freedom of expression

  • Maldives: One year later, no justice for Yameen Rasheed

    On the anniversary of the killing of the popular Maldivian blogger and social media personality, Yameen Rasheed, Amnesty International and CIVICUS call on the Maldivian authorities to bring his killers to justice.

    In a shocking murder that marked a worrying attack on freedom of expression and sent a shiver of fear throughout Maldivian civil society, Yameen Rasheed, 29, was found stabbed to death on 23rd April 2017 outside his apartment building. He had received multiple death threats before his murder, which he had reported to the police.

    “One year later, we have seen no action from the Maldivian authorities. Not only did they fail to protect Yameen during his lifetime, they have also failed to effectively investigate his murder and hold his killers accountable. His loved ones and friends should not have to wait any longer for justice,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Deputy Director for South Asia at Amnesty International.

    The killing of blogger Yameen Rasheed took place against the backdrop of tightening restrictions on freedom of expression on the Indian Ocean island nation. The Maldivian authorities have been harassing journalists, activists and other peaceful human rights defenders – a trend that has intensified this year, ever since a state of emergency was imposed on 5 February 2018.

    “The Maldivian authorities have a duty to protect human rights defenders and create an enabling environment where their rights are guaranteed. Instead, we have seen an even further shrinking of civic space to the point where people are being punished for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful of assembly and association,” said Josef Benedict, Civic Space Research Officer at CIVICUS.


    On 5 February 2018, the Maldives imposed a state of emergency for 45 days, arbitrarily detaining Supreme Court judges, members of the political opposition, outlawing peaceful protests, and imprisoning people solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    While some protestors have since been released, many of those arrested during the state of emergency remain under detention.

  • Morocco: End intimidation and harassment campaign against rights defender Maati Monjib

    The undersigned civil society organisations call on the Moroccan authorities to immediately end their intimidation and harassment campaign against academic and human rights defender Maati Monjib and drop all baseless charges leveled against him.

  • MYANMAR: ‘Opposition parties complain that the election body censors their messaging'

    Cape DiamondCIVICUS speaks to award-winning journalist Cape Diamond (Pyae Sone Win) about the upcoming elections in Myanmar. Cape is a multimedia journalist based in Myanmar, covering issues of human rights, crisis and conflict. Currently freelancing for the Associated Press (AP), he has provided critical coverage during the Rohingya crisis and contributed to numerous international outlets, including Al Jazeera, ABC News and CBS. He also contributed to the BAFTA Award-winning documentaryMyanmar’s Killing Fields and New York Film Festival gold medal award-winner The Rohingya Exodus.


    Scheduled on 8 November 2020, the election will be Myanmar’s first since 2015, which resulted in a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD), and only the second competitive election since 1990, when the military annulled the NLD’s overwhelming victory.

    What is the situation for civic freedoms and civil society ahead of the elections?

    The situation for the freedom of speech is very concerning. Over the years, journalists and rights activists in Myanmar have been criminally charged for their work. Restrictive laws, including the Telecommunications Law, the Unlawful Associations Act, the Official Secrets Act and defamation provisions in the Penal Code, continue to be used to prosecute activists and journalists. The Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law has been used against those protesting.

    Many political parties have raised complaints that the Union Election Commission (UEC), the electoral body, has censored the messages that are set for broadcast on national TV ahead of the elections. For example, Ko Ko Gyi, chairman of the People's Party, said that the edits that the UEC made to his election campaign speech prevent him from airing the party's full political stance ahead of the elections. Two parties – the Democratic Party for a New Society and the National Democratic Force – cancelled their election broadcasts in protest against censorship.

    At the same time, critics say that the electoral body is biased in favour of the ruling party, the NLD led by Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s something that we should keep our eyes on and speak out about to ensure credible elections.

    Has the electoral body engaged with civil society?

    I’ve been hearing that the current UEC is not that actively engaging with civil society. They initially barred the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), one of the largest election monitoring groups in the country, from monitoring the election. The UEC accused PACE of not being registered under the law that applies to civil society organisations and of receiving funding from international sources. Even though the UEC subsequently allowed PACE to operate, the organisation is struggling to proceed due to the newly imposed COVID-19 restrictions.

    What are the main issues the campaign will revolve around?

    The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing civil war across the country are the main issues for us at the moment. It’s very clear that the ruling party and the government are not paying enough attention to the situation of minorities in regions experiencing civil war. 

    It’s worrying that the country is undergoing a pandemic, which I believe it does not have enough capacity to handle. As of 29 September 2020, we have had a total of 11,000 reported cases and 284 deaths due to COVID-19. A surge of infections over the last few weeks has been worrying, as we only had around 400 confirmed cases in August. I am concerned about whether the environment will be safe for people to go out and vote on the election days. 

    More than 20 political parties have sent requests to the electoral body to postpone the elections due to the pandemic, but they were rejected. The ruling party is not willing to have the elections postponed.

    Will it be possible to have a ‘normal’ campaign in this context? 

    I don’t think it’s possible to have normal campaign rallies such as those of the previous election in 2015, because we are in a pandemic. The government has taken several measures to combat the spread of the disease, including orders against gatherings of people. Political parties are not allowed to organise their campaigns in semi-lockdown areas.

    Major cities like Yangon and the Yangon Region, as well as some townships in Mandalay, are under semi-lockdown, which the government calls the Stay-At-Home programme. At the same time, the whole of Rakhine State, which is experiencing civil war, is also on semi-lockdown. I am afraid people in the civil war zone will not be able to go out and vote.

    Candidates are using both mainstream and social media to reach their audiences. However, as noted earlier, some opposition parties have been censored by the UEC. Some opposition members have denounced unfair treatment by the UEC and the government, while the ruling party is using its power to expand its popularity. This will clearly harm the electoral chances of the opposition.

    What specific challenges do candidates face in Rakhine State?

    As the whole of Rakhine State is under COVID-19 restrictions, candidates are not able to campaign in person. Therefore, they are mostly campaigning on social media. At the same time, a long internet shutdown has been in place in many townships in Rakhine State, imposed due to ongoing fighting between the Arakan Army and the military. I am concerned about whether people will be able to get enough information around the elections.

