Punished by despotic regimes for nothing more than speaking out on social media

By | February 14, 2023

An editorial in the Washington Post says:

On Feb. 27, 2022, Danuta Perednya, a 21-year old university student, reposted a message on the social media app Telegram criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for the war in Ukraine.

On Dec. 28, 2020, a young Saudi woman, Salma al-Shehab, tweeted an appeal to release Loujain al-Hathloul, an activist who was in prison for seeking the right of women to drive in the kingdom.

In October, a 19-year-old Russian university student, Olesya Krivtsova, posted an Instagram story criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine. Her fellow students at Northern Federal University, in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, took a screenshot of the Instagram story — and reported her to the authorities.

Ms. Perednya was arrested and sentenced to 6½ years in prison. Ms. Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison and to a 34-year travel ban. Ms. Krivtsova has been added to a list of terrorists and extremists, charged with discrediting the military and put under house arrest, and she is facing seven years in prison. They all are being punished by despotic regimes for nothing more than posting or reposting something on social media.

That’s all — a click.

They are hardly alone. The world’s political prisons are bulging. A string of popular uprisings over the past few years brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to the streets, protesting against authoritarianism in Hong Kong, Cuba, Belarus and Iran; against the military junta that toppled democracy in Myanmar; and against strict restrictions on speech and protest in Russia and China. Also, Arab Spring uprisings swept Egypt, Syria and elsewhere a decade ago, and protests broke out in Vietnam in 2018. Most of these protests were met with mass crackdowns and arrests. Thousands of participants — largely young and demonstrating for the first time — have been held in prison for demanding the right to speak and think freely and to choose their leaders. [Continue reading…]

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