Jail for tweeting in Turkey, Bahrain, etc.


This video is called Kuwaiti Twitter users face jail time for anti-Emir messages – FOCUS – 06/13/2013.

From ThinkProgress in the USA:

How To Go To Jail For Tweeting

By Will Freeman on May 30, 2014 at 3:21 pm

You no longer have to pen a controversial political manifesto railing against the powers that be to find yourself behind bars. In certain autocratic countries, and even some democracies, now all it takes is an “insulting” tweet about the government — expressed in under 140 characters, of course.

A columnist in Turkey learned this lesson the hard way when he was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Monday for an offensive tweet he claims was the result of a typo. Önder Aytaç, a journalist with the opposition newspaper Taraf, claims he accidentally added a ‘k’ to the end of the Turkish word for “my chief” in a tweet about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s role in closing down private schools, turning the word into the Turkish equivalent of “screw you.”

According to a Turkish defamation law that makes it a crime to insult “public officials during the course of their job,” the Prime Minister pressed charges and won. In March, Turkey blocked Twitter altogether out of fear of its potential as a platform for dissent. The highest court in Turkey on Thursday declared that blocking Twitter entirely was unconstitutional, but the laws that sent Aytaç to jail remain on the books.

Last Saturday, another Twitter dissident, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Nabeel Rajab, was released after spending two years in prison in Bahrain. The Gulf country receives U.S. military and financial support despite regularly silencing pro-democracy protesters like Rajab.

While Rajab was officially charged with the vague crime of “disturbing public order,” his use of Twitter to express his political sentiments led to a three month jail sentence in 2012 and contributed to the case that put him behind bars for two years. Just two weeks ago, six more activists received one year sentences for tweeting comments deemed “insulting to the king.” Perhaps the most draconian was a Bahrain court’s sentencing of 17-year-old high school student Ali al-Shofa to a year in jail in 2012.

Other Gulf states have similarly convicted Twitter users for petty offenses. Kuwait has convicted at least eight people for posting tweets “offensive” to Kuwait’s emir over the past two year, including dishing out a five year prison sentence followed by permanent exile to a 30 year old activist Abdullah Fairouz Abdullah Abd al-Kareem in January. In the United Arab Emirates, journalist Abdullah Al-Hadidi is serving 10 months in jail for criticizing a trial against opponents of the regime.

The government crack down on tweets isn’t limited to just Turkey and the Middle East. In Japan, 49-year old single mother and journalist Mari Takenouchi is facing one month of jail time after criticizing a nuclear lobbyist in the wake of the 2012 Fukushima disaster. Korean photographer Park Jung-geun received a 10-month term for retweeting content posted by an account run by the North Korean government. And last year, the conservative government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy passed a new law that has made organizing non-state approved demonstrations through social media punishable with heavy fines and jail time.

“Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users’ right to speak freely,” according to a company blog post by Twitter written in 2011. Apparently, however, this mandate does not extend to countries where governments flinch at the slightest criticism.

Will Freeman is an intern with Think Progress.

Bahrain’s Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa recently stated that anyone making “false allegations” of torture will face legal actions. This statement raises a number of concerns: here.

Bahrain Weekly Update – May 29: Just-Released Rajab Criticizes Worsening Rights Situation; Congressional Staff Delegation Meets Bahrain Defense Force: here.

While Bahrain’s serious rights abuses have provoked condemnation from many governments around the world, the UK’s response has been both feeble and ineffective: here.

TURKISH soldiers fired tear gas and water cannon today at Kurds protesting against plans to build military barracks in Diyarbakir province: here.

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‘Extinct’ shark species rediscovered at fish market


Smoothtooth blacktip shark

From Scientific American:

Shark Species Thought to Be Extinct Found in Fish Market [Slide Show]

After more than a century, the smoothtooth blacktip shark has been rediscovered

By David Shiffman

After his 1902 trip to Yemen, scholar and naturalist Wilhelm Hein returned with a variety of plants and animals, which he donated to the Vienna Museum. One of these specimens, a shark, sat unnoticed for more than 80 years. In 1985 it was identified as the first (and only known) specimen of Carcharhinus leiodon, the smoothtooth blacktip shark. Because no others had ever been found by scientists, Alec Moore, regional vice chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group’s Indian Ocean group, says that “some suspected it might be extinct or not a valid species.”

In 2008, during a Shark Conservation Society research expedition to Kuwait’s sharq fish market (the name is a coincidence, it means east in Arabic), Moore says that “amongst the many species of whaler shark was one which looked very similar, but different, to a couple of other species.” Later analysis revealed that although this specimen was more than 3,000 kilometers from where Hein caught his, this was a smoothtooth blacktip, the first new individual seen by scientists in over a century.

>>View a slide show of shark species at fish markets

These sharks are currently considered “Vulnerable” to extinction by on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, an assessment that was made before their rediscovery by Dr. Moore and his team. More recent studies in fish markets throughout the region have located 47 additional smoothtooth blacktip sharks, greatly increasing what scientists know about this species with and reported in a 2013 paper in Marine & Freshwater Research. The new study included some of the first data on how large smoothtooth blacktips can grow, how many pups they can bear and their habitat usage as well as other information needed for an effective conservation and management plan in the future.

Shopping for species
Fish market surveys of the kind that resulted in the rediscovery of the smoothtooth blacktip are an increasingly common research tool that offers many advantages over traditional scientific field sampling. Julia Spaet, a researcher at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, says that “the resources dedicated by a fleet of fishermen will always outmatch any scientific efforts to assess abundances. In other words, the fishing industry is more efficient at finding sharks where there are not much left.”

These surveys are hard work. Researchers have to arrive before dawn, before the boats come in to land their catches. The species of interest have to be identified, counted, measured and sampled before they are sold to customers. When further study is required, researchers need to purchase the fishes themselves. This whole process can be, for lack of a technical term, disgusting. Moore says he “once made the mistake of climbing into a skip [waste bin] to sample a load of rays that had been festering in the sun; the response of my gastrointestinal tract to this was, as an understatement, memorably unfavorable.”

Surveys also offer challenges not faced by scientists who do field surveys, such as gaining fishermen’s trust. Moore says that “although sometimes bemused by what we are doing, they are generally very tolerant of weird foreigners poking around, and we’ve met some incredibly generous, funny and helpful people—we’ve even been given breakfast.”

Researchers have made many discoveries relevant to the conservation of threatened shark and ray species by studying the catches in fish markets in Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Rima Jabado, a PhD student at United Arab Emirates University, was contacted by a fisherman who found an unusual looking shark, which resulted in the first scientific record of a sand tiger shark in United Arab Emirates waters. Jabado also found species with local legal protections for sale in markets, such as whale sharks and green sawfish, which she says shows “some species should be protected and managed locally and that there is a clear need for better enforcement of some of the current legislation.” Spaet agrees, noting that “in Saudi Arabia shark fishing is prohibited by law, yet we still find large numbers of sharks landed at the markets every day.”

In the meantime Moore has some advice for any shark-o-philes going on vacation: “Always go to the fish market with a camera, especially in tropical countries where there is little data—there is always the chance that you could find something new. Even if you don’t, fish markets in the early morning are amazing—lively places with real character and great food.”

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