    The Myanmar government is also using the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law and the Election Law to disenfranchise Rohingya people and block them from running for political office. Election officials barred Kyaw Min, head of the Rohingya-led Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP), from running. He was disqualified along with two other DHRP candidates because their parents were allegedly not citizens, as required by election law. This is one of the various tools used to oppress the Rohingya population.

    In October, the UEC released a smartphone app that was criticised over its use of a derogatory label for Rohingya Muslims. The mVoter2020 app, aimed at improving voter awareness, labels at least two candidates from the Rohingya ethnic group as ‘Bengali’, a term that implies they are immigrants from Bangladesh, although most have lived in Myanmar for generations. This label is rejected by many Rohingya people. Additionally, none of the one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and another several hundred thousand dispersed in other countries will be allowed to vote.

    Civic space in Myanmar is rated asrepressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Follow@cape_diamond on Twitter.

  • NEPAL: ‘This landmark decision represents significant progress for all LGBTQI+ people’

    SanjaySharmaCIVICUS speaks with Sanjay Sharma, Programme Director of Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society, about the recentSupreme Court’s order to register same-sex marriages and civil society’s role in advancing LGBTQI+ rights in the country.

    Founded in 2001, Blue Diamond Society is a pioneering and leading LGBTQI+ civil society organisation (CSO) working toensure equal rights, equal access to public and private services, economic empowerment, representation and protection for all of Nepal’s sexual and gender minorities.

    What is the status of LGBTQI+ rights in Nepal?

    The Nepalese Constitution recognises the rights of gender and sexual minorities as fundamental rights. Article 12 states that people can obtain a citizenship certificate that aligns with their gender identity, while Article 18, on the right to equality, and Article 42, on the right to social justice, explicitly forbid discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Being LGBTQI+ is not criminalised in Nepal, so we can talk about LGBTQI+ issues everywhere, including parliament and government offices. The school curriculum also addresses LGBTQI+ issues. The LGBTQI+ community is diverse, and the number of our allies and of innovative ideas to benefit our community are increasing.

  • New digital security law a further blow to media freedom and free expression in Bangladesh
    • The Digital Security Act was passed despite protests from civil society and journalists
    • DSA  incorporates other legislation that has been systematically used to silence dissent
    • New law comes amid a growing, brutal crackdown on peaceful protests and dissent  
    • No safety of journalists in the digital age if impunity persists

      Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

       Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

      Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

      Thank you Mr President,

      We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur and share the concerns over the increasing vilification, targeting and criminalisation of journalists and media workers.

      Journalists play a critical role in reporting on violations of fundamental rights, and the ability of journalists to work safely and without fear is a critical component of civic space.

      In Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan, journalists have been attacked and arrested while reporting on protests. In Kenya and Mexico, attacks against journalists have continued unabated, with impunity. In Hungary, political interference by the government has significantly undermined media freedom. All five countries, along with Chad, are currently on CIVICUS’s Watchlist for their serious, and rapid decline in respect for civic space.

      The digital age has reinforced these existing threats and created new ones to the safety of journalists.

      “Fake news’’ laws are used to target journalists and media workers not in line with governments’ official positions. In Russia, journalists can face criminal penalties of up to 15 years in prison for disseminating allegedly ‘false information’ about Russian armed forces in Ukraine.

      Digital surveillance is increasingly used to monitor journalists. In India, the Pegasus Spyware has been employed to target at least 300 journalists, diplomats, and activists. Biometric technologies are utilised to identify and target protesters and journalists covering protests.

      Given that the digital age has brought further menaces to the safety of journalists and a chilling effect on freedom of expression, we ask the Special Rapporteur what States should do to end impunity for human rights violations against journalists and media workers?

       We thank you.

    • Omani human rights activist silenced and pushed into exile

      CIVICUS interviews Habiba Al Hinai a human rights defender from Oman who had to leave the country for her own safety. She also elaborates the situation for human rights defenders in the country. She is currently living in Germany with her son after she felt that had become difficult for her to live in her home country due to her human rights activities.

      1. What are the restrictions you and other human rights defenders in Oman have faced after being active in the uprising in 2011?
      In 2011, and like in many suppressed Arab countries, Oman witnessed wide spread human rights demonstrations that triggered an extremely violent government reaction attempting to suppress such unusual public actions. Demands of Omani demonstrators were not something new to the authorities, especially with rampant corruption, unemployment, poverty, limited education, suppression of press freedom and freedom of expression, ignoring women and children's rights, conducting of false elections and enforced restrictions and monitoring of civic society associations. The protests resulted in the death of two innocent civilians, in addition to tens wounded by rubber bullets and hundreds detained from different parts of the country.

      As expected, the government responded with an iron fist to human rights movements such as teachers, doctors and workers strikes by imprisoning demonstration organisers along with many human rights defenders, activists, writers, bloggers and the educated elite. As a result of this oppression, many activists had to run away to other countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Australia and ask for political asylum, as it has been made impossible for them, facing all kinds of threats of detention and imprisonment, to conduct human rights activities within Oman.

      In 2012, I was arrested along with two of my colleagues during our coverage of a strike by more than 4 000 workers in the desert oilfield. In 2016. I had to pay a fine as I was convicted of two charges for “insulting the Omani people” and “disturbing the general order set by the government”. These charges arose over a post I wrote on my Facebook page. Because of this statement, I had to sign a statement written by the top security service stating that I will not continue with my human rights activities or otherwise I would be sent to prison. Our organisation’s website, Facebook account and Twitter account were hacked and I was kicked out of the Facebook group so that I cannot edit it anymore. The account is still running and all that’s being said on the site is that we are very happy and have no human rights complaints anymore. For this reason, it would not be safe to start another website, Facebook or Twitter account without having high levels of digital security as it can be hacked again.

