Updated: Jul 28, 2020


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(Discrimination; Censorship & Freedom of Expression;Rights; Israel & Palestinian Territories; Pandemic; Population; Healthcare; Law and EU Summit).



Arun Kumar (Associate Editor)

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Read Top 10 News on Sports, Business, Entertainment, Blogs and Opinions from leading columnists.


The 21st National Assembly of South Korea has taken up the Anti-Discriminatory Bill for discussion. This move came after the proposal was initiated by the Justice party along with other parties earlier on June 29, 2020, which barely fulfilled with the minimum threshold of 10 legislators to introduce a bill. It’s the 7th attempt for the nation to deal with this bill, since 2006. Previous efforts had been sidelined by different ruling parties including the current Moon’s Democratic Party.

The bill brings the life back, especially to the LGBT community who face a lot of discrimination from their society. Though the criminalization of consensual same-sex marriage had been outlawed by the public, it is still an offence in Military and it is mandatory for the men to serve there at least for 21 months. Another protest comes from the Conservative Christians who opposed the bill in every attempt. Ironically, this time even the National Council for Churches supports the anti-discrimination bill on the ground that the Bible proclaims ‘the Freedom and liberation for everyone’. But this doesn’t stop the Conservative Protestants who carried out a demonstration at National Human Rights Commission, Korea (NHRCK) and mischaracterized the bill as a form of reverse discrimination that the bill in name of protecting the rights of Sexual minorities, it denies them their own right to free speech.

Though the President expressed his supports to this bill and had conducted many a campaign in the past, he is still on the side, against homosexuality. The sexual minorities had faced severe social stigma and are even considered as mentally unwell and morally corrupt. This had fired up during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the public made a discriminatory and baseless link between the infection and the LGBT community. The Justice party leader endorses as, “It’s our desperate pledge to reflect on the poor democracy, which has ruled out the voice of socially weak and move towards the community of solidarity and cooperation, based on the dignity of all individuals”.

It is to be noted that the Korean government tries to comply with the international standards and its own constitution by passing this enactment. Among the OECD countries, only Japan and Korea don’t have a separate law to curb discrimination, while Taiwan achieved this recently in 2019. LGBT rights activists hope that this bill can enter uncharted territory and get made into law.


Women’s rights activist and freedom blogger, Emna Chargui had been sentenced imprisonment for 6 months by the 1st instance Court for the charge of “inciting hatred between religions through hostile means/violence’ and “offending authorised religion” under Articles 52 and 53 of Press Code. This all commenced on 5th May 2020 when Emna share a photo on Facebook, which had text imitating the format of Quranic verse that advised the people to wash their hands and follow social distancing and it also added that COVID-19 came from China.

The State said that she violated Article 6 of the Tunisian Constitution that enshrines “State is the guardian of religion; freedom of conscience and political neutrality of mosques and place of worship”. The religious people got erupted with this post and protested to punish her. She was summoned to attend before the court on May 6. Her lawyer condemned that during the administration of justice, the principle of natural justice and a fair trial had been set aside. No attorney was present during the trial when the defendant faced inquiries into her mental state and religious belief. Moreover, ‘she was summoned without filing a complaint’ says Nissaf Slama, research assistant, Africa and the Middle East Region at Human Rights Watch.

This is not the first time that freedom of speech had undergone a downfall by the government authorities. In 2012, two atheists named Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji were sentenced for a term of 7 and half years guilty of‘Moral injury, defamation and disturbance of public order’ for posting a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad in FB. Another one is connected with the broadcasting of a film, Marjane Satrapi, by Nabil kasoni in his TV channel and was held liable for "Attack on the sacred".

Reports from amnesty international expressed, "she must be given protection from the rape and death threats that she received even after withdrawal of such post" and they asked for a better investigation into such threats. Her lawyer said that she had no intention to offend any religious sentiments but to speak freely.


Companies that deal with storage and transfer of Big Data had made their way forward, taking advantage of this pandemic, to collect the health and medical data. Their limits of the collection extend from personalized fitness plans based on genes to dietary advice based on the bacteria present in the clients’ guts.

