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Dictators can use social media too, warns Amnesty

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Dictators can use social media too, warns Amnesty


Giving its annual health check of human rights worldwide, Amnesty International has warned that the internet can be a double-edged sword.

Mobile phone and internet technology undoubtedly helped activists join forces to depose dictators in the Arab Spring. But, in its 2011 report, the campaigning organisation warns that harsh regimes are wising up on how to use social media for their own ends.

Human rights are close to the hearts of those at the sharp end.

“For ten months, I had no news from my family who knew nothing about what was happening to me,” said Syrian former prisoner Haytham Al Hamwi. “My first visit was after ten months of imprisonment. In the meantime, I was tried although I did not even know the charge.”

Now living in exile in Spain, like dozens of other Cuban dissidents, Pablo Pacheco has been reliving his experiences of getting on the wrong side of the authorities. “I was a journalist. I used to write about what was happening on the island. I let the world know the reality of how we Cubans were living,” Pacheco said. “That bothered the government and we were put in prison, me and 75 dissidents. In my case, it was because of journalism but others were human rights activists.”

Our correspondent in London, Ali Sheikholeslami, said: “‘Better to light a candle than curse the darkness’ – this was the principle on which Amnesty International began its work, 50 years ago. Today, at the launch of its annual report, the organisation highlighted violations of human rights from the United States to China to the Middle East and said there is still a lot more work that needs to be done.”

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