WE EXIST TO STRENGTHEN CIVIL SOCIETY AND CITIZEN ACTION
AROUND THE WORLD
Ahead of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC), 11 human rights organisations are calling upon the intergovernmental body to address Azerbaijan's rapidly deteriorating environment for human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society organisations (CSOs) and independent media.
Hussein Magdy of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) speaks to CIVICUS about how Egyptian civil society is dismayed at the ongoing crackdown on fundamental freedoms which are guaranteed by Egypt’s national and international human rights obligations.
1. Given the intensified crackdown on peaceful dissent in Egypt, what are some current challenges faced by Egyptian civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) today?
Currently the overall operating environment for civil society in Egypt is dire. The current regime exercises full control over political liberties enjoyed in the public sphere and orchestrates an intensified crackdown on CSOs and HRDs. The authorities have institutionalized arbitrary restrictions on civil society operations by proposing legal provisions that contradict Egypt’s international human rights obligations. In the past months there have also been a considerable number of cases where authorities have threatened to close down CSOs. They have also issued harsh prison sentences and pecuniary fines on HRDs for their peaceful advocacy activities. In its current state, it is fair to say that Egyptian civil society is going through a severe human rights crisis.
Soliyana Gebremichael, founding member of the Zone9 bloggers collective and Coordinator of the Ethiopian Human Right Project, speaks to CIVICUS about the Ethiopian government's ongoing persecution of civil society and independent media in the run-up to general elections scheduled for May 2015.
1) Six members of the Zone9 Bloggers collective were imprisoned last April. Can you tell us why you believe they were arrested and share any recent developments in the case?
With nearly 20 journalists behind bars, Ethiopia maintains one of the most repressive environments in the world for freedom of expression. The arrest of six Zone9 Bloggers and three journalists in April 2014 is unquestionably symptomatic of the government’s growing intolerance of dissenting voices in the run-up to general elections scheduled for May 2015. Zone9, which was established nearly three years ago by a group of young, concerned activists in Ethiopia, was targeted in large part because we were mobilizing youth online to demand the rights endowed to us under the constitution.
During our first year, we operated largely unencumbered. However, the year preceding the arrest of the Zone9 bloggers was marked by routine harassment, including online surveillance and active monitoring and intimidation by security officers.