The first of September marked the fourth consecutive birthday Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has spent in prison. Rajab is the co-founder of two independent civil society organisations, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), both members of IFEX. He is currently serving a combined seven-year sentence for Twitter posts published in 2015 regarding alleged torture of prisoners in Bahrain, as well as the killing of Yemeni civilians carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.
To mark his birthday, activists and civil society organisations published messages of support for his case, and called for his freedom.
Human rights violations persist in Bahrain, as do acts of resistance. On 26 July, the night before the executions of 25-year-old Ali AlArab and 24-year-old Ahmed AlMalali, a Bahraini photojournalist and activist in London, Moosa Mohammed, unfurled a banner that read: “I am risking my life to save 2 men about to be executed. Boris Johnson act now!” After facing detention and torture by authorities in Bahrain, Mohammed had fled the country in 2006 upon being granted asylum in the United Kingdom. Embassy staff reportedly beat him, and threatened to throw him off the roof.
The two men were executed, nevertheless, after being convicted alongside 58 other prisoners in a mass trial that has been widely condemned. AlArab and AlMalali were allegedly subjected to persistent torture during their respective arrests in 2017 and subsequent detentions, denied access to an attorney, coerced into signing confessions, and prohibited from attending their trials. Organisations, including ADHRB and the EU FIDH were among a multitude of voices that condemned the executions.
“The actions of the Embassy officials here are appalling and criminal, but not surprising to those of us who know Bahrain,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB.
“The people most at risk are those who choose to freely express themselves, whether they be journalists, activists or photographers,” said Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship. “…But ordinary citizens can face repercussions if they follow, retweet, comment or like a Twitter or Facebook post”.
Meanwhile, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has called attention to the deteriorating health of human rights advocate and blogger, Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain. For refusing to wear a prison uniform, Dr. Al-Singace has been denied medical treatment, family visitation rights and access to hygiene supplies.
GCHR calls this “a violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners” and also points to the poor conditions of some 600 prisoners who have been on a hunger strike since 15 August, protesting “degrading and inhumane prison conditions and ill treatment” in Bahrain’s prison system.
Addressing the intensifying clampdown on freedom of expression in Bahrain, member organisations have called on Amal Clooney, the United Kingdom’s Special Envoy on Media Freedom, to urge the UK government to fulfil its commitment to protect journalists and free media by pressing Bahrain to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
In Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arrested photojournalist Forough Alaei and several women’s rights activists for attempting to illegally enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch a soccer match, by dressing as men. Alaei was documenting the activists’ attempt to challenge the prohibition of women from attending soccer matches in Iran.
In March, a young woman with bipolar disorder was detained for attempting to enter a match at Tehran’s Esteqlal soccer club. Released on bail, the woman reportedly set herself on fire outside the public prosecutor’s office in September upon being informed by a judge that she faced a six-month prison sentence.
Long considered an unwritten law, Iran is currently the only nation in the world that continues to ban women from sports stadiums. Ongoing negotiations between FIFA and Iran’s Football Association have placed pressure on the country to change its policy, but with limited progress. Facing removal from all international soccer events for failure to conform, Iran recently announced it would allow women to attend a men’s soccer World Cub qualifying match in October.
Meanwhile, CPJ has called on Iranian authorities to release photojournalist Nooshin Jafari, who was arrested on 3 August. Authorities reportedly confiscated 35 items from her home, including her phone, memory drives and cameras. Detained in an unknown location, her family has been unable to contact her since the arrest.
According to a recent statement by Reporters Without Borders, Iran is currently the world’s biggest jailer of women journalists. “Already one of the world’s five biggest jailers of journalists, Iran is now holding more women in connection with their journalistic activities than any other country in the world,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran/Afghanistan Desk.
Also in August, Iran sentenced 27-year-old satirical writer, Kioomars Marzban, to 23 years and three months in prison, and sentenced economic reporter Marzieh Amiri to 10 and a half years in prison in addition to 148 lashes.
In Algeria, at least five independent local news sites have been blocked amid ongoing political reform protests.
In Yemen, gunmen have abducted former journalist Abdel Hafiz al-Samadi, bringing to 20 the number of journalists who have been abducted over the past five years.
Kuwaiti security officials continue to target the country’s minority Bidoon population, with several activists kidnapped and/or detained weeks after a July sit-in protesting the lack of rights for the community.
In Palestine, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has launched a month-long campaign calling for the protection of Palestinian women journalists. The social media campaign highlights the string of violations that women journalists – who represent 29.3% of registered journalists – are subject to, including physical injuries, detentions, and denial of coverage by Israeli authorities.
A recent report by the organisation also highlighted an increase in attacks on media freedoms in Palestine throughout the summer. A total of 38 violations were registered in July alone, with 16 of those being Facebook’s closure of pages and accounts by journalists and news agencies for allegedly violating “Facebook criteria”.
In Egypt, after more than a year in arbitrary detention, blogger Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan (also known as “Mohamed Oxygen”) was finally released. Over the summer, the country also arrested three journalists and rescinded release orders for journalists Badr Mohammed Badr and Mahmoud Hussein. Meanwhile, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) has called for the release of Ramy Shaath, a political opponent and coordinator of the BDS movement in Egypt, who has been detained since 5 July.
In Palestine, 7amleh continues to work towards protecting Palestinian digital rights with upcoming events that include a digital security conference in November, and the Fourth Annual Palestine Digital Activism Forum scheduled for March 2020.
In Lebanon, Social Media Exchange will be hosting the second annual Bread&Net unconference in November. This year, participants will tackle themes that include digital security education, communities and networks, as well as policy and advocacy in difficult contexts.
Also in Lebanon, the Maharat Foundation will be co-hosting a fact-checking workshop in collaboration with the International Fact-Checking Network and Google News Initiative. The daylong training in October is open to 25 journalists from Lebanon and the Arab region.
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Source: MEDIA FEED