The United States is deeply concerned about the increasing acts of violence against journalists in many OSCE countries, including kidnappings, disappearances, beatings, and murders. Impunity for murders and other vicious attacks is growing, said Brian Atwood, the head of the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s human rights meeting now taking place in Warsaw [through October 3].
Russia has constricted the exercise of freedom of expression. The U.S. is especially concerned by the recent increase in Russia of violence, harassment, and intimidation carried out against individual expressions of peaceful dissent, particularly against Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
The U.S. is also disturbed by Russia’s sweeping new Internet access restrictions. They broaden grounds on which authorities can block websites without a court order, including access to major independent news outlets and influential blogs.
The United States is particularly concerned about serious threats to journalists by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and Russian-occupied Crimea. Five journalists have been killed and many more have been physically assaulted, abducted, detained, threatened, and intimidated.
In Tajikistan, there is growing concern over the government’s intermittent blocking of social networks and independent news websites as well as increased harassment and intimidation of journalists.
The U.S. is increasingly disturbed by the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Authorities have launched criminal investigations of over 20 peaceful organizations, detained civil society leaders, arrested others, frozen organizational bank accounts, and harassed staff of organizations. The U.S. continues to urge the government of Azerbaijan to respect the universal rights of its citizens.
Several journalists in Turkey have been released this year, but others continue to languish in prisons. The intimidation of journalists by Turkish officials and the ownership structure of Turkish newspapers have the combined effect of restricting the diversity of views and promoting a climate of self-censorship.
In Kyrgyzstan, the government signed into law amendments to Kyrgyzstan’s criminal code making it a crime to falsely accuse someone of committing a crime including “in a public statement and/or in the media.” In Hungary potential prison terms for defamation were lengthened. And in Kazakhstan, a regressive criminal code expanded the definitions of criminal defamation which will further restrict freedoms of assembly and expression.
Every individual, whether a member of the media or a member of the general public, has the right to exercise freedom of expression online or offline. New technologies are never an excuse to change standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms.