Category: Law

  • As their families await justice, Jayro Bustamante’s movie, Rita, highlights the bravery of victims of 2017 blaze, and the authorities’ failure to protect them

    Ada Kelly Alfaro says the cries from friends asking for help still haunt her daughter, Cynthia Phaola Morales, seven years after she survived a fire at a children’s shelter in Guatemala that killed 41 girls.

    Cynthia was one of only 15 survivors of the blaze at the Virgen de la Asunción (HSVA), in San José Pinula, just outside Guatemala City, which broke out on the morning of 8 March 2017.

    Continue reading…

    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • Saudis living in the UK claim Riyadh is targeting them for speaking out on human rights and jailing of female activists

    Saudi exiles living in the UK have spoken of threats to their lives and harassment over their support for improvements in human rights in their home country.

    Saudi Arabia has been attempting to present itself as a reformed state since the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad at its consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

    It has spent billions on sporting deals and promoting tourism in the country and was recently named host of a UN commission on women’s rights, despite what Amnesty International called its “abysmal” record on women’s rights.

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    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • What does July mean? To some, it’s marks a new financial year. For others, it might be just another day, a new month. For those with lived experience of domestic violence in New South Wales, this particular July is significant.

    For the first time, in any state of Australia, coercive control will become a criminal offence, in Section 54D of the Crimes Act (NSW) 1900 This means that victim/survivor experiences of intimate partner abuse will more properly be reflected in our legislation, in the way they tell us they have lived it.

    Coercive control, as stated by Commonwealth Attorney General Mark Dreyfus in September 2023, almost always underpins domestic and family violence. We can think about it as the organising principle of intimate partner abuse – a toolbox from which an abuser may mix and match the various kinds of abuse, tailoring them to a particular relationship.

    For example, in the case of Lisa Harnum, who was murdered by her partner in 2011, the relationship featured his extreme control and isolation of Lisa from friends, family and social networks, technological surveillance, with cameras everywhere in their apartment, and interference with her employment.

    The history of Hannah Clarke, pictured, who was murdered in 2020 along with her three children, reflects behaviour by her husband of extreme sexual jealousy, sexual coercion, abduction of children, control of her clothing choices, and threats of suicide upon the ending of the relationship.

    The ultimate aim of coercive controllers is to get what they want using dominance – to have the final say in decision making, to have more leisure time and get out of family responsibilities, to have their partner all to themselves, to have their needs met and their dinner on the table, to have compliant children, sex whenever they want on their terms, and not to have to compromise.

    Abusers may lean heavily to gender roles and expectations in their treatment of their partners, expecting spotless homes, ‘perfect’ mothering and sexual compliance. The cumulative impact is a pattern of behaviour exhibited by an abuser over time which has a significant, detrimental effect on a victim, scaring them, isolating them, eroding their self-esteem, and making them unsafe.

    There is a strong nexus between coercive control and domestic homicide. A review of NSW imtimate partner homicide deaths conducted between 2019 and 2021 found that 97% of victims had experienced coercive, controlling behaviours before being killed.

    The NSW Parliamentary Joint Select Committee determined unanimously in 2022, following the testimony of survivors, services and frontline responders, that coercive control should become an offence – not just because it can lead to homicide, but that it is a crime in and of itself, depriving a victim of their full potential, self-expression, and individuality.

    This marked shift in our understanding and prosecution of domestic violence is a welcome step forward, building on years of scholarship and front-line work to build a true picture of the lived experience of intimate partner abuse. It is supported by an overwhelming majority of survivor voices.

    The corresponding community education campaigns are raising awareness and carry forward momentum for greater societal understanding of the drivers and presentations of abuse amongst our friends, colleagues, family members and local communities.

    This new era of coercive control as a criminal offence also holds potential not only to save the lives of women and children, but to reduce future violence and abuse, in holding abusers accountable for their actions.

    • Picture at top: The late Hannah Clarke (left) and Rowan Baxter their children, also deceased. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah’s friends and family.

    The post Coercive control is now a criminal offence in NSW appeared first on BroadAgenda.

    This post was originally published on BroadAgenda.

  • The cruelties inflicted years ago at Nyayo are barely known in Kenya. Now survivors want to help the nation remember

    The 56 days that Patrick Onyango spent in Kenya’s dark, damp Nyayo House torture chambers remain clear in his mind. It was three deacdes ago that Onyango, now 66, knew that his opposition to the autocratic rule of Kenya’s second president, Daniel arap Moi, was to be punished when uniformed policemen seized him in the middle of a class he was teaching in Kisumu, the port city in western Kenya, bundling him on to a helicopter and whisking him to the capital, Nairobi.

    There he was shuttled from one prison cell to another for nearly a week, he says, before being blindfolded and taken through a narrow tunnel to the cells of the infamous Nyayo torture chambers.

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    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • Istanbul, July 8, 2024—Jordanian authorities must immediately drop all charges against  journalist Ahmed Hassan al-Zoubi, release him from jail, and stop using the Cybercrime Law against journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

    On July 2, Jordanian authorities arrested al-Zoubi, a satirical journalist and publisher of the Sawalif news website, 11 months after he was fined 50 dinars (US$70) and sentenced to one year in prison for a Facebook post criticizing the government’s position on a controversial December 2022 transportation workers’ strike, according to multiple media reports and al-Zoubi’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ.

    Al-Zoubi is now in Marka prison in the capital, Amman, his lawyer, Khaled Jit, told CPJ via messaging app.

    “Jordanian authorities are stepping up censorship and arrests of journalists instead of allowing them to express themselves freely,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “Jordanian authorities must immediately release journalist Ahmed al-Zoubi, drop all charges against him, and stop using cybercrime laws to punish journalists.”

    Al-Zoubi was convicted under Jordan’s Cybercrime Law of “the crime of performing an act that led to provoking conflict between the elements of the nation.”

