Citizen media and the freedom of expression

Author: Adebayo Okeowo
Advocacy Coordinator, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

If you have ever found yourself whipping out your phone to film or photograph police officers brutally beating up peaceful protesters, and you subsequently share that video or picture on social media, you have just contributed to citizen media. You are also someone who can be referred to as a citizen journalist. This is just one of the several scenarios in which civilian witnesses are – knowingly or unknowingly – helping to document evidence of human rights violations.

Citizen media encapsulates videos, pictures or audio produced by non-professional journalists, especially using their mobile phone as a tool. Citizen media started gaining prominence when an increasing number of civilians became equipped with smartphones and had access to social media.

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Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the right to freedom of expression

Patrick GriffithAuthor: Patrick Griffith
Programme Attorney, Freedom Now

On Wednesday 17 July 2013, members of the European Parliament’s Sub-committee on Human Rights visited Ethiopia and urged the government to release journalists and opposition activists imprisoned under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009 (Anti-Terror Proclamation). The visit is an important reminder that despite widely hailed progress on poverty reduction, the Ethiopian government continues to punish free expression in violation of international law.

Eskinder Nega, an outspoken journalist and blogger who was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment in July 2012, is amongst those arbitrarily detained under the Anti-Terror Proclamation. In early 2011, Nega began writing and speaking publicly about the protest movements then sweeping north Africa. Although initially hesitant to draw direct parallels with Ethiopia, he was clearly supportive of the protesters abroad and critical of his government at home. He also consistently emphasised the importance of non-violence. But despite the clear protection of peaceful free expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ethiopia is a party, the government reacted by prosecuting Nega as a traitor and terrorist.

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