PEN’s Free Expression Digest brings you a daily curated round-up of the most important free expression-related stories from around the web. Subscribe here. *This mailing list is currently in BETA as we work out the kinks. Please send your feedback and suggestions to

Ethiopia releases five journalists and bloggers ahead of Obama visit

Five writers from media and the Zone 9 blog have had security related charges dropped, but critics say there are still at least 12 others behind bars. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


Federal officials want tech industry to provide government agencies with special access to encrypted emails and texts on private devices

Testifying before two Senate committees, FBI Director James B. Comey claimed that without legal access to encrypted emails, texts and other communications, “we may not be able to identify and stop terrorists who are using social media to recruit, plan and execute an attack in our country.” LOS ANGELES TIMES


FBI chief wants ‘backdoor access’ to encrypted communications to fight Isis

Experts warn that ‘magical thinking’ of a security flaw only the US government could exploit could easily be utilized by hackers, foreign spies and terrorists. THE GUARDIAN


John McAfee: Hacking Team data leak portends grim future of global cyberwar

The producers of mass surveillance cybertools create whatever propaganda is needed to manipulate the masses into accepting the growing and intolerable burden of the invasion of our privacy. IB TIMES


Why China’s draft cybersecurity law has chilling implications for the Internet and multinationals

China’s draft cybersecurity law would cement government control over the Internet and data, and could further limit online debate and affect multinational companies doing business in China. The law increases the government’s power in many ways, and allows restricted Internet access in places where public security is threatened. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST


What you need to know about China’s draft cybersecurity law

China has released a draft of a new cybersecurity law that authorizes broad powers to control the flow of online information. The bill comes after the recent passage of a law on national security and with the expected approval of bills on NGOs and counterterrorism.THE NEW YORK TIMES


Sri Lanka revives media regulator that can jail journalists

Sri Lanka has revived a media regulatory group that empowers the government to imprison or fine journalists. The council prohibits publication of what is deemed official secrets, certain military matters, etc., and anyone found guilty could face fines and up to two years in prison. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


Egypt: Journalists’ objections to anti-terror law under government revision

The cabinet discussed Article 33 of the controversial anti-terrorism law after the Press Syndicate and the media community argued that the law imposes exaggerated restrictions on press freedom. Article 33 seeks to put journalists behind bars for publishing “contradicting information to official data”. DAILY NEWS EGYPT


Detained Egyptian journalist Shawkan’s “health deteriorating”

Mahmoud Abu Zied, known as Shawkan, has been in jail for nearly two years without charge after being arrested while covering a security crackdown in 2013. The 27-year-old photojournalist has been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, and his lawyer says his health is “deteriorating day-after-day.” MWC NEWS


U.S. senators denounce Azerbaijan’s crackdown on civil society

Sixteen U.S. senators have written to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev expressing their concern about the “diminishing space” for civil society and press freedom in the country. They say the immediate release of prisoners of conscience would “remove an important obstacle to strengthened US – Azerbaijan relations.” RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY