Amnesty Attempts To Water Down And Suppress Its Own Position On Yemen


16 June 2017 | | New Matilda

The international human rights giant appears to be wavering on human rights abuses in the Middle East, writes Michael Brull.

On May 21, New Matilda published a story on human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) urging Australia to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Since publication of the story, a media representative of Amnesty responded by urging New Matilda to take down the story from the internet, and edit it without publicly identifying the changed position.

Michelle Dunne Breen, External Affairs Adviser and Media Adviser for Amnesty, contacted myself and New Matilda owner and editor Chris Graham, submitting her edits to the original article which was published. This new version removed most of the statement that Amnesty provided to New Matilda, significantly weakened Amnesty’s stance on the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, removed a reservation I expressed about Amnesty’s original position, and adopted an ambivalent position on the blockade on Yemen.

When seeking to take down and then edit the story, Breen claimed that the original article – which reprinted Amnesty’s entire statement – “represents us inaccurately and needs to be taken down until amended.”

Whilst insisting that the article be taken down and edited, Breen categorically denied that the changes she requested constituted any change in Amnesty’s position.

“There’s no change in position. I don’t understand where that impression could be coming from.” Despite her position that Amnesty’s position had not changed, Breen also claimed that the original statement was inaccurate because it was “out of date”. Breen did not explain how an unchanged position could be “out of date”.

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