    CPJ, along with other rights organizations, has criticized the 2023 law.

    Al-Zoubi’s lawyer told CPJ that there were procedural errors during the trial and asked the court to consider an alternative punishment to prison.

    Khaled Qudah, a member of the Jordanian Journalists’ Syndicate, told CPJ that the organization respects the judiciary and its decisions, but that legal decisions and procedures regarding freedom of speech needed revision.

    Al-Zoubi’s arrest comes weeks after the Soloh Court in Amman sentenced journalist Heba Abu Taha to one year in prison after convicting her of violating the Cybercrime Law for “inciting discord and strife among members of society” and “targeting community peace and inciting violence.”

    The arrest also follows a decision in May to shutter the Al-Yarmouk TV channel in Jordan, where al-Zoubi worked years earlier.

    CPJ’s email to Jordan’s Ministry of Justice for comment did not immediately receive a response.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • In 2021, dozens of Tamils were fleeing Sri Lanka for Canada when their boat sprang a leak. They were taken to Diego Garcia by the British navy. Three years later, they remain there in desperate, dangerous limbo

    It was 10 days into the journey when the boat sprang a leak. Dozens of men, women and children were crowded on to a fishing boat, all Tamils fleeing persecution in their home country, Sri Lanka. They had hoped to reach sanctuary in Canada.

    Instead, on 3 October 2021, as their vessel began to sink, they were spotted and rescued by British navy ships, then taken to the secretive US-UK military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

    Continue reading…

    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • Campaigner for human rights and director of Justice, the organisation that pushes for legal reform

    As a veteran activist, Leah Levin was still delivering rousing speeches into her 90s. Her childhood escape from eastern Europe and experience of South African apartheid fuelled a lifetime’s commitment to upholding human rights. Levin, who has died aged 98, was director of the legal reform organisation Justice for a decade – between 1982 and 1992 – when it was investigating large numbers of claims of miscarriage of justice that were emerging from Britain’s prisons and courts.

    Under her lead, the charity called for “an independent review body … to examine allegations of miscarriage of justice” and warned that, without reform, “it may well be necessary to consider creating a new [criminal justice] system”.

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    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • Union for civil servants claimed Home Office staff could be open to prosecution if Strasbourg rulings on Rwanda ignored

    General election 2024: live news

    Guidance drawn up by Conservative ministers which told civil servants to ignore Strasbourg rulings and remove asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful, the high court has ruled.

    The FDA trade union, which represents senior civil servants, brought legal action claiming senior Home Office staff could be in breach of international law if they implement the government’s Rwanda deportation bill.

    Continue reading…

    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • New York, July 2, 2024—Myanmar authorities should release journalist Htet Aung, and allow members of the press to do their jobs without fear of legal reprisal or imprisonment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

    On June 28, a court in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, sentenced Htet Aung, a reporter with the Development Media Group (DMG) news agency, to five years in prison with hard labor. His sentence was in connection with a report the outlet published on August 25, 2023, under the headline “Calls for justice on sixth anniversary of Muslim genocide in Arakan State,” according to the news agency, a DVB social media post, and DMG editor-in-chief Aung Marm Oo, who communicated with CPJ via text message.

    Htet Aung was convicted of abetting terrorism under Section 52(a) of the country’s Anti-Terrorism Law. The journalist’s initial indictment was for defamation under Section 65 of the Telecommunications Law, but the charge was changed to abetting terrorism on December 1.

    DMG office security guard Soe Win Aung was handed the same sentence as Htet Aung, according to the news report and Aung Marm Oo. Both were also held on a charge of allegedly stealing a motorcycle, the same sources said. 

    In a public statement reviewed by CPJ, DMG said it “strongly condemns the regime’s unjust imprisonment” of Htet Aung and Soe Win Aung. 

    “The 5-year sentencing of Development Media Group reporter Htet Aung on bogus terrorism charges is Myanmar’s latest outrage against the free press and should be immediately reversed,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar’s junta must stop harassing and jailing journalists for merely doing their jobs by reporting the news.”

    After his October arrest, Htet Aung was held in pre-trial detention at Sittwe’s No. 1 Police Station, where he was denied visitation, according to the news agency’s report and Aung Marm Oo. Htet Aung was initially arrested while taking photos of soldiers making donations to Buddhist monks during a religious festival in Sittwe.

    Hours later, soldiers, police, and special branch officials raided the Development Media Group’s bureau; confiscated cameras, computers, documents, financial records, and cash, and sealed off the building. The agency’s staff went underground to avoid arrest, according to Aung Marm Oo, who has been in hiding since 2019 after being charged under Myanmar’s Unlawful Association Act, which can result in up to five years’ imprisonment and fines.

    Development Media Group specializes in news from Rakhine State, where in 2017, an army operation drove more than half a million Muslim Rohingyas to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in what the United Nations called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” 

    CPJ’s email to the Myanmar Ministry of Information did not receive a response. 

    Myanmar was the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 43 journalists behind bars, at the time of CPJ’s December 1, 2023, prison census.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.


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  • Mexico City, July 2, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s Monday declaration that the continued imprisonment of Guatemalan investigative journalist José Rubén Zamora is arbitrary and in violation of international law. CPJ echoes the group’s call for Zamora’s immediate release.

    “The U.N. Working Group’s acknowledgment of José Rubén Zamora’s arbitrary detention highlights that he has been consistently denied a fair trial, and there is no justification for his ongoing imprisonment,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s Latin America program coordinator, from São Paulo. “Zamora’s prosecution was a retaliatory measure for his investigative reporting on government corruption, and he has faced an abusive judicial process driven by individuals also accused of corruption. His imprisonment has been unjust from the start.”

