The Amnesty International Report 2011 has praised journalists for the vital role they played highlighting injustice ahead of the Arab Spring uprisings against repressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa.
The human rights organisation credited The Guardian in particular for exposing leaked confidential diplomatic cables from US embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world in conjunction with WikiLeaks.
Secretary general of Amnesty International Salil Shetty said: “It took old-fashioned newspaper reporters and political analysts to trawl through the raw data, analyse it, and identify evidence of crimes and violations contained in those documents.
“Leveraging this information, political activists used other new communications tools now easily available on mobile phones and on social networking sites to bring people to the streets to demand accountability.”
Of the 157 countries and territories that the report examined, restrictions on free speech were uncovered in at least 89 countries including Pakistan, Algeria, Sudan, Honduras and Rwanda.
The report also included accounts of instances where journalists disappeared or were murdered or were physically assaulted or harassed by government personnel.
The document warned corporations providing digital media and communications that they “need to respect human rights” by not becoming “pawns or accomplices of repressive governments who want to stifle expression and spy on their people”.
Shetty said: “The year 2010 may well be remembered as a watershed year when activists and journalists used new technology to speak truth to power and, in so doing, pushed for greater respect for human rights. It is also the year when repressive governments faced the real possibility that their days were numbered.”
The report was released today on the eve of the group’s 50th anniversary.