Welcome to Civil Society Watch Monthly Bulletin, an e-newsletter of updates and analyses concerning civil society's rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression around the world. The Bulletin is compiled by the staff at Civil Society Watch, a programme of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. Please feel free to forward the Bulletin to friends and colleagues. We welcome your comments and contributions!
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
MOLDOVA: Directives aim to intimidate civil society
RESOURCES AND PUBLICATIONS
RESOURCES AND PUBLICATIONS
Civil Society in Eurasia: Coming Apart or Coming Together?
CIVICUS is working with the Institute for Development Cooperation (IDC) in Kazakhstan and Lawyers for Civil Society in Russia to jointly facilitate the development of a Eurasia civil society network. The overarching objectives of the project are to ease the law-based restrictions on civil society; exchange best practices; promote a safer environment for local civil society to operate; and to link regional civil society with international support. In this interview, Inessa Frants, the Executive Director of IDC, speaks about the need for civil society in Eurasia to work together.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw/1060
KYRGYZSTAN: CIVICUS expresses concern over draft NGO law
17 March – CIVICUS wrote to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev to express concerns over the draft law “On amendments to several legislative acts of the Kyrgyz Republic”. The draft law calls for significant restrictions on the independence of NGOs, and expands the grounds for refusing registration to foreign organisations.
Read the full article: www.civicus.org/csw_files/Letter-KyrgyzDraftNGOLaw17.03.09.pdf
ETHIOPIA: UN Universal Periodic Review submission notes restrictions on freedom of association
13 April – In a submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review on Ethiopia, CIVICUS noted its concerns regarding freedom of association in the country. In particular, it critiqued the Charities and Societies Proclamation, passed earlier this year, which severely curtails the funding for organisations working on human rights, as well as those focusing on religion, women, children, people with disabilities, and conflict resolution. The submission also outlines worrying provisions in a draft anti-terror legislation currently being circulated.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw_files/UPRSubmissionEthiopia-April2009.pdf
UZBEKISTAN: Civil society activists detained for commemorating 2005 Andijan massacre
14 May - CIVICUS expressed concern over the detention of well-known civil society activists in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for commemorating the anniversary of the 2005 “Andijan Massacre”.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw/1059
MOLDOVA: Directives aim to intimidate civil society
8 May - CIVICUS has written to the President of Moldova, expressing concern about recent directives sent to a number of Moldovan NGOs following the aftermath of the 5 May elections. Among other demands, the directives have asked NGOs to register, to state their position in the relation to the violent protests, and to undergo an examination of their financial records.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw_files/LetterMoldova-12.05.09.pdf
Building a Eurasia civil society network for common goals
In April, for the first time in the organisation’s history, CIVICUS travelled to the Eurasia region to launch a project to build a regional network of civil society. The introductory workshop to the Eurasia IDEA Network brought together over 40 lawyers, human rights activists and non governmental organisations from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. CIVICUS is working with the Institute for Development Cooperation in Kazakhstan and Lawyers for Civil Society (LCS) in Russia to jointly facilitate the development of the network. Discussions, debates, and small group work led to the establishment of a dynamic and exciting foundation for the Eurasia IDEA Network project.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw/1057
RUSSIA: President acknowledges negative effects of NGO Law
15 April - President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia`s human rights campaigners faced unfair obstruction from officials who felt threatened by their work and that laws governing NGOs could be amended.
CUBA: US ends some restrictions on Cuba
13 April - President Barack Obama's order ending restrictions on Cuban-Americans' travel and remittances to Cuba is a major break from an ineffective and unjust policy, but according to the Human Rights Watch the US government should take further steps to adopt a new approach toward Cuba. Previously, the US government only allowed Cuban Americans to visit the island once a year and capped the amount of support Cubans could send to relatives at $75 per month.
