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Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

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February 24, 2018

Global Voices
All of the Soviet Union's Academy Award Winning Films are Legally and Freely Available Online

The most famous version of the logo of Mosfilm, the most influential film studio in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) which produced three Academy Award winners.

Although the communist Soviet Union's (1922-1992) official ideology derided America's capitalist film industry, it submitted films to their Academy Award (also known as the ‘Oscars’) competition for Best Foreign Language Film between 1963 and 1991. Three films actually won the award.

In 2011, Mosfilm, the biggest production company in USSR, which continues to dominate the industry in independent Russia, opened ‘a treasure trove of Soviet films’ by uploading a collection of dozens of classics on YouTube for anyone to watch for free.

While the interface of the Mosfilm archive is in Russian only, most of these films have been published with English subtitles, and over the years subtitles in other languages such as Spanish, Turkish or Serbian has been added to some of them.

Among these classics are many of the 24 Soviet Oscar submissions, including quite a few of the nominees. Global Voices presents all three Soviet Academy Award winners for your viewing pleasure (especially recommended for a weekend viewing).

1968: War and Peace by Sergei Bondarchuk

One of the many scanned posters that advertised War and Peace at the time of its release in the USA, available on IMDB. Fair use.

The epic war drama War and Peace (Russian: Война и мир) was written and directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, chronicling the misadventures of five families during the French invasion of Russia, and its impact on the aristocracy. The film, released in four installments throughout 1966 and 1967, had a cast of leading Soviet drama actors of the time, including Bondarchuk as the main male protagonist.

All four installments of War and Peace posted on YouTube can be viewed in full-screen mode:

Warning: Watching this movie can't be considered a replacement for reading the Leo Tolstoy's classic 1869 novel War and Peace, which has been required reading for students in many countries. Alongside the history-based plot, this pivotal work of world literature also provides lengthy philosophical and psychological discussions through life dilemmas faced by memorable characters.

1976: Dersu Uzala by Akira Kurosawa

Dersu Uzala (Russian: Дерсу Узала, Japanese: デルス·ウザーラ) is a 1975 Soviet-Japanese co-production directed by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Besides the Oscar, it won numerous other international awards.

The film is based on the 1923 book by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, honoring the memory of his native guide, Dersu Uzala (1849–1908). While retelling the life story of the Nanai trapper and hunter, Arsenyev chronicled the exploration of the Sikhote-Alin region of the Russian Far East in the early 20th century, as well as the transformation of Siberia through colonization and economic exploitation.

Movie posters for Dersu Uzala in Russian and Japanise, via Mosfilm and Wikipedia. Fair use images.

On YouTube the film is available in two parts, with subtitles in English, Bulgarian, Spanish and Turkish:

1980: Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears by Vladimir Menshov

An USA poster for Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears. Source: Wikipedia (fair use).

The urban drama Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Russian: Москва слезам не верит) takes its viewers to more modern times, depicting the lives of three women and their families in 1958 and 1979. Written by Valentin Chernykh and directed by Vladimir Menshov, it made a star out of the leading actress Vera Alentova, who was named the best Soviet actress according to a poll by the illustrated magazine Soviet Screen in 1980.

According to the Russian version of Maxim magazine, the film contributed to a ‘pleasant moment’ in world history, during the Cold War détente:

В 1985 году, перед посещением СССР, американский президент Рональд Рейган посмотрел «Москва слезам не верит» восемь раз, чтобы проникнуться русским духом. Говорят, что впечатление от фильма подвигло Рейгана удалить фразу «Россия — империя зла» из своего лексикона.

In 1985, before visiting the USSR, the American president Ronald Reagan watched “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” in order to get an insight into the Russian soul. Rumor has it that this experience influenced Reagan to remove the phrase “evil empire” from his vocabulary.

This movie's soundtrack includes number of internationally popular songs, from the Mexican “Kiss me a lot” (Spanish: “Bésame mucho”) to Soviet Second World War hit “Let's take a smoke” (Russian: Давай закурим).


 

Bonus: The USSR's first submission lost the nomination, but gained enduring worldwide acclaim

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began the Academy Awards in 1956 but the USSR waited seven years before proposing its first Soviet candidate for nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Even though the Academy didn't accept it as nominee, the 1962 film Ivan's Childhood became a legend in and of itself, winning critical acclaim and making famous its director, the then-debutante Andrei Tarkovsky.

This war drama tells the story of the 12-year orphan boy Ivan Bondarev and his horrific experiences on the Eastern Front during World War II. Through the swamps and forests of Belarus, Ivan repeatedly joins the Soviet Army and partisans in the fight against the Nazis, in order to avenge the death of his family and the inmates of the Maly Trostenets extermination camp. It's based on the short story “Ivan” by Vladimir Bogomilov.

  • Ivan's Childhood (1962), with subtitles in Dutch, English, French, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish and Turkish.

Ivan's Childhood was sometimes released as My Name Is Ivan in the United States. It won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1962. and was praised by numerous intellectuals in the 1960s, such as Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, who said that his “discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle,” while French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre devoted an essay to the film.

Movie posters for Ivan's Childhood in Russian and English, via Wikipedia and Rotten Tomatoes. Fair use.

This tragic anti-war film was also widely popular and is well known across Central and Eastern Europe, one of the regions that suffered the worst atrocities during World War II. It had commercial success in cinemas after its release in the 1960s, and in the following decades enjoyed a second life through numerous television reruns.


Even though the themes and approaches of the four films presented above vary in both scale and tone, they continue to appeal both to critics and viewers. On Rotten Tomatoes, two of them — War and Peace and Ivan's Childhood — have 100% on the Tomatometer, while all four have high audience scores, from 87% to 94%. If you feel like binge-watching them, get ready to spend about seven hours on the first one, and over six hours for the other three.

by Filip Stojanovski at February 24, 2018 07:16 PM

These Sámi Women Are Trying to Keep Their Native Skolt Language Alive

Tiina Sanila-Aikio leads a workshop on Sámi languages at the Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos. Credit: Nicholas Magand for GEN

This story by Lucy Sherriff for GlobalPost originally appeared on PRI.org on February 16, 2018. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

Tiina Sanila-Aikio isn’t your everyday president. The 34-year-old is the head of the Sámi people in Finland, the only indigenous population recognized in the European Union. She is also the creator of the world’s first Skolt-language rock albums. Skolt is a Sámi language spoken by just 300 people.

Although the Sámi population numbers at least 75,000, their languages are dying out. The Sámi are made up of nine different tribes across Norway, Sweden, Russia and Finland and speak various dialects. The lack of Sámi language education means young Sámis are growing up not speaking their mother tongue.

“I’m very sad to say the number of people who speak a version of Sámi as their first language is going down, and fast,” Sanila-Aikio said. “At the same time, the Sámi population is growing.”

In the 1960s, 75 percent of Sámis spoke the language as their mother tongue, according to records at the Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos. Research from 2007 revealed only 24 percent of Sámis were native speakers, and some dialects have already disappeared. Out of the 11 dialects, nine are still spoken, and Ter Sámi is spoken by just two people.

Sanila-Aikio is a Skolt Sámi and grew up in the village of Sevettijärvi, where the Skolt culture and language are still very much alive. She was so passionate about reviving her language she became a teacher and taught at the Sámi Education Institute in Inari, a unique vocational upper secondary education school, which teaches in Finnish and Sámi and promotes Sámi culture throughout the area.

“I was very worried about the trend, and I wanted to do something about it,” she said. “We have the Sámi Language Act — which covers situations where Sámis have the right to use their language when dealing with authorities. First of all, the authorities should have staff who speak the Sámi languages, and secondly, they can have interpreters if they don’t. But in reality, this doesn’t happen.

“It is a big struggle.”

Not content with teaching Skolt Sámi, Sanila-Aikio wrote — and recorded — two rock albums in 2005 and 2007.

“Sámi people loved it. We sold every copy we released, which was 2,500. Having rock in their own language is one way to get young people interested in their roots and bring the language to life in the modern day.”

Speaking Skolt — and other Sámi languages such as Inari Sámi — is entwined in the Sámi way of life, which is under threat due to mining, illegal logging and lack of land protection.

“When a new road is built through our reindeers’ grazing land, or a forest is felled, it changes the way we do things,” Sanila-Aikio explained. “That area cannot be used for reindeer herding anymore.

“So, traditional knowledge and the way of using that area disappears. We can’t teach it to the next generation anymore, and that’s why the language is being forgotten — because our culture is changing.

“But the government does not put these things together, and that’s our most difficult work at the moment — to try and make the issue of losing our culture and language visible.”

Currently, Sámi children living outside Sámi-populated areas do not have the opportunity of learning the language. The curriculum is taught in Finnish, and although Sámis can learn at the university level, access is varied.

Sara Wesslin works as a broadcast journalist at the Finnish media organization, Yle, headquartered in Inari at the Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos, which also houses Sámi Parliament.

The Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos is home to the Sámi Parliament and Finnish radio station, Yle. Credit: Lucy Sherriff/PRI

The 28-year-old broadcasts across radio and television in Skolt Sámi, and is one of only two journalists in the world doing so — that she knows of. (The other is Wesslin's colleague at Yle, Erkki Gauriloff.)

“I feel I have a huge responsibility for making this language seen and heard,” Wesslin said. “I live in a rare area where the Skolt Sámi language is strong and alive, and we have to take care of that.”

Wesslin said it’s important for her to be able to speak and work in her grandmother’s mother tongue.

“I didn't learn Skolt as a mother tongue — Finnish is — and so I've had to work really hard to keep the language in my life. In my family, I am the only one who speaks Skolt with my grandmother, but it is very difficult because we have been speaking Finnish for 20 years. It takes [a] lot of energy from both of us.

“My job as a journalist is one of the few places where I can meet Skolt-Sámi-speaking people and use my language.”

Sara Wesslin broadcasting in Skolt Sámi from Finnish radio station Yle. Credit: Ville-Riiko Fofonoff

Wesslin shares Sanila-Aikio's concerns about the future of Skolt and says women are the backbone of keeping the language alive.

“Women have [a] huge role to keep the language in their family. Children normally spend more time around their mothers, especially in traditional reindeer-herding Sámi families, where the men are out all day.

“Adults and children are enthusiastic to learn the language, but we should make a situation where Skolt Sámi is becoming a normal language to use in everyday life.”

Media has a very important role to play in reviving the language, she added. “And little by little, there is more music and other popular culture being produced in Skolt Sámi.

“I think it motivates children to use their minority language.”

Sámi Parliament has set up an educational institute to teach adults and teenagers Sámi culture and offers a one-year intensive Sámi language course. The programs are financed by EU grants, but Sanila-Aikio says the government does not contribute — and that’s something the parliament is fighting.

Sanila-Aikio believes in leading by example. Her 8-year-old daughter, Elli-Då’mnn, is learning her mother tongue, Skolt Sámi, as well as Inari Sámi — the language spoken in her father’s family.

And as for another rock album, Sanila-Aikio's presidential duties don’t leave her much time to spend on music, but she’s not ruling anything out: “Maybe someday.”

Lucy Sherriff reported from Finland.

by Public Radio International at February 24, 2018 06:00 AM

Ben Adida
Solving the Gun Crisis: a modest proposal

I’m so impressed and inspired by the Parkland highschoolers fighting the NRA and urging common sense gun regulation. They’ve done so much more in 2 weeks than the rest of us combined in 2 decades. I will support them any way I can.

I’m worried about what happens next. The NRA isn’t going down without a fight. How do we get to a lasting solution that radically addresses our gun addiction while also finding a way for the NRA to win? I’m worried that if we don’t, they will simply come back harder and stronger, once gun regulation momentum wanes.

Here’s a modest proposal: what if we find a path to strict gun regulation, mandatory gun licensing, mandatory modern gun registry, and real liability around gun ownership modulated by mandatory gun ownership liability insurance. And what if we do that by giving gun manufacturers and the NRA that represents them a clear role and revenue opportunity in those regulations. Maybe the NRA can bless training programs and get a cut. Maybe licensing and registry can be managed by the NRA in some way. Maybe the gun manufacturers can run gun ownership insurance as an additional line of revenue.

There is an opportunity before us, thanks to the courage of these incredible kids, with the NRA on the ropes, to find a lasting path forward on gun regulation. It’ll be sustainable if we can involve the NRA, or it will be a transient victory if we naively expect the NRA to just wave the white flag. We have to remember that the NRA is really the gun manufacturers, that they care most about money.

It should be expensive to own a gun. Let’s make it so, and let’s give the NRA a cut.

by benadida at February 24, 2018 03:40 AM

February 23, 2018

Global Voices Advocacy
Photoshopped Image of Christ Reveals Limits of Spain's Right to Free Expression

Image for which the youth from Jaén, Spain has to pay a fine, for “offending religious sentiments.” Photo published by laicismo.org and used with permission.

Daniel Serrano was ordered to pay a fine of 480 Euros for superimposing a photoshopped image of his face over that of Christ and circulating the resulting collage on the internet.

Almost a year ago, the 24-year-old shared the image on his Instagram account with the caption “Christ Disrobed.” The image of Christ came from a sculpture belonging to a group called the Hermanidad de la Amargura (brotherhood of bitterness) who use the sculpture during the Holy Week procession in the city of Jaén, Spain.

According to the town's daily newspaper, the brotherhood ordered Serrano to remove the photo from his account. He ignored the request, saying that he didn't consider the image offensive. The brotherhood decided to report the matter, and a local court agreed to hear the case

Prosecutors charged that Serrano had shown “a disregard towards and a mockery of the brotherhood,” adding that the photo was created with the “intention of offending the religious sentiments of its members.” They asked that Serrano pay a fine of 2160 Euros, or spend 180 days in prison if he was unable to pay.

Confronted with the possibility of jail, Serrano made a deal with the prosecution to plead guilty in return for a 480 Euro fine.

Serrano, who has a temporary job with an olive processing company, calculates that the fine constituted 10 days’ worth of pay.

The response from the Web

The judge's decision caused a wave of indignation and solidarity with Serrano online. Supporters created a crowd-funding support page and, in less than an hour, people had raised enough money to pay the fine.

Widespread exasperation at the decision caused a “Streisand effect”, contrary to what the brotherhood had been trying to achieve. Far from hiding the image, the case has now caused it to appear all over the internet.

Twitter was filled with memes of images of Christ and “Christ Disrobed” with a variety of different faces:

@amargura_jaen You have 480 Euros and a little embarrassment.

The Streisand effect on the photoshopped face of Christ: the web is rebelling against the young Spaniard's fine over his image https://t.co/uOdn9tBCQB #KallaLaBoca #OpFreeSpeech pic.twitter.com/TugdI2JiNt

— M. (@Ma_Madrid) 8 de febrero de 2018

#CristoFace the image of the embittered Christ isn't so embittered anymore. Now his name is Yisus B Boy and he's got moves!

pic.twitter.com/U0QLPZD2x7

— Athman M. Charles (@AthmanMCharles) 10 de febrero de 2018

One Twitter user, Carlos Vidal Ojea, has even created a web page where anyone can easily photoshop their face onto the image in question.

Joaquín Urias, ex-magistrate of the Constitutional Court of Spain, also joined forces with internet users reproducing the photo, to make clear his position on the right to freedom of expression:

Well, punishing a guy for photoshopping his face onto an image of Christ seems barbaric to me. I stand beside you. A big hello to the prosecutor's office! pic.twitter.com/JB2sFUpizj

— Joaquín Urias (@jpurias) 7 de febrero de 2018

Everything under the microscope

This is just the latest example of the attacks on freedom of expression in Spain in recent years. Due to a series of legal reforms passed in 2015, Article 525 of the Spanish Penal Code now imposes a sentence of eight to twelve months for:

“…offending the religious sentiments of members of a religious group, by public speaking, or by writing or through any kind of documents which have derisive remarks, about their dogmas, beliefs, rituals or ceremonies, or harass, also publicly, those who believe or practice.”

Drag Sethlas en la Gala Drag Queen 2017. Foto de eldiario.es, con licencia CC BY-SA

The vagueness of the law means that measuring the severity of the offence is a completely subjective process that depends of the judge's interpretation of the matter, which could vary substantially.

In an opinion piece for ElDiario.es (the Spanish newspaper), criminal law professor Isabel Elbal explained that all of these supposed “crimes” were already punishable by the civil court, although they carried a lesser punishment.

Furthermore, while civil action can only be taken by people directly affected by the speech, the penal channel is open to any accuser. This combined with the previously mentioned lack of clarity in the law has lead to a wave of people and organisations representing extreme political or religious  groups bringing (mostly outlandish) complaints.

Such is the case of the lawsuit against Dani Mateo and Gran Wyoming, who were accused by the Asociación para la defensa del Valle de los Caídos – a monumental memorial constructed after the Spanish Civil War and home to the tomb of Spanish dictator Franco – of making fun of the enormous cross that sits at the top of the site. The case was later thrown out.

The Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers also has brought some high-profile cases. A year ago it brought to trial the case of the artist Drag Sethlas, for the show which won him the Gala Drag Queen award at the Carnival of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in 2017. The lawsuit was later thrown out by a judge.

Another case was brought against a group of people who carried a huge vagina through the streets of Seville, in what they called the procession of the “Blessed Rebellious Vagina,” a parody of the usual Holy Week parade featuring the Virgin Mary. They were not so lucky, and saw the case against them reopened after the Christian Lawyers fought an appeal against the dismissal of their case.

Cartel del Carnaval de A Coruña de 2017. Foto de eldiario.es con licencia CC BY-SA

One of the most bizarre cases of late came with a complaint filed by the president of the Widow's Association of the city Lugo, northwest Spain, against the City Counselor of Culture for the nearby city of La Coruña for using posters to advertise the city's carnival celebration, which depicted a puppet dressed up as the Pope. That case was also thrown out.

Although the majority of these cases did not result in criminal charges being brought, there are many others which ended with sanctions filed against the defendants. There is also the stress and expense by such cases, in which people are brought to court primarily for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, which is theoretically protected by the Spanish Constitution.

Joaquín Urías, professor of Constitutional Law, in his article ¡Menudo Cristo! ¿Qué hacemos con el delito de blasfemia? (That's Some Jesus! What do we do with the crime of Blasphemy?), believes that Spanish jurisprudence continues to be strongly linked to the principles and values of the Franco era:

La sobrevaloración del fenómeno religioso -especialmente católico- permite que todavía se utilice a menudo un parámetro religioso para decidir los límites de la libertad de expresión.

El derecho penal puede perseguir las ofensas contra quienes practican una religión. Pero no corresponde a los practicantes definir qué es lo ofensivo.

Over-valuing religious phenomena — especially when they're Catholic — means that religious parametres are still sometimes used to decide the limits of freedom of expression. Criminal law can be used to prosecute offenses against people who practice a religion. However, it is not their job to define what an offence is.

by Lourdes Sada at February 23, 2018 11:18 PM

Global Voices
Photoshopped Image of Christ Reveals Limits of Spain's Right to Free Expression

Image for which the youth from Jaén, Spain has to pay a fine, for “offending religious sentiments.” Photo published by laicismo.org and used with permission.

Daniel Serrano was ordered to pay a fine of 480 Euros for superimposing a photoshopped image of his face over that of Christ and circulating the resulting collage on the internet.

Almost a year ago, the 24-year-old shared the image on his Instagram account with the caption “Christ Disrobed.” The image of Christ came from a sculpture belonging to a group called the Hermanidad de la Amargura (brotherhood of bitterness) who use the sculpture during the Holy Week procession in the city of Jaén, Spain.

According to the town's daily newspaper, the brotherhood ordered Serrano to remove the photo from his account. He ignored the request, saying that he didn't consider the image offensive. The brotherhood decided to report the matter, and a local court agreed to hear the case

Prosecutors charged that Serrano had shown “a disregard towards and a mockery of the brotherhood,” adding that the photo was created with the “intention of offending the religious sentiments of its members.” They asked that Serrano pay a fine of 2160 Euros, or spend 180 days in prison if he was unable to pay.

Confronted with the possibility of jail, Serrano made a deal with the prosecution to plead guilty in return for a 480 Euro fine.

Serrano, who has a temporary job with an olive processing company, calculates that the fine constituted 10 days’ worth of pay.

The response from the Web

The judge's decision caused a wave of indignation and solidarity with Serrano online. Supporters created a crowd-funding support page and, in less than an hour, people had raised enough money to pay the fine.

Widespread exasperation at the decision caused a “Streisand effect”, contrary to what the brotherhood had been trying to achieve. Far from hiding the image, the case has now caused it to appear all over the internet.

Twitter was filled with memes of images of Christ and “Christ Disrobed” with a variety of different faces:

@amargura_jaen You have 480 Euros and a little embarrassment.

The Streisand effect on the photoshopped face of Christ: the web is rebelling against the young Spaniard's fine over his image https://t.co/uOdn9tBCQB #KallaLaBoca #OpFreeSpeech pic.twitter.com/TugdI2JiNt

— M. (@Ma_Madrid) 8 de febrero de 2018

#CristoFace the image of the embittered Christ isn't so embittered anymore. Now his name is Yisus B Boy and he's got moves!

pic.twitter.com/U0QLPZD2x7

— Athman M. Charles (@AthmanMCharles) 10 de febrero de 2018

One Twitter user, Carlos Vidal Ojea, has even created a web page where anyone can easily photoshop their face onto the image in question.

Joaquín Urias, ex-magistrate of the Constitutional Court of Spain, also joined forces with internet users reproducing the photo, to make clear his position on the right to freedom of expression:

Well, punishing a guy for photoshopping his face onto an image of Christ seems barbaric to me. I stand beside you. A big hello to the prosecutor's office! pic.twitter.com/JB2sFUpizj

— Joaquín Urias (@jpurias) 7 de febrero de 2018

Everything under the microscope

This is just the latest example of the attacks on freedom of expression in Spain in recent years. Due to a series of legal reforms passed in 2015, Article 525 of the Spanish Penal Code now imposes a sentence of eight to twelve months for:

“…offending the religious sentiments of members of a religious group, by public speaking, or by writing or through any kind of documents which have derisive remarks, about their dogmas, beliefs, rituals or ceremonies, or harass, also publicly, those who believe or practice.”

Drag Sethlas en la Gala Drag Queen 2017. Foto de eldiario.es, con licencia CC BY-SA

The vagueness of the law means that measuring the severity of the offence is a completely subjective process that depends of the judge's interpretation of the matter, which could vary substantially.

In an opinion piece for ElDiario.es (the Spanish newspaper), criminal law professor Isabel Elbal explained that all of these supposed “crimes” were already punishable by the civil court, although they carried a lesser punishment.

Furthermore, while civil action can only be taken by people directly affected by the speech, the penal channel is open to any accuser. This combined with the previously mentioned lack of clarity in the law has lead to a wave of people and organisations representing extreme political or religious  groups bringing (mostly outlandish) complaints.

Such is the case of the lawsuit against Dani Mateo and Gran Wyoming, who were accused by the Asociación para la defensa del Valle de los Caídos – a monumental memorial constructed after the Spanish Civil War and home to the tomb of Spanish dictator Franco – of making fun of the enormous cross that sits at the top of the site. The case was later thrown out.

The Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers also has brought some high-profile cases. A year ago it brought to trial the case of the artist Drag Sethlas, for the show which won him the Gala Drag Queen award at the Carnival of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in 2017. The lawsuit was later thrown out by a judge.

Another case was brought against a group of people who carried a huge vagina through the streets of Seville, in what they called the procession of the “Blessed Rebellious Vagina,” a parody of the usual Holy Week parade featuring the Virgin Mary. They were not so lucky, and saw the case against them reopened after the Christian Lawyers fought an appeal against the dismissal of their case.

Cartel del Carnaval de A Coruña de 2017. Foto de eldiario.es con licencia CC BY-SA

One of the most bizarre cases of late came with a complaint filed by the president of the Widow's Association of the city Lugo, northwest Spain, against the City Counselor of Culture for the nearby city of La Coruña for using posters to advertise the city's carnival celebration, which depicted a puppet dressed up as the Pope. That case was also thrown out.

Although the majority of these cases did not result in criminal charges being brought, there are many others which ended with sanctions filed against the defendants. There is also the stress and expense by such cases, in which people are brought to court primarily for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, which is theoretically protected by the Spanish Constitution.

Joaquín Urías, professor of Constitutional Law, in his article ¡Menudo Cristo! ¿Qué hacemos con el delito de blasfemia? (That's Some Jesus! What do we do with the crime of Blasphemy?), believes that Spanish jurisprudence continues to be strongly linked to the principles and values of the Franco era:

La sobrevaloración del fenómeno religioso -especialmente católico- permite que todavía se utilice a menudo un parámetro religioso para decidir los límites de la libertad de expresión.

El derecho penal puede perseguir las ofensas contra quienes practican una religión. Pero no corresponde a los practicantes definir qué es lo ofensivo.

Over-valuing religious phenomena — especially when they're Catholic — means that religious parametres are still sometimes used to decide the limits of freedom of expression. Criminal law can be used to prosecute offenses against people who practice a religion. However, it is not their job to define what an offence is.

by Anna Koumi at February 23, 2018 11:16 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Laughing in the Face of an Internet Shutdown In Bangladesh

Exam time has arrived in Bangladesh. Photo via pxhere (CC0).

Now is the season of school final exams in Bangladesh and the government is trying hard to cope with the issue of exam questions leaking online.

Leaking exam questions have become a regular phenomenon in public examinations like Junior School Certificate (JSC), Senior School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC), medical college and university admission tests, and state-owned bank recruitment exams over the last several years in Bangladesh.

Mostly using Facebook and WhatsApp, people sell exam questions ahead of the nationwide examinations. A few hours before the exam, the questions are often given away for free. The offenders in most of these cases have not been identified. These leaks have cast a shadow over the quality of exams and the process of assessing students.

In January, the Education Minister hinted that Facebook would be shut down during the exams to prevent these leaks.

On February 11, 2018, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission instructed all internet service providers in Bangladesh to shut off mobile internet and reduce broadband speeds to 25 kbps from 8:00am-10:30am on exam days throughout the remainder of February.

But on February 12, 2018 morning, within an hour from the start of the internet shutdown, the government backtracked and ordered ISPs to ensure uninterrupted internet service. It took some hours for the ISPs to implement the new order and things were normal again. The authorities have instead imposed a mobile phone ban near the exam halls.

Netizens criticized the move, using sarcasm and satire to express their dissatisfaction and protest the “rash and whimsical” decision.

Blogger Sabhanaz Rashid Diya tweeted:

Blogger and activist Imran H Sarkar thinks this seems like chopping your head off to cure the malady.

ইন্টারনেটের হাত-পা আছে, মাথা আছে। ইন্টারনেট দুর্নীতি করে। ইন্টারনেট প্রশ্নও ফাঁস করতে পারে! তাই বাংলাদেশে প্রশ্নফাঁস বন্ধ করতে ইন্টারনেট (প্রায়) বন্ধ রাখার সিদ্ধান্ত নেওয়া হয়েছে।
যারা এমন সিদ্ধান্ত নিতে পারেন তারা মাথা ব্যাথা হলে নিজেদের মাথাও কি কেটে ফেলবেন?

The internet has limbs and a head. The internet is corrupt. It can leak exam questions. So the internet was ordered shut down, as a measure to stop leaking exam questions. Those who can make such decisions – would they chop off their heads just because they had a headache?

Bangladesh is a riverine country. Each year the country faces floods which cause heavy damages. Stand-up comedian Naveed Mahbub wrote:

বর্ষাকালে বন্যা প্রতিরোধে ইন্টারনেট বন্ধ রাখা যেতে পারে…

We can shut down internet during rainy season to prevent flood…

Referencing recent news about defaulters on bank loans, Islam Raz wrote:

ঋণখেলাপী বন্ধের জন্য টাকামন্ত্রীর কাছ থেকে ব্যাংক বন্ধের নির্দেশনা আশা করছি।

I am expecting the Finance minister would instruct banks to close down in order to stop loan defaulters.

Hasnat Jamil opined that cancelling the exam would be the best solution:

প্রশ্ন ফাঁস ঠেকাতে ইন্টারনেট বন্ধ না করে,পরীক্ষা নেয়া বন্ধ করে দেয়া উচিৎ।
তাহলে আর প্রশ্ন ফাঁস নিয়ে দুশ্চিন্তা করতে হবেনা।

To stop the leaks, better to cancel the exam rather than shutting the internet down. Then you won't have to worry about leaks anymore.

Bad for the economy

This is not the first time Bangladeshis have faced an internet shutdown. In 2015 Bangladesh shut down the internet on security grounds and then blocked Facebook and a number of chat apps for 22 days. In addition to taking away peoples’ abilities to communicate and access important information online, these shutdowns had detrimental effects on the country's economy.

In the current scenario, many have spoken out about the fact that shutting down Internet — even for just two and a half hours for one day — has negative consequences for trade and commerce.

IT expert Fahim Masrur termed the decision as “foolish” and “suicidal” on his Facebook page:

ব্যবসা-বাণিজ্য আর অর্থনীতির উপর এটির বিরাট প্রতিক্রিয়া পড়তে বাধ্যI
কিভাবে?
১/ দেশে কয়েকশত আইটি আউটসোর্সিং প্রতিষ্ঠান কাজ করছে যাদের বিদেশে তাদের ক্লায়েন্টদের সাথে ২৪ ঘন্টা যোগাযোগ রাখতে হয়I এক ঘন্টা সময় বিচ্ছিন্ন থাকলেই ব্যবসা চলে যাবার সম্ভবনা! হাজার হাজার ফ্রিল্যান্সার দেশে কাজ করছে যাদের দরকার ২৪ ঘন্টা ইন্টারনেট কানেকশানI প্রতিদিন ২-৩ ঘন্টা ইন্টারনেট না থাকা মানে নিশ্চিত ভাবে ক্লায়েন্ট হারানো!
২/ দেশের সবচেয়ে বড় রপ্তানি খাত গার্মেন্ট শিল্প এখন ব্যাপকভাবে ইন্টারনেটের উপর নির্ভরশীল I প্রতি মুহূর্ত বায়ারদের সাথে যোগাযোগ রাখতে হয় I অনলাইনে বিডিং করতে হয়I সাপ্লায়ারদের কাছে প্রতিনিয়ত ইমেইল পাঠাতে হয়I সকাল বেলা এই যোগাযোগের ‘পিক টাইম'I ইন্টারনেট কিছু সময়ের জন্য না থাকা মানে ব্যবসার বিশাল ক্ষতি হওয়া I
৩/ বর্তমানে প্রতিদিন সকাল বেলা হাজার হাজার তরুণ Uber , pathao, Muv রাইড শেয়ারিং এপ ব্যবহার করে – কেউ রাইড নিতে, কেউ দিতে I সকাল বেলা (৮ টা থেকে ১০ টা) রাইড শেয়ারিং-এর পিক টাইম (দিনের অর্ধেক ইনকাম আসে এই সময় থেকে) I বিশাল ক্ষতির মুখে পড়বে এর সবাই I

This has a huge consequence for trade, commerce and the economy of the country:
How?
1) Several hundred IT outsourcing companies are working in this country who have to maintain 24 hour communication with the clients across the world. Even a one-hour shutdown can cost a company to lose their business to competitors. There are hundreds of thousands of freelancers working in the country through internet. If they are deprived of Internet 2-3 hours each day they will lose their earnings and even clients.
2) The largest export earning sector is the ready-made garments sector which is dependent on Internet for constant communication with the buyers. They have to bid online and keep a constant communication with the supply chain. If in the morning, during their peak time of business, communication is cut-off they will lose millions of dollars.
3) Many people in this country are increasing using ride sharing (Uber, Pathao, Muv) and other e-commerce apps. The ride-sharing peak hours are in the morning when people go to the office. They will lose big sums of earnings everyday.