    Zamora, the president of elPeriódico newspaper, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in June 2023 on money laundering charges widely condemned as retaliation for his journalism. An appeals court overturned Zamora’s conviction in October 2023 and ordered a retrial, but numerous delays have been imposed. He has been in detention since his July 2022 arrest.

    A February report by the global monitoring group TrialWatch assigned a failing grade to Zamora’s legal proceedings, citing numerous breaches of international and regional fair-trial standards.

    Monday’s opinion, endorsed by four international experts from the working group, examined the judicial process and the broader context of Zamora’s case, including prosecutors’ public statements, and recommended that Guatemalan authorities immediately release Zamora and compensate him.

    The opinion highlighted the “widespread concern within the international community about the criminalization and prosecution of judges, prosecutors, journalists (including Mr. Zamora’s case), and human rights defenders in the context of the fight against corruption in Guatemala.” This included a pattern of investigating and criminalizing Zamora’s lawyers, the opinion said.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.


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  • Seg1 trump 2

    In a historic decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday that presidents have broad immunity from prosecution. The 6-3 ruling by the court’s right-wing majority — including all three justices appointed by Trump — was issued on the final day of the Supreme Court’s term and just four months ahead of November’s presidential election. It will further delay Trump’s criminal trial for leading the January 6 insurrection. The ruling upends more than two centuries of legal precedent, for the first time shielding U.S. presidents from criminal accountability. “In one fell swoop, this court has essentially left the American people to the whims of the president of the United States — any president of the United States, but particularly Mr. Trump,” says Donald Sherman, executive director and chief counsel of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. We also speak with Lisa Graves, executive director of the watchdog group True North Research, who says the Supreme Court’s conservative wing has left the country “unmoored from the rule of law” by adopting such an expansive view of presidential power. “This decision is the most reckless and dangerous decision ever issued by the U.S. Supreme Court,” says Graves.


    This content originally appeared on Democracy Now! and was authored by Democracy Now!.

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  • Berlin, June 28, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists joined nine international press freedom and human rights organizations in expressing solidarity with NGOs Transparency International Hungary and Átlátszó, which Hungary authorities have targeted with investigations.

    The joint statement urged the European Commission and EU Member States to take immediate and decisive action to protect NGOs and independent journalists in Hungary.

    On June 26, Hungary’s Sovereignty Protection Office announced that it had  launched an investigation into the Hungarian branch of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International and Átlátszó, an investigative journalism outlet that focuses on corruption. The office was established last year as a government authority with broad powers to investigate foreign interference in public life.

    The bill creating the office “bears the hallmarks of a Russian-style foreign agent law” and it “could bring a new level of state-sanctioned pressure and chill independent reporting,” CPJ said in a statement last year.

    Read the full statement of solidarity here.

    Disclaimer: CPJ’s Europe representative Atilla Mong is a former investigative journalist for Átlátszó, currently serving as a member of its supervisory board.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • Comprehensive coverage of the day’s news with a focus on war and peace; social, environmental and economic justice.

    The post The Pacifica Evening News, Weekdays – June 21, 2024 Supreme Court upholds law barring gun ownership for domestic violence abusers. appeared first on KPFA.


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  • Dakar, June 20, 2024—Nigerien authorities must decriminalize defamation and ensure that the country’s cybercrime law does not unduly restrict the work of the media, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday.

    On June 7, Niger’s head of state Abdourahamane Tchiani, who overthrew the democratically elected president in July 2023, reintroduced prison sentences of one to three years and a fine of up to 5 million CFA francs (US$8,177) for defamation and insult via electronic means of communication, according to news reports.

    A jail term of two to five years and a fine of up to 5 million CFA francs (US$8,177)  were also set for the dissemination of “data likely to disturb public order or undermine human dignity,” even if such information is true, according to CPJ’s review of a copy of the law.

    “The changes to Niger’s cybercrime law are a blow to the media community and a very disappointing step backwards for freedom of expression,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, Muthoki Mumo, in Nairobi. “It is not too late to change course by reforming the law to ensure that it cannot be used to stifle journalism.”

    Previously, the crimes of defamation and insult were punishable with fines of up to 10 million CFA francs (US$16,312), while dissemination of data likely to disturb public order carried a penalty of six months to three years’ imprisonment.

    The government abolished criminal penalties for defamation and insult in 2022 to bring the 2019 cybercrime law into line with the 2010 press freedom law.

    On June 12, Niger’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights Alio Daouda said in a statement that the 2022 amendments were made “despite the opposition of the large majority of Nigeriens.” He said that decriminalization of the offenses had led to a “proliferation of defamatory and insulting remarks on social networks and the dissemination of data likely to disturb public order or undermine human dignity” despite authorities’ calls for restraint.

    “Firm instructions have been given to the public prosecutors to prosecute without weakness or complacency” anyone who commits these offenses, he said.

    CPJ and other press freedom groups have raised concerns about journalists’ safety in the country since the 2023 military coup.

    This April, Idrissa Soumana Maïga, editor of the privately owned L’Enquêteur newspaper, was arrested and remains behind bars on charges of undermining national defense. If convicted, he could face between five and 10 years in prison.

    Several Nigerien journalists were imprisoned or fined over their reporting prior to decriminalization in 2022.

    CPJ’s calls to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to request comment went unanswered.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • Report finds that religious, historical and cultural references have been removed in crackdown by Beijing

    Hundreds of Uyghur villages and towns have been renamed by Chinese authorities to remove religious or cultural references, with many replaced by names reflecting Communist party ideology, a report has found.

    Research published on Wednesday by Human Rights Watch and the Norway-based organisation Uyghur Hjelp documents about 630 communities that have been renamed in this way by the government, mostly during the height of a crackdown on Uyghurs that several governments and human rights bodies have called a genocide.

    Continue reading…

    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • Country on track to become third in Asia – after Taiwan and Nepal – to legalise same-sex marriage

    Thailand’s senate has passed the final reading of a historic marriage equality bill, paving the way for the country to become the first in south-east Asia to recognise same-sex marriage.