Read the full article: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/04/13/us-overhaul-failed-cuba-policy
AZERBAIJAN: Referendum held on mass media law
19 March - On the 18th of March a referendum regarding amendments to the Law on Mass Media was held. Many believe the law is aimed at destroying independent media in the country, reports Human Rights House. The amendments to the Law create a legal basis to close press publications for two months, creating additional ways to oppress free media.
BAHRAIN: Royal pardon for 178 activists granted
12 April - 178 activists and human rights defenders, many detained on security charges under the 2006 Counter Terrorism Law, were granted a royal pardon by King of Bahrain Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa, reports the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
BURMA: Aung San Suu Kyi re-arrested
14 May - On 14 May, Special Branch police arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and her two live-in party supporters and domestic workers, Daw Khin Khin Win, and her daughter, Win Ma Ma, at Aung San Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon, and transferred the three to Insein Prison, reports Human Rights Watch. She faces charges that she allegedly violated her house arrest.
CHINA: Journalist "blacklist” created
19 March - On 13 February 2009, the government issued a code of conduct for the Chinese news assistants of foreign correspondents that threatens dismissal and loss of accreditation for engaging in "independent reporting," reports Human Rights Watch. The same day, the government announced it would create a "blacklist" of Chinese journalists deemed to have engaged in "illegal reporting." Chinese law forbids its citizens to work as journalists for foreign media in China.
COLOMBIA: Extrajudicial executions by security forces
4 March - According to Amnesty International, President Álvaro Uribe must make a strong public statement in support of the important and legitimate work of human rights defenders. The appeal came in the run up to demonstrations scheduled to take place in Bogotá and other Colombian cities on 6 March in protest of human rights violations committed by the security forces.
CONGO: Three trade unionists under arrest
19 March - Three members of the Congolese Trade Union Centre including its president, Mr. Nginamu Malaba, have been arrested. The arrests occurred after the three signed a memorandum denouncing the misappropriation of public funds by the Ministry of the National Economy and Trade.
ECUADOR: Environmental group shut down
16 March - The Ecuadorian government shut down Acción Ecológica, withdrawing the legal status of one of South America’s best-known environmental groups. In recent months, the organisation has supported indigenous-led, mass protests and highway blockades against President Rafael Correa’s support for large-scale mining.
EGYPT: Egyptian fatwas interfere with civil society.
9 April - According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights, the Al- Azhar Islamic Research Academy is interfering with civil society and rendering edicts (fatwas) against freedom of expression aimed to support the policy of the ruling party. The most recent fatwa announced that “striking is prohibited” and described the young people engaged in a 6 April strike as “saboteurs and sinners”.
GUATEMALA: Campesino leader under threat once again.
4 March - The national leader of the Campesino Committee of the Highlands, Leocadio Juracán, was once again targeted with threats after having given a press conference and radio interview, reports ITUC. He was representing the views of the indigenous and campesino community with regard to the rural development bill.
GREECE: Armed groups attack
4 March - According to a report from the Greek Helsinki Monitor, armed groups in Greece have attacked media houses, non-governmental organisations and reporters in order to silence them. A hand grenade was thrown at a facility of an immigrant support network in Athens.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Human rights at risk, amidst growing tensions
2 April - On 1 April, an unidentified individual dressed in civilian clothing and armed with a makarov gun visited Guinean League for Human Rights (LGDH) offices and asked for Mr. Luis Vaz Martins, President of LGDH, with a threatening tone, reports FIDH.
IRAN: One Million Signatures Campaign supporter sentenced
15 April - Women’s rights activist and One Million Signatures Campaign member, Ronak Safazadeh, was sentenced to a six-year mandatory prison term on charges of "spreading propaganda against the state" and for her membership in the political opposition group Pejak, reports World Movement for Democracy.
MALAYSIA: More bloggers arrested
2 April - The International Press Institute expressed concerns about the recent arrests of bloggers, restrictions on news organisations and other breaches of free expressions in Malaysia. In March, the authorities arrested six bloggers, denied several news organisations access to the dominant political party’s general assembly, and banned two opposition newspapers.
