The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aloáin, today raised grave concerns with the Government of Egypt over its ongoing assault on freedom of expression.
The human rights experts expressed particular alarm over reports of the expanding list of websites shut down or otherwise blocked by authorities for ‘spreading lies’ and ‘supporting terrorism’, according to the State-run news agency MENA.
“The situation for journalism and the freedom of expression and access to information in Egypt has been in crisis for several years,” the experts noted. “It takes many forms, including the unlawful detention and harassment of journalists and activists.
“Denying access to websites of all sorts, but especially news sites, deprives all Egyptians of basic information in the public interest,” they said warning that around 130 websites may have been blocked so far.
The Egyptian authorities have reportedly blocked access to the websites of at least 21 news agencies, including well-known sources of information as MadaMasr, RASSD, Al Watan, and Huffpost Arabi, as well as the websites of human rights organizations such as Reporters without Borders, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and the Alkarama Foundation.
However, the Special Rapporteurs added that the lack of public record and transparency about the blockings, and the lack of prior or subsequent notification, make it difficult to verify the total number.
“Limiting information as the Egyptian Government has done, without any transparency or identification of the asserted ‘lies’ or ‘terrorism’, looks more like repression than counter-terrorism,” they said.
The experts also noted that the authorities have not provided any evidence to prove that blocking websites would meet the tests of international human rights law. They recalled that, under international law, any such measures must be provided by law and be necessary and proportionate to meet a legitimate objective.
“In the case of the widespread blockings in Egypt,” the experts pointed out, “the blockings appear based on overbroad counter-terrorism legislation, and they lack any form of transparency and have extremely limited, if any, judicial control.”
The Special Rapporteurs and other UN human rights experts have previously urged the Government to release journalists, and to lift all restrictions on their freedom of movement.
“We want to take this opportunity, to also remind the authorities of our grave concern for the rights of all those detained based on their writing or their work in public space,” they concluded.
Published on the OHCHR's website on August 30, 2017.
Measures in Cambodia, which left radio programmes and licences suspended, have sparked the United Nations human rights wing to call on the Government for political and civil rights guarantees.
“We are concerned by a rapid series of ministerial and administrative measures which have resulted in the suspension of radio programmes and licences, threatened a main English-language newspaper with closure, and shut down a foreign non-governmental organisation,” Liz Throssell, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters at today's regular press briefing.
“Ahead of next year's general election, we call on the Government to guarantee full political and civil rights, and media freedoms,” she added.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI), a foreign non-governmental organization (NGO), was shut down by ministerial order on 23 August, in the first such closure brought under the 2015 Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations.
Noting that the organisation has been working on elections and with parties across the political spectrum, OHCHR pointed out that its international staff were given seven days to leave the country.
Earlier this month, three Cambodian organisations working on human rights and elections were also subjected to targeted tax investigations.
“We have concerns that NDI was closed without due process, and are worried about the overall deterioration of the environment for human rights defenders and civil society in Cambodia,” continued Ms. Throssell.
Moreover, the Government this week has revoked licences for some radio frequencies, thus blocking programmes aired by national independent human rights and media organisations, US-funded stations Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, and the main opposition party.
The OHCHR spokesperson said that the Cambodia Daily, one of the main independent English-language newspapers, was given until 4 September to pay an alleged $6.3 million in tax arrears, or be closed. While the paper has called for a transparent tax audit and the right to appeal, its requests have gone unheeded.
“We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure due process in all measures taken, including the right to appeal, and to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression,” concluded Ms. Throssell.
Published on the UN News Centre on August 25, 2017 (www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57415#.WaMzwVcleRs).
A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Various jurisdictions have enacted statutes to prevent discrimination based on a person's race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual orientation.
Source: Cornell University Law School