A commenter on Masrur's post echoed his comments with a real life example:

আজ রাত ১০ টার সময় নেট চলে যাওয়াতে আমার ২৬৫ ডলার লস। এক ক্লায়েন্টের সাথে ২৬৫ ডলারের একটা কাজ নিয়ে কথা বলছিলাম। হুট করে নেট চলে গেছে। পরে নেট আসার পর দেখি ক্লায়েন্ট অন্য একজনকে হায়ার করে ফেলেছে

The [February 12] internet shutdown has caused me a loss of US $265. I was bidding for a work contract for that amount with a client when the Internet went out. I contacted the client when Internet resumed and found that he had hired another person in the meantime.

Where is the solution?

According to a Transparency International of Bangladesh report, as many as 63 sets of questions for different public exams were leaked from 2012 to 2015. These question papers are being snapped by mobile phone cameras anywhere from printing press to the exam hall and are being shared instantly on various social media tools including Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and regular email.

Some members of civil society have commented that methods like open book exams could be a different way to re-establish the quality and authority of state exams.

There have been comments that there are corrupt people within the Education Ministry and those who deal with the matter of question paper printing, safekeeping and distributing to the examination centres. Some have even called on the Education Minister to resign.

The police have on several occasions nabbed different offenders over the years. Earlier this month, the Education Ministry had announced a bounty of BDT 500,000 (US $6000) for information on question paper leak, to prevent such occurrence.

For now, with demand for exam questions increasing, the leaks continue. How the government will choose to combat the problem, short of an internet shutdown, remains to be seen.

by Rezwan at February 23, 2018 08:31 PM

Mexico's Electoral Authority Announces Collaboration with Facebook, Casting Doubt on its Credibility

Photo by Flickr user zeevveez. CC BY 2.0

In July 2018, Mexicans will elect a new president and all federal legislative offices will be renewed. At the local level, nine states will have elections to select a new governor. With more than 3400 public positions being contested, it is said to be the biggest election in the history of the country.

As the different offices and entities involved prepare for polling day, one key agency — the National Electoral Institute (INE) — has boasted about having a special ally in this election season: Facebook.

In the era of social networks and the rise of human interaction via the internet, it could make sense for the institution in charge of organising elections in Mexico to form an alliance with one of the internet's giants in content and advertising like Facebook. The Silicon Valley consultancy Pivotal Research estimates that Facebook and Google together took in half of global advertising revenues in 2017.

But according to the INE, the aim was something else, that has drawn even more attention. A joint agreement with the Silicon Valley company seeks to tackle the spread of what is known as  “fake news“.

In the context of the 2016 presidential elections in the US, Mexico's next-door neighbor, public opinion condemned the spread of so-called “fake news” through social networks like Facebook, something that many say benefited Donald Trump.

With the aim of avoiding similar results in Mexico, the INE announced its collaboration with Facebook as follows:

El INE y Facebook México firmaron un convenio con el fin de promover la participación ciudadana en las elecciones del próximo 1 de julio.

A través de esta colaboración, además, se busca contrarrestar noticias falsas.

The INE and Facebook Mexico signed an agreement with the aim of encouraging citizens to participate in the elections on 1 July 2018.

Through this collaboration, it also seeks to tackle fake news.

The announcement that was officially published by the INE was picked up by various media channels.

The website Plumas Atómicas elaborated on the statement from the INE, highlighting that:

…el INE informó a través de un comunicado que la participación de Facebook iniciará con la difusión de un material informativo dirigido a los usuarios de la red social que tiene la finalidad de facilitar la detección de fake news y así generar decisiones electorales mucho más informadas.

By means of a statement, the INE announced that Facebook's participation will begin with dissemination of informational materials to its users, in an effort to aid them in detecting fake news and thus producing much more informed electoral decisions.

The distribution of the reports left the public with two key questions: What would this collaboration entail? And how would it work in practice?

Of course, the document in which the agreement between the INE and Facebook was formalised could shed light on these questions. But when they were asked to share the document publicly, election organisers first denied this request for transparency: the INE said that the document signed with Facebook could not be disclosed due to a confidentiality clause in the document.

However, there are transparency laws in Mexico that order the release of any agreement or contract that government bodies sign with public or private entities. Because of this, after a few days and considerable social pressure, the INE published the document that it signed with Facebook Ireland Limited (a subsidiary of Facebook Inc.)

In fact, the document contains no reference to so-called “fake news”. It does include a series of ambiguous declarations in which the only entity bearing responsibility appears to be the INE.

With the text already published, some social media users helped to disclose the content of the document:

The secretive agreement between the INE and Facebook that El Universal published.

People following the issue have expressed surprise that the document in question (that has seven sections over a total of three pages) neither makes reference to the “fake news” issue, nor to the way in which it would supposedly tackle it, as had been announced by the INE.

Regarding this matter, Joel H. Santiago wrote an entire piece on the website La Silla Rota, in which he stressed:

El tema es que este convenio no dice nada de combatir las fake news, como afirmara Córdova Vianello [presidente del INE], y sí compromete con información proporcionada por el INE durante el proceso electoral y particularmente el día de las elecciones…

The issue is that this agreement does not say anything about tackling fake news, as Córdova Vianello [president of the INE] claimed, and yes, it commits to the INE providing information during the electoral process and the day of the elections in particular…

He then concluded with questions concerning the electoral body's performance:

¿Con pifias como esta van a llevar a cabo la organización y cuidado del proceso electoral 2018 en México?

With blunders like this are they going to proceed with the organisation and monitoring of the 2018 electoral process in Mexico?

What does the aforementioned document say?

The terms of cooperation between the INE and Facebook are described in the document as follows:

Durante el período de elecciones (del 30 de marzo al 1 de julio de 2018), Facebook tiene la intención (pero no la obligación) de hacer que algunos de sus productos de participación ciudadana estén disponibles en su plataforma para sus usuarios en México.

El día de las Elecciones, el Instituto proporcionará a Facebook información en tiempo real sobre los resultados de la votación.

During the election period (from 30 March to 1 July 2018), Facebook has the intention of (but not the obligation) making some of its civic participation products available for its users in Mexico.

On Election day, the Institute will provide real time information on Facebook regarding the voting results.

Some social media users thus began accusing the INE itself of creating “fake news” for having made false claims about the nature of its agreement with Facebook:

Well, it turns out that the INE ended by giving fake news, given that by disclosing its agreement with Facebook, we saw that it says NOTHING about tackling the #FakeNews that it had boasted about. They have lost credibility.

The user J. Cabrales Robles described the issue as a “failure” of the Mexican electoral authority:

#FakeNews an utter failure of the INE and the only thing it did was give our information, let's see whether their nonsense affects the elections.

For the moment, with the document signed between the INE and Facebook now public, it remains clear that the social media company has no formal obligation — nor has it shown any intention — to tackle the so-called “fake news” that so many people have been talking about over the past few days.

Let us remind ourselves that not far from Mexico, in Honduras, the Congress is debating a law that seeks to regulate the spread, also in connection with electoral matters, also in connection with non-transparent grounds.

by J. Tadeo at February 23, 2018 07:20 PM

Global Voices
Mexico's Electoral Authority Announces Collaboration with Facebook, Casting Doubt on its Credibility

Photo by Flickr user zeevveez. CC BY 2.0

In July 2018, Mexicans will elect a new president and all federal legislative offices will be renewed. At the local level, nine states will have elections to select a new governor. With more than 3400 public positions being contested, it is said to be the biggest election in the history of the country.

As the different offices and entities involved prepare for polling day, one key agency — the National Electoral Institute (INE) — has boasted about having a special ally in this election season: Facebook.

In the era of social networks and the rise of human interaction via the internet, it could make sense for the institution in charge of organising elections in Mexico to form an alliance with one of the internet's giants in content and advertising like Facebook. The Silicon Valley consultancy Pivotal Research estimates that Facebook and Google together took in half of global advertising revenues in 2017.

But according to the INE, the aim was something else, that has drawn even more attention. A joint agreement with the Silicon Valley company seeks to tackle the spread of what is known as  “fake news“.

In the context of the 2016 presidential elections in the US, Mexico's next-door neighbor, public opinion condemned the spread of so-called “fake news” through social networks like Facebook, something that many say benefited Donald Trump.

With the aim of avoiding similar results in Mexico, the INE announced its collaboration with Facebook as follows:

El INE y Facebook México firmaron un convenio con el fin de promover la participación ciudadana en las elecciones del próximo 1 de julio.

A través de esta colaboración, además, se busca contrarrestar noticias falsas.

The INE and Facebook Mexico signed an agreement with the aim of encouraging citizens to participate in the elections on 1 July 2018.

Through this collaboration, it also seeks to tackle fake news.

The announcement that was officially published by the INE was picked up by various media channels.

The website Plumas Atómicas elaborated on the statement from the INE, highlighting that:

…el INE informó a través de un comunicado que la participación de Facebook iniciará con la difusión de un material informativo dirigido a los usuarios de la red social que tiene la finalidad de facilitar la detección de fake news y así generar decisiones electorales mucho más informadas.

By means of a statement, the INE announced that Facebook's participation will begin with dissemination of informational materials to its users, in an effort to aid them in detecting fake news and thus producing much more informed electoral decisions.

The distribution of the reports left the public with two key questions: What would this collaboration entail? And how would it work in practice?

Of course, the document in which the agreement between the INE and Facebook was formalised could shed light on these questions. But when they were asked to share the document publicly, election organisers first denied this request for transparency: the INE said that the document signed with Facebook could not be disclosed due to a confidentiality clause in the document.

However, there are transparency laws in Mexico that order the release of any agreement or contract that government bodies sign with public or private entities. Because of this, after a few days and considerable social pressure, the INE published the document that it signed with Facebook Ireland Limited (a subsidiary of Facebook Inc.)

In fact, the document contains no reference to so-called “fake news”. It does include a series of ambiguous declarations in which the only entity bearing responsibility appears to be the INE.

With the text already published, some social media users helped to disclose the content of the document:

The secretive agreement between the INE and Facebook that El Universal published.

People following the issue have expressed surprise that the document in question (that has seven sections over a total of three pages) neither makes reference to the “fake news” issue, nor to the way in which it would supposedly tackle it, as had been announced by the INE.

Regarding this matter, Joel H. Santiago wrote an entire piece on the website La Silla Rota, in which he stressed:

El tema es que este convenio no dice nada de combatir las fake news, como afirmara Córdova Vianello [presidente del INE], y sí compromete con información proporcionada por el INE durante el proceso electoral y particularmente el día de las elecciones…

The issue is that this agreement does not say anything about tackling fake news, as Córdova Vianello [president of the INE] claimed, and yes, it commits to the INE providing information during the electoral process and the day of the elections in particular…

He then concluded with questions concerning the electoral body's performance:

¿Con pifias como esta van a llevar a cabo la organización y cuidado del proceso electoral 2018 en México?

With blunders like this are they going to proceed with the organisation and monitoring of the 2018 electoral process in Mexico?

What does the aforementioned document say?

The terms of cooperation between the INE and Facebook are described in the document as follows:

Durante el período de elecciones (del 30 de marzo al 1 de julio de 2018), Facebook tiene la intención (pero no la obligación) de hacer que algunos de sus productos de participación ciudadana estén disponibles en su plataforma para sus usuarios en México.

El día de las Elecciones, el Instituto proporcionará a Facebook información en tiempo real sobre los resultados de la votación.

During the election period (from 30 March to 1 July 2018), Facebook has the intention of (but not the obligation) making some of its civic participation products available for its users in Mexico.

On Election day, the Institute will provide real time information on Facebook regarding the voting results.

Some social media users thus began accusing the INE itself of creating “fake news” for having made false claims about the nature of its agreement with Facebook:

Well, it turns out that the INE ended by giving fake news, given that by disclosing its agreement with Facebook, we saw that it says NOTHING about tackling the #FakeNews that it had boasted about. They have lost credibility.

The user J. Cabrales Robles described the issue as a “failure” of the Mexican electoral authority:

#FakeNews an utter failure of the INE and the only thing it did was give our information, let's see whether their nonsense affects the elections.

For the moment, with the document signed between the INE and Facebook now public, it remains clear that the social media company has no formal obligation — nor has it shown any intention — to tackle the so-called “fake news” that so many people have been talking about over the past few days.

Let us remind ourselves that not far from Mexico, in Honduras, the Congress is debating a law that seeks to regulate the spread, also in connection with electoral matters, also in connection with non-transparent grounds.

by Laura Dunne at February 23, 2018 07:18 PM

Creative Commons
Creative Commons’ Global Network: How we’re Growing
people-around-table-ccPhoto by Sebastiaan Ter Burg, CC BY 2.0

Today we are publicly opening the doors to our renewed Creative Commons Global Network. It’s been a two-year process that was initiated, driven, and designed by CC’s international communities. We’re very proud of our work together, and we’re looking forward to inviting a broader community to join us in new ways, from international groups for collaboration on topics like open education and copyright reform, to our upcoming Summit, to governance and leadership.

The CC network was originally focused on legal support and translation of the Creative Commons licenses. The network of over 85 CC affiliates around the world was an enormous success that made Creative Commons a global initiative with enormous impact. We provided a legal infrastructure for the open web and helped Creative Commons to reach millions of new users and creators with free legal tools to be used in their own context and local languages.

Over time, the broader community grew and expanded into new spaces, including creators, activists, scholars, librarians, academics and a wide range of users. Community interests grew to include free culture, the public domain, open content, open education, copyright reform and other policies, open data, and more. In 2013, we launched the 4.0 version of the CC license suite, which eliminated the local country versions in favour of one international license. At that time, the only way to be part of the network was to be an official affiliate.

All of the momentum and activity created a tension between the formal network of affiliates and the broader expanding community who wanted to get involved, but had no structure or support for collaboration and collective action. We wanted to respond the needs of a vibrant and diverse community of contributors, and at the same time still provide the stewardship for the copyright licenses that are key for the open web. In 2015, Creative Commons approved our new organizational strategy, focused on building a vibrant, usable commons, powered by collaboration and gratitude, which includes strengthening ties with the global community and a promise to enhance our voice at a global scale.

In 2015 the existing network began drafting a new strategy. Creative Commons conducted open consultations and potential new participants and commissioned original research to understand how we could grow and be more inclusive. We worked together with affiliates from around the world to draft a new Global Network Strategy, which was finalized at the 2017 Global Summit in Toronto.

There’s no single recipe for success to have impact on a global scale. Our research showed that a strong CC network needs to make clear paths for engagement, create opportunities for new people to join and contribute, and offer opportunities to influence priorities and decisions. This new Strategy creates clear pathways in for new contributors, establishes a new way of working together, supports the work of contributors around the world, and helps us to collectively focus on priority areas.

Starting today, we are offering new ways of getting more involved with Creative Commons and its community.

  1. The Network Platforms. Platforms are the way we work together. They are working groups that will create and communicate strategic collaboration to have a worldwide impact. The platforms are open to anyone willing to contribute and develop usable, vibrant and collaborative global Commons.
  1. The Global Summit. The Global Summit is now an annual event. The Summit provides leaders, stakeholders, and the broader open web community an opportunity to drive the open movement forward, cross-pollinate ideas and expertise, and expand our impact. This year’s event will focus on empowering new contributors to get involved and have impact. You’re invited to participate and join us in Toronto this April.
  1. Network Membership. We have created a membership model for those interested in formally participating in the decision-making and governance of the network. Membership is not required for participation in CC projects, and it is open to anyone with a track record as an active contributor to the CC movement that supports the Network Charter. Members are organized nationally into chapters (e.g., CC New Zealand, CC El Salvador, CC Canada). Individuals can apply here.

During the upcoming weeks, teams will start to establish their Creative Commons Chapters and organize locally for community actions at local and national scale. By the middle of 2018, we will host the first meeting of the Global Network Council, made up of delegates from each chapter, the main body for international network governance.

The new Global Network is the product of our community, and we are excited to join with you in increased participation and enhancement of the Commons.

Questions? Ask on Slack, IRC, or ping us on social media.

The post Creative Commons’ Global Network: How we’re Growing appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Claudio Ruiz at February 23, 2018 06:50 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
One Country, Two Leaders and Four Censored TV Channels: Kenya's Political Crisis Takes a Toll on Human Rights

Encouragement on the streets of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya ahead of election. Photo by Pernille Baerendsten, used with permission.

Elections annulled. Media gagged. A citizen deported. These phrases are easy to find in today's headlines in Kenya.

The ceremonial “swearing-in” was meant to be a symbolic gesture by the main opposition party led by Raila Odinga. But it has triggered a series of events leading to a clampdown on media freedom and a threat to the right of citizenship in Kenya.

To understand what is happening in Kenya, one must begin with the contentious presidential elections of August 2017. After the results showed sitting president Uhuru Kenyatta winning by a slim margin, opposition candidate Raila Odinga challenged the results in court.

On 1 September, the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled the election of Uhuru Kenyatta, due to “irregularities and illegalities” in the system, making Kenya the first country in Africa to have a presidential vote annulled by a court ruling. The court subsequently called for a repeat election.

Some (but not all) Kenyans return to the polls

Raila Odinga did not participate in the re-run, and encouraged his supporters to do the same, arguing that systemic flaws that produced these irregularities had not been addressed, and that a free and fair election was therefore impossible. Repeat elections took place on 26 October and were marked by protests, multiple incidents of violence and destruction of property.

In the repeat election, Kenyatta garnered only 7.4 million votes from a voting population of 19.6 million. His win was upheld by the same Supreme Court.

Due to the dubious legitimacy of the repeat election, and the fact that Kenyatta did not earn the support of even half of eligible voters in Kenya, Odinga's National Super Alliance (NASA) party have since argued that the people of Kenya were denied their right to vote for him as their president.

This became the basis for symbolically swearing him in as the so-called “people’s president” , which was planned for 31 January of this year.

Odinga gets ‘sworn in’ and the media get shut down

Days before the oath ceremony that was set to take place in the country’s capital city Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta and other executive staff were reported to have summoned media managers and “threatened to shut their stations down and revoke their licenses” if they proceeded with the broadcast, which the government felt was a threat to national security.

All the major TV channels ignored this directive and went ahead with the live broadcast. What followed was the switching off of the transmission signals of four privately owned media outlets: NTV, KTN, Citizen TV, its sister station, Inooro TV.

Three journalists at NTV — Linus Kaikai, Larry Madowo and Ken Mijungu — told Reuters that security agency sources warned them they'd be arrested, and that plainclothes officers came to their office and hovered outside the entrance, threatening to arrest them if they tried to exit the building.

The Kenya Media Council condemned the network suspensions and muzzling of the press by the government, calling the situation “the greatest threat and assault on freedom of expression.”

On February 1, Kenya's High Court suspended the shutdown of the affected stations. The government defied the court order for a week, until it finally switched NTV and KTN News back on after seven days, and Citizen TV and Inooro TV after ten days, on 8 February.

‘Anything for them, going forward, will be fair game’

The clampdown on the TV stations’ transmission signals over an event that was largely viewed by Kenyans as symbolic (and not official), left many in shock.

The country is split down the middle on the issues in play. Some have voiced support for the move by the government, “so that it may be a lesson” to the opposition.

A cross-section of Kenyans did not see the shutdowns as an infringement on media freedom or their right to seek information, as many took the time to berate news organizations, arguing that they did not having the interests of Kenyans at heart:

Kenyan civil society, however, has condemned the government's actions as violating fundamental rights. The media shutdowns have been followed by intimidation and harassment of journalists, including the aforementioned NTV journalists, and staunch NASA supporters.

Kenyan lawyer deported

On 7 February, many woke up to the news of the arrest and deportation of Miguna Miguna, the barrister who oversaw the swearing-in of Odinga as Kenya’s “people’s president”. Miguna is a writer, solicitor, and firm supporter of NASA.

Miguna was deported to Canada on 7 February, in what many government authorities described as his “return home.” Miguna was born in Kenya, but also holds citizenship in Canada. He had run for Nairobi governor — and was cleared by the electoral body to do so — in the 2017 election, but he lost.

This recent turn of events has brought to the fore the question of citizenship. Many Kenyans are split on whether the government had a basis and legal right to deport a Kenyan citizen out of his country, though the constitution clearly protects the citizenship of any person born on Kenyan soil.

In a press statement released by AllAfrica.com, Miguna described the events that led to his deportation. The Ministry of Interior claims that he revoked his Kenyan citizenship, which he holds by birth, but Miguna said he had never done so.

Miguna subsequently filed suit against the government and on 15 February, Kenya's High Court ruled in his favor. Justice Kimaru said that Miguna's deportation “had no merit in law” and ordered authorities to relinquish his Kenyan passport within seven days.

Many Kenyans have expressed their anger at the latest government move in what is a clear violation of the human rights of a Kenyan citizen, whose only offense was to use his power as a barrister to legitimize Odinga's symbolic swearing-in.

The media clampdown, disregard for the Kenyan judicial system by the executive branch, and the illegal deportation of a Kenyan citizen despite a standing court order is going to have far-reaching implications for human rights in Kenya.

With the recent events, the illusion of an independent Kenyan media that is free from state interference has evaporated. The disregard for human rights continues to play out in the local and international media as Miguna Miguna continues to fight his extradition from Ontario, Canada.

by Njeri Wangari at February 23, 2018 06:18 PM

Alexander Macgillivray
Bio
Photo by Doc Searls, CC BY-SA

Alexander Macgillivray, also know as "amac," is curious about many things including law, policy, government, decision making, the Internet, algorithms, social justice, access to information, and the intersection of all of those.

He was United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the last two plus years of the Obama Administration. He was Twitter's General Counsel, and head of Corporate Development, Public Policy, Communications, and Trust & Safety. Before that he was Deputy General Counsel at Google and created the Product Counsel team. He has served on the board of the Campaign for the Female Education (CAMFED) USA, was one of the early Berkman Klein Center folks, was certified as a First Grade Teacher by the State of New Jersey, and studied Reasoning & Decision Making as an undergraduate.

These days he is doing a bunch of coding, writing, and short burst projects with organizations thinking about what they should be doing next. He is also proud to be a board member at Data & Society and advisor to the Mozilla Tech Policy Fellows.

For more about what he is proudest of during his last few jobs see:

by A M (noreply@blogger.com) at February 23, 2018 04:48 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
India's Investigation Agency ‘Defines’ Duties of a Journalist After Arresting Kashmiri Photojournalist Kamran Yousuf

Indian forces make a formation to stop the stones after protests erupted in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Image from Instagram by Ieshan Wani. Used with permission.

India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) — a counter-terrorism law enforcement agency — has outlined what Kashmiri journalists should report on in a court response that was issued after the arrest of 23-year-old Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf.

Yousuf worked as a freelance photojournalist for many local dailies including Greater Kashmir, the largest circulated daily in the valley, and MunsifTV, an English-language news channel. He was best known for his gutsy approach to covering the intensifying hostility between security forces and civilians in the Kashmir valley.

Despite campaigns from journalists and international human rights organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Yousuf has been in jail since September 2017. Indian officials accuse him of being part of an international terrorist group that plans to wage war against Indian security forces in the Kashmir valley. He was arrested in Kashmir's Pulwama district and flown into New Delhi.

In their statements in front of the court, officials claim that Yousuf is not a real journalist and go on to include a definition of the role of a journalist in their charge sheet:

Had he been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty of a journalist which is to cover the activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction. He had never covered any developmental activity of any Government Department/Agency, any inauguration of Hospital, School Building, Road, Bridge, statement of a political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by the state government or Govt of India.

Notably, NIA's website has no mention of Kamran Yousuf, even in the ‘Arrested Person in custody of NIA’ list.

For decades, Kashmiri journalists have faced interrogation, threats, and intimidation. Some Kashmiri activists who publicly condemned the security forces’ high-handedness and use of pellet guns have been silenced with threats. Even international journalists who attempt to report on Kashmir have faced deportation and have been banned from entering India.

Yousuf's charges

Yousuf was imprisoned in September 2017 but was formally charged on January 18, 2018 with criminal conspiracy, sedition and attempting to wage war against India.

In its charge sheet, the NIA also points out that Yousuf's failed to report on the Indian army's civic accomplishments. In their charge sheet, they accuse Yousuf of harbouring ‘intentions to only cover activities which are anti-national and earn money against such footages’.

In an attempt to discredit Yousuf as a journalist, the NIA also points to Yousuf's lack of official media training from any institute; however, his lawyer Warisha Farasat claimed Yousuf had fulfilled all the criterions listed to be a journalist.

Meanwhile, Yousuf's family is distraught by the numerous charges that have been leveled against their son including being a stone-pelter. This charge, which the family vehemently denies, carries a heavy weight in the region. Many people associate both stone pelting and the subsequent retaliation from police forces with the greater socio-political conflict affecting Kashmir.

Yousuf's family and friends refute the government's allegations and say he was an earnest freelance photojournalist who simply wanted to carve a niche through his work. Kashmiri journalists have protested against NIA's arrest and its opaque investigations, citing charges have been fabricated against Yousuf for his work covering anti-governmental protests and militant activities.

Yousuf's supporters speak out to demand justice

After Yousuf's arrest, former employer Greater Kashmir disowned Yousuf and even refused to call him a journalist — a move that many felt came as the result of government pressure. The local journalism community was quick to criticise the move and jump to Yousuf's defense. Most notably, co-worker and freelance journalist Junaid Bhat wrote on Facebook:

I'm Junaid Bhat from Sopore, North Kashmir and I was affiliated with the Kashmir's leading newspaper Greater Kashmir. I was attached as a contributor for the said organisation, now after GK disowned my colleague Kamran Yousuf, I have decided to quit the organisation. So hereby I'm informing everyone that I will no longer be part of Greater Kashmir newspaper from now.

Others asked why other journalism associations haven't done more to protest Yousef's arrest. Associated Press photojournalist Altaf Qadri wrote on Facebook:

I feel ashamed to be part of a fraternity which only protests or raise their voice when a particular set of journalists are targeted. Kamran was targeted because his photographs from the South Kashmir from the spots of violence rattled the authorities. Because it challenged their narrative. Charges of stone pelting can be leveled against anyone, but it doesn't mean that he is guilty. This seems to be another way to control media. I honestly fail to understand why is Kashmir Editor's Guild, which came into being to address exactly the same issues faced by journalists, has not called for a protest or at least issued a statement. How about Kashmir Press Photographers Association? Or have we already accepted the charges leveled against Kamran? Today it is Kamran, tomorrow it could be YOU.

Muzammil Jalil wrote on Facebook:

We need to stand up for Kamran and if nothing more, we can at least demand to know what is the evidence against him. Taking pictures, shooting videos, being at the spot are all legitimate journalistic activities. That is no crime.

Yousuf's uncle Irshad Ahmad was quoted by Scroll.in as saying:

If it was the local police, we would have known whom to approach and how to deal with this. But this is the NIA, he is not even in Kashmir. Where do we go?

We would sometimes tell him not to work hard and cover every event given the situation in the valley, but he wanted to keep working. It was his passion […] he deserved to be appreciated and encouraged, not arrested and booked under false charges.

The Asia program coordinator of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Steven Butler said:

India's National Investigative Agency is way out of its league and has no business defining what ‘a real journalist’ should cover. […] Kamran Yousuf's work taking photographs of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is a public service in the best spirit of journalism. He should be freed immediately.

Meanwhile, CPJ's Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said:

Indian authorities must stop trying to crush the independent press in the Jammu and Kashmir region. Authorities should immediately release Kamran Yousuf.

The Kashmir Editors’ Guild said:

The pathetic standards of journalism that NIA aims to thrust is not just childishly naive but also reflect a dangerous conspiracy to disempower the fourth estate. If [the] NIA does not understand the basics that separate PR [public relations] from journalism, it puts its own investigating capabilities into question.

by Vishal Manve at February 23, 2018 04:20 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/23/2018: Can Silicon Valley solve tech addiction?
The tech industry has a bit of a PR problem. From tech addiction to online bullying and foreign influence over elections, consumers are getting skeptical about tech’s impact on our lives. There’s even a push from within Silicon Valley to find solutions to these and other issues. Former employees of Google, Facebook and other tech firms have founded the Center for Humane Technology to address tech addiction, a problem they helped create. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with author and education researcher Audrey Watters about her recent blog post asking whether technologists should be trusted to solve technology’s negative externalities.

by Marketplace at February 23, 2018 11:30 AM

February 22, 2018

Global Voices
Netizen Report: Mexican NGOs Push for Independent Investigation of Malware Attacks

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl via Flickr, Web We Want ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

The Mexican government has failed to investigate allegations that government agencies used surveillance software to infect the smartphones of journalists and human rights advocates in the country, according to an official statement from groups affected by the software.

In June 2017, a group of experts revealed evidence of 76 incidents of journalists and human rights defenders being targeted with a surveillance software product called Pegasus, which is manufactured by NSO Group, an Israeli firm. Pegasus allows the attacker to access and monitor the victim’s mobile phone communications and activities. These incidents were documented by Article 19, the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab and Mexico City-based NGOs R3D and SocialTIC.

After the New York Times reported on the findings, President Enrique Peña Nieto asked the Attorney General’s office to respond to the allegations. The groups say that since June 2017, authorities have not sought documentation concerning the use of the software, nor have they investigated its technical deployments or interviewed any government employee who was trained to use the software.

They are now calling for an independent investigation of the findings, arguing that the Attorney General’s office is unable to do this, due to evidence that it was the agency that purchased the malware to begin with. And while the Mexican government has not yet to carry out a thorough investigation on its own, it has asked the US government to assist in the process — a request the US officials have rebuffed.

This is the latest update in a series of revelations and investigations into the use of surveillance software in Mexico that date back to 2013. Policymakers advocating for stronger public health policies and experts investigating the disappearances of 43 students in Ayotzinapa also have been among those targeted.

Bahraini human rights leader sentenced to five years in prison over tweets

Nabeel Rajab, the outspoken leader of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to five years in prison on February 21, over a series of tweets that prosecutors claimed were “insulting to national institutions” and “insulting to neighboring countries.” In the tweets, Rajab criticized Saudi Arabia’s position in Yemen’s civil war and also pointed to evidence of torture and ill treatment in Bahrain’s Jaw prison published by Human Rights Watch.

Malaysian cartoonist could face prison over PM clown painting

Malaysian cartoonist Fahmi Reza was prosecuted and found guilty of “uploading false communication” after he posted on Facebook a hand-painted cartoon of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wearing clown makeup. In a subsequent post about the case, he wrote:

“Painting the portrait of the PM with an evil clown make-up over his face was an at of protest against this corrupt government that uses the Sedition Act and other draconian laws to silence dissenting voices.”

He has been sentenced to one month in prison and a RM30,000 fine, as per Section 233 of the 1998 Multimedia and Communications Act. His lawyer intends to appeal the case.

Kashmiri digital photo journalist marks 150 days in detention

Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf has been behind bars for 150 days, after being arrested in September 2017. He was finally charged on January 18 with being associated with “funding of terror and anti-state activities in the Kashmir Valley.” His charge sheet also claims that he has not met the “moral duty of a journalist” for having neglected to cover any “social/developmental activity by the state government or Government of India.”

