Politics & Society

Index Index – International free speech round up 06/02/13

On 5 February, three former opposition MPs were sentenced to three years in jail by a Kuwaiti court for insulting the Emir. Falah Al Sawwagh, Bader Al Dahoum and Khaled Al Tahous were imprisoned under charges of causing offence to Kuwait’s leader and will appeal the court’s decision.  Opposition leaders, who denounced the decision as “political”, urged protestors to gather outside Al Sawwagh’s home on the evening of the verdict. The politicians are alleged to have made comments about Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah at a social event in October. They had warned that changes to Kuwait’s electoral system could lead to protests throughout the country. Opposition members boycotted Kuwait’s elections last month, claiming that the Emir unjustly favoured pro-government candidates. Mussallam Al Barrak, another former MP is facing similar charges.

Brittany Somerset - Demotix

Opposing Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah’s views can land you in jail — as three former MPs found out this week

An activist in Algeria has been jailed for participating in a protest against unemployment. Tahar Belabes, coordinator for the National Committee for the Rights of the Unemployed, was sentenced to one month in prison and fined 50,000 Algerian dinars on 3 February. Two other demonstrators — Khaled Daoui and Ali Khebchi — were each handed a two-month suspended jail sentence, as well as a 50,000 dinar fine. Two other participants were acquitted. Belabes was arrested with four others on 2 January in Ouargla during a demonstration for unemployed people protesting their right to work. Prosecutors had originally ordered a one year jail sentence for the men, which was later reduced. Belabes said he will appeal the verdict.

A female rock band in Kashmir has broken up after a Muslim cleric denounced their efforts as “un-Islamic”. Pragaash announced their early retirement on 5 February following complaints and intimidating comments on their Facebook page, which police are investigating. Teenagers Aneeqa Khalid, Noma Nazir and Farah Deeba made their first appearance at Srinagar’s national “Battle of the Bands” music festival in December and have faced threats ever since. They were the only female group at the concert. In an interview on Tuesday, one of Pragaash’s members said she couldn’t understand why they had been deemed un-Islamic when male groups were allowed to perform. Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad said on 3 February that their behaviour was indecent and could lead to the country’s destruction. Other groups in Kashmir have also disbanded in support of the girls.

Saga (Social Amenities for the Golden Age) will close its social networking site dedicated to over 50s because of racist, homophobic and anti-semitic comments. Reports today (6 February) said that spokesperson Paul Green blamed the closure on some “particularly vicious exchanges” between users over the Middle East, as well as trolling posts. Saga Zone, as the site is known, will be removed on 26 February, making the comments read-only and preventing users from contributing further posts. A statement on the Saga Zone page said the decision was taken to protect company interests, and avoid having negativity attached to the brand. Saga provides services for people over 50 in the UK.

The Sun newspaper has been banned from the University of Sheffield student’s union. The University’s Students’ Union Council decided to stop the sale of the paper at its union, it was reported on 5 February. Women’s Councillor Lucy Pedrick proposed the rule as part of the take page three out of The Sun campaign — a movement attempting to persuade editors to remove topless models from its papers. Council members voted on whether to take the motion to referendum, which fell after Pedrick said a “referendum would not be a fair debate.” London School of Economics Students’ Union banned The Sun in November last year following a vote.

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One Comment

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