      A lot of human rights activists in Oman have been sent to courts and faced long and costly trials over fake accusations. Many have served prison sentences of one to three years in prison for “defaming the Sultan” following Facebook and Twitter posts that criticised Sultan Qabos bin Sa’eed Al Sa’eed. This is part of a punishment method for activists who refuse to stop their work. The security services are using different kinds of tools as punishment, including judicial, religious or social pressure. Sadly many activists end up in prison, unable to work or are banned from travelling. Luckily, I was able to leave Oman before I could have been banned from travelling. The political situation in Oman is dire now since the Sultan is of advanced age and is quite sick, which has led to all the different political factions fighting over who will take over power. Unfortunately, the government is using this time to punish activists through prison sentences and other restrictions.

      2. What is the situation in general for civil society in Oman?
      The situation is that all independent civil society organisations (CSOs) are banned from carrying out their activities and CSO workers have been threatened to not even work online or even form WhatsApp groups. Making calls on Skype, Signal, Messenger and WhatsApp is also banned. All independent magazines and newspaper have been closed down and reports indicate that three journalists from the Al Zaman newspaper have been sentenced to three years in prison for publishing articles critical of the state. Six activists have fled to the United Kingdom where they have been granted asylum, which is a new phenomenon for us. Many of those human rights defenders who are not in prison right now in Oman are waiting for their cases to be finalised by the courts.

      The result of this is fear of doing any human rights work. We don’t know who will rule Oman after the Sultan and many people in Oman are in general very afraid because they don’t know what will happen in the future. Additionally there is a lot of corruption and the unemployment rate is very high. 70% of the population are youth under the age of 30, meaning youth unemployment is very high. Omanis feel that the Sultan cannot solve these problems because of his age and illness and are unsure as to who will rule the country in the future.

      The crackdown on civil society has resulted in very little reporting on the human rights situation in Oman and most human rights defenders have completely stopped making posts online. The state security has managed to control and push the society back and to make civil society afraid. This has resulted in nobody recording the human rights violations publicly from inside Oman and only space left is for Omani human rights defenders who are abroad to publicly report about the situation.

      3. What specific restrictions have you faced as a woman human rights defender?
      In general, the environment for women human rights defenders in Oman is very unhealthy. The government uses its political power and pressures religious entities and our families to pressure us with the aim of breaking us down. Methods used to shame women human rights defenders include defamation and spreading bad news about women activists. This has resulted in many women human rights defenders being silenced.

      Almost all the women human rights defenders in Oman stopped their activism because they couldn’t take the pressure. The government has contacted over and over the families of women activists to pressure them to stop their female family member from activism. This and the other restrictions became too much for most women human rights defenders to handle. I worked on women’s rights, children’s rights and other human rights issues in Oman and I was punished for it. Besides the detention and paying a fine, I also underwent interrogations by the security forces and was told by the government that I didn’t have a permit to do any work on women and children’s rights.

      In my situation, the government sent my own family members to break me down. The government used them and some of our personal differences to come and detain me when I attended a protest in 2011. This creates terrible cracks in the family and I suffered a lot. Now some of my family members chose to abandon me or don’t talk to me. If they even support me financially, they will face a backlash from the government. The restrictions I faced are still causing me great problems. After I was imprisoned in the middle of the dessert in temperatures that could sometimes reach 50 degrees with my hands ties and with no air conditioning, I have a phobia of indoor spaces and this is still very stressful for me today. Currently I am seeing a psychiatrist in Germany for a treatment.

      4. What support is needed from international civil society and international actors?
      The international community must be aware of the human rights situation in Oman. Many people and governments around the world don’t think there is an issue with human rights in Oman including the European Union. This has a lot to do with us not being able to report on the situation from Oman. The government in Oman managed to scare us quickly before the international community knew what was happening.

      It is important to pressure the embassies of Oman around the world. Just recently, I saw that the Omani embassy in London had invited a big INGO for an event at the embassy. This is a sign of how good the Omani government is at networking and putting on a certain face to the outside world including human rights organisations worldwide. It is important that international human rights organisations do not accept invitations to events by the Omani embassies. If they do attend, they must pressure the government officials while at the events.

      The United States of America had previously started a Female Genital Mutilation campaign in Oman but when the US-Iran deal came into place with Oman being a key actor in the deal the US started being friendlier to the Omani government. In the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Oman in March 2015, the United States was very gentle concerning the human rights situation in Oman. But the international community can do a lot through diplomacy. When UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to association and assembly, Maina Kiai, came to Oman, he met with activists. Luckily, international organisations supported Maina Kiai’s critical reports but this report must be collected and used as part of diplomacy at an international level. Unfortunately, the Omani government does very good diplomacy so governments need to be persistent.

      • Follow Habiba Al Hinai on Twitter @HabibaAlHinai
      • Oman is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor

    • Open Letter to president of Venezuela regarding the proposed International Cooperation Bill
      Presidente de la República
      S.E. Hugo Chávez Frías
      Palacio de Miraflores, Caracas,
      Fax:+58.212.806 3698
      Your Excellency,
      Re: Proposed International Cooperation Bill
      I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. CIVICUS works to strengthen civil society and citizen action throughout the world.
      We at CIVICUS, our members and partners, are deeply concerned about your recent comments urging National Assembly members to adopt a "severe" law to effectively stop international funding for NGOs. We would like to emphasise that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play an extremely important role in national life. Their constructive criticism and quest for greater accountability in public life are important assets for the nation. We therefore urge your government to respect expressions of legitimate dissent and unequivocally uphold civil society's rights to express, associate and assemble freely.
    • Outcomes from the UN Human Rights be continued

      In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 43rd Session, which was scheduled to run from 24 Feb – 20 March, was suspended after three weeks on 13 March until further notice.

      CIVICUS fully supports the suspension of the Session on public health grounds, and the precautionary measures taken before the suspension. However, we remain concerned that public participation in the Council risks being disproportionately affected, especially in light of the decision to cut General Debates from the 44th Session (June), which removes a key platform for civil society to engage with governments. The UN depends on information from the ground in order to make evidence-based decisions, and we call on states to take steps to ensure that the participation of civil society is not compromised.

      In Nicaragua, a human rights crisis has seen hundreds of thousands flee the country and an ongoing crackdown against human rights organisations, community leaders, and journalists. The situation is compounded by a lack of political will from the government to engage with regional or international mechanisms, or to ensure accountability. CIVICUS welcomes that the draft resolution on Nicaragua tabled during the Session would provide a mandate for enhanced monitoring and reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation at this critical time, and we urge all states to support this resolution when the Session resumes.

