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Freedom of expression under attack in every region, say IFEX members on International Human Rights Day

To mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December, IFEX members paused to comment on violations of free expression as they commemorated the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the last seven years there has been a consistent decline worldwide in freedom of expression, reports Freedom House. Only 17 percent of the world's population enjoys a fully free press, says Freedom House. "From a troubling increase in violence against journalists and human rights defenders to sophisticated attempts to block and censor the Internet, one of our most essential human rights is slowly being eroded. It is time to begin reversing this trend," said Freedom House.

"In addition to protecting our journalists and human rights defenders, the world's democracies need to step up efforts to protect freedom of expression at home and at the global level," said Freedom House. "Freedom of expression is much more than just an important personal freedom. The abilities to express and share one's views and to hold leaders to account are the cornerstones of democracy."

In Zimbabwe, on 10 December, the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe called on its government to repeal repressive legislation blocking access to information, to end the monopoly of the broadcasting sector by state-owned media as well as licensing privileges given to state-owned newspapers over independent print organisations, among other reforms. MISA-Zimbabwe urges the Zimbabwean government to foster a free media environment.

To mark 10 December, the Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms (MADA) called attention to press freedom violations by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories, including four journalists killed in the Gaza Strip in early 2009. MADA also highlighted Palestinian journalists suffering from attacks by Palestinian security services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In particular, MADA is calling on the international community to pressure Israel to end attacks on journalists.

The deterioration of human rights and free speech in Egypt prompted the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) to use the occasion of Human Rights Day to demand the abolition of imprisonment for publishing crimes. EOHR called on the Egyptian government to reform all legislation relating to freedom of expression, publishing and printing, and to enact a draft law for the free flow of information, which should reflect international democratic standards. EOHR also identified the need for electoral reform and greater representation of women in parliament, protection from torture, and many other rights issues.

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