Freedom Alert

Nearly thirty Angolans were arrested, imprisoned and are being held incommunicado following a September 3 demonstration of more than 200 people calling on President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to resign. Organizers mobilized participants beforehand by sharing a “call to action” video on YouTube. A number of journalists, including Voice of America (VOA) reporter Alexander Neto were beaten in an attempt to prevent media coverage of the demonstration, along with citizens. Demonstrators allege police brutality, yet police blame demonstrators for the violence. President Dos Santos’ party, the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola - Labour Party (MPLA), is expected to win general elections next year.

After a wave of recent violence resulting in several injuries and the death of one person, authorities in Kinshahsa— a state in the Democratic Republic of Congo— have imposed a five-day ban on political protests. Police used tear gas and gunfire to silence protests related to the upcoming November election, targeting in particular supporters of opposition party the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). UDPS’ headquarters were attacked on September 13 by supporters of President Joseph Kabila’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy –PPRD accused UDPS of previously setting fire to its headquarters.

Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA28), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has released the Global Partnerships Act of 2011, a piece of legislation that would completely overhaul America’s foreign assistance framework. Congressman Berman explained in a speech given at the American Enterprise Institute the need to update the America’s global aid.

Computer programmer Surapak Puchaieseng was arrested, detained and had his computer confiscated after “insulting” the Thai royal family on Facebook. Puchaieseng‘s arrest marks the first lèse majesté case since prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected. He also was accused of violating the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. Yingluck is the sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and assumed office in August 2011.

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Blogger and cyber activist Imad Bazi was blacklisted, detained and deported from the Cairo International Airport upon returning from surgery in Lebanon. Authorities reportedly blacklisted Bazi because of his support for and meetings with blogger Micael Nabil Sanad- jailed for criticizing the military. He and Sanad planned to discuss making a documentary film about the uprisings. Bazi is the executive director for regional blogger network, Cyber ACT. He has faced threats from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and frequently travels between Lebanon and Egypt using a valid visa.

Syrian journalist and Al Hayat contributor Amer Matar was arrested by Syrian security forces on September 3 in Damascus, likely for his role in aiding anti-regime activists. Matar suspected that his life was in danger, emailing his will to a friend several days prior to his arrest. He worked closely with youth groups advocating for peaceful demonstrations, and used Facebook to encourage others to participate in demonstrations. Matar was also arrested in April 2011 and held for more than half of month without being charged before he was released.

14-year-old Ali Jawad Ahmad was killed during a peaceful demonstration in Bahrain on August 31 when security forces used excessive force and threw a tear gas canister at his head, according to his family and activists. The Interior Ministry claims the canister was not the cause of his death, and there was “no police action” in the area at the time. Yet activists blame security forces and are mourning Ahmad’s death by staging large-scale protests across the country.

Uzbekistan, one of the world’s most repressive countries, launched its own social networking site Muloqot (“dialogue) on September 1. User access to the site will be restricted to Uzbek citizens and they will be required to provide a cell phone number in order to register. Although the level of censorship the site will be subjected to is unclear, given the authoritarian nature of the regime, it is likely the government will monitor content and user activity. Muloqot will aim to rival Facebook, which remains the most popular social networking site in Uzbekistan with over 80,000 users. The launch was scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s “independence.”

The editor of independent Tajikh newspaper Farazh, Khurshed Atovullo, was attacked along with his brother and brother-in-law in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on August 31. According to media sources, Atovullo was on his way to an Eid al-Fitr celebration when three men wielding clubs beat him. The motive behind the attack is unclear, although Atovullo saw his assailants’ license plate and reported the attack to the police. This was not the first time Atovullo’s work likely was the cause of endangerment, as he was nearly killed in a 1995 attack. His newspaper Farazh has faced obstacles in the last year, banned from using printing facilities and then shut down for three weeks in 2010 after coverage of military activity.

In an effort to gain admittance to the European Union and comply with its pressure to eliminate legislation targeting religious minorities, Turkey will compensate non-Muslim minorities and return property lost since 1936, according to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The announcement to return stolen property to Greek, Jewish and Armenian groups - including schools, hospitals, cemeteries and orphanages- comes despite parliamentary opposition to the decree. Minorities will receive financial compensation in the event the property was stolen or seized.

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