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Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The 2004 constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for the press, but the Taliban did not respect this right.  The Taliban made public statements indicating that press protections remain in place, but the group announced a series of edicts restricting the media’s operation in November 2021 in line with their interpretation of sharia.  These edicts severely limited freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media.  The Taliban used force against protesters and journalists and suppressed political discussion and dissent, which had a chilling effect on civil society.  In October an RSF survey showed that in the year since August 12, 2021, the country had lost approximately 40 percent of its media outlets and an estimated 60 percent of its journalists, especially women journalists, three quarters of whom became unemployed.

On March 27, the Taliban barred private TV stations from presenting Voice of America (VOA) and BBC programming, with Pashto, Persian, and Uzbek programming ordered off air.

On May 7, the Taliban decreed that Afghan women must cover themselves head to toe, an expansion of restrictions on female dress.  The Taliban “Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” suggested the burqa as the preferred garment and said failure to abide by hijab in public would result in the summoning of male family heads to the “ministry.”  Defiance would result in jail time for the male head of household.  The “ministry” also ordered all female presenters on TV channels to cover their faces on air according to TOLOnews.

On June 12, a local print media outlet published an editorial expressing the need for critical journalism to prevent the Taliban from radicalizing the country and to expose pro-Taliban media outlets that manipulated the truth in exchange for Taliban favors.  The editorial stressed that critical journalism must be factual and uncensored and should resist collusion and corruption.  The editorial was published on the same day RSF released a report describing the rise in journalist detentions, with at least 12 journalists arrested in May.  The report claimed that despite the Taliban-controlled “Ministry of Information and Culture” reestablishing the pre-August 2021 government’s Media Offenses Verification Commission and the Commission for the Right of Access to Information, the commissions had failed to prevent arbitrary detention of journalists in the country.

On September 26, local media persons told Hasht-e Subh Daily newspaper that the Taliban had imposed new restrictions on the presenters of television programs.  According to the persons, the Taliban told managers of media outlets that male and female presenters would not be able to present joint programs, effective immediately.  The Taliban reportedly said that only Taliban-approved panelists would be able to appear on television shows discussing politics, and that women’s interviews would be broadcast with their faces covered.  Media contacts in the country said that television presenters and media officials were told of these new restrictions verbally by a representative from the Taliban’s “Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.”  The “ministry” announced additional restrictions that bar men and women from watching television together, prohibit women television presenters from interviewing men, mandate that women wear black inside television studios, and require gender-segregated seating in media offices.

In October international journalists reported that the Taliban had increasingly impeded journalists’ ability to work in the country by controlling entry into the country.  Journalists were being denied visa renewals when they were in country; denied visas to enter if they apply outside of the country; and if they were able to receive permission to enter, they were limited to 30-day stays, when previously it was at least 90 days.

Freedom of Expression:  Following the Taliban’s announcement of strict edicts on media operations, public criticism of the Taliban – whether by individuals or groups – was largely muted.  Public speech was subject to extensive surveillance by Taliban members, both online and offline.  Taliban members often confiscated mobile phones and electronics to search for criticism of the group, third-country affiliations, or perceived violations of their edicts.  There were reports of the Taliban also holding male family members responsible for the actions of their female relatives, including for criticism of the group.

Violence and Harassment:  There were numerous reports that journalists were subjected to violence, harassment, and intimidation by the Taliban.  RSF registered 50 cases of Taliban violence against journalists from August 2021 to July.  Reporting from RSF indicated the so-called GDI was primarily responsible for detaining journalists, often violently.

According to RSF, a senior Taliban member told several media outlets in February to stop covering certain subjects “if you don’t want me to rip your tongue out.”  On June 13, the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association reported that the association’s provincial representative went missing from the Hessa Awal area of Kapisa the previous day.

On June 15, Taliban members beat Ikram Esmati, a former reporter of Kabul News TV, for disobeying their edicts by trimming his beard and wearing a suit.  According to social media and local news reports, the Kabul chief of police committed to investigating the case but had not done so as of December.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Prior to the Taliban’s takeover, independent media outlets were active and expressed a wide variety of views.  The Taliban’s so-called Supreme Leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada issued a decree on July 22 warning that “defaming and criticizing government officials without proof” and “spreading false news and rumors” are forbidden under Islam and that those who “slander” government employees are unwittingly collaborating with the enemy and will be “punished.”

Taliban censorship and threats of detention and violence against journalists drove several media organizations to close and journalists to flee.  Since August 2021, the Taliban had detained at least 80 journalists for varying lengths of time.  According to RSF, Khalid Qaderi, a poet and journalist with Herat-based Radio Noroz, Mirza Hassani, owner of Radio Aftab in Daikundi Province, and Abdul Hanan Mohammadi, a Kapisa-based reporter for Pajhwok News remained in detention as of November.

On October 3, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology said it shut down the websites of Hasht-e Subh Daily and Zawia News due to the outlets publishing alleged “false propaganda” against the Taliban, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.  In August the Taliban admitted it blocked 23 million “immoral” websites, which it said broadcast un-Islamic content.  In the previous 12 months, four new media outlets were created by Taliban while more than 200 had closed, according to RSF.  Overall, the country had lost nearly half of its media outlets since August 2021.  In addition, more than 7,000 journalists became unemployed, most of them women.

In September 2021, the Taliban issued a set of 11 media directives including a requirement that media outlets prepare detailed reports in coordination with a new so-called governmental regulatory body and prohibited media from publishing reports that were “contrary to Islam,” “insult national figures,” or “distort news content.”  The directives also included prohibitions on “matters that could have a negative impact on the public’s attitude or affect morale [and] should be handled carefully when being broadcast or published.”  The Taliban’s enforcement of these restrictions resulted in widespread self-censorship among the domestic media due to of Taliban retribution.

On March 18, Al Jazeera reported that TOLO TV staff were arrested after the channel broadcasted a report on the Taliban’s ban of foreign TV drama series.

Internet Freedom

The Taliban selectively restricted access to the internet and blocked websites.  There was no expectation of privacy of communications from Taliban monitoring.  Media outlets and activists routinely used social media to discuss political developments, and social media was widely used in urban areas.  The Taliban used the internet and social media to spread their own messages.  The Taliban instituted internet blackouts – or severe slowdowns – in locations of active dissent and following periods of political discord in the population.  The group also shut down two news websites in October.

During intermittent fighting in Panjshir, the Taliban shut down the internet in the province to restrict the transmission of information regarding fighting and communication between residents and the outside world.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The Taliban announced in 2021 it would review subjects to be taught to ensure compliance with the Taliban’s interpretation of sharia, while also committing to not change the curriculum to a madrassah-style religious education.  In December a local media outlet published the Taliban’s proposal to significantly modify the education curriculum, which recommended removing several textbooks and subjects.  The main specific proposals included removing images of all living beings, propagating Jihad (a struggle against the purported enemies of Islam), opposition to women’s education and freedom, and propagating the Taliban’s narrative of history that focuses on the Islamic world and largely ignores the non-Islamic world.

Public universities reopened in February to both men and women, six months after the Taliban takeover.  The Taliban required universities to enforce gender segregation, including staggered operating hours and separate classes for men and women, requiring women to wear hijabs, forbidding women to give presentations or speak to male teachers, and prohibiting women from learning certain subjects.  The Taliban allowed men and women to continue attending private universities together until late December, when an edict prohibiting female attendance at both public and private universities was issued.  In June the Taliban forbade the teaching of Jafari (Shia) jurisprudence at the University of Bamyan, according to media reports, instead requiring that Hanafi jurisprudence be taught.

The Taliban restricted freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The 2004 constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The Taliban generally respected these rights for men with sufficient identity documentation, including passports, but they prevented certain political figures associated with previous administrations from travelling abroad. Women were prohibited from freely moving around the country or internationally without a mahram.

In-country Movement: After the Taliban takeover in August 2021, intercity travel was generally unobstructed. In December 2021, the Taliban announced that women could not travel more than 50 miles without a mahram, an edict that was enforced by threatening the detention or punishment of male relatives. Within populated areas, women could move relatively more freely, although there were increasingly frequent reports of Taliban police questioning women without a mahram. In May the Taliban announced requirements for women to wear a burqa in public and recommended women ultimately not leave their homes at all, severely restricting the ability of most women to access essential services, employment, education, and health care.

Foreign Travel: The Taliban stated they did not want citizens to leave the country but that those with foreign travel authorization and required documentation would be allowed to depart; Taliban leaders stated the right to travel is guaranteed by Islam. Enforcement of these regulations was inconsistent. Citizens with valid passports and visas for third countries were generally permitted to depart the country. Reports indicated that applications for passports surged during the year, which, combined with a confirmed overall shortage of passports, led to approximately a six-month backlog before passport issuances stopped altogether.

Anecdotal reports suggested passports were not always issued impartially but rather reserved for individuals whom the Taliban deemed “unproblematic” or who could pay substantially higher prices for their passports. Some individuals associated with the pre-August 2021 government reported being detained and beaten following their visit to passport offices.

Reports also suggested the inconsistent application of Taliban instructions to airlines that women departing on flights do so only with a mahram.

The Taliban cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and returning refugees, as well as to other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The Taliban had not created a legal and programmatic framework for granting of asylum or refugee status.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The IOM estimated that all returning migrants required humanitarian assistance. Between January and September, the IOM recorded a total of 866,889 undocumented Afghans returning or being deported from Iran and Pakistan. From August 2021 to August, the IOM provided direct assistance to more than 64,000 returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) across 11 provinces. Between January and September, UNHCR reported that the number of registered Afghan refugees returning to the country had increased to more than 3,500, surpassing the approximately 1,300 returns from 2021. Returnees stated that the main reasons for return movements from Iran and Pakistan were the cost of living and lack of employment opportunities in host countries, reunification with family, and an improved security situation.

The IOM and UNHCR estimated there were more than five million IDPs in the country displaced by both conflict and natural disasters, including both newly displaced individuals and those that had experienced protracted displacement. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated a total of 30,205 persons were displaced between January and September 25. In June UNHCR estimated that 158,000 displaced persons returned to the country after fighting subsided following the August 2021 Taliban takeover.

Limited humanitarian access due to the poor security situation caused delays in identifying, assessing, and providing timely assistance to IDPs, who continued to lack access to basic protection, including personal security and shelter. Many IDPs, especially in households with a female head, faced difficulty obtaining basic services because they did not have identity documents. Many IDPs in urban areas reportedly faced discrimination, lacked adequate sanitation and other basic services, and lived at constant risk of eviction from illegally occupied displacement sites, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Women in IDP sites reported high levels of domestic violence. Limited opportunities to earn a livelihood following the initial displacement often led to secondary displacement, making tracking of vulnerable persons difficult. Even IDPs who had access to local social services sometimes had less access than their non-IDP neighbors, due to distance from the services or other factors.

Protection concerns were increasingly reported to humanitarian agencies, with growing protection needs for persons with disabilities, the elderly, female-headed households, and sexual and gender minorities. The economic and liquidity crisis since the Taliban takeover, lower agricultural yield due to drought conditions, unreliable electricity supply, and deteriorating infrastructure combined to worsen the humanitarian crisis.

NGOs noted the lack of official birth registration for refugee children in the country as a significant problem and protection concern, due to the risk of statelessness and potential long-term disadvantage.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government usually respected these rights, although defamation is a criminal offense.  Observers asserted that the government, political parties, businesses, and criminal groups sought to influence media in inappropriate, nontransparent ways.

There is free media, with proliferation of media outlets, especially online, representing a broad spectrum of views with no accountability, often without attribution.  There is little independent media, however, as most media outlets are owned by prominent businesspersons with sprawling interests who use their media outlets to advance their interests including by gaining favor and promoting their interests with political parties.  There were credible reports of senior media representatives using media outlets to blackmail businesses by threatening unfavorable media coverage.  Political pressure, corruption, and lack of funding constrained independent print media, and journalists reportedly practiced self-censorship.  The International Election Observation Mission report following April 2021 national parliamentary elections assessed journalists remained vulnerable to pressure and corruption (see section 3.)

Economic insecurity due to a lack of enforceable labor contracts reduced reporters’ independence and contributed to bias in reporting.  The Albanian Journalists Union (AJU) continued to report delays in salary payments to reporters at many media outlets, in some cases up to six weeks.  Financial problems led some journalists to rely more heavily on outside sources of income, leading to questions regarding the independence and integrity of their reporting.  Data leaks of information about salaries in December 2021 and January suggested that several prominent journalists and media outlets received direct payments from companies contracted to build incinerators.  The incinerator companies were under investigation for alleged corruption and fraud.

The dramatic growth in online media outlets provided a diversity of views as well as the potential for corruption.  NGOs maintained that professional ethics were a low priority for some of the estimated 900-plus news portals in the country, raising concerns over the spread of false news stories that allegedly benefited specific financial, political, and criminal interests.  The AJU also reported a sharp increase in the number of complaints of disinformation and personal attacks by online outlets.  During the year there were accusations of media allegedly being used by owners or senior media officials for extortion.

Freedom of Expression:  Citizens were free to criticize the government openly, including in traditional and social media, on issues of concern to them and did so.  Nevertheless, concern persisted that open criticism of the government might have adverse consequences.

In September, leaked documents appeared in the media following a cyberattack on police systems.  On September 9, the prosecution office, which was investigating, issued an order prohibiting the publication of any of the leaked documents, citing national security and investigative secrecy concerns.  In a September 20 statement the AJU criticized the order for threatening freedom of information and freedom of speech and creating premises for censorship and self-censorship.

Violence and Harassment:  Political and business interests reportedly subjected journalists to pressure.  The AJU reported several cases of violence and intimidation against members of the media.  In January Tirana municipal police forcefully removed cameraman Ledio Guni while he attempted to film demolitions of houses in a suburb of Tirana.  Ledio Guni filed a complaint against municipal police alleging bodily harm, which was referred to the prosecution office for further investigation.  In November journalist Adriatik Doçi was attacked by unknown assailants.  The AJU condemned the attack and called for those responsible to be apprehended.  Police reported an arrest of a suspect in the case.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Journalists often practiced self-censorship to avoid violence and harassment or to ensure employment.  The AHC National Barometer of Freedom of the Media for 2021 reported 45.5 percent of journalists acknowledged they were asked not to publish a news story, and 45 percent admitted to self-censoring.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The Albanian criminal code contains libel and slander laws as well as laws against insult to private parties or court officials.  Albania does not have specific legislation, or any articles addressing blasphemy.  The law permits private parties to file criminal charges and obtain financial compensation for insult or deliberate publication of defamatory information.  NGOs reported that the fines were excessive and, combined with the entry of a criminal conviction into the defendant’s record, undermined freedom of expression.  The AJU expressed concern that as of September, there were six lawsuits against journalists, mainly for defamation.

In June former prosecutor Elizabeta Imeraj filed a criminal lawsuit against journalist Isa Myzyraj for defamation.  Myzyraj reported he had received multiple threats, which he claimed were Imeraj’s reaction to his social media comments during a vetting process that resulted in her removal from office on April 27 after allegations about her wealth and integrity.  Myzyraj also claimed censorship and self-censorship occurred by other media outlets during the vetting process of Imeraj.  At year’s end the case remained pending at the District Court of Elbasan.

The government withdrew an anti-defamation legislative package that had provisionally passed in 2019, following criticism by journalists, media organizations, and the Venice Commission.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly: The Albanian Constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The government generally observed these rights. Nevertheless, in March during protests against price increases, police arrested 50 demonstrators and charged 150 others with protesting illegally. Media footage showed uniformed and nonuniformed individuals pushing protesters inside police vans. Media reported 34 protesters were later released by the courts after determining the arrests were illegal. The ombudsman and civil society organizations publicly raised concerns about the detention of peaceful protesters.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

In-country Movement: To receive government services, citizens changing place of residence within the country must transfer their civil registration to their new community and prove the legality of their new domicile through property ownership, a property rental agreement, or utility bills. Many individuals could not provide documentation and thus lacked access to public services. Other citizens, particularly Roma and Balkan-Egyptians, lacked formal registration in the communities where they resided. The law does not prohibit their registration, but the process was often difficult to complete. Many Roma and Balkan-Egyptians lacked the financial means or necessary information to register.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

In 2021 the government, began accepting Afghan evacuees seeking protection following the change of the Afghanistan government. Temporary protection status continued for Afghans relocated to the country. Since August 2021, the government has granted over 2,800 Afghans temporary protection status.

The government granted blanket temporary protection status for at-risk Ukrainians who entered the country. UNHCR reported 2,780 Ukrainians entered the country, although none requested asylum.

NGOs Terre des Hommes and Nisma ARSIS asserted the country was increasingly becoming a transitory route for unaccompanied and separated children fleeing emergencies and needing humanitarian assistance. Nisma ARSIS supported 69 unaccompanied foreign children identified at the Albanian-Greece border. NGOs reported the government lacked experience and resources to provide adequate support to unaccompanied minors arriving in the country to include custody, safe sheltering and appropriate care services for assessment, treatment, and family reunification.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

In April the Albanian Helsinki Committee sent an open letter to the Ministry of Interior about the November 10, 2021, removal of the AHC from the membership of the National Commission for Asylum and Refugees and the government’s failure to inform the committee. The AHC stated their removal represented a regression in terms of standards of transparency, responsibility, and accountability. The AHC noted civil society should be represented in the composition of the National Commission for Asylum and Refugees which, following their removal, only had government representatives. The commission, an appeal body for asylum cases, was solely under the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior following the change.

Police allowed UNHCR, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the NGO Caritas to conduct independent monitoring. Monitors reported prescreening procedures were often curtailed, raising concerns about access to asylum and identification of potential victims of trafficking. The ombudsman and Caritas were also allowed to monitor the detention of migrants.

UNHCR reported some cases of border police returning migrants to Greece despite the migrants’ indicating an intention to seek asylum. UNHCR and partners noted that the pre-screening procedure was inadequate and raised concerns about access to asylum as well as the identification of persons with specific needs, including potential victims of trafficking. Per UNHCR, returns to Greece were done without due guarantees as foreseen in the EU-Albania Readmission Agreement for Albanian or Greek citizens. Third-country nationals arriving from Greece did not have an agreement to protect them while being sent back to Greece.

Migrants who claimed asylum were housed at the Babrru National Reception Center for Asylum Seekers. Many of the migrants placed in Babrru were later apprehended multiple times attempting to cross into Montenegro or Kosovo if they did not remain in the country to pursue asylum requests. Due to increased government and UNHCR funding in 2021, the reception conditions in the Babrru Reception Center generally improved.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: NGOs reported concerns regarding unaccompanied foreign and separated children who faced increased risk of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation due to the lack of a strong protection system.

Access to Basic Services: The law provides refugees access to public services, including education, health care, housing, law enforcement, courts and judicial procedures, and legal assistance. UNHCR reported access to social care and services remained a challenge, despite legal obligations to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment for asylum seekers and refugees. This was mostly due to conflicting laws and bylaws. UNHCR noted there was limited knowledge regarding entitlements of refugees to public relief and social protection, which led to denial of services. The May government decision to offer most public services online increased the challenges of accessing services for refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom did not have the proper electronic ID enabling registration and access to the local platform.

Not applicable.

The government reported it did not have data regarding the total number of stateless persons or persons at risk of statelessness in the country.

According to UNHCR there were 710 persons at risk of statelessness between January 2021 and July. Of these, 460 were in the process of registering with the National Register of Civil Status via the court system. The law establishes a statelessness determination procedure, and grants free legal assistance to vulnerable individuals, including stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness. UNHCR and its partners provided technical support to the government with the implementation of the law.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government on some occasions restricted these rights.  Independent media outlets regularly criticized and satirized government officials and policies.  The government harassed critics, arbitrarily enforced vaguely worded laws, and informally pressured publishers, editors, advertisers, and journalists.  Some media figures alleged the government used its control over most printing houses and significant funding of public-sector advertising preferentially, and that the lack of clear regulations over these practices permitted the government to exert undue influence on press outlets.

Freedom of Expression:  Although public debate and criticism of the government were widespread, journalists and activists were limited in their ability to criticize the government on topics crossing unwritten “red lines.”  The law criminalizes spreading “false news” that “harms national unity” and does not distinguish among news reports, social media, and other media.  Penalties include prison terms of two to five years as well as fines.  The law also criminalizes “hate speech.”  A law remains in place criminalizing speech relating to security force conduct during the internal conflict of the 1990s, although the government stated there had been no arrests or prosecutions under the law during the year.  Government officials also monitored political party meetings.

Local press outlets reported on December 23 that authorities had arrested Ishane El Kadi, the director of independent online media outlets Radio M and Maghreb Emergent, during a nighttime raid on his home.  The following day, authorities brought El Kadi in handcuffs to the shared office of Radio M, Maghreb Emergent, and their parent company Interface Media, where they confiscated computers and documents before sealing the premises.  As of the end of the year, El Kadi remained in custody without any formal charges having been announced.  Human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrest and closures, and called for El Kadi’s release.  Authorities previously charged El Kadi with terrorism in November and dropped the charges a week later (see section 2.a., National Security).

On November 9, a court sentenced university professor Hakima Sbaihi to six months in prison on charges of “contempt of the president and contempt of law enforcement forces” after Sbaihi posted a Facebook message critical of the government.  She remains free pending an appeal of her conviction.  In a separate case on November 8, a prosecutor requested a one-year prison sentence for university professor Lounici Latifa on charges of “publishing false information that could harm public order and the national interest,” “inciting an unarmed gathering,” and “contempt of the president and law enforcement forces,” also for a Facebook post critical of the government.

The National Agency for Publishing and Advertising (ANEP) controlled public advertising for print media, and most daily newspapers depended on ANEP-authorized advertising to finance their operations.  Press outlets reported taking extra caution before publishing articles critical of the government or government officials due to fear of losing revenue from ANEP.  According to the NGO Reporters without Borders, private advertising existed but frequently came from businesses with close links to the ruling political party.  ANEP stated its support for a pluralistic press and freedom of information and noted that it funded opposition newspapers.

Some major news outlets faced direct and indirect retaliation from the Audiovisual Regulatory Authority (ARAV) for criticism of the government.  The accreditation for France 24, cancelled by Communication Minister Ammar Belhimer in June 2021 for what the minister called the media outlet’s “clear and repeated hostility towards our country and its institutions,” remained cancelled as of year’s end.  Since the withdrawal of France 24’s accreditation, several foreign news outlets reported that journalists – both foreign and local – faced bureaucratic hurdles and needed to navigate murky procedural processes to operate.

The law mandates that online news outlets must inform the government of their activities but does not require them to request authorization to operate.

Violence and Harassment:  Authorities subjected some journalists to harassment and intimidation.  Journalists reported that selective prosecutions served as a mechanism for intimidation.  According to Reporters without Borders, the government intimidated activists and journalists.  The government’s actions included harassment of some critics, arbitrary enforcement of vaguely worded laws, and informal pressure on publishers, editors, advertisers, and journalists.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Organizations wishing to initiate regular publications must obtain authorization from the government.  The law requires the director of the publication to be a citizen.  The law additionally prohibits local periodicals from receiving direct or indirect material support from foreign sources.  The ministry’s Media Directorate is responsible for issuing and renewing accreditations to foreign media outlets operating in the country.  Although this accreditation is required to operate legally, the ministry did not accredit most foreign media.  Regulations require the shareholders and managers of any radio or television channel to be citizens and prohibit them from broadcasting content that offends “values anchored in Algerian society.”

On September 8, authorities in Algiers arrested Belkacem Haouam, a reporter for the local independent daily newspaper Echorouk, after he responded to a summons for questioning.  Haouam’s summons concerned an article published on September 7 about the Ministry of Commerce’s decision to suspend date exports due to their high levels of pesticides.  The ministries of commerce and agriculture denounced the article as “based on unjustified information, devoid of any substance, and harmful to the national economy and its resources.”  On the day of Haouam’s arrest, Echourouk withdrew the article from its website, and the paper no longer appeared in daily news kiosks.  Following the arrest, ARAV warned media against spreading false information likely to harm the national economy.  On October 25, a court convicted Haouam of publishing false information, and he received a one-year suspended sentence with two-months of incarceration.  On November 8, he was released from prison.

On October 11, police arrested Nadir Kerri, editor of the online publication AutoJazair, for his article on President Tebboune’s new vehicle import policy.  Kerri’s article included a largely positive summary of President Tebboune’s October 9 decision to resume new vehicle imports, although it also contained speculation on the impact the policy may have on domestic auto prices.  On October 12, authorities provisionally released Kerri and placed him under “judicial control,” meaning the threat of charges remains.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law provides for up to three years’ imprisonment for publications that “may harm the national interest” or up to one year for defaming or insulting the president, parliament, army, or state institutions.  Government officials monitored political meetings.  Authorities arrested and detained citizens for expressing views deemed damaging to state officials and institutions, including the use of the Amazigh flag during protests, and citizens practiced self-censorship in expressing public criticism.

NGOs and observers criticized the law on defamation as vaguely drafted and stated the definitions in the law failed to comport with internationally recognized norms.  The law defines defamation as “any allegation or imputation of a fact offending the honor or consideration of a person, or of the body to which the fact is imputed.”  The law does not require that the fact alleged or imputed be false or that the statement be made with malicious intent to damage another individual’s reputation.  The Ministry of Justice did not provide information on the percentage of defamation claims that originated from private citizens, as opposed to government officials.  Defamation laws specify that former members of the military who make statements deemed to have damaged the image of the military or to have “harmed the honor and respect due to state institutions” may face prosecution.

On November 16, a court sentenced the president of the Justice and Proclamation party and former MP Naima Salhi to six months in prison and 150,000 dinar ($1,000) in damages paid to a former Ministry of Interior employee.  The employee had sued Salhi in 2020 for defamation, claiming Salhi had used a pejorative that implied disloyalty to the country based on the employee’s Kabylie heritage.  The public prosecutor added charges of “undermining national unity.”  As of November, Salhi remained free while her appeal of the decision is pending.

The law criminalizes statements denigrating Islam or insulting the Prophet Muhammed or “messengers of God.”

Local media reported that on June 3 the Anti-Cybercrime Brigade of the Judicial Police of Constantine arrested a man for a Facebook post displaying cartoons and pictures deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohamed and other prophets of Islam.  There was no information available on the status of this case at the end of the year.

National Security

Authorities cited broad provisions under the penal code, including membership in a terrorist organization, to arrest or punish critics including journalists and human rights defenders.  In February the Middle East Institute reported that 59 detainees were being held under expanded terrorism-related charges under the penal code that the NGO reported were being imposed on “peaceful political activists.”

On November 30 a court sentenced Hassan Bouras, a well-known human rights’ activist with the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), to two years in prison, with a one year suspended sentence and he was released with time served.  Bouras had been detained since his September 2021 arrest for membership in a terrorist group, spreading false information, and offending public bodies, among other charges related to posts he made on social media.  Bouras had been previously imprisoned for his criticism of the government, according to Human Rights Watch.

On November 10, journalist Ihsane El Kadi, director of the popular news outlets Maghreb Emergent and Radio M, was charged with “financing terrorism” after Radio M awarded a cash prize to Human Rights Defender Zaki Hannache for achievements in investigative journalism.  Authorities also charged Hannache in the same case for “apology for terrorist acts,” “undermining unity,” and “dissemination and publication of false information aimed at undermining the national interest,” related to Hannache’s human rights activism.  Authorities dropped terrorism charges against El Kadi and Hannache on November 17, after 45 local, Moroccan, and Tunisian human rights organizations criticized the government’s actions in the case.  On June 7, El Kadi had been sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 50,000 dinars ($360) for unrelated charges stemming from the publication of an article advocating the inclusion of the Islamic movement Rachad in the hirak protests.  In addition, the journalist was ordered to pay the judicial agent of the public treasury 100,000 dinars ($720) and the Ministry of Communication 300,000 dinars ($2,160).

Internet Freedom

While internet users regularly exercised their right to free expression and association online, including through online forums, social media, and email, activists reported that some postings on social media could result in arrest and questioning.  Observers widely understood that the intelligence services closely monitored the activities of political and human rights activists on social media sites, including Facebook.

The law on cybercrime establishes procedures for using electronic data in prosecutions and outlines the responsibilities of internet service providers (ISPs) to cooperate with authorities.  Under the law the government may conduct electronic surveillance to prevent terrorist or subversive acts and infractions against state security, pursuant to written authorization from a competent judicial authority.

By law ISPs face criminal penalties for the material and websites they host, especially if subject matters are “incompatible with morality or public opinion.”  The Ministries of Justice, Interior, and Post, Information Technology, and Communication have oversight responsibilities.  The law provides sentences of six months to five years in prison and fines for users who do not comply with the law, including the obligation to cooperate with law enforcement authorities against cybercrime.

For a sixth year, the government blocked access to social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, for several days during nationwide high school examinations.  The decision was in response to previous leaks of examination materials, which were posted on social media.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Academic seminars generally occurred with limited governmental interference.  The Ministry of Culture reviewed the content of films before they could be shown, as well as books before importation.  The Ministry of Religious Affairs did the same for all religious publications.  The law gives authorities broad power to ban books that run counter to the constitution, “the Muslim religion and other religions, national sovereignty and unity, the national identity and cultural values of society, national security and defense concerns, public order concerns, and the dignity of the human being and individual and collective rights.”  It further prohibits books that “make apology for colonialism, terrorism, crime, and racism.”

Importers must submit to the ministry the title, author’s name, editor’s name, edition, year, International Standard Book Number, and number of copies to be imported.  Importers of books covering the “national movement and the Algerian Revolution” must submit the entire text of the books for review, including a secondary review by the Ministry of the Moudjahidine (veterans of the revolution).  The Ministry of Culture can also require a full content review of books on other topics if it chooses.  The ministry has 30 days to review the importation application; in the absence of a response after 30 days, the importer may proceed with distribution of the publication.  After the review, the ministry notifies the customs service of the decision to allow or ban the importation of the publication.  Appeals may be made to the ministry, with no independent or judicial review provided for in the decree.

The law covering religious texts other than the Quran stated, “The content of religious books for import, regardless of format, must not undermine the religious unity of society, the national religious and public order, good morals, fundamental rights and liberties, or the law.”  The importer must submit the text and other information, and the ministry must respond within 30 days.  A nonresponse after this period is considered a rejection.  Religious texts distributed without authorization may be seized and destroyed.

Sufi Muslim academic Said Djabelkheir’s appeal remained pending before the Supreme Court at the end of the year.  In April 2021, authorities sentenced Djabelkheir to three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 dinars ($375) for “offense to the precepts of Islam,” based on his personal Facebook account publications regarding Islamic rituals and theology.  Djabelkheir said authorities did not inform him or his lawyers ahead of the court proceedings.  Djabelkheir appealed the conviction and was free on bail pending the appeal.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the government severely restricted the exercise of these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government restricted the exercise of these rights.

In-country Movement: The constitution provides citizens “the right to freely choose their place of residence and to move throughout the national territory.” Citing the threat of terrorism, the government prevented overland tourist travel between the southern cities of Tamanrasset, Djanet, and Illizi.

Foreign Travel: The constitution states that citizens have the right to enter and exit the country. The law does not permit those younger than 18 to travel abroad without a guardian’s permission. Married women younger than 18 may not travel abroad without permission from their husbands, but married women older than 18 may do so. The government did not permit young men eligible for the draft who had not completed their military service to leave the country without special authorization. The government granted such authorization to students and persons with special family circumstances.

Human rights groups have raised concerns over the government’s use of extrajudicial travel bans to target journalists, activists, and critics. In August authorities prevented journalist and human rights activist Jamila Loukil and Kaddour Chouicha, vice president of the office of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) and prominent union activist, from traveling to Geneva to attend the Universal Periodic Review presession dedicated to civil society. Chouicha and Loukil were stopped by police at Oran airport and interrogated for two hours about the reason for their travel, their destination, and their links with UN human rights mechanisms. It was only after the plane departed that Chouicha and Loukil were able to leave the police station. Authorities stated the travel restrictions were related to terrorism charges; however, NGOs report the individuals were unaware that they were banned from international travel.

On October 24, border agents prevented journalist and editor-in-chief of the regional daily Le Provincial, Mustapha Bendjama, from traveling to Tunisia, citing “orders from the top.” Border agents prevented Bendjama’s travel without a formal travel ban by the Ministry of Justice, the sole entity with the authority under law to issue such bans.

The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern including on Sahrawi refugee cases.

The government protected a significant number of refugees in five refugee camps near Tindouf. Many Sahrawi refugees rely on humanitarian assistance, and UNHCR reported many refugees, especially women, had not recovered jobs and other sources of income lost due to COVID-19. UNHCR, the World Food Program (WFP), UNICEF, the Algerian Red Crescent, the Sahrawi Red Crescent, and other organizations assisted Sahrawi refugees. The government had previously intervened to provide temporary support to prevent abrupt food shortages in the camps; however, Sahrawi refugee response relies on international donors’ support.

UNHCR continued registering asylum seekers, determining refugee status, issuing documentation, and advocating for the adoption of legislation to protect persons in need of international protection. Despite ongoing border closures, UNHCR stated that asylum applications rose during the year, with 2,662 recorded as of August. UNHCR registered 1,900 of these applications. UNHCR monitored and advocated for the release of refugees from migrant detention facilities.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for asylum or refugee status, but the government has not established a formal system through which refugees can request asylum. There were no reports the government granted refugee status and asylum to new refugee applicants during the year. According to UNHCR, the government did not accept UNHCR-determined refugee status for individuals. UNHCR reported most of its registered refugees came from Syria, Guinea, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire, and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. There was no evidence of any pattern of discrimination toward asylum applicants, but the lack of a formal asylum system made this difficult to assess.

Refoulement: Authorities conducted repatriations in coordination with consular officials from the migrants’ countries of origin, but the migrants were not permitted to challenge their removal. The government stated it maintained a policy of not removing migrants registered with UNHCR, and that in a few cases it worked with UNHCR to return registered refugees who were mistakenly removed. Air Algerie signed an agreement with the IOM agreeing to provide charter flights for humanitarian supplies and migrants returning voluntarily.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières estimated the country deported more than 14,000 migrants to Niger between January and May, including to active conflict zones. Official deportations of Nigerien citizens take place under a 2014 bilateral agreement, while unofficial convoys expel thousands to Niger regardless of their country of origin. In September press reported that 847 migrants, mostly Nigeriens, arrived in northern Niger after authorities deported them. Among them were 40 women and 74 unaccompanied children.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: UNHCR reported refugees and migrants traversing land routes to and through the country continued to risk death, kidnapping, sexual- and gender-based violence, physical abuse, and other violence. Doctors Without Borders reported many migrants deported or expelled to Niger were subjected to violence and degrading treatment. During the year, 130 refugees deported from the country reported cases of violations of their human rights during their arrest or detention, including physical and verbal abuse.

Freedom of Movement: The government allows Sahrawi refugees to travel to the town of Tindouf, but they must obtain special permission to leave the Tindouf-Sahrawi camp area. Sahrawi refugees generally were able to travel after seeking permission and many travel between the Sahrawi camps, other cities in the country, Spain, and Cuba.

Employment: The government does not formally allow refugee employment; however, many worked in the informal market and were at risk of labor exploitation due to their lack of legal status in the country. Other migrants, asylum seekers, and Malians and Syrians who had a “special status” with the government relied largely on remittances and support from family and acquaintances, as well as assistance from the Algerian Red Crescent and international aid organizations.

Access to Basic Services: Sahrawi refugees lived predominantly in five camps administered by the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) near the city of Tindouf. The remote location of the camps and lack of government presence resulted in a lack of access by police and courts. Other refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants had access to free public hospitals, but independent NGOs reported instances of migrants being turned away or denied treatment at health-care facilities.

Durable Solutions: The government did not accept refugees from foreign countries for resettlement. The Sahrawi refugees have not sought local integration or naturalization during their more than 40-year stay in the refugee camps near Tindouf, and the POLISARIO continued to call for a referendum on independence for Western Sahara. The IOM led an Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration program to help migrants return to their homes willingly with economic and social support, including personalized professional training and other socioeconomic assistance. Although the government was not a financial donor to the initiative, it did cooperate.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees through the Algerian Red Crescent, including to Syrians and Malians. There was no data available on the number of individuals provided temporary protection during the year.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees, preferring to deal with refugees on an ad hoc basis. The law, however, provides for the temporary and transitional protection of asylum seekers for humanitarian reasons and allows their entry, stay, and right to work for a two-year period, renewable for six additional months.

The law establishes a cap on refugee admissions; 20 in the case of refugees arriving from Syria, and 285 for those coming from Ukraine.

As a result of the 2018 Syrian refugee crisis, the government and the Community of Sant’Egidio maintained a humanitarian corridor from French and Spanish airports for refugees to enter the country. Since the start of the corridor in 2018, 12 Syrian refugees have received legal, medical, psychological, social, and educational assistance.

Access to Basic Services: The law provides for housing, as well as access to social services, health care, transportation, and education for refugees. Additionally, the government provides optional Catalan language courses to promote the integration of refugees into the country. The government provided these benefits to incoming refugees with the support of the Andorran Red Cross, Caritas, and the Association Open-Open Them (Associacio Obrim, Obrim-les).

Temporary Protection: The law provides for the temporary protection of asylum seekers for humanitarian reasons and allows their entry, stay, and right to work for a two-year period, renewable for six additional months. After this period, the beneficiary can either return to the country of origin, go to a third country, or stay in Andorra if the individual complies with all immigration requirements.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government did not always respect this right.

Freedom of Expression:  Individuals were increasingly able to use private media and social media platforms to openly criticize government policies and practices.  Individuals reported practicing self-censorship but generally were able to criticize government policies without fear of direct reprisal.  Social media was widely used in the larger cities and provided an open forum for discussion.  There were instances where civil society members were not able to assemble and express their opinions in public.

On January 14, activist Tanaice Neutro was arrested in front of the prison-hospital São Paulo in Luanda for streaming a live video protesting “King’s” arrest and highlighting the poor prison conditions for King (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).  On October 12, Neutro was convicted on charges of insulting the state and its symbols and given a 15-month suspended sentence.

Violence and Harassment:  Reporting on corruption, poor governance, and human rights abuses were the primary reasons for attacks against journalists, which occurred with impunity.  Journalists reported more incidents of violence, harassment, and intimidation compared with the previous year.  Other journalists reported harassment by authorities while covering peaceful demonstrations and election rallies.

Journalists covering land topics were targeted during the year.  On April 13, police surrounded reporters who were covering evictions and home demolitions in Luanda, taking their equipment and allegedly shoving and hitting them with a baton.

On August 17, Voice of America reporter Coque Mukuta was detained by the National Police while covering a peaceful public demonstration in Luanda.  His cell phone and professional credentials were confiscated, and he was driven around in a police vehicle for three hours before being released.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Private television media outlets seized by the state in 2020 due to corruption investigations remained under government control, with no announced plan for privatization.  In September, one of the seized stations – TV Palanca – was shut down and all staff and equipment transferred to state-run Public Television of Angola.  Three independent stations told to cease broadcasting in 2021 remained off the air.  The president appoints the leadership of all major state-owned media outlets, and state control of these outlets often led to one-sided reporting.  State news outlets, including Angolan Public Television, Radio Nacional, and the Jornal de Angola newspaper, strongly favored the ruling party and often did not cover social problems reflecting poor governance or voices critical of the government.  During the campaign period ahead of the August 24 election, opposition parties received significantly less coverage on state media than the ruling MPLA party, and it was often difficult to distinguish between communications of the government and those of the ruling party.  Journalists working for government-controlled outlets reported threats of job losses if they did not comply with the editorial narrative of the MPLA party.

In May the Ministry of Telecommunications, Information Technology, and Social Communication asked 15 internet-based media outlets to show proof of licensed activity.  Several journalists considered the move a way to control and intimidate those outlets.

The Regulatory Entity for Social Communication (ERCA) is a body composed of 11 counselors designated by political parties represented in the parliament, the government, and journalists.  ERCA’s responsibility is to safeguard press freedom and lawful media activity and to issue regulations and decisions on those matters.  Journalists and opposition political parties criticized ERCA for being controlled by the ruling MPLA and for issuing regulations that favored the government.

The Ethics and Credentialing Commission is a body exclusively composed of journalists that is authorized to license and delicense journalists.  In July the Ministry of Telecommunications, Information Technology, and Social Communication opened an office to support commission operations.  As of October 2021, any media outlets allowing a journalist to work without credentials faced a fine of approximately 23,100 kwanza ($52), which was approximately a journalist’s monthly salary.  Journalists reported practicing self-censorship for political and financial reasons.

The minister of social communication, the spokesperson of the presidency, and the national director of information maintained significant decision-making authority over media.  It was commonly understood these individuals actively vetted news stories in the state-controlled print, television, and radio media and exercised considerable authority over some privately owned outlets.  State-controlled media rarely published or broadcast stories critical of the ruling party, government officials, or government policies.

Several journalists, members of civil society, and opposition party members expressed concerns before the electoral campaign began on July 24 that the public media was dedicating most of its news space to the MPLA, resulting in a lack of balanced coverage of the different candidates.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Defamation is a crime punishable by imprisonment or a fine.  Unlike cases in which defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, defendants in defamation cases have the burden of proving their innocence by providing evidence of the validity of the allegedly damaging material.

Several journalists in print media, radio, and political blogs faced libel and defamation lawsuits.  Journalists complained the government used libel laws to limit their ability to report on corruption and nepotistic practices, while the government stated that some journalists abused their positions and published inaccurate stories regarding government officials without verifying the facts or providing the accused with the right of reply.  The NGO Committee to Protect Journalists cited criminal defamation and insult investigations underway into journalists Escrivão José and Óscar Constantino in response to their investigative reporting on politicians and public figures.  In June, José was questioned by police and named as a formal suspect on defamation charges stemming from his reporting of corruption allegations in a land deal by a public official.  In July, Constantino, a reporter for Radio Ecclésia, was acquitted of defamation charges stemming from a 2020 news article regarding a public official’s resignation amid an alleged sex scandal.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content.  There were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal oversight.

The constitution and law provide for the right of peaceful assembly and association, but the government did not always respect these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government at times restricted these related rights.

In-country Movement: Document checkpoints in domestic airports and on roads throughout the country were common. Reports by local NGOs suggested that, despite an incremental drop in cases, some police officers continued to extort money from civilians at checkpoints and during regular traffic stops. Reports from the diamond-mining provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul stated some government agents restricted the movements of local communities.

The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, and asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, but the government did not fully implement the law. The law provides specific procedures for the submission of an asylum application and guidance on the determination of refugee status. UNHCR and several NGOs, however, reported that asylum seekers did not have a mechanism to apply for or resolve their status. A 2015 law changed the role of the Committee for the Recognition of the Right to Asylum, the prior implementing mechanism to identify, verify, and legalize asylum seekers, to that of an advisory board. The government had not put into practice a mechanism to adjudicate asylum cases in the committee’s place. The law also authorized the creation of reception centers for refugees and asylum seekers where they were to receive assistance until the government decides on their cases, but the government had not yet established these centers.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: There were reports throughout the year that Lunda Norte provincial authorities exerted pressure on irregular migrants to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Under the law, authorities should issue refugee cards with a five-year validity. According to UNHCR, the government had not issued or renewed refugee cards since 2015, and no refugee possessed an unexpired, government-issued refugee card during the year. The minister of interior told UN officials that the government would begin to fully implement the law when COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, but despite the lifting of restrictions during the year, no refugee cards were renewed. Refugees reported a general lack of acceptance of the refugee card and lack of knowledge concerning the rights it was intended to safeguard.

Freedom of Movement: UNHCR, NGOs, and refugees reported restrictions on freedom of movement in Lunda Norte Province. Refugees also reported periodic restrictions on freedom of movement from their resettlement site in Lovua, Lunda Norte Province, and cited such restrictions as a factor motivating them to return to the DRC.

Employment: There were reports that the government imposed restrictions on refugees’ ability to work. The law does not allow refugees to work and restricted refugees from obtaining business licenses. A regulation restricts refugees from obtaining the business license required to own and operate a business. Refugees often faced difficulty obtaining employment due to their inability to obtain legal documents required to work in the formal sector. Authorities continued to harass asylum seekers and refugees working in the informal economy.

Access to Basic Services: Persons with recognized refugee status could at times obtain public services. The government had not implemented key elements of the 2015 asylum law allowing refugee and asylum seekers’ access to basic services. UNHCR, NGOs, and refugees, reported that urban refugees faced difficulty accessing public services such as health care and education. Expired documentation prevented refugees from owning land or vehicles in their name, purchasing cellular SIM cards, obtaining business licenses, obtaining birth certificates for children born in country, and accessing education beyond primary school.

