Jailed Bloggers Around the World

Blogger in Prison

Omidreza Mirsayafi, just 29 years old, was taking sedative tablets to treat his depression. Depression can be understandable when you live in one of the world’s most famous prisons for political prisoners, located in the northwestern section of Tehran, Iran. After all, how great can a place be when it’s illegal simply to take a photograph around it?

But according to Mirysafi’s sister, Omidreza Mirsayafi didn’t have enough tablets to kill himself, which is exactly what Iranian authorities told his family that he had committed suicide. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t – the family isn’t sure he did – but his death might have been avoided by proper medical treatment. It was a death suitable for someone who had committed war crimes, who had perhaps raped, murdered, or tortured other human beings.

So what was Mirysafi’s crime?

Blogging.

I write in the United States, where the first amendment guarantees that I have the right to say whatever I want without the threat of Uncle Sam getting in the way. But what is a constitutional right here doesn’t always apply in some of the scarier parts of the world. In those places, bloggers can be shut down, shut off, and shut up through bullying and brute force in order to silence dissent. That’s why I consider it a great thing that I can confidently write the following sentence without fear of persecution:

Barack Obama sucks.

If I was an Iranian talking about an Iranian authority, I could be jailed. But Iran isn’t the only country around the world that jails bloggers. The reality is many bloggers really have been jailed because of something they’ve written on a blog, usually because those comments fly in the face of government authorities. In this article, we’re going to raise awareness about some of these bloggers – some of whom have already had a happy ending with a jail reason, another who faces 10 years in prison, and another who’s inspired a movement.

Kareem Amer

Who is he?

Also known as Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman Amer, the first jailed blogger around the world we’ll mention here is Kareem Amer, an Egyptian blogger who was sentenced in 2007 to four total years of prison while in his home city of Alexandria, Egypt.

Who jailed him and why?

Kareem initially drew attention from authorities in 2005 when he wrote a few blog articles regarding the Muslim role of anti-Christian riots in Alexandria, criticizing also the Muslim backlash that took place after a play was produced. Later that year, Kareem was arrested for the first time because of anti-religious posts on his blog and was held for 12 days.

Later on, in 2006, he was arrested for a second time because of more statements on his blog. During his interrogation, according to Amer’s lawyer, he was interrogated with violations against the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Because Amer would not relent in his views, Egyptian authorities ordered him further detained until a trial could be held.

During the trial, Kareem claimed

“I don’t see what I have done.”

How can I help?

The Website FreeKareem.org was set up to raise awareness about Amer’s imprisonment. Whether or not you agree with his views, many Americans find that they believe in the right to free speech. So if you’re interested, FreeKareem.org features sections where you can write him a letter or sign a petition.

If you want to be more proactive, you could also raise awareness by spreading news about Kareem Amer to your friends, perhaps by forwarding them a link to FreeKareem.org.

Will this ever change?

Presumably, Amer will simply be able to serve out his four-year sentence which would last to the year 2011, unless he is freed ahead of time. But the sad truth is that we can’t say for sure whether this will change. If Amer did not change his views for interrogators, why would he change his views after being imprisoned?

Diaa Eddin Gad

Who is he?

Another Egyptian blogger – this time one who has been released from prison – Diaa Eddin Gad was/is the proprietor of a blog known as “The Angry Voice,” which of course didn’t set him off on the right foot with the authorities. Only in his early twenties, Gad was a student in Egypt when he was arrested earlier this year.

Who jailed him and why?

Police authorities in Egypt arrested Gad on February 9th of this year, adding him to the list of jailed bloggers around the world. Gad’s blog was fervent in its denunciations of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Egyptian authorities.

The police who arrested Gad gave no reason for his arrest; one would image that a more just cause for arrest – a crime like theft – would have been cited immediately if the arrest wasn’t for his blogging. Gad was arrested the same day as another blogger, Phillip Rizk, who was also eventually released.

How can I help?

Fortunately, Gad has been released. For those of you who are still dedicated to the cause of free speech and free blogging, there is a Facebook group that was dedicated to his freedom; it currently has 535 members.

Suwicha Thakhor

Who is he?

Perhaps more of a commenter than a blogger, Suwicha Thakhor is from Thailand and had apparently posted insulting comments to Thailand’s monarchy. At 37 years old, Thakhor now is to spend 10 years in prison starting this year.

Who jailed him and why?

Much like in Egypt, authorities in Thailand are very sensitive to insults, particularly as they have an established monarchy in place.

How can I help?

Unless you yield considerable power over Thailand, there’s probably not much you can do about this one. A ten-year prison sentence is a long time, and Thakhor’s crime was supposedly against the monarchy of Thailand itself.

Dan Kenitz

Dan Kenitz is a former professional Search Engine Optimization specialist and current freelance writer, commentator, and all-around entrepreneur.

2 comments

  1. Abu

    Ironic that Iran just announced that journalist, Roxana Saberi will be freed from prison soon.

  2. Emory

    Karem Amer has been freed from prison after 4 years:
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/11/25/egypt.blogger/index.html

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