Yousuf rose to fame last year after his photos and videos of funeral processions and stone pelting battles went viral on social media, regularly receiving tens of thousands of views and shares. The Press Council of India has expressed concern about his detention. The Kashmir Editors Guild and the Committee to Protect Journalists have called for his release.

Macedonian citizen prosecuted for posting photos of on-duty police officers

Police in Macedonia pressed charges against a person who took photos of on-duty police officers during local elections and then posted them on Facebook. The photographer posted 30 photos, as part of an effort to demonstrate evidence of possible irregularities in the electoral process. The Basic Court of Gevgelija found the person guilty of “abuse of personal data” and issued a sentence of three months in prison. The person, who is unnamed, is appealing the decision.

Turkish journalists put behind bars, for life

Six Turkish journalists were issued lifetime prison sentences for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” on the same day Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel was released after spending a year behind bars without charges. Yucel was arrested on suspicion of “inciting the people to racial hatred and enmity” and “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization.” His release came shortly after the Turkish Prime Minister’s visit to Germany. There are currently 155 journalists serving jail time in Turkey.

Spanish man faces prison for misogynistic tweets

On February 16, a 22-year-old man in Spain was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by the country's Supreme Court for publishing tweets in 2015 and 2016 that “incited hate against women.” One of the tweets that authorities singled out read, “And 2015 will end with 56 women murdered, it's not a good record but was all that could be done, let's see if in 2016 we can double that figure, thanks.” The man had previously been sentenced to two years imprisonment for those tweets and for others that authorities said “glorified terrorism.” On review, the Supreme Court absolved the terrorism-related conviction, saying the tweets were “generic,” but increased the punishment for the anti-women messages.

Venezuela is collecting more citizens’ data — and storing it for longer than ever

The National Telecommunications Commission of Venezuela has expanded the (already long) list of personal data necessary to access telephone services in the country. It also has lengthened the period of time that operators should retain the data, from three months after a contract expires to five years.

The new rule makes Venezuela one of the countries with the longest data retention periods in Latin America, alongside Colombia. In addition to an identity document, signature, fingerprint, and complete name and address, users must now also disclose their email address, be photographed, and have their fingerprint taken with a biometric device. The commission said telephone operators should digitize the data collected, but did not specify how it should be protected, only that operators and the state's security apparatus should define the conditions for proper storage and treatment.

New Research

 

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

Afef Abrougui, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Marianne Diaz, L. Finch, Rohith Jyothish, Rezwan Islam, Inji Pennu, Karolle Rabarison, Elizabeth Rivera, Juke Carolina Rumuat and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

by Advox at February 22, 2018 11:19 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Mexican NGOs Push for Independent Investigation of Malware Attacks

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl via Flickr, Web We Want ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

The Mexican government has failed to investigate allegations that government agencies used surveillance software to infect the smartphones of journalists and human rights advocates in the country, according to an official statement from groups affected by the software.

In June 2017, a group of experts revealed evidence of 76 incidents of journalists and human rights defenders being targeted with a surveillance software product called Pegasus, which is manufactured by NSO Group, an Israeli firm. Pegasus allows the attacker to access and monitor the victim’s mobile phone communications and activities. These incidents were documented by Article 19, the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab and Mexico City-based NGOs R3D and SocialTIC.

After the New York Times reported on the findings, President Enrique Peña Nieto asked the Attorney General’s office to respond to the allegations. The groups say that since June 2017, authorities have not sought documentation concerning the use of the software, nor have they investigated its technical deployments or interviewed any government employee who was trained to use the software.

They are now calling for an independent investigation of the findings, arguing that the Attorney General’s office is unable to do this, due to evidence that it was the agency that purchased the malware to begin with. And while the Mexican government has not yet to carry out a thorough investigation on its own, it has asked the US government to assist in the process — a request the US officials have rebuffed.

This is the latest update in a series of revelations and investigations into the use of surveillance software in Mexico that date back to 2013. Policymakers advocating for stronger public health policies and experts investigating the disappearances of 43 students in Ayotzinapa also have been among those targeted.

Bahraini human rights leader sentenced to five years in prison over tweets

Nabeel Rajab, the outspoken leader of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to five years in prison on February 21, over a series of tweets that prosecutors claimed were “insulting to national institutions” and “insulting to neighboring countries.” In the tweets, Rajab criticized Saudi Arabia’s position in Yemen’s civil war and also pointed to evidence of torture and ill treatment in Bahrain’s Jaw prison published by Human Rights Watch.

Malaysian cartoonist could face prison over PM clown painting

Malaysian cartoonist Fahmi Reza was prosecuted and found guilty of “uploading false communication” after he posted on Facebook a hand-painted cartoon of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wearing clown makeup. In a subsequent post about the case, he wrote:

“Painting the portrait of the PM with an evil clown make-up over his face was an at of protest against this corrupt government that uses the Sedition Act and other draconian laws to silence dissenting voices.”

He has been sentenced to one month in prison and a RM30,000 fine, as per Section 233 of the 1998 Multimedia and Communications Act. His lawyer intends to appeal the case.

Kashmiri digital photo journalist marks 150 days in detention

Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf has been behind bars for 150 days, after being arrested in September 2017. He was finally charged on January 18 with being associated with “funding of terror and anti-state activities in the Kashmir Valley.” His charge sheet also claims that he has not met the “moral duty of a journalist” for having neglected to cover any “social/developmental activity by the state government or Government of India.”

Yousuf rose to fame last year after his photos and videos of funeral processions and stone pelting battles went viral on social media, regularly receiving tens of thousands of views and shares. The Press Council of India has expressed concern about his detention. The Kashmir Editors Guild and the Committee to Protect Journalists have called for his release.

Macedonian citizen prosecuted for posting photos of on-duty police officers

Police in Macedonia pressed charges against a person who took photos of on-duty police officers during local elections and then posted them on Facebook. The photographer posted 30 photos, as part of an effort to demonstrate evidence of possible irregularities in the electoral process. The Basic Court of Gevgelija found the person guilty of “abuse of personal data” and issued a sentence of three months in prison. The person, who is unnamed, is appealing the decision.

Turkish journalists put behind bars, for life

Six Turkish journalists were issued lifetime prison sentences for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” on the same day Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel was released after spending a year behind bars without charges. Yucel was arrested on suspicion of “inciting the people to racial hatred and enmity” and “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization.” His release came shortly after the Turkish Prime Minister’s visit to Germany. There are currently 155 journalists serving jail time in Turkey.

Spanish man faces prison for misogynistic tweets

On February 16, a 22-year-old man in Spain was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by the country's Supreme Court for publishing tweets in 2015 and 2016 that “incited hate against women.” One of the tweets that authorities singled out read, “And 2015 will end with 56 women murdered, it's not a good record but was all that could be done, let's see if in 2016 we can double that figure, thanks.” The man had previously been sentenced to two years imprisonment for those tweets and for others that authorities said “glorified terrorism.” On review, the Supreme Court absolved the terrorism-related conviction, saying the tweets were “generic,” but increased the punishment for the anti-women messages.

Venezuela is collecting more citizens’ data — and storing it for longer than ever

The National Telecommunications Commission of Venezuela has expanded the (already long) list of personal data necessary to access telephone services in the country. It also has lengthened the period of time that operators should retain the data, from three months after a contract expires to five years.

The new rule makes Venezuela one of the countries with the longest data retention periods in Latin America, alongside Colombia. In addition to an identity document, signature, fingerprint, and complete name and address, users must now also disclose their email address, be photographed, and have their fingerprint taken with a biometric device. The commission said telephone operators should digitize the data collected, but did not specify how it should be protected, only that operators and the state's security apparatus should define the conditions for proper storage and treatment.

New Research

 

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

Afef Abrougui, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Marianne Diaz, L. Finch, Rohith Jyothish, Rezwan Islam, Inji Pennu, Karolle Rabarison, Elizabeth Rivera, Juke Carolina Rumuat and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

by Netizen Report Team at February 22, 2018 11:16 PM

Global Voices
India's Investigation Agency ‘Defines’ Duties of a Journalist After Arresting Kashmiri Photojournalist Kamran Yousuf

Indian forces make a formation to stop the stones after protests erupted in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Image from Instagram by Ieshan Wani. Used with permission.

India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) — a counter-terrorism law enforcement agency — has outlined what Kashmiri journalists should report on in a court response that was issued after the arrest of 23-year-old Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf.

Yousuf worked as a freelance photojournalist for many local dailies including Greater Kashmir, the largest circulated daily in the valley, and MunsifTV, an English-language news channel. He was best known for his gutsy approach to covering the intensifying hostility between security forces and civilians in the Kashmir valley.

Despite campaigns from journalists and international human rights organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Yousuf has been in jail since September 2017. Indian officials accuse him of being part of an international terrorist group that plans to wage war against Indian security forces in the Kashmir valley. He was arrested in Kashmir's Pulwama district and flown into New Delhi.

In their statements in front of the court, officials claim that Yousuf is not a real journalist and go on to include a definition of the role of a journalist in their charge sheet:

Had he been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty of a journalist which is to cover the activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction. He had never covered any developmental activity of any Government Department/Agency, any inauguration of Hospital, School Building, Road, Bridge, statement of a political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by the state government or Govt of India.

Notably, NIA's website has no mention of Kamran Yousuf, even in the ‘Arrested Person in custody of NIA’ list.

For decades, Kashmiri journalists have faced interrogation, threats, and intimidation. Some Kashmiri activists who publicly condemned the security forces’ high-handedness and use of pellet guns have been silenced with threats. Even international journalists who attempt to report on Kashmir have faced deportation and have been banned from entering India.

Yousuf's charges

Yousuf was imprisoned in September 2017 but was formally charged on January 18, 2018 with criminal conspiracy, sedition and attempting to wage war against India.

In its charge sheet, the NIA also points out that Yousuf's failed to report on the Indian army's civic accomplishments. In their charge sheet, they accuse Yousuf of harbouring ‘intentions to only cover activities which are anti-national and earn money against such footages’.

In an attempt to discredit Yousuf as a journalist, the NIA also points to Yousuf's lack of official media training from any institute; however, his lawyer Warisha Farasat claimed Yousuf had fulfilled all the criterions listed to be a journalist.

Meanwhile, Yousuf's family is distraught by the numerous charges that have been leveled against their son including being a stone-pelter. This charge, which the family vehemently denies, carries a heavy weight in the region. Many people associate both stone pelting and the subsequent retaliation from police forces with the greater socio-political conflict affecting Kashmir.

Yousuf's family and friends refute the government's allegations and say he was an earnest freelance photojournalist who simply wanted to carve a niche through his work. Kashmiri journalists have protested against NIA's arrest and its opaque investigations, citing charges have been fabricated against Yousuf for his work covering anti-governmental protests and militant activities.

Yousuf's supporters speak out to demand justice

After Yousuf's arrest, former employer Greater Kashmir disowned Yousuf and even refused to call him a journalist — a move that many felt came as the result of government pressure. The local journalism community was quick to criticise the move and jump to Yousuf's defense. Most notably, co-worker and freelance journalist Junaid Bhat wrote on Facebook:

I'm Junaid Bhat from Sopore, North Kashmir and I was affiliated with the Kashmir's leading newspaper Greater Kashmir. I was attached as a contributor for the said organisation, now after GK disowned my colleague Kamran Yousuf, I have decided to quit the organisation. So hereby I'm informing everyone that I will no longer be part of Greater Kashmir newspaper from now.

Others asked why other journalism associations haven't done more to protest Yousef's arrest. Associated Press photojournalist Altaf Qadri wrote on Facebook:

I feel ashamed to be part of a fraternity which only protests or raise their voice when a particular set of journalists are targeted. Kamran was targeted because his photographs from the South Kashmir from the spots of violence rattled the authorities. Because it challenged their narrative. Charges of stone pelting can be leveled against anyone, but it doesn't mean that he is guilty. This seems to be another way to control media. I honestly fail to understand why is Kashmir Editor's Guild, which came into being to address exactly the same issues faced by journalists, has not called for a protest or at least issued a statement. How about Kashmir Press Photographers Association? Or have we already accepted the charges leveled against Kamran? Today it is Kamran, tomorrow it could be YOU.

Muzammil Jalil wrote on Facebook:

We need to stand up for Kamran and if nothing more, we can at least demand to know what is the evidence against him. Taking pictures, shooting videos, being at the spot are all legitimate journalistic activities. That is no crime.

Yousuf's uncle Irshad Ahmad was quoted by Scroll.in as saying:

If it was the local police, we would have known whom to approach and how to deal with this. But this is the NIA, he is not even in Kashmir. Where do we go?

We would sometimes tell him not to work hard and cover every event given the situation in the valley, but he wanted to keep working. It was his passion […] he deserved to be appreciated and encouraged, not arrested and booked under false charges.

The Asia program coordinator of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Steven Butler said:

India's National Investigative Agency is way out of its league and has no business defining what ‘a real journalist’ should cover. […] Kamran Yousuf's work taking photographs of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is a public service in the best spirit of journalism. He should be freed immediately.

Meanwhile, CPJ's Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said:

Indian authorities must stop trying to crush the independent press in the Jammu and Kashmir region. Authorities should immediately release Kamran Yousuf.

The Kashmir Editors’ Guild said:

The pathetic standards of journalism that NIA aims to thrust is not just childishly naive but also reflect a dangerous conspiracy to disempower the fourth estate. If [the] NIA does not understand the basics that separate PR [public relations] from journalism, it puts its own investigating capabilities into question.

by Vishal at February 22, 2018 02:26 PM

Australian MP George Christensen's Joke Gun Photo Denounced as Threat Against ‘Greenie Punks’
George Christensen posts gun threat to ‘greenie punks’

George Christensen posts gun threat to ‘greenie punks’ – Screenshot 7 News video

A conservative Australian Federal parliamentarian has caused a stir in the wake of the fatal shooting of 17 people — including 14 students — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. George Christensen’s original Facebook post defended gun owners and included a photo of him with a rifle.

He channeled Clint Eastwood’s character from the 1971 movie Dirty Harry in a comment on the post. A photo of him pointing a pistol had the caption, “You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky, greenie punks?” He changed it without apology to, “You gotta ask yourself, do you have a sense of humour, greenie punks?” before deleting it soon after following pressure from his own political party, The Nationals.

The Greens party referred the matter to State and Federal police. Queensland police have apparently dismissed the complaint while the Australian Federal Police are considering an investigation. Prominent lawyer and human rights advocate Julian Burnside spoke for many when he replied to Greens senator Nick McKimm’s tweet:

Others were just as scathing:

However, Christensen has supporters on social media who came to his defense. Daniel Edmonds responded in a post:

Thank you for standing up for the close to 2 million licensed gun owners of Australia. We are (by virtue of having passed the stringent tests to obtain a license), the most law abiding members of the community. It is patently absurd how much police time and resources are wasted policing literally the most law abiding members of the community.

A fellow member of parliament and the parliamentary friend of a shooting group, Ian Goodenough, defended Christensen but conceded that it was “an off-colour attempt at humour”.

That was too much for Marcellus Wallace:

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “very inappropriate”. The National party is part of his government coalition.

Firearms Owners United defended Christensen, preferring to attack the Greens, especially Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Is there a day that goes by without the Greens confecting outrage […]

The Greens taking the moral high ground about inciting violence. Ok then, Sarah.

No matter what your opinion on Christensen is, the act itself was harmless. Shooting a pistol in a controlled environment while making a movie reference as a gentle stab at his political rivals.

The same day Hanson-Young tweeted about a nasty and threatening email she received headed “Bullets’.

Cameron Blewett weighed the issues on his Linkedin feed:

Are we becoming too “sensitive”?

While there is no doubt that George Christensen's post was not appropriate, does it actually encourage cyberbullies?

If that is a “vile” post, the bar may be set too low. And as a consequence desensitises us to what actually is vile.

Peter O'Brien certainly thought so:

On the other hand, Tom in Oz was not amused. He shared a cartoon by the Sydney Morning Herald’s John Shakespeare that was clearly not meant as a joke:

by Kevin Rennie at February 22, 2018 11:51 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/22/2018: What Trump's budget proposal means for NASA
The Trump administration wants more privatization in space — specifically, the International Space Station. The administration’s latest budget proposal would see the ISS funded and run by private industry instead of the U.S. government. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with our Kimberly Adams to unpack the most important aspects of the president’s budget proposal.

by Marketplace at February 22, 2018 11:30 AM

Global Voices
Laughing in the Face of an Internet Shutdown In Bangladesh

Exam time has arrived in Bangladesh. Photo via pxhere (CC0).

Now is the season of school final exams in Bangladesh and the government is trying hard to cope with the issue of exam questions leaking online.

Leaking exam questions have become a regular phenomenon in public examinations like Junior School Certificate (JSC), Senior School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC), medical college and university admission tests, and state-owned bank recruitment exams over the last several years in Bangladesh.

Mostly using Facebook and WhatsApp, people sell exam questions ahead of the nationwide examinations. A few hours before the exam, the questions are often given away for free. The offenders in most of these cases have not been identified. These leaks have cast a shadow over the quality of exams and the process of assessing students.

In January, the Education Minister hinted that Facebook would be shut down during the exams to prevent these leaks.

On February 11, 2018, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission instructed all internet service providers in Bangladesh to shut off mobile internet and reduce broadband speeds to 25 kbps from 8:00am-10:30am on exam days throughout the remainder of February.

But on February 12, 2018 morning, within an hour from the start of the internet shutdown, the government backtracked and ordered ISPs to ensure uninterrupted internet service. It took some hours for the ISPs to implement the new order and things were normal again. The authorities have instead imposed a mobile phone ban near the exam halls.

Netizens criticized the move, using sarcasm and satire to express their dissatisfaction and protest the “rash and whimsical” decision.

Blogger Sabhanaz Rashid Diya tweeted:

Blogger and activist Imran H Sarkar thinks this seems like chopping your head off to cure the malady.

ইন্টারনেটের হাত-পা আছে, মাথা আছে। ইন্টারনেট দুর্নীতি করে। ইন্টারনেট প্রশ্নও ফাঁস করতে পারে! তাই বাংলাদেশে প্রশ্নফাঁস বন্ধ করতে ইন্টারনেট (প্রায়) বন্ধ রাখার সিদ্ধান্ত নেওয়া হয়েছে।
যারা এমন সিদ্ধান্ত নিতে পারেন তারা মাথা ব্যাথা হলে নিজেদের মাথাও কি কেটে ফেলবেন?

The internet has limbs and a head. The internet is corrupt. It can leak exam questions. So the internet was ordered shut down, as a measure to stop leaking exam questions. Those who can make such decisions – would they chop off their heads just because they had a headache?

Bangladesh is a riverine country. Each year the country faces floods which cause heavy damages. Stand-up comedian Naveed Mahbub wrote:

বর্ষাকালে বন্যা প্রতিরোধে ইন্টারনেট বন্ধ রাখা যেতে পারে…

We can shut down internet during rainy season to prevent flood…

Referencing recent news about defaulters on bank loans, Islam Raz wrote:

ঋণখেলাপী বন্ধের জন্য টাকামন্ত্রীর কাছ থেকে ব্যাংক বন্ধের নির্দেশনা আশা করছি।

I am expecting the Finance minister would instruct banks to close down in order to stop loan defaulters.

Hasnat Jamil opined that cancelling the exam would be the best solution:

প্রশ্ন ফাঁস ঠেকাতে ইন্টারনেট বন্ধ না করে,পরীক্ষা নেয়া বন্ধ করে দেয়া উচিৎ।
তাহলে আর প্রশ্ন ফাঁস নিয়ে দুশ্চিন্তা করতে হবেনা।

To stop the leaks, better to cancel the exam rather than shutting the internet down. Then you won't have to worry about leaks anymore.

Bad for the economy

This is not the first time Bangladeshis have faced an internet shutdown. In 2015 Bangladesh shut down the internet on security grounds and then blocked Facebook and a number of chat apps for 22 days. In addition to taking away peoples’ abilities to communicate and access important information online, these shutdowns had detrimental effects on the country's economy.

In the current scenario, many have spoken out about the fact that shutting down Internet — even for just two and a half hours for one day — has negative consequences for trade and commerce.

IT expert Fahim Masrur termed the decision as “foolish” and “suicidal” on his Facebook page:

ব্যবসা-বাণিজ্য আর অর্থনীতির উপর এটির বিরাট প্রতিক্রিয়া পড়তে বাধ্যI
কিভাবে?
১/ দেশে কয়েকশত আইটি আউটসোর্সিং প্রতিষ্ঠান কাজ করছে যাদের বিদেশে তাদের ক্লায়েন্টদের সাথে ২৪ ঘন্টা যোগাযোগ রাখতে হয়I এক ঘন্টা সময় বিচ্ছিন্ন থাকলেই ব্যবসা চলে যাবার সম্ভবনা! হাজার হাজার ফ্রিল্যান্সার দেশে কাজ করছে যাদের দরকার ২৪ ঘন্টা ইন্টারনেট কানেকশানI প্রতিদিন ২-৩ ঘন্টা ইন্টারনেট না থাকা মানে নিশ্চিত ভাবে ক্লায়েন্ট হারানো!
২/ দেশের সবচেয়ে বড় রপ্তানি খাত গার্মেন্ট শিল্প এখন ব্যাপকভাবে ইন্টারনেটের উপর নির্ভরশীল I প্রতি মুহূর্ত বায়ারদের সাথে যোগাযোগ রাখতে হয় I অনলাইনে বিডিং করতে হয়I সাপ্লায়ারদের কাছে প্রতিনিয়ত ইমেইল পাঠাতে হয়I সকাল বেলা এই যোগাযোগের ‘পিক টাইম'I ইন্টারনেট কিছু সময়ের জন্য না থাকা মানে ব্যবসার বিশাল ক্ষতি হওয়া I
৩/ বর্তমানে প্রতিদিন সকাল বেলা হাজার হাজার তরুণ Uber , pathao, Muv রাইড শেয়ারিং এপ ব্যবহার করে – কেউ রাইড নিতে, কেউ দিতে I সকাল বেলা (৮ টা থেকে ১০ টা) রাইড শেয়ারিং-এর পিক টাইম (দিনের অর্ধেক ইনকাম আসে এই সময় থেকে) I বিশাল ক্ষতির মুখে পড়বে এর সবাই I

This has a huge consequence for trade, commerce and the economy of the country:
How?
1) Several hundred IT outsourcing companies are working in this country who have to maintain 24 hour communication with the clients across the world. Even a one-hour shutdown can cost a company to lose their business to competitors. There are hundreds of thousands of freelancers working in the country through internet. If they are deprived of Internet 2-3 hours each day they will lose their earnings and even clients.
2) The largest export earning sector is the ready-made garments sector which is dependent on Internet for constant communication with the buyers. They have to bid online and keep a constant communication with the supply chain. If in the morning, during their peak time of business, communication is cut-off they will lose millions of dollars.
3) Many people in this country are increasing using ride sharing (Uber, Pathao, Muv) and other e-commerce apps. The ride-sharing peak hours are in the morning when people go to the office. They will lose big sums of earnings everyday.

A commenter on Masrur's post echoed his comments with a real life example:

আজ রাত ১০ টার সময় নেট চলে যাওয়াতে আমার ২৬৫ ডলার লস। এক ক্লায়েন্টের সাথে ২৬৫ ডলারের একটা কাজ নিয়ে কথা বলছিলাম। হুট করে নেট চলে গেছে। পরে নেট আসার পর দেখি ক্লায়েন্ট অন্য একজনকে হায়ার করে ফেলেছে

The [February 12] internet shutdown has caused me a loss of US $265. I was bidding for a work contract for that amount with a client when the Internet went out. I contacted the client when Internet resumed and found that he had hired another person in the meantime.

Where is the solution?

According to a Transparency International of Bangladesh report, as many as 63 sets of questions for different public exams were leaked from 2012 to 2015. These question papers are being snapped by mobile phone cameras anywhere from printing press to the exam hall and are being shared instantly on various social media tools including Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and regular email.

Some members of civil society have commented that methods like open book exams could be a different way to re-establish the quality and authority of state exams.

There have been comments that there are corrupt people within the Education Ministry and those who deal with the matter of question paper printing, safekeeping and distributing to the examination centres. Some have even called on the Education Minister to resign.

The police have on several occasions nabbed different offenders over the years. Earlier this month, the Education Ministry had announced a bounty of BDT 500,000 (US $6000) for information on question paper leak, to prevent such occurrence.

For now, with demand for exam questions increasing, the leaks continue. How the government will choose to combat the problem, short of an internet shutdown, remains to be seen.

by Rezwan at February 22, 2018 01:37 AM

February 21, 2018

Global Voices
Censorship in Serbia Hits a New Low After Newspaper ‘Edits’ an Obituary

The cover of the second edition of the book “Vučić i cenzura” (Vučić and Censorship) from the blog of the author, Srđan Škoro. The back page caricature is by Corax. Used with permission.

On February 21, a Serbian newspaper censored part of an obituary of a graphic artist, which noted that one of his last works was a book about censorship.

Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) strongly condemned the censorship of the in memoriam article in the daily Politika, about its recently deceased art director Darko Novaković (1949 – 2018).

Politika removed a segment of the obituary which noted that “one of the last books he designed was entitled ‘Vučić and Censorship,’ and Darko was brave enough to sign his name and surname under his work.”

The obituary, as well as the unmentionable book about the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, were written by Srđan Škoro, a friend of Novaković. In response to the censorship incident Srđan Škoro said:

„Nemam reči, zaista. Kad vlast ozakoni cenzuru, koja je zakonom zabarnjena, onda doživite da se cenzuriše i naslov jedne knjige iz oproštaja od kolege.“

I am lost for words, really. When a government legitimizes censorship, which is in fact forbidden by law, then one can experience censoring of a book title from an article with last farewell from a colleague.

Novaković's son published the full obituary on his website and posted the link and the photo of his father on Twitter.

In their reaction, the Independent Journalists’ Assocation said they were shocked, even though in recent years they have “almost gotten used to examples of quiet censorship and galloping self-censorship… Such political ‘editing’ of obituaries is unheard of even by our most senior members.”

A social media user who shared the link to the announcement compared the current situation in Serbia, under the Serbian Progressive Party, with repression that took place when it was ruled by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, led by Josip Broz Tito.

The Progressives had begun to censor even the obituaries. Such a thing has not happened even during Broz's regime.

NUNS condemns censorship of an in memoriam article in Politika.
EU & the rest of the free world: “So, what's new in Serbia?”
Serbia: “Censoring obituaries.”
EU: “?!”
Serbia: “You ain't seen nothing yet.”

by Filip Stojanovski at February 21, 2018 10:38 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Tunisian Security Forces Target Journalists Covering Anti-Austerity Protests

Tunisian riot police in the capital Tunis on 6 February 2013. Photo by Amine Ghrabi (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Tunisian government’s overzealous security response to recent anti-austerity protests has put press freedom in jeopardy.

Throughout January, protesters across the country took to the streets to demonstrate against tax increases that are raising the prices on a wide range of goods and services, including phone and internet services and imported agricultural products.

The increases are the result of the 2018 budget law which introduces a 1 percentage point increase in the value-added tax and increases customs taxes. The budget also imposes new taxes such as a 1 percent social security tax on employees and companies, and a fee for every night spent at a hotel to be paid by residents.

Although most of the protests have been peaceful, some have turned violent, with acts of looting and vandalism. One protester was killed on 8 January, when a police car allegedly hit and ran over him. The government claims he died of suffocation after inhaling tear gas. Hundreds of protesters, including activists who were distributing leaflets demanding economic reforms, were arrested.

In this climate of social tension, where the role of independent media is key to dispelling misinformation and communicating the legitimate demands of protesters, the Tunisian authorities are harassing journalists and drawing criticism from rights groups. Press freedom advocacy groups including the Tunisian Journalists’ Union (SNJT), Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and the North African Correspondents Club have condemned the rise in attacks on journalists by police.

In its monthly report for January 2018, the Tunisian journalists’ union documented 18 cases of violations committed against journalists in the country over the course of the month. The violations, which included assaults, detentions and equipment confiscation, were mostly attempts by security forces to control the free flow of information by hindering the work of the media. The report found that together, security officers and members of security unions were responsible for 11 of the 18 violations documented.

Journalists questioned and put under surveillance

The union and other rights groups documented several cases of police detaining and questioning journalists in relation to their coverage of the protests. Shortly after the start of the unrest, Tunisian police questioned two French journalists, Michel Picard and Mathieu Galtier. Picard, a freelance journalist, was briefly detained on 14 January while covering President Beji Caid Essebsi’s visit to a working class neighborhood in the capital Tunis. Police asked him if he was working with other reporters, photographers or cameramen.

Galtier, a reporter for the French daily newspaper Libération was questioned for an hour by police officers on 11 January who asked him about the names of his sources in Tebourba, a town 30 km from the capital where the unrest turned violent and led to the death of one protester.

On 7 January, police detained Nadim Bou Amoud, a reporter for Tunis Review, seized his camera and smartphone and deleted from his devices all content related to that day’s protests. Two other journalists, Borhen Yahyaoui from radio Mosaique FM and Ahmed Rezgui from radio Shems FM, had their phones briefly confiscated by a police officer while they were covering a protest in Kasserine.

In addition to detentions, questioning and threats, journalists are also complaining of illegal surveillance practices. The union received several complaints from journalists about “the return of police surveillance of their homes, places of work and their movements.” These allegations have not been denied by the authorities. In fact, during a 29 January hearing at the parliament’s security and defense commission, interior minister Lotfi Brahem admitted to the wiretapping of the phone of Galtier, the Libération reporter, because he was allegedly in contact with “vandals.” On Twitter, the journalist denied this, saying he only talked to people on the ground in Tebourba.

Journalists take action, government responds in double-discourse

These multiple attacks on press freedom prompted Tunisian journalists to take to the streets in a “day of anger” on 2 February to protest what the union describes as a “systemic policy targeting journalists to subjugate and silence them,” and to hinder them from “communicating information, exposing the truth, and documenting the government's violations against citizens’ rights to peaceful protest.”

The union’s chief, Neji Bghouri, also addressed an open letter to President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, and head of the parliament, calling on them to take concrete action to stop the escalating police violence against reporters, and to put an end to government policies that put at risk the democratic process. The syndicate also intends to complain to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression about the current situation and invite him to Tunisia to conduct an investigation.

In response, government officials reiterated commitments to press freedom and freedom of expression. Three days after the “day of anger,” President Essbesi received the union’s board members and renewed his commitment to the protection of freedom of information and journalists’ safety. But this rang hollow as Essbesi had described the press in Tunisia as being “too free” at a press conference several days prior.

In a meeting with the head of the union, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said that unhindered freedom of information is vitally important to the country’s democratic process, and that his government is committed to honouring its commitments to press freedom. The parliament’s security and defense commission jointly with the rights and freedoms commission will hear representatives of the journalists and security forces unions’ to collect their recommendations for a respectful work relation between police and the media.

Despite its reiterated commitments to press freedom, the Tunisian government's actions (and inaction) have helped to create the current situation. When the protests erupted, instead of addressing the root cause of public concern, a number of government officials chose to attack the media. President Essebsi has accused foreign media and journalists of “tarnishing the image of the country” in their coverage of the protests. The country’s foreign minister made a similar statement about foreign media’s “non-professional” coverage of the protests.  

In addition, the interior minister threatened to prosecute anyone who casts doubts [on social networks] on the security forces, and called for a legal framework to protect the security and armed forces from the ”physical threats they face,” but offered no resolution to the assaults and threats journalists are subjected to at the hands of security forces.