United Kingdom PM, Boris Johnson held a meeting with leading companies as well as start-ups to consult on how to respond to the pandemic. His government granted access over UK health data record to Amazon, Microsoft and Google and also to Data mining companies like Palantir. It directed the giants to build a COVID-19 data store by aggregating information from multiple sources.

The activists and experts fear that this would lead to a breach in right to privacy through Bio invasive Surveillance creeps that can be carried out by the companies illegally. Though health data is governed by strict data privacy in Europe and the US, it has long been a frustration for those who want to cash in on the sector. Usually, in the collection of data either the government will do it or tender it to a private player in building up their own vault of health data directly from the consumer.

The companies use the home diagnostic market, where they reach out to consumer and get consent from them to use their genetic data. They yield more than millions of dollars by selling the behavioral, health and genetic insights it had accumulated. Some opines that if health data enters into the market, it could be used in all ways that are never understood and predicted. Companies including pharma use AI models trained on genetic to target people who are prone to a specific health condition at a higher rate.


(Lebanon, 13th July 2020)

Fourteen Lebanese and International organizations have joined hands against the suppression of free speech and rising aristocracy in Lebanon. With increasing cases of conviction for allegedly defaming the President and the public authorities the organizations and Lebanese people decided to wage a peaceful war against the repudiation of Free Speech. The coalition commented on the Government questioning their actual contribution to the national progress and public welfare; they said, “Lebanon’s politicians have failed to provide for citizens’ most basic needs, and their corrupt practices have squandered away billions of dollars of public funds,” said the coalition.”

Despite promises by the authorities to engage the civil society in the drafting process, the parliament is refusing to share the recent draft of media law with the coalition. However, the coalition arranged to get an unofficial copy of the draft and was upset about the fact that the draft does not abolish prison sentences for alleged defamation.

The official news agency of Lebanon reported on June 15, 2020, that country’s top prosecutor ordered an investigation of social media posts that were defamatory and offensive to the president using the Criminal Defamation and insult law. Although this is not the first time Lebanese people and organizations have demanded free speech and decriminalization of defamation of public officials, it is important to track the measures taken by this new coalition.


(Tel Aviv, Israel, 12th July 2020)

The lawsuit instituted by approximately 30 members and supporters of Amnesty International Israel was rejected by the judge of Tel Aviv’s District Court. The decision came as a shock to Amnesty as the judge doubts the credibility of the case. All this began when the employee of Amnesty International was attacked with spyware technology, namely Pegasus, for invading the personal space and thereby keeping an eye on the target.

N.S.O. (Niv, Shalev & Omri) is Israel based software company that engages itself in surveillance for the government to tackle terrorism and ensure public safety. However, the company has been in discussion for a while after it was alleged to have intruded WhatsApp’s firewall with the same kind of spyware. Later on, the company was alleged to have fraudulently installed malware in devices of around 100 human rights activists through a shared hyperlink or some other means.

Though it is not a hidden fact that many tech giants have involved themselves in such activities of data piracy, yet very few of them are caught in such an act. Amnesty International has also raised questions against the credibility of the Ministry of Defence of Israel by asking reasons for the continuance of NSO’s export license. In this digital and AI-driven world, it becomes really important to create boundaries beyond which any company or organization shall not be allowed to proceed. Also, strict adherence to International Conventions, Treaties, Covenants and observance of Human Rights has to be mandated with the force of law by the respective countries.


(Delhi, India, 16th July 2020)

With the rising number of Covid-19 cases in India, the nation is still performing 3.2 lakh tests in a day which is far beyond the par. Testing, isolation and social distancing have proved to be effective measures or containing the spread of coronavirus, while the state has already made enough arrangements for Isolation and social distancing it has to gear up to attain its maximum capacity of daily testing. Furthermore, the results of tests take more than or equal to 48 hours to arrive making it difficult for the authorities. To raise the same issue, Rakesh Malhotra, citizen NCT of Delhi filed a writ petition in the public interest.

