Wednesday, 28 September 2016

SumTips: 5 Human Rights Violations Not to Be Ignored

Thai flag and map
A Thai tourism video directed by Bandit Thongdee has fallen victim to government censors. The video included four individuals in Khon masks, including a depiction of Ramakien king Thotsakan, which the culture ministry found “inappropriate”. As a result, an edited version of the video was released this week.

A debate over the thin line between respecting a nation’s heritage and infringing upon freedom of expression has ensued, culminating in a Change.org petition that quickly reached its goal of 70,000 signatures. The petition, which challenged the decision to censor Thongdee’s work, has since been delivered to Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Although its results remain to be seen, the signers of the petition should celebrate the fact that their efforts were heard, a dream that does not always become a reality for Change.org petitions. Of note:
  • On March 4, 2016, the Index on Censorship submitted a petition titled, “End Turkey’s crackdown on press freedom” in response to the seizure of Zaman, an independent Turkish media group. A week after the petition started, Index on Censorship announced a continued need to fight against the continued crackdown on press freedom; Zaman, the country’s most circulated newspaper, has since taken a markedly pro-government stance. To date, the petition has received 3,500 of the 5,000 signatures needed for it to reach President Recep Tayyip Edogan.
  • On February 20, 2016, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) submitted a petition titled, “Solidarity with Ahmed Naji: Egypt Prosecutes Creativity and Freedom of Expression” in response to the novelist’s two-year prison sentence on grounds of “harming public morality”. Just this month, the petition was updated to inform supporters of ways to wish a happy birthday to the still-imprisoned Naji. To date, the petition has received 9,000 of the 10,000 signatures needed for it to reach the International Community of Scholars, Novelists and Journalists.
  • On December 3, 2015, the Change Vigilantes Organization submitted a petition titled, “Nigerians Say ‘NO’ To Social Media Censorship by Government” in response to a proposed social media law that would “suppress, censor and criminalize free speech”. In May of 2016, the harmful legislation was thrown out; whether it returns remains to be seen. To date, the petition has received approximately 500 of the 1,000 signatures needed for it to reach the National Assembly, Senate President Bukola Saraki, National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari.
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