    The bill gained the support of nearly all upper-house lawmakers and will be sent to the palace for the pro-forma endorsement by King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The law will come into force 120 days after it is published in the royal gazette.

    Continue reading…

    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • Istanbul, June 14, 2024 — Jordanian authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Palestinian-Jordanian journalist Hiba Abu Taha, release her, and allow all journalists to cover issues related to the Israel-Gaza war without fear of reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

    On June 11, the Soloh Court in Amman sentenced Abu Taha to one year in prison after convicting her of violating the Cybercrimes Law for “inciting discord and strife among members of society” and “targeting community peace and inciting violence,” according to regional press freedom group SKeyes, media reports, and the journalist’s lawyer Rami Odeh, who spoke to CPJ.

    Abu Taha’s conviction came after a complaint by the Media Commission, the government agency responsible for enforcing press laws and regulations, over Abu Taha’s April 2024 article in the Lebanese Annasher website titled “Partners in genocide… Jordanian capital involved in genocide in the Gaza strip.” The article alleges that Jordan allows regional companies to ship goods to Israel via a land bridge. 

    In February Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh called reports of the existence of a land bridge to Israel a “fabrication.”

    “Jordanian authorities’ insistence on punishing reporting in the public interest using the Cybercrimes Law reeks of censorship,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director in New York. “Jordanian authorities must immediately release Palestinian-Jordanian journalist Hiba Abu Taha, drop all charges against her, and allow all journalists to work freely to cover matters pertaining to the Israel-Gaza war.”

    Abu Taha, who has been in Juwaida prison since her arrest on May 14, plans to appeal the ruling. On May 28, her bail request was denied, her lawyer said.

    In a statement to CPJ, Jordan’s media commissioner Bashir al Momani said Abu Taha’s article contained “serious insults against Jordanian state institutions, incitement to the state’s positions, and stirring up discord among the components of the people.”

    Al Momani added that “the actions taken by the journalist constitute a violation of Jordanian laws, which necessitated her prosecution.”

    CPJ warned of the use of the Cybercrime Law to punish journalism after it was passed in 2023. The country has arrested other journalists for their reporting on the Israel-Gaza war.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

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  • Vietnam’s new President To Lam has asked that Beijing respect Hanoi’s rights and interests in disputed waters, days after Vietnamese officials protested against what they called “China’s illegal activities” in the Gulf of Tonkin.

    Last Thursday, a Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson denounced the operation of the Chinese navy survey vessel Hai Yang 26 in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf and said that Vietnam “has engaged in multiple diplomatic exchanges” with China to demand the ending of such operations.

    To Lam, while not mentioning the Hai Yang 26, told Chinese ambassador to Vietnam Xiong Bo that the two neighbors should strictly implement bilateral agreements, better control and resolve disagreements at sea, as well as respect each other’s legitimate rights and interests, his office said in a statement .

    The two countries should also actively seek appropriate ways to settle maritime disputes in accordance with international law, especially the U.N. Convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS), he said.

    The new president stressed that Vietnam saw its relationship with China as a “strategic choice and top priority” of its foreign policy. 

    Lam was sworn in as Vietnam’s state president on May 22 amid an unprecedented reshuffle of the communist party’s leadership following the “burning furnace” anti-graft campaign initiated by party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.

    Xiong Bo became the first foreign ambassador to pay Lam a courtesy call to congratulate him on his new post.

    Hai Yang 26

    In last week’s unusually strong rebuke, foreign ministry spokeswoman Pham Thu Hang said that Vietnam was “deeply concerned,” resolutely opposed, and demanded that China immediately stop the “illegal survey activities” of the Hai Yang 26 in Vietnam’s waters and not repeat them.

    Hang told reporters in Hanoi that the Vietnamese government “has engaged in multiple diplomatic exchanges” with the Chinese side over the case.

    Chinese survey vessels have frequently operated in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone but it has seldom publicly protested, giving preference to quieter bilateral channels.

    Hai Yang 26.jpg
    Caption: The Chinese navy survey vessel Hai Yang 26 on an unspecified date. (Vietnam Foreign Ministry)

    A Vietnamese analyst, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that the new leader – who was seen as a hard-liner because of his public security background — may want to show that he is not pro-China, as some critics say.

    Another analyst, Hoang Viet, told RFA that the foreign ministry’s reaction was due to the severity of the event, as well as to partially direct attention to Vietnam amid increased tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

    Hai Yang 26 is one of nine Type 636A hydrographic survey vessels in service with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army navy.

    This kind of survey ship is thought to be utilized by the navy for mapping the underwater topography map in areas where submarines operate, as well as to conduct marine surveys, such as the study of ocean acoustics. 

    The fact that Vietnam had “multiple diplomatic exchanges” with China over the vessel suggested it had been operating in Vietnam’s waters for a prolonged period.

    China has yet to respond to Vietnam’s protest but a Chinese think tank, the South China Sea Probing Initiative, wrote on the social media platform X that the Hai Yang 26 only conducted a freedom of navigation operation, a type of patrol that China itself has deemed provocative on numerous occasions when conducted by other navies.

    Edited by Taejun Kang. 


    This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Staff.

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  • New York, June 11, 2024 – The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed alarm on Tuesday that Pakistan’s east Punjab province hastily enacted a defamation law that is likely to greatly restrict press freedom, and the country’s Supreme Court issued notices to 34 media outlets in connection with their programming.

    On Saturday, June 8, acting Punjab governor and speaker of the provincial assembly Malik Ahmad Khan, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party member, approved a defamation law passed on May 20 despite concerns from journalists, human rights organizations, and opposition lawmakers, according to news reports.

