Prefer to receive the news digest daily? To subscribe, simply click here and choose DARE: Daily Alert on Rights and Expression from the list.


DARE To Be Informed

The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression this week.


No, hateful speech is not the same thing as ‘violence’
Recent confrontations around the country reflect a growing tendency to answer speech with violence. But now influential voices and factions from across the political spectrum seem increasingly ready to treat ugly speech as equivalent to, or a justifiable provocation for, violence. In a democracy, the state is supposed to hold a monopoly on violence. If speech is violence, the state could extend its monopoly to control expression as well. Yet our law treats speech in precisely the opposite way, keeping it open to all and protected from government interference. Both right-wing provocateurs and left-wing protesters have a powerful interest in keeping it that way.

Court clears Mississippi LGBT objections law; appeal likely
A federal appeals court said Thursday that Mississippi can enforce a law that allows merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples, but opponents of the law immediately pledged to appeal. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge’s decision that had blocked the law. The law does not take effect immediately. It could affect adoptions and foster care, business practices and school bathroom policies.

Pennsylvania Radio Host Quits After He’s Ordered To Not Criticize Donald Trump
Bruce Bond, the host of a talk radio show broadcast Saturdays in central Pennsylvania, said he felt he had no choice after receiving the directive from one of his bosses at WTPA-FM. “The fact that my bosses would censor me and not allow me to talk about this stuff is ridiculous.” Bond had earlier posted a letter to him from the station’s general manager, Tim Michaels, “serving notice” that it was against policy to “speak disrespectfully” about the president.

After weeks of secrecy, U.S. Senate to unveil healthcare bill
Republicans in the chamber have been working on legislation aimed at repealing and replacing major portions of the Affordable Care Act. Trump has urged the Republican-led Senate to pass a more “generous” bill than that approved by the House, whose version he privately called “mean,” according to congressional sources. If the bill is passed, an estimated 23 million people could lose their healthcare under the House plan, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Supreme Court Offers a Warning on Free Speech
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two notable victories for free-speech advocates on Monday as it nears the end of its current term. The two First Amendment cases came to the Court from starkly different circumstances, but the justices emphasized a similar theme in both rulings: beware what the free-speech restrictions of today could be used to justify tomorrow. In the first case, Matal v. Tam, the Court sided with an Asian-American rock band in Oregon named The Slants in a dispute with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The plaintiff in the other free-speech case, Packingham v. North Carolina, was far less sympathetic.


Fake news bill imperils freedom of expression
A proposed bill in the Philippines slapping as much as P5-million fine and five-year prison time for peddlers of fake news will endanger citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, lawmakers warned on Friday. Villanueva’s Anti-Fake News bill penalizes “a person who maliciously offers, publishes, distributes, circulates and spreads false news or information or causes the publication, distribution, circulation or spreading of the same in print, broadcast or online media and the person having full knowledge that information is false or has reasonable grounds to believe that the same is false.”

Pro-Putin bots are dominating Russian political talk on Twitter
A bevy of actors have deployed fake, online personalities devoted to sharing pro-government content. Studies point to a significant update in the narrative around social media: Once seen as a tool of democratization and protest, it has now increasingly become a weapon wielded by established political actors and authoritarian regimes, simulating public opinion through memes and hashtag democracy.

Jailed for calling Ugandan president a ‘pair of buttocks’, activist vows to fight on
A Facebook post criticising Yoweri Museveni landed academic Stella Nyanzi in jail, but she vows to continue her fight against oppression and poverty in Uganda. “My language will grow sharper if the government continues to oppress us,” says Nyanzi, who was suspended from her job at Makerere University for “abusing” the first lady and education minister, Janet Museveni. “If you are going to stand with the powerless against the oppression [by] the powerful, someone will not like it. That person is usually the powerful.”

Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Activists and Their Families
Mexico’s most prominent human rights lawyers, journalists and anti-corruption activists have been targeted by advanced spyware sold to the Mexican government on the condition that it be used only to investigate criminals and terrorists. The deployment of sophisticated cyberweaponry against citizens is a snapshot of the struggle for Mexico itself, raising profound legal and ethical questions for a government already facing severe criticism for its human rights record.

Jailed for years for Thai king insult
The United Nations has called on Thailand to amend the harsh law against insulting the monarchy. Since the military coup in 2014, the number of people investigated for violating the lèse-majesté law has risen to more than double the number investigated in the previous 12 years. The BBC spoke to the mother of Sasiwimon, who was jailed for 28 years after being found guilty of posting anti-monarchy content on Facebook, and was reported to the police by another Facebook user.

Deeper Analysis

Getting In and Out: Who Owns Black Pain?
Zadie Smith examines how the film Get Out offers a compendium of black fears about white folk. For black viewers there is the pleasure of vindication. It’s not often they have both their real and their irrational fears so thoroughly indulged. For white liberals—whom the movie purports to have in its satirical sights—there is the cringe of recognition, that queer but illuminating feeling of being suddenly “othered.”

Old Questions But No New Answers in the Philando Castile Verdict
The cycle of lethal police violence, community outrage, and legal proceedings that yield no consequences came around again last Friday in St. Paul, Minnesota, when a jury acquitted police officer Jeronimo Yanez in Castile’s death. Dash-cam video released following the verdict has raised further questions.

A Portrait of the Artist as An Undocumented Immigrant
In this excerpt from For the Love of the Dollar, Mexican writer J.M. Servín recalls the 10 years he spent living and working in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. He tells his story about working at a restaurant in New York and as a nanny in Connecticut.

Iconic 12th-Century Mosque Destroyed During Battle of Mosul
The Grand Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq was destroyed this week as Iraqi forces were poised to retake the major city that has been under ISIS control since 2014. Iraqi and US officials are blaming the destruction on ISIS, while the terror group is claiming the US destroyed the mosque after a bombing.

DARE is a project of PEN America’s #LouderTogether campaign, bringing you a daily-curated roundup of the most important free expression-related news from the U.S. and abroad. Send your feedback and story suggestions to [email protected]

Prefer to receive the news digest daily? To subscribe, simply click here and choose DARE: Daily Alert on Rights and Expression from the list.