Durable Solutions: In July the government cooperated with UNHCR and supported an organized voluntary repatriation of 88 Congolese refugees from Lunda Norte Province to the DRC. This was the first repatriation since they were halted in 2020 due to COVID-19. The government through the Migration and Foreigners Service and the Ministry of Social Action, Family, and Women’s Promotion (Ministry of Social Assistance) participated in the screening phase to ensure that those to be repatriated were refugees, processed the related repatriation documentation, facilitated family reunification for the purpose of returning, verified that those returning were on the Voluntary Repatriation manifest, and signed the manifest at the borders for handover to counterparts on the DRC side.

In 2021, due to a severe, prolonged drought in the southern provinces, approximately 15,000 internally displaced persons congregated around feeding centers in Cunene, Huila, and Namibe Provinces. NGOs reported that the majority of these persons returned to their places of origin as result of international humanitarian assistance; government action to lower prices of basic food items, and the Kwenda social assistance program.

The government estimated there were more than 12 million unregistered citizens in the country. Children of undocumented foreign parents born in the country were at risk of statelessness due to their parents’ inability to register their births. In June, the government announced it had registered six million persons under a major birth registration program it began in 2019.

Antigua and Barbuda

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media, on a somewhat limited basis.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government handles asylum requests on an ad hoc basis.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The “law” provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but authorities did not respect this right.  Libel and blasphemy are criminalized, but these “laws” are rarely enforced by “courts.”  While individuals were sometimes able to criticize authorities publicly without reprisal, human rights defenders, NGOs, and the press reported a marked increase in harassment and threats against critics of the “TRNC president,” “TRNC government,” of Turkish interference into Turkish Cypriot affairs, and of Turkish President Erdogan.

Freedom of Expression:  It is a criminal offense to insult the “government,” the Turkish government, or “government” officials.

In August authorities began a criminal investigation against academic Hasan Ulas Altiok and journalist Sener Levent for allegedly “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and for attempting to harm the relations between Turkey and the “TRNC” in an article published in the newspaper Avrupa (formerly Afrika).

Charges against Leftist Movement member Abdullah Korkmazhan and three others on suspicion of vandalizing “Love Erdogan” billboards in 2021 were pending at year’s end.  Charged with “conspiracy to create a secret alliance” and insulting the “TRNC president,” Korkmazhan was released on bail but was required to report to a “police” station weekly.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  While authorities usually respected press and media freedom, at times they harassed, intimidated, or arrested journalists or otherwise obstructed their reporting.  According to NGOs, journalists, and human rights defenders, authorities advised some journalists not to criticize the Turkish president or the Turkish government.  An NGO reported that due to perceived pressure and potential reaction from Turkey, some journalists did not express their critical opinions and preferred to remain silent.

According to a human rights NGO, authorities launched criminal cases in December 2021 against Avrupa newspaper journalists Sener Levent, Faize Ozdemirciler, and Ali Osman based on a complaint from the Turkish “embassy” in Nicosia.  The three are accused of writing with “malicious intent” and spreading “fear and concern” based on articles published in 2019 and 2020.  There were seven criminal cases ongoing against Avrupa newspaper at year’s end.

In February authorities launched an investigation against journalist and President of the Turkish Cypriot Press Workers Union (Basin-Sen) Ali Kismir for allegedly “insulting and defaming” security forces in an early 2021 article.  The case was ongoing at year’s end.

In April Rasih Resat, former chief editor for Kibris Postasi, announced his resignation from his position as the head of the Foreign Press Association after “President” Ersin Tatar complained to Turkey about the content of his writings.

In May the Turkish Cypriot Bar Association, the Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association, and press workers’ unions criticized the “government” and staged a “24-Hour Press Freedom” demonstration in response to “parliament’s” support of draft amendments that would narrow press freedom and freedom of expression.  Labor unions under the Social Existence Platform held a two-hour strike, and journalists attended a “parliament” session with black tape covering their mouths.  The “prime minister” then announced withdrawal of the draft amendments and establishment of a “parliamentary” working group to discuss and revise the amendments.  Journalists reported continued concern that these amendments may pass without consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Journalists may not interview or report on persons under control of the armed forces.

In June press reported that Turkish Cypriot Web TV, owned by businessperson Tandogan Tanli, fired Turkish Cypriot journalist Ulas Baris for expressing support on the site for journalists’ “free press” demonstrations against the “government.”

In November authorities arrested Avrupa newspaper journalist Kazim Denizci and charged him with “aiding a terrorist organization” by simply sharing a Kurdish article on his social media page.  “Police” also searched Denizci’s home and seized his mobile phone and his computer for further investigation.  Opposition political parties and NGOs condemned the detention as an attack on freedom of press.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The “law” criminalizes libel and blasphemy.  Authorities regularly use these laws to justify suppression of free speech.

In May “President” Tatar filed a criminal defamation suit against Communal Democracy Party Chair and lawyer Mine Atli for a Facebook post where Atli referred to Tatar as “dishonorable and inglorious.”  Tatar claimed Atli’s May 10 Facebook post insulted him.  Atli told the press Tatar was trying to restrict criticism towards elected officials by spreading fear among the people.  Atli’s lawyers argued that the Facebook post falls under freedom of expression protections.  Atli was released on bail but faces up to five years in prison.

In a May interview, “President” Tatar said insults directed at an individual were not protected under freedom of expression, and stated he would continue to take legal action against insults.

In August Yudum Mison appeared in “court” on charges of insulting “President” Tatar in a social media post sharing a photograph of Tatar in a helicopter where Tatar was seen laughing before he visited a wildfire area.  Mison commented, “Rascal!!! His brother is here!!!  He is very happy.  So what if the country burns!!”  According to a human rights organization, “police” confiscated Mison’s mobile phone and reportedly confirmed with university language experts that Mison’s post contained language insulting to the “TRNC Presidency office” and “President” Tatar.  The “judge” moved the case to trial and released Mison on bail.

Nongovernmental Impact:  A journalist association reported some journalists were verbally and physically attacked at “court” hearings by detainees or their families or friends.  Other journalists reported being similarly assaulted while reporting at hospitals and “police” stations by individuals associated with detainees.

A journalist association reported that journalists were prevented from reporting and taking photographs at “court” by acquaintances of the accused assailants being tried for the February murder of businessperson Halil Falyali.

Journalists also faced pressure to report favorably on companies that advertised in their publications.

Internet Freedom

Authorities did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that they monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

According to a 2020 cybercrime “law,” any verbal or physical attacks made with deliberate intent to harm individuals, institutions, or organizations over the internet is considered a crime punishable by substantial fines and from one to 10 years’ imprisonment.  Human rights defenders expressed concern the “law” could be used to suppress free speech.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no reports of “government” restrictions on cultural events.  There were no reports of blocked visits during the year.

In June Middle East Technical University (METU) northern Cyprus campus dismissed Associate Professor and Chair of the KAMPUS-SEN union Yonca Ozdemir after 15 years on staff, claiming “poor academic performance.”  Both Ozmedir and education union representatives claimed METU intended to silence KAMPUS-SEN and dismissed Ozmedir for signing the “Academics for Peace Declaration” and for her known support for a federation solution to the Cyprus Problem.  According to Ozdemir, METU had called her political views dangerous.  Ozdemir said she was also dismissed for criticizing Turkey-“TRNC” relations and Turkey’s interference into “TRNC” domestic affairs.

The “law” provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the “government” regularly limited the freedom of peaceful assembly.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The “law” provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. Authorities generally respected these rights.

In-country Movement: Authorities required individuals to show identification when crossing the “Green Line.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain measures were taken at checkpoint crossings on the island in the beginning of the year, at times causing altercations with authorities. As of years end, there were no COVID-19 requirements or measures when crossing checkpoints.

Foreign Travel: Only Turkey recognizes travel documents issued by the “TRNC.” Some Turkish Cypriots used Turkish travel documents, but many obtained travel documents issued by the Republic of Cyprus government. Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to parents who were both Republic of Cyprus citizens prior to 1974 obtained Republic of Cyprus passports with greater ease than Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to only one Cypriot parent.

According to media reports and contacts, Turkish authorities barred six Turkish Cypriots from entering Turkey during the year, in addition to three Turkish Cypriots who were barred in 2021. Contacts reported the Turkish “embassy” in the “TRNC” maintained a list of politicians and writers supportive of a bizonal bicommunal federal (BBF) solution to the division of the island and who were critical of the Turkish government’s policies. Media commentators claimed Turkey’s enforcement of an “entry blacklist” – purportedly introduced in September 2020 – was intended to intimidate BBF solution supporters and silence opposition against the Erdogan regime.

Citing national security grounds, Turkish authorities denied entry to former Republican Turkish Party “member of parliament” Okan Dagli on February 25; musician Can Sozer on May 23; Leftist Movement and peace activist General Secretary Abdullah Korkmazhan on June 27; journalist Aysu Basri Akter on July 25; Deputy General Secretary of the Road to Independence Party Munur Rahvancioglu on September 27; and chief editor of Havadis newspaper Basaran Duzgun on November 16.

Turkish Cypriot authorities at times cooperated with the Refugee Rights Association (RRA), the NGO implementing partner of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to territory was not ensured for persons seeking international protection who arrive regularly at the airport or ports if authorities believe their intention is to seek asylum. UNHCR contacts reported that deportations occurred via Turkey. From Turkey, those without legal residence status face onward refoulement.

RRA reported that authorities shared information regarding detained Syrian asylum seekers and allowed NGOs access for interviews, delivery of social welfare, and health-care services. According to RRA, in February authorities resumed criminalizing illegal entry by asylum seekers after pausing the practice during the pandemic. Persons of concern who legally entered the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots were able to work through RRA to regularize their residence and have deportation orders against them lifted or frozen. In these cases, persons of concern had access to public health-care services, employment, and benefitted from material assistance provided by public social welfare services.

Access to Asylum: The “law” does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and authorities have not established a system for providing protection to refugees. UNHCR reported that Turkish Cypriot authorities generally treated asylum seekers as illegal migrants due to the lack of an official framework for asylum. An NGO reported that approximately 140 persons of concern to UNHCR were able to stay in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots with UNHCR protection papers.

According to an NGO, asylum seekers arriving at legal entry points are generally not allowed entry into the “TRNC,” and are detained and subsequently deported to Turkey. Once returned to Turkey, those who do not have valid residence status face the risk of onward refoulement, particularly non-Syrians, as Turkish authorities continued efforts to deport those it claimed entered the country illegally before they were granted refugee status determination interviews by Turkish migration authorities. The NGO also reported asylum seekers arriving irregularly are considered prohibited migrants by Turkish Cypriot authorities and are detained under deportation procedures in quarantine facilities.

There were reports Turkish Cypriot authorities continued to deport numerous asylum seekers during the year before UNHCR’s implementing partner could interview them to obtain information necessary for assessing their asylum claims. Potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities illegally were typically arrested, taken to “court,” and deported after serving their prison sentences.

Refoulement: Authorities did not provide protection against the expulsion or return of asylum seekers or refugees to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened. According to NGOs, authorities at ports often denied entry and extradited to Turkey asylum seekers, including several persons designated by the Turkish government as alleged members of the Gulen movement. Some observers considered these deportations refoulement, as the individuals were denied the opportunity to seek refuge in the territory of Cyprus and were at substantial risk of mistreatment in Turkey (see section 2.f., Protection of Refugees, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Turkey).

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: According to human rights advocates, refugees residing in the “TRNC” face racism, exploitation, and challenges achieving self-sufficiency and integration within society. One NGO reported observing long detention periods for asylum seekers pending deportation or prosecution. One NGO reported Syrians that arrived irregularly were detained on average for 31 days prior to deportation. Syrians that were smuggled into the “TRNC” were, however, detained as long as six months in crude jails below “police” stations. Authorities attributed the long detention period as necessary in the event charges were filed against their smuggler, for which they would serve as witnesses.

Freedom of Movement: Asylum seekers in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots could not travel abroad because they would be unable to return due to their lack of “legal” status.

Employment: According to immigration “law,” employers need official permission from the “Department of Labor” to register foreign workers. Persons holding UNHCR protection papers receive under the “law” the same access to the labor market as third country nationals, although NGOs reported that authorities refused to issue work permits to some individuals with UNHCR protection papers.

Access to Basic Services: Persons holding UNHCR protection papers could access basic services, including primary health care, social services, and education, but lacked access to residence permits or welfare assistance, which rendered them at risk of exploitation and put vulnerable individuals at risk of destitution. Access to these services and assistance was administered on a case-by-case basis, with some individuals being turned away and forced to apply multiple times depending on whether staff had experience working with UNHCR persons of concern.

Turkish Cypriots considered those displaced because of the island’s 1974 division to be refugees, although they fell under the UN definition of internally displaced persons (IDPs). At the time of the division, the number of IDPs in the north was approximately 60,000.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Freedom of Expression:  In July press freedom watchdog organization FOPEA (Argentine Journalism Forum) presented a warning to the UN Human Rights Council regarding attacks from politicians against journalists that were undermining freedom of expression in the country.

FOPEA cited three cases of judicial harassment of journalists, including lawsuits against Irene Benito (La Gaceta), Daniel Santoro (Clarín), and Daniel Enz (Revista Analisis).  In all these cases, FOPEA argued that political figures used the legal system to silence these journalists.

In September YouTuber Eduardo Miguel Prestofelippo was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest for discrimination and digital harassment of First Lady Fabiola Yáñez.  Before his sentence, Prestofelippo called his prosecution an “attack on the freedom of press and speech,” and supporters staged demonstrations throughout his trial.

Violence and Harassment:  There were reports of physical attacks, threats, and harassment against journalists.

In June George Chaya, a journalist for Infobae online news service and a prominent critic of Hizballah, received a handwritten note warning him that Hizballah intended to kill him.  The government provided protection to Chaya, and he and his family fled the country.

In July during a violent protest in San Martin de los Andres, Neuquén, Pedro Jofre shot at news photographers from the Diario Rio Negro and La Mañana de Neuquén newspapers.  While the photographers were not injured, a nearby woman was shot.  The attacker was arrested and faced criminal charges.

In September a local court sentenced to prison three members of an anarchist group who threw Molotov cocktails at the Clarín press conglomerate’s headquarters in Buenos Aires in 2021.  President Fernández and other government officials condemned the attack.

In December three persons were charged with attacking the offices of the newspaper Diario El Chubut in Trelew in December 2021 as part of their protest against the mining industry.

FOPEA reported 14 alleged physical attacks against journalists in 2021, compared with eight in 2020.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights, with some exceptions.

On June 31, provincial police officers harassed, beat, and detained a group of young rap artists in the province of San Luis. After videos of the incident emerged on social media, the provincial government fired 25 police officers.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Decisions on asylum petitions can take up to two years to adjudicate.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media.  The government generally respected this right, albeit with some restrictions.  The government did not seek the inclusion of “grave insult” in the criminal code that entered into force July 1, essentially enabling its decriminalization.  Lawsuits launched before July 1 on charges of grave insult continued during the year.  Other restrictions included legislation amended on May 25 allowing state bodies to withdraw accreditation of journalists and the continued prosecution of a Yezidi human rights activist.  There were several reports of police violence against journalists in connection with their coverage of opposition rallies in the spring.

Freedom of Expression:  Individuals were generally free to criticize the government without fear of reprisal.  The trial of Yezidi human rights activist Sashik Sultanyan on charges of “incitement of national, racial, or religious enmity” for expressing his view that the government was not doing enough to protect the Yezidi minority from discrimination continued during the year until he left the country (see section 5).

Violence and Harassment:  The local NGO Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression reported 14 cases of violence against 16 journalists during the year, most of which were at the hands of law enforcement and took place when the journalists were covering opposition protests.  On August 16, the Investigative Committee suspended the criminal case regarding a February 2021 attack on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Artak Ghulyan and videographer Karen Chilingaryan, claiming the whereabouts of the perpetrators were unknown.

During May 2 opposition civil disobedience and protest activities, the government hindered the professional activities of journalists in multiple instances.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  On May 25, progovernment lawmakers adopted legislation allowing state bodies to strip journalists of their credentials if they were deemed to have violated the “working rules” of relevant bodies twice in one year.  Media strongly criticized the legislation.  Critics noted that, with this decision, authorities could ban specific reporters from covering parliament sessions, cabinet meetings, and other major events.

Media outlets were politically polarized.  Private individuals or groups, most of whom were reportedly tied to former authorities or parliamentary opposition parties, owned most broadcast media and newspapers, which tended to reflect the political leanings and financial interests of their proprietors.  Current and former government authorities and opposition parties continued to acquire additional media outlets throughout the year, exacerbating polarization.  Few independent media outlets remained that did not depend on financial support from politically affiliated donors; those that did relied on international donor support due to their limited revenues from advertising and subscription fees.

Broadcast media, particularly public television, remained one of the primary sources of news and information for the majority of the population.  According to some media watchdogs, public television continued to present news and political debates from a progovernment standpoint, although it remained accessible to opposition voices.

Social media users freely expressed opinions concerning the government and former authorities on various social media platforms, even though the criminalization of “grave insult,” which was in effect from July 2021 to June 2022, reportedly had a chilling effect on some users.

Libel/Slander Laws:  In March 2021, parliament amended the civil code to dramatically raise the maximum fines for insult and defamation offenses.  Freedom House and local media watchdogs criticized the bill, saying it would “stifle media freedom and freedom of expression.”  The amendments came into force in October 2021.

On June 10, then Minister of Justice Karen Andreasyan announced the government would not seek to include the criminalization of grave insults in the new criminal code that would take effect on July 1 after the government determined that even a “legitimate restriction” on freedom of expression was counter to the country’s democratization agenda.  The decision led in essence to the decriminalization of such insults.  Criminal cases launched before July 1, however, continued during the year.  From January 1 to June 30, the IC investigated 1,042 criminal cases related to “grave insults”; 126 criminal cases against 128 persons were sent to the court with indictments.

Nongovernmental Impact:  According to Emergency 2020:  Report on Human Rights Violations by the Police, published by HCAV in April 2021, several new antidemocratic initiatives and movements that arose together with increased civil society activity after the 2018 revolution had a chilling effect on civil society.  While they positioned themselves as civil society institutes, these organizations’ agendas focused on combating the promotion of human rights and democratic values and provoking hatred through violence and physical threats.  Law enforcement bodies opened several investigations into the groups and some of their activities but did not prosecute any of their members.

On several occasions during the year, opposition protesters attacked public figures who held political views that were different from the opposition.  For example, on April 28, protesters attacked the director of Antares Publishing House, Armen Martirosyan, who was known for a propeace agenda, to which the opposition was averse.  Martirosyan happened to be in the vicinity where the protest was held.  The incident occurred in the presence of police.  According to Martirosyan, when the crowd saw him, they started cursing and throwing bottles at him.  After Martirosyan asked police officers for protection, they ordered Martirosyan to quickly retreat, which was when the crowd attacked him from behind.  The IC indicted two persons, Ara Khachatryan and Armen Aslanyan, on charges of hooliganism in connection with the attack.  On May 20, a group of public figures and citizens issued an open letter in response to the attacks stating that certain groups in the country had been carrying out continuous and active violent propaganda in recent years, including hate speech, degrading language, and language inciting violence.  According to the letter, these groups’ violent rhetoric was accompanied by attacks against individuals who did not share their opinion or participate in their actions.  The signatories urged law enforcement bodies to protect democracy from violence and hatred and to not let hate speech go unpunished.

Actions to Expand Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Media:  In June, the National Assembly adopted legislative changes to increase the penalties against state officials for violations of the legal right to public information.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  Information security specialists reported, however, that on May 16, attempts were made to block the work of Telegram and Signal social networks; there were no subsequent reports attributing the attempts to any specific group or actor.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events, and the government expressly supported academic freedom.

There were media reports of elections and appointments of new school principals who were affiliated with the government, as well as reports of contract issues and reduced workloads for university faculty who criticized the government.  Despite the government’s initial move to depoliticize state universities, cabinet members continued to be appointed to the boards of state-funded universities, ostensibly to prevent former government officials and opposition leaders from exercising political influence in universities.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.  The government generally respected these rights, but there were some restrictions.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; the government generally respected these related rights. The government issued a Convention Travel Document to all recognized refugees; however, the tender for biometric versions of the document was stalled for several years, delaying issuance, and resulting in some embassies’ refusal to issue visas to refugees holding nonbiometric travel documents. Stateless persons by law were not entitled to travel documents.

Authorities cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law requires the detention authority to notify detainees concerning their right to apply for asylum and provides a 15-day period for application. UNHCR reported problems with proper notification procedures that resulted in missed deadlines and asylum refusals.

Applications to reopen closed asylum cases were treated as repeat applications requiring new elements, a practice that hindered access to asylum.

The law accounts for specific needs of asylum seekers who are children, persons with mental disabilities, and trauma survivors and allows detention centers to receive asylum applications. Authorities generally enforced the law, but only to the extent scarce resources allowed. Applicants with specific needs were mainly supported by UNHCR through its partner NGOs. Refugees who were not ethnic Armenians could apply for facilitated naturalization, which requires passing a constitutional knowledge test.

Shortcomings in asylum procedures included limited state funding for interpreters and deficiencies in training and capacity of eligibility determination officers, with no sustainable quality assurance mechanism and a lack of professional development of staff. Asylum seekers expressed concern regarding their access to legal aid. While the law provides for free legal assistance to asylum seekers through the Office of the Public Defender under the Chamber of Advocates, legal, capacity, and operational constraints reportedly hindered the exercise of this right. Legal aid to persons filing their initial asylum applications was limited to the provision of information and counseling, while legal assistance and representation were available to asylum seekers appealing negative asylum decisions. Legal representation at initial asylum hearings was available in only a limited number of cases and only when it was provided by UNHCR partner NGOs. Due to serious systemic constraints, including insufficient and inexperienced staff at the Public Defender’s Office and a lack of interpreter services, asylum seekers reportedly experienced serious difficulties accessing quality legal assistance when they attempted to appeal negative asylum decisions. During the year, the Public Defender’s Office, with UNHCR support and EU funding, recruited an asylum coordinator to work closely with UNHCR and coordinate interpretation, legal aid, and representation for asylum seekers, and advise the Public Defender’s Office on applicable laws and procedures.

Judges exhibited conservative approaches toward asylum claims, often referring to national security considerations in the abstract and rejecting appeals without thoroughly assessing asylum claims. While procedures for determining refugee status improved over the past decade, there were concerns regarding how judges applied basic asylum concepts and the subjective attitudes of staff in assessing religion-based claims. Although some judges received additional training on asylum matters and practical implementation of decisions during the year, asylum cases continued to be assigned to judges lacking in-depth knowledge of relevant law. Judicial review remained a lengthy process as judges remained overloaded with cases.

In May 2021, parliament amended the Law on Refugees and Asylum and the administrative procedure code to accelerate asylum procedures for applicants who crossed the border irregularly, were subject to outstanding requests for their extradition, or were subject to criminal prosecution in Armenia; the amendments entered into force in August 2021. Given the obstacles faced by asylum seekers who attempt to obtain legal aid, some experts were concerned that the accelerated procedures could make it more difficult for some asylum applicants to achieve effective remedies.

Authorities continued to offer some displaced ethnic Armenians from abroad a choice of protection options, including expedited naturalization, a residence permit, or refugee status. Quick naturalization gave displaced persons the same legal right to health care and most other social services as other citizens. Many of the countrywide reforms, such as provision of increased social services, higher pensions, and more accessible health care also benefited refugees who became naturalized citizens.

Refugees who are not ethnic Armenians may apply for facilitated naturalization, which requires passing a test focused on knowledge of the constitution.

There were reports of nonsystemic discrimination in the acceptance of applications and in detention of asylum seekers based on the country of origin, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion of the asylum seeker, as well as difficulties with integration. Civil society observers reported discriminatory attitudes and suspicion directed towards foreign migrants seeking employment.

The law allows detention centers to receive asylum applications. Despite a provision in the law exempting asylum seekers from criminal liability for irregular border crossing, authorities required asylum seekers to remain in detention pending the outcome of their asylum applications or to serve the remainder of their sentences. The new criminal code that came into force in July reflected the nonpenalization clause of the 1951 Refugee Convention, specifically under the articles on irregular crossing of the state border and use of falsified documents. Civil society observers reported that due to the lack of development of standard operating procedures, the nonpenalization clauses of the new criminal code were yet to be enforced, and detentions were implemented in cases of illegal border crossings.

Access to Basic Services: Many asylum seekers were unable to work or receive an education while their cases worked their way through the legal system, despite legal provisions protecting these rights, due to a lack of job openings, difficulty in accessing opportunities, and language barriers. The government reception center and integration house (a refugee housing facility where some asylum seekers were accommodated) provided some Armenian and Russian language classes.

Housing allocated to refugees was in limited supply, in poor condition, and remained, along with employment, refugees’ greatest concern. Many displaced families relied on a rental subsidy program supported by UNHCR and diaspora organizations, which experts noted was only a temporary solution. Since January, government officials claimed technical issues prevented them from paying the monthly financial assistance provided by law to recognized refugees. Authorities operated an integration house with places for 29 refugees and offered refugees accommodation free of charge during the first months after they acquired refugee status. According to a July report by the Office of the Ombudsperson, the conditions at the shelter for refugees operated by the Migration Service were substandard. Some areas, including the common kitchen, were inaccessible to persons with mobility difficulties. The facility accommodated only refugees. There was no accommodation for asylum seekers; construction of such an accommodation was underway.

Overall, observers assessed refugee and asylum-seeker access to the health-care system as adequate but noted that asylum seekers faced difficulties because they did not have access to the e-health ArMed system, largely due to language barriers. This system permitted advance registration for medical examinations and services and provided information regarding vaccination records that were required for individuals’ travel outside the country. One service provider noted that some institutions, such as polyclinics, banks, and private employers, did not recognize the Convention Travel Document (issued by Armenia to show that the holder is a refugee and has been granted asylum) as an identification document.

In addition to language barriers, other obstacles to accessing education included expenses related to transportation, school supplies, clothes, and bullying by other students.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement and offered naturalization to refugees residing on its territory. In May 2021, the government adopted the Conceptual Framework for the State Management of Migration that envisaged development of the 2021-31 Integration Strategy and its action plan for 2021-26. The framework also offered integration programs to returnees from West European countries who either voluntarily returned or were deported by the host country. Civil society representatives reported the integration strategy as well as its action plan were largely inactive, which they assessed was due to government plans to reorganize several immigration-related offices and create a Ministry of Interior by year’s end.

As of December 2021, according to the international NGO Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, approximately 800 internally displaced persons (IDPs) of the estimated 65,000 households evacuated in connection with the 1988-94 fighting were still living in displacement. According to the State Migration Service, as of November, there were 20,428 displaced persons from Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia. Armenia overall recognized 3,466 refugees and 413 asylum seekers from various countries. Some IDPs and refugees lacked adequate housing and had limited economic opportunities. The government did not have specific programs and policies aimed at promoting the safe, voluntary, and dignified return, resettlement, or local integration of IDPs.

According to official information, following the September 13-14 fighting, at least 7,600 persons were displaced from the Gegharkunik, Syunik, and Vayots Dzor regions. The majority of them were women, children, elderly persons, and persons with disabilities, among them 1,437 children and 99 persons with disabilities. By November 23, 2,532 of those persons were still registered with the State Migration Service.

According to official data, as of July there were 816 stateless persons in country. There was limited information available on the number, geographic locations, and profile of stateless persons, persons at risk of statelessness, and undocumented persons. The citizenship law provides for the provision of nationality to stateless children born on the country’s territory. Amendments to the citizenship law adopted by parliament came into force in June; however, the scope of the amendments was limited and did not address the root problems with statelessness, including proper identification and referral mechanisms.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

Although the constitution does not explicitly provide for freedom of speech or press and other media, the High Court has held that the constitution implies a limited right to freedom of political expression, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media.

National Security:  In May, Queensland, the only jurisdiction without shield laws to protect journalists and whistleblowers, passed legislation that excuses journalists from giving evidence or information if it reveals a confidential informant.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, but human rights groups continued to report that legal developments including the Online Safety Act, which came into force on January 23, laws increasing surveillance, and judicial decisions expanding defamation standards threatened freedom of expression online.  Social media companies declared they already had rules similar to those in the Online Safety Act to remove harmful and hateful content.

Although the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association are not codified in federal law, the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. UNHCR noted, however, that it continued to work with the government to overcome the organization’s concerns, including access to durable solutions. In a number of submissions to parliamentary committees, UNHCR detailed challenges such as prolonged detention of asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in the country; access to asylum; discriminatory restrictions imposed on refugees accessing family reunification mechanisms; and statelessness determination procedures.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status. The government maintains a humanitarian refugee program that includes several types of visas available to refugees and other humanitarian entrants for resettlement in the country. The Department of Home Affairs oversees refugee resettlement via the Refugee and Humanitarian Program, which distinguishes between “offshore” and “onshore” applications. Individuals residing offshore (outside the country) may apply for a humanitarian visa if they are subject to persecution in their home country; meet the “compelling reasons” criterion; and satisfy health, character, and national security requirements. Individuals who arrived in the country legally and later seek protection may apply for a Temporary Protection visa or a Permanent Protection visa.

Persons who seek to enter the country without proper authorization are classified as illegal migrants and subject to detention in the country or, for unauthorized maritime arrivals, in a third country for offshore processing. Individuals who arrived illegally may be permitted to apply for a Temporary Protection visa or a Safe Haven Enterprise visa at the discretion and invitation of the responsible government minister but are precluded from applying for a Permanent Protection visa; it was generally very difficult for them to legalize their status.

UNHCR identifies and refers some applicants who are residing offshore to the government (Department of Home Affairs) to be considered under the offshore component of the humanitarian program. While the law contains family reunification provisions, such requests from unauthorized maritime arrivals are given the lowest visa processing priority.

The law allows the home affairs minister to designate and enter into an agreement with a third country as a regional processing country for migrants who attempt to enter the country as unauthorized maritime arrivals. By law any unauthorized maritime arrival entering the country’s waters is liable for transfer to a designated regional processing country for processing of their protection claims and resettlement.

Centers for regional processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru (based on agreements from 2012 and 2013) were closed in 2017 and 2019, respectively. In September 2021, Australia and Nauru agreed to a new arrangement for a regional processing capability in Nauru. Regional processing arrangements provide for third-country resettlement of unauthorized maritime arrivals that Nauru or Papua New Guinea assess as needing international protection. The assessments are conducted by the regional processing country under its domestic laws.

Australia and Papua New Guinea ended their regional processing arrangement on December 31, 2021, and the remaining refugees were offered a permanent migration pathway in Papua New Guinea. As of August 12, approximately 110 refugees or asylum seekers remained in Nauru, housed in community-based facilities funded by the Australian government, pending third-country migration outcomes. Resettlement of unauthorized maritime arrivals progressed through arrangements with the United States and New Zealand.

A detention facility on Christmas Island, an Australian territory, accommodates approximately 250 persons, mostly individuals whose visas were cancelled for character reasons (i.e., persons who served 12 months or more in jail and were pending removal from the country). By law the government must facilitate access to legal representation for all persons in immigration detention in the country when requested. Some government-funded legal assistance remained available for visa applications for unauthorized maritime arrivals.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: Domestic and international organizations reported deteriorating mental health among migrants brought from Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Australia on a temporary basis for medical treatment and detained in immigration facilities in the country. These organizations alleged some migrants held in these facilities lacked access to communal and outdoor areas and to adequate mental health and other medical services, increasing the risk of suicide and self-harm among those being treated, and that migrants in such facilities were reportedly subjected to violence, drugs, and overcrowding. In July an academic study reported that regularly relocating detainees between interstate detention facilities was separating families and support networks, increasing the isolation of detention spaces. The government released some individuals from these facilities on short-stay visas or into community detention pending departure from the country. The government reported that it provided necessary services to refugees and denied claims of harsh conditions or lack of medical services. Protests seeking policy changes, including a change to community detention policy, occurred during the year.

Approval of transfers of asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Australia for medical treatment not available in the regional processing location is handled on a case-by-case basis subject to clinical advice. Medical transfers ended for individuals in Papua New Guinea in December 2021. The Australian Human Rights Commission stated they had “serious concerns” regarding the health and safety of persons who remained in Papua Guinea.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement from third countries and funded refugee resettlement services.

Temporary Protection: The law permits two temporary protection options for individuals who arrived in the country without authorization and were not taken to regional processing countries: the Temporary Protection visa, and Safe Haven Enterprise visa. The government must invite these migrants, who are otherwise barred from making a visa application due to their status as unauthorized arrivals, to apply for either visa. The Temporary Protection visa is valid for three years, and visa holders may work, study, and reside anywhere in the country with access to support services. Once expired, Temporary Protection visa holders must apply for another to lawfully remain. The Safe Haven Enterprise visa is valid for five years and is granted on the basis that the visa holder works or studies in nonmetropolitan areas. Safe Haven Enterprise visa holders may apply for certain permanent or temporary visas after 42 months.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Freedom of Expression:  The law prohibits incitement, insult, or contempt against a group because of its members’ race, nationality, religion, or ethnicity if the statement violates human dignity, and imposes criminal penalties for violations.  The law prohibits public denial, belittlement, approval, or justification of the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity in print media, broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers or journals, and provides criminal penalties for violations.  The law also prohibits disparagement of religious teachings in public.  The government strictly enforced these laws (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

Libel/Slander Laws:  Libel, slander, defamation, and the denunciation of religious teachings (blasphemy) are criminal offenses and are prosecuted.  NGOs reported that strict libel and slander laws created conditions that discouraged reporting of governmental abuse.  For example, many observers believed the ability and willingness of police to sue for libel or slander discouraged individuals from reporting police abuses.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet but occasionally censored online content in line with European Court of Justice jurisprudence.  There were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  Authorities continued to restrict access to websites that violated the law, such as neo-Nazi sites or sites that incited violence.  The law barring neo-Nazi activity provides for one- to 10-year prison sentences for public denial, belittlement, approval, or justification of National Socialist crimes.  The criminal code provision on incitement provides for prison sentences of up to five years for violations.  Authorities restricted access to prohibited websites by trying to shut them down and by forbidding the country’s internet service providers from carrying them.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Some NGOs criticized the government for banning several demonstrations to protest COVID-19 pandemic measures. The government cited reports that previous gatherings organized by the same groups were marred by acts of violence and offenses under the law prohibiting Holocaust denial and minimization of Nazi atrocities.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: EU regulations provide that asylum seekers who transit an EU country determined to be “safe” on their way to their destination country can be returned to the transit country to apply for refugee status. Authorities considered signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to be safe countries of transit.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: According to UNHCR, in October more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors were lodged in inadequate accommodations. Representatives from UNHCR, UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration expressed concern that minors’ guardians were not qualified to minimize the risk of child trafficking. Minors were not systematically tracked until they were admitted to a provincial care facility, which could take several months. The government believed that most minors only transited the country, but was unable to track fully their movements, in part because of EU regulations prohibiting collection of biometrics for persons younger than 14.

Freedom of Movement: By law asylum seekers’ may move freely only in the district of the reception center that processes their initial application, until Austria’s responsibility (vice that of a country transited by the applicant) for examining the application is determined. Authorities have 20 days in which to determine the country’s responsibility for the case.

Employment: Asylum seekers are eligible for work three months after being admitted to the asylum procedure, provided they can obtain an employment permit, which must be requested by their potential employer. Without an employment permit, asylum seekers are eligible for seasonal work, low-paying community service jobs, or professional training in sectors that require additional apprentices.

Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers receive accommodation and food and have access to health care services, education, counseling, subsidies for clothing and school supplies, and in some provinces may receive language training and a small allowance. The Ministry of Labor and the Ministry for Women, Family, Youth, and Integration continued providing German-language instruction and skilled labor training to young persons with immigrant backgrounds. Preschool programs, including some one- and two-year pilot programs, sought to remedy language deficiencies for non-native German speakers.

Durable Solutions: While the government processes and grants applications for asylum, there was no active program for resettlement of refugees, and UNHCR was not involved in the refugee or asylum process in the country. The integration section in the Ministry for Women, Family, Youth, and Integration at the Federal Chancellery, together with the government’s Austrian Integration Fund, and provincial and local integration offices, coordinated measures for integration of refugees.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to individuals who did not qualify as refugees but were beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, which is granted to an individual whose asylum application has been rejected but whose life or health is under threat in the country of origin. The status of subsidiary protection, initially valid for one year, can be extended if the adverse conditions continue to persist. According to the Ministry of Interior, between January and November, the government provided temporary protection to 4,950 individuals.

Not applicable.

According to the government’s statistical office, as of January 1 there were 18,884 persons in the country registered as stateless or having unknown citizenship. The government categorized 4,491 of these individuals as stateless persons, 751 as having unknown citizenship, and 13,642 as persons of undetermined citizenship. Stateless persons in the country were largely Austrian-born children of foreign nationals who were unable to acquire their parents’ citizenship due to the laws in their parents’ country of origin. Authorities did not deport them because they lacked a home country.

The law allows some stateless persons to gain nationality in the country. Stateless persons can receive temporary residence and work permits that must be renewed annually. On March 23, parliament amended the Austrian Citizenship Act so that those born in the country who would otherwise be stateless may apply for nationality after a three-year period, bringing the provision in line with the minimum requirement of the 1961 Convention.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

While the law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media and specifically prohibits press censorship, the government habitually violated these rights.  The government limited freedom of expression and media independence.  Journalists, editors, and independent bloggers faced intimidation and at times were beaten and imprisoned.  In addition, there were suspicious acts of violence outside the country (see section 1.e., Transnational Repression).  During the year, the government imposed further restrictions on journalists with a new media law, and authorities continued to pressure media outlets, journalists, bloggers, and activists in the country and in exile, including their relatives, to refrain from criticizing the government.

Freedom of Expression:  Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression, the government continued to repress or attempt to intimidate persons it considered political opponents or critics.  The incarceration of such persons raised concerns regarding authorities’ abuse of the judicial system to punish dissent.  Human rights groups considered dozens of arrests or convictions during the year to be connected to the exercise of freedom of expression.

Throughout the year government-owned and progovernment outlets continued to dominate broadcast and print media.  A limited number of independent and semi-independent media outlets operating solely online expressed a wide variety of views on government policies, but authorities pressured, harassed, or detained representatives of many of them in various ways for doing so.

The government, including the Media Development Agency (MDA), continued to impose controls on media, including a media law that went into effect February 8.  In a February report, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) representative for media freedom called for the removal of several portions of the law, including the expanded scope of media control to include activity outside of Azerbaijan and restrictions on registration for journalists and media entities.  In a joint opinion released June 20, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law stated, “in the context of an already extremely confined space for independent journalism and media,” the media law would have a “further ‘chilling effect.’”  Implementation of the law’s provisions on maintaining a media registry began on October 14, with a six-month registration period for journalists and media outlets.  While the implementation period continued at year’s end, several journalists and media outlets reportedly were denied registration by the MDA.  Independent media representatives, media lawyers, and international NGOs criticized the law and registration process.

The government continued to routinely arrest independent journalists, especially those critical of government officials or investigating corruption.  In September, three independent online journalists were arrested.  Avaz Zeynalli and Elnur Shukurov were charged with bribery in separate cases.  Civil society activists assessed that the arrests were retribution for the journalists’ coverage of alleged corruption of a senior government official (see section 4).  Zaur Gafarov, whose arrest occurred during the September fighting with Armenia, was accused of extorting money from a soldier with an alleged doctored video.

In July and August, the Prosecutor General’s Office warned, summoned, and charged multiple journalists, activists, bloggers, and social media users for what it called actions that were in violation of social and political stability.  The Ministry of Defense also issued public warnings and engaged in tandem with the Prosecutor General’s Office on what it claimed were steps to combat the spread of false information.  Some of those summoned to the prosecutor were sentenced to administrative arrest on charges of posting “legally prohibited” information on a social network and others were formally warned of “the inadmissibility of committing such negative actions in the future.”  The Prosecutor General’s Office also issued a public appeal to “mass media and users of social networks” that warned that the “dissemination of unverified information without any explanation in state bodies is unacceptable.”

For example, on July 27, the Prosecutor General’s Office summoned Fikret Ibishov and Agil Alyshov, the heads of two websites, who posted reports concerning the military.  The two were warned not to comment on matters involving the Ministry of Defense without the ministry’s approval.  In another example, military blogger Tofig Shakhmuradov was arrested administratively for 30 days for similar posts.  On August 8, the Prosecutor General’s Office warned another group of social network users not to disseminate “false information” and fake or dated photos of the military forces, claiming the social media users had “cast a shadow” on the military and inadvertently risked the soldiers’ lives.

Authorities continued exerting pressure on major media rights organizations and independent media outlets outside the country, as well as on individuals in the country associated with those outlets.  Foreign media outlets, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), were banned in 2009 and remained prohibited from broadcasting on FM radio frequencies.  The Russian service Sputnik, which was also originally prohibited from broadcasting, was later allowed to freely broadcast news.  In June, after Russian authorities blocked several Azerbaijani news websites, the Azerbaijan government blocked Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Censorship of press websites, restricted visas, and outright bans for those journalists critical of the country’s human rights record continued for foreign outlets and foreign journalists.

Violence and Harassment:  During the year, police occasionally used force and other methods against journalists and bloggers to prevent their professional activities and limit press freedom.  Local observers reported journalists from independent media outlets were subjected to harassment and cyberattacks.  Civil society activists continued to call on the government to conduct effective investigations of the high-profile killings of journalists Rasim Aliyev in 2015, Rafiq Tagi in 2011, and Elmar Huseynov in 2005.

On May 8, journalist Ayten Mammadova was accosted in an elevator by a man who held a knife to her neck and threatened her life and the life of her daughter.  The man told Mammadova she “must not write about the case.”  Mammadova said she was certain the attack was related to her reporting on the murder of a 10-year-old girl who went missing in 2019.  The minor’s body was found with burn injuries near a village in Tovuz region.  Several officials, including the village’s former police chief, were implicated in the case.  According to Mammadova, the attack was meant to silence her coverage of this sensitive case.  Police opened an investigation into the attack, but no arrests had been made as of year’s end.

Most local media outlets relied on the patronage of individuals close to the government or the MDA for income.  Those not benefiting from such support experienced financial difficulties, such as problems paying wages, taxes, and periodic court fines.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Most media outlets practiced self-censorship and avoided topics considered politically sensitive due to fear of government retaliation.  The National Radio and Television Council continued to require that local, privately owned television and radio stations not rebroadcast complete news programs of foreign origin.  Foreign radio stations were generally banned from direct broadcast.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Libel and slander are criminal offenses.  The law provides for substantial fines and up to three years’ imprisonment for persons convicted of libel or slander.  Conviction of insulting the president is punishable by up to two years’ corrective labor or up to three years’ imprisonment.  Libel and slander laws were routinely used to silence government critics, including accredited journalists and bloggers.

For example, chairman of the opposition Citizen and Development Party Ali Aliyev was convicted of defamation in three cases in January, April, and June.  Two of the complaints were brought by government employees working for the border service, and the third, unrelated complaint was brought by a member of the ruling party.  Human rights groups assessed the prosecutions were politically motivated (see section 1.e.).  In November, Aliyev was serving a combined sentence of 12 months when he was sentenced to an additional three years and six months’ imprisonment for alleged battery against a fellow inmate, charges he denied and that human rights organizations also considered politically motivated.

In separate cases, lawyer Ilham Aslanoglu and activist Abid Gafarov were sentenced to prison for comments related to the armed forces.  On January 28, Aslanoglu was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment for conviction of defamatory comments allegedly made concerning the Terter case (see section 1.c.), a wide-scale 2017 military investigation that involved the systematic torture of more than 400 soldiers and civilians.  An appeals court released him in March, however, on June 9, he was retried, convicted, and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.  On July 13, Gafarov was sentenced to one year in prison for alleged slander and insult of Nagorno-Karabakh veterans after he criticized them for not advocating for their rights.  Activists considered the real reason for Gafarov’s incarceration to have been his highlighting of torture in the Terter case.

Parliamentarians continue to propose further restrictions on social media content.  For example, in August, member of parliament (MP) Malahat Ibrahimgizi said certain “imported values” were “corroding” society and needed to be stopped on social media through controls or filters.

Internet Freedom

International news websites and those linked with opposition groups were blocked for various lengths of time during the year.  For example, the websites of the RFE/RL; the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP); Azerbaijani media outlets including Azadliq,,,,,,,,, and; and the Germany-based media outlet Meydan TV remained blocked by authorities during the year, although these outlets could release information without many restrictions on social media.

Activists asserted authorities conducted cyberattacks and used other measures and proxies to disrupt internet television programs.

The government requires internet service providers to be licensed and to have formal agreements with the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and High Technologies.  The law imposes criminal penalties for conviction of libel and slander on the internet, which had a further chilling effect on open and free use of the medium.