    The law, which is being challenged by journalists and press bodies in the Lahore High Court, replaces Punjab’s Defamation Ordinance, 2002 and loosely defines “defamation” and “broadcasting” to include social media platforms. 

    Separately, on June 5, Pakistan’s Supreme Court issued show-cause notices to 34 news channels, asking them to explain, within two weeks, why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for airing press conferences by two parliamentarians who criticized the judiciary, according to multiple news reports.

    The court issued the order while hearing a contempt case against the two parliamentarians, who questioned senior judges alleging the ISI– Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency– was interfering in judicial matters.

    “Pakistan’s Punjab government must swiftly repeal the recently enacted defamation law and ensure that any such legislation does not impinge on press freedom,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “The media must also be allowed to broadcast key political speeches and developments without interference or fear of reprisal.”

    Under Punjab’s new defamation law, claimants may initiate legal action “without proof of actual damage or loss.” Penalties range from three million rupees (US $10,792) to punitive damages 10 times that amount. Tribunals may also order defendants to tender an unconditional apology or issue a directive to suspend or block the social media account or website where the alleged defamatory content was disseminated. 

    Pakistan has intermittently blocked access to X, formerly Twitter, since February.

    The law also mandates special tribunals, whose members will be appointed by the Punjab government in consultation with the chief justice of the Lahore High Court to adjudicate offenses within 180 days. 

    According to Farieha Aziz, a freelance journalist and co-founder of the digital rights organization Bolo Bhi, the appointment procedure represented a conflict of interest because those who select tribunal members can also be complainants.

    The law further authorizes the tribunal to pass a preliminary decree against a defendant if they do not obtain a leave to defend, or permission to defend themselves against the accusations, at the outset of trial. Moreover, the law bars commenting on pending proceedings, which Aziz called a “gag order.”

    “If a public official has brought a case under the law, it is in public interest to know,” Aziz said.

    Defamation claims filed by a “constitutional office” holder such as the prime minister, Supreme Court and Lahore High Court judges, and army chiefs, will be tried through a separate procedure, raising concerns surrounding violations of constitutional rights.

    Pakistan’s political environment remains volatile after February elections– widely described as flawed– led to the formation of a coalition government of the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party, with the former taking power in Punjab.

    Punjab governor Sardar Saleem Haider, a PPP member who was abroad when the defamation law was enacted, earlier stated on June 5 that the provincial government would address the concerns of journalists and other stakeholders, suggesting the legislation would be sent back to the assembly for further consultation.

    Punjab information minister Azma Zahid Bokhari did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

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  • Most miscarriage of justice victims will still be denied compensation after two men lose test case in Strasbourg

    Most victims of miscarriages of justice will still be denied compensation in Britain after the European court of human rights ruled the government’s test for payouts was lawful.

    A test case was brought by Sam Hallam and Victor Nealon, two men who between them served 24 years in prison for crimes they were later exonerated of. Neither was paid any compensation by the government despite new evidence being enough to overturn their convictions.

    Continue reading…

    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists joined over 50 news and press freedom organizations in urging United States senators to support the Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act (PRESS Act). The bill would create a federal shield safeguarding reporter-source confidentiality and prevent government access to unreported source material. 

    The letter, authored by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, urges Senate leadership to advance the bill during this critical period.

    The legislation previously passed the House twice but has languished in the Senate.

    Read the full letter:


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

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  • Seg1 whitephosphorus

    Israeli forces have illegally dropped white phosphorus munitions on densely populated residential areas in southern Lebanon, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. White phosphorus, which poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering, was dropped by Israel over at least 17 municipalities in Lebanon since October 2023. Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health says at least 173 people have been injured in the white phosphorus attacks, which have also caused hundreds of forest fires in Lebanon. “It can burn down to the bone and cause lifelong suffering,” says Ramzi Kaiss, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This widespread use is putting civilians at grave risk and also contributing to displacement.”


    This content originally appeared on Democracy Now! and was authored by Democracy Now!.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • Miami, June 6, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of Cuban journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, but is deeply concerned he was forced into exile, and calls on Cuban authorities to allow reporters to work freely in the country without fear of reprisal. 

    Valle left Cuba for the United States on Wednesday, June 5, after serving nearly three years in prison, according to local press freedom group the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), and the Miami Herald

    Valle was sentenced to five years in prison in July 2022 for contempt and sharing “enemy propaganda” in connection with a video posted on his YouTube channel, Delibera, of pro-democracy leaflets thrown from a building in the capital, Havana. 

    ICLEP reported that Valle Roca arrived in the United States on humanitarian parole, and that his release from prison was on the condition that he leave Cuba. 

    “Although we welcome Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca’s prison release, it is disconcerting that the Cuban government has forced Valle into exile rather than allowing him to do his job,” said CPJ U.S., Canada and Caribbean Program Coordinator Katherine Jacobsen. “The Cuban government should allow journalists to work freely, without fear of imprisonment or forced exile.” 

    ICLEP general manager, Normando Hernández confirmed in a text message to CPJ that Valle had safely landed in Miami with his wife on Wednesday.

    “After almost three years of unjust imprisonment, Yuri is finally free,” Hernández wrote on the ICLEP’s website

    Valle’s expulsion of Valle Roca is the latest example of a crackdown by Cuban authorities on independent media that began following street protests in July 2021 which began in response to longstanding frustrations with the government and restrictions on rights and scarcity of food and medicines. As a result of the government crackdown, journalists, activists and other civil society members were either jailed or forced to leave the island.

    Cuban law prohibits the establishment of independent media organizations outside the country’s socialist state system. Journalism is not one of the legally permitted professions under Cuba’s 2021 legalization of private business activity. Cuba’s updated ‘Social Communication Law,’ approved by Cuba’s National Assembly on May 26, 2023, prohibits the dissemination of information that aims to “subvert the constitutional order and destabilize the socialist State of law and social justice.”