In fact, the interior ministry is pushing for a draft law “on the protection of the security forces” that would restrict press freedom, speech and assembly by criminalizing speech deemed “denigrating” towards the police.

Calls for jobs, social justice and freedoms were at the heart of the Tunisian uprising that toppled the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali more than seven years ago. While the country has achieved progress in terms of freedoms, in particular in the areas of free speech and press freedom, the economic situation remains so dire that nearly 1500 social protests were documented throughout the country in January 2018 alone.

A repressive security response that treats protesters as criminals and doubts the motivations behind their demands places journalists at a delicate situation where they are treated with suspicion and attacked and threatened as a result whenever they challenge the government’s narrative, shed light on security forces’ violations or give voice to those protesting.

by Afef Abrougui at February 21, 2018 10:18 PM

Global Voices
Tunisian Security Forces Target Journalists Covering Anti-Austerity Protests

Tunisian riot police in the capital Tunis on 6 February 2013. Photo by Amine Ghrabi (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Tunisian government’s overzealous security response to recent anti-austerity protests has put press freedom in jeopardy.

Throughout January, protesters across the country took to the streets to demonstrate against tax increases that are raising the prices on a wide range of goods and services, including phone and internet services and imported agricultural products.

The increases are the result of the 2018 budget law which introduces a 1 percentage point increase in the value-added tax and increases customs taxes. The budget also imposes new taxes such as a 1 percent social security tax on employees and companies, and a fee for every night spent at a hotel to be paid by residents.

Although most of the protests have been peaceful, some have turned violent, with acts of looting and vandalism. One protester was killed on 8 January, when a police car allegedly hit and ran over him. The government claims he died of suffocation after inhaling tear gas. Hundreds of protesters, including activists who were distributing leaflets demanding economic reforms, were arrested.

In this climate of social tension, where the role of independent media is key to dispelling misinformation and communicating the legitimate demands of protesters, the Tunisian authorities are harassing journalists and drawing criticism from rights groups. Press freedom advocacy groups including the Tunisian Journalists’ Union (SNJT), Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and the North African Correspondents Club have condemned the rise in attacks on journalists by police.

In its monthly report for January 2018, the Tunisian journalists’ union documented 18 cases of violations committed against journalists in the country over the course of the month. The violations, which included assaults, detentions and equipment confiscation, were mostly attempts by security forces to control the free flow of information by hindering the work of the media. The report found that together, security officers and members of security unions were responsible for 11 of the 18 violations documented.

Journalists questioned and put under surveillance

The union and other rights groups documented several cases of police detaining and questioning journalists in relation to their coverage of the protests. Shortly after the start of the unrest, Tunisian police questioned two French journalists, Michel Picard and Mathieu Galtier. Picard, a freelance journalist, was briefly detained on 14 January while covering President Beji Caid Essebsi’s visit to a working class neighborhood in the capital Tunis. Police asked him if he was working with other reporters, photographers or cameramen.

Galtier, a reporter for the French daily newspaper Libération was questioned for an hour by police officers on 11 January who asked him about the names of his sources in Tebourba, a town 30 km from the capital where the unrest turned violent and led to the death of one protester.

On 7 January, police detained Nadim Bou Amoud, a reporter for Tunis Review, seized his camera and smartphone and deleted from his devices all content related to that day’s protests. Two other journalists, Borhen Yahyaoui from radio Mosaique FM and Ahmed Rezgui from radio Shems FM, had their phones briefly confiscated by a police officer while they were covering a protest in Kasserine.

In addition to detentions, questioning and threats, journalists are also complaining of illegal surveillance practices. The union received several complaints from journalists about “the return of police surveillance of their homes, places of work and their movements.” These allegations have not been denied by the authorities. In fact, during a 29 January hearing at the parliament’s security and defense commission, interior minister Lotfi Brahem admitted to the wiretapping of the phone of Galtier, the Libération reporter, because he was allegedly in contact with “vandals.” On Twitter, the journalist denied this, saying he only talked to people on the ground in Tebourba.

Journalists take action, government responds in double-discourse

These multiple attacks on press freedom prompted Tunisian journalists to take to the streets in a “day of anger” on 2 February to protest what the union describes as a “systemic policy targeting journalists to subjugate and silence them,” and to hinder them from “communicating information, exposing the truth, and documenting the government's violations against citizens’ rights to peaceful protest.”

The union’s chief, Neji Bghouri, also addressed an open letter to President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, and head of the parliament, calling on them to take concrete action to stop the escalating police violence against reporters, and to put an end to government policies that put at risk the democratic process. The syndicate also intends to complain to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression about the current situation and invite him to Tunisia to conduct an investigation.

In response, government officials reiterated commitments to press freedom and freedom of expression. Three days after the “day of anger,” President Essbesi received the union’s board members and renewed his commitment to the protection of freedom of information and journalists’ safety. But this rang hollow as Essbesi had described the press in Tunisia as being “too free” at a press conference several days prior.

In a meeting with the head of the union, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said that unhindered freedom of information is vitally important to the country’s democratic process, and that his government is committed to honouring its commitments to press freedom. The parliament’s security and defense commission jointly with the rights and freedoms commission will hear representatives of the journalists and security forces unions’ to collect their recommendations for a respectful work relation between police and the media.

Despite its reiterated commitments to press freedom, the Tunisian government's actions (and inaction) have helped to create the current situation. When the protests erupted, instead of addressing the root cause of public concern, a number of government officials chose to attack the media. President Essebsi has accused foreign media and journalists of “tarnishing the image of the country” in their coverage of the protests. The country’s foreign minister made a similar statement about foreign media’s “non-professional” coverage of the protests.  

In addition, the interior minister threatened to prosecute anyone who casts doubts [on social networks] on the security forces, and called for a legal framework to protect the security and armed forces from the ”physical threats they face,” but offered no resolution to the assaults and threats journalists are subjected to at the hands of security forces.

In fact, the interior ministry is pushing for a draft law “on the protection of the security forces” that would restrict press freedom, speech and assembly by criminalizing speech deemed “denigrating” towards the police.

Calls for jobs, social justice and freedoms were at the heart of the Tunisian uprising that toppled the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali more than seven years ago. While the country has achieved progress in terms of freedoms, in particular in the areas of free speech and press freedom, the economic situation remains so dire that nearly 1500 social protests were documented throughout the country in January 2018 alone.

A repressive security response that treats protesters as criminals and doubts the motivations behind their demands places journalists at a delicate situation where they are treated with suspicion and attacked and threatened as a result whenever they challenge the government’s narrative, shed light on security forces’ violations or give voice to those protesting.

by Afef Abrougui at February 21, 2018 10:17 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/21/2018: Watching the Olympics in 4K is almost as hard as winning a gold medal
Watching the Olympics on your phone is great and all, but if you’ve spent a pretty penny on an ultra-high-definition TV, an iPhone probably won’t cut it. How, then, does one watch the winter games in glorious 4K? Well, it’s complicated. NBC is delivering 4K video of some events the day after they air, but that video is difficult to access even with the right TV and set-top box. Sam Machkovech wrote about this problem for Ars Technica. He spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about the Olympic 4K rigmarole.

by Marketplace at February 21, 2018 11:30 AM

Global Voices
Generations of Peasants Have Occupied Land in Paraguay's Neglected Countryside to Survive

Mariano Castro with pumpkin harvest. Photo by Melanio Pepangi. Used with permission.

Below is an abridged version of a story produced by Kurtural and republished on Global Voices with the authors’ permission. It is part of the series “The landless don’t go to the supermarket,” which will be re-edited for Global Voices.

As a younger man, Mariano Castro helped found the Paraguayan community of Yby Pytã. Today, he has a five-room house and a farm with chicken coops, pig pens, nine cows and a corn crib filled with six tons of corn he harvested by hand. He has dozens of fruit trees, a wood-burning cook stove, and a newly picked crop of giant orange pumpkins. He’s 55 years old, with calm, vulnerable eyes and a shy smile. With his wife, Élida Benítez, he has eight children and five grandchildren. He has lost one son to prison and another to murder.

But there’s one thing Mariano Castro lacks: a title to the land he’s cultivated for so many years.

One winter morning – a hot and sunny morning like so many others during Paraguay’s winters – Mariano Castro is out in the field, as he is so often before the sun rises. He was born in the city of Caacupé in 1962, one year before the formation of the Institute of Rural Welfare (IBR in its Spanish acronym) and the passage of Paraguay’s Agriculture Bill, two changes that have shaped the course of Castro’s life.

When he was 2 or 3 years old, Castro’s father, Enrique, left their home in Caacupé searching for land to farm to support his children. He started near Caaguazú, one of the areas of Paraguay most impacted by the struggle for land reform, an idea that would swamp the whole region in turmoil in the 1970s. In Paraguay, the process of land reform was coopted by then-dictator Alfredo Stroessner to illegally dole out enormous tracts of land to his supporters and friends— about 8 million hectares in all, an area the size of Panama. These improperly allocated lands, called “tierras malhabidas” (ill-gotten lands) in Paraguay, are often the subject of disputes between settlers forming new communities and the land’s putative owners. In his own search for land, Castro’s father would go farther east before finally settling permanently in Curuguaty, a community in the department of Canindeyú on the border with Brazil.

Then, decades later, Castro followed in his father’s footsteps: In the summer of 1996, when Castro was in his early 30s, he found his own land to occupy, located 150 miles from Paraguay’s capital, Asunción.

In 2013, that settlement, which today is called Yby Pytã I, and four other rural neighborhoods joined together to form part of the municipality of Yby Pytã.

Occupying territory has been the primary means for Paraguayan peasants to gain access to land. Three generations of the Mariano family obtained their property through occupation. Photo by Melanio Pepangi. Used with permission.

The farmland in Yby Pytã had owners, but Castro says that those lands were unproductive estates–large parcels in disuse–and subject to legal expropriation. Furthermore, for him land belongs to the people who use it; to use it, you must first occupy it.

Occupying territory has been the main way rural Paraguayans gain access to land. “There is no settlement or community in this country that did not begin as an occupation,” says Perla Álvarez, a member of the National Organization of Rural and Indigenous Women (Conamuri). Researcher Mirta Barreto, who has written several books about the problem of land distribution in Paraguay, agrees that most of the lands controlled by rural Paraguayans have been obtained through occupation.

How to form a community

Measure, hoe, cut, clear. Plant, cultivate, harvest. Care for livestock. Repeat. This is how land is occupied, how settlements are established, how towns are formed. Mariano Castro knows, because he spent a year and a half doing it. For 18 months, he walked 20 miles from his family’s home in Curuguaty to Yby Pyta in a caravan of young men depleted from the exhausting work of hoeing, cutting, clearing, and still more hoeing, cutting and clearing.

For Castro, land belongs to the person who works it, and to work the land, it must first be occupied. Photo by Melanio Pepangi. Used with permission.

It was a long and difficult journey for Castro. “My kids would ask why I wasn’t home, why I abandoned them. I’d spent two weeks at a time at the settlement. Without transportation, and it being hard to walk so far on foot, sometimes I’d be away from home for a long time,” he says.

But little by little the settlement was taking form: Each member of the group developed their own 25-acre parcels, as stipulated in Paraguay’s Agriculture Bill. Castro built a small house, with bamboo walls and roof of hand-hewn wooden boards.

A tradition disrupted

In 2012, Castro had no reason for concern when three of his sons, Néstor, Adalberto and Adolfo, decided to occupy new lands to farm and raise their families. They would follow in their father’s footsteps, just as Castro had followed in Enrique’s. With Castro’s permission, his children chose Marina Kue for their future settlement, on state-owned land located on the far side of Yby Pytã I.

But on the morning of June 15, 2012, Néstor, Adalberto, Adolfo and other members of the new settlement found themselves confronting more than 300 police officers who had entered Marina Kue to dislodge the settlers. By nightfall, six policemen and 11 peasants had been killed, Adolfo among them. Then, after a long and widely condemned trial in which only the deaths of the police were investigated, Néstor was condemned to 18 years in prison.

Children and grandchildren of Mariano Castro posed for a photo in Marina Kue on a Saturday afternoon after a meeting of the settlement’s new inhabitants. Photo by Melanio Pepangi, used with permission.

After the June 15 confrontation, which has come to be known as the Curuguaty Massacre, Castro abandoned his fields to focus entirely on fighting in Asunción for his sons Néstor and Adalberto’s freedom. He spent years protesting, speaking to reporters, helping with his sons’ legal defense. One by one, he sold each of his 29 cows to pay for their attorneys and medical expenses.

But today, Castro is back in his fields. Settlers have returned to Marina Kue, among them Castro’s sons Adalberto and Rodolfo. Once again, Castro wakes each morning at 4:30 to beat the sun, eats breakfast and heads to the field, to the land made fruitful by his hands, where he spends his days in long sessions of plowing, hoeing, and disking, the land he’s fought for more than 20 years to keep.

by Caleb O'Brien at February 21, 2018 11:00 AM

February 20, 2018

Global Voices Advocacy
Serbian Journalists Face Harassment for Investigating Spending by Defense Minister (And His ‘Aunt from Canada’)
Aleksandar Vulin

Caricature of Serbian Government Minister Aleksandar Vulin carrying a bag of money with an attached card “Love, Auntie ♥.” Photo by KRIK.RS, used with permission.

How many times must a hypothetical aunt of a government minister travel from Canada to Serbia in order to transfer 205,000 euros in cash?

Serbian law says that one can only enter the country with less than 10,000 euros in cash. Yet according to Serbian authorities, the answer to this seemingly simple mathematical problem is not  “at least 21 times”, but a very forceful nothing to see here!

Inquiring Serbian minds want to know, after years of controversy surrounding Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, his 2012 purchase of a spacious 205,000 euros apartment in Belgrade, and his claim that the money came from his wife's aunt in Canada. By law, public officials in Serbia must account for all funds they receive while in office.

In September 2017, the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) — an independent Serbian media outlet — revealed that Minister Vulin didn't produce evidence of the source of 205,000 euros (over 242,000 US dollars). He first claimed that he got the money by selling other real estate properties (worth only 38,000 euros), but then backtracked and said that the money came from his wife's aunt.

According to Serbian law, a maximum of 10,000 euros in cash can be brought into the country without being declared at customs; anything over that amount is a crime. So, hypothetically, Vulin's generous aunt had to make more than 21 round-trips between Canada and Serbia to transfer those 205,000 euros. Thus far, there is no evidence of any such trips being made.

The Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Serbia in fact confirmed that Vulin had not produced evidence of the source of the money, but the agency didn't disclose this information publicly until KRIK filed a request under Serbia's Freedom of Information Law. The Agency first denied the request, but then released it after the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance ordered it, acting upon KRIK's complaint.

Meanwhile, the Agency forwarded the results of its investigation to the Public Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime, filing a criminal complaint because public officials must account for all funds they receive while in office. After two years of deliberation, the Public Prosecutor's Office dropped the case in August 2017, claiming that the act allegedly committed by Vulin falls outside of its jurisdiction. Two other prosecutor's offices also reviewed the case and dropped it too.

A caricature of the ‘saintly’ alleged aunt of Serbian Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vulin, by KRIK.RS. Used with permission.

On January 29, 2018, KRIK published a new report showing that three different state authorities — the Basic Prosecutor's Office, the Higher Prosecutor's Office, and the Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime — had excused themselves from responsibility for investigating the case of the Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin.

First the Basic Prosecutors Office, then the Higher Prosecutors Office, and now the Prosecutors Office for Organized Crime conducted investigations without questioning either the minister or his aunt, who allegedly lent him a large sum of money to buy real estate. All three prosecutors concluded that Vulin didn't break the law when he filed an official report with inaccurate data declaring his property, which is a requirement of Serbia's transparency and accountability legislation. Instead, they rationalized it as “a possible mishap” or “imprecision” on the part of the minister.

Witch-hunt against journalists who are demanding accountability

From as far back as 2013, Aleksandar Vulin has served at several ministerial posts within the Serbian government. After the KRIK story came out, his party — the Movement of Socialists (part of a right-wing coalition led by the Serbian Progressive Party, a member of the European People's Party) — issued a communique intended to insult, defame and discredit journalists who had written about the accountability of public officials in the country.

In Serbia, such libelous articles do not beat around the bush; rather, they directly attack the dignity of the target. In this case, the target was KRIK editor Stevan Dojčinović. The Movement of Socialists published an announcement in September 2017 (widely shared by Serbian mainstream media) that portrayed as a sadomasochistic ‘junkie who hates Serbia’:

Čime se Dojčinović zaista bavi, osim što ponekad ima čudne sklonosti da visi po plafonima, probada bradavice iglama i samopovređuje se? Nije tajna da je Dojčinović plaćen iz inostranstva za svaki tekst kojim napada Vulina, a nije tajna ni da uzima narkotike. Ako hoće da nas demantuje, tražimo da izađe sa svim računima, a posebno da se podvrgne testu na droge. Odmah vam kažemo neće smeti. Narkomani obično neće. Ali, tako drogirani, rado svoje fantazije stave u tekstove…

What does Dojčinović actually do, except practice his curious habits of hanging from ceilings and piercing his nipples with needles to inflict bodily harm upon himself? It is not a secret that Dojčinović is paid from abroad for every text attacking Vulin, and it's not a secret that he uses narcotics. If he would like to issue a denial, we demand that he produces all his evidence first, and in particular, undergo a drug test. We can already tell you he won't dare do it. Junkies usually don't. And under the influence, they often put their fantasies into words…

The Movement of Socialists soon amended the announcement, which said that the journalist “immensely hates” everyone who, like Vulin, loves Serbia, and replaced it with another statement, more vulgar in tone, which repeated the allegations about drug abuse and concluded, “We sincerely hope that you cure yourself, but we know that that's impossible in your case.”

Dojčinović responded by filing libel lawsuit against the Movement of Socialists. The co-ruling political party denied they called him a junkie, saying they merely asked that such allegations be examined.

“We'll be happy if investigation proves that this young man hasn't used narcotics,” was their response.

Some media outlets which had published the original announcement subsequently removed their articles about it.

Alongside finding themselves as the target of defamation campaigns and threats, KRIK editors and reporters, along with other investigative journalists, have increasingly been subject to malicious libel lawsuits by politicians, draining their already limited resources. For instance, another government minister, Nenad Popović, filed four lawsuits against KRIK after it revealed that he was named in the leaked Paradise Papers.

‘Emotional reactions’ by politicians and citizens

When asked about the announcements made by her coalition partner, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic called them “an emotional reaction”, claiming that these “statements” are not those of Minister Vulin, but rather, announcements of a political party. She described the issue as a “clash” between a party and a media outlet, with no connection to the Government of Serbia. She did not acknowledge the direct connection between the party and Vulin, or the fact that the president of that party is a member of her government.

The prime minister added that she too had “an emotional reaction” to that media outlet, but she focused instead on producing statements that would be “tolerant and balanced”. Zora Drcelic, a journalist at Vreme, a weekly news magazine, commented that the prime minister has tried to put on an act, sending a message to citizens that they should not concern themselves with the “emotional reactions” of government officials who are challenged about their integrity in public office.

The term “emotional reaction” quickly become part of contemporary political jargon. Serbian citizens have been making the connection between this case and the overall decline of freedom of expression, including the closing down of local newspaper Novine Vranjske, which was edited by Vukašin Obradović:

Vukašin Obradović received threats that anything can happen to his daughter.
These were not pressures, as Brnabić would know, those were only emotional reactions.
#IStandWithVranjske

While most of the Serbian mainstream media have decided not to cover the affair of the alleged “aunt from Canada”, citizens using social networks support the efforts of investigative journalists, who are determined to keep following the story.

Netizens have been using the hashtag #TetkaIzKanade (#AuntFromCanada) to amplify the reach of new information, as well as to link the case with similar instances of suspected government corruption:

Some people say the authorities proved that Vulin's aunt exists. Further research would show that Vulin's aunt took the money from her aunt, who also has an aunt. At the end of the line stand Adam, Eve and God — so everything is investigated and proven, so what's not to understand??
#AuntFromCanada

A yellow rubber duck at a protest in Russia. Photo by Daggets via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Another tweet brought up various unresolved abuses of power in recent years, including illegal demolition in the Savamala district to make room for a government construction project, a cover-up in the arrest of a state secretary's drug-dealing brother, and the case of right-wing politician Miša Vacić, who was threatening war against Albanians and silencing critics with promises to mobilize their children. His stance was subject to public ridicule, thanks in part to his large physical stature, which makes him unfit to serve in the security forces:

Maybe they'll discover who was destroying buildings in Savamala, who smuggled heroin from Kosovo in a car owned by the Ministry of Labor, who is the #AuntFromCanada, how to reduce the size of your belly before you get mobilized..?

Some Serbians immediately connected the aunt affair to the recent public appearance of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who wore purple socks adorned with a pattern of yellow ducklings at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Since 2015, a giant yellow duck has become the symbol of the protest movement against government corruption in Serbia. Mocking conspiracy theories, some connected these two sets of ducks to draw a conclusion about the Canadian aunt as well:

Vulin should call his #AuntFromCanada so she would file a protest note to Canada in the name of Serbia…! This is such a Provocation..?! Canadian Prime Minister came to Davos to topple Vučić and destabilize Serbia..!

by Marko Angelov at February 20, 2018 10:29 PM

Global Voices
Serbian Journalists Face Harassment for Investigating Spending by Defense Minister (and His ‘Aunt From Canada’)
Aleksandar Vulin

Caricature of Serbian Government Minister Aleksandar Vulin carrying a bag of money with an attached card “Love, Auntie ♥.” Photo by KRIK.RS, used with permission.

How many times must a hypothetical aunt of a government minister travel from Canada to Serbia in order to transfer 205,000 euros in cash?

Serbian law says that one can only enter the country with less than 10,000 euros in cash. Yet according to Serbian authorities, the answer to this seemingly simple mathematical problem is not  “at least 21 times”, but a very forceful nothing to see here!

Inquiring Serbian minds want to know, after years of controversy surrounding Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, his 2012 purchase of a spacious 205,000 euros apartment in Belgrade, and his claim that the money came from his wife's aunt in Canada. By law, public officials in Serbia must account for all funds they receive while in office.

In September 2017, the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) — an independent Serbian media outlet — revealed that Minister Vulin didn't produce evidence of the source of 205,000 euros (over 242,000 US dollars). He first claimed that he got the money by selling other real estate properties (worth only 38,000 euros), but then backtracked and said that the money came from his wife's aunt.

According to Serbian law, a maximum of 10,000 euros in cash can be brought into the country without being declared at customs; anything over that amount is a crime. So, hypothetically, Vulin's generous aunt had to make more than 21 round-trips between Canada and Serbia to transfer those 205,000 euros. Thus far, there is no evidence of any such trips being made.

The Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Serbia in fact confirmed that Vulin had not produced evidence of the source of the money, but the agency didn't disclose this information publicly until KRIK filed a request under Serbia's Freedom of Information Law. The Agency first denied the request, but then released it after the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance ordered it, acting upon KRIK's complaint.

Meanwhile, the Agency forwarded the results of its investigation to the Public Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime, filing a criminal complaint because public officials must account for all funds they receive while in office. After two years of deliberation, the Public Prosecutor's Office dropped the case in August 2017, claiming that the act allegedly committed by Vulin falls outside of its jurisdiction. Two other prosecutor's offices also reviewed the case and dropped it too.

A caricature of the ‘saintly’ alleged aunt of Serbian Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vulin, by KRIK.RS. Used with permission.

On January 29, 2018, KRIK published a new report showing that three different state authorities — the Basic Prosecutor's Office, the Higher Prosecutor's Office, and the Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime — had excused themselves from responsibility for investigating the case of the Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin.

First the Basic Prosecutors Office, then the Higher Prosecutors Office, and now the Prosecutors Office for Organized Crime conducted investigations without questioning either the minister or his aunt, who allegedly lent him a large sum of money to buy real estate. All three prosecutors concluded that Vulin didn't break the law when he filed an official report with inaccurate data declaring his property, which is a requirement of Serbia's transparency and accountability legislation. Instead, they rationalized it as “a possible mishap” or “imprecision” on the part of the minister.

Witch-hunt against journalists who are demanding accountability

From as far back as 2013, Aleksandar Vulin has served at several ministerial posts within the Serbian government. After the KRIK story came out, his party — the Movement of Socialists (part of a right-wing coalition led by the Serbian Progressive Party, a member of the European People's Party) — issued a communique intended to insult, defame and discredit journalists who had written about the accountability of public officials in the country.

In Serbia, such libelous articles do not beat around the bush; rather, they directly attack the dignity of the target. In this case, the target was KRIK editor Stevan Dojčinović. The Movement of Socialists published an announcement in September 2017 (widely shared by Serbian mainstream media) that portrayed as a sadomasochistic ‘junkie who hates Serbia’:

Čime se Dojčinović zaista bavi, osim što ponekad ima čudne sklonosti da visi po plafonima, probada bradavice iglama i samopovređuje se? Nije tajna da je Dojčinović plaćen iz inostranstva za svaki tekst kojim napada Vulina, a nije tajna ni da uzima narkotike. Ako hoće da nas demantuje, tražimo da izađe sa svim računima, a posebno da se podvrgne testu na droge. Odmah vam kažemo neće smeti. Narkomani obično neće. Ali, tako drogirani, rado svoje fantazije stave u tekstove…

What does Dojčinović actually do, except practice his curious habits of hanging from ceilings and piercing his nipples with needles to inflict bodily harm upon himself? It is not a secret that Dojčinović is paid from abroad for every text attacking Vulin, and it's not a secret that he uses narcotics. If he would like to issue a denial, we demand that he produces all his evidence first, and in particular, undergo a drug test. We can already tell you he won't dare do it. Junkies usually don't. And under the influence, they often put their fantasies into words…

The Movement of Socialists soon amended the announcement, which said that the journalist “immensely hates” everyone who, like Vulin, loves Serbia, and replaced it with another statement, more vulgar in tone, which repeated the allegations about drug abuse and concluded, “We sincerely hope that you cure yourself, but we know that that's impossible in your case.”

Dojčinović responded by filing libel lawsuit against the Movement of Socialists. The co-ruling political party denied they called him a junkie, saying they merely asked that such allegations be examined.

“We'll be happy if investigation proves that this young man hasn't used narcotics,” was their response.

Some media outlets which had published the original announcement subsequently removed their articles about it.

Alongside finding themselves as the target of defamation campaigns and threats, KRIK editors and reporters, along with other investigative journalists, have increasingly been subject to malicious libel lawsuits by politicians, draining their already limited resources. For instance, another government minister, Nenad Popović, filed four lawsuits against KRIK after it revealed that he was named in the leaked Paradise Papers.

‘Emotional reactions’ by politicians and citizens

When asked about the announcements made by her coalition partner, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic called them “an emotional reaction”, claiming that these “statements” are not those of Minister Vulin, but rather, announcements of a political party. She described the issue as a “clash” between a party and a media outlet, with no connection to the Government of Serbia. She did not acknowledge the direct connection between the party and Vulin, or the fact that the president of that party is a member of her government.

The prime minister added that she too had “an emotional reaction” to that media outlet, but she focused instead on producing statements that would be “tolerant and balanced”. Zora Drcelic, a journalist at Vreme, a weekly news magazine, commented that the prime minister has tried to put on an act, sending a message to citizens that they should not concern themselves with the “emotional reactions” of government officials who are challenged about their integrity in public office.

The term “emotional reaction” quickly become part of contemporary political jargon. Serbian citizens have been making the connection between this case and the overall decline of freedom of expression, including the closing down of local newspaper Novine Vranjske, which was edited by Vukašin Obradović:

Vukašin Obradović received threats that anything can happen to his daughter.
These were not pressures, as Brnabić would know, those were only emotional reactions.
#IStandWithVranjske

While most of the Serbian mainstream media have decided not to cover the affair of the alleged “aunt from Canada”, citizens using social networks support the efforts of investigative journalists, who are determined to keep following the story.

Netizens have been using the hashtag #TetkaIzKanade (#AuntFromCanada) to amplify the reach of new information, as well as to link the case with similar instances of suspected government corruption:

Some people say the authorities proved that Vulin's aunt exists. Further research would show that Vulin's aunt took the money from her aunt, who also has an aunt. At the end of the line stand Adam, Eve and God — so everything is investigated and proven, so what's not to understand??
#AuntFromCanada

A yellow rubber duck at a protest in Russia. Photo by Daggets via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Another tweet brought up various unresolved abuses of power in recent years, including illegal demolition in the Savamala district to make room for a government construction project, a cover-up in the arrest of a state secretary's drug-dealing brother, and the case of right-wing politician Miša Vacić, who was threatening war against Albanians and silencing critics with promises to mobilize their children. His stance was subject to public ridicule, thanks in part to his physical shape, considered less than ideal for army service:

Maybe they'll discover who was destroying buildings in Savamala, who smuggled heroin from Kosovo in a car owned by the Ministry of Labor, who is the #AuntFromCanada, how to reduce the size of your belly before you get mobilized..?

Some Serbians immediately connected the aunt affair to the recent public appearance of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who wore purple socks adorned with a pattern of yellow ducklings at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Since 2015, a giant yellow duck has become the symbol of the protest movement against government corruption in Serbia. Mocking conspiracy theories, some connected these two sets of ducks to draw a conclusion about the Canadian aunt as well:

Vulin should call his #AuntFromCanada so she would file a protest note to Canada in the name of Serbia…! This is such a Provocation..?! Canadian Prime Minister came to Davos to topple Vučić and destabilize Serbia..!

by Marko Angelov at February 20, 2018 10:28 PM

Protests in Trinidad's Capital as Residents Face Off with Police

A screenshot from a Trinidad and Tobago Police Service YouTube video, showing aspects of a joint police-army patrol after protests in east Port of Spain, January 19, 2018.

On January 19, 2018, many social media users in Trinidad and Tobago woke up to a WhatsApp voice note that had gone viral, warning that certain districts of the country's capital city Port of Spain were blocked off due to street protests over the  fatal shooting by police of Akile “Christmas” James, a resident of the community of Laventille.

Laventille is a low-income urban area bordering the capital. It has been labelled as a “hotspot” and point of origin of some of the country's violent crime. One 2014 Vice News report made specific reference to the country's role in the drug trade and the resulting impact on gangs and illegal guns in the downtrodden community. It is a stereotype that the local media perpetuate and that is often parroted by the rest of society, though some netizens have recently been questioning the narrative.

Police, however, maintain that James was a murder suspect, allegedly in the recent killing of a prison officer. Residents say otherwise.

The situation has highlighted the distrust that community members have for the authorities, as well as the contempt in which much of the rest of the country holds the Laventille community.

The voice note which alerted citizens, sent by an unidentified woman who found herself “in the middle” of a protest, said that residents had blocked the roads and that “guys [were] running around threatening to shoot people”. Sirens can be heard in the background of the recording. Mainstream media journalists soon started tweeting images:

Meanwhile, netizens were recording the protests from their mobile phones. In one incident, a garbage truck dumped its contents — apparently by force — in the middle of an intersection:

In another video, a woman's voice is heard urging schoolchildren to get away from the heart of the protest. Soon afterward, people run towards the camera while loud noises (assumed to be gunshots) are heard in the background:

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service soon released a media statement saying that “police and army personnel went into action from 6:00 am today, in East Port of Spain, to quell disturbances among residents and remove debris that had been strewed across several streets, following a police involved shooting incident at around 3:45 am on Monday 19th February, 2018.” The release continued:

Members of the Inter-Agency Task Force attempted to execute a search warrant for firearms and ammunition on premises located at Calvary Hill, when they were fired upon by the occupant of the house. There was a return of gunfire and the suspect was struck. The assailant, identified as Akile “Christmas” James, was taken to the Port of Spain General Hospital where he was pronounced head at 4:20 am. A Glock 45 pistol and seven rounds of ammunition were recovered at the scene.

