Monday, October 31, 2016

US Says Bahrain Lacks Evidence Against Nabeel Rajab, UN Silent, Banning Free Speech

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- After Bahrain adjourned its prosecution of Nabeel Rajab until mid December, on October 31 US State Department spokesman John Kirby said “At today's hearing it became clear that the government lacks evidence to support the case and so we reject the charges against Rajab.” Inner City Press put it on Soundcloud, here.
   The UN under outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, had nothing to say. This has been a trend.
 Amid attacks on journalists and freedom of expression in countries all over the world, the United Nations under Ban has been no sanctuary, nor champion, the Free UN Coalition for Access has found. 
  After intermittent attempts to oust or hinder Inner City Press, in February 2016 Ban's head of Public Information Cristina Gallach had Inner City Press ousted on two hours notice, its files evicted in April and its long time shared office given to an Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom which rarely comes in, never asks questions. SFRC memo here. Inner City Press is required to have a minder to cover events on the UN's second floor. (The US was asked, in writing by GAP and in person to the State Department spokesman John Kirby, Vine, and the Ambassador by this reporter, but did nothing.)
  On January 20, 2015,  Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Bahrain sentencing Nabeel Rajab to six months in jail for a single tweet. Video here.
  Spokesman Dujarric said he expected a statement on that later in the day -- three hours later there was none -- then cited the right of expression, generally. 

 The day before on January 19, Inner City Press on behalf of FUNCA asked Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq about Turkey having ordered Twitter, Google and Facebook to remove content by BirGun about alleged Erdogan government support to Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria, and threatening to ban Twitter entirely for not taking down the BirGun feed.

   Haq replied vaguely about the right to circulate information but said he would not speculate about the future of Twitter in Turkey.  Video here

  It is not speculation: earlier this year Turkey banned both Twitter and YouTube. The Erdogan government has made the same (mis) use of copyright claims to censor leaked material as Reuters at the UN, here.