    Valle had been held in pretrial detention since June 15, 2021, when he was arrested after police summoned him to allegedly close a 2020 contempt investigation. In June 2022, prosecutors requested a six-year sentence in his case.

    Valle has suffered from multiple health conditions during his detention, including complications related to his previous hunger strike, according to CPJ research.


    This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  •  

    Janine Jackson interviewed The Lever‘s Katherine Li about corporations’ First Amendment dodge for the May 31, 2024, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

     

    Extra!. March/April 1995: The Right-Wing Media Machine

    Extra! (3–4/95)

    Janine Jackson: CounterSpin listeners will likely know about what’s been called the “right-wing media machine.” It started, you could say, with ideologues and politicians with ideas, generally ideas about how to hurdle us back to at least the 19th century, legally and culturally. They then created think tanks and funded academics to polish up and promulgate those ideas. And they created and funded media outlets to push those ideas out.

    It’s not, in other words, a reflection of a fortuitous coming together of like-minded individuals, but an echo chamber forged with the explicit purpose of maximizing a narrow viewpoint into a false consensus. The news article you read, after all, cites a professor and a pundit and a think tank and a guy on the street who read a thing, so it looks like multiple disparate sources who happen to agree.

    Something analogous is happening now with corporations claiming the First Amendment says they don’t have to comply with regulations they don’t want to comply with, because those regulations reflect ideas that are “controversial,” and they can’t be compelled to take a public position on a controversial idea, like, for example, that climate disruption is real. It’s a weird, important maneuver, at once complicated and pretty simple, and it’s usefully unpacked in a recent piece by our guest.

    Katherine Li is an editorial fellow at the Lever, where the piece, “Corporations Are Weaponizing Free Speech to Wreck the World,” appears. She joins us now by phone from Oakland, California. Welcome to CounterSpin, Katherine Li.

    Katherine Li: Hi, Janine, very happy to be here. And let’s unpack this complicated piece.

    JJ: Well, before we get to its current—you could say artful—employment, what is the “compelled speech” doctrine under the First Amendment? What do we think was the point of it when it was adopted?

    KL: Well, as with the First Amendment, the compelled speech in the First Amendment—the original purpose is to say that the government cannot force people to say something they disagree with. That is perhaps illustrated in a very early compelled speech case that basically says that students do not have to stand up in school and salute the flag or the national anthem if they don’t want to.

    Basically, it is to protect people from things that the government is forcing them to do, and it’s kind of to insulate people from government policies that impose things on them. The original intention, I do not believe, and experts I have interviewed for this story do not believe that the intention is for corporates to use such an argument in lawsuits.

    The Lever: Corporations Are Weaponizing Free Speech To Wreck The World

    Lever (5/23/24)

    JJ: All right, well then, let me just move on to asking you to please lay out for us what you call, in the lead to this informative piece for TheLever.com, “the novel legal strategy” that some corporations are now “pioneering,” you say, which sounds very different than “relying on”; they’re kind of trying to make something new here. Explain what you’re seeing.

    KL: So traditionally, like I have just mentioned it, is to protect people from the government imposing things on them. But what is considered as speech has really exploded when it comes to the corporate landscape: Are tax returns and contracts considered speech? What does that mean for our government’s power to look into financial wrongdoing, and prevent tax fraud and prevent money laundering, if all of those things are considered as speech, and the government cannot force anybody to “say” and disclose such information?

    So the corporates have definitely spotted that, and they have been trying to argue that these financial documents are considered as speech. So it started with drug pricing, it starts with the Corporate Transparency Act, that once there’s a precedent in the court system that says these things are considered speech, more cases are being invited and more cases are coming in this specific landscape. So basically they are saying that these things are considered speech, and therefore the government cannot compel them to disclose this information.

    At first it starts with financial information. And right now we’re seeing that in Medicare drug negotiations, it is also happening. These commercial speeches are, according to the lawyers and experts I have spoken to, they don’t believe that these things should be considered; they don’t believe that this so-called commercial speech should be afforded the same amount of protection as traditional political expression, for example, like protesting or writing something in the media, or being censored or being prevented or being forced to make a certain political expression in the non-commercial sense.

    So that is why in the article, and according to my experts, they believe this is a new strategy, that corporates are basically exploiting this argument in order to bring more and more cases, and expand the definition of what speech is.

    Verge: California passed a first-of-its-kind bill mandating pollution disclosures, including supply chain emissions

    Verge (9/12/23)

    JJ: Right. So then they seem as though they are complying with a law, or relying on a law, rather than sort of forging this new way.

    Well, I think the examples really bring it home for people, what’s happening here, and there are a number of those examples in the piece, and each one is more disturbing and illuminating than the last. But one key one is, California has a new emissions disclosure law, that major companies doing business in California have to make public how much pollution they’re emitting throughout their supply chain. And we can understand why that’s important, because a company can say, “Well, our home office is zero emissions,” and that’s great, but what about your factories? What’s happening there?

    So the public needs this information, this is information that the public is looking for, to get through the PR that these companies—fossil fuel companies in this case—might be putting out. And they’re saying, “No, we don’t need to comply with an emissions disclosure law, because that’s speech”?

    KL: That is precisely what is happening. And the thing is, these emissions laws, they target companies with annual revenue above $1 billion. That is not asking our local coffee shop or the marketplace around the corner to figure out how much emissions are in their supply chain. It only really applies to large companies, especially oil companies, very large agricultural factory-farming companies.

    So what initially caught my eye in the story is actually the arguments they have in the complaints that they filed against the emission disclosures law. The complaint, if you read it very closely, to anybody with common sense, it almost sounds ridiculous. Some of the arguments are saying that they fear that disclosing their emissions would allow activists, nonprofits and lawmakers to single out companies for investigation, which to me is just another word for accountability. I mean, that’s what our nonprofits and lawmaking agencies, it’s what they’re supposed to do, investigate and help create policy that can improve lives. So to me, it sounds like their effort to avoid accountability is very thinly veiled.