There were strong indications the government monitored the internet communications of civil society activists.  For example, activists reported being harassed by police and forced to delete critical Facebook posts under threat of physical abuse.  During the year, activists were questioned, detained, and frequently sentenced to administrative detention for posting criticism of government actions and commenting on human rights abuses online.  For example, in September, police officers detained D18 youth political movement leader Ahmed Mammadli outside his home shortly after he criticized President Aliyev on Facebook.  Mammadli was sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention for allegedly failing to obey a police officer.  In July, prominent human rights and political activists in the country received a targeted phishing mail allegedly from Human Rights Watch.  The mail included a link to a malware, with the capability of webcam and desktop recording, execution of Windows commands, as well as extraction and uploading of selected files from the victim’s computer.

Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report for the period from June 2021 through May categorized the country’s internet status as “not free.”  The report concluded the state of internet freedom remained restricted during the period covered.  The report highlighted problems including that the government continued to block numerous independent and opposition websites; that the media law further restricted online media outlets and created obstacles for those trying to establish new media outlets; and that authorities utilized trumped-up charges to prosecute activists who criticized government policies or officials online.

Despite some restrictions, the internet remained the primary method for citizens to access independent and semi-independent media.  For example, while Meydan, Azadliq, and other media outlets were blocked, social media users were able to access most of their reports via social media including Facebook, mirror websites, and YouTube, where videos and articles were shared mostly without restrictions.

In April, Meta (formerly Facebook) released a quarterly Adversarial Threat Report that described in detail a Ministry of Internal Affairs operation that engaged in cyber espionage and Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior to track social media and replicate fake posts of journalists, government critics, and democracy activists.  Meta was able to dismantle the network.

During intense fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, on September 14, the State Security Services announced the suspension of social media app TikTok to stop “disinformation” from nongovernment sources concerning military operations.  During this time, users widely reported slowdowns of mobile and land internet service, especially with social media.  On November 5, the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport announced the ban on use of TikTok was lifted.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government on occasion restricted academic freedom.  Opposition party leaders reported their members had difficulty finding and keeping teaching jobs at schools and universities.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected many of these rights but continued its practice of limiting freedom of movement for some prominent opposition figures, activists, and journalists.

From December 12 through the end of the year, Azerbaijani protesters widely believed to be backed by the country’s authorities, blocked the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, via the Lachin corridor, leaving it inaccessible to most civilian and commercial traffic. Human Rights Watch called on those in control of the road and the area around it, including the country’s authorities, to ensure that freedom of movement was not stopped.

Foreign Travel: Authorities continued to prevent a number of opposition figures, activists, and journalists from traveling outside the country. For example, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Chairperson Ali Kerimli had been prohibited from traveling since 2006. The law requires men of draft age to register with military authorities before traveling abroad. Authorities placed some travel restrictions on military personnel with access to national security information. Citizens charged with or convicted of criminal offenses and given suspended sentences were not permitted to travel abroad until the terms of their suspended sentences had been met. Internal land border crossings remained closed to individuals due to restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to some refugees through the Refugee Status Determination Department at the State Migration Service, which is responsible for refugee matters. Although UNHCR noted some improvements in conditions for refugees, including access to public education and the legal right to work, the country’s refugee-status determination system did not meet international standards. International NGOs continued to report the service remained inefficient and did not operate transparently.

Temporary Protection: The government did not provide temporary protection to asylum seekers during the year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, authorities did not return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin and extended their stay in the country.

UNHCR reported 654,839 registered IDPs in the country as of December 31, 2021. The vast majority fled their homes between 1988 and 1994 because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

IDPs had access to education and health care, but their unemployment rate was higher than the national average. Some international observers continued to state the government did not adequately promote the integration of IDPs into society. In September, the government’s State Committee for Refugees and IDPs reported that 63 families displaced during the 1990s were resettled in the Zangilan District. This was the sixth group of IDPs settled in the newly returned territories following the end of hostilities in 2020 and brought the total resettled to 326.

Most stateless persons were ethnic Azerbaijanis from Georgia or Iran. NGOs stated there were many other undocumented stateless persons, with estimates ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands.

While the law provides for the right to apply for stateless status, some persons could not obtain the documentation required for the application and, therefore, remained formally unrecognized. The law on citizenship makes it difficult for foreigners and stateless persons to obtain citizenship. The State Migration Service received 721 applications as of December 19 from foreigners and stateless persons (749 including children) requesting Azerbaijani citizenship. Citizenship was granted to 355 foreigners and stateless persons (370 including children).

Stateless persons generally enjoyed freedom of internal movement. Stateless persons were not, however, issued travel documents or readmitted if they left the country. According to national legislation, stateless persons have access to most of the rights and services available to citizens and foreigners in the country, except certain rights, such as employment, that are limited to citizens only. According to UNHCR, however, these rights and services were accessible to only those documented with Azerbaijani government statelessness identity cards (IDs) or UNHCR protection documents. Those who lacked any ID documents also lacked access to basic rights, especially because of the expansion of the country’s electronic governance system. For example, a stateless person must have an ID document with PIN code to access a health facility to get vaccinated or benefit from the mandatory health insurance.

The constitution allows citizenship to be removed “as provided by law.” During the year, a court removed the citizenship of one individual for “voluntarily serving in a state or municipal body” of the Russian Federation.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for members of the press and other media, only “provided that the fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine are not infringed, the unity of the people is not prejudiced, and discord and sectarianism are not aroused.”  This constitutional restriction, however, does not extend freedom of speech protection to social media.  The government limited freedom of expression and press freedom through prosecutions of individuals under libel, slander, and national security laws that targeted both professional and citizen journalists.

Freedom of Expression:  The law forbids any speech that authorities consider a challenge public order or morals.  While individuals openly expressed critical opinions regarding domestic political and social issues in private settings, those who shared such opinions publicly, including in traditional or social media, often faced repercussions.  During the year, the government took steps against what it considered acts of civil disobedience, which included critical speech.  The penal code allows penalties of no less than one year and no more than seven years of imprisonment, plus a fine, for anyone who “offends the monarch of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the flag, or the national emblem.”

Shia scholar Mohammed al-Madi was arrested on March 17 after a court confirmed the year-long prison sentence he received in 2019 for delivering a sermon in which he allegedly spoke ill of a companion of the Prophet Muhammad.  Opposition sources stated that al-Madi was released on April 2, reportedly following an order from the royal court.

On September 11, the Ministry of Interior summoned a lawyer for a tweet the lawyer posted on September 5 urging unemployed university graduates to protest.  He was released the same day.

Violence and Harassment:  According to opposition social media accounts, authorities sometimes summoned citizen journalists active on social media to account for their reporting.  Authorities claimed, however, that some individuals who identified themselves as journalists and photographers were associated with violent opposition groups and produced propaganda and recruiting videos for these groups.  International media representatives reported difficulty in obtaining visas to work as journalists.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Government censorship regularly occurred.  Ministry of Information Affairs personnel monitored media reports on matters deemed sensitive, especially those related to religious sects, national security, criticism of the ruling family or the judiciary, and the Saudi royal family.  Media reported government officials contacted editors directly and told them to stop publishing articles on certain subjects.

The government did not own any print media, but the ministry and other government entities exercised considerable control over privately owned domestic print media.  The private owners of the country’s main newspapers have close ties to the government or held positions in the government.

The government owned and operated all domestic radio and television stations.  Audiences could also access some radio and television broadcasts in Arabic and English from stations based outside the country, including by satellite.  The government blocked foreign television stations it considered critical of the country.

The Ministry of Information Affairs reviewed all books and publications prior to issuing printing licenses.  The Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs, and Endowments also reviewed books that discussed religion.

The law prohibits anti-Islamic content in media and mandates imprisonment for “exposing the state’s official religion to offense and criticism.”  The law states, “Any publication that prejudices the ruling system of the country and its official religion may be banned from publication by a ministerial order.”  In June the Ministry of Information Affairs banned screenings of Lightyear, Thor: Love and Thunder, Doctor Strange 2, and Eternals for their portrayals of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) characters and same-sex relationships.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The government enforced libel and national security-related laws restricting freedom of the press.  The penal code prohibits libel, slander, and “divulging secrets,” and it stipulates a punishment of imprisonment of no more than two years or a fine.

National Security:  National security laws provide for substantial fines and prison sentences of at least six months for criticizing the king or inciting actions that undermine state security, as well as fines for 14 related offenses.  Punishable activities include publicizing statements issued by a foreign state or organization without prior government approval, publishing reports that adversely affect the value of the dinar (the local currency), saying anything offensive against a head of state that maintains diplomatic relations with the country, and publishing offensive remarks concerning accredited representatives of foreign countries.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted access to the internet and censored online content, and there were credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  The government blocked access to some websites from inside and outside the country, including political opposition-linked websites.  The government continued to block web-based outlets it believed were supported by Qatar, with which it broke diplomatic relations in 2017, as well as websites based in Lebanon, Iran, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere that published content critical of the government.  It also blocked access to international human rights groups’ reporting on human rights and political prisoners, as well as opposition-leaning news sites critical of the ruling family and the government.

Several media reports alleged the government worked with other foreign governments and private companies to monitor political opposition leaders and human rights activists’ social media accounts, mobile telephones, and other forms of local and international electronic communications (see section 1.f.).

Activists reported that security forces interrogated them, sometimes repeatedly, about their social media posts and threatened their physical safety, livelihood, families, and access to social services such as housing.  Some individuals were summoned to police stations and required to sign pledges to cease posting political content.  Several activists said they shut down social media accounts or stopped posting to their accounts after being threatened.

The Ministry of Information’s Anti-Cybercrime Directorate continued to monitor social media for indecency, blasphemy, incitement to sectarianism, and offenses to the sanctity of religion.  In July, the directorate announced on Twitter that it arrested a woman for posting “inappropriate words and gestures” on social media.  The public prosecutor charged the woman with “misuse of a telecommunication device.”  In August, the directorate arrested two citizens, one of them age 17, for posts on TikTok that insulted religious figures.  The courts sentenced the 17-year-old to a one-month suspended prison sentence and the adult to a two-month suspended sentence.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government restricted academic freedom and cultural events.  Some academics engaged in self-censorship, avoiding discussion of contentious political topics.

In July, the Ministry of Interior summoned University of Bahrain sociology professor Nader Kadhim for questioning.  According to political opposition sources, he was held at the Dry Dock detention center for a week, then released on July 28.  The government never gave a public reason for his detention.  Kadhim also received a letter of termination from the university, citing the shutdown of its sociology bachelor’s degree program as the reason for his dismissal.

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government did not always respect these rights. Some individuals released from prison on alternative sentences were subject to travel bans or limits on their ability to attend religious or cultural events.

Foreign Travel: The law allows the government to reject for “reasonable cause” applications to obtain or renew passports, but the applicant has the right to appeal such decisions before the High Civil Court. On February 15, the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments removed the travel ban for insolvent debtors, if they fulfill specific requirements.

The government maintained a website enabling individuals to check their status before travel, although some individuals claimed the website’s information was unreliable. Authorities cited “defense of national security” when denying passport applications and had authority to prevent citizens perceived as openly critical of the government from leaving the country.

There were conflicting reports of whether citizens needed government permission to travel to Iraq for al-Arbaeen ceremonies, a major religious ritual in which Shia Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Husayn bin Ali. On September 9, Safa al-Khawaja, a member of the dissolved Bahrain Center for Human Rights, affirmed she was able to travel to Iraq. On September 9 and 10, however, the leaders of the dissolved Shia Scholars’ Council reported on their social media accounts that authorities prevented them from traveling to Iraq. On September 14, videos of al-Arbaeen processions organized by hundreds of Bahrainis in Karbala appeared on social media.

Exile: There were no reports the government prohibited the return of individuals it considered citizens. The government, however, did prohibit the return of those whose citizenship it had formally revoked and their family members.

Citizenship: The government may revoke citizenship in both criminal and political cases, including for natural-born citizens, regardless of whether individuals may become stateless by these actions. On December 13, the Court of Cassation affirmed a defendant’s 2015 terrorism conviction, with a sentence that included revocation of his citizenship and a 10-year prison sentence.

Citizenship revocation remained a punitive practice in criminal sentencing, which also had a trickle-down effect by rendering the accused’s family members stateless (see section 2.g.). Some family members of men whose citizenship was revoked, especially women and adult and minor children, were unable to renew or obtain their own passports, residence cards, and birth certificates, limiting their access to social services including housing and education. The government may halt payments of pensions or remove families from government-assisted housing if the head of household has had his citizenship revoked.

The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government at times provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Such protection was mostly limited to those who were able to obtain and maintain employment. Such individuals generally had access to health care and education services while employed but were at risk of deportation if they became unemployed or their country of origin revoked their passports.

Not applicable.

The country contributes to statelessness, including through discrimination in nationality laws or their administration in practice. Individuals derive citizenship only from the father, but the king may also confer or revoke citizenship. The law does not grant citizenship to children born to citizen mothers and foreign fathers, even if the birth takes place within the country (see section 6, Children). Similarly, the law does not provide a path to citizenship for foreign men married to citizen women; it allows foreign women married to citizen men to become citizens.

Human rights organizations reported these laws resulted in stateless children, particularly when the foreign father was unable or unwilling to secure citizenship for the child from the father’s country of nationality, or when the father was stateless, deceased, or unknown. The number of stateless persons residing in the country was unknown. Stateless persons had limited access to social services, education, and employment.

In July, political opposition and social media accounts and websites criticized the government for denying citizenship and nationality to a child named Sayed Ali Qassim, rendering him and his siblings stateless. The government revoked the citizenship of the boy’s father in 2015 following his terrorism conviction.

NGOs confirmed multiple cases of authorities refusing applications for birth certificates and passports for children whose fathers were in prison because the fathers were not able to submit the applications in person (see section 6, Children).

The government charged individuals whose citizenship it revoked with violating immigration law if they remained in the country.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government frequently contravened this right.  There were significant limitations on freedom of expression both online and offline.  Members of media and bloggers self-censored their criticisms of the government due to harassment and fear of reprisal.

Freedom of Expression:  The constitution equates criticism of the constitution with sedition.  Punishment for conviction of sedition ranges from three years to life imprisonment.

The law limits hate speech but does not define clearly what constitutes hate speech, which permits the government broad latitude to interpret it.  The government may restrict speech deemed to be against the security of the state; against friendly relations with foreign states; and against public order, decency, or morality; or which constitutes contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offense.  The law criminalizes any criticism of constitutional bodies.

The DSA, passed ostensibly to reduce cybercrime, provides for sentences of up to life imprisonment for spreading “propaganda” against the Bangladesh Liberation War, the national anthem, or the national flag.  Throughout the year the government widely used the DSA against persons criticizing the government, including questioning the government’s handling of the pandemic.  Increasingly, the law was used against speech found on social media, websites, and other digital platforms, including for commentators living outside of the country.  In April the Centre for Governance Studies released a report that stated at least 2,244 individuals were accused in 890 DSA cases between January 2020 and February 2022.  Politicians made up the plurality of the accused, followed by journalists.  The report claimed an average of 32 arrests per month under the DSA, with arrest rates increasing in 2021 and during the year.  Separate news stories noted even children were facing DSA charges.  At least 18 cases were filed against 20 children between ages 13 and 17 in 12 districts of the country.

In March Amnesty International reported, “Section 25 (publication of false or offensive information), Section 29 (publication of defamatory information) and Section 31 (offense and punishment for deteriorating law and order) of the DSA were used systematically to target and harass dissenting voices, including those of journalists, activists, and human rights defenders.  These actions contravened the country’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as its domestic constitutional obligations.”

Violence and Harassment:  Authorities, including intelligence services and student affiliates of the ruling party, subjected journalists to physical attacks, harassment, and intimidation, especially when tied to the DSA, which human rights activists viewed as a government and ruling party tool to intimidate journalists.  The Editors’ Council, an association of newspaper editors, stated the DSA stifled investigative journalism, and members published editorials stating so publicly.  Individuals faced the threat of being arrested, held in pretrial detention, subjected to expensive criminal trials, fines, and imprisonment, as well as the social stigma associated with having a criminal record.  Of 20 clauses of the law relating to crime and punishment, 14 are nonbailable, five are bailable, and one is negotiable, according to the Editor’s Council.

Minority rights organizations criticized the arbitrary detention under the DSA of minority community members on the false pretext of blasphemy.  They claimed the government arrested members of the minority community after anti-Hindu violence in October 2021, to ensure news of brutalities committed against minorities was not posted on social media.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Both print and online independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views; however, media outlets that criticized the government were pressured by the government.  Independent media could not operate freely or without restrictions.

The government maintained editorial control over the country’s public television station and allegedly mandated private channels broadcast government content for free.  Civil society organizations stated political interference influenced the licensing process, since all television channel licenses granted by the government were for stations supporting the ruling party.

In October police submitted to a Dhaka court a report stating that police found no evidence against Prothom Alo senior journalist Rozina Islam, who faced charges in an Official Secrets Act case.  The government arrested Islam in May 2021 under the 1923 Official Secrets Act and sections of the penal code for investigating a corruption story involving the Ministry of Health, accusing him of taking photos and stealing official documents from the ministry.  Media outlets reported Islam was confined to a government office in Dhaka for five hours and, according to her family, physically harassed and mistreated.  Islam, if convicted, could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison or the death penalty.

Independent journalists and media alleged intelligence services influenced media outlets in part by withholding financially important government advertising and pressing private companies to withhold their advertising as well.  The government penalized media that criticized it or carried messages of the political opposition’s activities and statements.

Privately owned newspapers usually were free to carry diverse views outside politically sensitive topics or those that criticized the ruling party.  Political polarization and self-censorship remained a problem.  Investigative journalists often complained of their management and of editors “killing” reports due to fear of pressure from the government and its intelligence agencies.  Some journalists received threats after publishing their stories.  According to journalists and human rights groups, journalists engaged in self-censorship due to fear of security force retribution, prosecution under the DSA, and the possibility of being charged with politically motivated cases.  Although public criticism of the government was common and vocal, some media figures expressed fear of harassment by the government.

In a June statement, human rights organization Article 19 expressed concern regarding the killings of three media workers between March and June.  Article 19 recorded 62 incidents of physical assault on journalists across the country from January to May.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Libel, slander, defamation, and blasphemy are treated as criminal offenses, most often employed against individuals speaking against the government, the prime minister, or other government officials.  Laws referring to defamation of individuals and organizations were used to prosecute opposition figures and members of civil society.

National Security:  Authorities stated the DSA was essential to protect national and cyber security and prevent communalism.  They allegedly used the law to arrest or punish critics of the government or deter criticism of government policies or officials.

Nongovernmental Impact:  Societal pressures limited freedom of expression; atheist, secular, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) writers and bloggers reported they continued to receive death threats from alleged extremist organizations.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted and disrupted access to the internet and censored online content in numerous incidents.  Laws banned virtual private networks and voice-over-internet-protocol telephone, but authorities rarely enforced this prohibition.  The government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

In several incidents the government interfered in internet communications, filtered or blocked access, restricted content, and censored websites or other communications and internet services.  From October to December, the government allegedly blocked or slowed internet services in cities where opposition parties planned rallies.  It suspended or closed many websites based on vague criteria, or with explicit reference to their pro-opposition content being in violation of legal requirements.

The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission is charged with regulating telecommunications.  It carries out law enforcement and government requests to block content by ordering internet service providers to act.  The commission filtered internet content the government deemed harmful to “national unity and religious beliefs.”

Local media reported the country is among those allegedly using Pegasus, the Israeli-made surveillance application.  The government’s information and communication technology minister denied the software purchase and deferred further questions to law enforcement agencies.  The Citizen Lab, an international research laboratory, claimed the spyware was detected on the networks of Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited, the country’s largest telecommunications company.

In January 2020, authorities blocked the Swedish-based website Netra News after it published reports alleging corruption by a government minister.  As of December, the website remained blocked.

In September the Asia Desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists reported authorities temporarily blocked domestic access to the website of DrikNews, run by human rights advocate and photographer Shahidul Alam.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Although the government placed few restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events, authorities discouraged research on sensitive religious and political topics that might fuel possible religious or communal tensions.  Academic publications on the 1971 independence war were subject to scrutiny and government approval.

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights, except in three sensitive areas: the CHT, Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, and on the island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal.

In-country Movement: The government enforced restrictions on access to the CHT by foreigners and restricted movement of Rohingya refugees. The refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar were surrounded by barbed and concertina wire fencing with few pedestrian gates to allow the Rohingya to move among the camps or into the local community. Bhasan Char is an island with no regular links to the mainland. Authorities caught and detained many Rohingya who tried to leave Bhasan Char or camps in Cox’s Bazar and returned them to the registered camps.

Foreign Travel: While foreign travel is allowed, some senior domestic civil society and international NGO representatives, as well as opposition party members, reported harassment and delays when applying for a visa, entering, or departing the country. The government prevented war crimes suspects from the 1971 independence war from leaving the country.

Throughout the year numerous lockdown periods and movement restrictions were enforced, sporadically, to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. While restrictions technically applied to all citizens during any designated period, civil society reported individuals from poorer communities were disproportionately arrested or punished for violating quarantine rules. Allegations of bribes to avoid movement restrictions or penalties were also reported.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to Rohingya refugees.

The government is not a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol. As a result, the government claimed it was not under legal obligation to uphold the basic rights enshrined in this treaty.

Prior to the 2017 Rohingya arrivals, the government and UNHCR provided temporary protection and basic assistance to approximately 33,000 registered Rohingya refugees from Burma living in two official camps (Kutupalong and Nayapara), while the government and the International Organization for Migration aided approximately 200,000 undocumented Rohingya living in makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar. In 2017, more than 750,000 Rohingya fled genocide in neighboring Burma to seek safe haven in Bangladesh. As of November 30, because of this influx, 950,972 registered Rohingya refugees were living in refugee camps, makeshift settlements, and host communities. The government claimed actual numbers totaled more than 1.2 million. The government did not recognize the arrivals as refugees, referring to them instead as “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals,” but abided by many of the established UN standards for refugees. One notable exception was that Rohingya do not enjoy full freedom of movement throughout the country. Government officials stated repatriation was the government’s only goal, stressing privileges such as freedom of movement, formal education, or livelihood opportunities could not be afforded to the Rohingya population.

A National Task Force of 25 ministries and department representatives and chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided oversight and strategic guidance for the overall Rohingya response. The Ministry of Home Affairs coordinated and maintained law and order for the response, with support from the Armed Police Battalion. At the local level, the Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, under the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, was responsible for the management of the camps.

As of November, Bhasan Char hosted 28,760 Rohingya refugees. Media reported the government spent 31 billion taka ($310 million) to prepare for the eventual transfer of 100,000 refugees to the island. Current programs operate under a 2021 memorandum of understanding between the government and UNHCR that outlines the humanitarian and protection framework underlying UN operational engagements on the island.

On September 11, the government brought charges against 29 Rohingya in connection with the September 2021 killing of Mohammad Mohib Ullah, chairman and founder of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, in Cox’s Bazar. By October 2021, several men were arrested in connection with the killing. In March the Armed Police Battalion arrested the chief commander of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s Ulama branch, Maulovi Zakaria accused of having issued a fatwa against Mohib Ullah.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, nor has the government established a formal system for providing protection to refugees. Nonetheless, the government provided significant protection and assistance to Rohingya refugees residing in the country. Prior to 2017, the government cooperated with UNHCR to provide temporary protection and basic assistance to registered refugees residing in two official camps. After the 2017 arrival of more than 750,000 additional Rohingya refugees, the government started to register the refugees biometrically and provided identity cards with their Burmese addresses. Despite this documentation system, the lack of formal refugee status for Rohingya and clear legal reporting mechanisms in the camps impeded refugees’ access to the justice system. UNHCR continued to operate registration centers to update individual and family status due to marriages, divorces, births, and deaths.

In September media reported up to 15 new Rohingya arrivals fled fighting in Burma and took refuge in the existing camps. Government officials prevented UNHCR from registering these new arrivals, and in October, several of these refugees reported they were in hiding and relying on the generosity of registered refugees for food and shelter.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The government mostly cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to Rohingya refugees, despite significant security concerns in the camps. NGOs reported human trafficking and smuggling were common in the camps, with few cases prosecuted in the country’s judicial system. When discovered, government officials returned trafficking victims to the camps.

International organizations reported gender-based violence directed against women in the camps. Intimate partner violence comprised 90 percent of the cases. The reduced footprint of international organizations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic limited reporting and monitoring of gender-based violence.

Accountability for all crimes, including human trafficking, remained a problem. Rohingya relied on government officials responsible for each camp (also known as the Camps in Charge, or CiC) to address allegations of crime. The CiCs were largely autonomous and varied in terms of responsiveness to camp needs. According to international organizations, some CiCs were susceptible to corruption. International organizations alleged some border guard, military, and police officials were involved in facilitating trafficking of Rohingya women and children, ranging from “looking the other way,” to bribes for allowing traffickers to access Rohingya in the camps, to direct involvement in trafficking.

After May Eid al-Fitr celebrations, Human Rights Watch reported extortion, harassment, beatings, verbal abuse, and unlawful or arbitrary arrest by Armed Police Battalion restricted refugees’ ability to move within the camps for the purposes of collecting rations and obtaining medication. In April Human Rights Watch also reported authorities intensified restrictions on Rohingya refugees’ livelihoods, movement, and education. The organization noted officials arbitrarily destroyed thousands of shops while imposing new obstacles on travel within the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

The 2021 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United Nations and the government has provisions to improve protections and services for Rohingya refugees on Bhasan Char. The MOU proposes expanded access to services, such as education, skills and vocational training, livelihoods, health care, and uninterrupted telecommunication services, which was funded by some international donors through the 2022 Joint Response Plan. Following conclusion of the MOU, UN organizations began delivering humanitarian aid on Bhasan Char.

Freedom of Movement: There were restrictions on Rohingya freedom of movement. According to the 1993 MOU between the government and UNHCR, registered Rohingya refugees are not permitted to move outside official camps. After the 2017 influx, police set up checkpoints on the roads to restrict travel by both registered refugees and arrivals beyond the Ukhiya and Teknaf subdistricts. Rohingya located at Bhasan Char had little means to exit the island or travel to camps in Cox’s Bazar, where many claimed to have family members, leading some human rights groups to label the situation on the island as “detention.” At least 120 refugees were arrested for trying to leave the island. On May 4 and 5, police temporarily detained 656 refugees in Cox’s Bazar when they left the camps to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr at local beaches.

A senior disaster management ministry official stated the government had decided to allow at least two trips per month from the island to the camps in Cox’s Bazar for family visits. Regular and reliable connections to and from the mainland for logistics, trade, family visit, medical, and other reasons did not exist. Refugees complained to donor representatives that they often had to wait months for an opportunity to visit Cox’s Bazar, that visits were only permitted when deemed “urgent,” and that unpaid government-appointed Rohingya community leaders had to be bribed to certify a visit request as urgent enough to merit approval and vouch for the visitors’ intent to return to Bhasan Char.

Many camp authorities introduced curfews and law enforcement patrols, particularly at night, in response to reported concerns regarding violent attacks, abductions, or kidnappings in the camps. Stating a desire to better secure the camp and protect Rohingya from migrant smuggling, the government has erected watchtowers and fencing in the camps in Cox’s Bazar. Humanitarian agencies said fencing hindered delivery of services to refugees and exacerbated tensions between refugees and host communities.

Employment: There were credible reports the government imposed restrictions on refugees’ ability to work. The government did not formally authorize Rohingya refugees in the country to work locally, although it allowed some volunteer opportunities with small stipends and limited cash-for-work activities for Rohingya to perform tasks within the camps. On August 21, the National Task Force endorsed the long-awaited draft skills development framework. The skills development framework outlines the skills and training that may be provided to refugees and host communities, with UN support, based on assumptions of the kinds of livelihoods generally available in Rakhine state.

In August Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s press secretary reported to media that the prime minister had told visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet that initiatives to increase Rohingya refugees’ employment and education opportunities would not be possible in Cox’s Bazar. On Bhasan Char, skills development and livelihood opportunities were limited but appeared to be increasing during the year.

Despite their movement restrictions, some refugees worked illegally as manual laborers on the informal economy, where some were exploited as labor trafficking victims.

Access to Basic Services: The rapid increase in the population strained services both inside and outside the designated camps and makeshift settlements. The UN-led Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) coordinated the many actors and agencies providing basic services to the Rohingya. Donor agencies reported complex and ambiguous certification processes disrupted a timely humanitarian response. Nonetheless, according to the ISCG, refugees lived in congested sites that were poorly equipped to handle the monsoon rains and cyclone seasons. While agencies made significant efforts to move those most vulnerable, the shortage of land remained a central problem hindering the ability of Rohingya to access basic services.

Public education remained a problem. Higher education remained out of reach of most of the population, but UNICEF overcame previous government opposition to formal education by successfully completing a pilot program for grades six to nine using the Burmese national curriculum, and in August expanded the program to an additional 100,000 Rohingya refugee children in kindergarten and grades one and two. The government continued its policy forbidding education outside this program after issuing an order in December 2021 to shut down thousands of informal schools, affecting 32,000 students.

Government authorities allowed registered and unregistered Rohingya regular access to public health care, but the Rohingya needed authorities’ permission to leave the camp. Humanitarian partners ensured their health-care expenses were covered and that they returned to the camps. The health sector maintained information on all the health facilities within the camps and the surrounding areas. Based on available data, overall coverage met the minimum requirements.

Bhasan Char had primary health-care facilities but lacked secondary and tertiary facilities, necessitating referrals to medical facilities off the island for advanced-level care. The transfer of patients to mainland facilities was hampered by required authorizations to depart the island, weather conditions, and boat availability. As of September, 453,160 Rohingya refugees (half of the total refugees) in Cox’s Bazar received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Specifically, 88 percent of Rohingya 12 years or older had received two doses. The government planned to vaccinate the younger age groups in the coming months. As of September in Bhasan Char, 11,651 refugees had received second doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

In November and December, the government approved the resettlement of an initial group of 62 refugees to the United States.

Societal tensions and marginalization of Indigenous persons continued in the CHT because of a government policy initiated during an internal armed conflict from 1973-97. This policy relocated landless ethnic Bengalis to the CHT with the implicit objective of changing the demographic balance to make Bengalis the majority. This initiative followed an earlier project in 1956 to construct a hydroelectric dam in the CHT, flooding hundreds of villages and displacing tens of thousands of Indigenous persons. The national census conducted during the year revealed Indigenous people were now a minority in two of the three CHT districts.

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the CHT had limited physical security. Community leaders maintained Indigenous persons faced widespread violation of their rights by settlers, sometimes supported by security forces (see section 6, Indigenous Peoples).

The number of IDPs in the CHT is in dispute. NGOs estimated the number may exceed 500,000, which included non-Indigenous as well as Indigenous persons. In 2020, the CHT Commission estimated slightly more than 90,000 Indigenous IDPs resided in the area.

Rohingya in the country were legally or in fact stateless. They cannot acquire Bangladeshi citizenship, nor does the government of Burma recognize them as citizens.

Every individual born in Bangladesh is a citizen of the country by birth as per the Citizenship Act of 1951, which was originally the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 and amended after the country’s independence by legislative order. This provision is not afforded to Rohingya. A 2009 amendment to the act allows anyone born in the country to either a Bangladeshi mother or father the right to claim citizenship. This amendment was not retroactively applied to Rohingya children born in the country to stateless fathers prior to 2009, so these children remained stateless. There were cases in which children born to one Bangladeshi parent and one Rohingya parent were not recognized as citizens, despite the 2009 amendment.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Defamation is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.  There were no reports of any defamation or libel cases initiated by government officials against media personnel.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution provides for freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights. Married women must provide a copy of their marriage certificate when applying for a passport; married men are not required to provide this.

Information on the government’s cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was unavailable.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. The Immigration Department is responsible for considering refugee and asylum claims.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media; however, the government did not respect these rights and selectively enforced numerous laws to control and censor the public and media and repress independent journalism.  Authorities forced the closure of virtually all independent media outlets and labeled journalist and opposition voices “extremist,” giving authorities a legal pretext to detain and prosecute individuals for expressing opposition to the regime or reporting on the regime’s abuses.  The government passed additional laws in 2021 to make it illegal to report or stream video from unauthorized mass events and expanded authorities’ ability to close media outlets.  The state press and associated social media propagated views supportive of the president and official policies without giving room for critical voices and actively disparaged the regime’s opponents.

Freedom of Expression:  Individuals could not criticize government officials or the government publicly or discuss matters of general public interest without fear of reprisal, including prosecution, forced exile, and being subjected to other forms of intimidation and harassment.  There are also laws criminalizing libel, “hate speech,” and expression of political views, which authorities used to restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

On July 5, a court in Mahilyou sentenced local student Danuta Piarednia to six-and-a-half years in jail on charges of insulting Lukashenka and damaging national interests.  Piarednia reportedly posted antiwar materials online criticizing Russian President Putin and Lukashenka and calling for street protests on February 27.  On September 6, a Minsk district court convicted opposition and trade union activist Ihar Lednik on politically motivated charges of “libeling the president” and sentenced him to three years in prison.  According to the verdict, Lednik, who had been in pretrial detention since April 18, authored a December 2020 article that “cited intentionally false information, libeling and humiliating the president’s dignity” and allegedly accusing Lukashenka of crimes against humanity.

Authorities also prohibited displaying certain historical flags and symbols, including the historic white-red-white-striped flag adopted by the democratic opposition, and displaying placards bearing messages deemed threatening to the government or “public order.”

Authorities continued to undertake significant steps to suppress freedom of expression, regularly detaining and prosecuting opposition bloggers, journalists, and social media users.  For example, on March 30, a district court in Minsk sentenced blogger and television producer Uladzislau Savin to eight years’ imprisonment on charges of fraud and organizing and participating in unauthorized mass events.  Human rights NGOs stated that Savin’s arrest was due to his participation in three peaceful protests surrounding the presidential election in 2020 and for organizing peaceful protests through videos he posted on his Instagram account.

On September 14, the Hrodna regional court convicted independent journalist Dzyanis Ivashyn of high treason and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.  State media claimed Ivashyn “called for damaging…national security” and reported that authorities ordered him to pay a 4,800-rubles ($1,900) fine and compensation of 2,000 rubles ($800) to each of nine unnamed riot police he “defamed” in his publications.  Human rights groups assessed Ivashyn’s prosecution was in response to his exposés regarding former Ukrainian police special forces (Berkut) members employed by the Belarusian police.

Authorities continued to dismiss state employees who expressed political dissent or participated in protests after the 2020 presidential election, including teachers, civil servants, law enforcement officers, athletes, university administrators, and health-care workers.

For example, on September 19, Lukashenka signed a decree depriving 83 former military, security, and law enforcement officers of their ranks, regalia, and pension due to their criticizing the government and actions in support of the political opposition.  A similar decree depriving 87 persons of their ranks and benefits was issued in May 2021.  The 2022 decree targeted, for example, Valery Sakhashchyk, a former military officer who became a member of the United Transitional Cabinet (UTC), created by the democratic opposition to facilitate a democratic transition of power.  The decree also listed Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (assigned as a law enforcement official and given a pension as part of her Olympic team assignment), whom authorities attempted to forcibly repatriate from the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 after she criticized authorities on social media, and Aleh Talerchyk, a former prosecutor and current member of the Warsaw-based association of former law enforcement officers BYPOL, which documented abuses committed by state security and law enforcement agents.  Others stripped of their titles, ranks, pensions, and formally dismissed included security officials who resigned in protest of police violence, persons fighting in Ukraine against the Russian military, and those previously convicted or prosecuted on politically motivated charges.  For example, on September 5, the Minsk city court sentenced former investigator Stanislau Puhachou to seven years in prison after a closed-door trial on charges of inciting social hatred, collecting and disseminating personal data after he publicized police officers’ personal data online.  A former investigator, he was later targeted by the decree.

The law also limits free speech by criminalizing actions such as giving information that authorities deem false or derogatory to a foreigner concerning the political, economic, social, military, or international situation of the country.  There were no indications authorities charged any individuals under this law during the year.

The government prohibits calls to participate in “unsanctioned demonstrations” (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly).

Authorities also prohibited “extremist” information, which they defined as “information materials including printed, audio, visual, videos, placards, posters, banners and other visuals intended for public usage or distribution that seek the violent change of the constitutional order or the territorial integrity of the country; unconstitutional takeover of state powers; establishment of an illegal armed force; terrorist activities; inciting racial, ethnic, religious or other societal hatred; organizing mass riots; hooliganism and vandalism based on racial, ethnic, religious, or other societal hatred or discord; political and ideological hatred; promotion of supremacy of a group of residents based on their language, social, racial, ethnic, or religious background; and justification of Nazism, including the promotion, production, distribution, and displays of Nazi symbols.”  “Extremist” information also included images of persons declared extremists or convicted on charges related to extremism, charges often used to incriminate the political opposition, journalists, civil society activists, and ordinary citizens.  An Interior Ministry official said on May 17 that from January through April, police detained 237 individuals for disseminating “extremist” materials, compared with 315 persons in all of 2021.

In 2021, the regime amended the law on “countering extremism,” broadening the definition of “extremist activity” to include the distribution of information that authorities deemed “false,” organizing and holding events (i.e., assembling freely), and perceived insolence or attempts to discredit state institutions or officials.  Among the activities authorities deemed “extremist” were regular independent journalism; efforts by the opposition, activists, and protesters to express their opinions or assemble peacefully; alleged attempts to seize state powers; acts of “terrorism”; justifying Nazism; financing “extremist” or “terrorist” activity; and inciting social and other hatred, among other acts.  Authorities introduced individual liability for “extremist activities” and expanded the list of potential “extremist” organizations to include trade unions, NGOs, media organizations, and democratic opposition groups in exile.  Law enforcement officials were also granted permission to use firearms at their discretion when “countering extremism” – viewed by independent observers as an open threat against journalists, protesters, activists, and the regime’s political opponents.

In June 2021, the regime also introduced a law on “preventing the rehabilitation of Nazism,” which expanded the list of prohibited “Nazi symbols and attributes” to include symbols used to denote support for the opposition.  Although the “Pahonia” coat of arms emblem is on a registry of the government’s historic and cultural symbols, the government expressed hostility toward protesters who carried red and white flags or the Pahonia symbol, and security forces detained demonstrators or any individual for doing so, as these symbols were generally identified with the opposition.  On October 28, the Interior Ministry declared the slogan “Long Live Belarus” and the response to it “Live Long,” accompanied by extending the right arm from the shoulder with a straightened hand, as Nazi symbol and attributes, citing it was “a collaborator’s greeting” similar to the Sieg Heil salute.  The “Long Live Belarus” and the response of “Live Long” had been associated with the national revival movement and later opposition and democratic activities, particularly widely used by peaceful protesters in 2020.

The human rights center Vyasna reported that an individual wearing a T-shirt with the Pahonia emblem was detained at a spa resort in the Minsk region and convicted on charges of violating the law on holding unsanctioned mass events on September 5.  He reportedly served 15 days in detention.  In another case in September, a court fined chair of the NGO Positive Movement Tatsiana Pechka for the same crime and fined her 3,200 rubles ($1,280) for white and red colors on her car plates.

As of September, the Ministry of Internal Affairs declared that more than 700 Telegram channels disseminated “extremist” materials and over 90 Telegram channels and online chat groups had been recognized as “extremist organizations,” including prominent independent media resources and BelaPAN and several local neighborhood chats.  Authorities warned that subscribing to, downloading materials from, and reposting information from these channels would be punishable under the law.  For example, civil campaign activist Alena Lazarchyk was convicted of multiple criminal charges, including creating and running an “extremist organization,” the activist opposition group European Belarus, and sentenced to eight years in prison on September 19.

On April 18, the Interior Ministry declared popular Telegram channel Belarus of the Brain and its social media accounts an “extremist organization.”

Violence and Harassment:  Authorities continued to harass and detain local journalists routinely.  According to the independent Belarusian Association of Journalists, at least 400 journalists had fled the country since August 2020 due to repression.  Security forces brought false allegations against them and sentenced them to prison terms for doing their jobs.  As of September, the Belarusian Association of Journalists reported it had recorded at least 70 cases of harassment against local journalists since the start of the year, which included detentions, unwarranted searches, fines, and prison sentences.  In July 2021, security officers detained and beat the chief editor of the independent newspaper Nasha Niva, Yahor Martsinovich, and editorial member Andrei Skurko.  According to his spouse, Martsinovich suffered a head injury during detention, which was confirmed when doctors examined him in the investigators’ office.  On March 15, a district court in Minsk jailed Martsinovich and Skurko for two-and-one-half years on charges of not paying utilities for a residence used as their office.

As of year’s end, at least 30 media representatives remained in detention under various politically motivated charges, including forming or participation in an “extremist” group, calls to violate public order, tax evasion, and organizing and participating in actions that violate public order.  For example, on June 8, Radio Liberty freelancer Andrei Kuznechyk was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on charges of leading an “extremist” organization after being detained since November 2021.  Human rights NGOs deemed Andrei a political prisoner and asserted his politically motivated charges were reprisals for his exercising freedom of expression and his reporting.

Similarly, on August 3, Belsat TV journalist Iryna Slaunikava was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for allegedly forming an “extremist” group and organizing and participating in actions that violate public order, referring to her reporting work for Belsat TV, which authorities deemed “extremist,” and her involvement in the 2020 protests surrounding the presidential election.

Authorities’ harassment and intimidation of journalists often included violently raiding their offices, searching their homes, confiscating their property, and subsequently detaining and prosecuting them.  For example, on October 6, independent media reported that police searched the residence of Sniazhana Inanets, an independent journalist, and her spouse Alyaksandr Lychauka, who also wrote for multiple independent websites, and detained them on charges of participating in the 2020 protests.

Authorities harassed members of the analytical community who regularly contributed articles or commentary to independent media on political and economic matters.  For example, since June 2021, Valerya Kastsyuhova, political scientist, analyst, and editor of the publication Belarusian Annual Report, remained in pretrial holding on charges of conspiring to seize state powers and of calling to damage national security.  On July 13, police arrested military analyst Yahor Lebyadok for his interview with “extremist media” and for facilitating extremist activities.  The Minsk regional court sentenced him to five years in prison on December 23.

As part of the broader crackdown on any political dissent, police detained, interrogated, and arrested at least 44 National Academy of Sciences workers and professors, according to independent media reports on November 2.  While most of the scientists were released after their cell phones were checked for “extremist” materials and they were warned against engaging in political activity, at least one academic, Aleh Davydzenka, and his spouse were charged with participating in action grossly violating public order for 2020 protests based on photographic and video footage, and subsequently dismissed.  A Minsk district court sentenced them to two to three years of house arrest on December 29.  Another academic was detained for 10 days on charges of allegedly disseminating extremist materials.

Authorities also continued to harass journalists during their politically motivated prison sentences.  For example, as Belsat TV journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva’s two-year prison sentence was about to end, authorities convicted her on July 13 of additional charges of state treason and espionage and subsequently sentenced her to another eight years in prison following a closed-door trial.  Andreyeva was originally sentenced in February 2021 to two years’ imprisonment on charges of “organizing actions that grossly violated public order” for livestreaming a violent police crackdown on a peaceful protest in Minsk in November 2020.  She was originally due to be released in September, before she was convicted of the additional charges.

Censorship or Content Restriction for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Authorities severely limited access to information, closed independent outlets, and penalized any independent journalist who published information critical of the government.  By year’s end, the government had succeeded in shutting down virtually all remaining major independent media outlets and had severely limited operations of the regional media in the country.  By law, the government may close a publication – printed or online – after two warnings in one year for violating a range of restrictions on the press.  Regulations also give authorities arbitrary power to prohibit or censor reporting.  The Ministry of Information may, by law, suspend periodicals or newspapers for three months without a court ruling.

The threat of government retaliation led the few small independent media outlets still operating within the country to exercise self-censorship and avoid reporting on certain topics, including Russia’s war against Ukraine, or criticizing the government.  The government tightly and directly controlled the content of state-owned broadcast and print media.  Authorities extensively censored the internet (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom).

On December 12, the editorial of the last remaining printed national newspaper Belorusy I Rynok reported receiving a letter from the Information Ministry to cancel the newspaper’s license as of December 1.  The ministry blocked the newspaper’s website on July 23, citing its reference to “extremist materials.”  The publication’s director, Kanstantsin Zalatykh, had been in pretrial detention on politically motivated charges of inciting social hatred since May 18.