The media statement from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service about their search operation and the resulting riots in Port of Spain, shared widely via social media.

The Facebook page NewSauce shared the statement and, using the hashtag #extrajudicial, commented, “Police admit they killed ‘Christmas’ and contained the subsequent unrest.”

An extrajudicial killing is exactly what protestors are accusing the police of. One resident was recorded giving an interview to a local television station, in which he said, referring to James, “The person we are talking about is not a person that you would watch and say well, he's a ‘best’ child. Everybody knows he is a child of trouble [but] he had recently come out of prison and since he's come out of prison, you could ask anybody […] he's changed [..] he has a daughter and he's a changed individual.”

The man alleges that video exists of the police knocking at James’ door, which he opened, and then the police “put him to kneel down and execute the young man”. James was 25 years old.

The resident continued, “And what is annoying me, and annoying plenty of the residents in the community is that on the news […] they now said that he was killed in a shootout with the police. If he was killed in a shootout with the police, why they didn't leave the body there for the investigators to come […]?” Calling the situation “overbearing”, the man added, “The same youths who you want to kill out for no reason: now, I'm not saying some of them [are] innocent, I'm not saying they are saints, […] but the right thing is the right thing. What you want for your family, you have to want for somebody else[‘s] own.”

Towards the end of the video, another resident is heard off camera saying, “The prison officer…who dead on Frederick Street…they now saying on the news…” A woman interrupts, “Is ‘Christmas'? Oh God, how they could say that??”

There were also complaints of police threatening and abusing residents. Adding fire to the flame was Ian Alleyne, host of the controversial show “Crime Watch”, who did a Facebook Live broadcast from the community.

On the heels of the outcry, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) announced that it was aware of the video footage that was circulating and that it has begun an independent investigation into James’ shooting. The press release asked witnesses to come forward with information.

While police regained control of the streets, there was another surge of unrest later in the day, resulting in the shooting of another man from the area, some say by a stray bullet. Others are blaming the police.

The protest action caused chaos in downtown Port of Spain, with commuter gridlock, some parents taking their children out of nearby schools, and three health centres unable to open for business.

Some social media users were unmoved by the plight of the protestors. In a public Facebook post, Gerard Joseph commented:

Only in sweet T&T ….this could happen, and allowed to happen. I do hope when when the tables turn on you….dont say oppression…..you holding the working and travelling public to ransom…..on a Monday ?…I have no pity

Emily Alexander reverted to the common narrative that dismisses such protestors as “pests”:

Steupzz setta pest. Why don't they protest like this when innocent ppl are killed and robbed by these same criminals they're defending?

Steups. They are a set of pests. Why don't they protest like this when innocent people are killed and robbed by these same criminals they're defending?

Marsha Huggins echoed her sentiment:

So…. an alleged criminal is killed by police and East Port of Spain erupts into protest!…. But school children could get bun up [burned to death] in a car and people being robbed, raped and killed daily… no protest?… 😕🤔
Hmmm….

Perhaps the narrative — from any quarter — hasn't changed much after all.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at February 20, 2018 08:07 PM

Doc Searls
A Qualified Fail

Power of the People is a great grabber of a headline, at least for me. But it’s a pitch for a report that requires filling out the form here on the right:

You see a lot of these: invitations to put one’s digital ass on mailing list, just to get a report that should have been public in the first place, but isn’t so personal data can be harvested and sold or given away to God knows who.

And you do more than just “agree to join” a mailing list. You are now what marketers call a “qualified lead” for countless other parties you’re sure to be hearing from.

And how can you be sure? Read the privacy policy,. This one (for Viantinc.com) begins,

If you choose to submit content to any public area of our websites or services, your content will be considered “public” and will be accessible by anyone, including us, and will not be subject to the privacy protections set forth in this Privacy Policy unless otherwise required by law. We encourage you to exercise caution when making decisions about what information you disclose in such public areas.

Is the form above one of those “public areas”? Of course. What wouldn’t be? And are they are not discouraging caution by requiring you to fill out all the personal data fields marked with a *? You betcha. See here:

III. How we use and share your information

A. To deliver services

In order to facilitate our delivery of advertising, analytics and other services, we may use and/or share the information we collect, including interest-based segments and user interest profiles containing demographic information, location information, gender, age, interest information and information about your computer, device, or group of devices, including your IP address, with our affiliates and third parties, such as our service providers, data processors, business partners and other third parties.

B. With third party clients and partners

Our online advertising services are used by advertisers, websites, applications and other companies providing online or internet connected advertising services. We may share information, including the information described in section III.A. above, with our clients and partners to enable them to deliver or facilitate the delivery of online advertising. We strive to ensure that these parties act in accordance with applicable law and industry standards, but we do not have control over these third parties. When you opt-out of our services, we stop sharing your interest-based data with these third parties. Click here for more information on opting out.

No need to bother opting out, by the way, because there’s this loophole too:

D. To complete a merger or sale of assets

If we sell all or part of our business or make a sale or transfer of our assets or are otherwise involved in a merger or transfer of all or a material part of our business, or participate in any other similar business combination (including, without limitation, in connection with any bankruptcy or similar proceeding), we may transfer all or part of our data to the party or parties involved in the transaction as part of that transaction. You acknowledge that such transfers may occur, and that we and any purchaser of our business or assets may continue to collect, use and disclose your information in compliance with this Privacy Policy.

Okay, let’s be fair: this is boilerplate. Every marketing company—hell, every company period—puts jive like this in their privacy policies.

And Viant isn’t one of marketing’s bad guys. Or at least that’s not how they see themselves. They do mean well, kinda, if you forget they see no alternative to tracking people.

If you want to see what’s in that report without leaking your ID info to the world, the short cut is New survey by people-based marketer Viant promotes marketing to identified users in @Martech_Today.

What you’ll see there is a company trying to be good to users in a world where those users have no more power than marketers give them. And giving marketers that ability is what Viant does.

Curious… will Viant’s business persist after the GDPR trains heavy ordnance on it?

See, the GDPR  forbids gathering personal data about an EU citizen without that person’s clear permission—no matter where that citizen goes in the digital world, meaning to any site or service anywhere. It arrives in full force, with fines of up to 4% of global revenues in the prior fiscal year, on 25 May of this year: about three months from now.

In case you’ve missed it, I’m not idle here.

To help give individuals fresh GDPR-fortified leverage, and to save the asses of companies like Viant (which probably has lawyers working overtime on GDPR compliance), I’m working with Customer Commons (on the board of which I serve) on terms individuals can proffer and companies can agree to, giving them a form of protection, and agreeable companies a path toward GDPR compliance. And companies should like to agree, because those terms will align everyone’s interests from the start.

I’m also working with Linux Journal (where I’ve recently been elevated to editor-in-chief) to make it one of the first publishers to agree to friendly terms its readers proffer. That’s why I posted Every User a Neo there. Other metaphors: turning everyone on the Net into an Archimedes, with levers to move the world, and turning the whole marketplace in to a Marvel-like universe where all of us are enhanced.

If you want to help with any of that, talk to me.

 

by Doc Searls at February 20, 2018 05:21 PM

Global Voices
What Were Global Voices’ Readers up to Last Week?

“Reader! Past, present, future.” Photo by Flickr user Caffeinatrix. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

At Global Voices, our community researches, writes, edits, and translates stories with a mission to support human rights and build bridges of understanding across countries, cultures, and languages.

We don't publish just to grab clicks or follow a news trend. We do, however, like to keep track of the ways in which our hard work has impact around the world.

To that end, one useful metric is how readers respond to our stories and translations. So let's take a look at who our readers were and what caught their attention during the week of February 12-18, 2018.

Where in the world are Global Voices’ readers?

Last week, our stories and translations attracted readers from 209 countries! The top 20 countries represented across all of Global Voices’ sites were:

  1. United States
  2. Japan
  3. France
  4. Brazil
  5. Mexico
  6. Canada
  7. Spain
  8. Trinidad & Tobago
  9. Colombia
  10. United Kingdom
  11. Italy
  12. Russia
  13. Germany
  14. India
  15. Philippines
  16. Bangladesh
  17. Argentina
  18. Indonesia
  19. Peru
  20. Taiwan

But that's only a small slice of the diversity of our readership. Let's use the True Random Number Generator from Random.org and take a look at a few other countries on the list:

139. Somalia
153. Maldives
87. Antigua & Barbuda
68. Honduras
125. Bahrain

Global Voices in English

The English-language site is where the majority of original content is first published at Global Voices. The top five most-read stories of last week were:

  1. Trinidad & Tobago Finally Gets Its ‘Steups’ Emoji
  2. An Introduction to #MeToo in Japan
  3. How Apple is Paving the Way to a ‘Cloud Dictatorship’ in China 
  4. The Pollution in Iran's Ahwaz Region Turns Deadly
  5. As the World Celebrates Bob Marley Day, Reggae is Changing and So Are Its Fans

Global Voices Lingua

Lingua is a project that translates Global Voices stories into languages other than English. There are about 30 active Lingua sites. Below is last week's most-read story or translation on each active language site.

Arabic

Aymara

Bangla

Chinese (simplified)

Chinese (traditional)

Czech

Dutch

Esperanto

Farsi

French

German

Greek

Hindi

Hungarian

Indonesian

Italian

Japanese

Korean

Kurdish

Macedonian

Malagasy

Nepali

Polish

Portuguese

Romanian

Russian

Spanish

Swahili

Turkish

Urdu

by L. Finch at February 20, 2018 03:41 PM

#MehfoozBachpan: Pakistani Activists Demand Policy to Safeguard Children from Sexual Abuse in 2018 Elections

A child holds the campaign poster at a #MehfoozBachpan (Protected Childhood) seminar. Photo used with permission.

On January 9, 2018, a seven-year-old girl named Zainab was found dead on a heap of garbage in Kasur, Pakistan. The minor was strangled to death after being raped. This incident shone a spotlight on child sexual abuse in Pakistan. Activists led protests and demonstrations demanding quick action against the person(s) responsible.

Subsequently, the police arrested the alleged perpetrator, Imran Ali, on January 23, 2018. On February 17, after an expedited trial, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court has handed down a death sentence to Ali for the rape and murder of Zainab.

Despite the fact that the alleged culprit was arrested and tried, people from all sections of society raised concerns, demanding the establishment and implementation of tougher laws against child sexual violence.

Bushra Iqbal Hussain, a journalist with the Waziristan Times, along with fellow activists, launched an online and offline campaign titled #MehfoozBachpan (Protected Childhood in Urdu language) which calls for legislation for safeguarding children. The campaign also encourages concerned citizens to vote only for political parties in the upcoming general elections in Pakistan that have a policy for child sexual abuse.

Hussain, also a television and radio presenter, and social activist working in the field of violence against women and children, promotes this campaign to ensure that Pakistani children enjoy ‘protected homes, protected schools and protected playgrounds’ with the help of a more aware and vigilant society.

Talking to Global Voices, Hussain said:

Being a journalist I always feel a need to address the youth. Most often we talk about the deprived children but lack a holistic approach towards an overall situation of children, especially their psychological, emotional and physical grooming. And this blind eye attitude made our children vulnerable. In recent days many cases of child sexual abuse and killing burst the artificial bubble of our social moral structure.

Hussain believes that parents lack awareness that leads to cases such the rape and murder of Zainab. Twitter user Amjad Qammar expressed frustration over parents’ general lack of awareness while sharing an incident from Karachi, Pakistan:

Today, in Karachi a cleric in a Madrassah (religious school) raped and killed a young boy. That boy had earlier ran away from the Madrassah and expressed fear. Yet, his father still handed him over to the cleric. Who is responsible in the murder of the child?

Hussain is holding workshops with parents in order to teach them how to safeguard their children and teach them about the notion of “good and bad touch,” a common way to talk with children about inappropriate touching and ownership over one's body. The first seminar was held in Peshawar, the cpital of Khyber Pakhtunkwa province of Pakistan. Her campaign is in the initial stages and she believes she will be able to reach out to as many people as possible.

Twitter user Amin Mashal praised Hussain for this initiative:

Hussain shares her experience raising awareness with parents:

Some parents initially deny their carelessness on their kid's wellbeing but later they understand when I tell them children are young individuals with their unique needs, you may buy them everything on earth but they will still need your time, care and love. The concept of “respect your children” is novel for many. And mostly fathers in our society think that it is a mother’s responsibility to safeguard children but I try to change this mindset by saying that children are not a liability but a blessing that both parents enjoy so both are responsible.

Hussain says that media has always been an important part of our society and thinks that media can spread information and generate debate. Qammar agrees:

She also believes:

Protected childhood is a collective dream, each of us is responsible for our children. We must try to stand with parents who lost their kids, create awareness, talk to parents, involve local leadership and make a demand. We will vote for protected childhood in next election.

Hussain took to Twitter to reinforce this notion:

The Zainab rape and murder case had a swift trial as it received international media attention as well as much attention and pressure from citizens. The verdict has offered hope that such cases can be dealt with swiftly to enforce the rule of law and prevent such crimes against children from happening again.

Pakistan has an existing child protection bill which is not without flaws and the lack of enforcement of the law is not a major concern for the politicians.

So, the predicament of child sexual abuse still exists in Pakistan, and more awareness campaigns such as #MehfoozBachpan are required to end it.

by Anushe Noor Faheem. at February 20, 2018 01:16 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/20/2018: Using augmented reality to sell everything from couches to cocktails
In the tech world, we talk a lot about the applications for virtual reality, when you’re immersed in a totally different world.  But there may be more business applications for AUGMENTED  reality, where you add something to the scene around you.  Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks about it with Tim Merel, managing director of the tech consulting firm Digi-Capital.

by Marketplace at February 20, 2018 11:30 AM

Global Voices
At Zanzibar’s Sauti za Busara Festival, Music Professionals Ask: Can One Song Really Change the World?

Carola Kinasha, Sauti za Busara festival MC, 2017, photo with permission by Markus Meissl.

Sauti za Busara (‘Sounds of Wisdom’ in Swahili), widely known unofficially as East Africa’s “friendliest music festival,” kicked off its 15th edition on February 8, 2018 on the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar with four full days of live music from Africa and the diaspora. Held yearly in the Old Fort in the capital city of Stone Town, this year’s event had the theme “United in Music” and aimed to increase peace and unity in an increasingly volatile, oppressive and divided world.

As part of the festival, the daily networking series Movers and Shakers invited industry stakeholders to the table for three days of dialogue related to music on the continent. The first day featured a conversation on “music for change” moderated by festival director Yusuf Mahmoud, who opened the session by posing the question, “Can one song really change the world?”

From Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” to Tracy Chapman’s “Talking bout a Revolution,” Public Enemy’s “Fuck the Police,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon’ Be Alright,” Mahmoud insisted that one song does indeed have that power and panelists Isack Abeneko of Tanzania and Herman Kabubi of Uganda shared stories on the ways in which change manifests in their respective countries as musicians, poets, and cultural organizers.

Abeneko, an artist, actor, dancer, and choreographer whose popular song “Salam” hit the airways in 2017, says he wants his songs’ messages to go beyond “flag-waving”:

I want young Tanzanians to appreciate one’s own musical heritage. We’re losing a sense of ourselves in Dar.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's cultural capital, is known as “Bongo” or “brain” in Swahili to imply the madness of living in one of Africa’s most bustling megacities. “Bongo Flava,” its unique musical genre, is often fueled by iconic images of booty-shaking, poolside glamour, masculine posturing and fast cars. But Abeneko’s songs are so much more than that:

I decided to call my music ‘Bongo Fusion,’ because it’s not exactly ‘Bongo Flava.’ I sing about street children, I sing about economic struggle, I sing about peace in the family, and my music goes beyond the studio. I want to play live. But when we distributed the songs to local DJ’s, they just told us there’s no program for that. I realized that change has to start with my own networks, building and keeping real friendships, connecting with my audiences. I believe that change happens with one person at a time.

Herman Kabubi, also known as “Slim MC,” from Kampala, Uganda is a poet and program director with the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts who is most drawn to change via programs that challenge stereotypes about Africa:

When I curate programs, I am looking for the new stories we want to tell about the continent, but also ones that will respond well with our audiences in context. I'm looking for what we call critical content.

Kabubi said he applauds artists, programmers, and cultural activists who buck the system by creating new ones outside the mainstream:

I want to curate programs that spark conversations, either by presenting a new technique, new content, or pushing limits, but always with our audiences in mind, and this includes creating spaces for LGBTQIA expression.

Kabubi also intimated hope when he referred to musician Bobi Wine (Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu) who was recently elected to the Ugandan parliament and wants to “use music to unite people” in Uganda. Prior to Uganda's 2016 elections, Kyagulanyi released a song titled “Situka,” which means rise up in Luganda; the lyrics included a provocation to fight corruption and injustice:

When the going gets tough, the tough must get going, especially when our leaders have become misleaders and mentors have become tormentors. When freedom of expression is met with suppression and oppression.

Abdi Rashid Jibril, a promoter and producer with Roots International music and events production company based in Nairobi, Kenya, was quick to remind the panel and audience members about the significant pressures faced by artists who take risks as activists and artists with a message:

We live in an era of repression all over the world, but especially in East Africa, we live within a cultural moment and movement where artists are putting themselves in great danger. I challenge advocacy groups like Music in Africa and Busara Promotions to pay attention to artists in prison or who have been arrested for taking a stand against this repression. Artists need solidarity with the international community who can put pressure on governments to ensure that artists and cultural activists don’t continue to get shut down, as they have been recently especially in Nairobi.

On January 31, Amani Baya and Jack Muguna of Nairobi Horns Project were arrested on what Jibril calls “trumped-up charges that reflect the impunity and gross unfairness of our legal and enforcement systems,” and called on fans of Jibril’s highly popular Choices Thursday Night — Live music event:

[C]ome one, come all Nairobi City Hall Magistrates Court, bring a folded sign that we can unfold chest level when our friends are brought up. Free Amani & Jack. Free the Music.

The two have subsequently been released on a 200,000 Kenyan shillings (2,000 US dollars) bail and their accusations of “noise pollution” were scheduled for a hearing on February 15.

Persecution of musicians is an issue that goes beyond Kenya. In Ethiopia, for example, musicians repeatedly faced terrorism charges for their song lyrics.

It did not go unnoticed that the all-male panel appeared at odds with the subject of music for change in Africa, where gender inequality still remains the elephant in the music industry’s room. Carola Kinasha, a pioneering cultural activist and award-winning musician based in Dar es Salaam who was also the MC for this year's festival, explained that women in Tanzania don’t enjoy the same intellectual rights as men to compose and produce their own lyrics:

Let me just say, the DJ’s in Dar dictate everything, what is in — what is out, and I totally disagree with this.

Kinasha continued: 

if I produce an album with nine songs on it, eight could be about social issues and only one’s about love. That one song about love will be the one that gets played on the radio.

Kinasha, project director of Music Mayday,  a non-profit organization in Dar es Salaam supporting youth in their creative and artistic development, recognizes:

[E]xpressing ourselves is much more difficult these days in Tanzania, with artists being arrested, intimidated, missing and beaten. This tells me that it’s not just a gender issue, but an issue with the rights of all musicians to speak out. This tells me how powerful music is. If it wasn’t this strong, it wouldn’t be so feared.

Editor's note: The author of this story has worked for the Sauti za Busara festival in the past. 

by Amanda Lichtenstein at February 20, 2018 11:22 AM

Malaysian Government Ad Used Barking Rooster to Celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dog

Malaysian government greets the Chinese Year of the Dog with a barking rooster ad. Image cropped from the Facebook page of Malaysia’s Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.

Malaysia’s Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) has apologized for using the image of a barking rooster in a newspaper ad to greet the Chinese a prosperous year of the dog.

Malaysia has a Muslim-majority population while promoting social harmony among various races and religions. In recent years, however, hardline Malay Muslim leaders have been voicing out the need to enforce Islamic teachings in governance.

Some believe that the use of a barking rooster in the Chinese Lunar New Year ad is meant to avoid insulting some Muslims who consider the dog as unclean. In fact, many shopping malls have decided not to have Lunar New Year decorations to avoid offending some Muslims.

The ad is seen by some as a reflection of the cultural conflict between some Muslims and the Chinese minority. The opposition Democratic Action Party criticized the ad for stoking division and undermining multiculturalism in society.

The ministry issued a million apologies (a Chinese expression of deeply regret), saying that it was a “technical error” without further explanation. But the majority of the netizens didn’t accept it. One comment said:

This department needs to be more cultured or exposed to the understanding of other cultures. This is really embarrassing and reflects the ignorance of your department. A barking rooster? Seriously? What planet does KPDNKK live on???

Mariam Mokhtar, a columnist from independent news outlet Free Malaysia Today, echoed the sentiment of many observers:

Our institutions are either gripped by a tide of Islamic conservatism, or are paralysed by supervisors who are lazy, and do not believe in proofreading.

Meanwhile, some Chinese netizens believe that the barking rooster was a mockery of current Prime Minister Najib Razak who is nicknamed “that rooster” because the pronunciation of Najib is similar to “Na-Ji” (那雞) in standard Chinese (Putonghua). A famous video blogger called “So I'm Jenn” talked about the symbolism of the barking rooster in her Lunar New Year greeting.

This is not the first time that dogs have been the subject of controversy in Malaysia. In 2016 a pretzel chain store was recommended by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department’s (Jakim) to rename its “Pretzel dog” to “Pretzel sausage”. In October 2014, a young Muslim activist, Syed Azmi Alhabshi, organized a “I Want to Touch a Dog” event to challenge the Muslim taboo and ended up receiving death threats. He was forced to apologize.

Malaysian Chinese constitute about a quarter of the country’s population. Since the year of the dog will be succeeded by the year of the pig, it seems likely that the cultural conflict over the Chinese Lunar New Year will be difficult to avoid next year. But hopefully, Malaysian authorities have already learned their lesson about the importance of upholding multiculturalism.

by Oiwan Lam at February 20, 2018 09:40 AM

‘Voices for Momos’ Campaign Seeks to Protect Myanmar’s Last Remaining Elephants

Timber elephants, Myanmar. Photo by James Anderson, World Resources Institute. Source: Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Several conservation and environment groups have teamed up to launch a campaign to promote the protection of Myanmar’s dwindling population of elephants, known as “momos” in the Burmese language.

The “Voices for Momos” campaign enjoins the public to reject the illegal trade of elephant parts and other wildlife animals. It also asks the government to implement more programs aimed at stopping the poaching of elephants while providing alternative livelihoods to hunters.

Myanmar’s wild elephant population is estimated to be between 1,400 to 2,000. One elephant is reportedly killed every week, and some have warned that Myanmar’s elephants could be wiped out in two decades if the killings do not stop.

A recent news report warned that the poaching of elephants could intensify in Myanmar because its neighbor China has ordered a crackdown on the illegal sale of wildlife animals. Those looking for elephant parts and other endangered animals could raise the demand for these exotic goods in Myanmar.

It also reported that the selling of elephant parts is thriving near Yangon's pagodas and other shrines where local and foreign tourists often visit. Yangon is the country’s main urban center.

The need to educate the public about protecting elephants is a major goal of the “Voices for Momos” campaign. One of the activities intended to generate public attention was the display of colorful papier-mâché elephant statues all over Yangon. According to local artists, the papier-mâché elephants made out of recycled newspapers were the largest in the world.

The display proved to be a hit among children:

A petition was also initiated as part of the campaign asking the government to boost its anti-poaching drive and the public to stop buying illegal wildlife products. As of this writing, more than 2,000 have signed.

A video of the campaign featured local artists who urge viewers to save Myanmar’s elephants.

The campaign also promoted the sending of love for elephants in time for Valentine’s celebrations on February 14:

Mobile phone users can also use Viber stickers in support of “Voices for Momos”.

Raising public awareness about momos is just the initial phase of the campaign. The next challenge is engaging local authorities and hunters about the need to stop the killing of elephants.

by Mong Palatino at February 20, 2018 02:20 AM

February 19, 2018

Global Voices
As Some March to Honor a Pro-Nazi General in Sofia, Others Rally to Decry Fascism

Anti-fascists gather in Sofia to protest neo-Nazi Lukov march. Photo by Ruslan Trad, CC BY.

February 17 was a busy day in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, where far-right supporters marched to mark the 75th anniversary of the assassination of pro-Nazi Bulgarian defence minister Hristo Lukov, and counter-protesters responded earlier in the day with condemnations of nationalism and xenophobia.

The demonstration showed that the country currently holding the Presidency of the European Union is grappling with many of the same issues seen elsewhere across Europe, including the mainstreaming of neo-fascist politics.

For the last 16 years, the Bulgarian National Union (BNS) has organized the Lukov March through the streets of central Sofia. As Canadian journalist Michael Colborne explained:

The march, which will take place this Saturday, is in honour of Hristo Lukov, a Bulgarian general who led the pro-Nazi Union of Bulgarian National Legions, an organization that in a previous incarnation had a swastika in its logo. Lukov had close ties with Nazi leadership, including Hermann Goering, and was one of the fiercest advocates of Bulgaria’s Nazi-inspired “Law for the Protection of the Nation” that, among other things, forced the country’s 50,000 Jews to wear yellow stars.

Yet they insist there’s nothing anti-Semitic or Nazi-like about it.

Every year marchers from Bulgaria and beyond drape themselves in mourning black, hold torches and chant Lukov’s praises in unison as they wind their way through Sofia’s streets. The march ends at the home where Lukov was assassinated by Communist partisans in February 1943, where the marchers lay wreaths.

Among its stances, the BNS, which doesn't hold any seats in the country's National Assembly, promotes an intolerant view of immigration (“Bulgaria for the Bulgarians and Africa for the Africans“), rejects Bulgaria's current multiparty parliamentary democracy, and calls for “a strong centralized state power.”

The day before the main march, Lukov admirers put on an intimidating display, walking through central Sofia, shouting slogans and carrying flares and torches. The police did not intervene.

‘No Nazis in the Streets!’

On February 17, a group of around 300 counter-protesters gathered in the park near the Sofia Mosque and the Sofia Central Mineral Baths around noon. They then made their way through the streets around the Central Halls district, the synagogue and the offices of the nationalist political parties IMRO -Bulgarian National Movement and Attack, which are part of the government.

Carrying banners such as “No Nazis in the Streets!” protesters shouted in support of refugees and minorities, and also against nationalism and capitalism.

In addition to Bulgarians, participants came from Greece, Italy and Spain. Police did not allow the counter-protesters to pass through the central streets, citing security concerns due to possible clashes with the attendees of the Lukov March, who already roamed through the city in groups.

At one point, members of a German nationalist group tried to provoke the counter-protesters. Such incidents happened several more times. Police arrested one provocateur.

Canadian journalist Michael Colborne also attended and published a short video:

The Lukov march

As for the Lukov march, police estimated that more than 500 people attended, while the organizers previously said they expected around 1,000 to participate.

There was a visible presence of neo-Nazi groups from within Bulgaria and around Europe. Despite this, the BNS denied the allegations that the march was anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi.

According to Bulgarian journalist Mariya Petkova, 50 Germans, 10 French and several Swedes also attended Lukov march:

Every major political party in Bulgaria has condemned the Lukov march, including representatives from the far-right United Patriots, although some of its members have actually taken part in the march since the beginning. Sofia’s Mayor Yordanka Fandakova tried to ban the march, but the organizers took her to court and won.

by Ruslan Trad at February 19, 2018 11:57 PM

Rising Voices
The Acadian French Language Finding New Frontiers Online Through Memes

Meme created by the Twitter user @LangueAcadienne in the Acadian French language. Translation: “When you finally find the Acadian equivalent of an English or French word.”

In 2018, Acadian French is one of the languages taking part in the Mother Language Meme Challenge, with memes created by our partner @LangueAcadienne, an Acadian French advocate based in New Brunswick, Canada.

As its names suggests, Acadian French derives from French through the colonization of the north-eastern coast of the American continent by French settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Acadia was the name of one of France former colonies in North America, along with Canada and Lousiana (although they had very different borders than the ones we know today). In modern terms, Acadia would most closely correspond to the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. There also exists an Acadian diaspora, mostly due to the Acadian Expulsion of 1755-1763 and more modern economic migrations.

In an interview with Rising Voices, the primary user, who prefers to remain unnamed, behind the @LangueAcadienne account shares a little more about his language and his participation in the #MemeML Challenge.

Rising Voices: What is the current state of your language both offline and on the internet?

To my knowledge, in its written form, there have only been a few literary authors throughout the years who have produced works in varying degrees of Acadian, one of the most well-known being Antonine Maillet. This may be explained by the fact that Acadia was a former French colony and thus Standard French was considered the proper language in formal communications and settings, while Acadian was considered an unrefined language, especially by outsiders.

In its spoken form, a lot of Acadian words, pronunciations and grammar have lost quite a bit of ground or have completely disappeared in the past century, due to lifestyle, social, cultural and economic changes, stigmatization and the growing presence of mass media. Due to these pressures and the fact that Acadians were scattered across English-majority provinces, the language and the people have been torn between Standard French and English, which has resulted in English assimilation for some and different varieties of Chiac for others.

Chiac is a creole-like language of relatively recent development that consists of a mix of old Acadian, English and modern French. It has been gradually taking the place Acadian once held in society, as younger generations leave Acadian aside. It is used informally to various degrees in different areas and can sometimes be seen used on Facebook, along with French and (mostly) English. There is a bit of literature and music produced in this language, as well as a few humour columns and a televised cartoon, but it remains quite marginalized, though I believe it to be in still better standing than Acadian. Though I understand the origins of Chiac and its place in society, it is my personal preference to advocate for the “original” Acadian, in all its varieties, as a unique and unifying language and identity for our scattered people.

This decline of Acadian, its lack of a presence online, on television and in society in general and the threats it is facing from other languages are all factors that motivated me to create Langue Acadienne.

RV: Why did you decide to participate in the Mother Language Meme Challenge?

Having looked into various regional minority languages and having lived in an area abroad where the regional minority language was celebrated (I lived in Galicia, where despite the constant presence and threat from Spanish, the people there were proud of their Galician language and had standardized it and made it official at the state/provincial level), I love the idea of promoting linguistic diversity in the world. Using modern Internet culture seems like a perfect way of raising awareness and promoting linguistic diversity both online and the in the real world and it fit perfectly with Langue Acadienne’s objectives and its content.

RV: Who would you like to challenge to create a meme in this language?

I would like to encourage the whole Acadian community to create memes and any other type of content in Acadian. We are in desperate need for more. I’m sure the same can be said of the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet languages, so I encourage youth from those two communities to join the Meme Challenge as well. Internationally, I have seen content from l’Office du Jèrriais and l’Académie du Gallo, so I would like to challenge people who speak other regional languages in France to participate as well. It is always fascinating to see the similarities and differences between our sister languages.

Find more memes from the Mother Language Meme Challenge in a variety of global languages by checking out the #MemeML hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There is also a Facebook group for the Challenge with contributions from all across the world.

by Gwenaelle Lefeuvre at February 19, 2018 10:05 PM

Global Voices
20 Years After the Decriminalization of Homosexuality in Ecuador, the LGBTI Community Continues to Be Punished

The families of those who are sequestered and confined to “dehomosexualization” clinics request the “services” of these institutions and pay to keep their family members inside. Illustration by Mónica Rodríguez. Used with permission.