    If you look at their complaint very closely, they also complain that this law would be compelling them to change their behavior. They complain that this law is changing and shaping their behavior, when, in reality, isn’t that what any laws and regulations are supposed to do? I mean, in any daily-life law, such as, like, hey, you cannot jaywalk, that is aiming to shape our behaviors, it’s aiming to change our behaviors.

    So if you read the complaint closely, their efforts to avoid accountability, it’s honestly very thinly veiled. And it is, in a way, further expanding what is considered as speech, and also the whole circular argument that climate change is somehow “controversial.”

    I also looked into the threshold of what could be considered as controversial when I first read their complaint. So then the lawyers I was talking to, the question I brought to them was, how low is the threshold to prove that something is scientifically controversial? And it turned out my instincts were correct, that the threshold of that is extremely low. They just have to prove that there’s a dissenting opinion. They don’t really have to prove that it is scientifically sound, and there’s no one to really check that.

    JJ: So it’s just laid in a lap of particular courts, or particular decision makers. And it sounds as though they’re saying, particularly with that low threshold—or that very vague, undetermined threshold—that any regulation, because any regulation is about shaping behavior, it sounds like any regulation, they can dispute, because it’s aimed at asking them to do something different. I mean, am I misreading that, or is it really anti- any regulation whatsoever, in some way?

    KL: In some way, that’s what it sounds like. Because if the complaint is about changing and shaping behavior, any regulations, that’s the point of it, changing behavior. And what is so wrong, what could be so wrong about forcing someone to lower their emissions at this point? It sounds like they’re saying that they shouldn’t lower their emissions, because either climate change doesn’t matter enough, or that climate change is not real. Like they said, they think it’s controversial.

    JJ: Right. Well, just in case folks don’t understand, and of course we’ll send them to TheLever.com to read the piece, but you also have a food distribution and a restaurant supplies company, Cisco, that’s saying that you can’t force companies to read out notices of labor violations to workers, because they don’t want to. They don’t want to make that information available. And if they talk about labor violations in the workplace, well, that’s a “confession of sins,” and they shouldn’t be forced to do that. So this can reach into pretty much any area of our life, yeah?

    KL: Yeah, definitely. Companies argue that if there has been a labor dispute, whatever the result is of that dispute, the company would post a sign somewhere in the facility, basically detailing the labor violation. But it doesn’t really achieve the same effect as reading it out in front of everybody, because it’s the difference between passively posting a sign somewhere and actively informing people what happened. And obviously, if a company has labor violations, they likely don’t want their workers to know. And if workers have also suffered the same violation, if the company reads it out, they might become more aware of it.

    JJ: Well, it’s funny—if by funny, we mean perverse—because the narrative of capitalism that we often hear is that it relies on everyone being an informed economic actor, an individual actor who is making economic choices based on knowledge. And here we have corporations actively trying to reduce the available amount of information that a person could have to make decisions about what to buy or where to work or anything like that. It’s weird. This is how corporate capitalism subverts this notion that we hear about Capitalism 101, and building a better mousetrap, and all of that sort of thing.

    Katherine Li

    Katherine Li: “They’re actually afraid that this information is going to get out and impact their profits, so that a lot of times their greenwashing or disinformation isn’t going to work anymore.”

    KL: Definitely. Well, about the emissions case, part of their complaint is also that they might be more susceptible to boycott. I do believe that in this day and age, especially people of the younger generations, they’re much more aware of climate change, and a lot of times they would choose companies and products based on their perception of whether that company is being socially responsible enough.

    So it’s obvious that a lot of corporates have caught up on that, and they’re now afraid that if they disclose how much they’re actually emitting, people are going to stop buying from them. They’re actually afraid that this information is going to get out and impact their profits, so that a lot of times their greenwashing or disinformation isn’t going to work anymore, because there will be a real concrete number for people to go on, and a number they cannot fake.

    They could put on their website all they want, that we have this commitment in 10 years, we have this kind of green commitment; we’re going to become zero emissions by 2030. They could say what they want to say on their website, but once there’s a concrete number out there, none of that is going to work anymore. And they’re really afraid of that, clearly.

    JJ: Afraid of an informed public.

    Well, this only works with a certain kind of judicial landscape. I mean, you have to count on not getting laughed out of court with what looks to many people like a fairly transparent shenanigan, but obviously they believe that, for some reason, courts are going to be open to this particular kind of argument.

    KL: Yes, unfortunately, multiple times courts have been open to this particular argument. And in terms of science, in California, the well-known case would be the Monsanto case.

    Food & Water Watch: Monsanto Manipulates Science to Make Roundup Appear Safe

    Food & Water Watch (4/5/17)

    For everyone who doesn’t know, Monsanto is a herbicide company. They make this herbicide called Roundup, and there is a certain chemical in it, where a lot of international scientists have said that it could potentially cause cancer in humans. So because science is never 100%, and that knowledge is constantly evolving, there is a loophole for them to say that there is contradicting science. And as we have later found out, Monsanto, the company, has also commissioned scientific studies to say that their product is safe.

    And in California, that stood up in court. Because the court doesn’t really look at whether or not Monsanto has engineered this controversy that they’re claiming, this argument was allowed to pass California Proposition 65, which requires a warning label for a whole host of chemicals that could be cancerous and cause birth defects–Monsanto would not have to put that label on their specific herbicide product, because this whole “scientific controversy” thing was allowed to stand up in court.

    So the consequences of that is now this argument was expanded. It’s not just one chemical anymore. It’s the entire mechanism of climate change that is being brought into question.

