The human costs of the uprising in Syria are unfathomable. At least 15,800 people, both civilians and soliders, have been killed since March of 2011 and thousands more injured. There have been frequent reports about torture and human rights abuses.
So it is all the more appalling to hear that Facebook has deleted a post about human rights abuses in Syria. On Friday, Article 19, which advocates for freedom of speech, found out that a status update with a link to a Human Rights Watch report about 27 alleged torture facilities in Syria had been removed from its Facebook page. The posting read
@hrw publishes a shocking report into #torture in #Syria including geo-tagged detention centreshttp://ow.ly/bZ6Yl ^OS
Facebook has apologized, but the deletion by an unnamed moderator is especially troubling, in view of the number of advocacy groups who rely on the social media site and of the high regard Facebook won for its part in spreading information and connecting activists in the Egyptian Revolution. As in other cases of deletions, Facebook did not explain why Article 11′s status update was removed and, in its apology, said that “the organization concerned should try posting the link again.”
But Dr Agnes Callamard, the executive director of Article 19, was understandably outraged. Facebook sent neither a warning about the deletion nor an explanation about why the status update was found to “[violate] Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.” Said Callamard in Agence France-Press via Raw Story:
“The deletion shows the looming threat of private censorship. We commend Facebook for creating tools to report abuse, but if your post was wrongly deleted for any reason, there is no way to appeal. Facebook don’t notify you before deleting a comment and they don’t tell you why after they have. Facebook act like judge, jury and executioner.”
“Facebook is now widely recognised as a quasi-public space and as such has responsibilities when it comes to respecting free speech. They can’t just delete content without some kind of transparent and accountable system. International law says that censorship is only acceptable when it is clearly prescribed, is for a legitimate aim – such as for public health – and is necessary in a democracy.”
Certainly it is ironic that a prime example of a regime that is not “transparent and accountable” is the Syrian regime, which has been under the family of President Bashar al-Assad for decades and is ruled by a single party, the Ba’ath Party.
But the regime has experienced what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said was a “harsh blow”: Manas Tlas, a Syrian general close to Assad’s inner circle, has defected to Turkey with his family. Tlas was a top leader in Syria’s elite Republican Guard, which is directly commanded by the inner circle of the presidential palace. His father, Mustafa, is a former defense minister of Syria and now resides in Paris. A Sunni Muslim, Tlas has been a close friend of Assad. According to the BBC, he has been under house arrest since May 2011 because he “opposed the security solution that the regime has been implementing.”
Friends of Syria Meets In Paris; UN Issues Report About Observer Mission
A Friends of Syria conference was held today in Paris. 107 countries demanded tougher sanctions against Syria and also urged the UN Security Council to adopt the six-point peace plan of special envoy Kofi Annan, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter which refers to economic, diplomatic, travel and communication measures.
Previous Friends of Syria meetings in Tunis and Istanbul had “called in vain for tougher action against Assad’s government,” says Al Jazeera. At Friday’s meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Russia and China — both of whom did not attend the meeting and who hold vetos on the UN Security Council — to “get off the sidelines.” She also said that “I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all, nothing at all, for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime,” remarks that Russia said were “inappropriate.”
In a 25-page-report to the UN Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a change in focus of the UN cease-fire monitoring mission. While saying that it should continue, the report said that, due to violence — including the observers being “targeted either by close fire or hostile crowds at least 10 times” — they should shift the focus from being military observers to a political solution and should be stationed in Damascus.
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Photo by FreedomHouse