activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: electronic frontier foundation

chamber of commerce withdraws lawsuit against the yes men over spoof press conference

In October 2009, The Yes Men held a spoof press conference in which Andy Bichlbaum impersonated a U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative. The Chamber responded by filing a lawsuit against The Yes Men, which the activists moved to dismiss on First Amendment grounds. Instead of opposing the motion, the Chamber recently abandoned the case. According to today’s post by Corynne McSherry at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defended The Yes Men,

In the lawsuit, the Chamber had claimed that a 2009 press conference—in which a Yes Man posing as a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson announced the Chamber was reversing its long held position and endorsing climate change legislation—infringed the Chamber’s trademark rights. Before the press conference was even completed, a Chamber of Commerce representative rushed into the room and announced that the Chamber’s position on climate change legislation had not in fact changed. The result: widespread media coverage of the event and the Chamber’s humorless response.

The lawsuit was the only time in 17 years that anyone has sued The Yes Men. Approximately one year after the Chamber of Commerce stunt, The Yes Men partnered with Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch to create a fake version of Chevron’s $80 million ad campaign with the tagline “We Agree.” The media picked up the fake version, which launched first, as real.

san francisco district attorney’s office agrees to withdraw twitter subpoenas

Last month, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office issued subpoenas to Twitter for tweets, photos, and other information related to the accounts of two activists, Lauren Smith and Robert Donohoe. The District Attorney’s office previously charged Smith and Donohoe with offenses stemming from a Columbus Day demonstration last year. After the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a brief in support of the activists’ motion to quash the subpoenas, the District Attorney’s office agreed to withdraw them.

Unfortunately, authorities are increasingly attempting to obtain account information from Twitter. In the case of Malcolm Harris, for example, prosecutors obtained damning tweets related to an Occupy march on the Brooklyn Bridge in October 2011. According to yesterday’s article by ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye,

In a disturbing trend that can have a chilling effect on free speech, law enforcement agencies around the country are seeking wide-ranging information about the social networking activity of political activists. … A district attorney’s decision to prosecute is not an invitation for the government to engage in intrusive fishing expeditions into a criminal defendant’s beliefs and interests, let alone the beliefs and interests of third parties… By issuing the subpoenas, the San Francisco DA sent an intimidating message to protesters everywhere.

ask the ethiopian government to free award-winning journalist eskinder nega

In 2005, Eskinder Nega was incarcerated alongside his wife, fellow journalist Serkalem Fasil. According to a New Yorker article from July of this year,

Both had been arrested and put in Kaliti prison by the Ethiopian authorities for critical reporting of a violent crackdown on protests following disputed parliamentary elections, in which, according to some reports, security forces killed nearly two hundred people. Eskinder and his wife, Serkalem Fasil, a newspaper publisher, were acquitted in 2007, but their publications were banned and the Ethiopian government denied them licenses to launch new newspapers.

As a result, Nega turned to publishing online. He was arrested again in September 2011 for posts questioning the arrests of journalists and dissidents. His posts allegedly violated the same vague antiterrorism law, passed in July 2009, that the subjects of his writing had violated. More than a hundred other Ethiopians were charged under this far-reaching legislation.

In June, Nega and 23 others were found guilty, though 16 of them were in exile. Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison. (Since 1993, he has founded 4 newspapers that have been shut down by the government and has been detained at least 7 times.) His appeal is scheduled for this Thursday, November 22.

Please ask the Ethiopian government to free Nega, one of the few outspoken journalists who was still active in Ethiopia. Earlier this year, the Ethiopian government released the editor of an independent newspaper and Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “we know that activist efforts – including international pressure – can be persuasive to the Ethiopian government.”