NEPAL: 14 women human rights defenders severely beaten
16 April – On 11 April, police violently repressed a demonstration by the Women Human Rights Defender Network Sunsari and more than 500 women from eight Village Development Committees, reports FIDH. The women were calling for sanctions against the police who had refused to earlier register a domestic violence complaint.
SAUDI ARABIA: Secret cameras to be placed in Internet cafes
22 April - The Saudi Ministry of Interior has imposed severe restrictions on Saudi Internet cafés, requiring owners of Internet cafés to install secret surveillance cameras to register users' names and identity numbers, reports ANHRI. This follows the blocking of ten thousand sites in Saudi Arabia.
SUDAN: Aid agencies ordered to shut down
11 March - The Amal Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, the Sudan Social Development Organisation, and the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development are three of the 13 the aid agencies that have been forced to shut down in Darfur, reports OMCT. On 4 March, Sudanese authorities also ordered ten foreign aid NGOs to leave the country.
TAJIKISTAN: New religion law to be passed
12 March - The new religion law of Tajikistan restricts the number of mosques, requires the state to name all imams, restricts religious education, imposes compulsory censorship of religious literature and imposes wide-ranging state control over the activity of all religious associations, was approved by both houses of parliament with little debate this month, reports Forum 18. The law awaits signature by President Emomali Rahmon.
TURKEY: Army intolerant towards criticism
19 March - According to the annual Bianet report, both the government and the army have displayed intolerance toward criticism of their performance and questioning of rights violations. As a result, freedoms of the press and expression have both taken a considerable step backwards in 2008.
UGANDA: Media smear campaign against LGBTI activists
1 May – Front Line reports an intense media smear campaign against human rights defenders who work in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights organisations, including Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). As a result of recent media articles, and statements by government officials, LGBTI defenders have reportedly been the subject of increased harassment in recent weeks.
USA: Frustration toward FBI boils over
15 April - Several American Muslim advocacy groups are considering suspension of their ongoing outreach with the FBI, reports Free Republic. Their decision follows February revelations of a FBI informant posing as a convert in mosques, and the FBI's disengagement from communications with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
UZBEKISTAN: Campaign of harassment against human rights defender
24 April - On 22 April 2009, Mashurov, the five-year-old son of Yelena Urlaeva, a member of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, was assaulted near her home, reports Front Line. Urlaeva was also assaulted on 15 April. Urlaeva believes that the attacks against herself and her son could be part of a campaign of intimidation and harassment against her.
ZIMBABWE: Government official admits laws used to silence media
12 May - A senior Zimbabwean government official has admitted that laws passed by the previous administration were still being used to "criminalise journalism" and needed to be changed, after two more journalists were arrested earlier this week, reports IRIN News.
“The Camden Principles” launched
The Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality were launched at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, on 23 April. Striking the balance between free speech and non-discrimination has often presented governments and activists alike with difficulties and challenges. The Camden Principles offer a thoughtful and alternative approach to address these challenges and conflicts.
Global press freedom declines in every region for first time
Last year global press freedom declined for a seventh straight year and deterioration occurred for the first time in every region. According to Freedom House's annual media study, the rollback was not confined to traditionally authoritarian states; with Israel, Italy and Hong Kong slipping from the study's Free category to Partly Free status.
CIVICUS calls for applications
CIVICUS invites applications for the positions of Civil Society Watch programme manager and Participatory Governance programme manager.
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CIVICUS is an alliance of members and partners in over 100 countries, dedicated to strengthening civil society and citizen action around the world. Civil Society Watch is a programme of CIVICUS, which seeks to expose, address and prevent threats to civil society's rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly. For more information, visit www.civicus.org and www.civilsocietywatch.org
The views expressed in this bulletin are a reflection of those contained in the original reports to which they are linked here, and are not necessarily those of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.