The following is a reissue of a report written by Carlos Flores, originally published by Connectas and re-edited with assistance from the author as part of a three-part series that will be published and translated by Global Voices. The complete report contains other detailed testimonies and analysis of the legal inconsistencies which facilitate the violence and discrimination perpetrated against gay and transgender/transsexual people in Ecuador.

The first part below features the testimonies of victims of institutions that claim to be able to “cure” homosexuality; other installments will examine the failures of the judicial system, as well as the social obstacles that inhibit the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Twenty years after the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ecuador, the LGBTI community continues to be punished by society and is rarely protected by the law. Mistreatment and discrimination take various forms, served by organizations that escape the state's control. Some of these organizations maintain that they are detox clinics; in reality, they carry out “cures” for homosexuality. The abuses that take place inside these clinics are numerous and multi-faceted.

Physical and psychological tortures, including insults, humiliation, unhealthy diets, beatings, electric shocks, and even “corrective rapes”, have been part of so-called “dehomosexualization therapies” in Ecuador “for a long time”, according to widespread opinion.

Some of the testimonies from victims of these institutions gave rise to works such as that of Paola Paredes, who revealed the mistreatment that various women received at these clinics. Other testimonies show how the families of the many victims act in conjunction with the clinics, and also how many women are brought in by religious organizations.

The lack of government control and protection is evident in cases like that of Jonathan Vásconez, a transgender male who lived in confinement for a year and a half and who twice attempted, and was prevented, from running away from El Centro La Estancia (The Ranch) in Patate (Tungurahua) in northwest Ecuador.

It began when he was 23 years old. He already had a daughter, and still used the female name that his parents had given him when he was born: María de los Ángeles. When he went to pick up his partner at the time, strangers intercepted him, beat him and handcuffed him, telling him they were police. Jonathan says that the order to commit him against his will was given by his family, under the false accusation that he was a drug addict. Within the center, the abuses and assaults were numerous:

Pidieron a tres compañeros que se levantaran y trajeran un tanque café, que me llegaba a la cintura, lleno de agua. Entre los tres me metieron al tanque, de cabeza, unas ocho veces. Puedo decir que ahí vi la muerte. El director de la clínica me grababa con un celular y me pedía que dijera que había ido a robar a mi hija, cosa que no era cierta. Cuando vieron que me moría, me dejaron […] Estuve un mes y una semana, esposado a la cama, y me hacían comer en el piso…

They asked three fellows to get up and bring in a brown tank full of water, which reached my waist. Between them, they put me in the tank, head first, about eight times. I can say that there I saw death. The director of the clinic recorded me with a cell phone and ordered me to say that I had gone to kidnap my daughter, which was not true. When they saw that I was dying, they left me […] I was there for a month and a week, handcuffed to the bed, and they made me eat on the floor…

Jonathan soon managed to escape, but by order of his sister, was recaptured.

Between the use of religion and the evasion of justice

The clinics and their leaders don’t often face justice, but when they are confronted, they seem to disappear and change their name. Many of the institutions also utilize religious laws and values to give structure and purpose to their work. In any case, it is not clear whether, after a complaint or the intervention of state institutions, these clinics continue to operate under another name or in different locations.

At the same time, many of the victims avoid registering complaints for fear of further victimisation by the people who mistreat them in the centers.

This was the case for Luisa (name changed), who was brought to one of these centers at the behest of her parents, who could never accept the idea that Luisa was a lesbian and even less that she had fallen in love with her cousin, with whom she now lives. She remembers the “therapy” she received very well: bathing very early and in exactly five minutes, praying, the application of the 12-step program used for drug addicts, poor nutrition, and phrases that they repeated to her day after day while they put their hands on her head: “You, you are not a lesbian, here we are going to cure you; you're very confused with your life, you're going to see that you're going to like men.”

She endured this traumatic experience at 24 years old, in 2012, spending four months sharing a space with other lesbians. Some were drug addicts and others, like her, were not. After leaving the center she returned home, but with her spirit entirely altered. Two weeks later, Luisa’s father resumed his violent behavior against her, and she feared that she would be committed once again. That's why she decided to leave.

With regards to Hogar Renacer (Spanish for Reborn Home, the “clinic” where she had been confined), Luisa did not want to have anything more to do with it: “I never made a complaint. I did not want to get in trouble. The people who worked there were kind of dangerous.”

The district attorney’s office does not provide details on resolved cases or the convictions of those that are known as “symbolic cases”, because of the level of influence they have on public opinion. They assured, despite everything, that incidences of this phenomenon have been reduced, although collectives and social organizations may disagree.

La Fundación Causana (The Causana Foundation), a “lesbian and feminist collective” that strives for the defense of the rights of LGBTI people, affirms that between 2016 and 2017 alone, it had already worked eight cases that dealt with preventing confinement. The social conditions affecting people who tend to be victims of this treatment have changed little, despite the evolution of the law. Thus, although it is maintained that current legislation has opened the door to respect and equality for all, Ecuador is very far from being able to close the book on this issue.

by Lindsey Mulholland at February 19, 2018 09:26 PM

Chinese State TV Lambasted for ‘Racist’ Lunar New Year Sketch Featuring Blackface

Screen capture from Chinese spring festival gala via Hong Kong Free Press.

This post was written by Jun Pang and originally published on Hong Kong Free Press on February 17, 2018. The version below is published on Global Voices as part of a partnership agreement.

China’s official news channel CCTV has come under fire over a “racist” comedy sketch showing an actress in blackface.

The four-hour Spring Festival Gala is televised annually in celebration of the Lunar New Year. On February 15, 2018, the Gala included a sketch set in Africa to commemorate the 2017 establishment of a Chinese-funded railway between the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya.

In the segment, an African actress asks the Chinese host to help dissuade her mother from matchmaking for her. The show then cuts to footage of an older Chinese actress in blackface and buttocks padding, alongside actors dressed in monkey and giraffe costumes. The mother mistakenly believes that the daughter and the host are engaged.

“I love China, China helped us build a railroad. I want to find a Chinese son-in-law,” she says.

When the actual fiancée of the Chinese host arrives to interrupt the festivities, the daughter tells her mother the truth.

“Mother, I don’t want to get married so young,” she says. “I want to go to China to study abroad. I want to be like Chinese people – to roll up my sleeves and work, to earn the praise of the world.”

The segment drew ire from Weibo and Twitter users for its use of blackface and stereotypical representations of Africa. Blackface is a practice by which non-black actors darken their skin in order to mock the appearance and mannerisms of black people.

One Weibo user wrote:

The problem with this segment is its narcissism. To show yourself assisting Africa, making it out as if African people are extremely jealous of China – as if they should be grateful to China. Isn’t China’s construction project in Africa supposed to be a win-win situation?

Another said:

This episode is racist. It has exploded in foreign media. This is understandable.

On Twitter, one user was ashamed:

Another Twitter user agreed:

CCTV’s racist show during Spring Gala shook me and made me so ashamed of China and my people.

Comic artist @krishraghav said:

Not all perceived the sketch to be racist. Online media SupChina's managing editor Anthony Tao said it was not intended to offend, but the producers “are guilty of laziness or ignorance or most likely both.”

In 2012, the Spring Festival Gala broke a Guinness World Record for the most viewed national network TV broadcast show, reaching a viewership on 498.7 million. Since then, the number has reportedly risen to 700 million.

The Gala is viewed as one of the most important platforms for spreading political propaganda; as such, it also attracts a large amount of criticism. In recent years, critical comments about the content of the Gala have been censored on major Chinese social media platforms. This year, China's most popular social media platform Weibo also blocked a list of combination search terms related to the Gala, like “Spring Festival Gala” + “ridicule”, and “Spring Festival Gala” + “garbage”.

CCTV has since removed the sketch from their official YouTube channel.

by Hong Kong Free Press at February 19, 2018 04:25 PM

Rising Voices
How Indigenous Communities Are Using Data to ‘Reframe’ Their Narratives Through Digital Storytelling

Andrés Tapia, Apawki Castro, and Juan Diego Andrango were some of the people who participated in the first series of the Reframed Stories project.

In 2017, Global Voices and Rising Frames started the Reframed Stories project, an ongoing, participatory digital storytelling initiative that works with community members to analyze data around media representation. 

The main objective of the Reframed Stories project is to work with indigenous communities that have been historically excluded or misrepresented in media and to help them see how they are being depicted in the news. The story initiative also provides a platform for discussion about this representation and a place where communities can respond to the coverage from their own perspectives. In the initial phase of this collaboration, the Reframed Stories’ team works with community members to analyze media data and then they create stories together.

In this post, we reflect on the success of our first Reframed Stories collaboration and discuss our plans for the future.

Reframed beginnings

At the Reframed Stories project, we believe that stories about communities must be told by the community itself. All too often, these stories are distorted or not included in media coverage which only serves to deprive community members of their voices. We wanted Reframed Stories to be a space where indigenous communities could analyze media coverage and use this data to reflect on the ways they are portrayed in the media. 

Following this principle, we developed the first series of the Reframed Stories project in close collaboration with the indigenous community of Sarayaku and the Shuar nationality, both situated in the Ecuadorian Amazon region. These groups have been standing up to extraction projects in their territories for years and have taken their fight to the national and international level. As such, they have important insights to share about the media coverage of community resistance strategies.

For the first phase of our project, we began an initial exploration of national mainstream coverage around this community and the fight to protect their land; however, our findings suggested that it was not always explaining the whole story. The motivation behind these protests as well as the proposed solutions offered by members of these groups were often left out. 

How data can help us see the big picture

Media Cloud, a tool for media analysis, allowed for a deeper exploration of this coverage. The Media Cloud tool helps to analyze media coverage by highlighting keywords used by different media sources around chosen topics at specific moments in time. For example, the word cloud below shows the most common words used by Ecuadorian mainstream media in stories referencing the Shuar people between May 2016 and June 2017.

Dominant words from 697 articles published between May 2016 and June 2017 found mentioning “Shuar” within four Media Cloud collections of Ecuador’s Spanish-language media outlets. (View original query; View larger image).

Looking at the word clouds, such as the one above, members of the Sarayaku community and the Shuar Nationality were able to see how Ecuadorian media sources were covering certain topics of interest. Through this method, they were able to reflect on the ways that groups in power have framed their community and their protest movements in a negative light. They were also able to see how national mainstream media is neglecting to include indigenous youth in its coverage as well as other crucial topics that represent the diverse and positive initiatives emerging from their communities.

This collaboration also offered them the opportunity to dive deeper into their communication strategy, allowing them to reflect on their ability to successfully communicate both their struggles and achievements to a broader audience and to find different avenues to respond to biased media coverage.

Reframed Stories feedback

Both Juan Diego Andrango, collaborator at the Confederation of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), and Andrés Tapia, communication representative for the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), felt that this process could inform and strengthen their communication strategies. For Andrango: 

This is a very good tool because it allows us to analyze the way in which words, information, and discourse are being managed by the media. It adds to collaborative processes of our own communication because it shows that mainstream media tends to represent aspects more linked to commercial interests, but it does not generate information from the reality of indigenous communities and nationalities. Tools of this kind can become an element to analyze our communication work and guide us in choosing the best way to respond to the information generated by traditional media. 

Esta herramienta es una muy buena propuesta porque permite analizar el manejo de la dinámica de las palabras y elementos discursivos en los medios de comunicación. Suma al proceso colaborativo de construcción de esfuerzos de comunicación propios porque demuestra que los medios de comunicación masivos tienden a representar temas más ligados a los intereses comerciales, mas no generan información desde la realidad de los pueblos y nacionalidades.  Herramientas de este estilo pueden servir como un elemento para ver desde qué línea trabajar desde la parte comunicativa y cómo responder a la información generada por los medios tradicionales.

According to Tapia: 

These kinds of tools could be very useful for us both in terms of internal organization for communication work with indigenous communities and nationalities, and for our educational and training purposes. We work very closely with communities and these types of programs would help us show a visual representation of the ways in which media is covering certain topics, while proving that communication does have an important impact. 

Este tipo de herramientas pudieran resultar muy útiles tanto en términos internos para el trabajo comunicacional de los pueblos y nacionalidades indígenas como para un tema formativo. Nosotros hacemos mucho trabajo con las comunidades y este programa nos ayudaría a mostrar visualmente cómo los medios están cubriendo ciertos temas, y a la vez demonstrar que la comunicación sí tiene un impacto importante.

Members also thought that the use of tools, such as Media Cloud, can encourage collaborations between people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. For Abigail Gualinga, a young Sarayaku leader:

Abigail Gualinga, young Sarayaku leader

Communication helps youth to connect among ourselves, expressing what we feel and think to a broader audience and documenting the activities that we implement to keep working and joining efforts with people of all ages.

La comunicación nos ayuda a los jóvenes a conectarnos entre nosotros, a decir lo que sentimos y pensamos a un grupo más amplio, y a documentar las actividades que implementamos para seguir trabajando y uniendo fuerzas con gente de todas las edades.

 

 

Similarly, Apawki Castro, elected leader of communications for the Confederation of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), highlighted the potential of these new tools in generating collaborative communication processes that complement the efforts of indigenous communities:

Every era brings new things and we want to continue generating more networks, using new technologies which can allow us all to share what we learn along the way in a collective construction in unity, where each of us contributes and helps each other in different ways. Globalization and technology should not absorb the work of our communities. Instead, we use these technologies as tools to complement our efforts.

Cada época trae algo nuevo y queremos seguir generando más enlaces, usando nuevas tecnologías que nos permiten seguir creando nuevos tejidos donde todos vamos  compartiendo desde una forma colectiva de construcción en unidad, donde cada quien aporta su granito para contribuir y para ayudarnos de distintas formas. La globalización y la invasión de la era tecnológica no deben absorbernos a los pueblos y nacionalidades. Mas bien, desde los pueblos tomamos a la tecnología como una herramienta complementaria a nuestras acciones de lucha.

As José Santi, one of the people in charge of Sarayaku’s blog stated, these new tools can build bridges that connect groups from all over the world, creating collaboration and solidarity networks that reach beyond national borders:

José Santi, one of the people in charge of the Sarayaku blog, Sarayaku: el pueblo del mediodía

Besides creating our media such as our blog, we are interested in collaborating with different media and groups using new tools and technologies so that people both inside and outside Ecuador can know more about what we are doing in Sarayaku and in other places of the country and we can join efforts and learn from each other. 

Además de crear nuestros propios medios, tales como nuestro blog, nosotros estamos muy interesados en colaborar con distintos medios y grupos usando nuevas herramientas y tecnologías, para que así la gente dentro y fuera del Ecuador conozca más sobre lo que estamos haciendo en Sarayaku y en otros lugares del país, y podamos unir fuerzas y aprender los unos de los otros.

The future of Reframed Stories

These new media tools can be powerful allies in the fight for representation in media ecosystems. Through the participant comments from the members of the Sarayaku and the Shuar Nationality, we can see that new communication tools, such as Media Cloud, have the potential to help communities participate in conversations about their representation and reflect on possible ways to respond to this coverage. In doing so, bridges between communities can be built, fostering collaboration and strengthening existing efforts. These bridges become even stronger thanks to the Global Voices’ Lingua project, which translates stories to more than 45 languages. Posts from the first Reframed Stories series reached a global audience through their translations into Spanish, Russian, Malagasy, French, and Chinese.

Inspired by what we learned from this experience, we are now looking forward to working together with Indigenous and First Nations peoples in Canada. We also hope to provide existing collaborators with what they need to continue using Media Cloud in the future.  

We are working towards making this tool available so that more communities can learn about their representation in the media. If you are interested in finding out more information, please contact us. We would love to help you find new ways to tell your own stories!

by Eddie Avila at February 19, 2018 02:03 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/19/2018: A conversation with Oath CEO Tim Armstrong
Less than a year ago, Yahoo and AOL officially merged after AOL’s parent company, Verizon, bought Yahoo for more than $4 billion. Since then, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has moved on to an unannounced venture. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has had the job of blending the two companies into a digital content behemoth named Oath, vying to challenge Facebook and Google for advertising revenue. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Armstrong about how Oath fits in the digital media landscape at the Makers conference in Los Angeles. The early February conference was sponsored in part by Oath.

by Marketplace at February 19, 2018 11:30 AM

February 17, 2018

Global Voices Advocacy
What Do Argentinians Give Up in Exchange for “Free” WiFi in Buenos Aires?

Public promotional image for the Metro WiFi connection in Buenos Aires: “BA WiFi throughout the network. 1. Activate WiFi on your device. 2. Access the BA WiFi network. 3. Accept the terms and conditions.”

A recent report by VICE Argentina reveals some disturbing facts about the terms and conditions that users accept — often without having read them — to access the WiFi network that the city of Buenos Aires offers for free.

Just like many modern cities, Buenos Aires has for some years now had a public wireless internet network that people can access from parks, plazas, bus and omnibus terminals, and even from the underground metro, thanks to the installations made by the Buenos Aires City Government (in Spanish, GCBA) in collaboration with the Underground of Buenos Aires State Society (in Spanish, SBASE).

The report points out how every user who wishes to use the BAWiFi (Buenos Aires Wifi) network must register themselves and accept the terms and conditions before accessing the connection. These terms, to which users hardly pay much attention, include giving permission to the GCBA and the SBASE to compile their personal and search data, such as name, username, password, identification number or work identification key (CUIL, which is an Argentinian tax identification number), nationality, gender, telephone number, postal address, and geolocation data, as well as photographs and voice data collected from whichever device the user connects to the network.

Another striking aspect of Buenos Aires's WiFi network terms and conditions is that, by accepting them, the user gives their consent to the City Government and to SBASE to make use of and to disseminate their photos and voice for advertising and communication purposes:

SBASE se reserva el derecho a realizar la acción publicitaria, de prensa, promoción, publicación y difusión que considere conveniente de los datos proporcionados por los USUARIOS que hagan uso del Servicio. Con la sola proporción de datos y aceptación de los presentes términos y condiciones, los USUARIOS prestan su expresa conformidad para la utilización y difusión de sus datos e Imágenes (foto y voz) por los medios publicitarios y de comunicación que SBASE y/o el Gobierno de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires disponga.

SBASE reserves the right to carry out the act of advertising, press, promotion, publication, and dissemination that it considers appropriate for the data provided by the USERS that make use of this Service. By the single provision of data and acceptance of the present terms and conditions, the USERS offer their express approval for the utilization and dissemination of their data and images (photo and voice) for advertising and communication media that SBASE and/or the Autonomous City Government of Buenos Aires might arrange.

VICE's work illustrates this fragment in a more straightforward example:

Si lo hizo [aceptar los términos y condiciones], no debería sorprenderse si un día al entrar a la estación, ve su cara en una gigantografía con la frase: “De lunes a viernes bien temprano, (su nombre y apellido) disfruta de nuestro servicio”.”

If you do [accept the terms and conditions], you should not be surprised to one day see, upon entering the station, your face on a giant print with the phrase: “From very early on Mondays through Fridays, (your first and last name) enjoys our service.”

The aforementioned description, however, is not as serious as what we cite below from Article 2, the section on “Term and Duration”:

SBASE podrá establecer nuevas condiciones y/o modificaciones a cualquiera de las cláusulas contenidas en los presentes términos y condiciones y las políticas de privacidad sin necesidad de contar con la autorización del USUARIO.

SBASE will be able to establish new conditions and/or modifications to any of the clauses contained in these current terms and conditions and the privacy policies without needing to contact the USER for authorization.

In other words, users accept a contract where the terms and conditions can change at any moment without them knowing or agreeing to the new terms. This raises some serious questions about what could happen to all of the data and images the State has compiled and stored. In light of the impending reform to the current Argentinian Personal Data Protection Act, established in October 2000 as Law N° 25.326, it also raises a serious red flag.

Why does the SBASE need a user's labor key number? Why does the city government need to store any citizen's personal photos and voice notes? What other potential use could they have for this information, protected by future modifications to the data protection law or to the terms and conditions of the contract itself?

The fourth article of Argentina's Personal Data Protection Act says that the “personal data that is collected for the intent of data processing should be true, appropriate, relevant, and not excessive in relation to the scope and purpose for which they were to have been obtained.” One could suppose that some of the data compiled by SBASE (in particular, a user's photos) could be considered “excessive in relation to the scope and purpose for which they were to have been obtained.”

At the moment of this article's publication, the contract's text has not been uploaded to the City Government's or SBASE's official site for further reading and consultation. It can only be accessed from the subte, the city's metro.

Twitter user Tomás published the binding contract's complete text, which he had saved in a Google doc some time ago and, regarding the VICE report, commented:

This caught my attention and one time I sent them to myself via mail after accepting. I had never read them until today:

The ‘Transparent Society’

On social networks, there was very little reaction from netizens in response to VICE's publicized report (or the conditions themselves). Javier Pallero, an internet policy analyst for the US-based digital rights NGO Access Now, explains that there is very little awareness concerning privacy and that what is most worrisome about all of this is the fact that it is the state that is gathering this data: “It is the only entity that still has the capacity to take away your possessions, to deprive you of liberty, or, under certain circumstances, to legally shoot you.”

The users who access social network platforms, applications, and other digital services are accustomed to accepting their terms and conditions without reading them. Valeria Milanés, director of the Digital Association for Civil Rights (ADC), explains that “these are extremely large, binding contracts with very complex terminology. What should happen is that the text is accompanied by messages with very clear ideas about how they are going to use the data, for how long, in language that is as plain as possible.”

The data delivery has already been naturalized among users, to the point of being considered a relatively low price to pay for gaining the benefits of a “free” connection:

The most incredible thing of all: to the average Argentinian it doesn't matter, as long as they are given free wifi they will accept anything, “in the end they have nothing to hide.”

In other cases, the problem is simplified and a practical solution suggested: don't use the service.

Don't use it. No one is forcing you to do so.

The scant resistance by users for entering their data reflects a worrisome disinterest or ignorance of the potential risks involved in accepting terms and conditions that are not completely understood.

Censorship on the #BAWifi Network?

In another vein, the blog El Disenso (The Dissent) openly criticized the Buenos Aires City Government and the national government, reporting how its site was blocked from the Buenos Aires WiFi network after they published a series of investigations that, according to them, “made the GCBA uncomfortable.” The blog alleges that, on February 1st, various readers informed them that they could not access the website when they were connected to the BA WiFi network.

📌#ThisWeek, Thur 1/2 Censorship 👉#CensuraPRO: After reporting to #Larreta, the #BAWiFi blocked @ElDisenso – Now the #GCBA not only monitors you, but also decides what you can and cannot read!
Read all about it at @ElDisenso🇦🇷📢https://t.co/3qDQVHWapA

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta is the Head of Government for Buenos Aires, successor to the position that the current president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, once held.

El Disenso presented its complaints before the Department of Protection of Citizen's Rights of the City of Buenos Aires and the company Subte BA. On February 7, it confirmed that access to the site had been reestablished on the network, which they described as an “erroneous URL blocking incident.”

Of course, many still question whether this incident was accidental or intentional.

by Romina Navarro at February 17, 2018 01:55 AM

Global Voices
What Do Argentinians Give Up in Exchange for “Free” WiFi in Buenos Aires?

Public promotional image for the Metro WiFi connection in Buenos Aires: “BA WiFi throughout the network. 1. Activate WiFi on your device. 2. Access the BA WiFi network. 3. Accept the terms and conditions.”

A recent report by VICE Argentina reveals some disturbing facts about the terms and conditions that users accept — often without having read them — to access the WiFi network that the city of Buenos Aires offers for free.

Just like many modern cities, Buenos Aires has for some years now had a public wireless internet network that people can access from parks, plazas, bus and omnibus terminals, and even from the underground metro, thanks to the installations made by the Buenos Aires City Government (in Spanish, GCBA) in collaboration with the Underground of Buenos Aires State Society (in Spanish, SBASE).

The report points out how every user who wishes to use the BAWiFi (Buenos Aires Wifi) network must register themselves and accept the terms and conditions before accessing the connection. These terms, to which users hardly pay much attention, include giving permission to the GCBA and the SBASE to compile their personal and search data, such as name, username, password, identification number or work identification key (CUIL, which is an Argentinian tax identification number), nationality, gender, telephone number, postal address, and geolocation data, as well as photographs and voice data collected from whichever device the user connects to the network.

Another striking aspect of Buenos Aires's WiFi network terms and conditions is that, by accepting them, the user gives their consent to the City Government and to SBASE to make use of and to disseminate their photos and voice for advertising and communication purposes:

SBASE se reserva el derecho a realizar la acción publicitaria, de prensa, promoción, publicación y difusión que considere conveniente de los datos proporcionados por los USUARIOS que hagan uso del Servicio. Con la sola proporción de datos y aceptación de los presentes términos y condiciones, los USUARIOS prestan su expresa conformidad para la utilización y difusión de sus datos e Imágenes (foto y voz) por los medios publicitarios y de comunicación que SBASE y/o el Gobierno de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires disponga.

SBASE reserves the right to carry out the act of advertising, press, promotion, publication, and dissemination that it considers appropriate for the data provided by the USERS that make use of this Service. By the single provision of data and acceptance of the present terms and conditions, the USERS offer their express approval for the utilization and dissemination of their data and images (photo and voice) for advertising and communication media that SBASE and/or the Autonomous City Government of Buenos Aires might arrange.

VICE's work illustrates this fragment in a more straightforward example:

Si lo hizo [aceptar los términos y condiciones], no debería sorprenderse si un día al entrar a la estación, ve su cara en una gigantografía con la frase: “De lunes a viernes bien temprano, (su nombre y apellido) disfruta de nuestro servicio”.”

If you do [accept the terms and conditions], you should not be surprised to one day see, upon entering the station, your face on a giant print with the phrase: “From very early on Mondays through Fridays, (your first and last name) enjoys our service.”

The aforementioned description, however, is not as serious as what we cite below from Article 2, the section on “Term and Duration”:

SBASE podrá establecer nuevas condiciones y/o modificaciones a cualquiera de las cláusulas contenidas en los presentes términos y condiciones y las políticas de privacidad sin necesidad de contar con la autorización del USUARIO.

SBASE will be able to establish new conditions and/or modifications to any of the clauses contained in these current terms and conditions and the privacy policies without needing to contact the USER for authorization.

In other words, users accept a contract where the terms and conditions can change at any moment without them knowing or agreeing to the new terms. This raises some serious questions about what could happen to all of the data and images the State has compiled and stored. In light of the impending reform to the current Argentinian Personal Data Protection Act, established in October 2000 as Law N° 25.326, it also raises a serious red flag.

Why does the SBASE need a user's labor key number? Why does the city government need to store any citizen's personal photos and voice notes? What other potential use could they have for this information, protected by future modifications to the data protection law or to the terms and conditions of the contract itself?

The fourth article of Argentina's Personal Data Protection Act says that the “personal data that is collected for the intent of data processing should be true, appropriate, relevant, and not excessive in relation to the scope and purpose for which they were to have been obtained.” One could suppose that some of the data compiled by SBASE (in particular, a user's photos) could be considered “excessive in relation to the scope and purpose for which they were to have been obtained.”

At the moment of this article's publication, the contract's text has not been uploaded to the City Government's or SBASE's official site for further reading and consultation. It can only be accessed from the subte, the city's metro.

Twitter user Tomás published the binding contract's complete text, which he had saved in a Google doc some time ago and, regarding the VICE report, commented:

This caught my attention and one time I sent them to myself via mail after accepting. I had never read them until today:

The ‘Transparent Society’

On social networks, there was very little reaction from netizens in response to VICE's publicized report (or the conditions themselves). Javier Pallero, an internet policy analyst for the US-based digital rights NGO Access Now, explains that there is very little awareness concerning privacy and that what is most worrisome about all of this is the fact that it is the state that is gathering this data: “It is the only entity that still has the capacity to take away your possessions, to deprive you of liberty, or, under certain circumstances, to legally shoot you.”

The users who access social network platforms, applications, and other digital services are accustomed to accepting their terms and conditions without reading them. Valeria Milanés, director of the Digital Association for Civil Rights (ADC), explains that “these are extremely large, binding contracts with very complex terminology. What should happen is that the text is accompanied by messages with very clear ideas about how they are going to use the data, for how long, in language that is as plain as possible.”

The data delivery has already been naturalized among users, to the point of being considered a relatively low price to pay for gaining the benefits of a “free” connection:

The most incredible thing of all: to the average Argentinian it doesn't matter, as long as they are given free wifi they will accept anything, “in the end they have nothing to hide.”

In other cases, the problem is simplified and a practical solution suggested: don't use the service.

Don't use it. No one is forcing you to do so.

The scant resistance by users for entering their data reflects a worrisome disinterest or ignorance of the potential risks involved in accepting terms and conditions that are not completely understood.

Censorship on the #BAWifi Network?

In another vein, the blog El Disenso (The Dissent) openly criticized the Buenos Aires City Government and the national government, reporting how its site was blocked from the Buenos Aires WiFi network after they published a series of investigations that, according to them, “made the GCBA uncomfortable.” The blog alleges that, on February 1st, various readers informed them that they could not access the website when they were connected to the BA WiFi network.

📌#ThisWeek, Thur 1/2 Censorship 👉#CensuraPRO: After reporting to #Larreta, the #BAWiFi blocked @ElDisenso – Now the #GCBA not only monitors you, but also decides what you can and cannot read!
Read all about it at @ElDisenso🇦🇷📢https://t.co/3qDQVHWapA

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta is the Head of Government for Buenos Aires, successor to the position that the current president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, once held.

El Disenso presented its complaints before the Department of Protection of Citizen's Rights of the City of Buenos Aires and the company Subte BA. On February 7, it confirmed that access to the site had been reestablished on the network, which they described as an “erroneous URL blocking incident.”

Of course, many still question whether this incident was accidental or intentional.

by Sara Holmes at February 17, 2018 01:40 AM

February 16, 2018

Global Voices Advocacy
‘They Fear Pens, Not Guns': Turkish Journalists Sentenced to Life in Prison

Demonstrators on World Press Freedom Day in Turkey, 2013. Image by Amnesty International Turkey.

After spending just over a year behind bars without charge, Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel was released from a Turkish jail on February 16. Just hours later, six other journalists in the country were issued a life sentence for “or attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”.

With 155 journalists serving jail time because of their work, these days of highs and lows are beginning to feel routine for Turkey's embattled independent media community.

BBC described Deniz Yucel's imprisonment as a long-standing “irritant” in the relations between the two countries. His release came shortly after Turkish PM's visit to Germany this week.

Deniz Yucel was arrested exactly 367 days ago on suspicion of “inciting the people to racial hatred and enmity” and “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization”.

Soon after his release was announced, crowd gathered outside the jail, where Yucel joined his wife who was waiting for him:

But the ordeal is not yet over. Yucel was charged and indicted upon his release, with the prosecution demanding that he be sentenced to 18 years in prison.

While colleagues and friends celebrated the news of Yucel's release, another court decision came down, this time affecting the fate of a different group of journalists.

Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazli Ilica, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı and Şükrü Tuğrul Özsengül were handed a lifetime prison sentence after being convicted of involvement with Turkey's 2016 coup, despite a lack of direct evidence.

Five of the six defendants are journalists and intellectuals all had strong ties with opposition news outlets in the past. Ahmet Altan is the former editor-in-chief of Taraf newspaper and his brother, Mehmet Altan is an academic and journalist who once wrote for Hurriyet. Nazli Ilıcak has written for Hurriyet, in addition to other newspapers, and briefly served as an MP for the Virtue party.