      We also call on states to support the renewal of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. The 43rd session marked the final one for the current Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, and we thank her for her outstanding work during her mandate. Myanmar has undergone significant developments in its human rights framework since the Special Rapporteur began her term – from elections in 2015 which saw a groundswell of hope for positive change, to the dawning realisation of crimes against humanity against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. But the curtailment of fundamental freedoms and total crackdown on any criticism of authorities has remained grimly consistent. Those on the ground, the human rights defenders and activists who are trying to achieve change, need international support from the Human Rights Council.

      In late 2019, Iran erupted into a series of protests against the lack of political and democratic freedoms and the deteriorating economic situation. Protesters were met with violent repression through mass arrests and lethal force. When the Session resumes, the Human Rights Council will vote on extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. We welcome support shown by states so far for the renewal of the mandate, and we urge adoption of this resolution when the Session continues.

      What is a Special Rapporteur?
      Special Rapporteur is a title given to an independent expert who works on behalf of the United Nations who has a specific country or thematic mandate from the Human Rights Council. Special Rapporteurs often conduct fact-finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations. They can only officially visit countries that have agreed to invite them. Aside from fact-finding missions, Rapporteurs regularly assess and verify complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations. 

      The mandates for Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and opinion, and on human rights defenders, are set to be renewed when the Session resumes. We encourage all member and observer states to show their full support for these mandates by co-sponsorsing the resolutions.

      Just prior to the suspension of the Session, Mary Lawlor was appointed as new Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. We look forward to working with her as she protects those on the frontline of defending human rights around the world, and we thank Michel Forst, the outgoing mandate holder, for his tireless work.

      Towards the beginning of the Session, the High Commissioner’s update on Sri Lanka highlighted ongoing impunity for past grave human rights abuses in the country. The new Sri Lankan government, which came into power in 2019, has said that it intends to renege on Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 which provided commitments to accountability, truth and reconciliation. The human rights space in Sri Lanka has deteriorated sharply under the new administration, and the undermining of this resolution – currently the only route to ensuring transitional justice in Sri Lanka – would not only be fatal to victims and their families, but also a significant setback to the UN itself. We urge states to strongly encourage Sri Lanka to uphold its commitments and reiterate calls for an international accountability mechanism to ensure that accountability remains a possibility.

      Although India was not on the official agenda of this Session, the ongoing crackdown on Kashmir, a discriminatory citizenship law and violent suppression of protests proved an ongoing issue throughout the Session.

      CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA, ISHR, FIDH, OMCT and ICJ organized a side event to discuss the current situation and ways in which the international community, including the Council, could contribute to constrictive progress. With key partners, CIVICUS also joined important statements on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as well as on India’s recent discriminatory citizenship law, and we were encouraged to see several states raise their own concerns about India during debates.

      Civic space ratings by CIVICUS Monitor
      Open Narrowed Obstructed  Repressed Closed


      Our joint and stand alone country statements at the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council
      Angola Burundi El Salvador  Eritrea Fiji
      India Iraq Iran Jammu & Kashmir Madagascar
      Myanmar Nicaragua Sri Lanka See all statements


    • Over 150 organisations demand international community stand against raids and closures of 7 Palestinian organisations

      Amid Israel’s escalating attacks targeting their work, a group of more than 150 Palestinian, regional, and international organisations express our full solidarity with the designated seven leading Palestinian civil society organisations, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committees (HWC),the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC).

    • PHILIPPINES: ‘Historical memory of martial law under Marcos Senior gives us strength to persevere’

      CrisitinaPalabayCIVICUS speaks withCristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan, about the human rights situation in the Philippines since the start ofFerdinand Marcos Junior’s government.

      Founded in 1995, Karapatan isan alliance of civil society activists and organisations working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. Its founders and members have been at the forefront of the human rights struggle in the Philippines since the time of Ferdinand Marcos Senior’s martial law regime.

      What have the government’s policy priorities been in its first year?

      Ferdinand Marcos Junior, known as Bongbong Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was inaugurated for a six-year presidential term on 30 June 2022, succeeding Rodrigo Duterte, whose rule was marked by closing civic space and attacks against civil society activists.

      While the new government tries to make it look like its policy priorities are aimed at addressing the economic crisis and its impacts on the debt-ridden domestic economy, this is not the case. Inflation and unemployment rates continue to rise while disproportionate shares of the budget are allocated to militarist policies rather than social services. These are insufficient palliatives and the government continues to invoke the crisis situation to justify the continuing violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

      No substantial efforts have been made to curb corruption. But one after another, graft allegations against members of the Marcos family are being dismissed by the courts, which enables them to keep the money siphoned from the nation’s coffers.

      The new administration tries to present itself as more humane than its predecessor in relation to the so-called ‘war on drugs’, but reports from the ground prove that extrajudicial killings and abuses of power by the police are ongoing. Moreover, Marcos Junior stands firmly behind Duterte in rejecting the International Criminal Court’s independent investigations into the thousands of killings committed under Duterte’s watch.

      While mainstream surveys say that Marcos Junior maintains the trust of the population, people on the ground are increasingly questioning his rule because they see that his campaign promises to lower the prices of basic commodities and costs of services aren’t being fulfilled.

      Have conditions for civil society worsened under Marcos Junior’s rule?

      There seems to be no essential or substantial change in the relationship between the government and Filipino civil society, which continues to be hostile. If there is any change at all, it seems to be rather negative, considering the cumulative effect of the continuing human rights violations, attacks on civic and democratic space, dire lack of justice and accountability, and the prevalent culture of impunity.

      The conditions for civil society have worsened due to the accumulation of restrictions that the state has continued to impose on civic space. These include red-tagging – the practice of labelling people and groups as associated with or sympathetic to the communist movement or progressive movements, judicial harassment and illegal or arbitrary arrests and detention of human rights defenders (HRDs). We have witnessed an increased use of counter-terrorism laws against HRDs, political dissenters, journalists and workers in churches and faith-based institutions. Violations of freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly have clearly continued.

