Impressive pushbacks, ‘a very expensive puppet show’, and a UN High Commissioner visits China

A young woman reacts as police use a water canon to disperse students from the faculty of medicine and sciences, during a demonstration demanding the resignation of the president over the country’s crippling economic crisis, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 29 May 2022, ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images

Sri Lanka: Protests, emergency decree, and a tribunal

Protests intensified in Sri Lanka amid the worsening economic crisis and continuing enforcement of repressive measures by the Rajapaksa government. Five weeks after the state of emergency declaration on 1 April, a second similar decree was issued on 6 May which was quickly denounced by various human rights groups. IFEX member Free Media Movement said the emergency measure is a disproportionate response to the massive protests, which it describes as a “non-violent, creative expression of dissent”. It called for the lifting of the emergency order.

Featured pushbacks

#FreeHerFace

In Afghanistan, the Taliban ordered all women news presenters to cover their faces while reporting. It is part of a wider crackdown on women journalists, some of whom were expelled from press events. This prompted male newscasters to wear face masks in solidarity with their female colleagues. A social media campaign with the hashtag #FreeHerFace was launched to challenge the ban.

#JusticeForSushmita

In Nepal, thousands of protesters demanded justice for a former beauty pageant winner, named Sushmita, who revealed that she was drugged, repeatedly raped, and blackmailed in 2014 when she was just 16 years old. The exposé sparked a #JusticeForSushmita movement, which also inspired other young women victims of sexual abuse to come forward and narrate their traumatic experiences. Women’s groups have petitioned the government to end the one-year statute of limitations for rape and fast track the resolution of rape cases.

“Voices of April”

In China, authorities censored Shanghai internet users who were commenting on the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown and its disruptive impact on their lives. A popular six-minute video titled “Voices of April” compiles numerous audio recordings of residents about the hardships they are experiencing during the lockdown. After it was taken down by censors, netizens found creative ways of embedding the video in other platforms, making it even more popular.

Press solidarity

The Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI) called on its members to boycott the press event organized by the Solomon Islands government during the 26 May visit of China’s foreign minister, because of the secrecy and restrictions imposed on journalists. MASI made the decision after learning that only two parties — a Chinese media delegation and a local journalist — would be allowed to ask questions during the event.

Elections… and after

Media and human rights groups are urging the winners in the 9 May Philippines elections to uphold press freedom and civil liberties. Several Southeast Asian media groups released a statement highlighting the need for urgent political action to reverse the decline of press freedom in the country.

On sedition and privacy: Good and bad news from India

On 11 May, the Supreme Court of India directed the central and state governments to hold in abeyance all cases pertaining to sedition, as authorities re-examine and reconsider Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. This order was welcomed by human rights groups, since the 152-year-old provision on sedition has been used to stifle free speech and persecute opposition forces. According to news reports, 800 sedition cases involving 13,000 citizens have been filed in the past decade alone.

Michelle Bachelet visits China

During her visit to China in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet spoke to Chinese leaders and engaged various stakeholders on key human rights issues. At her press conference, she clarified that her visit was not an investigation but rather an opportunity to discuss human rights concerns with China’s top officials. One of these issues is the systematic attack on Turkic populations in the Xinjiang region, which is considered by some experts as a crime against humanity.

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IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org

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IFEX

IFEX

IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org