Yakup Şimşek and Fevzi Yazıcı worked with Zaman newspaper, which was one of Turkey's largest independent daily newspapers until 2016, when the government seized its operations, alleging that the outlet had ties to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Anadolu Agency reported that six people were convicted for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and of having communicated with associates of Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the July 2016 failed coup.

In addition to facing legal threats, all of these journalists have been subject to extralegal harassment. One year ago, President Erdogan called Yucel a terrorist in one of his televised speeches.

I filmed this speech one year ago. Deniz is finally free. I wish the same for the rest non-German citizen journalists friends of mine.


Video clip translation:
They are hiding this German terrorist, this spy at the embassy. They hid him for a month. And German Chancellor asked him from me. She said to release him. I told her we have an independent judiciary. Just like your judiciary is independent so is mine. It is [the judiciary] objective. That is why I am sorry to say, you won't take them from us. Finally, he was brought to court. He was arrested. Why? Because he is spy terrorist. Who cares he is a German citizen. It doesn't matter whose citizen you are, if you are spreading terror in Turkey, if they are secretly spies, they will pay the price.

Supporters in Turkey and around the world tweeted their shock at the decision:

On February 12, both Ahmet and Mehmet Altan were thrown out of the courthouse, for demanding to read the constitutional court decision which ruled for their release in January. The two brothers demanded that the decision which was overturned within 24 hours by the ruling of the 27th High Court is put on the record.

The next day, on February 13, speaking from high-security prison via video link, Ahmet Altan in his defense said the following:

Those in political power no longer fear generals. But they do fear writers. They fear pens, not guns. Because pens can reach where guns cannot: into the conscience of a society.

When the verdict was handed to Altan brothers today, one observer said cries and screams filled the courtroom.

Meanwhile, there are at least four other German Turkish citizens behind bars in Turkey, while the total number of imprisoned journalists and writers since the coup has now surpassed 150.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at February 16, 2018 06:45 PM

Social Media Giants Are at the Center of a Censorship Scandal in Russia — Again

Navalny's report alleges corruption on the part of Russia's Deputy PM. Now the government media regulator wants the video censored // Screencap by Christopher Moldes

Although barred from running in the 2018 presidential elections, Russian activist Alexey Navalny has found a way to ensure he stays in the news.

On February 8, Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, an organization dedicated to publicizing corruption scandals and property holdings of Russian politicians, shined their spotlight on a trail of evidence linking a Russian oligarch and the Russian deputy prime minister.

The revelations have triggered a sharp response from Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor, which ordered Instagram, YouTube and multiple Russian media sites to remove posts related to the scandal. Nearly all of the posts targeted have since been taken down, in one way or another.

From a ‘sex hunt’ to a national scandal

Navalny's report is based chiefly on the writings and social media postings of Nastya Rybka, a Belarusian national (real name Anastasia Vashukevich) and the author of a book entitled “Diary of a billionaire’s seduction.” In the book, Rybka describes her relationship with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and aluminum industry billionaire, who has become a prominent figure in US media coverage of congressional investigations into Russian election interference.

US president Donald Trump’s one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned after it was discovered that he had reached out to Deripaska offering to provide inside information on the Trump campaign.

Using thinly-veiled code names, Rybka describes her visits with Deripaska, from the moment of their meeting to a trip on Deripaksa's yacht near Norway, where they made a secret detour to meet with Russian Deputy PM Prikhodko. This meeting on the yacht also appeared in a video on Rybka's Instagram account.

In a small snippet of conversation she captured in the video, we hear Prikhodko and Deripaska discussing the worsening of US-Russian relations, and speculating on why one American official has a negative opinion of Russia. Rybka's book also alleges that Prikhodko flew to Norway with the express purpose of meeting Deripaska.

This information had been available for some time in Rybka’s book, which was published in early 2017. But it seemed to have slipped under the radar of mainstream media, until Rybka captured Navalny's attention by posting a video online in which she declared to carry out a “sex hunt” targeting Navalny.

Despite Rybka's peculiar approach, upon reading her account of the relationship and reviewing her Instagram posts, Navalny decided that this was indeed a story. If the oligarch paid for the deputy prime minister’s travel arrangements, which seemed likely to Navalny's group, this would constitute a bribe.

Navalny brought Rybka's story into the spotlight with a featured video about the scandal on his website and YouTube channel. Navalny's video report on the revelations (which can be viewed here in its entirety with English and German subtitles) has already been viewed more than five million times in one week.

This wave of attention led Deripaska to sue Rybka on privacy grounds. Deripaska is married, so this is undoubtedly causing him some consternation at home.

In the meantime, Rybka's book has become a best-seller.

Instagram and local sites cave to censorship demands

Deripaska also filed an injunction with Russia's federal media regulator, Roskomnadzor, asking the agency to demand that the videos and associated online reports be removed. This caused Roskomnadzor to unleash a blitz of censorship protocols that ultimately targeted Instagram, YouTube, Navalny's website and various Russian news sites, that were either pressured or ordered to take down all copies of the yacht visit video.  Most of the local sites — along with Instagram — have since complied.

The regulator ordered Navalny to delete the relevant post from his website, to which Navalny refused. ISPs were thus ordered to block navalny.com, though the group has now employed circumvention measures to keep the site accessible. Navalny responded by suing Roskomnadzor for threatening to blacklist his site.

Roskomnadzor also obtained a court order which it served to Instagram, demanding that the Facebook-owned social media site delete some of Rybka’s Instagram posts that figured prominently in the Navalny investigation. Instagram complied and deleted the requested videos, which now cannot be found on Rybka’s Instagram page.

Blocking the activist’s site outright drew the condemnation of some segments of Russian twitter. StalinGulag, a well-known tongue-in-cheek account, said:

They’re saying that Roskomnadzor started blocking Navalny’s site. There’s no censorship in the country, just odious dickheads deciding what you can and cannot read, but there’s no censorship in the country. THERE’S NO CENSORSHIP IN THE COUNTRY!

YouTube has so far not complied with Roskomnadzor’s requests, but on February 15, YouTube removed the recording of Navalny's weekly live show on copyright grounds, in response to a claim from Russia's largest state-owned TV network. The timing of this move could be coincidental, but smacks of an attempt at political censorship.

It was a good show. 30 thousand simultaneous online viewers. But 20 minutes later they blocked it globally after Channel One [Russia's largest state-owned TV network] filed a copyright violation complaint (this must be for a minute-long clip from the “Putin” movie) [The Putin Interviews by Oliver Stone]

Stuck between the government and the user base

As Coda Story points out, this is just the latest manifestation of online platforms being targeted for censorship by the Russian government. If companies like Facebook (owner of Instagram) can be swayed by government demands, their critics say, then they are abdicating their role as promoters of expression and communication.

By submitting to pressure and demands of a government (whichever it may be), social media platforms demonstrate that they are willing to undermine user interests if a government does not approve of the content that their platforms help to make publicly accessible.

However, as Navalny pointed out in his suit:

Согласно постановлению Пленума Верховного суда, информацию можно распространять без согласия гражданина при наличии публичного интереса. То есть гражданин является публичной фигурой, а обнародование информации является общественно значимым. Расследование имело целью раскрыть факты коррупции со стороны должностного лица Правительства Российской Федерации.

In accordance with a decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court, information can be disseminated without the approval of a citizen where there is public interest. This citizen is a public figure, and the publication of information is socially significant. The investigation’s goal was to expose facts of corruption on the part of a government official of the Russian Federation.

Given that Navalny has sued in an effort to affirm the validity of keeping these reports and videos online in the public interest, the social media companies involved could suspend further response until the courts have made a decision. But as Russian courts are not known for their independence, the Roskamnadzor bans are most likely to be upheld in the end.

 

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Oleg Deripaska also sued Alexey Navalny for libel, which he has not at the time of the update.

by Christopher Moldes at February 16, 2018 06:44 PM

Global Voices
‘They Fear Pens, Not Guns': Turkish Journalists Sentenced to Life in Prison

Demonstrators on World Press Freedom Day in Turkey, 2013. Image by Amnesty International Turkey.

After spending just over a year behind bars without charge, Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel was released from a Turkish jail on February 16. Just hours later, six other journalists in the country were issued a life sentence for “or attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”.

With 155 journalists serving jail time because of their work, these days of highs and lows are beginning to feel routine for Turkey's embattled independent media community.

BBC described Deniz Yucel's imprisonment as a long-standing “irritant” in the relations between the two countries. His release came shortly after Turkish PM's visit to Germany this week.

Deniz Yucel was arrested exactly 367 days ago on suspicion of “inciting the people to racial hatred and enmity” and “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization”.

Soon after his release was announced, crowd gathered outside the jail, where Yucel joined his wife who was waiting for him:

But the ordeal is not yet over. Yucel was charged and indicted upon his release, with the prosecution demanding that he be sentenced to 18 years in prison.

While colleagues and friends celebrated the news of Yucel's release, another court decision came down, this time affecting the fate of a different group of journalists.

Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazli Ilica, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı and Şükrü Tuğrul Özsengül were handed a lifetime prison sentence after being convicted of involvement with Turkey's 2016 coup, despite a lack of direct evidence.

Five of the six defendants are journalists and intellectuals all had strong ties with opposition news outlets in the past. Ahmet Altan is the former editor-in-chief of Taraf newspaper and his brother, Mehmet Altan is an academic and journalist who once wrote for Hurriyet. Nazli Ilıcak has written for Hurriyet, in addition to other newspapers, and briefly served as an MP for the Virtue party.

Yakup Şimşek and Fevzi Yazıcı worked with Zaman newspaper, which was one of Turkey's largest independent daily newspapers until 2016, when the government seized its operations, alleging that the outlet had ties to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Anadolu Agency reported that six people were convicted for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and of having communicated with associates of Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the July 2016 failed coup.

In addition to facing legal threats, all of these journalists have been subject to extralegal harassment. One year ago, President Erdogan called Yucel a terrorist in one of his televised speeches.

I filmed this speech one year ago. Deniz is finally free. I wish the same for the rest non-German citizen journalists friends of mine.


Video clip translation:
They are hiding this German terrorist, this spy at the embassy. They hid him for a month. And German Chancellor asked him from me. She said to release him. I told her we have an independent judiciary. Just like your judiciary is independent so is mine. It is [the judiciary] objective. That is why I am sorry to say, you won't take them from us. Finally, he was brought to court. He was arrested. Why? Because he is spy terrorist. Who cares he is a German citizen. It doesn't matter whose citizen you are, if you are spreading terror in Turkey, if they are secretly spies, they will pay the price.

Supporters in Turkey and around the world tweeted their shock at the decision:

On February 12, both Ahmet and Mehmet Altan were thrown out of the courthouse, for demanding to read the constitutional court decision which ruled for their release in January. The two brothers demanded that the decision which was overturned within 24 hours by the ruling of the 27th High Court is put on the record.

The next day, on February 13, speaking from high-security prison via video link, Ahmet Altan in his defense said the following:

Those in political power no longer fear generals. But they do fear writers. They fear pens, not guns. Because pens can reach where guns cannot: into the conscience of a society.

When the verdict was handed to Altan brothers today, one observer said cries and screams filled the courtroom.

Meanwhile, there are at least four other German Turkish citizens behind bars in Turkey, while the total number of imprisoned journalists and writers since the coup has now surpassed 150.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at February 16, 2018 06:41 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/16/2018: How Black Twitter is influencing America
Twitter has the power to shape global conversation. And it’s become a way for marginalized communities to garner attention for the issues that matter to them. Case in point: Black Twitter. According to Pew Research, young black Americans use Twitter more than any other platform. And they’re discussing topics like racial injustice, police shootings and representation in entertainment. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with the author and activist known as Feminista Jones about the cultural significance and influence of Twitter as a platform for black activism.

by Marketplace at February 16, 2018 11:30 AM

February 15, 2018

Global Voices
Netizen Report: In Leaked Docs, European Commission Says Tech Companies Should Self-Regulate on Harmful Speech

Photo by Cory Doctorow. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

In the wake of public panic surrounding a spike in threats of violence and hate speech online, the European Commission has been preparing new recommendations on how member states should address “illegal online content.”

Although they have not been officially submitted, a leaked draft of the recommendations has begun to circulate and is now accessible on the website of European Digital Rights, a coalition group of civil society and human rights groups dedicated to protecting free speech and privacy online. The draft suggests that the Commission will not propose new regulations, but rather envisions private companies like Facebook and Google taking greater responsibility for these issues voluntarily.

In a brief analysis of the recommendations, EDRi’s Joe McNamee writes:

On the basis of no new analyses, no new data and no new pressing issues to be addressed, the leaked draft Recommendation seeks to fully privatise the task of deciding what is acceptable online or not. The only protection for user rights like freedom of expression is an unenforceable hope that certain “adequate safeguards” will be put in place voluntarily by the companies. The draft reminds readers – twice – that the providers have “contractual freedom”, meaning that any such safeguards will be purely optional.

The only specific types of online content referenced in the draft are “terrorist material” (no definition offered) and content under copyright. McNamee argues that “the repeated references to measures proposed to address copyright and ‘intellectual property rights’ infringements gives an indication of the real driving force behind for such far-reaching measures.”

Bangladesh orders internet shutdown, then backs down

On February 11, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission ordered internet service providers to shut down the internet over a few set time periods, during the month of February that corresponds with national university placement exams. The impetus for the temporary shutdowns was to stifle the circulation of leaked answers to the exams. The order was swiftly reversed following broad public criticism.

Malawi suspends mandatory SIM card registration until further notice

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority announced in June 2017 that it would become mandatory for mobile phone users to register their SIM cards with network operators, citing registration provisions in the Communications Act of 2016. In late January, authorities doubled down on this promise and set a deadline for SIM registration, threatening that any phone with an unregistered card would have its service shut off on April 1, 2018.

But this week, the measure was suspended, with authorities citing the need for a “civic education” campaign on the matter before resuming registration practices. Azania Post reports that some citizens have shown reluctance to register their SIM cards for fear that the program is “a ploy by the government to tap people’s phones.”

Research shows that European telcos behave better at home than in Africa

A new study by the French NGO Internet San Frontieres shows that major European telecommunications providers offering services in Sub-Saharan Africa do not offer the same levels of transparency and consumer protection to African customers as they do to their European markets. The study compares the practices and policies of Orange in Senegal and Safaricom (owned by Vodafone) in Kenya.

Brazil’s largest newspaper ditches Facebook

Folha de Sao Paulo announced that it will no longer post news articles or updates on its Facebook page, which has nearly six million followers. In an editorial-like article, the company said the decision stems primarily from Facebook's recent decision to reduce the amount of newsfeed content from Facebook pages, instead favoring posts by friends and family. Folha’s executive editor accused Facebook of “…banning professional journalism from its pages in favour of personal content and opening space for ‘fake news’ to proliferate.”

Big advertiser threatens to leave Facebook, calling it a ‘swamp’

The behemoth British-Dutch company Unilever, which owns major food and toiletry brands including Lipton tea and Dove soap, is threatening to pull its advertising from Facebook. CNN published a pre-released copy of a speech by Unilever marketing executive Keith Weed in which he says that the company “cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain … which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.” CNN says that Weed attributed the move to a “proliferation of objectionable content on social media — and a lack of protections for children — is eroding social trust, harming users and undermining democracies.”

Facebook is violating German consumer laws

A Berlin court ruling (made in January but released to the public in mid-February) found that Facebook’s default settings for privacy and corresponding policies do not meet the basic standards for personal data protection required by German consumer protection laws. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Federation of German consumer organizations, VZBV. The company has pledged to overhaul its privacy approach in tandem with the release of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

New Research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

by Advox at February 15, 2018 09:30 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: In Leaked Docs, European Commission Says Tech Companies Should Self-Regulate on Harmful Speech

Photo by Cory Doctorow. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

In the wake of public panic surrounding a spike in threats of violence and hate speech online, the European Commission has been preparing new recommendations on how member states should address “illegal online content.”

Although they have not been officially submitted, a leaked draft of the recommendations has begun to circulate and is now accessible on the website of European Digital Rights, a coalition group of civil society and human rights groups dedicated to protecting free speech and privacy online. The draft suggests that the Commission will not propose new regulations, but rather envisions private companies like Facebook and Google taking greater responsibility for these issues voluntarily.

In a brief analysis of the recommendations, EDRi’s Joe McNamee writes:

On the basis of no new analyses, no new data and no new pressing issues to be addressed, the leaked draft Recommendation seeks to fully privatise the task of deciding what is acceptable online or not. The only protection for user rights like freedom of expression is an unenforceable hope that certain “adequate safeguards” will be put in place voluntarily by the companies. The draft reminds readers – twice – that the providers have “contractual freedom”, meaning that any such safeguards will be purely optional.

The only specific types of online content referenced in the draft are “terrorist material” (no definition offered) and content under copyright. McNamee argues that “the repeated references to measures proposed to address copyright and ‘intellectual property rights’ infringements gives an indication of the real driving force behind for such far-reaching measures.”

Bangladesh orders internet shutdown, then backs down

On February 11, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission ordered internet service providers to shut down the internet over a few set time periods, during the month of February that corresponds with national university placement exams. The impetus for the temporary shutdowns was to stifle the circulation of leaked answers to the exams. The order was swiftly reversed following broad public criticism.

Malawi suspends mandatory SIM card registration until further notice

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority announced in June 2017 that it would become mandatory for mobile phone users to register their SIM cards with network operators, citing registration provisions in the Communications Act of 2016. In late January, authorities doubled down on this promise and set a deadline for SIM registration, threatening that any phone with an unregistered card would have its service shut off on April 1, 2018.

But this week, the measure was suspended, with authorities citing the need for a “civic education” campaign on the matter before resuming registration practices. Azania Post reports that some citizens have shown reluctance to register their SIM cards for fear that the program is “a ploy by the government to tap people’s phones.”

Research shows that European telcos behave better at home than in Africa

A new study by the French NGO Internet San Frontieres shows that major European telecommunications providers offering services in Sub-Saharan Africa do not offer the same levels of transparency and consumer protection to African customers as they do to their European markets. The study compares the practices and policies of Orange in Senegal and Safaricom (owned by Vodafone) in Kenya.

Brazil’s largest newspaper ditches Facebook

Folha de Sao Paulo announced that it will no longer post news articles or updates on its Facebook page, which has nearly six million followers. In an editorial-like article, the company said the decision stems primarily from Facebook's recent decision to reduce the amount of newsfeed content from Facebook pages, instead favoring posts by friends and family. Folha’s executive editor accused Facebook of “…banning professional journalism from its pages in favour of personal content and opening space for ‘fake news’ to proliferate.”

Big advertiser threatens to leave Facebook, calling it a ‘swamp’

The behemoth British-Dutch company Unilever, which owns major food and toiletry brands including Lipton tea and Dove soap, is threatening to pull its advertising from Facebook. CNN published a pre-released copy of a speech by Unilever marketing executive Keith Weed in which he says that the company “cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain … which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.” CNN says that Weed attributed the move to a “proliferation of objectionable content on social media — and a lack of protections for children — is eroding social trust, harming users and undermining democracies.”

Facebook is violating German consumer laws

A Berlin court ruling (made in January but released to the public in mid-February) found that Facebook’s default settings for privacy and corresponding policies do not meet the basic standards for personal data protection required by German consumer protection laws. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Federation of German consumer organizations, VZBV. The company has pledged to overhaul its privacy approach in tandem with the release of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

New Research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

by Netizen Report Team at February 15, 2018 09:24 PM

Global Voices
Remembering Pakistan's Empowering Human Rights Activist Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir at a Human Rights Day event in December 2012. Image from Flickr by Jean-Marc Ferré. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On February 11, 2018, the sudden and untimely demise of Asma Jahangir, Pakistani human rights champion and a United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of Islamic Republic of Iran left the world in shock and grief.

Jahangir, who turned 66 in January, was a cancer survivor and one heart attack before passing away from cardiac arrest. Thousands from around the world sent condolence messages and paid tribute to the woman often dubbed as the ‘voice of the voiceless.’ Also known as the ‘iron lady,’ Jahangir was known to take to the streets against military dictators and regimes and for standing up for social justice.

UN Human Rights mourned:

Jahangir was laid to rest in her hometown Lahore, Pakistan, where her funeral was attended by thousands of people regardless of gender, religion and social status. In Pakistan, a predominately a Muslim society, women are barred from attending funerals, particularly the act of funeral prayer. The burial in a graveyard is considered a man's job.

Independent journalist Rabia Mehmood dubbed Jahangir's funeral ‘the last subversive act':

In a Facebook post, Mehmood writes that “even in her death she empowered us”:

Last subversive act – women, and men stood together for Asma Jahangir's funeral prayer. This was the first funeral prayer I have participated in. Even in her death, she empowered us. Salam. Rest in power AJ and thank you.

Sabahat Zakariya, a Lahore-based journalist who attended the funeral tweeted her experience:

Human rights activist Marvi Sirmed writes:

Even in her death, she did not conform to the established code. Resistance, thy name is Asma.

If one word can describe the funeral procession, it is pluralism. That’s what Asma Jahangir lived for as well. Her funeral looked like Pakistan. A truly federal Pakistan with all communities represented.

Asma Jahangir's activist roots

Asma Jahangir was born in 1952 in Lahore, Pakistan and was introduced to politics as a teenager through her father, Malik Ghula Jilani, who was seen as a thorn in the eyes of the establishment and arrested several times as an active critic of the then military dictators Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan. Jilani supported Sheikh Mujibur Rahman‘s Awami League (Shiekh Mujib led the liberation of Bangladesh movement, causing East Pakistan to separate in 1971). Jilani was arrested in December 1971 after his resignation from the National Assembly to protest the Pakistan Government’s military action in Bangladesh.

In 1972, Jahangir challenged her father's arrest and secured a landmark judgment which became known as Ms. Asma Jilani versus the government of Punjab.

Muhammad Taqi, a political activist, and columnist explains:

The Asma Jilani case was the basis for the framers of the 1973 constitution to draft not only Article 6 – dealing with high treason – but also making a specific exception to the constitutional principle of non-retrospectivity of offences and punishments in the case of high treason and desecration of the constitution.

Jahangir earned a law degree and started practicing law under military dictator Zia ul Haq. Along with her sister Hina Jilani and two friends, she co-founded an all-women legal aid practice in 1980 to provide legal aid to women.

Jahangir actively participated in the resistance against ul Haq and images of women being lathhi-charged (beaten by batons by police) have become a symbol of resistance. The government of Pakistan declared this day of resistance as Pakistan Women's Day a few years ago, as described by the Women's Action Forum in Pakistan:

On 12th February 1983, 250 women took out a peaceful protest in Lahore to petition against the discriminatory Law of Evidence that General Zia ul Haq's regime attempted to promulgate. These protesters were lathhi charged brutally, tear-gassed and some 50 were arrested.

The second wave of the women's movement has not retreated since. In tribute and memory of that historic challenge to a dictatorial regime and discriminatory state, 12th February is marked as Pakistan Women's Day. 

An activist who lived and died for the resistance

A firebrand activist and extremely outspoken advocate for oppressed, Jahangir was a trailblazer in Pakistan who went on to co-found the Human Rights Commission  of Pakistan in 1987. She was an integral part of the lawyers’ movement that led to ousted military dictator Pervez Musharaf in 2007, ushering in democracy's return in Pakistan.

Jahangir remained a staunch member of the Pakistan's political resistance. Her last speech was in support of the Pakthun Long March in which marginalised Pakhtuns demanded equal rights and justice from the center.

Bushra Gohar, a Pakistani politician thanks Jahangir for her solidarity with the Pakhtuns:

Jahangir did not constrain her activism to geographical boundaries, speaking for the rights of oppressed people such as the Rohingya, Kashmiri, Palestinians, and Baloch. In January, she gave statements against BBC Persian journalists on trial in Iran. David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression tweeted:

Jahangir received Pakistan's highest civilian awards such as the Hilal-e-Imtiaz (second highest civilian award) and Sitara-e-Imtiaz (the third highest honour and civilian award in Pakistan) in 2010. She also received several international awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award (along with Edward Snowden), the 2010 Freedom AwardRamon Magsaysay Award, the 1995 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. France awarded her the Officier de la Légion d'honneur.

Jahangir also wrote two books: The Hudood Ordinance: A Divine Sanction and Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan. 

Her 2014 Right Livelihood Award speech is making rounds on social media:

Many struggling for empowerment and justice will miss her dearly, including civil society activists, prisoners waiting for a fair trial and women on the frontlines of activist movements. Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, who narrowly escaped abduction in January 2018 and openly complained about being harassed and intimidated by the Pakistani military, shared his grief, honoring Jahangir as his legal counsel through the ordeal:

Salman Hyder, a blogger and independent journalist who was among the four bloggers abducted and later released in January last year grieved:

Palace will celebrate
streets will mourn
military cantonments will be lively
every small town will be in grief
Salman
#RIPAsmaJahangir

by Qurratulain (Annie) Zaman at February 15, 2018 03:20 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/15/2018: Ads are annoying. But they can also be invasive.
Google Chrome’s built-in ad blocker is set to start blocking some of the most annoying ads — pop ups, automatic players and the like. But while ads can be irritating, ad-tracking software might actually be worse. To get a closer look at this kind of tracking and why it should matter to consumers, Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood speaks with Casey Oppenheim, co-founder and CEO of the privacy software company Disconnect.

by Marketplace at February 15, 2018 11:30 AM

Global Voices
Hannah Mouncey Becomes First Transgender Player in Australian Women’s State League Football
Hannah Mouncey - Transgender footballer

Hannah Mouncey. Screenshot from YouTube video “60 Minutes Australia: Girl power (2017)”

A transgender Aussie Rules football player has finally been given the go-ahead to compete in state level women’s competitions. In 2017, Hannah Mouncey was denied the opportunity to enter the national Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) draft. The AFLW season is currently underway.

Her “strength, stamina, or physique” were among the factors taken into consideration at the time. Hannah is 190 centimeters tall (6 feet, 2 inches) and weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds). She represented her country at the 2013 World Men's Handball Championship as Callum Mouncey.

Following hormone treatment, Hannah is currently below the maximum testosterone level set by the International Olympic committee. The original rejection was certainly controversial, with vocal group agreeing with the decision in various shades, from decrying her participation as unfair because of the sex she was assigned at birth, to spurning the very existence of transgender identity.

The latest decision has brought similar responses on Twitter. This one is from a self-styled cycling expert Bolar:

Others such as Dreama40 have been more sympathetic:

I admit i dont understand the whole Trans thing BUT, i do believe that it is very REAL to them and i respect their courage for living life as their true selves because that must be very hard to do.

The sport’s governing body, the Australian Football League, and Hannah herself have copped a backlash on social media following the green light for her to compete. But Twitter user Catkin rejected the negativity:

So did Daniel Carroll:

Hannah uploaded a video response to the latest news:

She was forthright about the AFL’s decisions:

I cannot thank the AFL for allowing me to do something that is open to every other Australian and which the science and research has supported all along.

[…] many people will wonder why I say football doesn't matter when for so many people is such a huge part of their life and clearly mine but to understand why I feel that way you need to first understand what so many people trans people go through on a daily basis and not just when they transition.

She discussed the problems that transgender people face daily such as discrimination when looking for housing and employment, and the rejection of close friends and family.

She was far from convincing everyone, with some accusing her of acting “entitled” to a spot in the AFWL. Web developer and runner Mike Haydon attempted to be a voice of reason:

 

We can only hope that more people online will approach the issue with an open mind.

by Kevin Rennie at February 15, 2018 02:44 AM

February 14, 2018

Global Voices
East African Women in the Music Industry Sing Out Against Male Domination

Movers and Shakers networking session on women in music at Sauti za Busara on Saturday, February 10 featuring left to right: Zeitoun Amour, Copyright Society of Zanzibar (COSOZA), Carola Kinasha, MC of Sauti za Busara festival 2018, Amina Omar, lead singer of Siti and the Band, and the artist Saida Karoli. Photo by Jamie Topper with permission.

“Women in music: We have made ourselves known in the music industry around the world. Yet gender inequality, sexism, and pay gaps persist,” said Carola Kinasha, a Tanzanian-based musician and activist who recently moderated a panel discussion on women in music.

It’s not that we’re not skillful enough. It’s that all the decision-makers are men.”

The panel was part of the three-day Movers and Shakers networking series within the 15th edition of Sauti za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom, in Swahili) music festival in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

On February 10, Kinasha spoke about the challenges women face in the music industry with leading women artists American singer-songwriter Somi; Tanzanian singer and musician Saida Karoli; Amina Omar, of the Zanzibari group Siti and the Band; and Zeitun Amour, a representative of the Copyright Society of Zanzibar (COSOZA).

Kinasha opened her remarks by pointing out that in the United Kingdom, women make up only 16% of the leadership within the music business. While limited data is available on the status of women in music throughout Africa, “Clearly, there’s a major issue with male domination in the music industry,” she said.

Somi, a jazz artist with roots in Uganda and Rwanda who now lives between New York City and Johannesburg, describes how pushing back against tradition has been her biggest challenge as an African woman in music:

Being part of an immigrant family and choosing a path as an artist had its challenges. I had to think carefully about when and how and in which spaces we as women are supposed to use our voices.

Saida Karoli, one of Tanzania’s most popular singers who stole the hearts of festival goers with her electrifying nighttime performance on February 10, spoke with raw truth about the myriad challenges she has faced as a woman in music in Tanzania, highlighting intersectional injustices as a poor, uneducated woman from the remote village of Rwongwe, in the Bukoba region of Tanzania around Lake Victoria.

Karoli started drumming at the age of five, going on to write and produce five albums to critical acclaim:

I’m from a small village and I was an orphan. I didn’t have any idea how to make it in the music industry and my manager was like my father, I believed in him wholeheartedly.

With her manager “Muta” at the steering wheel, Karoli’s popularity grew as she traveled the region from Burundi to Rwanda to Uganda, packing venues to such an extent that four people once allegedly died of suffocation. Yet according to Karoli, her manager exploited and abused her talents, claiming copyrights on all her songs and albums:

I was young, inexperienced in the music business, and at the end of the day, I didn’t have even 100 shillings [0.10 US dollars] in my pocket. Life has been hard.

Karoli revealed that while her manager opened new doors for her, he also kept her behind closed doors for a period of seven months like a prisoner, refusing to allow her to speak with other managers or producers. When she finally decided to break away she went to the port city of Mwanza, where, she said:

I hid from my fame. I was ashamed. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself. I had no rights in this work. When the journalists came asking for interviews, I just ran. I couldn’t face the shame.

Amour, Zanzibar’s authority on copyright issues, assured Karoli that as the author of all her music, she still does have basic rights under the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act of Tanzania (1999), but that it depends on the actual existing signed contract and the case demands further investigation and legal representation. 

Karoli, who no longer works with a manager, said she is counting on her debut back in the spotlight at Sauti za Busara to boost sales and build a name for herself again after years in the shadows.

‘We're basically here to carve new paths as women in music’

Amina Omar, lead singer of Siti and the Band who lit up the festival stage on February 10 with soulful Taarab (Zanzibari soul) fusion roots, expressly thanked Karoli for speaking out on a subject so few women in the region are willing to touch — the various forms of abuse and harassment women face not just in music but within society as a whole.

