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IFEX members honour International Human Rights Day around the world

A 2008 protest in Porto Vehlo, Brazil: Indigenous people and locals have been shut out of the decision-making around proposed power plants on the Madeira River, says ARTICLE 19
A 2008 protest in Porto Vehlo, Brazil: Indigenous people and locals have been shut out of the decision-making around proposed power plants on the Madeira River, says ARTICLE 19

Verena Glass/International Rivers

IFEX members marked International Human Rights Day on 10 December by demanding freedom of expression and right to information for Somali journalists, Brazilian indigenous communities, Chinese dissident writers and other targeted groups throughout the world.

Recognising this year's International Human Rights Day followed a whirlwind year of political sea change and rampaging military dictatorships, Freedom House took stock of the most terrifying human rights violations as well as the heartening rights-honouring developments of 2011. The worst human rights transgressions of 2011 include the May torture and killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shazad for exposing links between jihadists and the military, and the international community's complacence regarding Bahrain as it imprisons everyone from peaceful demonstrators to the medical staff treating them. Among the laudable events documented by Freedom House are Tunisia's first democratic elections and the creation of an independent anti-corruption body in India, thanks to grassroots transparency and information campaigners.

ARTICLE 19 recognised the day by spotlighting freedom of expression developments in both Brazil and Europe. After a seven-day, fact-finding mission to Brazil, the organisation released a report highlighting how authorities are trampling on affected communities' freedom of expression and information rights as they construct power plants along the Madeira River. Indigenous people and locals have been shut out of the decision-making and consulting process and have been kept in the dark about the environmental effects, ARTICLE 19 says.

Additionally, on 8 December, ARTICLE 19 hosted a panel with nine human rights experts on how developments like media concentration, new technologies and social media are affecting freedom of expression rights in Europe. The event launched the publication "Human rights and a changing media landscape", which was put out by Thomas Hammarberg, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

As 10 December marked one year since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, currently imprisoned for his writings calling for political reform, the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC) focused on China's ongoing criminalisation of free speech. The Chinese regime intensified its surveillance of and repression against journalists earlier this year out of fear of Arab Spring-type revolts, WiPC notes. WiPC demanded the release of prisoners of conscience, including Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia, a poet and photographer who has been held on strict house arrest since 22 October 2010.

In another sign of a hope, Aung San Suu Kyi argued in a rare video appearance organised by Burma's Council on Foreign Relations that there have been gradual improvements in the press freedom situation in Burma, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Watch it below.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) used International Human Rights Day to pressure authorities to protect journalists and end their campaign against independent press members. The organisation called on the Transitional Federal Government and Puntland and Somaliland authorities to take several immediate measures to safeguard the working environment of journalists. Among the demands were that authorities end the unfair proceedings against the media, investigate the numerous, unsolved murders of Somali journalists, and implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review.

Sixty-three years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) lamented the ongoing attacks against journalists by Israeli soldiers and settlers. In a statement, the press freedom organisation called out the international community's double standards when it comes to championing human rights movements in Arab countries, but ignoring violations in the occupied territories.


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