      The recently adopted National Security Policy bodes ill for those working towards the achievement of just and lasting peace and upholding and defending human rights, because it affirms all the policies of the Duterte administration, including the institutionalisation of a government task force that has been notorious for committing red-tagging and other forms of human rights violations. Additionally, Marcos Junior hasn’t issued a clear policy statement concerning human rights.

      What challenges does Karapatan face as a human rights organisation?

      Filipino civil society organisations remain steadfast in our collective work to uphold and defend human rights in the Philippines. Our historical memory of martial law under Marcos Senior gives us the strength to persevere in our human rights advocacy despite all the restrictions and challenges.

      Karapatan specifically continues to face numerous challenges. One of our staff members, Alexander Philip Abinguna, remains in jail on trumped-up charges. Our national officers continue to face judicial harassment, threats and red-tagging. We are in constant fear of physical attacks and the use of draconian laws against us. However, at our recent National Council meeting, we expressed an even stronger determination to continue doing our human rights work, demanding justice for all victims of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, resisting all forms of authoritarianism, fighting for a truly democratic country and building a human rights culture.

      What international support does Filipino civil society receive, and what further support do you need?

      We appreciate the tenacious political, moral and material support that the international community provides to Filipino civil society to defend and uphold human rights. Karapatan calls on its international friends and allies to further strengthen this spirit of international solidarity by amplifying our calls to your communities and peoples, to your parliaments and governments and to international mechanisms such as the United Nations Human Rights Council. We likewise appreciate any political and material support for victims of human rights violations, including HRDs at risk and their families and communities.

      Civic space in the Philippines is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

      Get in touch with Karapatan through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@karapatan and@TinayPalabay onTwitter.

    • PHILIPPINES: ‘The government is headed by a former dictator’s son who reached power in a suspicious manner’

      NymiaPimentelCIVICUS speaks with Nymia Pimentel-Simbulanabout the human rights situation in the Philippines since the start ofFerdinand Marcos Junior’s government.Nymia ischairperson of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and Executive Director of thePhilippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights).

      Established in 1991, PhilRights serves as PAHRA’s research and information centre. Its vision is that of a society where each person can fully realise their potential, participate effectively in economic, political and cultural life and benefit from economic progress.

      Has the relationship between government and civil society changed under the new government?

      The relationship between state and civil society hasn’t changed under the new government – it hasn’t worsened, but it hasn’t improved either. However, since the government is now headed by the son of a former dictator who came to power in a suspicious manner, civil society organisations (CSOs) approach it with caution, scepticism and a lukewarm attitude.

      Overall, conditions for civil society work have not improved, as numerous policies and programmes that restrict the activities and functioning of CSOs, particularly human rights organisations, remain in effect. For instance, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Republic Act 11,497), which has the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as its primary implementing entity, persists in its campaign to discredit human rights advocates through red-tagging – labelling people and groups as associated with communism. Threats, harassment and killings of human rights defenders (HRDs) – including civil society activists, environmentalists, human rights lawyers, trade unionists and Indigenous leaders – have continued. Journalists such as 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa have not been exempt from attacks either. Multiple trumped-up charges have been filed against her as part of the government’s sustained efforts to stifle dissent.

      Has the government shifted its focus from the ‘war on drugs’ to other policy issues?

      We have not seen any significant differences in priorities or approaches to economic, foreign relations, environmental and human rights issues between current president Ferdinando Marcos Junior and former president Rodrigo Duterte.

      However, while the focus on the drug problem remains, there has been a discursive shift from Duterte’s punitive and violent approach to an anti-drug campaign emphasising prevention and rehabilitation. But this hasn’t translated into an end to extrajudicial killings, which continue unabated in impoverished urban areas that are known to be havens for drug-related activities. Dahas, a research group from the University of the Philippines, reported 342 instances of drug-related killings carried out by state and non-state groups and people during the first year of the new government. The targets of the anti-drug campaign continue to be minor drug users and low-level peddlers. As happened under the previous administration, prominent drug lords remain untouched.

      Meanwhile, people’s quality of life continues to decline and food insecurity has worsened due to the impact of continuous increases in oil and fuel prices, pushing up the cost of essential commodities and services. Staples such as rice, sugar, onions and flour have become scarce in many Filipino households. The president has failed to take decisive action on the pressing food problem, even though he also serves as Secretary of Agriculture.

      What support does the president enjoy?

      According to a recent survey, the president enjoys substantial approval and trust ratings, standing at around 80 per cent. These scores are consistent across regions and socioeconomic groups.

      I believe this phenomenon reflects how the government’s information and communication machinery has effectively crafted, packaged and disseminated Marcos Junior’s and his administration’s endeavours, policies and priorities, primarily featuring messages of unity and concern for the poor. Social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok and YouTube have served as the main channels for conveying these messages, enabling the government to reach out to the majority of the population, who predominantly rely on social media as news sources.

      How is Filipino civil society working to protect and promote human rights?

      Filipino CSOs, including PhilRights, are actively involved in human rights education, research, documentation of rights violations and community mobilisation through grassroots organisations, schools, universities, factories and churches.

      Civil society pursues five primary goals. We advocate for the adoption of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill and combat the vilification campaign against HRDs, including the red-tagging of civil society activists. We seek justice for victims of extrajudicial killings in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ through lobbying at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and International Criminal Court. We work to address economic concerns, including food insecurity, by trying to achieve reductions in the costs of basic goods and services, promoting decent employment opportunities and fair wages and providing adequate housing for urban poor residents. We engage in environmental protection efforts, which involve advocating for an end to large-scale mining activities like open-pit mining, particularly in Indigenous peoples’ communities.

      How is the international community supporting this work?

      Filipino civil society benefits from international solidarity coming from various government missions, human rights organisations and religious groups that support our lobbying efforts at the UNHRC. They release press statements, position papers and reports addressing human rights issues and concerns in the Philippines. They provide essential funding and material assistance to Filipino CSOs for our diverse human rights and development initiatives. Moreover, as leaders of civil society and HRDs, we are frequently invited to speak about the human rights situation in the Philippines to organisations and groups abroad, keeping them informed and keeping solidarity alive.

