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IFEX members and partners around the world marked International Human Rights Day on 10 December - the 59th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - by promoting freedom of expression and by calling attention to violations in some of the world's most troubled hotspots. Check out what some of them got up to here.


During 2007, conflict-ridden Somalia became the most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq. So the National Union of Somali Journalists with ARTICLE 19, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net), Amnesty International and the local UN rep celebrated Human Rights Day by showing solidarity with Somali journalists, focusing on the bloody fighting in Mogadishu that has forced journalists to flee the country, and the impunity of attacks against the media.
While once heralded as one of Sub-Saharan Africa's freest countries for the press, Uganda has plummeted in the ranks over the past two years following the enactment of anti-terrorism legislation and the tightening of controls on the media, especially in the run up to the 2006 general elections. So says a new report released on Human Rights Day by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in Uganda, "In Defence of Media Freedom in Uganda". The impressive publication gives the lowdown on media freedom since the 1900s, looks at legal limitations and a flawed access to information act, and explains the wider human rights situation in recent months. For a copy, email FHRI at: publications(@)fhri(.)or(.)ug


In Bangkok, Thailand, Mizzima News reports that Burmese activists rallied outside the UN regional office on 10 December upon the arrival of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to draw his attention to the continuing human rights abuses in their country and to urge him to initiate concrete steps instead of just talking to the junta. The UN Human Rights Rapporteur to Burma said recently that at least 31 people, not 10 as was initially reported, were killed and up to 4,000 people were arrested during the military government's crackdown.
- Mizzima News:
- "The Irrawaddy":
Meanwhile, in Burma itself, leading human rights defender U Myint Aye organised a closely watched ceremony at his home. Nearly 100 people attended, including some local militia members of the junta "who call themselves people too."
- Democratic Voice of Burma:
Some of the "most patriotic Malaysians citizens" were in for a surprise when the police arrested eight of them - many of them lawyers - for peacefully marching to observe Human Rights Day, or what the authorities call "illegally assembly". According to Dr Anwar Ibrahim, ex-Deputy Prime Minister and a former prisoner of conscience, the arrests "represent nothing more than scare tactics we have seen used in the past by the Malaysian government as it prepares to unleash the draconian measures of the Internal Security Act." It's the third significant demonstration for human rights in the past few weeks, all of which the authorities banned and reacted to with violence. Check out a video of the demonstration here:

For human rights activists in Pakistan, 2007 was one of the darkest years in history. Five weeks into their campaign of protests since President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule and brought in anti-media laws on 3 November, journalists in Pakistan linked arms with the rest of civil society and observed 10 December as a black day. Taking part in a protest outside the Lahore High Court and seminars and workshops throughout the day, they vowed to continue fighting for their economic, professional and basic human rights until they were restored. In an interview with Pakistan's "Daily Times", Imtiaz Alam from the South Asian Free Media Association said, "Nothing can possibly stop us from expressing ourselves. We are ready to face all consequences."
- International Federation of Journalists (IFJ):
- "Daily Times":


In Turkey, new IFEX member the Initiative for Freedom of Expression draws attention to how the courts are celebrating a whole week of human rights: "by trying academics, politicians, artists, writers, publishers and journalists for expressing their ideas. The programme will be on all through the week in İstanbul, İzmir and Şırnak. All welcome, it is free." Many of the defendants are being tried for "insulting Turkishness" or members of the state. See: for this month's free expression cases.


Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), along with the Libyan League for Human Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), chose Human Rights Day to remind French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he was dealing with one of the world's worst "predators of rights and freedoms" by receiving an official visit from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on 10 December. RSF activists protested outside the National Assembly in Paris, while the Libyan League and FIDH sent a letter to Sarkozy reminding him that no deals should be made with Libya unless Gaddafi drastically transforms his human rights record.
- RSF:
- Libya League/FIDH:


Freedom House marked Human Rights Day by demanding that nations who claim to support "freedom" should pledge to strengthen international institutions dedicated to human rights, many of which are weak or currently being threatened. Just look at Kazakhstan's strangely successful bid to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), says Freedom House, despite repeatedly failing to meet the OSCE's own election standards and openly supporting proposals to weaken the organisation.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called for a new global campaign to free the press from restrictive laws and end the prosecution of journalists designed to silence investigative reporting. "Press freedom is under attack in many countries and journalists find themselves in the dock often on trumped up charges accused of defamation or endangering national security or undermining government and the authorities. Whenever such an attack takes place, everyone suffers. When access to information is blocked and journalists are muzzled the public loses its 'right to know'," says IFJ.
RSF dedicated this 10 December to the 130 journalists in jail for trying to keep us informed. RSF is calling on the media to "break the silence" which often surrounds arrests of journalists by sponsoring an affected colleague and spotlighting their plight.
Sudan, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Burma, Pakistan: Amnesty International says these are five areas of the world "human rights are being violated, neglected and eroded with audacity and impunity by governments, big business and armed groups." Read the whole statement here:

And then take action. So says Amnesty International Canada, which is asking you to shine your own light on human rights by taking at least one action to mark the occasion, from writing a letter as a part of Amnesty's global write-a-thon, "Write for Rights", to signing Amnesty's electronic appeal calling on a moratorium on taser use in Canada. Check out their other activities here:

Finally, in the lead up to the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day, the UN launched "Dignity and Justice for All of Us", a worldwide campaign to stop human rights abuses by governments, businesses and others. "The Declaration remains as relevant today as it did on the day it was adopted," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he announced the new campaign. "But the fundamental freedoms enshrined in it are still not a reality."

For more information on International Human Rights Day, visit:

(Photo: Burmese activists at a rally outside the UN regional office before the arrival of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Bangkok, Thailand, on 10 December. Photo courtesy of "The Irrawaddy")

(11 December 2007)

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