In the hearing, ICMR stated that it is speeding up the Covid-19 testing. Delhi HC bench also questioned the arrangements made by ICMR to ramp up the testing, in response to which ICMR said, “We have been approving private labs and hospitals to conduct the Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RADT) and RT-PCR (Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests”. Also, the National Centre for Disease Control informed the court that the results of sero surveillance sample testing will take another week, which will be helpful to ascertain the presence of anti-bodies.

The court has scheduled the next hearing to be held on 27th July 2020 and thereby has requested both ICMR and NCDC to take rapid measures to control the outspread of the virus within the NCT of Delhi.


(New Delhi, 16th July 2020)

At the current rate of growth, India by 2100 will be the most populous country across the globe according to the online study done by Lancet on Wednesday. Around 2047 India’s population is likely predicted to peak at about 1.61 billion and declined to 1.03 billion by the end of the century. However, this decline of the population is believed to begin only after 2046.

The researchers from the Institute for Health metrics and evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine have forecasted the decline in the working-age population in a number of countries including China, and India and this is due to the assumption of growth in accessibility of contraception and education among the women population.

TFR is a metric used to understand the number of children a woman must have to replenish the population of a country. TFR which is lower than 2.1 leads to the decline of the population. It is projected a continued steep fertility decline till 2040, reaching a TFR of 1.29 in 2100. The global TFR has predicted a sharp decline from 2.2 in 2017 to 1.66 by 2100.


(Tamil Nadu, India, 15th July 2020)

The government of Tamil Nadu has announced the launch of the trial to study the efficacy in working of the BGG vaccine in reducing the mortality rate of the elderly due to the COVID 19.

(BGG, Bacille Calmette-Guerin, is a vaccine that is used to improve immunity against diseases like tuberculosis).

As there are no appropriate drugs or vaccines for the treatment of COVID 2019. The state government sought permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on taking up a trial which has got approved by ICMR on Wednesday. The Health Minister, Vijayabaskar tweeted that the trial will be initiated soon by the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis(NIRT), Chennai.

This study mainly focuses on reducing the morbidity and mortality rate between the age group of 60-95 due to COVID 19 as it is well known that the elderly person with co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and cardiac diseases has a higher risk for COVID 19. It is said to be carried out in states such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Delhi.


(Delhi, India, 16th July 2020)

The supreme court on Tuesday has issued some directions to the cellular companies as well as internet services provider companies to maintain call data records seized during an investigation to be kept in a secured and segregated manner. The parties to the criminal cases at the time of presenting defence evidence can summon such records or in such a need during cross-examination

“The direction shall be applied, in criminal trials, till applicable and appropriate directions are issued under relevant terms of the applicable licenses or under section 67C of Indian Technology Act,” the bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman said in a 141-page judgment.

“General directions are issued to cellular companies and internet service providers to maintain the CDR’s and other relevant data and records for a concerned period in a secured and segregated manner for a limited period of one year,” the judgment said.


(New Delhi, India, 15th July 2020)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday pitched for bringing out an "action-oriented" agenda to further expand ties between India and the 27-nation European Union within a stipulated time frame. In his inaugural remarks at the 15th EU-India summit, the prime minister said he was committed to enhancing ties with the grouping, noting that a long-term strategic perspective should be adopted to boost the relationship.

"We should go for an action-oriented agenda to expand ties and it can be implemented within a stipulated time frame," Modi said at the virtual summit. Calling India and EU as "natural partners", the prime minister said the partnership is beneficial for peace and stability in the world.

"India and EU share universal values like democracy, pluralism, respect for international institutions, inclusivity, multilateralism, freedom and transparency," he said.

The prime minister said India-EU partnership can play an important role in economic reconstruction and in building a human-centric globalisation. The European Union delegation at the summit is headed by President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

The EU is a strategically important grouping for India. The EU as a whole was India's largest trading partner in 2018. India's bilateral trade with the EU in 2018-19 stood at USD 115.6 billion with exports valued at USD 57.17 billion and imports worth USD 58.42 billion.

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