October 19, 2011 | By Jillian York

This Week in Internet Censorship: Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, and a Criminal Suit Against Amesys

Egypt: Free Maikel Nabil Sanad

EFF has grave concerns about the health of Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad, who has now been on hunger strike for 57 days.  Sanad's retrial was scheduled for October 13, but was postponed.  Sanad, who was sentenced in April by a military court to three years in prison on charges of insulting the military on his blog, has stated that he will boycott any retrial. 

We firmly support the statement made by Reporters Without Borders Wednesday, which reads:

“We condemn this persistence in persecuting Sanad and call for his immediate release. This military court should dismiss the charges against him. The repeated postponement of the hearings and the refusal to release him on bail are being used to prolong his detention. The original trial was unfair and violated the principles of justice. After its verdict was rightly quashed, the retrial must not be used to repeat the first trial.”

EFF reiterates our call for Sanad's immediate release.

Human Rights Organizations File Criminal Complaint Against French Company Amesys

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that surveillance technology produced by French company Amesys (a subsidiary of Bull) was found to have been used by the Libyan government to censor and spy on its citizens.  As we've previously stated, Amesys is one of several Western technology companies that exports censorship and surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes.  In this case, Amesys explicitly entered into an agreement with the Libyan government to make available technology for the express purpose of intercepting communication.

On Wednesday, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), along with its French member Ligue des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (LDH), filed a criminal complaint, as well as an application to join the proceedings as a civil party against persons unknown before the Court of Paris concerning the responsibility of Amesys in relation to acts of torture perpetrated in Libya. 

EFF applauds FIDH and LDH.  We hope that a positive outcome of this suit will have a broad global impact on the issue of exporting surveillance and censorship technologies to authoritiarian regimes.

Thai Government Acknowledges Lèse Majesté Law Misused

Amidst two ongoing high-profile trials, the Thai government admitted that its strict lèse majesté laws against insulting the royal family may have been "misused," reports the AFP.  The admission came in response to a call from Frank La Rue, United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, to reform the laws.

Though the Thai Foreign Ministry stated that the laws are not meant to stifle free expression, it added that "there have been cases where the law has been enforced in such a way that may not be in line with its purpose of protecting the dignity of the monarchy and may in some cases inadvertently affect people's freedom of expression."

On Monday, US citizen Joe Wichai Commart Gordon pleaded guilty on charges of insulting the monarchy.  Gordon's alleged crime?  Translating a banned, unauthorized biography of the Thai monarch and publishing it online while living in the US.  Meanwhile, the trial of Prachatai editor Jiew, which resumed in September, has been suspended until February.

Violations of Thailand's lèse majesté laws can result in prison sentences of up to fifteen years.  EFF commends Rapporteur LaRue for his efforts and echoes his call on the Thai government to reform its laws to ensure the rights of Thai citizens to free expression.

Sri Lanka Blocks Anti-Government News Site

News of blocked sites in Sri Lanka has emerged this week.  In Sri Lanka, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports, the anti-government site Lanka eNews has been unavailable since Tuesday.  The site has been run from outside the country since 2010, when founder and editor Sandaruwan Senadheera went into exile in England after repeatedly receiving death threats.  Earlier this year, the newspaper's Colombo headquarters even suffered an arson attack.  Given these incidents, it's no surprise that Sri Lanka has had a dismal record when it comes to protecting its journalists and the right to free expression.

EFF condemns the blocking of Lanka eNews and calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to respect the right of free expression and the right to information.


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