      Civic space in the Philippines is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

      Get in touch withPhilRights through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@PhilRights onTwitter.

    • POLAND: ‘In reaction to conservative backlash, public support for LGBTQI+ rights is on the rise’


      CIVICUS speaks about 2023 Pride and Polish LGBTQI+ rights organisations’ response to the conservative backlash against LGBTQI+ rights with Annamaria Linczowska, advocacy and litigation officer at Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH).

      Founded 2001, KPH is a Polish LGBTQI+ civil society organisation (CSO) working to counter violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity through political, social and legal advocacy.


    • Poland: concerns over intimidation, violence and detentions of peaceful protesters

      Joint letter to:

      Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association
      Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
      Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression
      Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Physical and Mental Health
      Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
      Palais Wilson, 52 Rue des Pâquis
      1201 Geneva, Switzerland

    • Press freedom vital in the fight against the pandemic

      hopewell chinono

      Freelance journalist Hopewell Chin'ono. Credit: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

      By , Researcher with CIVICUS

      Access to accurate information is vitally important during the pandemic, so that people can understand how to protect themselves and their families, and to hold their governments to account for their response to the health emergency.

      Just like the virus, the persecution of the press has no borders, affecting journalists in many countries across the region. In its latest global report, the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks civic freedoms, documented that journalists had been detained in at least 28 African countries. This was the top civic rights violation recorded in Africa during the past year.

      Read on Inter Press Service News 

    • Proposed new social media law in Nepal threatens freedom of expression
      • A new broad and restrictive law being introduced by the Nepalese government gives the authorities sweeping powers to block social media platforms and remove or criminalise defamatory posts
      • The government has also tabled legislation that restricts civil servants from sharing their views in the media including via social media sites
      • Global and regional human rights groups are concerned that these laws are to be designed to stifle dissent and silence critical voices

      Nepal parliamentNew proposed laws relating to social media use in Nepal are intended to stifle dissent and silence critical voices, say global and regional human rights groups.

      Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) say they are seriously concerned that new legislation, which has been tabled in parliament by the Nepalese government, are meant to create a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.

      On February 20, 2019, Nepal's government tabled the Information Technology bill in parliament, which would impose harsh sanctions for “improper” social media posts. Under the proposed law, the government would have the power to block social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, unless the owners registered their platforms in Nepal. The government can also instruct social network site operators to remove posts. Failure to do so could lead to a three-year jail term and a fine of 30,000 Nepalese rupees (US$ 262). Those responsible for social media posts deemed defamatory or against national sovereignty could be punished with up to five years behind bars and a fine of 1.5 million Nepalese rupees (USD 13,000).

      “We are extremely concerned that this bill is overly broad and restrictive and, if passed,  could be used to block or criminalise reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions by civil society and citizens,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Civic Space Researcher.

      “Any efforts to genuinely regulate online content must be approached in a transparent and consultative manner, and avoid criminal restrictions on free speech,” said Benedict. 

      “We call on the Nepalese government to ensure that the legislation is in line with international law and standards in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it has ratified and that vague provisions around protecting national sovereignty should be removed”

      CIVICUS and AHRC are also concerned about a new bill, tabled on February 13  2019, that prohibits civil servants from sharing their views through media including their micro-blogging sites, even after their retirement from government service. The law also prohibits speeches and writing that are considered “contrary to the policies of the Government of Nepal or to undermine mutual relationship between the Government of Nepal and the people or the relationship with any foreign country”.

       “It is extremely worrying to see such laws being introduced by the authorities that will further shrink civic space in Nepal,” said Basil Fernando, Director of AHRC.

      “Criticism and dissent are essential attributes for an open and democratic society. We urge the authorities to pull the plug on such regressive legislation and instead take steps to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression to flourish,” said Fernando.

      Fundamental freedoms in Nepal continue to face serious threats. Journalists have been arrested and charged under the Electronic Transaction Act 2008 for their reports and dozens have been attacked or threatened. Police have also used excessive and lethal force at demonstrations, with impunity and laws have been proposed to curtail the work of NGOs.

      The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Nepal as Obstructed.


       For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

      Josef Benedict

      Insert CIVICUS facebook page link

      Insert CIVICUS twitter account (including Monitor twitter account where relevant

    • Re: Proposed International Cooperation Bill
      Presidente de la República
      S.E. Hugo Chávez Frías
      Palacio de Miraflores, Caracas,
      Fax:+58.212.806 3698

      Your Excellency,


      Re: Proposed International Cooperation Bill

      I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. CIVICUS works to strengthen civil society and citizen action throughout the world.
      We at CIVICUS, our members and partners, are deeply concerned about your recent comments urging National Assembly members to adopt a "severe" law to effectively stop international funding for NGOs. We would like to emphasise that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play an extremely important role in national life. Their constructive criticism and quest for greater accountability in public life are important assets for the nation. We therefore urge your government to respect expressions of legitimate dissent and unequivocally uphold civil society's rights to express, associate and assemble freely.

      We would like to draw your attention to the International Cooperation Bill, currently being discussed by law makers. We believe that the bill has been drawn up without adequate consultation with civil society. Moreover, we are deeply apprehensive that that passage of the Bill in its current form will severely curtail civil society space in the following ways:

      1. Subjecting CSOs to additional layers of bureaucracy by requiring them to register with the government in order to receive funds from international sources could increase the possibility of subjective denial of registration to CSOs who have been critical of official actions.
      2. The creation of an official fund for International Cooperation and Assistance for the collection of monetary grants from overseas and their subsequent disbursement by the government is likely to impede international cooperation activities between Venezuelan CSOs and their counterparts abroad. Moreover, it will lead to government ownership and prioritisation of international cooperation funds rather than democratic ownership by CSOs and local communities.
      3. By increasing executive discretion to monitor CSO affairs through the creation of an Agency for International Cooperation, limits of whose powers and have not been clearly defined, raising apprehension of increased restrictions on CSO affairs. 

      We believe that the registration and funding requirements of the Bill, given their ambiguity, have the potential to breach the right to freedom of association embodied in the Venezuelan Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration. 