    BioSpace: BMS, J&J Losses Not the End of IRA Legal Battle

    BioSpace (5/8/24)

    But the good news here is that sometimes courts are also beginning to hold the line, and recently there have been some positive developments. If you look at the most recent case of the Medicare drug negotiations under the Inflation Reduction Act, I believe it is the US Chamber of Commerce and different pharmaceutical companies, they were arguing that the Medicare drug negotiations, that the Inflation Reduction Act, is trying to “compel” them to agree with a government-determined price, and that they’re saying that is compelled speech.

    So they have brought that point to multiple federal courts, including, most recently I believe, a federal court in Ohio. And these courts have fortunately rejected this argument, basically blocked the case on multiple occasions. So I do believe that courts are becoming aware of that, and that they’re beginning to curb these arguments, because in the past, when they have allowed these arguments to pass, sometimes, likely in the next case, the argument becomes expanded.

    JJ: Right. Well, I was going to push you further on that, in terms of, it sounds like courts are cottoning on and pushing back. Are there other policy or legislative responses that seem appropriate here, or is it mainly a matter for the courts? And then, do you have thoughts about—because I have not seen this in other reporting—what media might do in terms of disclosing this, putting some sunlight on this, as part of a pushback against what seems clearly like an anti-regulatory, anti–public information effort?

    KL: Well, to answer the first question, I do believe this matter is mainly up to the courts, even though, in terms of lawmaking, there can be laws that make up for what the courts are not doing. At the end of the story that I wrote about this, I mentioned a doctrine called the major questions doctrine. A lot of times what the states are allowed to do and what the states are allowed to regulate, what the federal agencies are allowed to regulate in states, is significantly limited. So a lot of times, these things become left up to courts in a major case, to basically make a decision on whether what the individual states are doing is lawful or not.

    I believe that if the federal regulatory agencies oftentimes could have more power to pass more sweeping regulations on these things, and that federal regulatory agencies could have more power to fight these law cases if they are sued on a particular point, for example, like the Inflation Reduction Act…. I believe that federal agencies should be given more power to decide, instead of leaving it up to the courts, because the court doesn’t always hold the line.

    They’re beginning to, but, for example, the California emissions disclosure case, it’s still very much up in the air, and it’s an entirely new regulation. No other states have implemented it yet; it’s just California, and there are no federal regulations on how companies could be more accountable for the emissions they’re putting out.

    And in terms of how media could report on this, I would say, a lot of times, this type of story, it’s very, very helpful to talk to lawyers, because a lot of the cases that I have found, and also trying to figure out how low the scientific threshold is to basically prove that something is controversial: the lawyers know. They are a treasure trove of past cases, because that is their job. And a lot of times, they really enjoy talking to journalists, laying out their cases, and basically walking you through the steps and loopholes that are in our law, because that is their profession.

    I would also say, I can understand that sometimes it’s hard to write about something that doesn’t have a main human character in it. Sometimes it’s hard to make it interesting, and it could be easy to overlook these stories. But personally, I think that even a seemingly boring document could contain very interesting information.

    For example, the initial complaint that’s filed against the California Emissions Disclosure Law, if you look at the information closely, it might look like a boring document, but the more you read, you’re like, “Wow, this doesn’t make sense. Am I hallucinating this, or is this real?” So then you go to a lawyer, and verify that information. Is this a trend I’m spotting? Is this a problem? Do you think it’s a problem? And these kind of stories could end up being very interesting.

    And I would say that, also, it’s important to look into lobbying data, and frame the story looking at who is responsible, and not only looking at what the problem is. I feel like stories could become much more powerful when you look at the how, the mechanism, the larger mechanism that’s at work, instead of only focusing on one specific event or one isolated event that’s happening. Sometimes the more people, the more professionals, you talk to, you start to see a network and a storyline, and how there’s a loophole, and the mechanism of how things work behind the scenes.

    JJ: Absolutely. Well, that’s excellent. We’ll end it there for now.

    We’ve been speaking with Katherine Li. She’s editorial fellow at the Lever, online at TheLever.com, where you can find this informative article, “Corporations Are Weaponizing Free Speech to Wreck the World,” that we’ve been talking about. Thank you so much, Katherine Li, for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

    KL: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure.

     

    This post was originally published on FAIR.

  • Migrants seek redress for ‘immense distress’ from deportations now thrown into chaos by election announcement

    Asylum seekers detained by the Home Office and threatened with deportation to Rwanda are set to take legal action against the government after Rishi Sunak admitted that no flights will take place before the general election.

    The Home Office started raiding accommodation and detaining people who arrived at routine immigration-reporting appointments on 29 April in a nationwide push codenamed Operation Vector.

    Continue reading…

    This post was originally published on Human rights | The Guardian.

  •  

     

    The Lever: Corporations Are Weaponizing Free Speech To Wreck The World

    The Lever (5/23/24)

    This week on CounterSpin: In 2023, the California legislature passed legislation that said that big corporations doing business in the state have to tell the public, investors, how much pollution they’re emitting throughout their supply chain. It’s knowable information, and people have a right to know it, right? The same way restaurants here in New York City have to tell potential customers how they did on their last health inspection; you can eat there or not, but at least you’re making an informed decision.

    But no! This past January, the US Chamber of Commerce and a bunch of other industry groups challenged those laws, because, they said, making companies disclose the impact of their actions—in this case, their emissions—would force them to publicly express a “speculative, noncommercial, controversial and politically charged message.” That, they said, makes the laws a “pressure campaign” aimed at shaping company behavior.

    Unfortunately, some courts are indulging this bizarre notion that regulation should be illegal, essentially, because it forces companies to say stuff they’d rather not say. Fortunately, other courts are calling this self-serving nonsense self-serving nonsense. But it’s not just a legal matter; public information, our right to know, is also on the line here, so we should know what’s going on.

    Katherine Li addresses this issue in a recent piece for the Lever, where she is an editorial fellow. We hear from her this week on CounterSpin.

     

    This post was originally published on FAIR.