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Freedom of Speech

Activists at risk - Supporting jailed journalists and bloggers

DW is working to promote greater freedom of speech around the world by raising awareness of the detention and intimidation of journalists, activists and bloggers.

The "Activists at Risk" campaign demands recognition for human rights and the freedom of expression around the world - regardless of gender, political or religious beliefs.

Countries, in particular those that respect human rights, must play a role in the process of ensuring rights are protected everywhere. Western countries also need to understand the necessity of granting asylum to activists and protecting the lives of people who are at risk of being beaten, imprisoned or even killed.

Do you know activists behind bars? Spread the word!

Here are some examples of people who deserve international support for their work:

Alaa Abd El-Fattah
Country: Egypt

A software developer, activist and blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah played a central role in Egypt's 2011 revolution. At the end of 2013, he was arrested at a peaceful demonstration against tightened protest laws. In a controversial proceeding, a military court sentenced him to five years in prison. He was accused of having organized an "unauthorized protest" and for calling for violence against police and security forces.

Bassel Khartabil
Country: Syria

As a software developer, Bassel Khartabil made essential contributions to improving access to the Internet in the Arab world. In March 2012, Khartabil was jailed and a few months later accused of "endangering the state." No decision was reached in the case. In October 2015, Khartabil disappeared without a trace. His whereabouts are unknown, but there have been rumors that a military court sentenced him to death.

Su Changlan
Country: China

The activist Su Changlan fought for women and children's rights and dealt critically with democracy issues. In October 2014, after having shown support online for Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrations, Su Changlan was arrested and accused of inciting a revolution. Since she was put in prison, her family has been refused the right to visit her, and her legal advisor has only been able to meet with her once. Her trial is still pending. If convicted, Su Changlan could face up to 15 years in jail. Her health is said to be in poor condition.

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki - RELEASED
Country: Iran

Iranian blogger and human rights activist Hossein Ronaghi Maleki was sentenced to 15 years in prison in December 2009. The court found him guilty of spreading anti-government propaganda, insulting both the religious leader as well as the president and taking part in "Iran Proxy," an Internet group that advocates for freedom of expression. Maleki's prison term was suspended on multiple occasions due to his poor health. He was released on bail on May 4, 2016.

Biram Dah Abeid - RELEASED
Country: Mauritania

Politician and activist Biram Dah Abeid has been repeatedly honored for his commitment to human rights, especially in the fight against slavery, which remains an issue in his country even after being officially outlawed in 2007. Abeid, who founded the anti-slavery movement IRA (Initiative pour la Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste), was sentenced in January 2015 to two years in prison for incitement and membership in an unauthorized organization. The highest court acquitted Abeid on May 17, 2016.

Milagro Sala
Country: Argentina

Milagro Sala is the leader of Tupác Amaru, an organization that carries out social projects with state funds in northwestern Argentina. In December 2015, the activist took part in peaceful protests against planned cuts to financial resources. Milagro Sala was imprisoned shortly thereafter and accused of unlawful occupation of public space, extortion and embezzlement of state funds. The imprisonment has provoked worldwide criticism, including from Pope Francis.

Oleg Sentsov
Country: Russia

In August 2015, a Russian military court sentenced Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in prison. Oleg Sentsov had already been held in custody for 15 months before the ruling, after being arrested by the Russian intelligence service for terrorist activities and the formation of a terrorist organization. He supported pro-European protests in 2013 and 2014 and provided Ukrainian soldiers with supplies during the Crimea crisis. Observers said Oleg Sentsov received only a show trial. He has reported being tortured during interrogations. The court has denied the accusations.

Raif Badawi
Country: Saudi Arabia

Internet activist Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 and sentenced in May 2014 to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi Riyals (about 200,000 euros). The court found him guilty of apostasy and violation of IT laws. He received the first 50 lashings in January 2015. The floggings have since been postponed due to his poor health. Badawi won DW's Freedom of Speech Award in 2015.

Hisham Almiraat
Country: Morocco

As a doctor and a civil society activist, Hisham Almiraat cares about improving living conditions in his country. Since 2009, Almiraat has been a blogger for "Global Voices." He also founded Talk Morocco and Mamfakinch, media projects that played a crucial role during the Arab Spring. Almiraat stood before a judge for the first time at the end of 2015 on charges of endangering the internal security of the state. A guilty verdict could result in up to five years in prison.

Ashraf Fayadh
Country: Saudi Arabia

The religious police jailed poet and lyricist Ashraf Fayadh in August 2013 for mocking Islam and spreading atheist ideas. The Saudi-born Palestinian was sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashings. Fayadh appealed and in November 2015 a court sentenced him to death. Following a number of international protests, his sentence was reduced to eight years in prison and a public display of remorse.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja
Country: Bahrain

Human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison by a military court in June 2011. He was found guilty of forming a terrorist group to overthrow the royal rulers and change the constitution. Al-Khawaja supported numerous human rights organizations in Bahrain and organized peaceful demonstrations and human rights events during the Arab Spring.

Atena Farghadani - RELEASED
Country: Iran

Farghadani was imprisoned in August 2014 for drawing a controversial caricature. Four months later, she was released on bail. She took her story to the public and thrown back in jail. The artist began a hunger strike, but a heart attack forced her to end the protest. In June 2015, she was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison for the dissemination of seditious propaganda, insulting the head of state and members of parliament and threatening state security. Farghadani was acquitted in May 2016.

Prabhat Singh and Deepak Jaiswal - RELEASED ON BAIL
Country: India

Multiple assaults and accusations have targeted journalists and human rights activists in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Prabhat Singh and Deepak Jaiswal, two journalists from the Bastar region, criticized police behavior in their work. In March 2016, after two journalists from the region had been arrested, police took Prabhat Singh into custody for a critical WhatsApp message. He was accused of "publishing and transmitting obscene material in electronic form." Shortly thereafter, Jaiswal was arrested as well. There is likely a connection between the two arrests as a school principal accused both journalists of investigating his school for an article. Both have been released on bail.

Narges Mohammadi
Country: Iran

Iranian journalist Narges Mohammadi is the vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. In May 2016, Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to 10 years of a 16-year prison sentence, for her work defending human and women's rights in Iran.

Mohammadi was arrested before in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2011 on charges of assembly and collusion against national security, membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center and propaganda against the state. An appeals court reduced her sentence to six years. In 2013, she was released on bail for medical reasons. Mohammadi has suffered serious health problems, including a neurological disorder that causes muscular paralysis and at one point even lost her ability to see. In May 2015, she was imprisoned again and since then she has been denied proper medical care. She has also been refused contact with her children, who live in France with their father.

Khadija Ismayilova - RELEASED

Country: Azerbaijan

Khadija Ismayilova was jailed in December 2014, at first on charges of incitement of suicide, later because of tax evasion and embezzlement. Khadija Ismayilova has been working on uncovering corruption scandals involving the Azerbaijani presidential family. In 2015, a court sentenced her to 7.5 years in prison. She had been put under the pressure of the authoritarian regime before. In 2012, personal photos of Khadija Ismayilova surfaced in the government-friendly media. After 537 days in prison, she was released early at the end of May 2016.

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