The Berlin and London-based European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) documents human rights violations in Saudi Arabia using a blog first created in August 2013 (and blocked in October 2013) and a website launched in September 2014 (and blocked since July 2015). Coordinating with other groups, its activists provide information and lobby governments internationally. As well as publishing articles and reports, ESOHR organizes and participates in conferences, seminars and other events, provides human rights training, and assists the victims of abuses.
A New York-based news website created in March 2000, Boxun owes its success to the speed with which it covers sensitive stories in China. It has always used the citizen-journalism model but, despite limited resources, it puts a great deal of effort into verifying the information it receives, often from anonymous sources, in order to comply with the editorial rules and ethical standards observed by professional journalists worldwide. Any information sent to Boxun, any story posted on the site, can put the author or contributor in danger. After being identified by the Chinese authorities, some of its contributors have been arrested, beaten and even forced to make public confessions. Despite the dangers, Boxun has original content in Mandarin and English, articles by correspondents, bylined reports and analyses (some of them by well-known writers) and discussion forums. It also reproduces stories, blogs and information from Chinese-language media outlets in China. For those seeking independently-reported information about China, it is an essential source and one of the most influential websites.
Sendika.org is an alternative news website that was launched 14 years ago. It aims to serve as a mouthpiece for those without a voice and to cover stories ignored by mainstream media – including social issues, the Kurdish issue, and the women’s and LGBT movements. Recognized as a leading source of news about the crackdown on the Occupy Gezi movement in 2013, it has also provided cutting-edge reporting on many other sensitive stories such air strikes against civilian targets in Roboski, the Soma coalmine explosion, rioting linked to the siege of Kobane, President Erdogan’s Syria policy and clashes in the southeast.
Sendika.org is one of the dozens of news sites that have been blocked since the resumption of hostilities between the government and PKK-led Kurdish rebels on 25 July 2015. Eight mirror sites have so far been blocked, one after the other. Would-be readers are currently redirected to the Sendika9.org address.
Investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown founded the Sarawak Report, a London-based, English-language news website specializing in Malaysia, in 2010, at the same time as its sister outlet, Radio Free Sarawak, an exile radio station that has won several awards. After its coverage of illegal logging and corruption quickly attracted international attention, it stepped up its reporting of other political issues with a national and international impact, including revelations about government corruption under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. As a result of its explosive revelations about high-level misdeeds in 2015, in particular, its coverage of the judicial investigation into allegations that a development fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had channelled money into the prime minister’s personal accounts, the website was blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, which regulates the Malaysian media, on 20 July 2015.
DTD is both a website covering human rights in Vietnam and an RSF partner NGO that has organized seminars on cyber-security for Vietnamese bloggers and cyber-activists jointly with RSF. Human rights-related information published by news media and NGOs (both local and international) is collected by DTD, translated into Vietnamese and posted on its site. It has also produced weekly reviews of the Vietnamese and foreign press since 2014. And finally, thanks to a growing network of citizen-journalist contributors, it posts its own articles, interviews and videos, often with English-language translations. As a result, it constitutes a bridge between an international community seeking detailed recent information from local sources, and Vietnamese civil society, which is often unable to access foreign media and NGO reports because of government censorship or technical problems.
Created as a non-profit broadcaster in 1996 and funded by the US Congress via the
Broadcasting Board of Governors, Radio Free Asia aims to provide independently-
reported news and information to Asian countries that have little or no alternative
to government propaganda. Its Vietnamese service, launched in 1997 with two
hours of programming a day, is very popular with Vietnamese citizens tired of the
propaganda put out by the state media. Radio Free Asia also has a website that
serves as an alternative way of reaching its potential audience. If offers enriched
content and detailed coverage of all of the key issues in Vietnam, with a special focus
on democracy, civil society and human rights. Although Vietnam has one of the
region’s highest Internet penetration growth rates, it blocks the Radio Free Asia
website and thereby prevents its approximately 40 million Internet users from
accessing a source of independent and critical information unless they circumvent
the censorship by using secure browsers and virtual private networks (VPNs).
Vietnam Thoi Bao (Vietnam Times) is the website of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN). With “critical spirit” as its motto, it covers subjects related to human rights, politics and the economy. Created in July 2014, it was blocked three days after going online.
The website was the target of four cyber-attacks in the space of eight months: in July and August 2014 and January and March 2015. As the Vietnamese authorities regard the IJAVN as a dissident organization, its leaders are often the targets of provocations or are harassed by the police.
The IJAVN nonetheless almost doubled its membership in barely a year and the number of visits to the Vietnam Times site has increased significantly. Pham Chi Dung, the journalist who heads the IJAVN and edits the Vietnam Times, is on the RSF list of “100 Information Heroes.”
Created in 2006, Chronicles of Turkmenistan (Хроника Туркменистана) is the news website of the “Turkmen Initiative for the Defence of Human Rights,” a NGO founded in November 2004 with the aim or providing information about developments in Turkmenistan including minority rights, freedom of association, free speech and child labour. It cooperates frequently with Human Right Watch, Amnesty International, FIDH and Front Line and has written many reports about the situation in Turkmenistan for the UN.
Chronicles of Turkmenistan is one of the few sources of independent information in a country where the government keeps tight control on the media. As it is very critical of the government, it is subjected to a great deal of pressure and the site has been blocked in Turkmenistan since 2007.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) defends freedom of expression, association and assembly in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf, understanding this region to encompass Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq. It decided to include Syria in its mandate in 2013 on the grounds that it was vital to document human rights violations in a country whose conflict was having a major impact on its neighbours.
The GCHR is not welcomed in the UAE, where its website has been blocked since January 2015 or in Saudi Arabia, where it has been repeatedly blocked. It is believed that the reason for the blocking is the unconditional support that the GCHR has given to the human rights defenders in particular Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken, Dr. Mohammed Al-MansoriDr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, Waleed Abu Al-Khair and Raef Badawi and other detained human rights defenders.
The GCHR speaks out internationally in defence of the region’s journalists and human rights groups. In December 2013, it joined nine other NGOs including Reporters Without Borders in asking UN special rapporteurs Frank La Rue (freedom of opinion and expression) and Juan Méndez (torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment) to investigate the cases of three journalists – Mohamed Les Hassan, Hussain Hubail and Qassim Zain Aldeen – who had been arrested and tortured in Bahrain for covering anti-government protests in 2012 and 2013.
The Centre has offices in Beirut, Copenhagen and Istanbul. Several of its staff have been arrested in Saudi Arabia and are still being held.