State-controlled media did not provide balanced coverage and overwhelmingly presented the authorities’ version of events, including falsehoods and disinformation released by the Lukashenka regime.  State-owned media dominated the information field and maintained the highest circulation through generous subsidies and preferences.  There was no countrywide private television, and broadcast media space was dominated by state-owned and Russian stations.  Pro-Lukashenka and pro-Russia viewpoints, including those disseminated by Russia’s state-controlled press, continued to dominate the press in the country.  During the year, state media and state-sponsored social media actively and routinely propagated the Lukashenka regime’s efforts to portray opposition politicians as enemies of the state, criminals, or “extremists.”  Authorities warned, fined, detained, interrogated, and stripped accreditation from members of the independent domestic media.  Some state media journalists who quit were later detained, such as journalist Dzmitry Semchanka, who was arrested on September 15 and detained for 15 days.

Authorities allowed only nationals of the country where a media outlet is based to be accredited as correspondents.  All Belarusian nationals working for major Western outlets were stripped of accreditation in 2020 and were not reaccredited.

The law prohibits media from disseminating information on behalf of unregistered political parties, trade unions, and NGOs.  By year’s end, authorities had eliminated all national and major regional independent media outlets in the country through several rounds of targeted reprisals, forced closures and liquidations, politically motivated prosecutions, website blockages, or other efforts to incapacitate the organizations.  After stripping of its media license in 2020, authorities raided the outlet’s offices, blocked its website, and arrested its journalists and leadership in May 2021.  On June 14, the Supreme Court classified Media Ltd. as an “extremist” group, which prohibited its operations, banned its symbols and trademark, and allowed authorities to confiscate its property.  Authorities continued to close the remaining major regional and local media outlets throughout the year.  Actions against independent media included the July 11 decision to block access to prominent independent history magazine for reposting “extremist materials,” and the August 24 decisions to block the popular news and analytical resource and the Minsk city lifestyle online magazine  Some closed or blocked media operations re-established and continued their operations from outside the country.

The government penalized those who published items counter to government guidelines.  Some private retail chains also refused to continue selling copies of regional independent newspapers due to government pressure, and state-run and private printing houses refused to print them.  For example, as of January 1, a printing house in Brest refused to continue printing copies of the regional independent newspaper Hantsavitski Chas.  In general, editors were forced to procure printing services abroad, but had difficulty doing so in some countries, like Russia, which began refusing to print Belarusian independent newspapers.  Independent media outlets, including newspapers and internet news websites, faced discriminatory publishing and distribution policies, including limited access to government officials and press briefings and bans on printing paper copies.

Authorities warned businesses not to advertise in newspapers that criticized the government.  Private vendors, such as retail stores, conscious of tax inspections and other forms of economic pressure, refused to sell regional independent newspapers.  Advertisers continued to be pressured not to give their advertising dollars to out-of-favor, nonstate newspapers.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Libel and slander are criminal offenses, and authorities acted on these laws, especially to restrict freedom of expression, prohibit voicing opposition to the government, and generally retaliate against journalists and political opponents.  The law provides large fines and prison sentences of up to four years for defaming or insulting the president.  Penalties for defamation of character make no distinction between private and public persons.  A public figure who is criticized for poor performance while in office may sue both the journalist and the media outlet that disseminated the critical report for defamation.

Following a September 2021 incident in which a KGB officer and an information technology worker were shot during a KGB raid, the KGB detained 200 persons for making comments critical of the KGB’s actions in the raid, and criminal cases were opened under the legal provision that prohibits insulting an official.  After the Russian branch of Komsomolskaya Pravda released an article that included a comment from a friend of the technology worker offering a positive description of his character, Belarusian authorities blocked online access to its website and arrested Hienadz Mazheyka, the Belarusian author of the article.  Mazheyka remained in pretrial detention at year’s end.  The Russian government criticized the action as a violation of media freedom, and the outlet decided to close its Belarus office and relocate staff to Russia.

Courts around the country convicted dozens of individuals recognized as political prisoners on criminal charges of slandering officials and inciting social hatred for their commentary in social media.  For example, the Brest regional court sentenced former journalist of the state news agency Belta Ina Mozhchanka, detained in September 2021, to three years in prison and a fine of 3,200 rubles ($1,200) on September 8.

National Security:  Authorities frequently cited national security and “extremism” or “terrorism” to arrest or punish critics of the government or deter criticism of government policies or officials.  National security and “extremism” and “terrorism” charges were widely used to incriminate members of the political opposition, journalists, and ordinary citizens (see sections 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest and Detention, and 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).

Internet Freedom

Authorities censored online content and monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  The regime’s total control of the country’s legislature, law enforcement, and judicial systems allowed authorities to monitor internet traffic without accountability or independent review.  According to Freedom House’s 2022 Freedom on the Net Report, authorities blocked political, social, and religious content as well as the websites of civil society and independent media operating in exile.  Laws also restricted online media and limited the transfer of data abroad.  Progovernment commentators regularly manipulated online discussions.  All internet service providers located inside the country are required to retain information about their customers’ browsing histories for one year.  Companies are also required to preserve identifying data regarding their customers’ devices and internet activities for at least five years and to turn over this information at the government’s request.

The government also monitored email and social media.  All who expressed their views via the internet risked possible legal and personal repercussions, and many regularly practiced self-censorship.  The use of VPNs (virtual private networks) alleviated this risk some, but authorities reportedly regularly forced those arbitrarily arrested to unlock their cell phones so they could access their social media and personal email accounts.

According to Ukrainian military intelligence, internet disruptions in Belarus were reported as early as April 1, and later throughout the month, access to the internet was restricted in entire regions to the south and southeast of Minsk where Russian military equipment most frequently was transported.  The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate asserted that the internet restrictions were an attempt to conceal the movement of Russian military equipment through the country.

Authorities filtered and blocked internet traffic.  Telecommunications companies reported that authorities ordered them to restrict mobile internet data on the days when large-scale demonstrations were expected or occurred.

Authorities restricted content online.  Online news providers must remove content and publish corrections if ordered to do so by authorities and must adhere to a range of government prohibitions on free speech (see section 2.a., Freedom of Expression).  Authorities may block access to sites that fail to obey government orders, including a single violation of distributing prohibited information, without a prosecutor or court mandate.  If blocked, a network publication loses its media registration.  Owners of a website or a network publication have one month to appeal government decisions to limit access to their sites or to deny restoring access to them in court.  As of September, the Ministry of Information had blocked access to more than 50 additional websites and their mirror pages.  For example, a Minsk district court blocked access to on August 17 and recognized it as “extremist.” is the website of a prominent retailer of merchandise featuring national symbols affiliated with the opposition, such as the Pahonia coat of arms.

Authorities also prosecuted individuals for online content that countered the regime’s views and state propaganda and exposed its abuses.  For example, on June 24, a Minsk district court sentenced Mark Bernstein to three years of house arrest for his edits to a Wikipedia page on Russia’s war against Ukraine.

There were also efforts to restrict or block social media outlets online (see section 2.a., Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and other Media, Including Online Media).  Authorities punished individuals for expressing their political views online (see section 2.a., Freedom of Expression).  For example, authorities targeted Telegram users and group chat administrators throughout the year, prosecuting them for allegedly organizing and coordinating protest activity.  On April 12, the Homyel regional court sentenced Yauhen Maranets to four years’ imprisonment for purportedly administering a chat in which he organized protests.  Authorities convicted him on charges of creating an extremist organization and participating in action grossly violating public order.

Owners of internet sites may also be held liable for user comments that carry any prohibited information, and these sites may be blocked.  The law mandates the creation of a database of news websites and identification of all commentators by personal data and cell phone numbers.  If a news website receives two or more formal warnings from authorities, it may be removed from the database and lose its right to distribute information.

By law the telecommunications monopoly Beltelecom and other organizations authorized by the government have the exclusive right to maintain internet domains.

Authorities attempted to restrict online anonymity.  A presidential edict requires registration of service providers and internet websites and requires the collection of information on those who used public internet.  It requires service providers to store data on individuals’ internet use for one year and provide data to law enforcement agencies upon request.  Conviction for violation of the edict is punishable by a prison sentence, although no such violations were prosecuted.  These potential government prosecution efforts, however, spurred the use of encrypted messenger programs, such as Telegram, that circumvented restrictions.

There were reports of politically motivated cyberattacks.  Government webpages and databases were reportedly hacked.  In March, the government confirmed that the Belarusian State Institute for Certification and Standardization was attacked.  State actors regularly used bots or trolls to manipulate social media and Telegram messenger chats discourse.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government restricted academic freedom and cultural events.

Educational institutions were required to teach an official state ideology that combined reverence for the achievements of the former Soviet Union and of the country under the leadership of Lukashenka.  Government-mandated textbooks contained a heavily propagandized version of history and other subjects.  Authorities obligated all schools, including private institutions, to follow state directives to inculcate the official ideology and prohibited schools from employing opposition members and activists.  The minister of education has the right to appoint and dismiss the heads of private higher educational institutions.

During the year, the government restricted artistic presentations or other cultural activities and dismissed dozens of workers in cultural institutions in retribution for their support of the prodemocracy movement or otherwise expressing opposition to the regime or its views.  For example, as of April 1, the administration of the National Opera and Ballet Theater had not extended a labor contract with prominent conductor Ivan Kastsyakhin due to his participation in the 2020 postelection protests and activism online.  Similarly, on April 26, independent media reported that the Ministry of Culture forced the Vitsebsk-based Drama Theater to dismiss director Mikhail Krasnabayeu and ban his production for political purposes.  Two of the theater’s actors engaged in the production were also dismissed as of January 1.

On September 26, Minsk city authorities canceled the premier of the operetta The Duchess of Chicago at the Minsk Musical Theater, reportedly for its positive portrayal of the United States.  Only licensed private or state entities were allowed to organize and hold music performances and concerts.  Authorities sought to penalize those who performed for mass audiences without official permission and those who performed songs that could be deemed as protest-related or antiwar.  For example, police arrested singer Meryem Herasimenka on August 4, after she performed a Ukrainian song at a popular nightlife venue.  She was charged with participating in action grossly violating public order for protesting in 2020 based on the online and social media photographs, including what authorities identified in her cell phone.

The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government denied this right and employed a variety of measures to prevent and brutally suppress demonstrations, minimize their effect, and punish participants.  The law provides for freedom of association, but the government severely restricted it and forcibly closed hundreds of civil society organizations, NGOs, and all independent labor unions.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law generally provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government at times restricted the right of citizens, particularly former political prisoners, to foreign travel. Following the 2020 presidential election, the government increased restrictions on the ability of citizens to return home from abroad without the fear of being prosecuted.

In-country Movement: The law requires persons who travel to areas within 15 miles of the border (aside from authorized crossing points) to obtain an entrance pass.

Foreign Travel: Citizens broadly have the right to leave the country without arbitrary restrictions. The government’s database of persons banned from traveling abroad, however, contained the names of individuals who possessed state secrets, faced criminal prosecution or civil suits, or had outstanding financial obligations. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and security agencies, border and customs services, and financial investigation departments have a right to place persons on “preventive” surveillance lists. Individuals could submit inquiries on the Interior Ministry’s website on whether they were banned from foreign travel, and for those citizens outside of the country, diplomatic missions provided such information upon request.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is also required to track citizens working abroad, and employment agencies must report individuals who do not return from abroad as scheduled.

Exile: The law does not allow forced exile, but authorities continued the practice of forcibly exiling members of the democratic opposition, journalists, civil society activists, and others who dissented, with tacit or explicit understanding they would be imprisoned if they return to the country. There were reports that security forces continued to threaten some citizens who dissented against the government with bodily harm, prosecution, and lengthy prison sentences, if they did not leave the country, particularly after the August 2020 election. In an interview after being pardoned and released on September 19, former political prisoner and Radio Liberty journalist Aleh Hruzdzilovich said his agreement to leave the country was a precondition for his release from jail (see section 1.e., Amnesty).

Most individuals who were forced to leave the country since the crackdown began in 2020 remained in forced exile during the year, including presidential hopeful and opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other democratic opposition leaders, independent journalists, activists, and leaders of human rights and civil society organizations.

Citizenship: The law permits stripping of citizenship for naturalized citizens 18 years old and older for participating in “extremist” activities or inflicting serious damage to the interests of the country, charges often used by authorities in politically motivated cases. The provision does not apply to citizens by birth.

The government provided limited cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. Authorities either did not approve or delayed approval, however, of requests made by UNHCR to provide assistance to irregular migrants in the country, including those located near the country’s borders with the EU.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status and complementary and temporary protection to foreign citizens and stateless persons, with some exceptions. The government has established a process for determining refugee status and a system for providing protection to refugees. The law provides for protection against refoulement granted to foreigners who are denied refugee status or temporary protection but are unable to return to their countries of origin.

Normally all foreigners except Russians have the right to apply for asylum. According to the terms of the Union Treaty with Russia, Russian citizens may settle and obtain residence permits in the country. As of September 1, however, the government approved in an exceptional case asylum for one Russian citizen – the family member of Ukrainian refugees – and gave complementary protection to three more, also members of families of Ukrainian refugees.

Refoulement: There were no known reports the government expelled or returned legitimate asylum seekers or refugees to countries where they were likely to face abuse during the year. This is distinct, however, from the victims of the irregular migration crisis, manufactured by the regime, in which authorities attracted and facilitated migrants seeking to enter the EU from Belarusian territory.

In November, Afghan refugee Nagira Khashimi, who had lived in Belarus for 24 years, described to independent media his experience being deported to Iran after completing nine years in prison on drug trafficking charges. Khashimi reported he was released in the fall of 2021 and rearrested three months later in Belarus. Before his deportation to Iran, he spent nine months in squalid conditions at immigration holding facilities.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: During the irregular migrant crisis, there were reports security services beat migrants and forced them to remain at the border to attempt additional border crossings when they failed to enter the EU. On June 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on violence against migrants at the country’s border with Poland. The report featured interviews conducted in March to May with nine Middle Eastern migrants and asylum seekers, including seven in Belarus. HRW reported that migrants “gave harrowing accounts of violence, death, rape, extortion, theft, and restrictions on freedom of movement by Belarusian border guards.” For example, on March 9, Belarusian border guards took a group of four migrants to the border with Lithuania and forced them to stand in water and swim to the other side of the river. One migrant reportedly drowned and another one disappeared. According to Latvian border guards, on December 20, a migrant from Afghanistan who was transported across the border by Belarusian authorities died due to hypothermia and frostbite. Migrants also reported inhuman living conditions and incidents of rape and sexual assault at the Bruzgi migrant holding facility between November 2021 and March.

From May 2021 through March, media reports indicated that authorities purposefully orchestrated irregular migration to Belarus from countries such as Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Syria, and Afghanistan, often through state-owned or state-affiliated travel agencies, with the aim of facilitating these individuals’ onward travel overland to cross irregularly into the EU. Once the irregular migrants reached the country, authorities often organized or facilitated their travel to the borders of the neighboring countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland and encouraged, and in many instances forced, the migrants to attempt irregular border crossing. Some of these irregular migrants subsequently applied for protection in Belarus, but most reportedly left before a decision was taken in their cases.

In some cases, authorities forced irregular migrants to choose between deportation or additional attempts, often under dangerous conditions, to cross irregularly into the EU after initial crossings failed. Irregular migrants interviewed by media reported only some left the country voluntarily, and many were instead detained in rented apartments or left on the street, then taken to the Minsk airport, and deported against their will.

Freedom of Movement: According to the June 7 HRW report, in some cases authorities confined migrants and asylum seekers who entered the country through state-affiliated travel agencies as part of the state-orchestrated migrant smuggling operation to “collection sites” – open-air locations without tents, shelters, or sanitation – near the border with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. This included the Bruzgi logistics center, which was converted into a shelter for migrants starting in November 2021 and continued to operate until March. Migrants and asylum seekers reported to HRW that authorities beat them if they attempted to leave the sites, where they were denied food and water and the ability to make fires. One migrant told the HRW that the shelter was overcrowded, cold, and lacked adequate health and sanitation facilities for the number of persons held there, including adequate hygienic measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The shelter had only eight latrines, was not separated by gender, and had no shower facilities. Migrants slept on wood pallets on a cement floor, and guards gave them “cookies” once a day, forcing them to purchase other food at a food truck located on the compound. Guards also extorted money for charging cell phones, according to the report.

Aside from the state-sponsored migrant crisis, asylum seekers have freedom of movement within the country protected by law, but they must reside in the region where they filed their applications for refugee status and in a place known to authorities while their applications are being considered, including during appeals. Authorities reportedly often encouraged asylum seekers to settle in rural areas; however, the majority settled in cities and towns. Change of residence was possible with a notification to authorities. Authorities issue registered asylum seekers certificates that serve as documents to confirm their status as asylum seekers and identity and protect them from expulsion. By law, they must also register with local authorities at their place of residence.

Durable Solutions: Naturalization of refugees was possible after seven years of permanent residence, as in the case of other categories of foreign residents. As of October, Lukashenka granted expedited citizenship to at least 700 Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Temporary Protection: In isolated cases, the government provided temporary protection (for up to one year) to individuals who did not qualify as refugees. There was no publicly available data for the number of temporary protected cases in 2022.

Not applicable.

As of June 30, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and UNHCR listed 5,626 stateless persons in the country. According to UNHCR, all had either temporary or permanent residence permits.

Permanent-resident stateless persons were treated comparably to citizens in terms of access to employment, except for a limited number of positions in the public sector and law enforcement bodies that were available only to citizens. There were reports that stateless persons occasionally faced discrimination in employment, since authorities often encouraged them to settle in rural areas where the range of employment opportunities was limited. According to UNHCR, stateless persons could freely change their region of residence.

There is a path to citizenship for the stateless population. The main requirement is at least seven years’ permanent residence. Authorities have a procedure for expedited naturalization but mostly for individuals born or permanently residing in the country prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, ethnic Belarusians, their spouses, and descendants. If a child is born into a family of stateless persons permanently residing in the country, the child is entitled to citizenship.

The country contributes to de facto statelessness through the administrative practice of denying consular services to exiled Belarusian opposition figures, including passports, travel documents, and birth reports. Many exiled opposition figures must travel using noncitizen third country travel documents.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the media.

Freedom of Expression:  Holocaust denial, defamation, sexist remarks or behavior that target a specific individual, and incitement to hatred are criminal offenses, punishable by a minimum of eight days (for Holocaust denial) or one month (incitement to hatred and sexist remarks or behavior) and up to one year in prison and fines, plus a possible revocation of the right to vote or run for public office.  If the incitement to hatred was based on racism or xenophobia, the case is tried in the regular courts.  If, however, the incitement stemmed from other motives, including homophobia or religious bias, a longer and more costly trial by jury generally is required.  The government prosecuted and courts convicted persons under these laws.

The prohibition of Holocaust denial, defamation, sexist remarks or behavior that target a specific individual, and incitement to hatred also applies to print and broadcast media, books, and online newspapers and journals.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees, including specific subsidiary protection that goes beyond asylum criteria established by the 1951 Convention relating to the Treatment of Refugees and its 1967 protocol. Refugee status and residence permits are limited to five years and become indefinite if extended.

In May 2021 more than 500 undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, many with pending regularization applications, began a hunger strike in Brussels in the hopes of obtaining residence permits. By July approximately 200 individuals were still on hunger strike and began refusing water. In July 2021 the protestors and the government reached an agreement to evaluate asylum applications on case-by-case basis, ending the hunger strike.

Following the July 2021 agreement between then State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi and the undocumented hunger strikers, the administration reviewed the applications on an individual basis, but there was no legal change in existing policy. The number of asylum seekers reached a high of more than 21,000 applicants by the end of August. For all of 2021, the Foreigners’ Office registered 25,971 individuals requesting international protection.

In December 2021 an NGO opened the first reception center dedicated to LGBTQI+ asylum seekers. The center has the capacity to house 14 asylum seekers escaping homophobia and transphobia in their countries of origin.

On January 10, organizations pressed charges against the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (FEDASIL) for its lack of reception capacity that forced dozens of asylum seekers to sleep on the street while awaiting processing. In response, federal courts ordered FEDASIL to pay a fine of €5,000 ($5,314) per day if it continued to deny registration and failed to provide accommodation for asylum seekers. FEDASIL did not pay any fines, claiming that doing so would detract from resources to provide accommodation. Despite the ministry’s efforts to solve the reception problem by creating an additional 4,000 spaces in shelters in recent months, bringing capacity to 30,000 in 87 centers across the country, the number of asylum seekers continued to outpace capacity.

In October the country changed its longstanding policy to grant accommodation to all asylum seekers, as the country is no longer able to accommodate everyone and must find new ways to prioritize the most vulnerable groups. New State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor, who replaced Sammy Mahdi, announced that asylum seekers who have a job must leave the federal government’s reception centers within a month to free approximately 2,000 spots for new arrivals and minors. The government prioritizes housing for unaccompanied minors, but due to the unprecedented demand for asylum, FEDASIL confirmed that approximately 20 minors could not obtain shelter on October 11. In the year, Belgium experienced the highest volume of asylum applications since the asylum crisis in 2015, with over 33,000 by the end of November.

Through the implementation of the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, the country was able to grant Ukrainians temporary legal residence for one year almost immediately after their arrival, with the option of renewing their status for an additional year in two six-month increments. Upon gaining residence, Ukrainians may request accommodation, which FEDASIL coordinates with the regional governments. Ukrainians granted protection in the country are entitled to the same benefits local citizens receive, including a work permit, access to public schooling, unemployment benefits, and a stipend of approximately €800 ($850.24) for single persons and €1,400 ($1,484) for cohabitating parents, plus €250 ($265) for every child. On December 28, there were over 60,000 Ukrainian refugees registered in the country.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country denied asylum to asylum seekers who arrived from a safe country of origin or transit, pursuant to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation. The so-called Dublin asylum seekers, however, who have a request pending (or even finalized) in another EU country represent a growing proportion of the requestors in the country, with about 10 percent of the total. In August the government opened a registration center to process the applications of Dublin refugees.

Durable Solutions: The country accepted refugees for resettlement through UNHCR, including persons located in Italy and Greece, under the EU Emergency Relocation Mechanism. The country also conducted a voluntary return program for migrants in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary “subsidiary” protection to individuals who did not satisfy the legal criteria for refugee status but who could not return to their country of origin due to the risk of serious harm. The government provided subsidiary protection to 293 persons between January and August. Under EU guidelines, individuals granted subsidiary protection are entitled to temporary residence permits, travel documents, access to employment, and equal access to health care, education, and housing.

Not applicable.

According to UNHCR, at the end of 2021, the latest date for which data were available, there were 1,159 persons in the country who fell under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate. The country did not contribute to statelessness, as the legal framework for stripping an individual of his or her citizenship does not exist except in cases of dual citizenship with another country. Stateless persons may apply for nationality after meeting the requirements for legal residency in the country.

To be recognized as stateless, a requester must go through legal proceedings and obtain a court ruling on his or her stateless status. Family courts handle such requests; a requester may appeal the court’s ruling. Recognition of statelessness does not automatically afford a stateless person resident status in the country.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

The press was largely independent of government influence, although most radio stations, television stations, and newspapers had strong editorial ties to either the United Democratic Party (UDP) or the governing People’s United Party.  The press was often critical of government officials, with few signs of repercussions.

Violence and Harassment:  In March, a reporter for Channel 7 News, Cherisse Halsall, was forcibly removed by police officers under instruction from the government press office director that prevented her from covering the CARICOM-SICA Summit.  Halsall explained she had entered an area to which regional media had been granted access to cover the event but was removed.  The press office director stated Halsall did not have a specific authorization to enter the area.  Other local media organizations, except for Channel 5 News, were likewise denied certain access while covering the summit.  Channel 7 News director Jules Vasquez called the incident “a flagrant and foul muzzling of the free press.”

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, including Online Media:  The government did not penalize those who published items counter to government guidelines or directly censor media outlets.  Anecdotal accounts, however, indicated that some media outlets practiced self-censorship to appease certain politicians and powerful businesspersons who patronized the publications.

Libel/Slander Laws:  In August, the government replaced the Libel and Defamation Act with the Defamation Act of 2022.  According to authorities, the new act aims “to strike a balance between the prosecution of the reputation of an individual and the freedom of speech and expression and to modernize the law of the tort of libel and slander.”  Media organizations opposed the new law because they were not consulted in the process and argued the intended legislation would directly affect the way they gather, compile, and present news articles.  According to Attorney General Magali Marin, the law was “not a revolutionary piece of legislation, but legislation that is simply modernizing the law of defamation.”  Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Courtenay added the law would abolish the distinction between libel and slander, remove the requirement for persons to prove special damages to bring a claim of libel, and give media some layer of protection when disseminating information.

Neither the previous law nor the new Defamation Act were used during the year.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. In August, the government denied the opposition UDP a permit to hold a demonstration against increases in the cost of living, but the UDP proceeded with the demonstration, and the event unfolded without incident. According to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, the permit was not approved because the BPD was too short staffed to provide monitoring and ensure safety.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration, and other international organizations to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. The Ministry of Human Development, Families, and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and the Ministry of Immigration share responsibility in handling the refugee process and in providing for refugee protection and needs.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government does not recognize a legal status of “asylum” and treats all applicants as potential refugees. The courts and executive offices use procedures for refugees to cover both refugees and asylum seekers.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) indicated there was a reduction in the number of Haitians illegally entering the country, compared with 2021. There was, however, an increase of citizens of Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba who were either seeking refuge or in transit. The HRCB reported that 26 individuals registered complaints for not being allowed to file for refugee applications. The organization believed the actual number of denials was much higher than official figures.

In August, the government launched an amnesty program for qualifying “irregular” immigrants, including those who entered the country before March 2020, those who were previously recommended asylum seekers, and those who were under special protection by the state. The program was scheduled to close on November 30.

Refoulement: During the year, the government repatriated Cuban nationals who claimed their lives or freedom would be threatened due to their opposition to the government. Belize and Cuba have an agreement that requires Belize to return to Cuba all irregular immigrants with Cuban citizenship.

Employment: In general, persons awaiting adjudication of their refugee applications were unable to work legally in the country. A government policy introduced in 2021 allowed more than 400 persons, whose refugee status was pending finalization, to work in the sugar, citrus, and banana industries.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees and asylum seekers were able to use the education system and the socialized medical system, but the government offered no assistance with housing or food except in extreme cases that involved children and pregnant women. UNHCR reported that several refugees claimed health providers had discriminated against them when they accessed public clinics and hospitals.

Temporary Protection: The Immigration Department issued renewable special residency permits for periods of 60 to 90 days to those who applied for refugee status. A government policy allows for the renewal of protection status every three months for persons approved by the Refugee Eligibility Committee and awaiting the minister’s final approval.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the media, and the government generally respected this right.  Media were not fully independent, however.  There were reports the government inhibited freedom of the press through restrictions on and sanctioning of media members.  Many public and private media outlets refrained from openly criticizing government policy.

The government regulated the press and online media.  The High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC) is a quasigovernmental commission with members appointed by the president, private media, and the legislature.  HAAC has a dual role of providing for press freedom while protecting the country against “inflammatory, irresponsible, or destabilizing” media reporting.

HAAC continued its suspensions of broadcasters Sikka TV and Soleil FM, outlets belonging to Sebastien Ajavon.  In November 2021, HAAC transferred the frequency used by Soleil FM to another radio station.

Violence and Harassment:  On May 18, 2022, Beninese journalist Flore Nobime and Dutch journalist Olivier Van Beemen were detained for four days and accused of espionage following their attempts to interview local populations affected by the spread of violent extremist organization activity in the north of the country.  Espionage charges were dropped soon after and Van Beeman left the country under police escort.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, on December 19, 2022, police arrested Virgil Ahouansè, director of an internet radio station, and charged him under the digital code with spreading false news on December 14, 2022, accusing police of carrying out extrajudicial killings.  He was questioned for more than five hours before being released on bail after two days detention.

In April 2021, police arrested journalist and blogger Nadine Okoumassoun.  The CRIET prosecutor charged Okoumassoun with terrorism and inciting violence.  On July 27, 2022, Okoumassoun was granted provisional release pending further investigation.

On July 4, 2022, the newspaper La Nouvelle Tribune resumed publication following HAAC’s August 2021 decision lifting a 2018 ban.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2019 police arrested Casimir Kpedjo for “spreading false information about the Beninese economy” and held him for five days.  He was then charged by CRIET with publishing “false information,” and released.  On March 14, 2022, CRIET found it did not have jurisdiction in the case.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Public and private media refrained from openly criticizing government policy or reporting on security concerns.  Some journalists practiced self-censorship because they were indebted to government officials who granted them service contracts.  Media outlets practiced self-censorship due to fear the government would suspend their licenses.  HAAC held public hearings on alleged misconduct by media outlets during the year.

Libel/Slander Laws:  By law, journalists may be prosecuted for libel and slander.  Journalists may also be prosecuted for harassment based on true statements, incitement of violence and property destruction, and compromising national security through the press.  Penalties for conviction include incarceration and fines.  By law, anyone convicted of libel, harassment, or both using electronic means may be sentenced to between one and six months in prison and receive a substantial fine.

National Security:  Authorities reportedly cited national security interests to deter reporting on violent extremism.

Internet Freedom

The government censored online content, but it did not restrict public access to the internet or monitor private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  The law states operation of “a website providing audiovisual communication and print media services intended for the public is subject to the authorization” of HAAC.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; the government respected the right of peaceful association but not that of peaceful assembly.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. As of August 2022, there were 1,778 refugees in the country. UNHCR received reports humanitarian organizations could not assist many asylum seekers and persons of concern along the northern border due to security concerns.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. On August 31, 2022, UNHCR reported 1,185 asylum seekers in the country.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement, offered naturalization to refugees residing on their territory, and assisted in their voluntary return to their homes. The government involved civil society in the process. The government National Commission of Assistance to Refugees cooperates with UNHCR through the UNHCR Multi-Country Office in Dakar, Senegal.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and provided it to approximately 3,000 persons.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, throughout the year there were approximately 8,000 individuals temporarily displaced because of seasonal flooding and security concerns in the Mono, Zou, Atacora, and Alibori Departments. The government provided humanitarian assistance through its National Agency for Civil Protection and cooperated with humanitarian groups to aid internally displaced persons.

There were large communities of stateless individuals residing in eight villages along the border with Niger and Nigeria. These villages were returned to Benin following the resolution of land disputes among Benin, Niger, and Nigeria. The law affords the opportunity to acquire or confirm nationality; however, these villagers lacked the necessary identification documents to claim citizenship.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system contributed to freedom of expression, including for members of media.

Independent media were active and generally expressed a variety of views.  The law does not provide specific protections for journalists or stipulate freedom of information, but there were no official restrictions on media.  The law prohibits media outlets from affiliating with political parties and prohibits outlets from endorsing candidates during election periods.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Conviction of defamation may carry criminal penalties.  There was one case of defamation brought by the government during the year, which was dismissed by the High Court.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law includes provisions for the government to restrict freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, although such measures were not implemented during the year.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government limited freedom of movement and repatriation for some groups.

In-country Movement: The law establishes categories of residency, which determine whether a person requires a “route permit” to travel internally. Travel restrictions primarily affected resident foreigners, sometimes including the children of foreigners married to Bhutanese citizens.

Exile: The government continued to delay consideration of claims for residency by refugees in Nepal. Bhutan was the original source of these refugees when, in the early 1990s, the government of Bhutan forced between 80,000 and 100,000 Nepali-speaking residents to leave Bhutan, following a series of decisions taken during the 1970s and 1980s establishing legal requirements for citizenship that excluded them.

After years of international efforts resulting in third-country resettlement of more than 100,000 refugees and their descendants, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that as of the end of the year, approximately 6,300 Nepali-speaking refugees from Bhutan remained in the two refugee camps UNHCR administers in Nepal. Approximately one-third of these refugees expressed interest in returning to Bhutan; however, there was no evidence the government accepted any applications by these refugees to return to Bhutan.

Citizenship: The citizenship of any naturalized citizen may also be revoked if that naturalized citizen “has shown by act or speech to be disloyal in any manner whatsoever to the king, country, and people.”

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees; however, some refugees were deemed eligible for and received residence permits.

In the 1960s, the country sheltered Tibetan refugees who were initially located in seven settlements. According to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the self-described “Tibetan exile administration” based in Dharamshala, India, a total of 1,298 Tibetan refugees lived in Bhutan in the year, compared with 1,847 persons in 2021.

Freedom of Movement: Some restrictions on movement exist based on categories of residency. Many Tibetan refugees faced obstacles in obtaining travel permits. There were reports the government did not provide the travel documents necessary for Tibetan refugees to travel beyond India.

Access to Basic Services: The government stated Tibetan refugees had the same access to government-provided health care and education as citizens. There were reports, however, that some Tibetans were not permitted to enroll in public secondary and higher-level schools because they lacked security clearance certificates.

Durable Solutions: The Tibetan refugee population has been decreasing as Tibetan refugees obtain Bhutanese citizenship, according to the Department of Immigration.

Not applicable.

For a child to qualify for citizenship, both parents must be Bhutanese citizens. NGOs and media sources highlighted the existence of stateless children born to unwed mothers who were unable to prove the identity of the child’s father.

Stateless persons are not eligible to obtain “no objection certificates” and police security clearance certificates, which were often necessary for access to public health care, employment, access to primary and secondary education, enrollment at institutions of higher education, travel documents, and business ownership. The National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) stated, however, that children without citizenship were eligible for public educational and health services.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

While the constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, the government retaliated against media outlets that expressed dissenting opinions.  Some media outlets reported the government pressured and intimidated them to report favorably regarding government policies by withholding government advertising and imposing steep taxes.  An NGO recorded 61 violations of press freedom from January to April, many of which were instigated by the government.

Violence and Harassment:  Journalists faced threats and harassment.  On November 2, the National Association of Journalists of Bolivia and the Association of Journalists of La Paz condemned the attack on a journalist covering the strike in Santa Cruz regarding the date of the national census.  Marco Rocabado, a journalist with television network UNITEL, was beaten with stones and sticks and had his cell phones and microphone stolen by a mob.  The associations blamed MAS-supported groups for the attack.

On September 17, the same associations denounced an attempt by a prosecutor to uncover a journalist’s source.  They said a prosecutor from the Chuquisaca Department issued an order for a journalist from Culpina Digital to reveal the source of an August 5 article regarding an inmate who died in prison.

On September 20, the two associations denounced “judicial harassment” of journalists by the Prosecutor’s Office.  The organizations accused the government of threatening excessive criminal penalties against journalists for alleged “administrative failures” that took place during the tenure of former interim President Áñez.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  In addition to fear of prosecution and harassment, journalists sometimes practiced self-censorship due to fear of losing their jobs or losing access to government sources.

According to the law, the government should provide goods and services to all media outlets in a nondiscriminatory manner, but at times the government did not purchase advertisements in certain media outlets because those media were considered opposed to the government’s policy positions.

Media outlets alleged the government pressured news organizations to report favorably on government policies.  Media outlets also alleged the government retaliated against news organizations that did not comply with that pressure.  In August the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern regarding an alleged campaign of “economic suffocation” and “political pressure” against the Los Tiempos newspaper in Cochabamba.  The parent company of Los Tiempos accused the government of excessive audits and pressuring investors not to buy real estate being sold by Los Tiempos.  Directors of Los Tiempos also accused the government of attempting to force the owners to sell the paper.  IAPA expressed alarm at the government efforts to turn Los Tiempos into a “propaganda vehicle.”

Libel/Slander Laws:  Defamation is a criminal offense and punishable with a monetary fine.  As of December, there were no reports defamation laws were used to restrict public discussion or retaliate against journalists.

Internet Freedom

There was no evidence the government restricted or disrupted access to the internet or censored online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.  The government generally respected the right of freedom of association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

In-country Movement: The law prohibits travel on election days and on census days and restricts foreign and domestic travel for up to three months as a penalty for persons who do not vote.

The government cooperated with the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, and asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees through the National Commission on Refugees. The country has a legal structure and framework to accommodate those seeking refuge and has a registry of refugees and stateless persons.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but government respect for this right remained poor.  Intimidation, harassment, political pressure, and threats, including death threats, against journalists and media outlets, continued during the year.  While threats and pressure against journalists persisted, BH Journalists, a professional association, noted an increase in the number of cases resolved in favor of journalists whose rights were violated.  To advance efficiency and standards, the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutors Office improved the process of documenting cases of violations of the rights of journalists and appointed a prosecutor to facilitate communication between relevant institutions and journalist associations.  Numerous restrictive measures introduced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic continued to limit access to information and limit the presence of journalists at events otherwise open for media coverage.  Media coverage was increasingly dominated by nationalist rhetoric and ethnic and political bias, often encouraging intolerance and sometimes hatred, especially prior to the October elections.  The absence of transparency in media ownership remained a problem.  Ownership of online media remained opaque in many instances.  For many broadcast and print outlets, only information concerning nominal ownership was available.

Freedom of Expression:  The country’s laws provide for a high level of freedom of expression, but the implementation and application of the law seriously undermined press freedoms.  The law prohibits expression that provokes racial, ethnic, or other forms of intolerance, including “hate speech,” but authorities enforced these restrictions only occasionally and never for online media.  In 2021, the high representative for BiH amended the criminal code of the country to sanction genocide denial, the glorification of war crimes, and the incitement of racial, religious, or ethnic hatred, and violence, but as of November no persons had been indicted or prosecuted for these acts.  According to the Srebrenica Memorial Center, denial of genocide decreased by nearly 80 percent as of July since the legislation was amended.

Violence and Harassment:  Intimidation, violence, politically motivated litigation, and threats against journalists were recorded during the year.  As of July, the Free Media Help Line (FMHL) recorded 40 cases reported by media outlets involving alleged violations of journalists’ rights and freedoms, including five death threats and one physical assault.  On October 26, Zoran Cegar, head of the Federation Uniformed Police Sector, threatened a journalist from the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN) from Sarajevo.  A CIN journalist was working on a story on Cegar’s acquisition of multimillion-dollar properties in BiH and Croatia and contacted him to request an interview.  Cegar refused and threatened and cursed at the journalist over the phone, saying “Don’t even think of calling me again, so that I don’t come to you from where you’re calling me,” and calling the journalist a “Chetnik,” a term referring to Serbian nationalist fighters which is often used as a derogatory term for Serbs in general.  The following day, a CIN journalist asked Cegar for comment in front of the Dubrovnik Municipal Court in Croatia, where Cegar’s trial for fraud began.  Cegar reacted violently and threatened “Don’t make me rip your throat out!”  On November 3, at the request of the FBiH Minister of Interior, Aljosa Campara, deputy Director of the Federation Police Administration Ensad Korman suspended Cegar from his position.

During the election campaign, SNSD president and then Serb member of BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik often made negative comments regarding the Bijeljina-based television station, BNTV.  At a SNSD rally in Banja Luka in September, two attendees physically attacked a BNTV cameraman because he refused to stop filming their improperly parked truck with SNSD signs.  BH Journalists condemned the incident.

In October following the general elections but before results were announced, Dodik’s daughter Gorica tweeted a photo of High Representative Christian Schmidt and BNTV owner Vladimir Trisic, captioned “Hitler and his servant.”  In response, BH Journalists called on BiH institutions to appropriately prosecute threats and hate speech against journalists via social networks.  The largest Bosniak ethno-nationalist party, the SDA, continued to malign Sarajevo-based Face TV owner Senad Hadzifejzovic and his family.  SDA member Faruk Kapidzic wrote on Facebook that Hadzifejzovic was a “sick journalist,” a “blackmailed coward,” and a “thief.”  These insults were a reaction to a satirical piece aired on Face TV that included compromising photos of SDA officials picked up from social media.  There were numerous similar abuses across the country.

In May a well-known blogger and columnist from Banja Luka, Srdjan Puhalo, faced online harassment, including death threats, after he published a commentary on, questioning the often-cited number of children killed in Sarajevo during the war and offering a cash reward to anyone who could prove the claimed figure was correct.  Critics challenged Puhalos’s reputation and alleged he was involved in the war.  Very few outlets stood by Puhalo, advocated for his right to ask a question, or condemned hate speech and threats he faced.  Jasmila Zbanic, a film director from Sarajevo whose movies regarding the 1990s war and most recently concerning the Srebrenica genocide have been internationally recognized, strongly supported Puhalo.  BH Journalists and the regional Safe Journalists Network defended Puhalo’s freedom of expression, asking police and judiciary authorities to investigate and sanction the propagators of hate speech and all those who endanger Puhalo’s the personal and professional rights of Puhalo.

The number of verbal attacks against journalists increased during the year.  Attacks on journalists’ professional integrity and freedom of the press continued throughout the reporting period.  Disrespect toward journalists and journalism continued, becoming a dominant behavior of politicians across the country.  When asked questions they disliked, BiH politicians often reacted with insults based on gender, age, ethnic or political affiliation, trying to discredit journalists, categorizing them as incompetent or as political puppets.  In March then Serb member of the BiH Presidency and the leader of the ethno-nationalist SNSD Milorad Dodik showed his middle finger to a group of camera crews as he passed by on his way to a hearing at the BiH Prosecutors Office.  On his way back, Dodik repeated the gesture.  When criticized for his actions, he apologized and claimed that he had aimed his finger only at the crews of BNTV and Avaz, not the entire journalist community.  BH Journalists called on the media community to boycott Dodik’s press events until he apologized to all journalists, which he did not do.  In April President of the Social Democratic Party Nermin Niksic stopped N1 journalist Suncica Sehic, grabbed her by her hand, and called her “pathetic.”  Sarajevo Canton Prime Minister Edin Forto in a TVSA television program shouted at a journalist, attempting to discredit her questions.  The BH Journalists Steering Board issued a press release, protesting the disrespectful behavior of politicians toward women journalists.

BH Journalists noted that gender-based attacks and pressure against journalists increased during the year.  According to the FMHL, the number of threats against women journalists has rapidly grown over the last three years with almost 70 registered cases.  Approximately 50 percent of these threats came from politicians and other elected officials.

In April the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office, supported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, appointed a prosecutor in charge of communicating and coordinating with the journalists’ associations and law enforcement agencies in cases of criminal acts against persons who perform tasks of public importance in the field of information.  Sarajevo-based commentators considered this a positive initiative for the protection of journalists, which remains to be tested and could be expanded.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  The Communications Regulatory Agency received six complaints related to hate speech but did not determine any case as in the broadcast media constituted hate speech.  The Press Council, which operates as a self-regulatory membership-based body for both online and printed media outlets across the country, registered 110 complaints related to hate speech, out of which eight complaints were related to articles published in online media.  As of September, 81 complaints had been resolved through the media outlets publishing retractions, providing corrections to the text in dispute, or removing the comments in question, depending on what the Press Council asked them to do to resolve the dispute.

Political and financial pressure on media outlets to influence editorial policies and content continued.  According to information provided by media outlets, tax authorities used tax audits to punish critical media, conducting the audits without justification.  These authorities, assumed to be acting under the direction of ruling political parties, used audits and allegations of tax evasion to intimidate and censor outlets.  A broader economic downturn also continued to erode the financial stability of media across the country, often forcing them to scale back their operations and making them more vulnerable to outside pressure.

Public officials obstructed the work of journalists.  This period was marked by attempts to restrict access to information in several areas.  Restrictions imposed during the pandemic remained in place.  Institutions continued selectively closing events to media coverage by using the pandemic as an excuse.  In February the Tuzla Cantonal Assembly held a session discussing a vote of no confidence for the government and closed it to the press because of “pandemic restrictions,” despite having allowed media presence previously when COVID-19 cases were more numerous.  BiH Journalists note that similar practices were registered throughout the country.

The practice of pressuring journalists to censor their reporting continued during the year.  Reaction to investigative stories focusing on the corruption of high-level judicial officials and their lack of accountability continued generating pressure on journalists.  Additionally, reports that challenged official narratives provoked pressure and threats.  In August, Franjo Sarcevic, editor in chief of the Sarajevo-based web portal, his editorial team, and family members were threatened with violence, first by the Stav political magazine, closely associated with Bosniak ethno-nationalist SDA, and later by a wider social network community.  These threats came after his web portal presented opinions different from SDA’s regarding the High Representative’s proposed changes to the BiH election law and FBiH constitution as well as corresponding protests in front of the Office of High Representative in Sarajevo in August.  BH Journalists reacted by strongly condemning hate speech and the campaign against Sarcevic.  At the beginning of August, Oslobodjenje Editor in Chief Vildana Selimbegovic published and tweeted out an op-ed on possible changes to the election law.  This provoked harsh social media reactions against Selimbegovic.  In addition to misogynous and insulting comments, one of the replies was a threat, saying if the legislation was adopted, “she would be looking into a pit.”