Omar remembers singing at 11 years old with her sister Rahama, now an award-winning violinist in her band. But neighbors and family members frowned on the girls’ musical inclinations and eventually, her family encouraged her to marry and have children as is the tradition within Zanzibar, an archipelago where most families follow conservative Islamic customs:

So, I got married. I had my first child. My husband told me he’d support me as a musician, but when our child was grown enough to let me go back to singing, he simply said no. ‘No,’ he said. ‘You are my wife. I own you. You have to do what I like.’

When Omar decided to enter as a contestant in “Bongo Star Search,” an interactive musical reality television show based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, it sparked a violent argument with her husband. “You know, I never really talk about this but to this day, I still can’t see very well from one eye, and it’s from that night,” Amina revealed, pointing to her right eye. She struggled to leave her husband in Dar es Salaam and rebuild a life for her and her son back home in Zanzibar:

I love Zanzibar, I love my society, but there are good aspects to it as well as bad. I don’t like the idea that women are forbidden to speak in public in my society. I don’t like the position of women. I also don’t like that when my society sees me succeed, some want to keep me down. When I came back to Zanzibar, I joined the Dhow Countries Music Academy and got my education, and now I know who I am. I really love singing, it’s my life and it’s in my blood.

Women in music often seek out role models to guide them on the path, but according to Somi:

[W]e have so few role models as African women in music, that we’re basically here to carve out new paths, to be the models for future generations. We’re tasked with telling our truth(s) as African women, and there’s not that many of us — it’s a short list.

Somi referred to Angelique Kidjo as a great inspiration, while Karoli mentioned Lady JayDee and Omar mentioned legends like Bi. Kidude and Siti Binti Saad, for whom her band is named.  

Siti Binti Saad, Zanzibar's original Taarab singer (1880-1950) from the village of Fumba, trailblazed as the first woman in East Africa ever to record her music in Swahili, recording over 150 gramophone records in India. She was known to perform on stage wearing a black veil over her head as was the custom for Muslim women along the Swahili Coast. In a world dominated by men, Saad insisted on a musical path and was known to protest violence against women through her music. 

At February 10’s show, Omar channeled the spirit of Siti Binti Saad when she introduced her song with a powerful message directed mainly at men:

This next song is my story. And I say, a woman is your wife, is your mother, is your sister. Why beat your woman? She should be respected. She needs respect!

The crowd cheered.

Editor's note: The author of this story has worked for the Sauti za Busara festival in the past. 

by Amanda Lichtenstein at February 14, 2018 10:52 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Network Shutdowns Leave Civilians Unreachable — And Unable to Call for Help

A demonstration against mobile shutdowns in North Sinai. Banner reads: “We don't want to use Israeli networks because of your neglect.” Photo by Sinai2014/SinaiOutofCoverage group page.

This post was written by Asser Khattab and originally published on the SMEX blog. It is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

As part of a military operation to root out “terrorists and criminal elements and organizations” from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and adjacent areas, the Egyptian Armed Forces have ordered a region-wide shutdown of internet and telecommunications services.

Dubbed “Comprehensive Operation: Sinai 2018,” the military campaign is targeting insurgents affiliated with ISIS in the northern and central areas of the Sinai Peninsula, west of the Nile valley, and the Nile Delta.

Online activists and Egyptian citizens are sounding the alarm on Twitter using the hashtag #سيناء_خارج_التغطية [“Sinai is out of the coverage area”] to express concern over the fate of Sinai civilians, which is largely unknown since they are now both physically and virtually inaccessible. Since July 2013,  Northern Sinai has been treated as a closed military zone by Egyptian authorities, who have banned access to journalists and human rights observers. Thousands have been forcibly evicted and displaced as the Egyptian military bulldozed homes to create buffer zones on the border with Gaza, and most recently around the Sinai airport.

This major military campaign has effectively placed the Sinai in a media blackout, with telecommunications shutdowns disconnecting Sinai residents from each other and isolating them from the rest of the country and world.

Such shutdowns have become commonplace for residents of Al-Arish and other cities in the sparsely populated North Sinai, who are subjected to network disruptions “whenever military and security operations are conducted in the desert area south of the city,” according to an engineer from al-Arish who spoke to SMEX on the condition of anonymity, fearing that he could be summoned by the authorities. The source added that the government does not warn residents before a shutdown and does not provide any justifications once services are restored.

The Egyptian government has been launching offensives against the Sinai insurgency since it began in 2011, in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution that toppled the presidency of Hosni Mubarak. Extremist militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM) repeatedly attacked Egyptian security forces before pledging allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula, known as ISIL-Sinai Province.

Mohannad Sabry, a journalist and researcher who has extensively covered the Sinai, told SMEX in a phone interview that internet and telecommunications blackouts are simply ineffective.

“Government forces suffer from network disruptions more than the insurgents,” he said, referring to instances when ground forces lost contact with each other or with the Ministry of Interior during combat. Insurgent groups “have alternative ways to communicate, like through BGAN portable terminals and shortwave walkie talkies,” Sabry added, explaining that disruptions to telecommunications services have little impact on their alleged targets.

These shutdowns prevent local and foreign journalists and non-governmental organizations from reaching sources on the ground.

“Limiting coverage of the failure of Egypt’s strategy in the Sinai and of the negative impact it has had on the community there is one of the reasons behind these disruptions,” Sabry said.

On February 3, The New York Times exposed a “secret alliance” between Egypt and Israel in the war against militants in North Sinai. The Egyptian government is trying to conceal such information from the public, according to Sabry, “Egyptian leaders wanted to cover up the approval of Israeli airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Sinai,” he said.

The telecommunications sector in Egypt is operated by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA), which “means that this body is implicated in any network disruptions that occur in the country,” a freedom of expression activist told SMEX on the condition of anonymity, as a safety precaution.

“Various government bodies interfere in the work of the NTRA, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the National Security Agency, and others like the Ministry of Telecommunications,” the activist added.

The recurring interference in internet and telecommunication services comes as press freedoms and freedom of expression are jeopardized by the military rule of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. In 2016, Egypt was the world’s third-ranked offender in terms of imprisoned journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Reporting on the North Sinai is even more difficult since the area was declared a closed military zone in July 2013 and rendered inaccessible to journalists. Our source in Al-Arish said that while journalists can request permission to enter the area from Egypt’s military spokesperson, Tamer al-Refai, “he barely gives any authorizations … no one has been allowed to write about this story or any story that actually matters [to Sinai residents].”

Asked if any organizations are advocating on behalf of residents’ right to access the internet and other telecommunications services, the engineer in Al-Arish said: “absolutely not, no one is … just like the press, the work of NGOs is very restricted here.”

Sabry said that the real victims of those disruptions are the local civilians in the North Sinai because “they cannot report cases of collateral damage or injuries and they have limited access to emergency services.”

“Several women were unable to call an ambulance while in labor,” he added.

For residents like our source in Al-Arish, who are directly impacted by these shutdowns, “the worst aspect is the element of surprise.” Some residents have been unable to learn about a relative’s death, learning of it 10 to 12 hours after its occurrence. Others have had to travel long distances, as much as 90 kilometres, to simply make a phone call or send an email.

Hindering and limiting access to information and communications services is a national concern in Egypt that extends far beyond the Sinai Peninsula. Since May 24, 2017, the Egyptian government has blocked at least 496 websites, according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, an independent legal firm.

Websites of several international news outlets, such as The Washington Post, and independent local media outlets, such as Mada Masr, are blocked. Under the pretext of supporting terrorism or the catch-all “fake news,” the Egyptian public is being deprived of essential services and information while the work of local journalists is coming under systematic attack.

by SMEX at February 14, 2018 08:39 PM

Global Voices
In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Network Shutdowns Leave Civilians Unreachable — And Unable to Call for Help

A demonstration against mobile shutdowns in North Sinai. Banner reads: “We don't want to use Israeli networks because of your neglect.” Photo by Sinai2014/SinaiOutofCoverage group page.

This post was written by Asser Khattab and originally published on the SMEX blog. It is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

As part of a military operation to root out “terrorists and criminal elements and organizations” from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and adjacent areas, the Egyptian Armed Forces have ordered a region-wide shutdown of internet and telecommunications services.

Dubbed “Comprehensive Operation: Sinai 2018,” the military campaign is targeting insurgents affiliated with ISIS in the northern and central areas of the Sinai Peninsula, west of the Nile valley, and the Nile Delta.

Online activists and Egyptian citizens are sounding the alarm on Twitter using the hashtag #سيناء_خارج_التغطية [“Sinai is out of the coverage area”] to express concern over the fate of Sinai civilians, which is largely unknown since they are now both physically and virtually inaccessible. Since July 2013,  Northern Sinai has been treated as a closed military zone by Egyptian authorities, who have banned access to journalists and human rights observers. Thousands have been forcibly evicted and displaced as the Egyptian military bulldozed homes to create buffer zones on the border with Gaza, and most recently around the Sinai airport.

This major military campaign has effectively placed the Sinai in a media blackout, with telecommunications shutdowns disconnecting Sinai residents from each other and isolating them from the rest of the country and world.

Such shutdowns have become commonplace for residents of Al-Arish and other cities in the sparsely populated North Sinai, who are subjected to network disruptions “whenever military and security operations are conducted in the desert area south of the city,” according to an engineer from al-Arish who spoke to SMEX on the condition of anonymity, fearing that he could be summoned by the authorities. The source added that the government does not warn residents before a shutdown and does not provide any justifications once services are restored.

The Egyptian government has been launching offensives against the Sinai insurgency since it began in 2011, in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution that toppled the presidency of Hosni Mubarak. Extremist militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM) repeatedly attacked Egyptian security forces before pledging allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula, known as ISIL-Sinai Province.

Mohannad Sabry, a journalist and researcher who has extensively covered the Sinai, told SMEX in a phone interview that internet and telecommunications blackouts are simply ineffective.

“Government forces suffer from network disruptions more than the insurgents,” he said, referring to instances when ground forces lost contact with each other or with the Ministry of Interior during combat. Insurgent groups “have alternative ways to communicate, like through BGAN portable terminals and shortwave walkie talkies,” Sabry added, explaining that disruptions to telecommunications services have little impact on their alleged targets.

These shutdowns prevent local and foreign journalists and non-governmental organizations from reaching sources on the ground.

“Limiting coverage of the failure of Egypt’s strategy in the Sinai and of the negative impact it has had on the community there is one of the reasons behind these disruptions,” Sabry said.

On February 3, The New York Times exposed a “secret alliance” between Egypt and Israel in the war against militants in North Sinai. The Egyptian government is trying to conceal such information from the public, according to Sabry, “Egyptian leaders wanted to cover up the approval of Israeli airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Sinai,” he said.

The telecommunications sector in Egypt is operated by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA), which “means that this body is implicated in any network disruptions that occur in the country,” a freedom of expression activist told SMEX on the condition of anonymity, as a safety precaution.

“Various government bodies interfere in the work of the NTRA, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the National Security Agency, and others like the Ministry of Telecommunications,” the activist added.

The recurring interference in internet and telecommunication services comes as press freedoms and freedom of expression are jeopardized by the military rule of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. In 2016, Egypt was the world’s third-ranked offender in terms of imprisoned journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Reporting on the North Sinai is even more difficult since the area was declared a closed military zone in July 2013 and rendered inaccessible to journalists. Our source in Al-Arish said that while journalists can request permission to enter the area from Egypt’s military spokesperson, Tamer al-Refai, “he barely gives any authorizations … no one has been allowed to write about this story or any story that actually matters [to Sinai residents].”

Asked if any organizations are advocating on behalf of residents’ right to access the internet and other telecommunications services, the engineer in Al-Arish said: “absolutely not, no one is … just like the press, the work of NGOs is very restricted here.”

Sabry said that the real victims of those disruptions are the local civilians in the North Sinai because “they cannot report cases of collateral damage or injuries and they have limited access to emergency services.”

“Several women were unable to call an ambulance while in labor,” he added.

For residents like our source in Al-Arish, who are directly impacted by these shutdowns, “the worst aspect is the element of surprise.” Some residents have been unable to learn about a relative’s death, learning of it 10 to 12 hours after its occurrence. Others have had to travel long distances, as much as 90 kilometres, to simply make a phone call or send an email.

Hindering and limiting access to information and communications services is a national concern in Egypt that extends far beyond the Sinai Peninsula. Since May 24, 2017, the Egyptian government has blocked at least 496 websites, according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, an independent legal firm.

Websites of several international news outlets, such as The Washington Post, and independent local media outlets, such as Mada Masr, are blocked. Under the pretext of supporting terrorism or the catch-all “fake news,” the Egyptian public is being deprived of essential services and information while the work of local journalists is coming under systematic attack.

by SMEX at February 14, 2018 02:04 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/14/2018: Stitch Fix's Katrina Lake talks Silicon Valley and sexism
Tech, like a lot of other industries, is dominated by men. Women get $3 in venture capital for every $4 that men do, according to tech site Crunchbase. And only 17 percent of startups have a woman as their CEO. Katrina Lake, the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, has experienced that sexism first hand. In 2017, she was the only female CEO to take a company public in the U.S. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Lake at the Makers conference in Los Angeles about navigating Silicon Valley’s sexist culture.

by Marketplace at February 14, 2018 11:30 AM

Global Voices
Several Months After Their Abduction by Boko Haram, Thirteen Nigerian Citizens Regain Freedom

A screenshot of 10 Nigerian policewomen released by Boko Haram who were kidnapped in June 2017.

Thirteen Nigerians kidnapped by Boko Haram, a jihadist militant organization in Nigeria, regained their freedom on Saturday, February 10, 2018. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) noted in a statement that they “facilitated the handover” from Boko Haram to the Nigerian military of “10 women police officers and three university professors”:

This operation in north-east Nigeria, with the ICRC acting as a neutral intermediary, was carried out at the request of the parties to the ongoing armed conflict…The ICRC was not involved in any negotiations that led to the handover of the 13 people. The armed opposition handed the 13 people over to ICRC representatives who transported them to Nigerian authorities. This action was similar to what the ICRC did in October 2016 and May 2017, when we transported the release of “Chibok girls” to Nigerian officials.

Ten female police officers were kidnapped by Boko Haram in June 2017 after militants allegedly ambushed a convoy of security personnel in the north-eastern city of Damboa, Borno State. They later released a video in which they described the police officers as their “slaves“.

Similarly, three professors from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, were also abducted by Boko Haram in the Magumeri area of Borno State, north-eastern Nigeria during an oil exploration in the Lake Chad Basin area on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. A few days later, Boko Haram released a video footage of the university teachers.

Boko Haram has been responsible for thousands of deaths including suicide bombings and violent, militant attacks in north-east Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and Niger. The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in 2014 by Boko Haram in Chibok, north-east Nigeria led to the global hashtag #BringBackOurGirls which later morphed into the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement.

Twitter user Jeff Okoroafor, a Nigerian citizen, thanked the Bring Back Our Girls Nigeria (BBOG) for their persistent advocacy which has kept the abduction of Nigerian citizens at the forefront:

by Nwachukwu Egbunike at February 14, 2018 08:31 AM

‘India’s Only Positive Newspaper’ Brings Readers a Dose of Hope

Screenshot form the Optimist Citizen Newspaper

This post was written by Madhura Chakraborty, and originally appeared on Video Volunteers, an award-winning international community media organization based in India. An edited version is published below as part of a partnership with Global Voices.

Piyush Ghosh and Tuhin Kumar Singh, two young friends in Bhopal, the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, used to despair at the negativity emanating from the newspapers every morning. As a consequence, society becomes paranoid with a sense of fear and doubt. People are afraid of trusting each other and lose confidence in organizations, politicians, and the system.

The two thought, “What could be the solution? How to inspire people instead of pushing them further into despondency?”

Then a small idea came to them — a newspaper full of optimistic news. And now they are reaching every corner of India with their unique newspaper.

They launched the online and print fortnightly publication, self-branded as “India's first purely positive and good newspaper”, in October 2014, and it now has subscribers all over India now, who pay a small subscription fee of 290 Indian rupees or 5 US dollars per year.

The Optimist Citizen focuses on presenting only positive news ranging from stories of inspiration, unsung heroes, good governance, and acts of courage —  stories that aren't often picked up by mainstream media outlets, as they, as they do not create a sensation.

Video Volunteers community correspondent Ramlal Baiga in a video report explains how this newspaper evolved:

“We called a small public meeting in a park here in Bhopal. From that day on we started working towards our first edition, our mission and vision,” recalled Tuhin.

Piyush chimed in, “My parents are social entrepreneurs and their work is so inspirational. So I felt that we should use inspirational stories to motivate people instead of negative news.”

And so started the journey of The Optimist Citizen.

Neither of the co-founders had a background in media. “We didn’t know what kind of paper is used to print newspapers or even the difference between broadsheets and tabloids!” admitted Tuhin.

In fact, all the employees on board learned and grew with the newspaper. Tannson Matthews, the marketing director, talked about this journey to community correspondent Ramlal Baiga. “Once we started the paper, we realized there are different segments to cater to,” he said.

Despite all this, the duo has managed to build a successful media brand, with a solid online presence, from scratch.

Tuhin elaborated in an interview to Entrepreneurship India magazine:

The role of media is to disseminate news in the most unbiased and true format possible. But, often, in our globalised world, it is completely opposite. We felt if negative news and stories can bring about such negative actions, why not publish and present positive stories that can bring about a larger positive impact.

Stories like that of a 10-year old underprivileged girl who runs a library for kids in her slum, an Israeli man who came to India and grew an edible forest on a 70-acre barren land, a couple who started a foundation for children with rare diseases after they lost their infant daughter, a German artist who is transforming a village in Himachal Pradesh into an art hub to increase the tourism and livelihoods in the village and so much more. It was these stories that inspired us and we believed they can inspire millions more.

It is indeed heartening to read their stories of positive change in these trying times. Instead of devoting space to the antics of media-hungry politicians, or page-three gossip, we learn about entrepreneurs and Good Samaritans across the country. These stories, neglected by mainstream media, are highlighted across different sections of The Optimist Citizen.

You can follow the newspaper on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Video Volunteers runs India's only reporting network that's focused exclusively on providing broad coverage from the poorest, most media-dark districts in India.

by VideoVolunteers at February 14, 2018 03:47 AM

February 13, 2018

Info/Law
An American served >1 year in prison for conduct that is 100% legal in Europe. But it’s not drugs. It’s copyright. Here’s why it matters.

The Administration is receiving some unusual advice from the content industries as it undertakes to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It’s not surprising that content providers would weigh in, given the multiple obligations Article 17 of NAFTA imposes on Canada, Mexico, and the United States concerning intellectual property protections. If it’s your ox being gored, you’re going to have some strong opinions; it would be weird if you didn’t.

What makes the content industries’ position unusual is that they are apparently attempting to take some issues off the table entirely as subjects for negotiation. According to this recent TechDirt article (emphasis mine):

the entertainment industries are arguing that exceptions and limitations are outdated and unnecessary in trade agreements. They say that copyright holders should be protected from piracy and unlawful use of their works, claiming that any exceptions and limitations are a barrier to the protection of American artists.

That is, the content industries want the final agreement to mandate strong copyright protections without mandating (or, depending on how you read the word “any” in the preceding quotation, permitting) signatory countries to recognize exceptions or limitations on those rights. Copyright rights, on this view, are a one-way ratchet: they can only be strengthened everywhere, never reduced.

There are a lot of reasons to quarrel with this view, assuming it has been accurately reported. It’s profoundly ahistorical; every international agreement that defines copyright rights also fixes outer boundaries of protection. Article 10(1) of the Berne Convention requires every country to allow quotations from published works, and other parts of Berne allow copyright exceptions for teaching, news reporting, and other socially valuable purposes. The WTO TRIPS Agreement, another landmark multilateral treaty, incorporates long-recognized copyright limitations (for example, Article 9(2)’s idea/expression dichotomy) into international law. An argument that copyright limitations and exceptions have no place in trade agreements isn’t an argument against NAFTA; it’s an argument against every copyright treaty ever concluded.

An argument for international copyright law to ignore copyright limitations and exceptions is also bad policy, which is why civil society and public-interest groups have been loudly insisting that NAFTA renegotiations protect fair use and maintain balance between the rights of content creators and users. It’s why the American Library Association, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and over 80 other individuals and organizations from several nations issued the Washington Principles on Copyright Balance in Trade Agreements last fall as NAFTA renegotiation got underway in earnest.

But most of all, it’s just shortsighted even from the perspective of people who want to maximize the scope of copyright rights to take limitations and exceptions off the table as a subject of trade negotiations. To understand why, let’s look at two recent cases involving an American citizen and a European company who did the same thing: they distributed a tool that allowed owners of Nintendo Wii entertainment systems to play games that had not been authorized by Nintendo. These systems, colloquially known as “mod chips,” bypassed the internal authentication system that the Wii used to verify that the games users were seeking to play on their consoles had been approved by Nintendo. Nintendo complained to the authorities in each jurisdiction that helping Wii owners play unauthorized games was against the law because it circumvented a technological protection that Nintendo had put in place to ensure that only authorized games were playable.

Both the United States and Europe have laws against that sort of thing. They have laws of that type because they are required, under Article 11 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, to

provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures … that restrict acts, in respect of their works, which are not authorized by the authors concerned or permitted by law.

The EU Court of Justice, however, refused to condemn the making of a device to circumvent the Wii’s technological protections, because those protections appeared to the court to be broader than necessary to protect Nintendo’s copyright rights. It required, in assessing the legality of the circumvention tool, a consideration of “how often [the] devices are in fact used in order to allow unauthorised copies … and how often that equipment is used for purposes which do not infringe copyright[.]”

In contrast, the American who circumvented the Wii’s technological protection went to prison for twelve months and one day; the opinion of the Court of Appeals did not even address the question whether the “mod chips” he sold could have been put to noninfringing uses.

These two cases involved the same underlying offense and essentially identical substantive laws, written to implement a single treaty obligation, yet they reached opposite outcomes for reasons neither opinion said a word about.

If you believe in meaningful limitations to copyright holders’ exclusive rights (or, for that matter, in the rule of lenity which usually governs complex criminal issues of first impression), you probably prefer the European outcome to the American one: perhaps tools should be evaluated based on whether they are mostly put to infringing or noninfringing use. Maybe the limitation on copyright holders’ exclusive rights that the European court recognized would be a good rule for the United States, too.

On the other hand, if you believe that copyright holders should have the power to control how their works (such as Nintendo’s game console) are used, then the European approach probably infuriates you and the American one probably seems correct. Maybe you wish that European law didn’t recognize a limitation on copyright holder’s exclusive rights in this instance, and that the American view prevailed instead.

The point is, whichever outcome you favor, the only way to get to that outcome is for international treaty negotiators to discuss limitations and exceptions. Taking limitations and exceptions off the table makes it impossible to move the ball in any direction, not just the one the content industries claim to oppose. That’s a foolish way to conduct negotiations, and one all the players in the NAFTA debate should reject.

by Tim Armstrong at February 13, 2018 08:15 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
‘We Want the World to Know': Activists Reporting on Occupation Face Legal Threats in Western Sahara

A crowd en route to join a rally in the city of Laayune is charged by Moroccan forces. The scene was captured by Equipe Media on April 29th 2013.

Among media freedom and human rights groups, Morocco is often described as having a relatively favourable landscape for media freedom, in contrast to other oppressive regimes and dictatorships in the neighbourhood, such as Egypt and Mauritania.

These assessments, which are already subjective, do not extend to the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

In a militarized environment with aggressive controls on media and citizen reporting, few stories of Western Sahara reach audiences beyond the immediate region. Local journalists and media activists reporting on the occupation and Moroccan abuses face legal obstacles and risk lengthy jail sentences in order to make their voices heard.

One group that has found itself on the edge of this divide is Equipe Media, a video documentation and human rights group that mainly reports on rights abuses committed by Moroccan forces in the territory.

Along with a Swedish film production collective, the Sahrawi media group recently released its first documentary film, 3 Stolen Cameras, which addresses the group’s struggle to document and report on Moroccan violations in Western Sahara.

“Our mission insists on showing that we are peaceful,” says Equipe Media co-founder Ahmed Ettanji. “We are campaigning our cause without violence and we want the world to know.”

Multiple Sahrawi journalists who worked with Equipe Media are currently behind bars because of their work activities, including video coverage of the 2010 Gdeim Izik protest movement.

Western Sahara: A Disputed Territory

The conflict in Western Sahara dates back to 1975 when the former colonial power Spain withdrew from the sparsely-populated territory and joint forces from neighbouring Mauritania and Morocco moved in to take control. While Mauritania eventually withdrew from Western Sahara, Moroccan forces to date still control what is sometimes referred to as ‘’Africa’s last colony’’.

For 16 years, the rebel group known as the Polisario Front fought a guerilla war for independence against Morocco, before a UN brokered ceasefire came into effect in 1991. The UN recognizes the Polisario Front as a legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, a mixed ethnic group that lives mainly in Western Sahara and Mauritania.

 

The Gdeim Izik protests

In late 2010, just weeks before the Arab uprisings swept across the region, Western Sahara saw a massive, largely peaceful civilian uprising against the occupation. The uprising became known as Gdeim Izik, named after the area of the desert where the protest took place.

Thousands of Sahrawis abandoned their homes to join what grew into a huge self-governed tent city, squatting on the land for almost a month before being violently dispersed by Moroccan forces, who then burned the tent city to the ground.

Although largely unknown to the world, Gdeim Izik is an important milestone in the modern history of Western Sahara that rejuvenated the civilian independence movement.

Riots ensued after the evacuation of Gdeim Izik and resulted in several deaths and injuries that the opposing sides still blame each other for. The official narrative from Moroccan authorities holds that two protesters and 11 police and security people were killed on duty. Other sources give different numbers and different identifications.

A report by Sahara Docs cast greater light on the consequences of the event for the protesters:

[The eviction of Gdeim Izik] caused for hundreds of victims among protesters, and some deaths among Moroccan ranks; eleven of them according to Moroccan sources. Some died on the field, while some others did so in hospitals, but as a consequence of their wounds.

Equipe Media made it their mission to document the movement, as there were few other people doing so. Alongside a small network of grassroots media activists, they are paying a heavy price as a result.

Four media activists — Hassana Alia, Bachir El Khadaa, Hassan El Dah, and Abdullahi Lakfawani — affiliated with Equipe Media and similar networks of grassroots journalism are among a group of 25 Sahrawi activists who were prosecuted for their roles in the Gdeim Izik protest movement.

Lakfawani, who was arrested on 12 November 2010, was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty of “membership in a criminal gang” and “violence against a security force member leading to death, with intent.”

“Criminal gang” is a common terminology used by Moroccan authorities to describe activist groups in the region.

El Khadaa and El Dah were arrested at a cafe in Laayune, almost one month after the protest camp was dismantled. While El Khadaa got twenty years in jail for “entering into a criminal agreement” and “complicity in violence against security force member leading to death, with intent,” El Dah was sentenced to thirty years in jail for “membership in a criminal gang and complicity in violence against security force member leading to death with intent.” In addition to contributing to Equipe Media, El Dah was a reporter for the official TV station of Polisario (RASD TV).

Hassana Alia member of Equipe Media was tried and convicted in absentia in 2013 on unspecified charges, and sentenced to life in prison. He is currently exiled to Spain where he was granted asylum before the trial. Alia did not appear among the defendants in the 2017 re-trial.

Commenting on the cases, Ettanji told Global Voices:

When our members are put on trial we are never charged with violating the press code, but always some made-up accusations of us assaulting the police or something like that. Foreign journalists are kicked out, Moroccan journalists know the law and keep their mouths shut and us Sahrawis are treated in the worst way possible.

Gdeim Izik trial

Moroccan authorities accuse 25 activists of the Gdeim Izik protest movement of committing acts of violence in relation to clashes that erupted when Moroccan security forces dismantled the protest-camp on 8 November 2010.

Eleven Moroccan security officers and two Sahrawis died in those clashes, according to official sources. However, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and international observers say the trial is unfair due to forced confessions obtained through torture. Moroccan authorities have not heeded calls from rights groups to investigate these allegations of torture. In March 2013, after more than two years of pre-trial detention, a military court sentenced the activists to jail terms ranging from two years to life imprisonment.

In 2016, after Morocco changed its military justice law to end military trial of civilians, the cassation court ordered a retrial before a civilian court. On 19 July 2017, a court of appeal released a verdict, upholding most of the sentences previously pronounced by the military court of Rabat.

Another Equipe Media contributor also currently in jail, although not in relation to the Gdeim Izik protest, is Mohammed El Bambari, who is currently serving a six-year jail term in relation to his coverage of protests that turned violent in the city of Dakhla in September 2011.

The Moroccan government accuses him of participating in the violence on a number of charges including “committing violence against public servants,” “obstructing a public road,” and the “formation of a criminal gang.” Although the events for which Bambari is accused took place in 2011, he was not arrested until August 2015 when he appeared at local police station in Dakhla to renew his identification card.

If you can't challenge ‘territorial integrity’, how can you do journalism?

Morocco's 2016 Press Code criminalizes any expression that might challenge the “territorial integrity” of the kingdom. Print media accused of undermining Morocco's “territorial integrity” can face suspension while news websites can be blocked in accordance with Articles 71 and 104 of the Press Code. Any discussion or investigation related to the subject, and any independent journalistic activities carried out in Western Sahara, are thus violations that can garner a prison sentence ranging from six months to two years in jail and a fine, under penal code amendments from 2016.

But in this context, where any media coverage that challenges the “territorial integrity” of the Moroccan state is criminalized, the line between journalism and activism becomes blurred. To underground and activist media groups like Equipe Media, the cause for West Saharan self-determination and freedom of expression coalesce into one defiant and dangerous act of resistance.

While there has been a UN brokered ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front in effect since 1991, the conflict is by no means settled. As the gravitational centre of West Saharan resistance started shifting away from the guerrilla fighters in the desert onto the Sahrawi civilian population in the occupied cities, an environment of underground media began to form.

International disinterest in the Sahrawi cause

Despite the efforts of groups like Equipe and other independent media workers, there is still very little international attention on the Western Sahara conflict. The silence also plays into the hands of the Moroccan propaganda, a narrative built around a national consensus that “Moroccan Sahara” is a non-issue.

“They push the image that there are no problems here,” says Ahmed. “Whenever resistance is brought to surface they say we are a minority of troublemakers, common criminals or foreign (Algerian) agents.”

When Gdeim Izik happened and news started finding its way out, Moroccan media immediately painted it as a protest over unemployment and economic hardships, making little if any reference to the military occupation. As the territory is exceedingly difficult for foreign journalists to visit and report from, foreign media often resort to reprinting what appears in the Moroccan press.

Ahmed is quick to underline that several governments in Europe, foremost the former colonial powers of Spain and France, are directly complicit and invested in the occupation.

What our group tries to do is to fix the spotlight on this place, the last remaining colony in Africa and we are simply asking to be free. But [Spain and France] continue to put economic interests ahead of our human rights. They just don’t care.

by Advox at February 13, 2018 01:05 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
02/13/2018: Are computers racist? No, but people still are.
Facial recognition software has made huge advancements in accuracy, but it has a long way to go — specifically when it comes to recognizing people of color. Commercially available software can tell the gender of a person using a photograph. According to researcher Joy Buolamwini, of the MIT Media Lab, that software is correct 99 percent of the time when it’s looking at a white male but is less than half as accurate when looking at a darker-skinned female. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Buolamwini about her research and the human biases that creep into machine learning.

by Marketplace at February 13, 2018 11:30 AM

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