Online Speech

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Online comments, social media posts, and blogs subject to restrictive free speech and public good laws aimed at silencing dissent and policing online speech. Bloggers, journalists, and private citizens have fallen prey to excessive use of these laws. TrialWatch is monitoring cases in which excessive charges are used for something as simple as a Facebook post:


Nigeria: Treason Charges for Tweets Calling for Protests

REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

“At a minimum, Nigeria should let Mr. Sowore return to his home in the United States over the holidays, pending the resumption of his trial.”

Stephen Townley – TrialWatch Legal Director

After the authorities kept him in detention for a month in defiance of a court order releasing him, journalist and opposition figure Omoyele Sowore is currently facing charges of treason and conspiracy to commit treason for tweets calling for protests under the tagline “#RevolutionNow.”

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Cameroon: Abusive Pre-Trial Detention for Alleged Online Speech

“In this case, there is no reason for Mr. Chouta to have been in pre-trial detention for a day, let alone nearly a year and a half.”

Stephen Townley – TrialWatch Legal Director

Journalist Paul Chouta, a prominent government critic who has written about abuses by the police, spent nearly two years in detention before and during his trial, with the authorities delaying his case over and over.  He was ultimately convicted of defamation, publication of insulting language, and false reporting as a cyber offense for allegedly posting a video and letter on Facebook about the personal life of a French-Cameroonian author who has spoken out against opposition movements in the country. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison and released shortly after his conviction due to the time he had already served.

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Bangladesh: Digital Security Act Crackdown


“We remain very concerned about the indiscriminate use of the Digital Security Act against Kajol and other journalists in Bangladesh, and have documented many misuses of this law against the press.”

CPJ Letter to the Government of Bangladesh

Journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol is facing multiple charges under the Digital Security Act for sharing a newspaper article alleging a sex scandal involving politicians in the ruling party on social media.

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Malaysia: Convicted of Contempt of Court for Unmoderated Online Comments

REUTERS/John Geddie

“The result of this decision is that news sites will either have to limit comments or act as an arm of the Malaysian authorities in deciding what’s acceptable and what’s not: either way, it’s the users’ right to freedom of expression that will suffer.”

Joan Barata, TrialWatch expert on the case.

Malaysiakini, an award-winning independent Malaysian news website, which writes about human rights abuses, press freedom and democracy, was convicted of contempt of court for not detecting and taking down unmoderated reader comments on its site that were critical of the judiciary.

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Indonesia: Convicted Under Cyber Law Corruption Reporting

Journalist Muhammad Asrul was convicted of online defamation under the country’s Electronic Information and Transactions (“ITE”) Law and given a three-month sentence for investigative reporting into the alleged involvement of the son of a local official in a corruption scandal.

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