In January BH Journalists Secretary General Borka Rudic and UNA TV journalist Sladjan Tomic received threats via Facebook from Jasmin Mulahusic, a Luxembourg resident, who was reported to police.  Mulahusic, arrested in BiH in 2011 for fanning hatred, national and racial intolerance, also threatened Selma Fukelj, a Media Center journalist and Editor in Chief of, and journalist Almedin Sisic.  Sisic also received threats from Semir Fruska from Travnik, who said that a group would visit him “to test his courage.”  All these incidents were reported to police.  The BiH Prosecutor’s Office is in the process of investigating Mulahusic, who continued to use his social media accounts to target journalist and media outlets throughout the country.

Authorities continued to exert pressure on media outlets to discourage some forms of expression, and party and governmental control over some news outlets narrowed the range of opinions represented in both entities.  Public broadcasters at the state (BHRT) and entity level (RTV FBiH and RTRS) continued to operate without stable and sustainable income that would enable independent editorial policy.  They remained exposed to political influence, especially through politically controlled steering boards, because existing legal solutions failed to provide mechanisms that protect editorial independence.  Independent analysts stated that limiting the competencies of entity parliaments in the process of the appointment of the steering boards of public broadcasters remained crucial for their editorial independence.

RTV FBiH continued to demonstrate a selective approach to news.  The RS government continued to increase its direct control of RTRS, which strongly amplified the positions and narratives of the ruling coalition in the RS entity.  Failure to implement the state-level Law on Public Broadcasting and to implement the established system of subscription fee collection has led BHRT to the brink of bankruptcy, forcing it to downscale operations.  Entity broadcasters were in charge of collecting subscription fees and sharing a portion of them with BHRT, but they failed to do so.  State-level parliament’s failure to adopt systematic solutions to ensure BHRT sustainability continue to threaten the future of this state-level broadcaster.  Authorities remained subject to competing political interests and failed to establish a public broadcasting service corporation to oversee the operations of all three public broadcasters in the country as envisioned by the law.

The Communications Regulatory Agency, which regulates the audiovisual media market, lacked full financial and political independence.  The mandate for its Council expired at the end of 2017, but the parliamentary commission for the appointment of the council had not decided on its mandate renewal by the end of the year.  The agency repeatedly warned that a major delay in switching from analogue to digital broadcasting could have dangerous consequences on media plurality in the country.

Multiple political parties and entity-level institutions attempted to influence editorial policies and media content through legal and financial measures and through political pressure.  As a result, some media outlets practiced self-censorship.  Government institutions restricted access to information concerning ongoing corruption cases and the improper use of public funds and foreign investments.  For example, Transparency International BiH (TI BiH) filed a case with a district court against RS Ministry of Traffic in 2021 for restricting access to information on details about a potentially problematic contract on the concession for the Banja Luka-Prijedor highway.  The court ruled in favor of TI BiH and ordered the ministry to provide the requested information to TI BiH.  TI BiH also turned to the Human Rights Ombudsman, which requested that the ministry provide the information sought by TI BiH.  The court ruling and the Ombudsman’s recommendation, however, were not implemented by year’s end.  Cases of allowing only selected media representatives to cover events were noted.  In some instances, media sources reported that officials threatened outlets with loss of advertising or limited their access to official information.  Prevailing practices reflected close connections between some major advertisers and political circles and resulted in biased distribution of advertising time.  Public companies, most of which were under the control of political parties, remained the key advertisers.  Outlets critical of ruling parties claimed they faced difficulties in obtaining advertising.  Numerous restrictions related to the pandemic continued to have a direct negative impact on the finances of media in the country, making them more vulnerable to economic and political pressure.

Reacting to unfavorable media reports about him, Elmedin Konakovic, president of the Narod i Pravda political party, labeled online news portals in question as “regime affiliated” and “liars,” accusing them of campaigning against him.

Libel/Slander Laws:  While the country has decriminalized defamation, many complaints continued to be brought before courts against journalists, often resulting in extremely high fines.  The Press Council of BiH noted that public figures, politicians, judicial officials, and directors of public companies were predominantly the ones filing complaints.  Professional organizations noted that the practice of demanding extremely high compensations continued.

A first instance court ordered online media outlet Zurnal, known for its investigative reporting, to pay more than 170,000 KM ($102,000) in a 2021 defamation case.  Zurnal appealed the ruling, but no ruling on the appeal was made as of year’s end.  BH Journalists expressed deep concern that such high fines and penalties could seriously jeopardize the work and business operations of media outlets, noting the need for balance between economic sustainability of media, public interest, and individual right to compensation.

Defamation cases continued to be used to exert both financial and political and financial pressure on media and journalists, jeopardizing the right to freedom of expression.  Data from the FMHL and the Press Council indicated that the number of defamation cases against journalists and editors remained high.  Courts continued to fail to differentiate between different media formats (e.g., news versus commentary), while long court procedures and legal and financial battles were financially exhausting to journalists and outlets.  Data available from FHML indicated that 80 percent of defamation cases were initiated by government officials or politicians.  Professional organizations note that courts impose enormously high damage compensation claims with increased frequency.

According to Amnesty International, two environmental activists faced baseless defamation charges in a Sarajevo court from BUK, a hydropower company in BiH owned by Belgian company Green Invest.  BUK pursued defamation cases against the activists after they expressed concerns over the potential environmental impact of the company’s hydropower plants on the Kasindolska River.  Amnesty International claims that this lawsuit fits into a broader pattern of corporations using strategic lawsuits for public participation to stifle activists.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that it monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were some government restrictions on academic freedom.  The cantons of Tuzla and Sarajevo have laws that could restrict the independence and academic freedom of universities within their jurisdictions by allowing elected municipal authorities to hire and fire university personnel, including academics, at their discretion.  Staff at these faculties reported, however, that while the laws have not changed, the situation improved and there were no reports of restrictions being enforced.

The country’s eight public universities remained ethnically segregated, including their curricula, diplomas, and relevant school activities.  Professors reportedly on occasion used prejudicial language in their lectures, while the selection of textbooks and school materials reinforced discrimination and prejudice.

The laws provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but there were cases when the government limited such freedoms.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights, but some restrictions remained.

In-country Movement: Although the law on asylum provides for freedom of movement for asylum seekers, authorities of Una-Sana Canton previously imposed restrictions without a legal basis. A significant decrease in the total number of migrants in the Una-Sana Canton resulted in the authorities lifting most of those restrictions. Restrictions on entry to and exit from temporary reception centers (TRCs), put in place in 2020, were lifted except for the Borici TRC, where residents can leave at any time, but may return only from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, authorities in the RS entity continued to restrict the movement of migrants and asylum seekers within its territory and in some cases provided transport to the Inter-Entity Boundary Line at Rudenice/Kljuc where migrants were sometimes referred to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for transportation to a TRC or continued making their way to Una-Sana Canton on foot.

In the past, Una-Sana authorities restricted entry to the canton by migrants and asylum seekers by removing migrants and asylum seekers from public transport at two police check points. According to UNHCR, this practice stopped as of September.

During the year, Una-Sana Canton authorities did not continue the 2020-2021 practice of removing migrants and asylum seekers from privately rented accommodation and relocating them to the Lipa TRC. Through legal representation by UNHCR’s legal aid partner Vasa Prava BiH, two registered asylum seekers who were removed from private accommodation in 2020 submitted an appeal to the Constitutional Court of BiH, and in February the BiH Constitutional Court issued a decision determining and condemning “violation of the right freedom of movement” by Una-Sana Canton authorities.

The government cooperated with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum (refugee or subsidiary protection status), and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Asylum seekers with pending claims have a right to accommodation at the asylum center until the Ministry of Security makes a final and binding decision on their claims, although in practice only asylum-seeking families were accommodated, resulting in single men and unaccompanied children being accommodated in a limited number of TRCs, limiting their access to asylum. In addition, the two centers specifically designated to accommodate asylum seekers – Delijas Asylum Center and Salakovac Refugee Reception Center – remained underutilized, and Salakovac had no residents as of September. Accommodation in either is not based on asylum status or intention but instead on the capacity of the Usivak TRC where referrals are made and approved by the Ministry for Security, resulting in most families staying for brief periods before pursuing onward movement.

The overwhelming majority of refugees and migrants arriving in the country were issued an attestation on expressed intention to seek asylum, although very few intended to apply for asylum in the country. Accommodation in any of the reception centers was contingent on possession of this attestation document. This created a severe backlog in the asylum system, which has no mechanisms for identifying and prioritizing those with protection needs and a willingness to pursue international protection in the country over those pursuing onward movement. As a result, there were extreme delays for persons wishing to register an asylum claim. For asylum claims registered, the average wait time between issuance of an attestation and registration with the Sector for Asylum was 182 days, and this was only for those who managed to register. Processing times for those who were registered were also excessive, averaging 422 days between registration and the issuance of a decision during the year, meaning that on average the asylum process can take up to two years from initial issuance of an attestation to a decision.

To register a claim, individuals must be invited by the Sector for Asylum. Asylum authorities prioritized unaccompanied children and families accommodated in Usivak TRC and persons in private accommodation. While UNHCR observed that during the year the Sector for Asylum began to invite individuals legally represented by its free legal aid partner, Vasa Prava, for registration, this leaves those without access to legal representation essentially unable to access the asylum process. For single men in Blazuy, the country’s largest temporary reception center, asylum authorities continue to maintain their position that they would not invite them for registration, essentially leaving the majority of adult male asylum seekers unable to apply for asylum. At the Delijas Asylum Center, authorities conducted two registration visits in 2021, involving three families, while 66 families were accommodated in the center without being registered, staying on average 21 days before leaving. For the Salakovac Refugee Reception Center, no registrations were conducted over the year for the 20 families accommodated there who stayed an average of 54 days. Highly restrictive access to the asylum process combined with the lengthy and inefficient procedure for those registered resulted in many abandoning their asylum request, and authorities suspending most cases prior to issuing an initial decision (184 suspensions compared to 82 decisions in 2021 or 69 percent of cases being suspended).

Authorities also maintained a restrictive approach to assessing asylum claims, granting refugee status in just five cases since the start of the mixed movement surge in 2018. They instead granted subsidiary protection in cases when refugee status would likely be more appropriate, such as cases involving Afghan, Syrian, and Turkish citizens. Asylum seekers have the right to appeal a negative decision before the Court of BiH, although the court lacked specific expertise on asylum and often upheld the initial decision issued by asylum authorities, while only intervening on issues related to the process rather than the content or quality of the decision. When appeals were upheld, they were returned to the Sector for Asylum for reexamination, rather than issuing a decision on the merits of the claim, and most often the subsequent decisions issued by asylum authorities remained unchanged. In one high-profile case, authorities repeatedly rejected a claim despite it being returned to the Sector for Asylum on appeal four times. In the final decision, authorities rejected the claim for asylum while paradoxically acknowledging a risk of refoulement, and the individual was subsequently issued a removal order and temporary residence permit on humanitarian grounds.

In reception centers, international organizations, NGOs, and volunteers provided services which varied depending on the facility. There were two government-run centers (Delijas and Salakovac) which remained underutilized, while most asylum seekers and migrants resided in four temporary reception centers operated by the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs in Sarajevo (Usivak and Blazuj) and Una-Sana Cantons (Borici and Lipa). In November 2021, the IFS-EMMAUS Center for Children and Youth in Doboj Istok stopped receiving unaccompanied asylum-seeking and migrant children after the protocol, signed with the Ministry of Security in December 2020, expired in August 2021. Unaccompanied children are thus accommodated in the country’s two mixed-use TRCs (Usivak and Borici) leaving BiH without dedicated accommodation for children. There remained an acute lack of protection-sensitive accommodation for other vulnerable categories or persons with specific needs, including those with physical and mental disabilities, families with children, survivors of gender-based or domestic violence, persons with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, elderly persons, and victims of human trafficking.

As a result of the mass influx from 2018, authorities largely stopped the previous practice of detaining irregular migrants in the Immigration Center in Lukavica, mainly due to its limited capacity. NGOs including free legal aid providers continued to have limited access to the immigration detention and asylum centers, on the grounds of COVID-19 mitigation measures. Access to information, free legal aid, and asylum remained a concern for those detained in Lukavica, especially given the risk of return and refoulement for those detained.

Certain provisions of the laws on extradition give authorities the possibility of extraditing a person who has expressed the intention to seek asylum if the request was made after the country had received an extradition request. While access to the territory is largely respected for those arriving by land, there were cases where persons arriving at the airport were not admitted to the country and were de facto denied access to the asylum procedure despite an expressed fear of return to their country of origin, placing them at serious risk of refoulement. In one case, the European Court of Human Rights granted an interim measure under Rule 39 preventing the removal of two persons from the territory of BiH due to a well-founded fear or persecution in their country of origin, but the injunction was delivered after they had already been placed on a return flight.

Durable Solutions: The legal framework provides a program for integration and return of refugees and displaced persons. The country was party to a regional housing program funded by international donors and facilitated in part by UNHCR and the OSCE to provide durable solutions for up to 74,000 refugees and displaced persons from four countries in the region, including 14,000 of the most vulnerable refugees, returnees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the country. The process of selecting program beneficiaries was protracted due to capacity and management problems that resulted in extended delays in the reconstruction of homes. Fragmented institutional arrangements added administrative delays to the process, as did the political imperative to select beneficiaries proportionally from among the country’s constituent communities, while COVID-19 and supply-chain issues led to the extension of the program for an additional year beyond the June 2022 closure date due to the failure to reach the implementation targets. As of year’s end, more than 1,900 housing units were delivered in BiH with 1,000 in progress. UNHCR and OSCE, however, expressed concern that 83 vulnerable Bosniak families who were already selected for inclusion in the program to return to their prewar home in RS may remain without housing after the June 2023 closing date.

Temporary Protection: The government provided subsidiary protection status to individuals who qualified as refugees, including Afghan and Turkish citizens with strong individual claims.

For refugees fleeing Ukraine, BiH authorities failed to establish a Temporary Protection plan in line with the European Union. Instead, most Ukrainians applied for temporary stay on humanitarian grounds, which does not afford them any rights, including employment, healthcare, or education, and takes up to two months to be confirmed. This left many vulnerable refugees who were unable to return to Ukraine in legal limbo. While the regular asylum system is in theory open to Ukrainians, the extremely lengthy processing times (up to two years) renders the procedure inappropriate for this specific demographic requiring immediate international protection.

Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees statistics indicated that 96,305 individuals still held internally displaced person (IDP) status following the 1992-95 war. The majority of Bosniaks and Croats within the RS fled the entity, while Serbs fled the Federation. Access to free legal aid for IDPs and returnees remained inconsistent throughout the country due to under-resourced cantonal legal aid offices and legislative gaps, thus UNHCR continues to support a limited number of vulnerable IDPs in accessing their rights. According to UNHCR, 35 collective accommodation centers throughout the country remained occupied by IDPs awaiting a permanent housing solution. While the accommodations were meant to be temporary, some had been living in them for more than 20 years. A substantial number of IDPs and returnees lived in substandard conditions that affected their livelihoods.

The country’s constitution and laws provide for the voluntary return or local integration of IDPs consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The government actively promoted the safe return of refugees and IDPs or the local integration of persons in their place of displacement, depending on their specific situations. The government allocated funding for returns and participated in internationally funded programs for return. Isolated attacks against minority returnees continued but were generally not investigated or prosecuted adequately, and there were no major developments with regards to improved access to rights and services – particularly the right to education in their language – for vulnerable IDPs and returnees.

As of August, UNHCR was aware of 50 persons at risk of statelessness. They included Roma, former refugees from Croatia residing in the RS entity, children born to undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, persons born abroad without birth registration, and persons lacking birth certificates and citizenship registration. UNHCR continued to provide assistance to authorities to facilitate birth and citizenship registrations and advocating for the closure of gaps in the existing legal framework to continue decreasing the number of persons at risk of statelessness.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press and other media.  With some exceptions, the government generally respected the rights of freedom of speech and press.

Freedom of Expression:  The law restricts the speech of some government officials and fines persons found guilty of insulting public officials or national symbols.  The law states, “Any person in a public place or at a public gathering (who) uses abusive, obscene, or insulting language in relation to the President, any other member of the National Assembly, or any public officer” is guilty of an offense and may receive a substantial monetary fine.  The law also states that any person who insults the country’s coat of arms, flag, presidential standard, or national anthem is guilty of an offense and may receive a substantial monetary fine under the sedition clause.  The Constitutional Court has not considered the constitutionality of the sedition clause.

Violence and Harassment:  On July 13, journalist Tshepo Sethibe of the news site Moeladilotlhoko News Boiler was arrested, along with a traditional doctor, and accused of reporting misinformation regarding the disappearance of a boy age six, and thereby of inciting persons to riot.  Sethibe was charged with alarming the public.  His cell phones were confiscated but he was released the next day.  In January 2021, the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in Phitshane Molopo (a border town between South Africa and Botswana) arrested Sethibe and Michelle Teise, a fellow journalist employed by the news site.  Police charged them with criminal trespass but dropped the charges in April 2021.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Some members of civil society organizations stated the government occasionally censored news stories it deemed undesirable in government-run media.  Government and private journalists sometimes practiced self-censorship.

Libel/Slander Laws:  There were no arrests or convictions under these laws (see the above subsection on Freedom of Expression) during the year.  The law criminalizes insults to religion, as well as comments or writings intended to wound others’ religious feelings.  There were no reports of prosecutions or convictions under these provisions during the year.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights, although there were restrictions on the ability of labor unions to organize and strike (see section 7.a.).

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government generally cooperated with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The system for granting refugee status was accessible but slow. The government generally provided protection against the expulsion or return of persons to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

The government held asylum seekers in the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII) detention facility until the Refugee Advisory Committee, a governmental body, made a refugee status determination. The committee met quarterly. UNHCR representatives participated in advisory committee meetings as observers and technical advisers.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The government applied the principle of first country of asylum. On that basis, in previous years it detained individuals, many of whom had refugee status in a third country and then claimed asylum.

Freedom of Movement: As a general policy, all registered refugees must reside in Dukwi Refugee Camp under a strict encampment policy. The government may issue a residence permit to remain outside the camp in exceptional cases, such as for refugees enrolled at a university, in need of specialized medical care, or with unique skills.

Employment: In August, UNHCR reported that most of the country’s 841 registered refugees were living in the Dukwi Refugee Camp and did not have the right to work outside the camp.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees at the Dukwi Refugee Camp had access to education and basic health care services. UNHCR facilitated refugee and asylum seekers’ exit permit applications for medical referrals, as necessary. Officials typically granted exit permits for three days; refugees found outside the camp without a permit were subject to arrest.

Asylum seekers with children were transferred to Dukwi Refugee Camp from FCII. International observers expressed concern that young children were sometimes separated from their parents in the FCII facility while their cases were processed. In one case, this included a family with eight minor children. International observers stated there was no access to education in the FCII, which, during the year, held more than 200 children younger than age 18. The center hosted a clinic, and a specialized nurse provided basic health care, while critical cases were referred to the Francistown city public hospital.

The government considered the FCII to be a less than ideal transit center for asylum seekers; however, there were reports of asylum seekers who spent several years detained in FCII while awaiting review of their cases. Although the government moved remaining long-term asylum seekers to the nearby Dukwi Refugee Camp in 2019, it did not establish a protocol to prevent new arrivals from spending long periods in FCII while their cases were processed. International refugee groups reported that an average of 50 to 60 persons were held in the FCII at any given time while awaiting refugee processing.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection at the Dukwi Refugee Camp to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. UNHCR provided food and other provisions to individuals under temporary protection.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government did not always respect this right.

Violence and Harassment:  President Bolsonaro and members of his administration frequently criticized the press either verbally or through social media.  Reporters Without Borders included President Bolsonaro in its list of 37 heads of state considered “press freedom predators.”  The organization described the president’s tactics as “predatory methods” that used insults, humiliation, and vulgar threats against primarily women journalists, political analysts, and media networks.  Despite these concerns, the press continued to operate freely.

Journalists were sometimes killed or subjected to harassment, physical attacks, and threats by those who object to their reporting.  In instances of violence perpetrated by protesters or provocateurs during mass demonstrations, at times security forces injured journalists during crowd-control operations.  The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, which monitors both physical violence and verbal aggression against journalists, recorded a 69 percent increase in serious aggressions in the year.  There were 66 attacks (verbal, written, or posted on social media) considered serious against press professionals in the first seven months of the year.  In the same period in 2021, the association identified 39, which at the time was considered a historic record.  The association recorded 291 attacks against press freedom, including instances of official speeches being used to attack journalists, prosecutions, internet restrictions, and abusive use of state power.  Of the 291 verbal criticisms recorded, 209 came from politicians and state agents and 157 from members of the Bolsonaro family.  According to the association, President Bolsonaro verbally criticized the press 60 times, while his sons, Federal Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, city councilor Carlos Bolsonaro, and Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, did so 51, 32, and 20 times, respectively.

On August 27, police officer Renan Henrique de Paula allegedly assaulted a journalist at a police station in the city of Nova Lima, Minas Gerais State.  The reporter, who worked for Radio Itatiaia, was covering a case in which de Paula was a suspect.  De Paula was also a candidate for federal deputy for the National Mobilization Party.  According to police, during an interview attempt, De Paula argued with other persons who were at the police station, and when the journalist started recording with his cell phone, de Paula took the cell phone and deleted the recordings.  When the journalist attempted to retrieve his cell phone, de Paula hit him.  Police officials reported that a disciplinary procedure would be opened to investigate the facts.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, including Online Media:  National laws prohibit politically motivated judicial censorship, but there were reports of censorship.  According to the Mobile Movement (Movimento Brasileiro Integrado pela Liberdade de Expressão Artística), an NGO coalition, there were at least 211 cases of censorship and “authoritarianism against culture” in the first three years of President Bolsonaro’s government.  The executive branch, during Bolsonaro’s term, was responsible for 72 percent of the cases.  The Mobile Movement report indicated increasing censorship.  From January to December 2020, 45 occurrences of censorship were reported.  The number increased to 70 in 2021.  In January – February, 11 more cases emerged.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Libel, slander, and defamation are criminal offenses.  Penalties range from three months to two years plus a fine.

Nongovernmental Impact:  Nongovernmental criminal elements at times subjected journalists to violence due to journalists reporting on their criminal activities.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  Nonetheless, the online environment remained constrained by threats of violence against independent bloggers and websites, as well as criminal defamation laws and restrictive limits on content related to elections.

The electoral law regulates political campaign activity on the internet.  The law prohibits paid political advertising online and in traditional media.  During the three months prior to an election, the law also prohibits online and traditional media from promoting candidates and distributing content that ridicules or could offend a candidate.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. By law, refugees are provided official documentation, access to legal protection, and access to public services. The law codifies protections for asylum claimants and provides for a humanitarian visa and residency status that serves as an alternative to refugee claims for some categories of regional migrants, particularly from Venezuela.

As of October, there were almost 377,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the country, the majority of whom arrived in the northern state of Roraima. The country had already officially recognized more than 63,000 refugees, of whom 51,600 were Venezuelans. The government continued the process of resettling Venezuelan refugees and asylum seekers and migrants, voluntarily relocating them from the border states in the north to other states to relieve pressure on the resource-strapped state of Roraima and provide increased opportunities for education and work. (See section 6, Children, for information on Venezuelan child refugees.)

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: NGOs reported that refugees were susceptible to human trafficking for the purposes of forced commercial sex and forced labor.

According to the International Organization for Migration, there were approximately 450,000 internally displaced persons. The displacements were due in large part to natural disasters such as storms and floods, and the government promoted the safe return and resettlement to the areas the affected persons were forced to leave.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

Under the law and emergency powers, the government restricted freedom of expression, including for media.

Freedom of Expression:  There is no provision for freedom of speech in the constitution or laws.  Members of the Legislative Council may “speak their opinions freely” on behalf of citizens, but they are prohibited from using language or exhibiting behavior deemed “irresponsible, derogatory, scandalous, or injurious.”  Under the law it is an offense to challenge the royal family’s authority.  The law also makes it an offense to challenge “the standing or prominence of the national philosophy, the Malay Islamic Monarchy concept.”  This philosophy identifies Islam as the state religion and monarchical rule as the sole form of government to uphold the rights and privileges of the Brunei Malay race.  The law also criminalizes any act, matter, or word intended to promote “feelings of ill will or hostility” between classes of persons or to “wound religious feelings.”

The SPC includes provisions barring contempt for or insult of the sultan, the administration of sharia, or any law related to Islam.  SPC sections provide, in certain circumstances, for death sentences for apostasy from Islam, deriding Islamic scriptures, and declaring oneself as God, among other offenses.  There were no known cases of persons charged under these sections, but online criticism of the law was largely self-censored, and online newspapers did not permit comments or stories on these subjects.

The government interpreted the SPC to prohibit public celebration of religions other than Islam, including publicly displaying Christmas decorations.  Some establishments, however, openly sold Christmas decorations or advertised Christmas-themed events.  Christmas remained an official national holiday.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  The law allows the government to close a newspaper without giving prior notice or showing cause.  The law requires local newspapers to obtain operating licenses and prior government approval for hiring foreign editorial staff, journalists, and printers.  The law also gives the government the right to bar distribution of foreign publications and requires distributors of foreign publications to obtain a government permit.  Foreign newspapers generally were available.  Internet versions of local and foreign media were generally available without censorship or blocking.

The government owns the only local television station.  Three Malaysian television channels are also available, along with two satellite television services.  Some content was subject to censorship based on theme or content, including religious content, but such censorship was not consistent.

The government held regular press conferences on the COVID-19 situation in the country and allowed media to publicly question the health minister and other officials.  In a November 2021 newspaper article, the then minister of home affairs said COVID-19 required the government to be “more transparent” in its “communication with the public.”

The law provides for prosecution of newspaper publishers, proprietors, or editors who publish anything the government deems as having seditious intent.  Punishments include suspension of publication for a maximum of one year; a prohibition on publishers, printers, or editors from publishing, writing for, or editing any other newspaper; and the seizure of printing equipment.  Persons convicted under the law also face a significant fine and a maximum prison term of three years.  Journalists deemed to have published or written “false and malicious” reports may be subject to fines or prison sentences.

Observers reported prohibitions against covering a variety of topics, such as aggression by the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea and reporting on topics such as crime until the relevant government agency issued an official press release on the topic.

The SPC prohibits publication or importation of publications giving instruction about Islam contrary to sharia.  It also bars the distribution to Muslims or to persons with no religion of publications related to religions other than Islam.  The SPC bars the publication, broadcast, or public expression of a list of words generally associated with Islam (such as Quran) in a non-Islamic context.  The SPC also prohibits religious teaching without written approval.  There were no reports of charges under these regulations.

Journalists commonly reported practicing self-censorship because of social pressure, reports of government interference and pressure, and legal and professional concerns.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law prohibits bringing into hatred or contempt, or exciting disaffection against, the sultan or the government.  Persons convicted under the law face a significant fine, a maximum of three years in prison, or both.  There were no reports of such cases.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted access to the internet, censored online content, and had the capability to monitor private online communications.  The government monitored private email and internet chatroom exchanges it believed to be propagating religious extremism or otherwise subversive views, including those of religious minorities, or material on topics deemed immoral.  The Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications and the Prime Minister’s Office enforced the law requiring internet service providers and internet cafe operators to register with the director of broadcasting in the Prime Minister’s Office.  The Attorney General’s Chambers and the Authority for the Infocommunications Technology Industry advised internet service and content providers to monitor items posted on their sites for content contrary to the public interest, national harmony, and social morals.

Internet companies self-censored content and reserved the right to cut off internet access without prior notice.  The government continued awareness campaigns warning citizens about the misuse of and social ills associated with social media, including the use of social media to criticize Islam, sharia, or the monarchy.  The government maintained a hotline for reporting fake or malicious information circulated on social media that involved public or national interests.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Although there are no official government restrictions on academic freedom, government authorities must approve public lectures, academic conferences, and visiting scholars, and the sultan serves as chancellor of all major universities.

Academics reported practicing self-censorship.  Unlike in previous years, there were no known cases of researchers who published overseas under a pseudonym when they perceived certain topics would not be well received by authorities.  Religious authorities reviewed publications to verify compliance with social norms.

There were government restrictions on cultural events.  Authorities restricted traditional Chinese New Year lion dance performances to Chinese temples, Chinese school halls, and private residences of Chinese association members.  All public musical or theatrical performances require prior approval by a censorship board composed of officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.  Public entertainment is generally barred on specified Islamic holidays.  The board determines the suitability of concerts, movies, cultural shows, and other public performances, and censored, banned, or restricted some activities.  Although the board rarely required changes in performances, delays associated with the censorship process posed logistical hurdles for performing arts organizations.  Some movies were censored or not shown at cinemas, often because of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) content.

The government limited and restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The government generally respected the legal right to freedom of internal movement and the right to emigrate but imposed restrictions on foreign travel and repatriation.

Foreign Travel: Government employees and government contractors must apply for exit permits to travel abroad. Government guidelines state no government official may travel alone, and unrelated male and female officers may not travel together, but the government enforced this policy inconsistently and usually only with women. The country’s tourist passports state the bearer may not travel to Israel.

Exile: By law the sultan may forcibly exile, permanently or temporarily, any person deemed a threat to the safety, peace, or welfare of the country. There have been no cases of banishment since the country became fully independent.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Not applicable.

There were no recent, reliable statistics on the number of stateless persons in the country, but observers estimated there were tens of thousands, most of whom had permanent resident status. Most stateless residents were native born, of Chinese heritage, and from families that have resided in the country for generations. Other stateless residents included members of Indigenous tribes, whose lands span Brunei and the neighboring Malaysian state of Sarawak, and the foreign wives of Malay Muslim men. Most stateless persons held a certificate of identity, which functions as a passport. Certificate holders have some rights like those of citizens, including to subsidized health care and education. There were no known reliable data on stateless persons who hold no form of residency or certificate of identity.

Stateless persons may apply for citizenship if they are adults born in the country and resident for 12 of the last 15 years, provided they pass a test demonstrating sufficient knowledge of Malay culture and language. Women married to citizens and the minor children of citizens who did not obtain citizenship at birth – such as children of citizen mothers and permanent resident fathers – may also apply. Members of the stateless community who passed the Malay culture and language test have for years reported a de facto suspension of citizenship approvals for stateless adult residents, with many reporting that although five to 10 years had elapsed since they passed their test, they still had not been granted citizenship. In May, 442 persons were awarded citizenship; most were wives of Malay Muslim men. One ethnic Chinese recipient reported he had waited 12 years since passing his citizenship test.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  Concerns persisted, however, that corporate and political pressure, an ineffective and corrupt judiciary, and nontransparent government regulation of resources meant to support media (including EU funds), gravely damaged media pluralism.  In March Amnesty International stated in its Report on the State of the World’s Human Rights that “media freedom continued to deteriorate, and journalists and independent media outlets who investigated crime and corruption faced frequent threats and smear campaigns, including by public officials.”  Reporters without Borders (known by its French acronym, RSF) stated in its 2022 World Press Freedom Index that the editorial independence of public media suffered from the appointment of politically affiliated members of the electronic media regulator, while private media were influenced by their owners’ “interests in regulated sectors.”  According to RSF, media were “almost entirely dependent on income from advertising,” while national and EU funds that were provided to support the media were allocated in a nontransparent manner.

In July the Center for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom issued a report that identified significant risks to media pluralism, including a high level of political and economic influence on the media market combined with high levels of media ownership concentration.  The report also listed “growing concerns” regarding the state of public media independence, insufficient editorial autonomy in all types of media as well as persistent problems with independence and sustainability for local and regional media and problematic access to media for members of racial and ethnic minority groups, women, and persons with disabilities.

Freedom of Expression:  Individuals generally criticized the government without official reprisal.  The law provides for one to four years’ imprisonment for use of and incitement to “hate speech,” defined as instigation of hatred, discrimination, or violence based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, social status, or disability.  Laws restricting “hate speech” also applied to print media.

Violence and Harassment:  In the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, RSF criticized authorities for their reluctance to investigate threats and physical assaults against journalists, which the organization considered a persistent problem especially for journalists working outside the capital.

At year’s end, the trial against Biser Mitrev and brothers Georgi and Nikola Asenov for allegedly attacking and severely beating prominent investigative journalist and chief editor of the 168 Chasa weekly, Slavi Angelov, in 2020 was ongoing.

According to RSF, “independent media and investigative journalists are regularly victims of abusive procedures or strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).”  On March 15, ultranationalist Ataka Party leader Volen Siderov and a crew from the party’s television channel Alfa stormed the offices of Nova TV, accusing Nova of being “crooks and liars” as well as being biased against Ataka.  On March 17, the Council for Electronic Media and the Union of Bulgarian Journalists condemned in a public statement Siderov’s actions as political intervention in the editorial policies of an independent media outlet.

Independent media outlets were subject to open attacks from politicians at all levels and to administrative and judicial pressure.  In January journalists Veliana Hristova, Velislava Dareva, and Georgi Georgiev announced on social media that left-leaning Duma newspaper, the former official organ of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), had fired them due to their public protest against alleged BSP pressure on the paper’s editorial policy and their criticism of BSP’s leader.  Following an outpouring of support by other journalists and four of BSP’s five members of the European Parliament, the BSP released a January 13 statement denying that the journalists had been fired and asserting they had been employed on fixed-term contracts which had expired.  The statement noted that the paper remained free to publish material written by the three journalists.

In a September 16 statement, the Association of European Journalists protested alleged pressure from the government on bTV journalist Maria Tsantsarova to reveal sources used in her journalistic work.  Earlier in the year, Tsantsarova disclosed publicly that some members of the ultranationalist political party Vazrazhdane were vaccinated against COVID-19 even though their party conducted an antivaccination campaign.  According to the association’s complaint, police called in Tsantsarova for questioning and demanded she reveal her sources, the prosecution service opened pretrial proceedings against her, and the Personal Data Protection Commission initiated privacy proceedings against her.  The association also expressed concerns concerning alleged linkages between Vazrazhdane and the prosecution service following an admission by a high-ranking member of the service that his office was using key parliamentarians to introduce legislative initiatives to the National Assembly on its behalf.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Journalists reported editorial prohibitions on covering specific persons and topics and the imposition of political points of view by corporate leaders with the implied support of the government.  According to a survey by the Association of European Journalists released in October, one in 10 journalists was threatened with a lawsuit because of their work and one in four journalists exercised self-censorship.  In October the RSF noted, “intimidation from politicians as well as administrative and judicial pressure against publishers and journalists” were common.

The Center for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom identified “regulatory gaps, lack of sector-specific rules to prevent a high-degree of concentration, lack of sustainable funding opportunities, and lack of safeguards against commercial and owner influence over editorial independence.”  Despite the legal requirement for media ownership disclosure, many outlets did not comply, and media ownership information was not entirely publicly available.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Defamation, including libel and slander, is a criminal offense punishable by a fine and public censure.  The law provides for a higher fine for libel against public officials and public figures than for libel against other individuals.  According to a study compiled by Zhana Popova and Snezhana Popova, in a series of interviews with journalists taken to court for libel and publicly released in April, most noted such lawsuits are a form of harassment, pressure, and intimidation against journalistic work and are usually filed by politicians and public officials.

In July the Sofia appellate court confirmed a lower court’s decision that former member of parliament Valeri Simeonov had slandered television anchors Venelin Petkov and Anton Hekimyan when he suggested they were corrupt in a 2020 television interview and ordered him to pay 8,000 levs ($4,367) each.

On November 29, the Sofia appellate court convicted online news site and its staff writer Boris Mitov to pay former Sofia city court chair Svetlin Mihaylov 4,000 levs ($2,184) for defamation.  The appellate court revoked the lower Sofia city court’s 2021 decision granting Mihaylov a 60,000 lev ($21,755) claim against the journalist and the media over four articles alleging corruption and unexplained wealth by Mihaylov, who was running for a second term as court chair in 2018, and ordered Mihaylov to cover the media’s defense and court fee expenses amounting to 4,720 levs ($2,577).  In January the Association of European Journalists commented on the Sofia city court decision as an example of a SLAPP, noting the court’s ruling and the large fine approved by the court severely affected the ability of the journalist and the media outlet to work.  As of the end of the year, the case was on appeal at the Supreme Cassation Court.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government mostly respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The president may grant asylum to persons who are persecuted for their belief or activities advocating for internationally recognized rights and freedoms. Asylum seekers who cross the border irregularly are subject to detention. The BHC’s annual report on international protection proceedings released in June criticized authorities for refusing registration to asylum seekers who showed up at refugee reception centers or applied for international protection outside the State Agency for Refugees’ working hours, instead calling police to detain them.

Refoulement: Organizations noted several instances when authorities pushed back would-be migrants and asylum seekers (see Abuse of Migrants and Refugees).

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: An international media consortium, including Lighthouse Reports, Radio Free Europe, Sky News, ARD Monitor, Domani, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel, published investigative reports on December 6 and 8, alleging border police shot and seriously wounded a Syrian migrant before he crossed the border from Turkey and that border police kept migrants detained at the border with Turkey in unofficial holding cells in degrading conditions before deporting them in military trucks.

UNHCR reported increased cases of “pushback” violence, robbery, and humiliating practices against migrants and asylum seekers along the border with Turkey. As of December 12, the Ministry of Interior reported 162,340 attempts to enter the country irregularly across the border during which border authorities detained 4,585 persons. In May Human Rights Watch accused authorities of “beating, robbing, stripping, and using police dogs to attack Afghan and other asylum seekers and migrants, then pushing them back to Turkey without any formal interview or asylum procedure.” In June the NGO Mission Wings reported receiving at least 150 reports of pushbacks during meetings with migrants in Turkey in May. The BHC noted 1,681 cases involving 23,742 persons whose rights were allegedly violated in the border area in the first half of the year.

According to reports by Caritas Sofia and the BHC, authorities forced an underage Afghan citizen with humanitarian status out of the country three times on April 27-28, after police allegedly confiscated and destroyed his identity card, abused him physically, and stripped him of his clothes, money, and mobile phone. The Afghan citizen had reportedly been accepted into the country under the relocation program from Greece and had signed an integration agreement with the Ovcha Kupel District in Sofia. He was reportedly trying to help his asylum-seeking younger brother, who had crossed the border from Turkey, reach a refugee reception center.

In a separate case, the Voice in Bulgaria Legal Aid Center noted that on multiple occasions in January and February border police allegedly beat and robbed an Afghan lawyer of his money, food, and clothes, ignoring his claim for asylum and pushing him back to Turkey where he was reportedly forced to wander barefoot in the snow for four hours to the nearest settlement. The Legal Aid Center reported the case to the Ministry of Interior and the prosecution service but received a response crediting border police reports asserting that all foreign nationals typically go back across the border themselves after seeing border patrol and noting that the NGO’s report indicated that the foreign national had committed a crime by crossing the border illegally.

On October 11, Harmanli Municipal Councilor Nikolay Georgiev announced that a vigilante patrol would watch for public violations by refugees from the local reception center, alleging an increased crime rate in the city and asserting that migrants harassed local women. NGOs alleged that vigilantes photographed refugees as evidence of unfounded wrongdoing and made attempts to forcefully send asylum seekers back across the border to Turkey.

Freedom of Movement: The law restricts asylum seekers’ movement to the administrative region in which the reception center accommodating them is located. The restriction is valid until the protection status determination process is completed.

Access to Basic Services: Banks often refused to open accounts for refugees, which impeded their ability to obtain legal jobs and receive benefits. The law authorizes mayors to sign integration agreements with persons who have refugee status, but not subsidiary protection holders (persons seeking asylum who do not qualify as refugees), specifying the services they will receive – housing, education, language training, health services, professional qualification, and job search assistance – as well as the obligations of the responsible institutions. In March and June, the government introduced, and the National Assembly approved, legal packages facilitating access to health services and the labor market for Ukrainian refugees.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement and relocation, offered naturalization to refugees residing on its territory, and assisted in their voluntary return to their homes. As of September, authorities had approved the relocation of two unaccompanied refugee children from Greece as part of the country’s commitment to accept 70 unaccompanied children. Since 2020, the country has accepted 28 such children.

Temporary Protection: The Council of Ministers may provide temporary protection in case of mass influx of foreign nationals driven by an armed conflict, civil war, violence, or large-scale human rights violations in their country of origin, as determined by the Council of the European Union. As of mid-December, 148,211 Ukrainians had received temporary protection, according to UNHCR. The government also provides humanitarian protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, doing so for 3,810 persons as of November.

Burkina Faso

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government did not always respect this right.  A June 6 law adopted by the transition legislative body empowering the government to take measures required for the national defense drew concerns among media organizations that feared the government could use the law to restrict freedom of expression for members of the press (see section 1.f.).  The transitional government had not invoked the June 6 law by year’s end.

In 2019 the National Assembly voted to amend the penal code banning journalists from reporting any security-related news to preserve national security and prevent the demoralization of the military “by any means.”  Attempts to “demoralize” members of the military had previously been a crime.

A 2015 law decriminalized press offenses and replaced prison sentences with substantial monetary fines.  Some editors complained that few newspapers or media outlets could afford such fines.  Despite the reform, journalists occasionally faced criminal prosecution for libel and other forms of harassment and intimidation.

According to the 2021 National Report on Burkinabe Press Freedom, published on October 20 on the country’s 24th National Press Freedom Day, the state of freedom of expression, including for members of the press, had deteriorated somewhat in recent years.  Media organizations have also noted similar concerns since the advent of the first transition authorities in January.

Freedom of Expression:  The 2019 revision of the penal code criminalizes communicating the position or movements of defense forces, or sites of national interest or of a strategic nature, and the publication of any terrorist crime scene without authorization.  The amendment significantly increases penalties for the crime of publicly insulting another person if electronic communications are used to publish the insult; the law had previously prohibited persons from insulting the head of state or using derogatory language with respect to the office.  Local and international associations of journalists called for the rejection of the amendment as an unacceptable attempt to stifle freedom of expression.  During the year the different governments under former Presidents Roch Kabore and Paul Henry Damiba appealed to the press’s “patriotism,” asking them to refrain from comments that could divide the citizens or distract from the ongoing counterterrorism effort.

On September 5, police arrested Ollo Mathias Kambou, a well-known activist, for allegedly insulting former transition President Damiba.  Kambou was charged with “contempt of the Head of State.”  On October 4, Kambou received a six-month suspended jail sentence.

Violence and Harassment:  On August 22, the car of Imhotep Bayala, a civil society activist known for his critiques of the transition government, was set on fire at his home in Ouagadougou.  The MBDHP condemned this intimidation incident and called on the transition government to launch an investigation.

In mid-October, journalist Alain Traore received audio recordings of death threats after opining on relations with France on his satirical and well-attended radio show on Radio Omega.  The authors, who considered the journalist to be pro-French, threatened to kill the journalist and burn down the radio station.

During the year approximately 12 cases of violent attacks or other acts of intimidation against journalists and other activists remained pending before the courts.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  In addition to prohibitions on publishing security-related information and insulting the head of state, the law prohibits the publication of shocking images or material that demonstrates lack of respect for the deceased.  Journalists practiced self-censorship, fearing that publishing blatant criticism of the government could result in arrest or closure of their newspaper.  Journalists were denied access to sites housing internally displaced persons during the year.

On December 3, the transition government suspended Radio France International with immediate effect, alleging the radio station diffused terrorist propaganda and dissuaded readers from joining volunteer units to defend the country.

Internet Freedom

The law permits a judge, at the request of a “public minister” (prosecutor), to block internet websites or email addresses being used to spread “false information” to the public.  In practice, the government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet; however, the Conseil Superieur de la Communication and the chief prosecutor monitored internet websites and discussion forums to enforce compliance with regulations.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government at times restricted these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights.

In-country Movement: The government required citizens to carry a national identity document, and it authorized officials to request the document at any time. Without a national identity card, citizens could not pass between certain regions of the country and were subject to arrest and fines.

In June the transition government created two “Areas of Military Interest,” one in the Soum province bordering Mali and the other grouping protected reserves between Pama and the W park, Est Region, forcing the populations to vacate their homes. According to a UN representative, fewer than 75,000 persons were residing in these areas reputed to be havens for jihadists.

Following the January 24 coup d’état, the transition government required former President Roch Kabore’s government members to ask for permission before traveling in country and departing the country. After the coup, Kabore was placed under house arrest in a villa in Ouagadougou. The house arrest was lifted after several months of confinement. In mid-August, the transition government allowed President Kabore to leave the country for the first time since his ouster in January, granting him permission to fly to the Middle East on medical grounds. He returned to Burkina Faso and appeared to enjoy freedom of movement.

In a June 22 order, the transition government suspended the importation, sale, and free distribution of motorized two-wheeled vehicles throughout the country. The measure aimed to reduce the mobility and operational capacity of armed groups but harmed the local populations because two-wheeled vehicles are the major form of transport for those outside of major population centers.

Of the country’s 13 regions, 96 percent of registered IDPs were in six regions: Nord, Boucle du Mouhoun, Centre-Nord, Nord, Est, and Centre-Est. The Ministry of Solidarity, Humanitarian Affairs, National Reconciliation, Gender, and Family had publicly stated that IDPs could not register in Ouagadougou, and humanitarian actors were prevented from helping IDPs in the capital.

