On the 9th of May, AISG’s Write for Rights committee hosted a writing session and lecture in Ra Salat Bar. During the first half hour, we wrote to the governments of Zimbabwe and China. Dr. Oskar Josef Gstrein then talked to us about the importance of privacy in a digital world, and how this privacy is currently being protected.

One of Amnesty’s central forms of campaigning is writing letters to states that commit human rights violations. This is why regular writing sessions are hosted. This time, we wrote for Rashid Mahiya, Joanna Mamombe, and Charlton Hwende from Zimbabwe. All three were arrested for ‘subverting a constitutional government’. This is not extraordinary in Zimbabwe, where crackdowns on civil society and non-governmental organisations critiquing the state are frequent. Mahiya, Mamombe, and Hwende could receive a prison sentence of over 20 years, which would land them in prisons where ill-treatment occurs regularly.

The second cause we wrote for was Chen Yan’s, who was detained for ‘using evil religious organizations to sabotage the implementation of state laws’. Both causes can be found on the amnesty website: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr46/0200/2019/en/ and https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa17/0216/2019/en/.

The frequent misuse of privacy laws in Zimbabwe connects our letters to Dr. Oskar Josef Gstrein’s lecture. He brought our attention to our right to privacy, which has been included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then he clarified that this law is too outdated to be implemented easily in a digital world, where we are ambushed by devices that could be used to spy on us. Gstrein told us a lot about the policies that for example the EU makes to protect us. He also challenged some of our own behaviour: how much should you put online? There was also the question of how much we can rely on corporations to care about our privacy. An example that stuck with us was the way Google Maps records the locations you’ve visited. You can remove them manually, but it takes ages. Should you take the time to get rid of them in the name of privacy, or is that Google’s job?

Written by the Press Committee

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