Huge Blow for Media Freedom in the Philippines: Daily Brief

Plus: need for free speech protection in Iraq; Polish president dehumanizes LGBT people; EU foreign ministers must defend the ICC; interview with Azimjon Askarov; death of Egyptian LGBT activist; school closures particularly hard on children with disabilities; and the European Commission will monitor the Croatian border after alleged violations against asylum seekers.

Yesterday, a Manila court issued a guilty verdict for Maria Ressa, the founder and executive editor of the news website Rappler, and a Rappler researcher, Reynaldo Santos Jr. The verdict highlights the ability of the Philippines’ abusive leader to manipulate the laws to go after critical, well-respected media voices.

A new report examines a range of defamation and incitement legal provisions that authorities in Iraq have used against critics, including journalists, activists, and other dissenting voices. With Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s new role as prime minister, the government has a unique opportunity to tackle over a decade of free speech restrictions.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda has used deeply disturbing language targeting LGBT people. 

Today, the EU Foreign Affairs Council – made up of the EU’s High Representative and 27 EU foreign ministers – will hold a video conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They should take the opportunity to express the EU's support of the ICC and condemn US attacks on the court.

Azimjon Askarov is a well-known human rights defender from southern Kyrgyzstan who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison on vague and poorly substantiated charges. HRW's Central Asia researcher Mihra Rittmann was recently able to carry out a rare interview with him from prison: read it here.

Sarah Higazi, an Egyptian LGBT activist who was detained and tortured for raising a rainbow flag at a 2017 concert in Cairo has died by suicide in Canada. 

With schools around the world closed due to Covid-19, many students are struggling to keep their education on track. And children with disabilities can be among the hardest hit.

The European Commission has announced it will send officials to monitor the Croatian border after allegations of torture of migrants and asylum seekers. Human Rights Watch and others have regularly reported on and raised concerns about pushbacks and violence by Croatian border officials at Croatia’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.