Armed extremists restricted movement of thousands of rural inhabitants throughout the country by planting IEDs on major highways, hijacking vehicles, and setting up checkpoints. In response to dozens of attacks by unknown armed groups presumed to be extremists, local authorities instituted a ban on motorcycle traffic from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the Est, Sahel, and Nord Regions.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, as well as to returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. UNHCR recorded approximately 33,530 refugees as of September, the vast majority from other countries in the Sahel.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The Ministry of Solidarity, Humanitarian Affairs, National Reconciliation, Gender, and Family, aided by the National Committee for Refugees, is the focal point for coordination of national and international efforts.

Freedom of Movement: According to UNHCR, police arbitrarily arrested Fulani refugees traveling from the Sahel Region to Ouagadougou on multiple occasions, sometimes holding them in detention overnight before releasing them.

Access to Basic Services: According to UNHCR, public institutions such as banks, schools, and hospitals occasionally refused service to refugees on a discriminatory basis. As part of the Refugee Identity Card program, in collaboration with the National Commission for Refugees and the National Identification Office, UNHCR continued the enrollment operation for refugees hosted in the country. The issuance of these identity cards to refugees provides protection against arbitrary arrest and abusive detention, and helps facilitate refugees’ access to basic services assistance, livelihood, and durable solutions.

Temporary Protection: The government agreed to offer temporary protection to individuals who did not qualify as refugees, but there were no applicants during the year.

Recurrent armed attacks, interethnic clashes, and natural disasters throughout the country resulted in the displacement of more than 1.7 million persons as of September 30, according to the National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR). But according to other humanitarian sources, there were nearly two million IDPs in the country at the same period, based on data from the Groupe de Coordination Opérationnelle de la Reponse Rapide. In May former transition President Damiba’s government asserted that the number of IDPs had undergone a considerable decrease from 1.9 million to 1.5 million. The announcement was met with skepticism. The sites hosting the largest number of IDPs were the northern cities of Djibo with 16 percent, Ouahigouya with 8 percent, and Kaya with 6 percent. Reports indicated that 23 percent of IDPs were women and 60 percent were children.

Humanitarian sources reported that nearly one-quarter of the country’s population needed humanitarian aid, of which 1.7 million persons were IDPs, with many of those in isolated or difficult-to-reach locations, given continued insecurity.

During the year violent extremists permanently blockaded Djibo, a major trade hub, a livestock market, and a symbolically important city in the northern Sahel Region. Sources including government officials reported that some women and children have eaten only leaves and salt and that women have risked their lives by crossing lines of control at night in search of food. According to media reports, at least eight children died of malnutrition in May in Djibo.

Access by CONASUR and other humanitarian organizations to conflict-affected populations was limited by ongoing insecurity. The transition government delivered considerable quantities of food to Djibo in early October by helicopter. In late October the UN representative called for the government to reopen the road and allow convoys to go through without military escorts, which are contrary to UN principles. The UN representative emphasized that flying food aid to localities in country was costly and unsustainable. It implemented, in collaboration with international partners, a response and support plan for vulnerable populations and food insecurity. Approximately 237 billion CFA francs ($357 million) were mobilized to provide food assistance, but also to support production. On August 12, the transition government launched a large-scale food distribution and cash transfer operation for vulnerable persons and IDPs. The goal was to provide food to approximately 3.4 million persons, including 1.5 million receiving cash transfers and 1.8 million receiving free food distribution.

Violent extremists have limited humanitarian access to vulnerable populations in the country. During the year, humanitarian sources relied on the UN Humanitarian Air Service to reach populations in the Sahel, Nord, and Est Regions that have been inaccessible due to conflict. Also, during the year the United Nations provided food aid to 1.8 million persons and enabled another 740,000 persons to access health care in areas where health facilities have closed, and medical equipment is lacking. The United Nations also provided access to water, hygiene, and sanitation to 550,000 persons and nutritional support to 421,000 children and new mothers or pregnant women.

UNHCR and the government delivered more than 7,000 identity and civil status documents, including identity cards, as well as birth and nationality certificates, to IDPs and host community members in the Boucle du Mouhoun, Est, and Nord Regions. UNHCR also supported 70,000 IDPs to digitize and preserve approximately 70,000 birth certificates in Est’s Fada-N’Gourma department.

To mitigate risks of statelessness, during the year the Directorate General of Civil Status Modernization and UNHCR facilitated the distribution of 29,663 documents to IDPs and members of the host community, including 15,172 declaratory birth certificates. In addition, it issued 14,043 national identity cards and 448 files of persons at risk of statelessness, which were identified and referred to the judiciary to produce nationality certificates. Stateless women were 52 percent of the total number assisted. UNHCR continued to support the government as part of the deployment of “ICIVIL” technology in the commune of Gourcy (Nord Region) to prevent and reduce the risks of statelessness.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The 2008 constitution provides that “every citizen shall be at liberty in the exercise of expressing and publishing freely their convictions and opinions,” but it contains the broad and ambiguous caveat that exercise of these rights must “not be contrary to the laws enacted for national security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility, or public order and morality.”  The regime continued its full-scale crackdown on freedom of expression throughout the year.

Freedom of Expression:  Freedom of speech was severely limited.  Those who spoke openly against the regime or in favor of the NLD, NUG, or democracy more broadly risked abuse and punishment by regime authorities.  The regime used the revised privacy law to allow authorities to review content on individuals’ cell phones at checkpoints and during neighborhood raids.

On April 5, the regime sentenced Tin Tun Aung to three years in prison under section 505 (a) of the Penal Code for speaking to media outlet Western News about his raising of a white flag at the army’s Battalion 289 camp near Paletwa Township, Chin State.  The regime detained Lieutenant Colonel Zaw Win Ko from the Criminal Investigation Department for criticizing regime security forces’ hitting of protesters with a vehicle in Rangoon’s Kyimyindaing Township on December 5, 2021.  A court sentenced him to three years in prison on March 11.

Violence and Harassment:  The regime harassed and detained reporters and subjected them to violent and at times lethal abuse for covering anti-regime protests.  For example, the Associated Press reported freelance photojournalist Soe Naing died in military custody on December 14, 2021, after his arrest on December 10 for taking photos during a “silent strike” in Rangoon.  He was the first journalist known to have died in custody after the military seized power.  The Irrawaddy reported regime troops arrested Aye Kyaw (Hayman), a documentary filmmaker in Sagaing Township, Sagaing Region, at his home on July 30.  His body was found by passers-by on a road later that day.  He was the fourth journalist known to have been killed since the coup.

Regime harassment of journalists took many forms.  In February the regime confiscated the home of Khit Thit Media Editor-in-Chief Thalun Zaung Htet.  On April 25, the pro-regime militia group Thway Thauk (“Blood Comrades”) posted calls on its Telegram instant messaging channel to execute reporters, editors, and family members of media outlets Khit Thit, Irrawaddy, Mizzima, DVB, and Ayeyarwady Times.

The regime used various laws to harass, imprison, and try journalists, including laws on sedition, which carry a possible 20-year prison term, and on unlawful association, which can result in a three-year sentence.  On August 15, Frontier Myanmar, a news and business magazine, reported the regime charged its columnist, Sithu Aung Myint, with both sedition and incitement.  That same day, the regime arrested BBC Media Action freelance producer Htet Htet Khine and charged him with unlawful association for his alleged ties to the NUG.

In January the regime began to use the Counter-Terrorism Law, which allows for longer sentences than does incitement, against journalists.  On April 5, a regime-controlled court sentenced a Taunggyi-based reporter of Golden Triangle News Agency to 10 years in prison on terrorism charges.  The same day, a Sintgaing Township, Mandalay Region court sentenced the chief reporter of Channel Mandalay TV, to five years in prison on a terrorism charge.  He was arrested when the military raided an alleged PDF training site at a farm in Sintgaing Township on August 30, 2021.  Win was also charged with incitement and spreading “false news,” which carries a maximum three-year prison penalty.

Doxing was another form of harassment and pro-military social media activist Han Nyein Oo was the most prominent channel on Telegram for doxing prodemocracy activists.  There were reports that regime security forces often appeared at homes within hours of their residents’ doxing by Han, who Telegram banned for violating its community standards on March 11.  His channel, however, reappeared the next day under a modified name and continued to operate as of October.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  After the coup, the regime banned independent media outlets that did not self-censor reporting on the prodemocracy movement.  The regime also banned the use of certain terminology in reporting, such as “junta,” “coup d’état,” and “military council.”

In a further effort to suppress media freedom, in November 2021 the regime appointed Ohn Maung and Myo Tun as the Myanmar Writers Association’s chairman and vice chairman, respectively.  Ohn Maung won several national poetry awards under previous military regimes.  Myo Tun worked for the Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Public Relations and Psychological Warfare.  The two were previously appointed to the Myanmar Press Council.

In January the regime sentenced the deputy chief editor of Zeyar Times News Agency and an agency reporter to two years in prison.  The regime charged the two under section 505 (a) of the Penal Code, accusing them of describing the regime as a “military coup council,” publishing news of the NUG and the Committee Representing the Union Parliament, and urging civil servants to join the Civil Disobedience Movement.  The latter was also charged with terrorism.

The regime continued to close critical media outlets and shuttered publishers that distributed books not in line with its own narrative.  Radio Free Asia reported on June 1 that the regime closed the Lwin Oo Publishing House “for importing and distributing” Myanmar’s Rohingya Genocide:  Identity, History and Hate Speech.  The regime Information Ministry also closed down the Kan Kaunggyin Eain Nge Lay (Lucky Tiny House), Shwe Lat, and Yan Aung Sarpay publishing houses, and the Win Toe Aung printing press for publishing or printing books on sensitive themes, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) issues.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Even before the coup, the military could and did use various legal provisions, such as a criminal defamation clause in the telecommunications law, to restrict freedom of expression.  On July 28 the regime charged Japanese journalist Toru Kubota under Section 505(a) of the criminal code for encouraging dissent against the military.  Section 505(a) criminalizes encouraging dissent against the military and carries a maximum three-year jail term; it was widely used in the crackdown on dissent.  He was later released and deported as part of the regime’s large-scale November prisoner release.

On October 14, the regime announced it would take legal action against The Irrawaddy and BBC Burmese for reporting that military forces opened fire on Buddhist pilgrims during an October 12 firefight with opposition insurgents in eastern Mon State.  “It is reported that The Irrawaddy and BBC Burmese news agencies, the blatant liars and the pessimist’s stooges, are going to be sued under the Electronic Communications Law, News Media Law, and the state defamation law for their accusation that the security forces randomly fired shots into crowds of pilgrims, a shameless act of violating media ethics,” the junta said in an October 14 news broadcast.

National Security:  Although the regime prosecuted some media critics using laws related to national security, in general the regime used other methods to pursue its critics.  The regime maintained its designation of the NUG and other prodemocracy groups as terrorist organizations.

Internet Freedom

The regime continued to practice zero tolerance of online dissent.  The regime surveilled and censored online content, restricted access to the internet, and prosecuted its online critics.  Even before the 2021 coup, the telecommunications law included broad provisions giving the government the power to temporarily block and filter content for the “benefit of the people.”  According to Freedom House, the regime, the military, and pro-military groups pressured users to remove anti-regime and prodemocracy content.  The telecommunications law does not explicitly include provisions to force the removal of content or provide for intermediary liability.  Regime authorities instead used, or threatened to use, other provisions of criminal law to pressure internet users to remove content.

The regime limited users’ ability to communicate anonymously by requiring users to register all prepaid SIM cards and increasing prices on mobile data usage.  Subscribers were required to provide their name, national registration document, birthday, address, citizenship, and gender to register a SIM card; noncitizens must provide their passports.  Telecommunications companies reportedly required some subscribers to include information beyond the bounds of the regulations, including their ethnicity.  In May the regime imposed a tax on imported mobile phone handsets and required registration of IMEI numbers, a unique 15-digit manufacturer’s code that acts as a mobile phone’s digital fingerprint.

The regime arrested a man from Maubin Township, Ayeyarwady Region and charged him with sedition for filming and sharing online a recording of heavy rains brought about by a cyclone.  Telecommunications and internet surveillance allegedly contributed to violent crackdowns on citizens, including physical assaults and enforced disappearances in retaliation for online activities.  The regime restricted mobile data network access in 25 townships across the country.  Moreover, blocking of social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, used by prodemocracy groups to resist the regime, continued.  Since the coup, authorities allegedly arrested Facebook users found to have posted anti-regime content or use anti-regime profile photos.  For example, on September 6, the regime announced the arrest and intended prosecution of two Facebook users on allegations of intent to destroy national stability through their Facebook posts.

In regions perceived as supportive of the opposition, the regime at times simply shut down internet and related communications.  For example, the regime cut mobile data internet access in most townships in Sagaing Region after September 2021, except in a few major townships including Monwya, Kalay, and Shwebo where military command centers were located.  The regime maintained a “whitelist,” established in May 2021, of at least 1,200 approved websites with local internet service providers and telecommunications companies.  The approved “whitelist” included more than 100 companies in the financial, delivery service, and entertainment sectors, including Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, and Tinder.  The “whitelist” further specified that some social media sites were permitted if “used by many customers for business purposes.”

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The regime restricted academic freedom and cultural events.

According to an official of the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation, since the coup the regime suspended more than 125,000 teachers for joining the CDM.  Approximately 19,000 university staff members were also suspended, according to the teachers’ group.  The regime detained CDM-affiliated teachers who provided online lessons at a school linked to the NUG.  In July, nine striking teachers working for Kaung for You Education, an online school for students boycotting regime schools, were arrested, forcing the school to temporarily close.

Artists who previously addressed human rights or political issues were in hiding or in exile.

The regime curtailed the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law does not protect freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation. Local regulations limit the rights of citizens to settle and reside anywhere in the country. Authorized officials may require the registration of foreigners’ movements and require foreigners to register every change of address exceeding 24 hours.

In-country Movement: Regional and local orders, directives, and instructions restricted freedom of movement. The regime tightened restrictions on freedom of movement after the 2021 coup. Numerous local media reports described regime security force roadblocks and random searches of private cars and taxis. Nightly curfews in Rangoon and several other cities also restricted movement, as did a requirement that all visitors register with the local ward administrator. Local media reported that the regime harassed health-care workers and sometime seized ambulances when medical emergencies occurred after curfew. Due to escalating fighting with the military, the NUG and EAOs warned civilians to travel only in case of an emergency in areas affected by violence. COVID-19 mitigation regulations, at times abused for political or security reasons, also restricted movement.

Limitations on freedom of movement for Rohingya in Rakhine State were unchanged. Rohingya may not move freely; they must obtain travel authorization to leave their township. In contrast to the pre-coup rule that Rohingya traveling without documentation could return to their homes without facing immigration charges, the regime’s General Administration Department issued a directive resuming legal actions against Rohingya traveling without permission in Sittwe and Kyauktaw Townships, Rakhine State.

Foreign Travel: The regime restricted foreign travel by prodemocracy supporters and expanded measures to increase oversight. According to an official order dated May 13, 2021, “the authorities have directed airlines that all bookings for departures must be made at least 10 days in advance of the intended departure and be shared with [the] Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” The regime also reportedly cancelled, or refused to issue, passports to prodemocracy supporters and required key business leaders to request advance approval for travel. Numerous prodemocracy supporters expressed concern for their security and safety if they tried to leave the country by air. There were confirmed reports of questioning and limited detention at airports.

The regime did not always cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and neither the deposed civilian government nor the military regime established a system for providing protection to refugees. UNHCR did not register any asylum seekers during the year.

UNHCR estimated that 1.3 million persons were internally displaced, either in camps or informally, in the country as of September 12. Of those displaced, 866,400 fled their homes since the coup, most notably in areas such as Sagaing and Magway Regions. Decades of conflict between the central government and ethnic communities also contributed to the large number of IDPs.

As of September 5, UNHCR estimated that 981,600  IDPs were living in their own State and Region, principally in Kachin, Shan State, Northwest Burma (Sagaing Region, Chin State), Rakhine State, central Burma (Magway Region, Bago Region), and Southern Burma (Kayah, Mon, Kayin, and Tanintharyi). IDPs in Sagaing Region alone numbered 526,700, the highest concentration in the country.

The regime systematically obstructed humanitarian relief for IDPs. On April 13, regime authorities blocked a UN World Food Program convoy carrying basic foodstuffs for IDPs in Kyaukhtu Township, Magway and Mindat Township, Chin State. According to a representative from the Chin Human Rights Organization, “we are seeing a continuation of (the regime’s) explicit intention of starving innocent civilians. To actively block humanitarian aid efforts where they are clearly marked with the UN logo is a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention.”

The military’s deliberate destruction of homes contributed significantly to an increase in the number of IDPs. On May 12, the Irrawaddy reported that more than 5,000 persons fled their homes after military troops torched approximately 500 houses in four villages in Taze Township, Sagaing Region, contributing to the more than 7,000 houses the nonprofit Data for Myanmar estimated the military burned in Sagaing Region alone as of May.

The country contributes to statelessness, including through discrimination on grounds of ethnicity and religion, in nationality laws and in their practical administration, and in the birth registration process.

The law defines a “national ethnic group” as a racial and ethnic group that can prove origins in the country dating back to 1823, a year prior to British colonization, and the regime officially recognized 135 “national ethnic groups” whose members are automatically granted full citizenship. The law also establishes two forms of citizenship short of full citizenship: associate and naturalized. Citizens in these two categories are unable to run for political office; form a political party; serve in the military, police, or public administration; inherit land or money; or pursue certain professional degrees, such as medicine and law. Only members of the third generation of associate or naturalized citizens are able to acquire full citizenship.

Rohingya, most of whom are Muslim, are not recognized as a “national ethnic group” and the vast majority are stateless as a result. Following the genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and forced displacement of more than 740,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh in 2017, up to 600,000 Rohingya were estimated to remain in Rakhine State. Some Rohingya may be technically eligible for full citizenship. The process involves additional official scrutiny and was complicated by logistical difficulties, including travel restrictions and significant gaps in understanding the Burmese language. This also required substantial bribes to regime officials, and even then, it did not result in equality with other full citizens. In particular, only Rohingya were required to go through an additional step of applying for the National Verification Card, through which they receive identity documents that describe them as “Bengali.” Regime officials treated Rohingya with the presumption of noncitizenship, undermining access to public services and contributing to a wide range of societal discrimination.

There were also significant numbers of stateless persons and persons with undetermined nationality, including persons of Chinese, Indian, and Nepali descent. Although these latter groups did not face the same level of official and social discrimination as Rohingya, the regime granted members of these groups only the lesser rights, and imposed the greater restrictions, of associate and naturalized citizenship. The regime did not single these groups out the same way as Rohingya when obtaining citizenship.

The law does not provide any form of citizenship (or associated rights) for children born in the country whose parents are stateless.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but prohibited certain types of expression.  While the government took some measures to loosen restrictions on members of the press and other media, restrictions imposed in 2015 continued and were applied to all press outlets.

Freedom of Expression:  The law prohibits “defamatory” speech regarding the president and other senior officials, material deemed to endanger national security, and racially or ethnically motivated hate speech.  It is illegal for anyone to display drawings, posters, photographs, or other items that may “disturb the public peace.”  Penalties for disturbing the public peace range from two months’ to three years’ imprisonment, as well as fines.

Violence and Harassment:  Journalists reported harassment and intimidation by the security services and government officials designed to prevent them from doing their work independently or covering sensitive topics.  Some journalists were required to obtain permission from authorities prior to conducting domestic, and in some cases international, travel.  Forces allied to the CNDD-FDD repressed media perceived as sympathetic to opposition parties, including print and radio journalists, through harassment, intimidation, and violence.  Most independent journalists fled the country during and after the political crisis and crackdown in 2015, and some remained in exile as of the end of the year.  The government detained or summoned for questioning local journalists investigating subjects such as human rights abuses, corruption, or security incidents.

The Karusi provincial director of agriculture and livestock filed a complaint on July 8 against Pascal Kararumiye, a journalist with private media outlet Radio Isanganiro, accusing the journalist of disseminating false information.  The accusation followed the release of Kararumiye’s report of cows being slaughtered despite government restrictions regarding Rift Valley Fever.  Karusi authorities did not refute the information or provide further information on the case, despite the law’s provision that “each person has the right to reply to any broadcasted information.”  Karusi’s public prosecutor’s office twice summoned Karurimiye to appear and requested that he clear all future articles with the appropriate provincial authorities.

On July 18, Pascal Ndayisenga, director of online media outlet La Nova, received death threats from Pascal Sebirego, a local administrator in Kiremba Commune, Ngozi Province, after La Nova published an article citing Sebirego’s involvement in serious cases of corruption, which led the president to order an investigation.  Ndayisenga went into hiding as of August but reappeared in public in September after Sebirego was arrested and imprisoned on charges of corruption.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  The government censored media content through restrictive press regulations established by the National Communications Council (CNC), an organization nominally independent but subject to political control and widely regarded as a tool of the executive branch.  CNC decrees require that all journalists register annually with the body, limit the access granted to international journalists, and establish content restrictions on the products disseminated by outlets.  The CNC continued to monitor the press closely.  The CNC regulates both print and broadcast media, controls the accreditation of journalists, and enforces compliance with media laws.  The president appoints all 15 CNC members, who were mainly government representatives and journalists from the state broadcaster.

There were reports that journalists were required to obtain permission from local administrations and in some instances gain clearance in order to release their articles.  Broadly interpreted laws against libel, hate speech, endangering state security, and treason also fostered self-censorship, including by journalists working for the national broadcaster.  Observers reported that most journalists working in the country exercised a degree of self-censorship or refused to cover topics labelled as sensitive, including high-level corruption, human rights abuses by government security forces or the Imbonerakure, and other subjects seen as critical of the government.

Several journalists stated they were generally freer in their reporting online than via radio and other media more closely controlled by the government, particularly when posting in French or English rather than in local languages.  Two radio stations that were closed in 2015 continued to broadcast radio segments abroad and publish articles online.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law protects public servants and the president against “words, gestures, threats, or writing of any kind” that is “abusive or defamatory” or would “impair the dignity of or respect for their office.”  The law prohibits the public distribution of information that exposes a person to “public contempt” and provides penalties of imprisonment and fines for violations.  The penalty for being convicted of insulting the head of state is six months to five years in prison and a token monetary fine.  Some journalists and leaders of political parties and civil society stated that the government used the law to intimidate and harass them.

National Security:  The law requires journalists to reveal sources in some circumstances and prohibits the publication of articles deemed to undermine national security.  Harassment in past years under national security provisions caused some journalists to self-censor during the year.

Conviction of treason, which includes knowingly demoralizing the military or the country in a manner that endangers national defense during a time of war, carries a penalty of life imprisonment.  It is a crime for anyone knowingly to disseminate or publicize rumors likely to alarm or excite the public against the government or to promote civil war.

Nongovernmental Impact:  Many members of the Imbonerakure collaborated with government security forces to inhibit freedom of expression.  In some cases, they were official members of mixed security councils, which consisted of police, local administration officials, and civilians.

Actions to Expand Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Media:  On May 15, President Ndayishimiye organized a special press conference for locally based journalists that lasted four hours.  In sharp contrast with other public conferences with the president, there were no prior editorial meetings to verify or direct the questions and to designate in advance which journalists would ask them.  Instead, all journalists were given the opportunity to ask any questions they wished.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content except for the website of media outlet Radio Publique Africaine.  There were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  Direct access to Radio Publique Africaine’s website from within the country remained blocked; readers were able to access the website from abroad or by using a virtual private network.  On November 30, the government restored full public access to the independent media organization IWACU’s website, which had been blocked by the government since 2017.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were allegations, including by Freedom House, that hiring practices, student leadership elections, and grading at the University of Burundi were subject to political interference in favor of CNDD-FDD members and that University of Burundi professors intimidated students not aligned with the ruling party.

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government at times respected these related rights.

In-country Movement: According to several news sources, the government enforced the use of household logbooks, cahier or livret de menage, which listed the residents and domestic workers of each household in some neighborhoods of the capital. In numerous instances, police arrested persons during neighborhood searches for not being registered in household booklets. Local governments established checkpoints on roads throughout the country on a widespread basis, officially for the collection of transit taxes on drivers and passengers. The checkpoints were often staffed by police or members of the Imbonerakure. Checkpoints were also established for security purposes. There were frequent allegations that those staffing the checkpoints sought bribes before allowing vehicles to proceed. In some instances, members of the Imbonerakure were accused of using the checkpoints to deny free movement to individuals for political reasons, such as failing to demonstrate proof of financial contributions to the ruling party’s offices and activities. Refugees were required to obtain exit permits to travel outside refugee camps, and this law was generally enforced.

Foreign Travel: Authorities required exit visas for foreigners who held nonofficial passports and who did not hold multiple-entry visas; these visas cost 48,000 Burundian francs ($24) per month to maintain. Most foreigners held multiple-entry visas and were not subject to this requirement.

In response to trafficking in persons concerns, the General Immigration Authority, which is responsible for border security and issuing travel documents, increased vigilance before granting travel documents to target demographic groups, such as young women and unaccompanied children. In January 2021, the immigration authority requested that commercial airlines operating in the country stop accepting citizen passengers travelling to all Gulf countries until further notice due to concerns regarding human trafficking; a special authorization from the immigration authority is required for such travel. These restrictions, however, may have increased travel via irregular channels, as well as vulnerability to trafficking.

The government generally cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Freedom of Movement: Refugees are required to obtain exit permits from the National Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons in the Ministry of Interior to leave refugee camps. Authorities consistently refused or limited exit permits, citing security concerns regarding possible collaboration between refugees and rebel groups in the DRC. Whereas exit permits previously allowed for several weeks’ absence, permits during the year were limited to three-day periods, and the number of permits issued decreased significantly. There were reports of refugees being briefly arrested and returned to the camps for leaving without an exit permit.

Employment: There were reports that the government imposed restrictions on refugees’ ability to work after their status as refugees was official. The government does not permit refugees and asylum seekers to work in the formal labor market. UNHCR and camp partners implemented some livelihood programs, such as cooperative-led sustainable year-round gardens, mushroom growing, and small-scale soap making, and encouraged refugees to initiate income-generating activities. In response some refugees started hair salons, tailoring shops, and small markets inside their camps, although insufficient funds to promote their businesses and difficulties obtaining exit permits to sell their products outside the camps hampered their ability to expand their businesses.

Durable Solutions: Continuing violence in the DRC prevented Congolese refugees from returning. Efforts begun in 2015 to resettle Congolese refugees in third countries continued.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated there were 84,800 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country as of April, of whom 56 percent were children. According to the IOM, 91 percent of IDPs were displaced due to natural disasters, while 9 percent were displaced for other reasons. Some IDPs reported believing themselves to be threatened because of their perceived political sympathies. Some IDPs returned to their homes, but the majority remained in IDP sites or relocated to urban centers. The government generally permitted IDPs at identified sites to be included in programs provided by UNHCR, the IOM, and other humanitarian organizations, such as shelter, education, and legal assistance programs, and promoted their reintegration.

During the year, media reported cases of the Imbonerakure and local officials threatening to expel IDPs from their sites in Giheta commune in Gitega Province and Kabezi commune in Bujumbura on public interest grounds. Human rights groups denounced the apparent political motives behind the evictions. Media also reported harassment and arrests of IDPs in Ngozi, Kirundo, Kayanza, and Gitega Provinces accused of maintaining relations with armed rebel groups and opposing government orders.

According to UNHCR, an estimated 783 persons at risk of statelessness lived in the country. All had lived in the country for decades, originally arriving from Oman, and were awaiting proof of citizenship from the government of Oman. Most of those who remained at risk of statelessness had refused an offer of Burundian citizenship from the government if they could not get Omani citizenship. Stateless persons faced limited freedom of movement because they were ineligible for driver’s licenses and passports.

Cabo Verde

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government has ratified but not implemented the 1951 UN Protocol on the Status of Refugees. The country has established neither legislation nor an institutional body for granting asylum or refugee status. Because the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) does not have an established presence in the country, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) refers asylum seekers who request protection and assistance to the UNHCR regional representation for West Africa in Dakar, Senegal, which conducts refugee status determinations with IOM collaboration.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a formal system for providing protection to refugees. Asylum applications are rare and there were no reports during the year of any applications. The actual number of asylum seekers was unknown since there was no systematic procedure in place to register and process asylum claims. Temporary protection mechanisms and access to basic services are in place for asylum seekers while they await a decision.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media.  The government, however, greatly restricted free expression, including by independent news media and other dissenting voices; many individuals and institutions reported widespread self-censorship, particularly on social media.

Freedom of Expression:  The constitution grants freedom of speech except when it adversely affects public security.  The constitution also declares the king is “inviolable.”

Election laws require civil society organizations to remain “neutral” during political campaigns and prohibit them from “insulting” political parties in media.

The government arrested and prosecuted citizens on disinformation and misdemeanor “incitement” charges.  In June police in Tbong Khmum Province arrested a TikTok user for “disinformation” after he posted a video online claiming that two individuals in Koh Kong Province had died from COVID-19.  The individual was arrested and charged with “incitement.”  In July, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced he ordered the provincial governor to make the arrest.  The individual remained in pretrial detention as of December.

In a 2021 report by a human rights NGO, 59 percent of 896 randomly sampled residents reported they had self-censored online activity to avoid consequences from the government or powerful individuals, while up to 84 percent of 171 NGOs and trade union leaders surveyed reported self-censoring.

Violence and Harassment:  Threats and violence against journalists and reporters remained common.  In January authorities arrested Kao Piseth, head of the online publication Siem Reap Tanhetkar, for “incitement” and sentenced him to two years in prison for calling on the ruling party to step down and for urging the international community to cut aid to the government.

Former Radio Free Asia journalists Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin remained subject to the terms of their release on bond, which included restrictions on their ability to travel and work.  On June 30, an appeals court upheld the decision of a lower court not to return their passports.  They were charged in 2017 with “collecting information illegally for a foreign nation” and in 2018 with distributing pornography.  The penalty for the first charge is seven to 15 years in prison.  NGOs and observers argued that the case was politically motivated and pointed to the prolonged trial and confiscation of the journalists’ passports as proof of government intimidation of media.

The Cambodian Center for Independent Media and the Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association reported that in 2021, there were 51 cases of harassment against 93 journalists; some of the cases involved multiple journalists.  Of the 93 journalists, 32 were arrested, 24 faced legal action, and 18 experienced violence or harassment.  In August Hing Bunheang, commander of the prime minister’s bodyguards, admitted that his staff punched a local reporter in the face when he was reporting and observing deforestation at Phnom Tamao Sanctuary.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  The government, military, and ruling party owned or otherwise influenced most newspapers and broadcast media; there were few significant independent sources for news.  Although the law prohibits censorship and no formal censorship system existed, the government used other means to censor media, most notably through its control of permits and licenses for journalists and media outlets not controlled directly by the government or the CPP.  Private media admitted to practicing self-censorship, in part from fear of government reprisal.  Reporters claimed that newspaper editors told them not to write on topics that would offend the government, and they also reported self-censoring due to the chilling effect of recent criminal cases against journalists.  A UN survey on press freedom released in August revealed that each of the journalists interviewed reported that local authorities had interfered with their work.  Of those interviewed, 85 percent believed de facto censorship was worsening, including by increased government surveillance and reduced access to public information.

In March the Ministry of Information rescinded the operating licenses of three news outlets, the Bayong Times, Khmer Cover TV, and Cambodia Today.  NGOs reported that the recission was without warning and noted there was no process to appeal the decision.  Media reported that Cambodia Today reported on irregularities in a government contract bidding process prior to the ministry’s decision.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law criminalizes expression that libels or slanders the monarch and prohibits publishers and editors from disseminating stories that insult or defame the king, government leaders, or public institutions.  The government used the law to restrict public discussion on topics it deemed sensitive or against its interests.

National Security:  The government continued to cite “national security” concerns to justify restricting and prosecuting critics of government policies and officials.  In January Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Seng Hieng alleged that NagaWorld (a resort and casino) strikers were receiving illegal financial support to cause social chaos and threaten national security.

Internet Freedom

There were credible reports that government entities monitored online communications.

The law gives the government legal authority to monitor all telephone conversations, text messages, email, social media activity, and correspondence between individuals without their consent or a warrant.  Any opinions expressed in these exchanges that the government deemed to impinge on its definition of national security could result in a maximum 15 years’ imprisonment.

The government has the authority to shut down any social media page or website that publishes information leading to “turmoil in the society that [might] undermine national defense, national security, national relations with other countries, the economy, social order, discrimination, or national culture or tradition.”

A “cyber war team” in the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit monitored and countered “incorrect” information from news outlets and social media.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government continued to restrict academic freedom and political discussion at schools and universities.  Scholars tended to exercise caution when teaching politically sensitive subjects due to fear of offending politicians, and many individuals in academia expressed their opinions anonymously and generally avoided sensitive discussions in their classrooms.

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and there was a system for providing protection to refugees. The system, however, was not equally accessible to all refugees and asylum seekers and was not transparent. Asylum seekers who entered the country without documentation or overstayed their visas were vulnerable to deportation. The government did not grant resident status or a resident book to refugees, only a refugee card.

Freedom of Movement: There were no reports that the authorities restricted the movement of registered refugees. Authorities, however, restricted the movement of 12 remaining Montagnard asylum seekers whom the government did not consider to be refugees.

Temporary Protection: The government continued to permit more than 200 Afghan refugees temporary stays in Cambodia until they could be resettled to a third country.

Not applicable.

The country had habitual residents who were de facto stateless. According to UNHCR, there were an estimated 57,440 stateless persons in the country as of the end of 2020, primarily ethnic Vietnamese. In June Kampong Chhnang authorities ordered 1,300 floating houses destroyed, most of which belonged to ethnic Vietnamese who had long lived in the area but did not have Cambodian documentation. The government did not effectively implement laws or policies to provide such persons the opportunity to acquire or document their Cambodian nationality (see section 6, Children). According to an NGO, individuals without proof of nationality often did not have access to formal employment, education, marriage registration, the courts, or the right to own land.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government often restricted this right, explicitly or implicitly.  Private media were active and expressed a wide spectrum of viewpoints.  The media landscape faced constraints on editorial independence, in part due to fear of reprisal from state and nonstate armed actors, including separatists connected to the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

Freedom of Expression:  Government officials denied individuals or organizations the ability to criticize or express views at odds with government policy.  Authorities imposed restrictions on symbolic expressions, such as flags and political symbols.  Government officials also denied citizens the ability to discuss certain matters of general interest, including expression of views concerning political transition.  Individuals who criticized the government publicly or privately often faced reprisals.  On several occasions, the government invoked laws requiring permits or government notification of public protests to stifle discourse.

As part of preparations for the May 20 National Day celebration, the Mfoundi senior divisional officer in Yaoundé on May 15 addressed a letter to the vice president of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), spelling out conditions for SDF’s participation in the May 20 parade.  These conditions included, but were not limited to, not displaying any image other than that of President Biya, not using telephones during the parade, and not displaying slogans, placards, or texts not previously approved by the civil cabinet of the presidency.

Violence and Harassment:  Police, gendarmes, and other government agents arrested, detained, physically attacked, and intimidated journalists.  The state’s failure to investigate or prosecute attacks on journalists created de facto restrictions.

On May 18, Bissong Macdella Bessong, a journalist who works for Kick442 online media, went to the Molyko stadium in Buea, Southwest Region, to cover a match of the Cameroonian Elite One soccer championship.  Bisong produced a scanned copy of her accreditation from her mobile phone, but Njonje Mbua, the director of the stadium, refused her access to the stadium, saying she must produce the physical document.  Mbua forced the journalist away, with the assistance of police officers.  In the process, two of the policemen reportedly exerted physical violence on Bessong, including punching her and dragging her to the ground.  Kick442 online media reportedly filed a complaint which was pending before the court in Buea; there was no reported update on the case as of December.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, including Online Media:  By law the Ministry of Communication requires editors to submit two signed copies of their newspapers within two hours after publication.  Journalists and media outlets reported practicing self-censorship, especially if the National Communication Council (NCC) had suspended them previously.  The Ministry of Communication has supervisory authority over media and accredits media organizations, while the NCC is the regulatory and consultative body on media matters.  Authorities threatened journalists, and the NCC suspended journalists and publishers for programs and views deemed at odds with government policy.  In some cases, sanctioned outlets and journalists refused to implement the NCC’s decisions, leading the chair of the NCC to reportedly request support from the Ministry of Territorial Administration to implement NCC decisions.

On March 14, Benjamin Mboutou, the senior divisional officer (SDO) for Wouri division, Littoral Region, summoned Cedric Noufele, then editor in chief of Equinoxe TV, to his office.  Equinoxe TV promoter Severin Tchounkeu on March 16 represented Noufele at the meeting.  Tchounkeu and the SDO reportedly discussed matters including the conduct of Droit de Réponse, a program that had Noufele as presenter.  The SDO reportedly complained concerning the way Noufele handled the program, stating that he often did not give representatives of the ruling CPDM the same treatment as other panelists.  Thereafter, on March 18, Littoral Governor Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua sent a letter to Tchounkeu, accusing Equinox TV of inciting public uprising against republican institutions.  Referring to the Droit de Réponse program of February 27 on an ongoing teachers’ strike, the governor claimed that one of the panelists called on parents and students to join the protest.  He threatened to “apply the law” if Equinox did not change its reporting style.

In the footsteps of the governor, the NCC issued a press release drawing “the attention of media professionals to the gravity of the consequences that may arise from the dissemination of compromising information against republican institutions, and firmly reminding their authors that media excesses are a threat to public order.”  Like the governor, the NCC threatened to sanction what it referred to as unprofessional behavior.  On April 1, the NCC suspended Severin Tchounkeu from practicing journalism and the functions of publisher for one month.  The NCC also banned Noufele from practicing journalism for the same length of time, accusing him of failing to exert control over panelists during the February 27 program, thus allowing the broadcasting of conflicting comments likely to amplify a “potentially explosive” social demand.  The Droit de Réponse program received a one-month suspension.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Libel, slander, defamation, and blasphemy are treated as criminal offenses.  The law authorizes the government to initiate a criminal suit when the president or other senior government officials are the alleged victims.  These laws place the burden of proof on the defendant, and crimes are punishable by prison terms and substantial fines.  Ordinary citizens may also file libel or slander suits, but the law is often applied selectively and gives privileges to senior government officials and well-connected individuals.  There were no known reports of cases prosecuted under libel, slander, or blasphemy laws during the year.

National Security:  Authorities often cited laws against terrorism or protecting national security to threaten critics of the government.

Nongovernmental Impact:  There were several reported cases of armed separatist groups in the Southwest and Northwest Regions explicitly inhibiting the enjoyment of freedom of expression, including for the press.  However, concern for personal security and restrictions on movements imposed by armed separatists contributed to limiting freedom of expression for members of the press.

On February 14, Vision 4, a progovernment television channel, suspended Dieudonne Essomba as a consultant for its Club d’Elites weekly program.  The decision came after Dieudonne Essomba denounced President Biya’s longevity in power and questioned his physical capacity to run the country at age 89.  He declared that it was the president’s wife, Chantal Biya, who was leading the country.  Following the program, Essomba was summoned to the territorial surveillance department on February 16, according to the daily La Nouvelle Expression of February 17.  Essomba later returned to Vision 4.

Several organizations reported that on May 26, in Bamenda, Northwest Region, at least six heavily armed separatists attempted to kidnap Frederic Takang, the BBC’s Cameroon correspondent and one of the few journalists still working in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.  The separatists took Takang’s belongings, including his vehicle, computer, microphone, money, and mobile phone.  Contacted by NGO Journalists in Africa for Development, Takang said separatist fighters do not allow journalists access to areas under their control.  Overall, according to La Nouvelle Expression, fewer than 10 journalists continued working from Bamenda.

Internet Freedom

Anecdotal reports indicated that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  The reports however did not highlight any specific cases.

The government limited and restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.  Government failure to investigate or prosecute attacks on human rights defenders and peaceful protesters undermined the enjoyment of freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, at times the government and nonstate armed groups restricted these freedoms.

In-country Movement: Using minor infractions as a pretext, police, gendarmes, and custom officers often extorted bribes and harassed travelers at roadblocks and checkpoints in cities and on highways. Police frequently stopped travelers to check identification documents, including national identity cards, passports, residence permits, vehicle registrations, customs status, and tax receipts as security and immigration control measures. As in the previous year, humanitarian organizations cited difficulty in accessing certain areas and in some instances were harassed and denied passage by government authorities. Unaccompanied women were frequently harassed when traveling alone. Authorities restricted movements of persons and goods, including motorbikes, especially in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, citing security concerns.

Armed separatists restricted the movements of persons and goods in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, sometimes in a deliberate attempt to harass and intimidate the local population. Separatists often used weekly lockdowns referred to as “ghost towns” to enforce restrictions on movement, in which the armed separatists demanded all businesses, schools, and places of worship close, and residents stay home. Violent crime, including kidnapping by terrorists, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, assault, and carjacking, were major impediments to in-country movement in the three northern regions as well as in part of the East Region.

Separatists continued to enforce a lockdown of the Northwest and Southwest Regions on Mondays, as well as for other extended periods of time. During the lockdown periods, all vehicles were banned from the roads in these regions. Separatists warned that any person or group of persons contravening the ban would be punished.

Foreign Travel: Citizens have the right to leave the country without arbitrary restrictions. The movement of some political opponents and debtors, however, was monitored, and their travel documents were often confiscated to confine them to the country. To obtain exit permits, citizens need a valid passport and visa for their country of destination. There were no credible reports of citizenship revocation on an arbitrary or discriminatory basis during the year.

The government generally cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. The country operated an open-door policy. This policy, however, was not implemented in a manner that allowed refugees to exercise fully their rights to freedom of movement, employment, and access to government health and educational services, as stated in various legal instruments.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system of providing protection to refugees, but the implementation of this system was weak. UNHCR continued to provide documentation and assistance to the refugee population, although local authorities did not always recognize the documents as official, which prevented refugees from traveling and engaging in business activities.

Freedom of Movement: The government did not provide documents in a timely manner to refugees and other persons in need of primary documentation, which restricted movement. During the year, authorities launched a project to deliver biometric identity cards to refugees from the CAR. UNHCR and the government continued to conduct biometric verification and registration of Nigerian refugees in the Far North Region, including those not living in refugee camps. The pilot phase of the project was launched in the East Region and was expected to secure 6,000 biometrics-based identification documents to CAR refugees living in camps there. The biometrics-based identification documents aimed to facilitate the socioeconomic integration of the refugees, including enabling holders to open and access bank accounts, and to circulate freely within the country.

Employment: There were no credible reports that the government imposed restrictions on refugees’ ability to work after their status as refugees was official. Refugees without government-recognized documentation, however, experienced significant obstacles to employment.

Access to Basic Services: There were no known cases of discrimination in education and health care that occurred once a refugee’s status was official. While refugees had limited access to health care, education, and employment opportunities, their rural host communities faced similar problems. Access to these services varied according to the location of the refugees, with those in camps receiving more support through humanitarian assistance, while refugees living in host communities faced more difficulty receiving services.

Durable Solutions: There was no evidence that the government accepted refugees for resettlement or offered naturalization to refugees residing in its territory. The government, however, assisted in the voluntary return of persons to the CAR.

The governments of Cameroon and the CAR successfully repatriated 299 CAR refugees from the East and Adamaoua Regions on June 1. UNHCR supervised their departure from the country. According to the Cameroon Tribune, 6,504 refugees benefited from UNHCR support and its partners to travel back home.

In April, the government hosted a ministerial-level conference to seek durable solutions for Central African refugees in countries surrounding the CAR. The conference ended with the signing of the Yaoundé Declaration, a document calling for the creation of a coordinating body for the CAR and its six neighboring countries to work together on durable solutions.

Temporary Protection: The government continued to provide temporary and unofficial protection to individuals who might not qualify as refugees, extending this protection to hundreds of individuals, including third-country nationals who had fled violence in the CAR. Due to their unofficial status and inability to access services or support, many of these individuals were subject to harassment and other abuses by employers in the informal sector.

According to estimates by UNHCR, the country hosted approximately two million persons of concern to UNHCR as of July, including approximately one million internally displaced persons (IDPs). In addition, the country had an estimated 555,668 formerly displaced persons, as of November 30, who had returned to their places of origin. The IDPs were mainly from the Far North, Northwest, and Southwest Regions. They were mostly driven by Boko Haram/ISIS-related insecurity and the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Humanitarian access remained limited because of insecurity and military officials’ tight control over access to the affected areas.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of media.  Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law criminalizes defamatory libel with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment if convicted, but the law was not acted on during the year.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

On February 14, Prime Minister Trudeau invoked the federal Emergencies Act to clear vehicles blocking international borders in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario, and to end a month-long street protest in Ottawa by “Freedom Convoy” protesters who alleged government overreach in the country’s pandemic response. Protesters and some critics asserted the government’s use of the act was unnecessary and did not justify overriding constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression. On February 23, the government revoked the use of the Emergencies Act after all border crossings were reopened and law enforcement officers restored order to downtown Ottawa.

