Thanksgiving Human Rights Advocacy Roundup
As we head towards Thanksgiving to spend time with family and friends (and maybe both), we thought we’d share some human rights news from PEN and around the world—and show you how you can take action to support writers in prison this holiday season.
Yesterday, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution to make November 2 the International Day to End Impunity. The resolution condemns attacks against journalists and implores states to actively protect the journalists and properly investigate attacks. The UN also moved a step closer to affirming a “human right to privacy” in a resolution drafted by Brazil and Germany that will be voted on in December.
After the release of our landmark report Chilling Effect: NSA Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor, we continue to fight against the dragnet government surveillance of individuals. PEN signed on to the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, a detailed roadmap for protecting privacy and free expression in the digital age. The Principles expand upon Article 3 of the PEN Declaration on Digital Freedom (FAQ), which sets out guidelines for surveillance, data mining, and privacy. Last week, we filed an amicus brief drawing upon our report Chilling Effects in the federal case First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, and on Friday we attended a hearing in the seminal case ACLU v. Clapper, in which the ACLU argued that the NSA’s reliance upon section 215 of the Patriot Act to monitor phone calls was illegal and unconstitutional.
In China, Freeweibo announced that Microsoft has made important changes to its Skype technology that should help microbloggers speak more securely online and avoid censorship. Chinese users will be able to rely on encrypted communications that pass directly through Microsoft’s servers in Singapore, the U.S., and Ireland rather than in China. This is in sharp contrast to Microsoft’s earlier arrangement with the local Tom Skype, a service that was heavily monitored and censored, as revealed by a researcher who cracked the encryption code in March 2013. As Freeweibo explained in an email, “[t]his is a complete about face for Microsoft from the Tom Skype era, when all information was processed by Tom and stored by Tom on servers located in China with absolutely no privacy controls in place.”
As the holiday season approaches, you can do something to help writers who are imprisoned around the world. On December 10, PEN will be hosting writers at our office at 5pm to send holiday cards (non-denominational) to writers in prison. We provide the wine, cheese, stamps, cards, and postage. You provide the words!