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Jailed in Turkey; Online Onslaught in Russia: HRW Daily Brief

Plus: Mass action in Venezuela; mourning under surveillance in China; human rights after Brexit; independent voices blocked in South Sudan; hopes for more media freedom dashed in Somalia; World Bank ignores forced labor in Uzbekistan; Bahrain whitewashes its legacy of torture with glamour sports.

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  1. A Turkish court has ruled that six human rights activists, including Amnesty International's Turkey director, are to remain in custody pending trial. The six are being accused of aiding a terror group, charges Human Rights Watch and others have found to be “arbitrary and unfounded”. Five international organizations have urged Turkey to release the activists.
  2. By stepping up measures to bring the internet under state control, Russian authorities are leading an assault on free speech, a new Human Rights Watch report documents. Repressive laws, invasive surveillance of online activity and the persecution of critics under the guise of fighting extremism are increasingly stifling critical voices and shutting down public debate.
  3. Venezuela’s opposition has called for a 24-hour nationwide strike to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to drop plans to rewrite the constitution. Maduro’s moves have been widely condemned. In an unofficial plebiscite on the weekend millions spoke out against the plan and called for immediate elections.
  4. After the death of Chinese dissident and public intellectual Liu Xiaobo in custody last week, concerns for his widow Liu Xia are mounting. Even her mourning has been carried out under the government’s strict surveillance. Meanwhile, thousands of people in Hong Kong sent a powerful message of freedom to Beijing, organizing the only large-scale commemoration for the deceased Nobel laureate on Chinese soil.
  5. With less than two years to go before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union, it’s still very unclear what human rights protections British citizens and residents will lose after Brexit.
  6. South Sudan’s government has blocked access to popular news websites, among them the Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj, accusing them of “hostile” reporting. Meanwhile, President Salva Kiir has declared a state of emergency in parts of the war-torn country.
  7. When Somalia’s new minister of information took office in March, he promised to review the country’s restrictive media law. Those hopes have largely been dashed.
  8. The World Bank has loaned more than half a billion dollars to Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector in recent years, while fully aware that the cotton harvest relies on a massive government program of forced labor and that cotton profits are largely swallowed up by opaque government accounts.
  9. In Bahrain, host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, thousands of people accused of agitating against the regime are now in prison, The Guardian reports. The authorities have resorted to drastic measures to curb dissenting opinions such as torture, shackling and arbitrary detention. Meanwhile, the regime is using its association with glamour sport to “launder” a more wholesome image for the country.
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