UN HRC37: Oral statement to Item 4 General Debate

UN HRC37: Oral statement to Item 4 General Debate - Civic Space

Participants at the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council. 6 June 2017. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

Mr President,

ARTICLE 19 is concerned at violations of the right to freedom of expression by States in this room, contravening both international human rights law and the commitments made in resolutions of this Council.

We deplore the decision in Egypt to seek the death penalty against photojournalist Abou Zeid for covering protests in the country, and call for an immediate end to his arbitrary detention. This, together with the forced closure of media outlets, blocking of websites, and arbitrary detentions of journalists ahead of upcoming elections, contradict the express commitments Egypt made by co-sponsoring HRC resolution 33/2 on the safety of journalists in 2016. It underscores why this Council must unequivocally condemn this escalating crackdown.

In Cambodia, the dissolution of the opposition political party, the shuttering of independent media, and attempts to silence civil society, also in the runup to an election, is deeply disturbing.

ARTICLE 19 Mexico documented 507 aggressions against journalists in 2017, with 12 murders bringing the total to 41 during Peña Nieto’s government. Impunity, at a rate of 99.6%, must end, and justice delivered for slain journalists like Salvador Adame.

In Russia, threats and attacks against human rights defenders, including the organisation Memorial Human Rights Centre in Dagestan, Inghusetia, and Chechnya must be investigated and perpetrators must be held accountable.

We are also concerned at the potential for the encrypted messaging app Telegram to be blocked in Russia, after the company refused to comply with an extrajudicial request from FSB for decryption keys. Unless an upcoming Supreme Court decision, expected on 20 March, rules the FSB request unlawful, the impact on freedom of expression online will be profound, in particular for journalists who rely on the app to protect the confidentiality of their sources.

This Council must speak in a unified voice to condemn the unprecedented assault on freedom of expression in Turkey. Life sentences for journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, and Nazli Ilicak are a travesty.

In Kyrgyzstan, an astronomical award of damages has been imposed against online news outlet Zanoza.kg for supposedly “insulting” now former President Almazbek Atambayev, in a civil case initiated by the General Prosecutor. With the assets of the parent media company frozen, the founders of the outlet and other staff banned from travelling, and a threat of imprisonment hanging over the editorial board if fines are not paid, the future of independent media in the country hangs in the balance. Newly elected President Sooronbay Jeenbekov must demonstrate his government’s commitment to freedom of expression by dropping the harassment of Zanoza, and swiftly initiating legal reforms, including by repealing the Law on Guarantees for the Activity of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

In Iran, we condemn recent Internet shutdowns during protests, and the lethal use of force against protesters. We further call for the immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe.

Thank you.