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One Iraqi activist, Mazen al-Zaidi, wrote on his Facebook page that the civil movement forced the Iraqi parliament to reject the draft law pertaining to cybercrimes. He said that this bill violates the right of information exchange, as guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution.
Earlier, the Iraqi government had presented to parliament a draft law known as the Cybercrimes Act, which would levy heavy punishments on those who circulate information pertaining to national security.
The draft law addressed in particular Internet and cell-phone users. The government declared that, throughout the drafting process, it had referred to similar laws in some Arab countries, in addition to the US law in this regard.
After the parliament approved revoking the law, the head of the parliamentary Culture and Media Committee said, “The government presented the draft law in 2006, when the country was plagued by terrorism. Al-Qaeda misused the Internet to publish press releases, recruit terrorists and post tips on how to make bombs and IEDs. At the time, the law was a security necessity.”

“These are dark days for freedom of expression in Iraq’s Kurdistan region,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.“Instead of ensuring the justice system investigates high-level corruption, the Kurdistan Regional Government is ignoring its own laws to protect free speech and assembly, and using “laws” that are not in force to silence dissent.”

During 2012, KRG security forces are reported to have arrested and detained at least 50 journalists, critics, and opposition political activists arbitrarily, and prosecuted at least seven of them on criminal charges concerning insulting or defaming public figures, according to information obtained by Human Rights Watch during six visits to the Kurdistan Region, the most recent in November and December. One former customs official, Akram Abdulkarim, has been in jail for more than a year without trial on national security charges after he accused leading members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two parties in the coalition that rules the Kurdistan Region, of siphoning off customs revenues.

“These are dark days for freedom of expression in Iraq’s Kurdistan region,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.“Instead of ensuring the justice system investigates high-level corruption, the Kurdistan Regional Government is ignoring its own laws to protect free speech and assembly, and using “laws” that are not in force to silence dissent.”

During 2012, KRG security forces are reported to have arrested and detained at least 50 journalists, critics, and opposition political activists arbitrarily, and prosecuted at least seven of them on criminal charges concerning insulting or defaming public figures, according to information obtained by Human Rights Watch during six visits to the Kurdistan Region, the most recent in November and December. One former customs official, Akram Abdulkarim, has been in jail for more than a year without trial on national security charges after he accused leading members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two parties in the coalition that rules the Kurdistan Region, of siphoning off customs revenues.

[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog.]

I’m moderating a free panel in the NYC PEN World Voices Festival at 6pm on Thursday 30th April – “Quiet Revolutions in Storytelling” – at which we’re going to be discussing new media, storytelling and human rights.  We have three fascinating panellists, and I wanted to introduce you to their work, and to give you an opportunity to pose them your questions (you can submit your questions via the comment field below, or via Twitter to @witnessorg)…

First up, someone you might already have come across online – Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal.  He’s best known for his participatory art piece Domestic Tension (or, as he wanted to call it, Shoot An Iraqi).  Wafaa conceived the piece in the wake of the death of his brother Haji, killed during attacks by US forces in Iraq.  For the piece, Wafaa lived for a month in the FlatFile Galleries in Chicago, under fire from a paintball gun controlled by internet users. Aside from the global interest and controversy that this piece generated, it poses difficult questions about the technology of war and of participation, about gaming and consequences, and about the nature of solidarity in the age of the internet.  Wafaa kept a video diary throughout the month-long project – here’s the entry from day 1:

You can watch the rest of Wafaa’s video diaries from the installation on his YouTube channel, see him talk about the project, and read about his latest exhibition (or if you are in Israel, go and see it before it ends this weekend.)

The second panellist is French graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert.  Emmanuel’s most recent work is The Photographer, a collaboration with his childhood friend, photographer Didier Lefèvre, about a mission LeFevre undertook in 1986 to photograph the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Afghanistan.  There’s an interview with Emmanuel, along with some of the pages from The Photographer, at Newsarama, and more images and background here.  I’ve written before about graphic novels as a uniquely powerful medium for documenting and discussing human rights issues – and I think Emmanuel is going to have some really interesting perspectives on the differences between film, photography and graphic novels.  Another recently-translated work of Emmanuel’s is the biography of US soldier Alan Cope, Alan’s War.  Here’s a succinct and astonishing insight into how he created the artwork for that book:

Our friends over at the VII Photo Gallery in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, NY, are hosting an exhibition of LeFevre’s photographs together with Emmanuel’s pages from The Photographer (here’s the publisher’s view of the opening night of the exhibit).

The final panelist is Catalan professor of philosophy Josep-Maria Terricabras.  You can’t be a Catalan professor of philosophy and not have thought about human rights, and I’m looking forward to the professor’s reflections on new media and whether it really can foster social revolutions…  Here’s one for the language aficionados among you – Professor Terricabras speaking (in Catalan) about power and participation:

That’s it – remember to add your questions by adding a comment below or tweeting it to @witnessorg

(Unfortunately Kathrin Roeggla, the excellent Austrian playwright who had been due to participate, can no longer make it to NYC.)

[Originally published here on the WITNESS Hub blog.]

There are 16 million refugees and 51 million internally displaced people worldwide, according to the UNHCR’s latest figures [pdf].

That number is so extraordinary, so egregious, that I find it personally difficult to absorb – but this World Refugee Day, there seems to be much more imagery available showing the realities and individual stories of refugees.  This shows the impact it has not only on the individuals affected, but their families and communities, their own and neighbouring countries, on economies and identities, and most graphically, their personal safety and security – this year’s World Refugee Day takes “Protection” as its theme.

Zimbabwe is a particular focus.  The Times has this strong set of images from the recent rioting in South Africa, showing the aftermath for Zimbabwean immigrants.  Human Rights Watch has a similarly powerful photo essay from South Africa, and calls on the South African government to halt deportations of Zimbabweans. And with reports of torture and murder within Zimbabwe continuing, these harrowing images, some taken by Peter Oborne of the UK’s Daily Mail (seen in this BBC report), testify to conditions within Zimbabwe that are precipitating an even worse crisis of internal displacement.

A source I hadn’t come across before is a series of blogs and videos from Ghetto Radio‘s network of correspondents, including this interview from the streets of Johannesburg with a Somali woman who came to South Africa as a refugee, but was left reeling after the recent anti-immigrant violence:

Other perspectives come from DakarNairobi and Lagos.

Elsewhere, Refugees International and Amnesty International throw their spotlight on the ongoing crisis in Iraq, where “an estimated 4.7 million have been displaced both within and outside [the country].”  Reuters has posted a World Refugee Day special here, but I couldn’t seem to get the video to load…

And finally, UNHCR’s Refugee Film Festival runs from today for a week in Tokyo, but details of all the films in the festival online here.