Bloggers attacked in the courtroom

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Bloggers attacked in the courtroom
How to fight back
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This session will address the various attacks bloggers are facing on the legal front. By presenting a number of case studies, Nani Jansen of MLDI will discuss current common themes in the legal prosecution of bloggers and online journalists worldwide, including criminal charges for defamation, website blocking, and even terrorism charges. How can bloggers fight back and what can civil society and activists do to help?
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were thank you very much everybody welcome very nice to see you here and I have only 30 minutes and I propose to not talk for too long because I would like for this to be a bit of an interactive session and i also would like to hear from you what I'll do
is uh 1st uh say few words about what the media Legal Defense Initiative your organization that I work with adults in a defense of bloggers the that I like to preceded by telling you a little bit about the overall numbers that you see worldwide in a prosecution of robots in online journalists and then discuss a couple of things that we've come across in our work and as to the types of prosecutions that are taking place of online journalists worldwide and finally address the million dollar question of what can be done against these attacks so our organization and all the I prefer it provides legal assistance to journalists and bloggers worldwide and work in about 40 countries at the moment and we provide both regular k-support and use the litigation with regular case affords I mean the situation in which a journalist a blogger published something gets prosecutors for it and needs a legal support we then make sure that the journalists brokering question has a proper a lawyer to assist them we can assist with the payment of legal fees this is necessary and we also work together with the lawyer to sure that the strongest possible case for the broker or genesis presented in that they get a solids and legal strategy to to help them get out of trouble wheels organize legal workshops on media law and international human rights law for the lawyers that we work with in countries worldwide to defend these cases and we also have a strategic partnerships with a number of organizations worldwide particularly in countries where see a great number of cases
has answered as from the image you see a great
number of cases and where it's really good to have someone on the ground to handle and those immediately we have about 100 active cases at any 1 time and the number is still growing and sadly and the situation for the press worldwide isn't getting that much better we have about a 75 per cent success rate and that means that the the winner case ordered gets dismissed or as a claim that's withdrawn either way it ends well for journalists of Robert every defending and this is is a kind of overview of the types of cases that we do and I don't expect you to read the entire pie chart but what I do want you to take away from this is that and these are both uh traditional and media journalists and online journalists and the types of cases that you see the types of legal challenges that they face are actually quite similar and I want you to
keep that in mind and when you look at the numbers that have collected here from a to N G O's Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists and
they collect that every year on and near the challenges that bloggers or as reporters Without Borders cause it medicines and face and for 2013 you see that the numbers very bits which you know that each have their own foot a methodology of course but you see that and the types of charge that are being brought are quite similar to what you would see the traditional media it's defamation charges it's uh charges of threatening national security and false news publication those kinds of things so in that sense and there of course are particular challenges that come with publishing online and there's particular vulnerabilities for brokers but to a large extent it is in the legal front and the charges are very similar to those that are faced by traditional media so I want to address a couple of things here and in 1 case from Zambia which deals with lots of blocking and you know the the pressing of quantum employed other criminal charges a case of terrorism in Ethiopia and and then and and the charge of tax evasion that are brought against various bloggers in Vietnam and and finally I just wanted to highlight the issue of cross-border litigation which obviously comes into play when you deal with online publication so the 1st case that
I want to highlight is that of the Zambian Wachtel and this I mean what's up is a website that publishes on the issues of the Zambian politics they're very critical about what the current government is doing and particularly also about the president and they're not very much liked for that in fact and recently the government actually issued a statement saying that they were going to hunt down the Zambian watch so can anyone was related to its what this means that the website is constantly facing challenges and they have been trying to disable access to the website from Zambia and also anyone who is alleged to be affiliated with the website or to
contribute to its at can risk legal prosecution so it's not even established of a number of people that have been recently prosecuted that they actually effect wrote for this website but at 1 point in time they found the police knocking on their door and confiscating their laptops any other types of documents or books that could be found in in in their in their homes and facing charges ranging from the position of and and military documents to possession of pornography and anything else that they could think of to make life difficult for the journalists in question or the alleged units such properties saying in Ethiopia a
completely different and type of prosecution and Ethiopian 2009 adopted an anti-terrorism proclamation which it has been
using effectively as a tool to suppress free speech in a country not only journalists and bloggers but also political opposition or any other dissenting voices and that can be heard and the case that I have highlighted here is that of a scanner Nagar and the other Lamo as Skinner is a veteran Ethiopian journalists he previously opened and so shut down several and newspapers and he uh at some point and resorted to writing online because he basically couldn't printing paper anymore and that means that the articles that he wrote prior to this latest arrests uh where and asking the question whether or not something like the Arab Spring could ever happen in Ethiopia was it possible to have a peaceful resolution of a revolution in the country the this was enough for the authorities to and say that he was participating in a terrorist organization and to the order that he be locked up for 18 years and the Alaimo also was found guilty of and participating in a terrorist organization she's a freelance journalist who wrote for several online publications and as well as 1 of the last independent newspapers called which has now been shut down as well the and her conviction was to 14 years imprisonment originally which was reduced to 5 years later on but both of them are basically serving jail time at the moment in committee prison we've taken the case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and
asking them to not only is as speak out against the conviction of these 2 journalists but also an against the use of the anti-terrorism proclamation as a tool for oppression of such then on to Vietnam and this is local and local Kwan actually is a low here that we used to work with the
defendant bloggers and journalists in the country and and he so he was that he was working as a human rights lawyer and the Vietnamese government in like this and decided to this bottom and preventing him from practicing law he did however continued to write about you the human rights situation in the country on his blog and ends the government's than like this either and decided to prosecute him for trumped-up charges of tax evasion and you will see 2 photos here of of corn on the left hand side so from before he went to prison and the photo on the right hand side was taken during his appeal hearing and this was uh a couple of months ago and you will see what it does to a person to be locked up in a Vietnamese prison the
and then finally a case of cross-border litigation as to how a reporters is a website that's being run on a shoestring budget from the US but reports on issues of public interest in Nigeria and
they expose potential issues of corruption and other uh and the bad practices and and obviously are not very much like freelance and at at some point in time to Nigerian officials decided to sue the website in the US because that is where they were based in 2 different states as everyone here probably knows litigation in the US is quite expensive so this could be something that could send at an online publisher and into hiding basically close down the website stopped publishing and uh and and hope that it all goes away we fortunately were able to find them as good pro bono supports an excellent US law from was willing to take on the case and at a cost only basis and manage to defend it very well and Sarah Borges is still publishing all next she'd you see just a
couple of examples of other cases that working on there's many many more and it would be impossible to list them here I'm sure you all know as examples out of your own practice and I just wanted to use 1 example that's quite recent also kind of tie to the to the big question of of of of what we can all do to
fight back for these cases you probably all heard about the this 0 9 bloggers case in Ethiopia is an enormous crackdown going on in the country at the moment which is a term to be the widest crackdown since 2005 and a crackdown on the press at the previous elections and obviously elections are forthcoming next year Ethiopia so and in the press is being silenced and disown I'm bloggers uh were uh just 6 of that collective arrested said a number of freelance journalist as well as regular journalists and other opposition and voices and 1 of the things that are highlighted on this list of things that can be done as a sharing of information last week I was in 1 that where the Afghan Commission is currently holding its session because we have a number of cases ongoing there and I got to speaking with with a couple of other organizations that are also working on Ethiopia and we're talking about the fact that they were trying to push the Commission to adopt a resolution to speak out against these arrests but as it turned out in a conversation not a formal request repetition had been submitted to the African Union so far so what we did is offer are legal a drafting parties and was started drafting a petition to the special rapporteurs of the African Union and the United Nations and other organizations joined in for example globalvoices joins at the Electronic Frontier Foundation joined a number of other human rights organizations joint and together we were able to verify all the information in a petition and ask for money from the special orbiters at the AU and the UN to speak out against his arrest and the clarity and arrest and this attention and it's gross human rights violations so it's