      We urge you to use your executive powers and influence to carry out consultations with civil society with regard to the need for an international cooperation law as well as the principles that should underpin any regulatory mechanism for civil society.


      Ingrid Srinath
      Secretary General
      CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    • RUSSIA: ‘The shutdown of media sources threatens to create information vacuum for Russians’

      Natalia MalyshevaCIVICUS speaks about anti-war protests in Russia and the government’s violations of digital rights with Natalia Malysheva, co-founder and press secretary of Roskomsvoboda.

      Roskomsvoboda is a civil society organisation (CSO) that works to defend people’s digital rights. Established in 2012, it promotes the freedom of information and advocates against censorship. It is currently working to ensure people receive accurate information about the war and offering assistance to those who have been detained.

      How significant are the ongoing anti-war protests in Russia?

      The protests are small. In the first days of the so-called ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, many people came out to take part in spontaneous rallies for peace in all major cities of Russia. Human rights CSOs have reported that more than 15,000 people have been detained so far for speaking out against the war. But now protests typically consist of small groups of people in multiple locations across the country.

      The new law that prohibits and criminalises the dissemination of ‘fake news’ about the Russian military action and the expression of support for ‘anti-Russian sanctions’ has had a strong impact on how people organise, and on whether they go out to protest, because it has installed fear throughout society.

      People have been arrested merely for using the words ‘war’ and ‘peace’ in the context of protests, and even for using asterisks instead of letters on their signs – because the government knows that if you protest with a blank sign or a sign full of asterisks, what you are trying to say is ‘no to war’. People who advocate against the war on social media are also often at risk of being arrested.

      There are fewer and fewer people who are willing to take part in an uncoordinated rally and get arrested for several days, because most of them have families and jobs they wish to protect. Many people who fear for their lives are leaving the country for their safety. Others simply do not see any prospects in a continuing struggle. Moving forward, we shouldn’t expect mass protests to arise in Russia.

      Do you think protests can make any difference?

      Right now it is clear that the Russian government does not intend to have a dialogue with the part of society that does not support its so-called ‘military operation’ in Ukraine. This is unfortunately a relatively small segment of society and its demands are overlooked.

      Although people continue to go out to protests and some get arrested in the process, in my opinion this will not change the course of the events that are currently taking place. The authorities won’t listen to protesters. Protesting will perhaps start making more sense when – or if – most Russians begin to understand what is really happening.

      What is Roskomsvoboda focusing on?

      Roskomsvoboda is a CSO that supports open self-regulatory networks and the protection of digital rights of internet users. It seeks to counter online censorship and expand the opportunities brought by digital technologies.

      For 10 years, Roskomsvoboda has constantly monitored the activities of government agencies. We publish a register of blocked sites and raise awareness of online abuse, leakages of personal data and the persecution of citizens for their social media statements. We conduct extensive public campaigns and events aimed at informing citizens about the violation of their digital rights, initiating public discussion and bringing people together so they can fight for their rights. Our lawyers defend those who are prosecuted for their online statements or activities, represent the interests of users and site owners in court and participate in the development of proposals for changing legislation.

      In the past few days, against the backdrop of an information war and a growing social crisis, we have focused more on helping people get reliable information about what is happening. We have published pieces about new laws that have been adopted to introduce censorship and analysed how they will affect people and their right to speak up. Our lawyers continue to provide targeted legal assistance to those who are being prosecuted for speaking out online, defending people in courts.

      The closure of some news outlets and social media platforms is affecting the kind of information people receive. State media outlets provide information that only reflects events from the government’s perspective and disseminate a lot of propaganda. The shutdown of leading media sources threatens to create an information vacuum for Russians, which won’t contribute to the goal of achieving peace.

      Restrictions on access to information and censorship have already significantly reduced people’s ability to protest. Even publishing an online call for a peace rally can result in criminal punishment.

      We recently issued a statement calling on the world’s leading internet and IT companies and initiatives not to indiscriminately impose mass sanctions and not to punish ordinary people in Russia, many of whom are already in a vulnerable position. We have translated our appeal into several languages and are asking everyone to help disseminate it.

      What are the dangers of disinformation in the context of the current crisis?

      The biggest risk of disinformation is that of disconnecting Russia from the global information space.

      Russian authorities have blocked the world’s largest media outlets and social media. Many western companies have stopped operating in Russia, making it even more closed for international viewers. This prevents people from getting the truth about what is happening; it also destroys the businesses and careers of many people who have worked in partnership with Western countries for many years.

      The current closure of businesses has left many people without vital resources. People are not only affected by oppression from the Russian government but must also deal with the potential loss of their jobs and sources of income. With such actions, western countries only risk Russia shutting down completely from the outside world, paving the way for the rise of a ‘sovereign internet’ – an internet thoroughly controlled by the government.

      How can the international community best support Russian civil society?

      The international community can help by bringing our message to the widest possible audience. On behalf of Russian internet users, Roskomsvoboda urges technology companies located in the jurisdictions of the USA, the European Union and other countries not to massively disable the accounts of Russian users. They should not restrict their access to information and means of communication.

      Digital discrimination based on nationality would reduce the ability of Russians to gain access to reliable information, as well as to conduct honest work, study and research activities. So we ask you to please distribute our statement far and wide.

      We also started a petition asking the world’s virtual private network (VPN) services to help ensure that Russian users have free access to their services during these difficult times. This is necessary to protect users’ basic rights to privacy, the secrecy of communication and their ability to receive and disseminate information freely. Access to information is a basic human right enshrined in various international agreements. In critical situations, it is more important than ever.

      Civic space in Russiais rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor. Russia is currently on theCIVICUS Monitor Watch List, which identifies countries in which a severe and abrupt deterioration in the quality of civic space is taking place.
      Get in touch with Roskomsvoboda through itswebsite or itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@RuBlackListNET on Twitter.

    • RUSSIA: ‘These protests are key to the preservation of Russian civil society’

      Maria KuznetsovaCIVICUS speaks about the ongoing anti-war protests in Russia and the repressive government response with OVD-Info’s spokesperson Maria Kuznetsova.

