Mind) blog, which advocated secularism and atheism. He had received numerous threats from Islamists in recent months. His wife was also injured the attack. There have been no arrests. At the rally, protesters chanted "We want justice" and "Raise your voice against militants."
An Egyptian court on Feb. 23 sentenced activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah to five years in prison in a retrial on charges stemming from the 2011 uprising. Abdel-Fattah, a secular activist, was initially charged in November 2013 and later sentenced to 15 years under the country's law criminalizing unauthorized protest. While Abdel-Fattah's sentence was reduced on retrial, many supports have criticized the court's decision, claiming he should have been set free. Judge Hassan Farid also ordered that Abdel-Fattah and his co-defendants be subjected to police surveillance for a period of time after released from their prison sentences.
Bahrain's Ministry of Interior initiated a criminal investigation on Feb. 17 into alleged illegal content posted by the country's main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. Al-Wefaq regularly publishes content to its website and Twitter account, including pictures of protests against the Sunni majority party. Feb. 14 marked the four-year anniversary of a Shiite uprising in Bahrain and hundreds took the streets to protest a lack of political reform and the imprisonment of Al-Wafeq leader Sheikh Ali Salman. The alleged criminal content involves pictures of wounded protesters from the weekend protests, and claims that the authorities fired buckshot and tear gas to disperse protesters. Al-Wefaq is accused of publicly inciting hatred against the government, encouraging illegal rallies and distributing false news.
Well, the interminable cartoon wars have now hit Malaysia. On Feb. 10, the Malaysian Federal Court upheld a "sodomy" conviction and five-year prison term of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, a decision clearly as politicized as it is reactionary. That same day, cartoonist Zulkiflee Awar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, was arrested at his home—charged under the country's draconian "sedition" law for tweeting a cartoon critical of the ruling, and portraying the judge in the case as Prime Minister Najib Razak. (BBC News, The Malaysian Online, Jurist) Said Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists: "We call on authorities to release Zunar immediately, drop all charges against him, and get to work reforming the sedition law that Prime Minister Najib Razak once acknowledged has no place in Malaysian society." Not all voixes have been so forthright, however...
UN rights experts on Jan. 30 urged the Omani government to release Said Ali Said Jadad, a human rights activist. Jadad, who promoted democratic reforms, was arrested last week with no warrant and charged with undermining the prestige of the state, inciting demonstrations, steering up sectarian strife and offending state officials. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Maina Kiai believe Jadad's detention may be retaliation for communicating with international organizations, noting that Jadad has been arrested several times after visits from representatives of the UN. The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) has also denounced the arrest. Jadad has reportedly been harassed by the government for several months; he was placed under travel ban last October, and also detained last December when police raided his home.
Egypt's Court of Cassation upheld convictions and three-year prison sentences of three activists Jan. 26 for violating the country's protest laws. Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel were arrested under a law that bans political gatherings of more than 10 people without prior government permission. As the Court of Cassation is Egypt's highest, the convicted men have no further legal redress. Human Rights Watch has criticized the law since its drafting, claiming that it goes "well beyond the limitations permitted under international law" for the right to peacefully assemble. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also condemned the law, its spokesperson stating that "no one should be criminalized or subjected to any threats or acts of violence, harassment or persecution for addressing human rights issues through peaceful protests." Thousands have been arrested under this law, including many supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the day of his 2015 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Jan. 20 that the Chinese government should radically revise its proposed legislation on counter-terrorism to make it consistent with international law and the protection of human rights. The draft law was made public for consultation in November and is expected to be adopted in 2015 after minimal revisions. HRW charges that the draft law's definition of what constitutes "terrorism" is "dangerously vague and open-ended," constituting a "recipe for abuses."