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Our Annual Highlights

Each year, through collaboration and innovation, IFEX finds creative ways to raise awareness of free expression issues, strengthen the power of our network, and bring about real change through targeted campaigns and advocacy work. 2015 featured many events and milestones for the IFEX network – we've chosen ten for special mention here. To learn more, you can search this site or contact us directly at info (@)

Profiles: The faces of free expression

  • So many free expression defenders operate outside of the spotlight. Who better to champion the champions than IFEX? In early 2015, IFEX launched a series of articles profiling the faces of free expression from around the world. We completed 50 by the end of the year, and the list is still growing! A new hub page, to be launched in 2016, will serve as a new home for the stories of these truly inspiring people.

IFEX-ALC calls for change; Paraguay listens

  • After nearly a year of campaigning on the issues of impunity and journalist safety in Paraguay, the IFEX-ALC alliance’s recommendation for the creation of “a special commission in the Public Prosecutor’s Office to bring those responsible [for attacks against journalists and human rights defenders] to justice”, was accepted by Paraguay during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January 2016. IFEX-ALC is optimistic that there is the political will in Paraguay to improve the increasingly difficult working conditions for journalists in the country.

Fighting state surveillance with ActiveWatch in Romania

  • In the aftermath of the devastating Colectiv nightclub fire in Romania that ignited shockwaves of protest against endemic corruption through Romanian society, IFEX joined ActiveWatch in calling for immediate investigation of the surveillance operations revealed to be operating against journalist Cătălin Tolontan. The reporter had been investigating the incident, which led to the resignation of many top Romanian officials, including the prime minister and the mayor of Bucharest. At the start of 2016, the police announced plans to investigate the spying operation. Tolontan described IFEX’s intervention as a “decisive” factor in seeing the case opened.

Time out for stronger campaigns

  • Taking time out to think strategically is making a difference – for the network, and for IFEX members individually. June 2015 saw IFEX pioneer a breakthrough ‘Think Big Tank’ on the future of campaigning for human rights, bringing together a diverse group of experts to help strengthen our strategic thinking and planning.

Hijacking the European Games in Azerbaijan

  • If the Azerbaijani government thought hosting the June 2015 European Games was an opportunity to bury its atrocious freedom of expression record in positive PR, civil society proved it wrong. In collaboration with the Sport for Rights campaign and on behalf of IFEX member the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety, IFEX participated in the hijacking of the official #Baku2015 hashtags. The campaign drew considerable attention, being recognized by The Guardian, but also earning IFEX direct attacks in the Azerbaijani government-affiliated press and from coordinated twitter accounts.

Liberating Swazi government critics with MISA

  • IFEX supported the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s campaign for the release of imprisoned Swazi human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and columnist and Editor Bheki Makhubu, facilitating an IFEX joint action on the one-year anniversary of the pair’s imprisonment following an unconstitutional closed court hearing, and highlighting MISA’s campaign activities on the anniversary. After serving 15 months of a 22-month sentence, on 30 June 2015, the Supreme Court of Swaziland ruled that Maseko and Makhubu had been wrongly convicted and ordered their immediate release.

Defeating anti-blasphemy laws with ARTICLE 19 in Jordan

  • IFEX campaigned strongly in 2015 against blasphemy laws used to stifle diversity and critical debate on religion. In March, a Jordanian proposal submitted to the Inter-Parliamentary Union threatened to legitimize such laws around the world. In a campaign led by ARTICLE 19, IFEX members and other concerned organisations called for the proposal to be rejected. When it was struck down, it was welcomed as a victory for free expression and open debate. ARTICLE 19 remarked that the appeal showed north-south solidarity on the issue and, through the IFEX network’s ability to respond rapidly, was a testament to the connectedness of our network.

Demanding justice for prisoners of conscience

  • A Qatari poet sentenced to 15 years in prison. An Omani blogger involuntarily confined to a psychiatric hospital. A lawyer held incommunicado. These are some of the individuals featured in the prisoners of conscience campaign launched in 2015 by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and the Maharat Foundation, in association with IFEX. One prisoner of conscience has been featured each month. People have posted photos and messages of support on social media, written to the leaders of their countries, and called for media to report on the prisoners’ stories. #TheirFreedomIsTheirRight!

Defending Zunar and fighting a bad law with IFJ and CIJ Malaysia

  • IFEX support to the International Federation of Journalists included a public petition and a statement signed by IFEX members demanding the release of Zunar, a political cartoonist facing 43 years in prison for his work. In a separate appeal led by IFEX member the Centre for Independent Journalism-Malaysia, organisations called on the Malaysian Prime Minister to repeal the draconian Sedition Act. IFEX’s support helped to raise critical awareness and build pressure on the government, which has since postponed Zunar’s trial.

The IFEX network: Ready for the road!

  • The slogan for the IFEX Strategy Conference and General Meeting in October 2015 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, was ‘Prepare for Impact!” We asked: What is having a negative impact on us, as freedom of expression defenders? How can we have a stronger, positive impact on the climate for free expression, globally? Participants from over 90 IFEX member organisations exchanged skills, experiences and challenges on campaigning, communications, financial planning, digital security and digital collaboration—in workshops, small group sessions and in one-on-one meetings with specialists.

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Emerson Marroquín, principal sospechoso del asesinato de la #comunicadora Vilma Barrios…