      OVD-Info is an independent civil society organisation (CSO) that aims to promote and protect human rights – and specifically the freedom of peaceful assembly – in Russia. It monitors protests and their repression and assists detained protesters through legal aid, online consultations, and bringing them food and water while in detention.

      How big are the ongoing anti-war protests in Russia?

      The protests were massive in the first two weeks of the war – we recorded protest-related arrests in at least 159 cities. Of course, the biggest protests were those taking place in major developed cities, basically Moscow and St. Petersburg.

      People came out against the war for moral reasons, because they could not look at the horror of what was happening in Ukraine and not react: mass bombings, killings of civilians, violence.

      Protesters are mostly people under 40 years old – because they are the ones who, thanks to the internet, get an accurate picture of what is happening, in contrast to the narrative that is pushed by censored state TV. Their demands to end the war are simultaneously, of course, demands to overthrow Putin. Because one is impossible without the other.

      My opinion is that due to the deteriorating economic situation, another – quite different – wave of protests may be expected soon. This may start among the poorer sections of the population who have lost income and jobs, and among doctors and patients, who are already experiencing the consequences of shortages of life-saving medicines due to sanctions.

      Do you think repression has dissuaded people from protesting in bigger numbers?

      At the height of the protests, on 5 March, more than 5,500 people were detained in one day. Since the beginning of the war, nearly 15,000 people have been detained at anti-war protests. The police are very harshly suppressing the protests – for example, on Sunday 20 March in Moscow, virtually all protesters were detained, and many of them were arrested for five to 30 days.

      In addition, 39 criminal cases have already been opened due to statements and protests against the war; some of the defendants are already in jail. All of this scares away potential protesters. They understand that they can get a prison sentence even for participating in a peaceful rally, and it is obvious that fewer people are coming out now. However, protest continues under different forms: people sign open letters, write on social media, quit their jobs. We have even seen several high-profile dismissals of journalists and editors from federal media channels.

      Those who still venture out to protest are being assisted by several human rights organisations, including OVD-Info. We send our lawyers to police stations where protesters are held. When there are not enough lawyers or we do not have a lawyer in a given city, we provide online consultations. We accompany the defendants to court. In addition, there is an extensive network of volunteers who also come to police stations to bring detainees water and food so that they do not go hungry all night after they are detained.

      Do you think the protests will lead to meaningful change?

      I don’t think there is a chance that these protests will influence the politics of the current regime, and as a human rights project, rather than a political one, OVD-Info is not in a position to assess the prospects for regime change. What we know for sure is that the only possible path to peace in Europe is having a free Russia that protects human rights. We do not know when our country will turn that way.

      Still, these protests are key to the preservation and future development of Russian civil society. By taking part in them, those who oppose the war will gain invaluable self-organisation skills and acquire the moral right to play a prominent role when the time comes to build a new Russia.

      How have media restrictions imposed by the government affected the protests, and civil society work more generally?

      In my opinion, what we are witnessing in Russia is the establishment of military censorship. Even calling the events in Ukraine a war is prohibited – this is punishable by an administrative fine, and in case of repeated violations it becomes a criminal case, which can result in up to five years in prison. A new crime has been included in the Criminal Code: that of public disseminating knowingly false information about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. You can get up to 15 years in prison if you’re accused of doing that.

      The websites of almost all independent organisations have been blocked in Russia since the beginning of the war. Due to anti-war remarks, its founders were forced to shut down Echo of Moscow, a radio station. The online media also closed due to pressures. Independent TV channel Dozhd left Russia and temporarily interrupted its broadcasts, which were viewed by millions. Almost all independent media outlets were forced to leave Russia. In addition, the government blocked Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, because they realised they were unable to effectively impose censorship on social media.

      At the moment, military censorship makes it tough to continue any anti-war and independent civilian activity, because any statement or protest can result in a prison term. But people continue to protest regardless, and many celebrities are speaking out publicly. We have seen employees of propaganda channels getting fired, which suggests that people are so enraged by what is happening that they are willing to fight back despite the risks.

      How have the sanctions affected your work?

      I don’t have a clear answer just yet. It seems to me that so far sanctions have not affected our work so much, but the situation can always quickly deteriorate. In fact, OVD-Info has closed down all Russian donations, while international donations continue to be safe. 

      For the time being, it is the shutdown of many social media platforms that has made our work much more complex: it is increasingly difficult for us to convey information to people, educate them on legal issues and provide them with legal assistance. It will be especially difficult for us if Telegram is blocked in Russia, because it is now our primary platform for communicating with detainees.

      How can the international community help independent CSOs and human rights activists in Russia?

      I think the international community should be more careful with sanctions, which should be targeted. I think that the idea of collective responsibility is wrong – in Russia, it is a concept reminiscent of Stalin’s mass deportations of whole peoples, such as the Crimean Tatars, to pay for some individuals’ cooperation with the Third Reich.

      From a pragmatic rather than an ethical point of view, it must be noted that many sanctions that have been imposed are having negative side effects – they are harming the most progressive part of society that opposes the war, preventing it from receiving information and obstructing the work of the last independent media. For example, Mailchimp – a USA-based platform and email marketing service that is used to create and distribute email marketing campaigns – has blocked all its clients from Russia.

      It is also essential to understand that the Russians and Belarusians that are now leaving their countries and arriving in Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and other parts of Europe are mostly opposition activists and independent journalists who face jail time in their homeland. But because they are Russians and Belarusians, they are facing massive discrimination. However, these activists and journalists are not responsible for their government’s actions – they are in fact the only hope that their countries will change, so it is essential to help them instead of discriminating against them as if they were the aggressors’. It is necessary to understand that not all Russians and Belarusians support the war in Ukraine.

      Civic space in Russiais rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor. Russia is currently on theCIVICUS Monitor Watch List, which identifies countries in which a severe and abrupt deterioration in the quality of civic space is taking place.
      Get in touch with OVD-Info through itswebsite or itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@ovdinfo on Twitter.


    • Russia: Human Rights Council must respond to crackdown on civil society

      Joint statement ahead of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, condemning Russia (a new member of the body) for recent attacks against protestors (over 12,000 detained since late January).



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