The Public Order Emergency Commission is an independent body mandated under the act to review whether the government met the threshold for invoking the act and whether the use of emergency powers was lawful and appropriate. On October 13, the commission began public hearings; its report remained pending at year’s end. A parliamentary committee conducted a separate review, and its report also remained pending.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement from third countries and facilitated local integration (including naturalization), particularly of refugees in protracted situations. The government assisted in the voluntary return of refugees to their countries of origin.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection (in the form of temporary residence permits) to individuals who may not qualify as refugees.

Not applicable.

According to UNHCR, by the end of 2020 (latest available figures), there were 3,790 persons in the country who fell under the UN statelessness mandate. The law provides for access to citizenship for stateless persons who have a birth parent who was a Canadian citizen at the time of the birth, meets age and physical presence requirements, and has not been convicted of specified criminal offenses. The minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship has the discretion to grant citizenship to any person to alleviate cases of statelessness or of special and unusual hardship.

Central African Republic

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of expression and the press, the government did not always respect these rights.  The law allows criminal prosecutions for defamation of public officials.

Freedom of Expression:  Public discussion and political debates were generally free from state authorities’ influence.  Public political debates, known as patara, were broadcast on private radio stations in Bangui and in most provincial capitals.  In areas controlled by armed groups, freedom of expression, however, was inhibited due to the risk of retaliation.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  NGOs reported several cases of content restriction and self-censorship under duress.  Minister of Arts Jennifer Saraiva banned the distribution and sale of the documentary film Nous, étudiants! (We, the students!) by filmmaker Fariala Rafiki for portraying “compromising images that do not reflect the realities of the country.”  The minister also accused Bangui’s branch of the Alliance Francaise, which awarded an educational grant for the young filmmaker, of being a foreign agitator.  The film exposed University of Bangui student living conditions and corruption by administrators.

Journalists self-censored due to the fear that progovernment militias, specifically “The Sharks” and the “Galaxie Nationale” groups, threatened them with violence.

Libel/Slander Laws:  In September gendarmes arrested the editor of the le Charpentier newspaper, Christian Azoundao, for allegedly failing to respond to a summons for defamation following critical reporting regarding National Assembly First Vice President Evariste Ngamana and the mayor of Begoua, Jean Gazanguenzahe.  Azoundao remained in pretrial detention at year’s end.

National Security:  A local radio station known as Ndeke-Luka broadcast a report by a FACA soldier who described corruption in the army ranks, embezzlement of enlisted salaries, and inadequate rations.  Minister of Communication Serge Djorie suspended its operations for two days.  The minister forbade all journalists from reporting news on security forces as a matter of national security.

Nongovernmental Impact:  In areas controlled by armed groups, freedom of expression was inhibited due to the risk of retaliation.

Internet Freedom

There were no cases during the year when the government restricted online media content.  There were no credible reports that the government monitored or restricted private online communications.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government did not always respect these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government did not always respect these rights.

In-country Movement: Armed groups, criminals, and Wagner Group elements made in-country movement extremely dangerous. Those actors, including government forces, frequently used illegal checkpoints to extort funds. Additionally, due to the significant number of police, gendarmerie, customs, FACA, and armed group checkpoints, it was difficult to move freely between Bangui and provincial cities. There were reports that members of the predominantly Muslim Peuhl ethnic group were singled out for particularly abusive treatment and heightened scrutiny at many checkpoints and international crossings due to false impressions that members of the Peuhl community were supporting armed groups.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: Internal conflicts made it difficult for the country to routinely provide security and protection for persons within its borders. The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees, but access to education, health services, and employment were provided only by the international donor community. Individuals who had fled their countries of origin and had prior criminal records, however, were immediately repatriated.

Durable Solutions: In May the government implemented a voluntary effort to repatriate 6,000 Central African refugees who fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of a tripartite agreement in 2019. UNHCR estimated that 4,144 Central African refugees were repatriated during the year.

As of December, UNHCR noted there were 518,116 internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to armed conflict and natural disasters. Humanitarian actors aided IDPs and returnees and promoted the safe voluntary return, resettlement, or local integration of displaced populations. The government worked with the United Nations and the broader humanitarian community on the safe, voluntary return of the country’s IDPs and refugees through a durable solution working group. There were no reports of forced returns. There were, however, multiple reports of instances in which government forces and Wagner Group elements obstructed humanitarian organizations from providing services to civilians, including the displaced.

Women and girls were often at risk of sexual violence in and outside IDP sites by perpetrators living in IDP camps and the surrounding communities. Some men and boys were also victims of sexual violence at IDP sites. UN agencies cited a lack of safe, private facilities at IDP sites as the main cause. In many affected areas, poor access and insecurity limited humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarian organizations remained concerned that armed group members continued to hide in IDP sites, carrying out recruitment activities and putting IDPs and humanitarian staff at risk. Violence continued to impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance, which exceeded existing capacities. OCHA estimated that 3.1 million of the country’s approximately five million inhabitants required humanitarian assistance and protection. Security concerns related to criminality, as well as armed group, FACA, and Wagner Group elements’ activity, and explosive devices prevented aid organizations from operating in some areas, particularly in the northwest. An acute fuel shortage from May to September negatively impacted the delivery of humanitarian aid.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government severely restricted this right.  According to Freedom House, authorities used threats and prosecutions to curb freedom of expression for members of the press and other media.

Freedom of Expression:  The law prohibits “inciting racial, ethnic, or religious hatred,” which is punishable by up to two years in prison and fines.  Space for open and free private discussion existed but tended to be self-censored due to fear of reprisal from the state.

The opposition party Les Transformateurs organized an authorized rally in January with more than 1,000 attendees.  Security forces, however, encircled the party headquarters in September following accusations of unauthorized political activity that amounted to party members handing out flyers to residents of different N’Djamena neighborhoods (see section 2.b. and section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation).  Security forces used tear gas over several days in September to disperse party supporters who had gathered outside Les Transformateurs headquarters.  Following October protests, security forces reportedly raided the party headquarters and arrested more than two dozen individuals after violently repressing protests in the days prior.  The prime minister justified its harsh response by characterizing the October 20 protests as an “armed insurrection.”  Credible reports showed that some protestors used rocks, slingshots, and blades in clashes with security forces.

Violence and Harassment:  Authorities reportedly harassed, threatened, arrested, and assaulted journalists for critical reporting regarding the government.  Local media reported that journalists regularly faced arrest after publication of such reporting.  Most were released quickly, but others were held in detention for weeks or months, and some severely mistreated, particularly when articles alleged government officials acted with impunity or criticized former president Deby or his associates.  Journalists, as well as human rights defenders, reported being the victims of threats, harassment, and intimidation by anonymous individuals.

Local print and online news reported that on February 9, journalist Evariste Djai-Loramadji reported on an incident of intercommunal violence in Sandana via a local community radio station, after which his body was found with bullet holes later that evening.  The status of any investigation or accountability measures remained unclear.  On March 7, journalist Adoum Abdelkarder was shot three times and beaten at his home.  The minister of communication called for an investigation following the attack, but the status of any investigation or judicial action remained unclear.

During the October 20 protests, journalist Oredje Narcisse was shot and killed on his way to work in a neighborhood where clashes between protesters and security forces were taking place.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Independent media were active and attempted to express a variety of views; however, authorities placed severe restrictions on them.  The government subsidized Le Progres – the only daily newspaper – and owned the biweekly newspaper L’Info.  Government and opposition newspapers had limited readership outside the capital due to low literacy rates and lack of distribution in rural areas.  Some journalists and publishers practiced self-censorship due to concerns regarding intimidation and arrest.  The government also penalized those who published reports counter to government guidelines, sometimes by closing media outlets.

According to Freedom House, private radio stations faced threat of closure for coverage critical of the government.  Radio, however, remained a critical source of information throughout the country.  The government owned the Chadian National Radio station.  The number of community radio stations that operated outside of government control continued to grow, and radio call-in programs broadcast views of callers that included criticism of the government.

In March the government’s media oversight authority accused a local radio station in Sarh of broadcasting programs calling for public disorder, requiring the station to “take the material, technical, and personnel measures” necessary to moderate debates.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Libel and slander are misdemeanors punishable by fines.  Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of authorities having arrested or detained persons on charges of defamation.  During the year there were no reports of government or individual public figures using libel or slander laws to restrict public discussion or retaliate against journalists or political opponents.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted and disrupted access to the internet in many ways.  It directly censored online content, such as Facebook; occasionally blocked sites and popular messaging applications, such as WhatsApp; and arrested activists for postings on social media.  There was widespread speculation that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The government cut internet service on both national mobile providers, Airtel and Moov (formerly Tigo) during protests in May and October in specific neighborhoods where demonstrations were occurring.  Service was restored several days following both instances of network interruption.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

While no government restrictions on academic freedom were known to exist, self-censorship frequently curtailed genuine expression in academic environments.

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the government occasionally limited these rights.

In-country Movement: Lack of security in the east, primarily due to armed banditry, occasionally hindered the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide services to refugees. In Lake Chad Province, government military operations and attacks by Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa constrained the ability of humanitarian organizations to aid IDPs.

Citing security reasons, authorities enacted a daily curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. from October 20-22 and from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. from November 3 through year’s end.

Foreign Travel: In contrast with 2021, the government did not close the country’s only international airport during the year.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Implementation of the country’s first asylum law adopted in 2020 was underway, but refugees were reportedly able to access identification documents and work permits.

Clashes between communities of herders, farmers, and fishermen broke out in August 2021 in the Far North Region of Cameroon and again in December 2021, resulting in more than 40,000 refugees fleeing into the country during the year, of whom 89 percent were women and children. UNHCR registered more than 40,000 persons, and UNHCR and the government established two new camps south of N’Djamena for this influx of refugees.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: Within refugee camps, like much of the country, authorities rarely prosecuted perpetrators of sexual violence. Survivors often chose not to report sexual crimes. The judicial system did not provide consistent and predictable recourse or legal protection.

Durable Solutions: As durable solutions became more difficult to achieve, UNHCR supported refugee integration and where appropriate, refugee repatriation, and worked toward securing resettlement for limited numbers of refugees to third countries.

According to UNHCR, more than 391,000 persons were internally displaced in Lake Chad Province in the west. Attacks by armed nonstate groups, including Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa, were responsible for most internal displacement in the province. As of December, in the south there were also approximately 77,000 displaced citizens who returned from the Central African Republic (CAR) due to attacks by nonstate armed groups in intercommunal tensions in CAR.

The government has policies and protections for IDPs in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement that promote their safe, voluntary, and dignified return, resettlement, or local integration. The government did not deny humanitarian NGOs or international organizations access to IDPs.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of media.

Violence and Harassment:  On May 1, journalist Francisca Sandoval died from injuries she sustained after being shot in the face while covering a Workers’ Day demonstration for local television broadcaster Canal Senal 3 La Victoria in the Barrio Meiggs neighborhood of Santiago.  Media reported Sandoval was intentionally targeted while reporting on the demonstration.  Police arrested the suspected shooter, and the prosecutor’s office was investigating.

As of October 31, only two of nearly 300 recent cases of reported aggression towards journalists led to formal charges.  There were no reported cases during the year.  In September 2021, prosecutors charged Francisca Benavides Vera with unjustified detention of journalists in Arica; a trial was pending as of November 1.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees, including access to education and health care.

China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet)

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution states citizens “enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”  Authorities, however, limited and did not respect these rights, especially when their exercise conflicted with CCP interests.  Authorities continued to impose ever-tighter control of all print, broadcast, electronic, and social media and regularly used them to propagate government views and CCP ideology.  Authorities censored and manipulated the press, social media, and the internet, particularly around sensitive anniversaries and topics such as public health.

Freedom of Expression:  Citizens often avoided discussing political matters, leaders, or “sensitive” topics for fear of official punishment.  Authorities routinely took harsh action against citizens who questioned the legitimacy of the CCP or criticized President Xi’s leadership.  Some independent think tanks, study groups, and seminars reported pressure to cancel sessions on sensitive topics.  Many others confirmed authorities regularly warned them against meeting with foreign reporters or diplomats and to avoid participating in diplomatic receptions or public programs organized by foreign entities.

Those who made comments deemed politically sensitive in public speeches, academic discussions, or remarks to media, or who posted sensitive comments online, remained subject to punitive measures, as did members of their families.  In addition, an increase in electronic surveillance in public spaces, coupled with the movement of many citizens’ routine interactions to the digital space, signified the government was monitoring an increasing percentage of daily life.  Conversations in groups or peer-to-peer on social media platforms and via messaging applications were subject to censorship, monitoring, and action from authorities.  The threat of peer-to-peer observation and possible referral to authorities further eroded freedom of speech.

On May 5, the Chengjiao People’s Court in Sanya, Hainan, sentenced Luo Changping, an internet influencer who in October 2021 made “insulting” remarks about a movie regarding the Korean War, to seven months’ imprisonment and was ordered to make a public apology, according to Radio France International.

Authorities arrested or detained countless citizens for “spreading fake news,” “illegal information dissemination,” or “spreading rumors online.”  These claims ranged from sharing political views or promoting religious extremism to sharing factual reports on public health concerns, including COVID-19.

This trend was especially stark in Xinjiang, where the government ran a multifaceted system of physical and cyber controls to stop individuals from expressing themselves or practicing their religion or traditional beliefs.  Beyond the region’s expansive system of internment camps, the government and the CCP operated a system to limit in-person and online speech.  In Xinjiang police regularly stopped Muslims and members of non-Han ethnic minorities and demanded to review their cell phones for any evidence of communication deemed inappropriate.

During the year the government extensively used mobile phone apps, cameras, and other electronics to monitor all speech and movement.  Authorities in Xinjiang employed a comprehensive database that tracked the movements, mobile app usage, and even electricity and gasoline consumption of inhabitants in the region.

Numerous ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs living overseas were intimidated into silence by threats from government officials against members of their family who lived in China, threats sometimes delivered in China to the relatives, and sometimes delivered by Chinese government officials in the foreign country (see section 1.e., Transnational Repression).

The government restricted the expression of views it found objectionable, even when those expressions occurred abroad.  Online, the government expanded attempts to control the global dissemination of information while also exporting its methods of electronic information control to other nations’ governments.

Control of public depictions of President Xi was severe, with censors aggressively shutting down any depiction that varied from official media storylines.  Censors continued to block images of the Winnie the Pooh cartoon character on social media because internet users used it to represent Xi.  Social media sites did not allow comments related to Xi and other prominent PRC leaders.

Censors removed arguments posted by Guangdong University of Finance and Economics professor Tong Zhiwei on the legality of Shanghai’s COVID-19 lockdowns early in the year and suspended his Weibo account, according to an overseas site tracking censorship.  Tong had challenged the government’s legal authority to create makeshift hospitals and to require residents provide access to their homes.

In May the CCP issued a notice warning retired members not to “make negative political comments” and that “violations of disciplinary rules should be dealt with seriously.”  The notice stressed that party departments should ensure that retired cadres and party members “listen to the party and follow the party.”

On April 18, RFA reported that censors deleted lists of persons who died during COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai and blocked a website that hosted the information.  According to RFA, this list included at least 152 individuals whose deaths were a result of the government’s zero-COVID policy, including suicides of persons locked in high-rise apartments.  RFA reported that authorities censored a rapper’s video of his song “New Slave” about the Shanghai lockdown.

On April 22, a compilation of recorded telephone calls by Shanghai-based citizens to local authorities pleading for support, named “Voices of April,” gained public attention.  The recordings revealed individuals pleading for food and medicine; in one case parents complained that their baby was taken from them to a quarantine facility after having tested positive for COVID-19.  Authorities attempted to censor the video, but it spread as individuals added content such as film trailers and cat videos to its beginning to evade censors.  By the afternoon of April 23, censors had deleted the video from PRC internet and social media apps.

In May university students in Tianjin began an online campaign to end COVID-related campus lockdowns before censors began blocking their posts.  Using a range of social media platforms and hashtags, students questioned why local authorities were continuing campus lockdowns after two weeks with no reported community spread.  As censors began deleting hashtags such as “#Haven’tTianjinUniversitiesAlreadyReopened” and “#ReopenNankaiUniversity,” students started using names of celebrities for hashtags to evade censors until they were eventually blocked as well, according to media reports.

On May 18, current affairs magazine The Diplomat reported that the government was censoring prominent voices that were discussing the government’s COVID-19 lockdown policy.  For example, authorities censored an article published in the National Science Review by Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease specialist, who suggested ways to ease the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.  The government also censored a post by Dr. Miu Xiaohui, a retired infectious disease expert, calculating how many persons with diabetes might have died from lack of treatment during Shanghai’s lockdown.  Media reported that authorities censored a post by prominent businessman Wang Sicong questioning the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for COVID-19.

On June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, various social media accounts reported that WeChat users were unable to change their profile picture.  To censor social media expressions of commemoration, Weibo blocked the candle, fallen leaf, and birthday cake emojis as well as Chinese characters standing for “64”, a stand-in for “June 4th,” a phenomenon that website What’s on Weibo documented as having occurred every year on June 4 for the past decade.

Media reported that in June popular Taobao live streamer Li Jiaqi, known as “Lipstick Brother,” dropped his live stream in the middle of recording when a tank-shaped cake appeared on camera.  While he claimed that it was due to an equipment malfunction, Li disappeared from all social media accounts and from the public eye for three months, according to media reports.  He started streaming again in September.

Also in June according to China Digital Times, provincial authorities took measures to stop residents from commemorating the anniversary of the July 2021 floods in Henan Province that killed nearly 400 persons.  Authorities reportedly prevented florists from selling flowers to anyone intending to place them in memory of the victims, plainclothes police were observed removing flowers near metro stations where individuals had drowned, and Weibo censored the hashtag “#One Year Anniversary of July 20th Torrential Rains in Zhengzhou, Henan Province#.”

Media reported that following the June 10 attack on women in Tangshan, Weibo suspended more than 900 accounts for instigating “gender confrontation” and for “spreading rumors.”

On June 14, China Digital Times revealed that authorities censored a WeChat account that posted a folk song called “Don’t Drink the Celebratory Toast.”  The song advised listeners not to forget what happened during Shanghai’s COVID-19 lockdown.  It also featured the catchphrase “We are the last generation,” alluding to a popular video that was released during Shanghai’s lockdown showing a local police officer who urged a Shanghai resident to comply with COVID-19 restrictions “to avoid impact on the next generation.”  The man countered, “We are the last generation.”

Following the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, RFA reported on July 10 that a teacher in Tangshan was punished after he criticized online commenters for celebrating Abe’s death.  His former employer, Tangshan Normal University, released a statement that the remarks on his Weibo account would be investigated.  His post was deleted and his Weibo account banned, media reported.

On July 14, What’s on Weibo posted Weibo’s announcement that it would crack down on the use of homophones by internet users in order to create a more “healthy online environment and stop the spread of misinformation.”  The announcement referred to the use of “misspelled words” to avoid censorship.  According to the article, Chinese internet users started using the characters for the word Helan, the Mandarin pronunciation of the Netherlands, because it sounds very similar to Henan Province, enabling discussion of protests of a banking scandal in Henan.

In July the National Radio and Television Administration and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published new rules banning 31 “misbehaviors” by livestreaming hosts.  According to media reports, hosts must “uphold correct political values and social values” and should not release or show anything that “undermines the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”  The directive stated that those who violated these rules would be placed on a blacklist and banned from livestreaming.

On August 10, news outlets reported that the government suspended the social media accounts of major e-health provider DXY for questioning the promotion of a traditional Chinese medicine to treat COVID-19.  The medicine came under scrutiny during the Shanghai lockdowns when it was delivered to households at government expense while households were struggling to obtain food and supplies.

Nonprofit news platform Coda reported in September that authorities censored online commentary critical of the “dynamic zero-COVID policy” implementation in Xinjiang.  After authorities began implementing a severe lockdown across the region, Xinjiang residents began to report on several platforms that the lockdown had led to food shortages, denial of non-COVID related emergency medical care, and the inability to purchase basic goods.  Censors moved quickly to remove critical comments and videos, as well as to drown out such comments with positive stories about Xinjiang culture.

Media reported that on October 13 (just before the 20th Party Congress), Peng Lifa (pen name Peng Zaishou) disguised as a construction worker unfurled two banners on a highway overpass in Beijing criticizing Xi Jinping and the zero-COVID policy.  He was dubbed “Bridge Man” by commentators and was reportedly detained soon after his act.  References to, pictures of, and commentary about his protest banners on social media were quickly censored.  According to RFA, on October 16, authorities in Zhejiang Province detained and interrogated an individual who supported Bridge Man’s banner protest online; his mobile phone was scanned by police for photographs and contacts.  Artist Xiao Liang was also reportedly detained by authorities in mid-October after posting a photograph of a portrait he painted of Peng.

Violence and Harassment:  The government frequently impeded the work of members of the press, including citizen journalists.  Journalists reported being subjected to physical attack, harassment, monitoring, and intimidation when reporting on sensitive topics.  Government officials used criminal prosecution, civil lawsuits, and other punishment, including violence, detention, and other forms of harassment, to intimidate authors and journalists and to prevent the dissemination of unsanctioned information on a wide range of topics.

Family members of journalists based overseas also faced harassment, and in some cases detention, as retaliation for the reporting of their relatives abroad.  Dozens of Uyghur relatives of overseas-based journalists working for RFA’s Uyghur Service remained disappeared or detained in Xinjiang.

Journalists faced the threat of demotion or dismissal for publishing views that challenged the government.  In many cases potential sources refused to meet with journalists due to actual or feared government pressure.  Long-standing journalist contacts continued to decline off-the-record conversations, even concerning nonsensitive topics.  So-called taboo topics included not only Tibet, Taiwan, and corruption, but also natural disasters, the #MeToo movement, and COVID-19 policies.

During the year authorities imprisoned numerous journalists working in traditional and new media.  The government also silenced numerous independent journalists by restricting their movement under the guise of pandemic response.  Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index tallied at least 102 journalists (professional and nonprofessional) detained in the country.  Of these, 60 came from Xinjiang.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) 2021 report on media freedoms, released in January, found that the government continued to intimidate foreign correspondents, their local Chinese colleagues, and individuals they interviewed through physical assaults, online trolling, cyber hacking, and visa denials.  Ninety-nine percent of foreign journalists said that reporting conditions did not meet what they considered to be international standards.  Authorities also encouraged individuals to file lawsuits or threaten legal action against foreign journalists.  Even individuals who explicitly agreed to media interviews later filed lawsuits against foreign correspondents.

The FCCC survey reported that nine foreign correspondents were sued or threatened with legal action by sources or government entities.  Nearly a quarter of respondents said they faced online smear campaigns encouraged or instigated by state or state-backed groups, while 62 percent of respondents said they were obstructed at least once by police or other government officials.

Reporting in Xinjiang continued to be difficult.  While more correspondents were allowed to travel to Xinjiang in 2021 than in 2020, they faced surveillance and harassment.  Of the surveyed journalists who traveled to Xinjiang, 88 percent reported that they were visibly surveilled, 44 percent stated that authorities disrupted their interviews, and 34 percent were forced to delete video footage and photographs.

Local employees working for foreign press outlets reported considerable harassment and intimidation, in addition to authorities’ continued tight enforcement of restrictions on these employees.  Foreign news bureaus are prohibited by law from directly hiring Chinese citizens as employees and must rely on personnel hired by the Personnel Service Corporation, a subordinate unit of the Diplomatic Service Bureau affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The code of conduct threatens dismissal and loss of accreditation for those citizen employees who engage in independent reporting.  It instructs them to provide their employers with information that projects “a good image of the country.”  Multiple foreign outlets reported a continuing inability to hire the number of local staff members that they wished, saying authorities continued to impose an unofficial cap of one local researcher per foreign correspondent from media outlets out of favor with authorities.  Some outlets even reported trouble getting the Diplomatic Service Bureau’s permission to hire a single local researcher per correspondent.  New staff were wary of taking on responsibilities that might be considered politically sensitive, limiting their portfolios and contributions.

According to Freedom House, foreign correspondents in the country were “subjected to mass expulsions or visa rejections based on nationality, attempted interrogations in connection with national security charges, and questionable lawsuits by sources who had explicitly agreed to be interviewed.”

Government officials also sought to suppress journalism outside their borders; see section 1.e., Transnational Repression.

Fan Ruoyi (Haze), a journalist for Bloomberg detained in 2020, was released on bail in January but was still under investigation for endangering national security.

On February 2, What’s on Weibo reported that a Dutch reporter was dragged away by a security guard during a live broadcast for the Dutch channel NOS while reporting on the Winter Olympics from Beijing.  According to the article, editor in chief of NOS Nieuws Marcel Gelauf noted that the incident was “a painful example of the current state of press freedom in China.”  The security guard later claimed the reporter was standing in a restricted area and did not identify himself, media reported.

While hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games, PRC authorities warned athletes, coaches, and other participants to avoid “any behavior or speeches” that “violated Chinese laws and regulations.”  Recipients understood this as a warning to avoid discussing any sensitive topic with the press.  The FCCC reported that security officers prevented reporters from interviewing residents near the Olympic skiing venue.  Authorities told reporters that all reporting in public areas required approval.  Journalists reported that PRC officials were particularly sensitive about filming anything Olympic-related such as merchandise stores or the Olympic logo.  The Washington Post’s China bureau chief reported that online trolls inundated her account with vitriolic comments following a report on the Olympics mascot.  Officials reportedly followed and attempted to impede the reporting of National Public Radio’s China correspondent.

On March 4, Beijing police visited Spanish journalist Jaime Santirso and questioned him about his coverage of the National People’s Congress.

Citizen journalist Wang Jixian was threatened with violence by online trolls because his reporting videos from Ukraine did not support the PRC’s narrative about the war.

On June 12, police in Tangshan detained and mistreated reporter Zhang Weihan, who was reporting on the violent assault on four women at a local restaurant on June 10.  On June 18, RPN reported that a reporter from Fuzhou was quarantined for COVID-19 in his home after he announced in a WeChat group that he would like to go to Tangshan to investigate the case.  RFA reported on June 21 that authorities in Tangshan detained and interrogated journalists who arrived in the city to cover the beatings.

On August 9, independent journalist Mao Huibin was arrested and held at the Tangshan Number 1 Detention Center for allegedly publishing articles on the women who were beaten in Tangshan, according to media reports.  Mao was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” after his inquiry into the whereabouts of the women.

On November 27, journalists from at least four foreign media outlets were detained while covering demonstrations in Shanghai.  A Reuters journalist was detained for approximately 90 minutes before being released.  A BBC reporter was beaten and kicked by police officers and taken away in handcuffs.  The BBC reported “no official explanation or apology” for the incident was given by authorities beyond a claim by officials who later released him that they had “arrested him for his own good in case he caught COVID from the crowd.”  A correspondent and camera operator from the Swiss television network RTS were detained and their video equipment confiscated following a live broadcast from a protest site.  An Associated Press journalist was tackled and hit repeatedly on his head by police and taken to a police station before being released.

Authorities continued to suppress any reporting related to the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square.  RFA reported in June that journalist Gao Yu was placed under house arrest in Beijing prior to the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.  A founding member of the banned China Democracy Party, Zha Jianguo, claimed that police warned him not to speak to the media concerning the anniversary.  A representative of the Tiananmen Mothers victims group also reported that she had been banned from giving media interviews.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  The CCP and government continued to maintain ultimate authority over all published, online, and broadcast material.  Officially, only state-run media outlets have government approval to cover CCP leaders or other topics deemed “sensitive.”  While it did not dictate all content to be published or broadcast, the CCP and the government had unchecked authority to mandate if, when, and how particular topics were reported or to order they not be reported at all.  The government’s propaganda department issued daily guidance on what topics should be promoted in all media outlets and how those topics should be covered.  Chinese reporters working for private media companies confirmed increased pressure to conform to government requirements on story selection and content.

Journalists operated in an environment tightly controlled by the government.  Only journalists with official government accreditation were allowed to publish news in print or online.  The CCP constantly monitored all forms of journalist output, including printed news, television reporting, and online news, including livestreaming.  Journalists and editors self-censored to stay within the lines dictated by the CCP.  They faced serious penalties for crossing those lines, which were often vague, subject to change at the discretion of propaganda officials, and were enforced retroactively.  Propaganda authorities forced newspapers and online media providers to fire editors and journalists responsible for articles deemed inconsistent with official policy and suspend or close publications.  Government authorities asserted control over technologies such as livestreaming and continued to pressure digital outlets and social media platforms.

The CCP Central Propaganda Department ordered media outlets to adhere strictly to the information provided by official departments.  Directives warned against reporting on topics such as COVID-19 outbreaks, the official response, and international inquiries, as well as party and official reputation, health and safety in general, and foreign affairs.

The government sought to exercise complete control over public and private commentary regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, undermining local and international efforts to report on the virus’s spread.  COVID-19 information on Chinese social media was closely guarded from the outbreak’s earliest manifestation.  Popular livestreaming and messaging platforms WeChat and YY continued censorship protocols.

Because the CCP did not consider internet news companies “official” media, they were subject to debilitating regulations and barred from reporting on potentially “sensitive” stories.

Citizen journalists faced a difficult climate, with authorities seeking to control content published through social media, including “self-media” or “we-media” accounts.  These are typically blogs operated independently on social media without official backing from established outlets.  Self-media was one of the biggest emerging trends, with a report by the State Information Center noting that in 2020 online media accounted for 80 percent of the country’s media market.  The restrictions had the effect of clamping down on self-employed reporters, who also could not be accredited by the National Press and Publication Administration, which administers tests and grants the licenses required for citizens to work in the profession.  Unaccredited reporters may face legal fallout or even criminal charges.

Newscasts from overseas news outlets, largely restricted to hotels and foreign residence compounds, were subject to censorship.  Articles on sensitive topics were removed from international magazines.  Television newscasts were often blacked out during segments on sensitive subjects.

Government regulations restrict and limit public access to foreign television shows, which are banned during primetime, and local streamers had to limit the foreign portion of their program libraries to less than 30 percent.

Authorities continued to ban books with content they deemed inconsistent with officially sanctioned views.  The law permits only government-approved publishing houses to print books.  All books and magazines continued to require state-issued publication numbers, which were expensive and difficult to obtain.  Newspapers, periodicals, books, audio and video recordings, or electronic publications may not be printed or distributed without the approval of central authorities and relevant provincial publishing authorities.  Individuals who attempted to publish without government approval faced imprisonment, fines, confiscation of their books, and other punishment.  The CCP also exerted control over the publishing industry by preemptively classifying certain topics as state secrets.

Government rules ban the sale of foreign publications without an import permit.  This includes sales on online shopping platforms, which are banned from offering “overseas publications,” including books, movies, and games that do not already have government approval.  The ban also applies to services related to publications.

Authorities deleted online comments regarding the March 21 crash of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 and restricted journalists from accessing the crash site.  According to media reports, reporter Du Qiang was prohibited from visiting the site of the crash.  China Media Project, a media studies center based at the University of Hong Kong, reported an announcement by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on March 28 that it was tracking down the source who was sharing “illegal information” and spreading “conspiracy theories” about the MU5735 crash.  The CAC reported removing more than 279,000 pieces of “illegal and irregular information” from the internet, deleting 2,713 users accounts, and closing 1,295 discussion topics.

Media reported that journalists were restricted from visiting Tangshan where on June 10, a group of men was recorded beating several women.  CNN reported that local authorities tightened COVID-19 travel restrictions and journalists trying to report on the incident were interrogated and harassed.

On June 10, The Guardian reported that the local government in Shanghai issued directives restricting use of the term “lockdown” for media reporting on the COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai.  According to media reports, the directive stated that local media should not use the term “ending the lockdown” as, unlike in Wuhan, Shanghai authorities had never formally announced a lockdown.

Authorities censored articles from official government sources.  In August the PRC think tank Anbound Research Center published a white paper on the country’s COVID-19 measures and said that “it was time for China to adjust epidemic prevention and control policies.”  The authors argued that “China’s economy is at risk of stalling and the biggest influencing factor is the impact of the epidemic…the so-called ‘epidemic impact’ is not the epidemic itself but the impact of epidemic prevention and control policies.”  The paper was quickly deleted from Anbound’s website and censored on social media platforms.

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, censors ordered news outlets and social media accounts to avoid any criticisms of Russia or favorable comments about NATO.

Libel/Slander Laws:  By law defamation may be punished by up to three years’ imprisonment; truth is not a defense.

National Security:  Authorities often justified restrictions on expression on national security protection grounds.  Government leaders cited the threat of terrorism to justify restricting freedom of expression by Muslims and other religious minorities.  These justifications were a baseline rationale for restrictions on press movements, publications, and other forms of repression of expression.

Media reported that on July 26, Shandong poet and advocate Lu Yang was secretly sentenced to six years in prison in Shandong Province for “subversion of state power.”  In 2020 Lu released a video calling for Xi Jinping to step down and to “end the CCP dictatorship.”  He was subsequently detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” and later arrested for “endangering national security.”  His wife was harassed after the sentencing, with government agents telling her not to give interviews to foreign media.  They threatened that she would be required to resign from her job and not be able to provide for her family.  The family’s assets were confiscated.

Internet Freedom

The government tightly controlled and highly censored domestic internet usage, monitoring private online communications without appropriate legal authority.  The CAC operated a website called the Reporting Center for Illegal and Undesirable Information, where internet users can report information deemed harmful to the PRC, including political information.

Domestic internet authorities led by the Cybersecurity Defense Bureau targeted individuals accused of defaming the government online, whether in public or private messages.  The CAC directly manages internet content, including online news media, and promotes CCP propaganda.  It enjoyed broad authority in regulating online media practices and played a large role in regulating and shaping information dissemination online.

On June 26, the CAC promulgated new provisions on internet user account information; internet service providers are required to verify accounts that contain content or logos involving the state or government agencies to prevent someone misleading the public.  These provisions also require that all accounts seeking to produce content on specialized topics provide their professional qualifications.  On November 16, the CAC issued regulations requiring internet users to use their real name when commenting or “liking” a post and stating users would be warned for posting “negative” information or for spreading rumors.

The government employed tens of thousands of individuals at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communications and online content.  The government reportedly paid personnel to promote official views on various websites and social media and to combat alternative views posted online.  Internet companies also independently employed thousands of censors to carry out CCP and government directives on censorship.  CAC regulations require websites, mobile apps, forums, blogs, instant communications services, and search engines to ensure news coverage of a political, economic, diplomatic, or commentary nature reflects government positions and priorities.

The law requires internet platform companies operating in the country to control content on their platforms or face penalties.  According to Citizen Lab, China-based users of the WeChat platform were subjected to automatic filtering of chat messages and images, limiting their ability to communicate freely.

The popular communication app WeChat remained heavily censored.  Posts regarding sensitive topics such as PRC politics disappeared when sent to or from a China-registered account.  Authorities continued to use the app to monitor political dissidents and other critics, some of whom were detained by police or sentenced to prison for their communications.  Chinese citizens moving abroad who continued to use an account created in China were still subject to censorship.

During the 20th Party Congress in October, media reported that WeChat suspended accounts and censored group chats if users sent or forwarded information deemed politically sensitive.  Censors also expanded the list of terms blocked on WeChat and other Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and Douyin.  WeChat disallowed those who posted or shared critical messages from submitting messages in group chats, or blocked accounts altogether.

The law allows the government to “monitor, defend, and handle cybersecurity risks and threats originating from within the country or overseas sources,” and it criminalizes using the internet to “create or disseminate false information to disrupt the economic or social order.”  The law also permits security agencies to cut communication networks across an entire geographic region during “major security incidents.”

Media reported that on November 29, the CAC issued new regulations on digital media in response to nationwide protests against COVID-19 restrictions that took place in late November.  There were numerous credible reports of content deemed to express support for the protests being removed from PRC social media platforms.  Leaked directives also instructed censors to activate a “Level I Internet Emergency Response” and to crack down on tools used to circumvent the “Chinese Firewall,” such as virtual private networks (VPN), virtual private servers, web accelerators, and overseas accounts.

The government continued efforts to limit VPN use.  While the government permitted some users, including major international companies, to utilize authorized VPNs, many smaller businesses, academics, and citizens were prohibited from using these tools.  The government regularly penalized those caught using unauthorized VPNs.  At the same time the government tacitly allowed individuals to use VPNs to access Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other websites normally inaccessible in the country for the purpose of attacking views that criticized the government.  PRC embassies and state-run media outlets, for example, regularly posted in Chinese and English on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  Encrypted communication apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp and VPN services were regularly disrupted, especially during “sensitive” times of the year and important political events, as The Economist observed on June 30.

The government blocked thousands of foreign websites, including many major international news and information websites such as those of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and the Economist, as well as websites of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  Authorities blocked many other websites and applications, including but not limited to Google, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, Clubhouse, Signal, and Wikipedia.  Despite being blocked, Twitter and other foreign social media were estimated to have millions of users in the country, including government and party officials and prominent journalists and media figures.  Authorities also blocked access to scores of foreign university websites.

Government censors continued to block content from any source that discussed topics deemed sensitive, such as Hong Kong prodemocracy protests, Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, Tibet, Xinjiang, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, and criticism of the government’s zero-COVID policy and foreign policy priorities.

Social media posts reported that internet searches for prominent human rights defenders were censored.  A search for “Xu Zhiyong” on Baidu and other social media sites like Sina Weibo, Baidu PostBar, and Tencent/Sogou’s Weixin showed no results, while the same Yahoo! search returned more than 300,000 results.  Baidu also deleted its wiki article on Xu Zhiyong.  A Twitter user noted that Baidu PostBar had forums dedicated to “1988” and “1990” but searches for “1989” received the following notice:  “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, relevant results have not been displayed.”

Twitter feeds documented the suspension of a Guangzhou company’s Weibo account in February for posting a cartoon featuring Olympic mascot Bing Dwen Dwen in a manner reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Tank Man photograph.

On April 21, Rest of the World, an international NGO focused on journalism and technology, reported that the government penalized social media network Douban for “insufficient censorship.”  Authorities fined the company 10.5 million yuan ($1.65 million) and removed its app from Android app stores in China in December 2021.  According to Rest of the World, in March the CAC sent a task force to the Douban office to supervise its “rectification.”

On May 19, The Citizen Lab, a Toronto-based academic center focused on communication technologies and human rights, released a study which found that the Microsoft Bing search engine censored searches for what the PRC deemed politically sensitive topics and individuals, such as CCP leaders or political dissidents.  The report further found that the censorship affected users in the PRC and North America, in English and Mandarin.

In May The Brookings Institution published a report titled Winning the Web that found the PRC’s amplification of its narrative on Xinjiang and COVID-19 had “exploited search engine results” of Google, Bing, and YouTube.  The report found that on these platforms, news searches would frequently return “state-backed content.”  For example, “Xinjiang” returned one Chinese state media outlet in the top 10 results in 88 percent of the searches, and on YouTube, state media appeared in the top 10 results in 98 percent of “Xinjiang” searches.  The report further found that at least “19 different sources that are not officially affiliated” with the PRC regularly republished PRC state media content “verbatim.”

Media reported state-led online efforts to discourage individuals from openly supporting women’s rights.  On July 15, The Diplomat reported that the CCP “tacitly encouraged” cyberbullying of Chinese feminists.  The Party’s All China Women’s Federation published an editorial in 2021 claiming that “adhering to the leadership of the party” was fundamental to the development of “Chinese women’s cause” and warned of some “Western feminist organizations.”

On July 27, China Digital Times revealed how Xiaohongshu (a Chinese social media company) censored words and topics to comply with central government censorship guidelines.  CAC censorship directives were to be implemented in “real-time.”  According to China Digital Times, censored discourse included topics such as carjackings, landslides, disease outbreaks in livestock, labor strikes, geographic discrimination, public criticism of the CCP, and student suicides.

After former General Secretary Hu Jintao was forcibly escorted from the 20th Party Congress on October 22, searches for videos of “Hu Jintao” on Baidu only returned state media photographs of him in his former leadership role.  Baidu and Tencent Sogou responded to users who searched for “Hu Jintao” with an automated response that the search was either censored or unavailable.

The government censored business and economic information.

Online references to same-sex acts, same-sex relations, and scientifically accurate words for genitalia were banned based on a government pronouncement listing same-sex acts or relations as an “abnormal sexual relation” and forbidding its depiction.

The law obliges internet companies to cooperate fully with investigations of suspected leaks of state secrets, stop the transmission of such information once discovered, and report the crime to authorities.  This was defined broadly and without clear limits.  Furthermore, the companies must comply with authorities’ orders to delete such information from their websites; failure to do so is punishable by relevant departments, such as the Ministry of Public Security and law enforcement authorities.

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government continued to restrict academic and artistic freedom and political and social discourse at colleges, universities, and research institutes.  Restrictive Central Propaganda Department regulations and decisions constrained the flow of ideas and persons.

Many intellectuals and scholars, domestically and abroad, exercised self-censorship, anticipating that books or papers on political topics would be deemed too sensitive to be published.  Censorship and self-censorship of artistic works were also common, particularly artworks deemed to involve politically sensitive subjects.  Authorities scrutinized the content of cultural events and applied pressure to encourage self-censorship of discussions.

The government and the CCP Organization Department controlled appointments to most leadership positions at universities, including department heads.  For example, Renmin University and Nankai University named new presidents in August who had CCP affiliations but little academic experience.  While CCP membership was not always required to obtain a tenured faculty position, scholars without CCP affiliation often had fewer chances for promotion.  Academic subject areas deemed politically sensitive (e.g., civil rights, elite cronyism, and civil society) were off-limits.  Some academics self-censored their publications, faced pressure to reach predetermined research results, or were unable to hold conferences with international participants during politically sensitive periods.  Foreign academics claimed the government used visa denials, along with blocking access to archives, fieldwork, or interviews, to pressure them to self-censor their work.  The use of foreign textbooks in classrooms was restricted, and domestically produced textbooks were under the editorial control of the CCP.

Censorship, indoctrination, and surveillance across all universities led to narrower student participation in academic discussion and a further erosion of academic freedoms.  The CCP pressed universities to not only observe and report ideological problems among students, including their online comments, but also to educate others to “correct” Western thinking.

In February authorities began restricting mentions of the Russian war against Ukraine in academic sources.  In March five prominent Chinese history professors wrote an open letter calling for peace, expressing their opposition to the war, and expressing firm support for the Ukrainian people defending their country.  Censors removed the publication after one hour, and some commenters called the professors “traitors.”  In April provincial governments required university teachers to attend lectures to “correct” their thinking on the war in Ukraine to align with the official PRC line.

The popular audio streaming platform Mao’er FM announced on August 23 that due to “technical reasons” it had taken down several of its danmei (love stories between two male characters) radio dramas.

Some additional monitoring measures using advanced technology were reported with the start of the new academic year.  In August according to China Central Television, many schools distributed pens equipped with video cameras to elementary school students to monitor the children during class hours.  The pens recorded how students took notes in real time and transferred this information to the teachers.

On July 15, news outlets reported that Chinese-developed word processing software WPS had built-in censorship programming that allowed it to censor documents drafted in the program.  One author reported that she was unable to access her locally saved content because of WPS censorship protocols.  WPS developer Kingsoft replied that it was complying with PRC law.

PRC efforts against academic freedom extended to Chinese students and professors abroad.  Authorities routinely monitored the activities of PRC students and faculty members on campuses and in academic institutions outside the country.

Authorities frequently blocked academics from participating in international symposia.  Government regulations require Chinese scholars to receive permission from their institutions before participating in any international event in person or online.  In March at least five scholars were prevented from attending virtual panels at the annual conference hosted by the Association for Asian Studies.  Authorities discouraged or prevented scholars from engaging with some diplomatic missions in China, or from participating in some academic exchange programs sponsored by foreign governments.

The government continued to restrict access to information and foreign research sources.  In June the CAC launched an investigation into the China National Knowledge Infrastructure, an academic research service that claimed to have the world’s largest readership.  According to media reports, the move was made to preempt “security risks” and protect national security.  Media reported that the service’s 60 million articles were screened by PRC government censors, who purged research they felt posed a “national security risk”.  In 2021 China Judgements Online, a similar academic database, was purged by PRC authorities.  The deletions included most sources relating to sentencing of human rights activists and members of illegal religious organizations.

