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Russian Judo, YouTube and cats at risk in Beijing

Hes a judo black belt and likes to be photographed doing manly things like shooting and fishing, but has outgoing Russian president Vladimir Putin been a force for good?


In a big BBC World Service opinion poll out today opinions are divided. Fifty-six per cent of people think Russias hardman has been bad for Russian democracy and human rights. At the same time, hes massively popular in Russia and, strangely enough, also highly thought of in places like Egypt (78% approval) and China (69%).

Even in Britain, after the shadowy Litvinenko killing and countless other diplomatic rows, 45% of people still appear to rate him positively.

Go figure. But take a cool look at the human rights situation in Russia in the past eight years and theres definitely a lot to be worried about. Amnestys got a new report out tomorrow on the shrinking space for freedom of speech in Russia. Check it out on the website after 11am tomorrow and make up your own mind.

Meanwhile, you cant keep YouTube out of the news for long (we certainly plug it a lot in this blog) and Pakistans move to ban the site is getting a lot of coverage. The ban seems to be about allegedly anti-Muslim film clips appearing on the site, but the tendency of countries to ban video-sharing sites if they dont agree with everything on them is growing - an alarming backlash to freedom of speech.

And finally, cats in China! Not content with driving street vendors, vagrants and unlicensed taxi drivers off the streets of Beijing in a pre-Olympics clean-up, the Chinese authorities are now rounding up cats. Apparently there may be 200,000 stray cats in Beijing, and animal welfare groups are saying theyre being crushed into tiny cages to be taken out of the capital and (sinisterly) dealt with.

At this point some human rights campaigners (not me) like to make remarks contrasting the fuss about animals with the real suffering of people. I think Ill just say: theyre part of the same thing and lets stick up for the cats and people of Beijing in Olympics year!

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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