important that in various organizations often work on the same cases and it's really important that they share information amongst themselves to make sure that where forces can be doing this and indeed uh takes place and also to make sure that everyone has is is is spreading the correct information about cases and this also ties in to the to the wider issue of raising awareness with the wider public there of course the situations in which is actually and quite dangerous for a case to be aired to and more in the in the public and in in the general mainstream media we have had cases particularly in the Middle East where the family has been very adamant in saying that just let this go away quietly because we have a better chance of resolving the case if you can do it and it you know off the radar but we have similar to seen in a great number of other cases that actually raising the public profile of a case can have very positive results you see that and some of the cases that become more celebrity cases did indeed sentences are reduced on appeal and that's diplomatic solutions can be found to to get someone out of jail so it's also important to make sure that the wider public knows this and I've of but the logo of the Global Voices Advocacy and I broke here on on this sheet which I think is an excellent platform on which people can share information you provided that the wider community at large with updates on various cases and to keep the conversation going and is the last point that I 0 I wanted to raise keeping the conversation going and is 0 9 case now is very much on everybody's radar they've just been arrested as it's uncertain was going to happen this news but you very often see at some point in time that someone's conviction has been upheld on appeal and edges disappear from the news cycle which is you know the nature of news and and but it is something that you have in mind so 1 of the things that we did for example in the case of local 1 and whose case you brought to the attention of
the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and with a collective of other organizations of a working on his face was whenever we have the opportunity to highlights acquires case either because there was a hearing and on appeal for because there was a decision from the UN Working Group finding that his detention was
a violation of his right to freedom of expression is say let's look you know we want you to pay attention to quants case his situation is unjust but his situation is the exam is is just 1 example of many other bloggers many other journalists in the country that are being held and imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression so this basically use those ongoing cases as an opportunity to highlight the ones that people otherwise will forget and but I'm sure that there are many people in the audience here who have either experience in working on the set of cases and have
good ideas on on all possible collaboration or anyone might have questions as to the issues that I just raced I think that there's something I should have talked about but haven't so I would like to have open the floor to you and
we we we at the in the the all would like to ask the what all the the best preventive measures of measures for online journalists of orders in terms of the I mean what you think of all technical solutions and not a moment to the or what's going abroad or what the hot what do you do before you actually get into contact with the authorities yes very good question and
also a bit of a general question to which I would say that there property are different solutions depending on the actual context where you are I think of 1 of the things that I was thinking often early on when I mentioned that there are specific dimensions to people publishing online is that's and of course publishing on the Web is available to anyone and anything the very basic and and as a precautionary measure to take us to familiarize yourselves with the rules what is defamatory and what would expose you to potential uh lawsuits and I mean this is just talking about about deformation but which is you know a large chunk of the cases that are being brought against publishers bead online or or in traditional media as so this is 1 thing then I suppose for the rest of this cut depends on which regime you operates in an an and uh what country your publishing on the thing the problem that we face in a lot of these cases
that it it it to a large extent it doesn't really matter what people have been writing you very often see people who've been rising about legitimate concerns are all matters of public interest and they get sued just the same and if if a government in question doesn't like what people are writing the find an excuse to prosecute so and
guess it is really depends on the on the concrete scenario the the the only the on the
organization you work for is called the Legal Defense Initiative my question would be how do you see the role of legal defense in especially countries where the regime uh tries to use legal means to buy silence bloggers and journalists and uh how much of Europe has actually political when you talk about partitioning the AU representative is this more of a political approach thank you good question and ah organization
indeed that focuses on legal defense were not a lobbying out uh organization and non advocacy organization for that we try to work together with others and so that the collective petitions that I just mentioned was that we did together with organization do specialize in lobbying and advocacy and there is there is a difficulty of course always in in in assessing whether or not this quote and quote useful to have a fight on the legal front in in in in in a country where the legal system might not be as fair as she would help it to be etc. However I am of the view that fighting back in and of itself is a very strong signal and it's important the moment that you decide
beforehand that is futile is when you basically hand over power and to the to the to the government and
I I do agree that to a certain extent uh some of these uh legal measures are are perhaps you know slightly less strict and and are a bit more broad or can be used in a broader way and however uh we do see the petition in UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for example on which is a procedure in which the responding State gets the opportunity to reply and and a Legal Track efficiently may have have something that is a of a sufficient nature intellectually and make proper go arguments and hopefully also get as a solid decision in return for that then can also be used by others to lobby and for advocacy purposes that is great as only like an added bonus and in my view the
the yeah any more questions the that thank you very much thank you and if anyone has any
questions that they did not want to share with the wider audience on particular issues please come speak to me afterwards thank you very much it and