In May a former instructor at Sichuan University described in the New Yorker being reported by a student for alleged “political wrongdoing” during one of his classes, a phenomenon called jubao.  He wrote that “a student might report a teacher for a comment about a sensitive historical event, or a remark that seems to contradict a Communist Party policy … ambiguous statements about Xi Jinping, the President of China, are especially risky.”  According to the article, when a student reports a teacher, the school investigates, after which the teacher might be dismissed.  The author said this creates an atmosphere in which educators are reluctant to express their opinion; his feedback on a student’s essay was published on social media, which elicited online trolling.  Although the school found no wrongdoing, it did not renew his contract.

According to media reports, in June the new movie Top Gun:  Maverick was banned.  Media stated the decision was due to the film’s positive portrayal of the U.S. military, and because of a Taiwanese flag on a jacket worn by the lead actor.  According to the Washington Post, “Tencent executives backed out of the $170 million Paramount Pictures production after they grew concerned that Communist Party officials in Beijing would be angry about the company’s affiliation with a movie celebrating the American military.”

On June 14, Reuters reported that authorities asked Disney to cut scenes depicting a same-sex couple in the movie Lightyear.  When Disney refused, release of the film in China was not approved.

On August 23, The New York Times reported that the ending of the movie Minions:  The Rise of Gru was changed by PRC censors to spread “socialist core values.”  In the original version, the two villains escaped punishment, but in the version released in the PRC, one is imprisoned and the other becomes a dedicated father of three, which The New York Times noted supported the PRC narrative encouraging higher birthrates.

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government did not respect these rights.

The government, often preemptively, harassed and intimidated individuals and their family members by denying them permission to travel, both internationally and domestically, keeping them under house arrest, or submitting them to “forced travel” during politically significant holidays.

In-country Movement: Authorities continued to maintain tight restrictions on freedom of movement, particularly to curtail the movement of individuals deemed politically sensitive before key anniversaries, or during foreign country national days, visits by foreign dignitaries, or major political events, as well as to forestall demonstrations. Uyghurs faced draconian restrictions on movement within Xinjiang and outside the region. Although the use of “domestic passports” that called for local official approval before traveling to another area was discontinued in 2016, authorities still made identification checks for individuals entering or leaving cities and on public roads. In Xinjiang, security officials operated checkpoints managing entry into public places, including markets and mosques, that required Uyghurs to scan their national identity card, undergo a facial recognition check, and put baggage through airport-style security screening. Such restrictions were not applied to Han Chinese in these areas.

The government operated a national household registration system (hukou) and maintained restrictions on the freedom to change one’s workplace or residence, although many provinces and localities eased restrictions. While many rural residents migrated to the cities, where per capita disposable income was approximately three times the rural per capita income, they often could not change their official residence or workplace within the country. Most cities had annual quotas for the number of new temporary residence permits they could issue, and all workers, including university graduates, had to compete for a limited number of such permits. It was particularly difficult for rural residents to obtain household registration in provincial capitals, but outside those cities many provinces removed or lowered barriers to move from a rural area to an urban one.

The household registration system added to the difficulties faced by rural residents, even after they relocated to urban areas and found employment. According to the Statistical Communique of the Peoples Republic of China on 2019 National Economic and Social Development, published in 2020 by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, 280 million individuals lived outside the jurisdiction of their household registration. Migrant workers and their families faced numerous obstacles regarding working conditions and labor rights. Many were unable to access public services, such as public education for their children or social insurance, in the cities where they lived and worked because they were not legally registered urban residents.

Under the “staying at prison employment” system applicable to recidivists incarcerated in administrative detention, authorities denied certain persons permission to return to their homes after serving their sentences. Some released or paroled prisoners returned home but did not have freedom of movement.

Experts assessed that the health code systems for monitoring COVID-19 in some areas of the country were used as tools to curtail the freedom of movement of activists and ordinary citizens seeking redress for sensitive problems. Observers said the health code systems provided a tool for surveillance and acted as catalysts for some provinces and cities to bring together various previously siloed data sources, such as individual health information and geolocation history, bolstering the development of the nascent social credit system.

Several news outlets reported that during the July bank protests in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, some citizens’ health codes turned red (indicating the person must quarantine), severely curtailing their ability to enter public grounds and indoor areas, or access public transportation, despite undergoing regular COVID-19 tests and never leaving the city.

Six party officials were “punished” for their misuse of COVID-19 health codes to prevent bank depositors from protesting bank fraud, the Zhengzhou Discipline Commission announced on June 22. The commission investigation revealed 1,317 depositors were illegally given “red codes,” including 871 depositors not located in Zhengzhou.

On June 27, video was widely shared of a daughter and elderly father in Dandong, Liaoning Province, being blocked from picking up the father’s medicine by a police officer because the daughter’s health code was not green. An altercation between the family and the police officer ensued, and afterwards the local police issued a 10-day detention notice for the daughter, while the father was notified that he could be charged for assaulting the officer.

According to her October 31 post on Twitter, Wang Yu, a well-known human rights lawyer, was unable to return to Beijing due to a “pop up” (a notification that a person may have been in an area with a COVID-19 case) on her Beijing Health Kit app. Wang Yu said she had been denied access to Beijing for more than 70 days. In February when the Beijing Health Kit first added “pop ups,” prominent human rights lawyers including Wang Yu were restricted from traveling within China and from returning to Beijing.

Foreign Travel: The government controlled emigration and foreign travel. The government denied passport applications or used exit controls for departing passengers at airports and other border crossings to deny foreign travel to some dissidents and persons employed in government posts. Throughout the year many lawyers, artists, authors, and activists were at times prevented from exiting the country. Authorities also blocked the travel of some family members of activists, including foreign family members.

Border officials and police sometimes cited threats to “national security” as the reason for refusing permission to leave the country, although authorities often provided no reason for such exit bans. Authorities stopped most of these individuals at the airport at the time of their attempted travel.

Most citizens could not obtain or renew passports due to restrictions aimed at reducing international travel to minimize COVID-19 infections from overseas. Individuals the government deemed potential political threats, including religious leaders, political dissidents, and petitioners, as well as their family members and members of ethnic minority groups, routinely reported being refused passports or otherwise being prevented from traveling overseas.

Uyghurs, particularly those residing in Xinjiang, reported great difficulty in getting passport applications approved. They were frequently denied passports to travel abroad. Since 2016 authorities ordered Xinjiang residents to turn in their passports or told residents no new passports were available.

On May 10, media reported that the National Immigration Administration would strictly restrict PRC citizens from nonessential foreign travel to implement the national zero-COVID policy. RFA reported that border control in Guangzhou City questioned travelers upon arrival about their activities abroad, reasons for returning to China, and whether they planned to travel abroad again. Media reported that passports were clipped to prevent individuals leaving the country. Web publication Sixth Tone further reported that in the first half of 2021, the government issued only 335,000 passports, 2 percent of the total for the same period in 2019.

Exile: The law neither provides for a citizen’s right to repatriate nor addresses exile. The government continued to refuse re-entry to numerous citizens considered dissidents, Falun Gong activists, or “troublemakers.” Although in previous years authorities allowed some dissidents living abroad to return, dissidents released on medical parole and allowed to leave the country often were effectively exiled.

Although it restricted access to border areas, the government regularly cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which maintained an office in Beijing.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of refugee or asylum status. The government did not have a system for providing protection to refugees but generally recognized UNHCR-registered refugees in China. Asylum applicants and refugees remained in the country without access to education or social services and were subject to deportation at any time.

UNHCR reported that officials continued to restrict UNHCR access to border areas. Authorities sometimes detained and prosecuted citizens who assisted North Korean refugees and asylum seekers, as well as those who facilitated illegal border crossings.

Refoulement: The government continued to consider North Koreans as illegal “economic migrants” rather than refugees or asylum seekers and forcibly returned many of them to North Korea, where such migrants would face harsh punishments including torture, forced abortions, forced labor, sexual violence, or death. Entries of such migrants were reduced during the year due to border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea reported that more than 1,500 North Koreans were detained in China and at risk of refoulement.

North Koreans detained by PRC authorities faced forcible repatriation unless they could pay bribes to secure their release. Family members wanting to prevent forced returns of their North Korean relatives were required to pay fees to Chinese authorities, purportedly to cover expenses incurred while in detention. While detained North Koreans were occasionally released, they were rarely given the necessary permissions for safe passage to a third country.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees generally did not have access to public health care, public education, or other social services due to lack of legal status.

Durable Solutions: The government largely cooperated with UNHCR when dealing with the local settlement in China of Han Chinese or members of ethnic minorities from Vietnam and Laos living in the country since the Vietnam War era. The government and UNHCR continued discussions concerning the granting of citizenship to these long-term residents and their children, many of whom were born in China.

Not applicable.

According to international media reports, as many as 30,000 children born to North Korean women in China, most of whom were trafficked and married to Chinese spouses, had not been registered because their North Korean parent was undocumented, leaving the children de facto stateless. These children were denied access to public services, including education and health care, despite provisions in the law that provide citizenship to children with at least one PRC citizen parent. Chinese fathers reportedly sometimes did not register their children to avoid exposing the illegal status of their North Korean partners.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  NGOs and journalists alleged increased harassment and threats from state officials, including police, during coverage of the nationwide protests.  Violence and harassment, as well as the criminalization of libel, inhibited freedom of the press.  The government frequently influenced the press, in part through its large advertising budgets.  The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

Violence and Harassment:  According to the domestic NGO Fundacion para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP), from January 1 to September 2, there were 385 incidents of violence and harassment against journalists, and six journalists were illegally detained.  In the same period, FLIP reported 139 threats against journalists, some involving more than one target.  These threats were made by both governmental and nongovernmental actors.

According to FLIP, the electoral period between January and July was the most violent for journalists and the traditional media in the last 10 years.  During this period, FLIP reported that journalists were victims of threats and stigmatization from politicians.  For example, President Petro called columnist David Ghitis from Noticiero RCN a “neonazi.”  During the presidential inauguration, journalists from Revista Semana and Noticiero RCN were called “fascists” by a group of inauguration attendees, according to media reports.

From January 1 through August 1, the Attorney General’s Office investigated 20 cases of homicide of journalists and obtained four convictions.  These included cases from prior years.  It reported no investigations involving alleged threats or harassment against journalists.

On August 28, two journalists, Dilia Contreras and Leiner Montero, were killed while covering a religious festival in Magdalena Department.  According to FLIP investigations, Montero had previously received threats.  FLIP asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the killings as crimes targeting journalists.  Four days after the killings, Magdalena authorities captured a man accused of participating in the killing of the two journalists, but authorities were investigating whether the incident was related to their profession as journalists.

As of September 1, the NPU provided protection services to 162 journalists, including new protection measures issued this year for 15 journalists.  Some NGOs raised concerns regarding perceived shortcomings in the NPU, such as delays in granting protection and the appropriateness of measures for addressing specific threats.

On October 16, Rafael Moreno Garavito became the third journalist killed in the year following an attack in Montelibano, Cordoba.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, including Online Media:  FLIP alleged some journalists practiced self-censorship due to fear of being sued under libel laws or of being physically attacked, mostly by nongovernment actors.  FLIP asserted the high degree of impunity for those who committed aggressions against journalists was a factor in self-censorship.  In addition, individuals living in high-violence areas practiced self-censorship due to their fear of attacks.

Libel/Slander Laws:  By law, slander and libel are crimes.  The government did not use prosecution to prevent media outlets from criticizing government policies or public officials.  Political candidates, businesspersons, and others, however, publicly threatened to sue journalists for expressing opinions, alleging defamation or libel.  FLIP reported that through September 6, there were five cases of judicial harassment affecting journalists.

Nongovernmental Impact:  Members of armed groups inhibited freedom of expression by intimidating, threatening, kidnapping, and killing journalists.  National and international NGOs reported media regularly practiced self-censorship because of threats of violence from armed groups.

Internet Freedom

The government reported it did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, including during the national protests.  Internet service providers, however, reported the social networking site Tumblr was temporarily blocked by “order of the competent authorities” in January.  The reason for the block was unclear, and inquiries made by civil society groups to the government were not successful in gaining further clarity.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government did not always respect these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these related rights, although there were exceptions. Military operations and insecurity in certain rural areas restricted freedom of movement.

In-country Movement: The government required asylum seekers and individuals without regularized migration status to have a salvoconducto (safe passage document) to travel throughout the country; however, humanitarian legal assistance organizations reported extensive delays in receiving these documents. Armed groups established checkpoints on rural roads and set their own curfews, which restricted movement and expanded the groups’ territorial control.

International and civil society organizations reported that armed groups restricted movement of rural communities through roadblocks, curfews, car bombs at egress routes, and improvised explosive devices in areas where illicit crop cultivation and narcotics trafficking persisted. By July, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 69,000 persons lived in communities that suffered restricted movement due to armed incidents and geographical factors, limiting their access to essential goods and services.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing long-term protection to refugees.

While the government generally provided access to the asylum process for persons who requested international protection, many opted for alternative migration status such as Temporary Protective Status. The government continued to grant citizenship to Venezuelan children born in Colombia on or after August 19, 2015.

Temporary Protection: The law allows a 10-year Temporary Protective Status. The status provides a pathway to legal residence. Officials reported one million persons were in the process of obtaining the status, while an additional 1.5 million Venezuelans were eligible to request the status. The status allowed authorities to identify Venezuelans with temporary status; grant Venezuelans formal access to work, health, and education; and facilitate participation in the national COVID-19 vaccination plan.

There were approximately 6.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the country after 1985, largely because of the armed conflict and continuing violence in rural areas. Threats posed by armed groups created internal displacement in remote areas as well as urban settings. After the 2016 peace accord, FARC withdrawal resulted in a struggle for control by other armed groups, causing violence and additional internal displacement.

The government, international organizations, and civil society groups identified various factors causing displacement, including threats, extortion, and physical, psychological, and sexual violence by armed groups against civilian populations, particularly against women and girls. Other causes of displacement included competition and armed confrontation among and within armed groups for resources and territorial control; confrontations between security forces, guerrillas, and criminal gangs; and forced recruitment of children or threats of forced recruitment. Drug trafficking, illegal mining, and large-scale commercial ventures in rural areas also contributed to displacement.

Local institutions in many areas lacked the capacity to protect the rights of and provide public services to IDPs and communities at risk of displacement. Consequently, the government continued to struggle to provide adequate protection and humanitarian assistance to newly displaced populations.

OCHA reported that 42,800 persons were affected in 105 displacement events between January and September. Departments with the highest rate of mass displacements included Antioquia, Cauca, Choco, Narino, and Norte de Santander.

The Victims’ Unit maintained the Single Victims Registry as mandated by law. Despite improvements in the government registration system, IDPs experienced delays in receiving responses to their displacement claims due to a large backlog of claims built up during several months, lack of the unit’s presence in rural areas, and other constraints. Government policy provided for an appeal process in the case of refusals of displacement claims.

The ELN and other armed groups continued to use force, intimidation, and disinformation to discourage IDPs from registering with the government. International organizations and civil society expressed concern regarding urban displacement caused by violent territorial disputes between criminal gangs, some of which had links to larger criminal and narcotics trafficking groups.

The Victims’ Unit cited extortion, forced recruitment by armed groups, killings, and physical and sexual violence as the primary causes of intraurban displacement. UNHCR reported that displacement disproportionately affected Indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups.

The NGO National Association of Displaced Afro-descendants (AFRODES) stated that threats and violence against Afro-Colombian leaders and communities continued to cause high levels of forced displacement, especially in the Pacific coast region. AFRODES and other local NGOs expressed concern that large-scale economic projects, such as agriculture and mining, contributed to displacement in their communities.

By law, 52 government agencies share responsibility for assisting registered IDPs. Dozens of international organizations; international NGOs; domestic nonprofit groups; and multilateral organizations, including the International Organization for Migration, World Food Program, International Committee of the Red Cross, UNHCR, and Colombian Red Cross, coordinated with the government to provide emergency relief and long-term assistance to displaced populations.

International organizations and NGOs remained concerned regarding the slow and insufficient institutional response to displacement. Insecurity in communities affected by the conflict, including areas in the departments of Antioquia, Cauca, Choco, Narino, and Norte de Santander, often delayed national and international aid organizations from reaching newly displaced populations. International organizations and civil society reported that a lack of local capacity to accept registrations in high-displacement areas often delayed assistance to persons displaced individually or in smaller groups. Humanitarian organizations attributed the delays to a variety of factors, including lack of personnel, funding, declaration forms, and training. As a result, NGOs took additional measures to provide humanitarian assistance to recently displaced individuals. Many IDPs continued to live in poverty in unhygienic conditions and with limited access to health care, education, shelter, and employment. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, some humanitarian organizations continued health promotion education and the distribution of hygiene supplies.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for the press although not explicitly for other media.  Authorities imposed restrictions.

Freedom of Expression:  Individuals may not criticize the government or raise matters of public interest without constraint.  Authorities reportedly detained individuals for making public statements, including online statements, critical of the president.

Violence and Harassment:  Some journalists were subjected to harassment by government authorities due to their reporting (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly).

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Independent media were active and expressed a variety of views, but with a growing level of restriction and self-censorship due to government reprisal.  Some journalists practiced self-censorship due to the risk of violence and harassment, and other journalists, fearing retribution, self-censored discussions of political matters.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law criminalizes libel.  Authorities did not enforce the law.  The law also prohibits the propagation of non-Islamic beliefs to Muslims.  This prohibition was not enforced.

Actions to Expand Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Media:  On January 18, President Azali promulgated a new law on information and communication, addressing the regulation of journalists and setting forth the qualities, duties, and rights of journalists.  The law established a press card allocation commission at the recommendation of the independent National Press and Audiovisual Council; strengthened journalists’ right to protect confidential sources; established protections regarding publication of children’s identities or pictures; and provided the right of professional associations to assist journalists abused for exercising their profession, among other provisions.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority, although it was widely suspected they did so.

The government restricted the freedom of peaceful assembly.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement and foreign travel, and the government generally respected these rights. No specific constitutional or legal provisions deal with emigration and repatriation.

The government regularly cooperated, with some exceptions, with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. UNHCR conducted refugee status determination interviews either in person or remotely for asylum seekers.

In October 2021, 52 African migrants arrived by boat in Anjouan, thinking they had reached Mayotte, a nearby French island. The IOM conducted initial screening, while authorities held them at the Anjouan Police Training Academy dormitories. The IOM referred the migrants to UNHCR, which assisted most of them to resettle in other countries or their country of origin.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: In February or March, the remaining migrants held at the police academy protested their inability to leave the compound and problems with the food supply. Several migrants became violent, demanding their release and scuffling with local police. When violence escalated, more police arrived. Several inmates escaped, police arrested several others, and severely beat one migrant. Authorities released the remaining migrants at the academy into the general population or placed them in the care of local NGOs. After intervention by UN officials, authorities released the arrested migrants, and at least one received asylum in Mayotte.

Employment: There were credible reports the government imposed restrictions on the ability of refugees to work after their status became official, as the law does not allow them to receive residence visas or work permits, documents necessary to secure employment.

Access to Basic Services: The government did not grant recognized refugees access to essential services.

Not applicable.

The country contributes to statelessness through laws which do not protect persons born in the country to unknown or stateless parents from becoming stateless.

Costa Rica

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Violence and Harassment:  On July 8, the Ministry of Health suspended the operating permit for Parque Viva, an event space owned by leading media company Grupo Nacion.  The Ministry of Health argued that Parque Viva events posed a safety hazard due to the venue’s single exit, which created hours’ long traffic jams.  Attendees would be stuck in the event of an emergency, and the ministry mandated that additional exits be added to remedy the issue.  Parque Viva generated a large proportion of Grupo Nacion’s income, and closing it created significant financial hardship for the media company.  Former presidents, opposition legislators, and journalists expressed concern regarding the government’s closure, accusing the Chaves administration of retaliating against Grupo Nacion’s critical reporting during the presidential elections.  The Inter American Press Association denounced the government’s actions.

On October 21, the Supreme Court upheld a petition that a group of journalists from the daily newspaper La Nacion filed against the closure.  According to the court, the government’s action constituted an indirect violation of press freedom.  The ruling annulled the Ministry of Health’s July 8 order to close the facility.  President Chaves addressed the matter in an October 26 press conference, stating the government would comply with the court’s finding and would reserve further comment until the court’s full legal finding was published.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Observers expressed concerns regarding the government’s interactions with the press.  On August 4, a journalist filed a petition for constitutional protection against the minister of communication, accusing the ministry of a series of violations of press freedom, including creating government guidelines to deny interviews to two radio outlets and suspending public advertising in some media outlets.  In an October 4 response, the Supreme Court warned communications officials against direct or indirect censorship of the media.  On May 16, the Executive Office called a meeting with press officers of public institutions and allegedly instructed them to restrict the information they provided to the press.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these related rights.

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. On January 19, the government signed an executive order to formalize the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework as the national platform for discussion and coordination of refugee response in the country.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. The law requires authorities to process the claims within three months of receipt, but there was an average two-month wait for appointments to file an asylum claim, and it took up to 10 years to complete the review and appeals processes. The Migration Authority Refugee Unit’s capacity was overburdened by the sharply rising number of persons requesting asylum or refugee status since 2018, with the majority originating from Nicaragua. The government sought international support to bolster the Migration Authority’s capacity.

As of November 30, the Appeals Tribunal, which adjudicates all migration appeals, had a backlog of 47 asylum cases, compared with approximately 280 in July 2021, but stated these figures would increase as pending claims moved to the appeals process. UNHCR provided support to the Refugee Unit and the Appeals Tribunal to hire additional legal and administrative personnel to assist with reduction of the backlog and to continue a process of regionalization of services.

Employment: Refugee regulations provide asylum seekers an opportunity to obtain work permits if they must wait beyond the three months the law allows for a decision on their asylum claim. After attending their initial appointment to file an asylum claim, applicants were automatically provided an identification document with a date on which they were authorized to work. In the case of professionals, refugees and asylum seekers faced significant bureaucratic processes in obtaining a license to practice locally.

Access to Basic Services: By law asylum seekers and refugees have access to public services and social welfare programs, but access was often hampered by lack of knowledge about their status in the country, failure of service providers to recognize the identification provided to asylum seekers by the Migration Authority, and xenophobia among some service providers. For example, asylum seekers without employers (who constituted most asylum seekers) faced restrictions when enrolling voluntarily as independent workers in the public health system.

Asylum seekers received provisional refugee status documents legalizing their status after appearing for an interview with the Migration Authority, for which the estimated wait time was two months. Provisional refugee identity cards do not resemble other national identity documents, and although government authorities generally accepted them, many private citizens did not.

Refugees and asylum seekers reported that access to health services was difficult. They qualified for public health services only if they were minors, pregnant, or facing a life-threatening emergency, but some individuals reported being denied services even in emergency situations. From March to December, UNHCR covered health insurance for 6,000 of the most vulnerable refugees through an agreement with the social security system.

Durable Solutions: The government implemented a Protection Transfer Arrangement in coordination with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration for refugee resettlement in third countries. For those obtaining refugee status, the government was committed to their local integration both legally and socially and to facilitating their naturalization process.

Temporary Protection: In 2020, the Migration Authority approved a temporary complementary protection program for Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Cuban immigrants who did not qualify for refugee status. As of March 31, the government provided temporary protection to 4,038 persons through this program. The program went into effect in 2020 and ended in March.

Not applicable.

Citizenship is obtained from birth within the country’s territory or can be derived if either parent is Costa Rican. There continued to be problems of statelessness of indigenous children and children of seasonal workers in the border areas with Panama and Nicaragua, derived from the difficulties linked to birth registrations. Members of the Ngobe-Bugle indigenous group from Panama often worked on Costa Rican farms and occasionally gave birth there. In these cases, parents did not register Ngobe-Bugle children as Costa Rican citizens at birth because they did not think it necessary, although the children lacked registration in Panama as well. Government authorities worked with UNHCR on a program of birth registration and provision of identification documents to stateless persons. Mobile teams went to remote coffee-growing areas for case identification and registration. UNHCR and the National Civil Registry continued a project along the northern border for individuals of Nicaraguan origin to facilitate procedures for late birth registration. A 2021 executive order issued regulations to the law that protects the right to citizenship for transborder indigenous persons. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for processing the applications for statelessness determination; the process is free, and the government provides free legal services to assist with the process.

Cote d’Ivoire

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government restricted this right.

Freedom of Expression:  The law prohibits incitement to violence, ethnic hatred, and rebellion, as well as insulting the head of state or other senior members of the government.  Sometimes the government took steps to remove such content from social media.  Other times the application of this law raised questions of political influence.

In January authorities detained El Hadj Mamadou Traoré, a member of Guillaume Soro’s opposition party, after he made comments concerning the relationship between Mali and Cote d’Ivoire on his Facebook page.  The government charged Traoré with “supporting terrorism and disseminating false information,” alleging that French military aircraft violated Malian airspace with “the complicity” of Cote d’Ivoire amid ECOWAS’s sanctions against the Malian government.  Traoré was held in pretrial detention for six months and, following a guilty verdict in July, received a sentence of a year in prison.  He was released on September 15.

On August 3, security forces detained at the airport for questioning for 24 hours Pulchérie Gbalet, President of Alternative Citoyenne Ivoirienne (Ivoirian Citizen Alternative), a civil society organization that has, for several years, served as a prominent voice of opposition to President Alassane Ouattara and his political party Rally of the Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP).  She had gone to Mali, reportedly at the invitation of a Malian civil society organization, to better understand the case of the 49 Ivoirian soldiers detained in Mali since July 10 on the grounds of being mercenaries.  Gbalet leveraged the visit to discredit President Ouattara’s efforts to gain the soldiers’ release.  Authorities arrested her on August 22 and charged her with conspiracy with agents of a foreign power likely to harm the military and diplomatic situation of the country, dissemination of false news likely to harm the morale of the people, and undermining public order.  At year’s end, Gbalet remained in Abidjan’s main prison.

Violence and Harassment:  Journalists were sometimes subjected to violence, harassment, or intimidation by authorities due to their reporting.

In July a court in Abidjan found investigative reporter Noël Kouadio Konan guilty of defamation for reporting that a local bank had assisted three thieves in stealing money from the accounts of former President Henri Konan Bédié.  The court fined Konan 3 million CFA francs ($4,880).  Further, Konan and other activist groups alleged that police held Konan overnight for refusing to reveal his source for the allegation against the bank.  Human rights organizations reported that the confinement of Konan for refusing to reveal his source likely constituted illegal harassment, since local law prohibits the use of confinement for certain press-related offenses.  As of August, Konan was appealing the judgment.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  There are public and private radio and television stations.  The government influences news coverage and program content on some of them.  Both independent journalists and journalists affiliated with the state-owned media stated they regularly exercised self-censorship to avoid sanctions or reprisals from government officials.  The government appoints some managers of government-affiliated outlets.  The National Press Authority, the government’s print media regulatory body, briefly suspended or reprimanded newspapers and journalists for statements it contended were false, libelous, or perceived to incite xenophobia and hate.  Human rights organizations reported the threat of legal action had a chilling effect on media coverage of certain topics, and media often only published stories critical of the government after the same reporting had appeared in international publications.

In April the National Press Authority (ANP), a state-run regulatory body, announced a 15-day suspension of Le Temps, a daily newspaper with close ties to former President Laurent Gbagbo, and suspended for one month the writing privileges of Simplice Allard, an editor of the same newspaper.  The ANP’s decision followed the publication of an article on Gbagbo’s recent visit to the western regions.  According to the ANP, the article violated the media code of ethics and sought to advocate for “violence, disrespect for the Head of State, and incitement of hatred.”  The ANP further stated that the article’s “failings” were likely to “harm peace and social cohesion.”

In July following the broadcast of a controversial episode of television series Allô Caviar, numerous viewers reported the series and the network to the High Audiovisual Communications Authority (HACA) for a violation of “the fundamental values of the Republic, the family, and morality.”  The episode involved a woman in a relationship leading to her pregnancy by a taxi driver.  The HACA ultimately found a breach of the “fundamental values of the Republic, the family, and morality” and notified the broadcasting network.

Libel/Slander Laws:  Defamation deemed to threaten the national interest is punishable by criminal prosecution.  In addition to government prosecution, individuals may bring criminal defamation cases against other individuals.

In April media reported the government investigated and conducted criminal hearings for an individual alleged to have created and shared over social media a video that insulted the mother of soccer player Didier Drogba.  The court sentenced the individual to six months of confinement with five months suspended and a fine of five million CFA francs ($8,130).

Internet Freedom

There were no credible reports the government restricted or disrupted access to the internet or censored content online.  Further, there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government sometimes restricted the freedom of peaceful assembly.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law do not specifically provide for freedom of movement, foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation, but the government generally respected these rights.

In-country Movement: There were reports of impediments to internal travel. Although some roadblocks set up by security forces served legitimate security purposes, civil society organizations reported instances in which members of the security forces, deployed to the north of the country to interdict criminals and violent extremists, set up unofficial checkpoints in forests and other unpopulated areas and demanded bribes for travelers to pass.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: Although there is no national asylum law, the country provides for asylum or refugee status, and the government has established an administrative system for providing protection to refugees. Asylum seekers awaiting adjudication of their application enjoy a full set of basic rights, including freedom of movement, health care, and education. Asylum seekers are not entitled to work until they receive refugee status.

Continued instability and violent extremist attacks in neighboring Burkina Faso pushed thousands of Burkinabe residing in border villages to enter the country as refugees. At the end of the year, the estimated Burkinabe refugee population was 4,000.

Durable Solutions: UNHCR reported it was almost impossible for refugees to be naturalized, except through marriage to a citizen.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection for individuals who did not qualify as refugees. Nationals of ECOWAS member states may remain in the country with a valid identification document (i.e., a national identity card or passport) from their country of origin. Non-ECOWAS African nationals and nationals of other countries must obtain a residency permit within 90 days of their asylum claim rejection or face deportation. To obtain a residency permit, non-ECOWAS African nationals must submit their asylum rejection letter and pay a substantial fee. Residency permit requirements for other nationals are based on reciprocity between the country and the applicant’s country of origin.

In April international organizations and the government estimated there were no longer any internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, down from 16,700 after the 2020 election.

The government did not report the number of persons believed to be stateless. With birth registration a requirement for citizenship, all unregistered children were at risk of statelessness. UNHCR estimated 16,000 persons in the country were at “very high risk” of statelessness, out of an estimated 1.65 million persons living in the country without citizenship documents. This figure included an estimated 519,000 abandoned children and foundlings, (i.e., abandoned children of unknown parentage), who were at risk of statelessness because they could not prove their citizenship through their parents, as required by law. Such children were deprived of the opportunity to attend high school because even though school was compulsory until the age of 16, identity documents were required for enrollment in school above the elementary level. As adults without identity documents, they would be unable to open bank accounts, travel abroad freely, purchase land, gain lawful employment, vote, or exercise other political rights, such as running for office.

Stateless persons reportedly faced numerous significant additional difficulties, such as in accessing health services, marrying civilly, or receiving an inheritance. Social stigma and harassment can also accompany statelessness.

The government had policies to resolve the status of certain stateless persons. In 2020 the government formally established legal procedures for some individuals to petition the government for a formal determination of statelessness status, without prejudice to their ability to prove a nationality later. According to UNHCR, a determination of statelessness would pave the way for an individual to receive identity documents and access to other legal processes. Also, according to UNHCR, a rejected application for stateless status meant the adjudicating bodies believed the applicant was in fact entitled to a particular nationality.

The government commissions tasked with adjudicating claims of statelessness had offered the stateless status to three out of 152 cases as of September.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right.  An independent media and a functioning democratic political system combined in most cases to promote freedom of expression, including for members of media.  Judicial ineffectiveness at times delayed resolution of libel cases against publishers, editors, and journalists.

Freedom of Expression:  The law sanctions individuals who act “with the goal of spreading racial, religious, sexual, national, ethnic hatred, or hatred based on the color of skin or sexual orientation or other characteristics.”  Conviction for internet hate speech is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.  The law provides for six months’ to five years’ imprisonment for conviction of organizing or leading a group of three or more persons to incite violence or hate via print media, radio, television, computer system or networks, during public gatherings or in any other way against certain categories or groups.  By law libel and insult are criminal acts punishable by a fine.  Insults are not criminally prosecuted if committed in the conduct of journalism, in a public interest, or for other justifiable reasons.

Violence and Harassment:  On July 13, the Croatian Journalists Association (CJA) at a joint meeting with the Croatian Journalist Union, noted continuing reports of intimidation and threats against journalists.  Reporters Without Borders stated journalists investigating corruption, organized crime, and war crimes, especially at the local level, often faced harassment, while physical assaults, threats, and cyberviolence represented significant problems.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Members of the press reported practicing self-censorship due to fear of online harassment, lawsuits, upsetting politically connected individuals, or possible adverse employment effects for covering certain topics.

Libel/Slander Laws:  The law criminalizes libel, but no criminal penalties were imposed for this offense.  The country also has civil laws against libel, which the government enforced.  According to an annual survey conducted by the CJA, at least 951 libel lawsuits were filed against journalists and media, with claimed damages of 77.4 million kuna ($11.2 million).  Of the 951 libel lawsuits, 928 were filed against publishers, editors, and journalists for civil alleged violations of honor, while 23 were criminal lawsuits.

In April the CJA threatened to protest if what it assessed as the excessive number of libel lawsuits did not decrease.  The organization cited the April verdict against nonprofit portal publisher Goran Gazdek as one example of libel cases it claimed discouraged journalists in the country from investigating or criticizing public figures.  A court ordered Gazdek to pay Member of Parliament Romana Nikolic 7,500 kuna ($1086) for damages.  In April CJA President Hrvoje Zovko asserted in statements to the press that lawsuits were often meant to deter journalists and “suffocate” media freedom.  The CJA also expressed concern regarding multiple lawsuits filed by a judge in Osijek, Zvonko Vrban, who initiated five libel lawsuits against the online portal, demanding damages for “mental anguish” in the amount of 150,000 kuna ($21,739) per lawsuit.

On February 3, the Zadar County Court rejected a Croatian Radio Television (HRT) appeal against Zovko, who sued the station for wrongful termination after he made public comments criticizing alleged censorship at HRT.  The court upheld the 2020 Zagreb Municipal Civil Court verdict which ordered HRT to reinstate Zovko, noting his comments were not “disputable or untrue” nor did they grossly harm the honor or reputation of the station.  On June 7, the CJA announced HRT reinstated Zovko, adding it hoped the case against him was finally resolved after four years of “multiple court harassments” of Zovko, his family, and the CJA.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status and subsidiary protection status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees and asylum seekers. Despite restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of the Interior reported it continued to work with asylum seekers and persons granted international protection, and it provided access to the asylum procedure in accordance with epidemiological measures and recommendations adopted by the European Commission.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: As in previous years, national and international NGO reports accused the country’s border police of pushbacks of irregular migrants.

On February 4, the CPT President and the Minister of Interior met to discuss allegations of mistreatment of international migrants. Following the meeting, the Ministry of Interior published a list of recommendations and a 60-point response to a 2020 CPT report that was critical of the government. In the response the ministry noted authorities successfully implemented positive changes since 2020 with the aim of preventing mistreatment of migrants. Most notably, the response confirmed that ad hoc visits by independent monitors to the border would continue.

On April 5, the ECHR dismissed the country’s application to re-examine the 2021 judgment on the death of an Afghan migrant girl, age 6, Madina Hussiny, who was killed on the Croatia-Serbia border in 2017. The ECHR ruled Croatia breached the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms because it did not effectively investigate the death, and that the responsible bodies in the country should proceed with “establishing responsibility” based on the judgment. The country’s representative to the ECHR noted the court did not find Croatia responsible for the girl’s death nor that any pressure was exerted on civil society during the investigation. The Centre for Peace Studies (CPS), a prominent migration-focused NGO, called for the dismissal of several officials in the police hierarchy, including Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic. Bozinovic dismissed the call and stated the purpose of the ECHR rulings was to improve the system, a sentiment Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic echoed in an April 5 statement. In the original ruling, the ECHR determined Hussiny was a victim of an illegal collective expulsion by the country and fined the government 288,270 kuna ($41,778) plus 120,290 kuna ($17,433) in court costs.

Between January and the end of October, the Danish Refugee Council recorded a total of 3,196 “illegal expulsions” to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In June 2021, the government launched an Independent Mechanism for Monitoring the Conduct of Police Officers of the Ministry of the Interior in the Field of Illegal Migration and International Protection. The government tasked the mechanism with monitoring the treatment of irregular migrants and seekers of international protection through announced and unannounced observations of police stations, shelters for foreigners, and announced visits to “other appropriate places” such as the green border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The government also tasked the mechanism with ensuring border management measures fully comply with EU asylum laws and fundamental rights. The EU ombudsperson noted the delay in setting up the mechanism was regrettable because the country had received emergency EU funds for the project in 2018.

On July 1, the mechanism published an annual report for the period between June 2021 and June 2022. The report noted police mostly treated migrants in accordance with EU regulations by respecting the standards defined by the mechanism such as providing dietary based religious accommodations and assisting vulnerable groups of migrants, such as pregnant women and unaccompanied minor children. Examples of good practices included cooperation between border police and healthcare institutions for emergency medical services, hospital visits, COVID-19 testing, reviews of medical records, and, when necessary, coordination with nursing homes. The report noted police officers acted to protect national security and public order as well as the fundamental rights of migrants provided for by EU and international law. The report also stated migrants were exposed to human traffickers and smugglers on both sides of the border and noted police stations still did not have adequate room for the temporary accommodation of migrants.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement, offered naturalization to refugees residing on their territory, and assisted in their voluntary return to their homes when requested. The government continued to participate in the joint Regional Housing Program (RHP) with the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia. The RHP aimed to contribute to the resolution of the protracted displacement situation of the most vulnerable refugees and displaced persons following the 1991-95 conflict. As of mid-August, the RHP increased the number of assisted families and provided housing to 378 families (923 individuals) in the country.

Temporary Protection: The country also has a mechanism for subsidiary protection for those who do not qualify for asylum, but no one was granted subsidiary protection during the year. On March 7, the country officially adopted the EU Directive on the Temporary Protection of Ukrainian refugees. The directive allows refugees from Ukraine to enter the country and receive certain benefits without having to apply for asylum. As of November, 18,834 Ukrainians received temporary protection in the country. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for organizing the reception and care of persons who meet the conditions for temporary protection. The government provided temporarily protected individuals with accommodation, health care, access to primary and secondary education, and employment without a requirement to obtain a residence or work permit or a certificate of work registration. The government grants temporary protection for Ukrainian citizens until March 4, 2023, with the possibility to automatically extend the status twice (by six months each time) if conditions remain unchanged.

Not applicable.

According to the 2021 census, an estimated 731 stateless persons lived in the country. Many of these persons were Roma who lacked citizenship documents. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for granting stateless individuals who fulfill legal requirements residency and eventual citizenship. UNHCR advocates for the ending of statelessness in the country, including through the establishment of a stateless determination procedure. The government recognized a small number of persons as stateless. According to the 2021 census, 558 persons self-declared as being stateless, with an additional 173 persons declaring unknown nationality. When compared with the previous census from 2011, the number of persons who declared themselves stateless decreased by 26 percent, while the number of individuals at risk of statelessness decreased by 96 percent (according to the 2011 census there were 749 stateless persons and 2,137 persons of undetermined nationality.) In February a revised social welfare act entered into force that included UNHCR recommendations to extend the right to social welfare to all stateless persons legally residing in the country.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, on the condition that the expression “conforms to the aims of socialist society.”  The government restricted freedom of expression in various ways.

Freedom of Expression:  The government repeatedly limited public debate of topics considered politically sensitive.  Several laws criminalize aspects of freedom of expression, such as Decree 349, which empowers the Ministry of Culture to regulate all artistic and cultural activity.  Rather than enforce these laws, police typically used other pretexts to harass and arrest persons exercising freedom of expression.  For example, on June 24, a court sentenced artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who had protested restrictive laws such as Decree 349, to five years in prison on charges of “outrage against national symbols,” disrespect, and public disorder.  The charges primarily dated to a 2019 art series in which Otero Alcántara took photographs of himself wearing only the Cuban flag.  The official sentence stated that Otero Alcántara had offended the flag in “denigrating acts accompanied by notoriously offensive and disrespectful expressions.”

Government workers reported being fired, demoted, or censured for expressing dissenting opinions or for affiliating with independent organizations.

Religious groups reported increased restrictions on expressing their opinions during sermons, at religious gatherings, and in public protests.  Most members of the clergy exercised self-censorship.  Religious leaders in some cases criticized the government, its policies, and the country’s leadership without reprisals.  Other religious groups, particularly those not officially state-sanctioned, reported harassment against themselves and family members in retaliation for speech critical of the government.  The Office of Religious Affairs, which regulates all affairs of religious groups, directed government policies against both registered and unregistered religious groups.

On September 13, David Pantaleón, a Roman Catholic priest from the Dominican Republic and head of the order of the Jesuits in the country, had to leave Cuba after the government denied the extension of his residence permit.  Pantaleón had openly criticized the government and supported human rights defenders and activist organizations such as Movimiento San Isidro, composed of artists, journalists and academics, and the imprisoned July 11 protesters.

The government harassed, detained, interrogated, and prosecuted persons for making videos of protests.  PEN International denounced the October 1 arrest of activist and artist Rosmery Almeda for recording one of the protests after Hurricane Ian.  Almeda was accused of contempt of authority and public disorder.  She was reportedly released on October 20, but the case was not resolved by year’s end.

Violence and Harassment:  Repression and forced exile were used to harass independent journalists.  Approximately 20 reporters, photographers, and illustrators of El Toque resigned after six of them were prevented from traveling to an international journalism event, followed by harassment by state security and blackmail tactics and threats of not being allowed to leave the country.  Other threats included prosecution, confiscation of property, or harm to family members.  Wimar Verdecia, Mary Esther Lemus, Iran Hernandez Castillo, producers of the Xel2 graphic supplement, were victims of these “offers.”  Others included Meilin Puertas, José Leandro Garbey, Mauro Díaz, Aleiny Sánchez, Claudia Bravet, Laura Seco, Cynthia de la Cantera, Yadiris Luis Fuentes, Nelson Álvarez Mairata, and Jancel Moreno.  Yoe Suárez, Nelson Alvarez Mairata, and Luz Escobar were already in exile after several years of being forbidden to leave the country.

Despite meeting government vetting requirements, journalists belonging to state media institutions who reported on sensitive subjects did so at personal risk, and the government barred them from working for unofficial media outlets in addition to their official duties.  The government harassed and threatened independent citizen journalists who reported on human rights abuses.  Independent outlets El Toque, Diario de Cuba, Cubanet, and 14Ymedio reported the trend increased during the year, with independent journalists reportedly given three options:  stop reporting, leave the country, or go to prison.  As of August, the NGO Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (Cuban Institute for Liberty of Speech and the Press) registered 409 incidents regarding denials or restrictions of freedom of expression, including arbitrary detentions, threats, and internet disconnections.

Journalists Vladimir Turró and Yoel Acosta were arrested three times; Enrique Díaz and Henry Constantin, twice; Camila Acosta, Yania Suárez, Neife Rigau, Dunierky Martínez, Lisbeth Moya, Antonio Abad Sánchez, Pedro Yoel Rivas, Osniel Carmona and Orisvey Díaz, at least once.  Pedro Luis Hernández was detained in the capital and sent back to his province.  Rosmery Almeda, known as Alma Poet, and Danilo Martínez – young artists who filmed the protests after Hurricane Ian in Havana during the blackouts – were detained for more than two weeks.  Reasons for the arrests were often vague or not announced.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  The government or the PCC directly owned all print and broadcast media outlets and almost all widely available sources of information.  News and information programming were generally uniform across all government-controlled outlets.  The government controlled all printing presses and nearly all publications.  The government limited the importation of printed materials.

Foreign correspondents had limited access to and often were denied interviews with government officials.  Foreign correspondents struggled to gather facts and reliable data for stories.  The government harassed and denied access to correspondents who reported stories deemed critical of the government.  As a result of self-censorship and lack of access, many foreign journalists rarely published stories on human rights abuses while inside the country.

The Inter American Press Association reported that several members of the Associated Press, Reuters, and Spanish news agency EFE journalistic teams accredited in the country denounced limits on their work.  In November 2021, the government withdrew press credentials of all but two EFE journalists covering a November 15 march.  The government reinstated the press credentials in February only after formal protests from the Spanish government.

Armando Franco, editor of the state-owned magazine Alma Mater, was fired for publishing information on detainees arrested in the protests of July 2021.  In addition, state media sports reporters Boris Luis Cabrera, Joel García, Norland Rosendo González, and Jhonah Díaz González were denied access to the press conference of a government entity after criticizing one of its directors.

In April, officials fined Ismario Rodríguez, the audiovisual director of ind