Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

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.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

September 25, 2018

Global Voices Advocacy
Chat bot lets Russians detained at protests request legal assistance

“Pension to the living!”: Russians protest against an unpopular pension reform. Photo by Andrew.Filin via Wikimedia Commons (CC 1.0)

When Russians took to the streets to protest proposed pension reforms on September 9, an estimated 1200 people were arrested in 38 cities. Police officers could be seen beating protesters in several instances caught on camera.

September 9 was also election day for regional legislatures and the Moscow mayoralty, which may partially explain the extreme, heavy-handed actions of law enforcement during the protests.

Throughout the protests and in the days that followed, the Russian non-government organization OVD-Info was gathering and disseminating information on arrests and police brutality. The group also provided legal assistance, with the help of 24-hour phone hotline — and an automated chat bot.

About OVD-Info

Named for the Russian acronym for “law enforcement agencies” (OVD), OVD-Info works to gather information on all forms of politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions. OVD-Info describes its mission and activities as follows:

ОВД-Инфо — независимый правозащитный медиа-проект про политические преследования в России.  С помощью горячей линии мы собираем информацию о задержаниях на публичных акциях и других случаях политпрессинга, публикуем новости и координируем юридическую помощь задержанным…Это может быть консультация по телефону, выезд адвоката в ОВД, помощь в российских судах обеих инстанций или, наконец, подача жалобы в Европейский суд по правам человека…Мы не поддерживаем какую-либо конкретную политическую силу и защищаем людей вне зависимости от их и наших политических пристрастий.

OVD-Info is an independent human rights advocacy media project on political repression in Russia. With the help of a hotline, we collect information about arrests at public actions and other forms of political repression, and publish news and coordinate legal assistance for detainees…. This could be telephone consultations, sending a lawyer to law enforcement agencies, helping out in Russian courts at trial and during appeals, or finally, submitting a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights…We don’t support any specific political tendency and defend people regardless of their (or our) political views.

The mobile messaging app Telegram is extremely popular in Russia, so OVD-Info decided to use this tool as another way to help protesters defend their rights. In addition to a relatively secure private messaging feature, Telegram allows users to follow publicly accessible “channels” relevant to their interests, which can be anything from politics to humor and pornography. Users can also develop bots that can interact with other users in channels, or on an individual basis.

Recently, OVD-Info developed a special Telegram bot that allows users to voluntarily report their arrests and any other interaction with law enforcement. Upon contacting the bot, a user is prompted to share their name and telephone number and an encrypted chat is launched.

Once an arrest is reported, OVD-Info will try to follow what is happening with the user. Through the bot, users can also get advice on what to do after being arrested, and which legal statutes to cite when speaking with law enforcement officers. It also can be used to send a message to the OVD-Info team, should the need arise.

While it may be difficult to imagine being able to access your phone while or after being arrested, not all of the arrests during the recent protests were as brutal or dramatic as some of the beatings seen on video. In some cases, the police simply arrived in buses asked protesters to climb aboard. Some people were able to take selfies and videos while on the buses. Taking and sharing selfies from the back of a police van has become a symbol of honor among protesters.

Screenshot of OVD-Info-Bot with several automated messaging options, from “I’ve been released” to “They’re beating / threatening me”.

Are these communications entirely secure? It's hard to say. Although Telegram boasts of encrypted messaging ensuring only the sender and intended recipient can read a message, technologists and activists have raised concerns about the quality of Telegram's encryption standards and other security features.

If correspondences between protesters and OVD-Info were ever compromised, it could expose activists to further state surveillance and repression. Telegram also recently updated its privacy policy to allow for the sharing of user information with authorities during terrorism cases, a rule that could easily be exploited by Russian authorities, who have been known to abuse the application of laws concerning extremist and terrorist activity in connection with posts on social media.

Although Telegram has not proven to be the most secure messaging app on the market, it is the most popular mobile app in Russia that offers encrypted features at this level, making it a strong choice for an NGO seeking to support thousands of protesters in action.

In an interview with Global Voices, Boris Beilinson, OVD-Info’s in-house programmer and developer, shed some light on the bot’s functionality and how it was used this past Sunday.

Global Voices (GV): Was this the first time OVD-Info used this type of bot?

Boris Beilinson (BB): No, the bot was released before protests on June 12, 2017 [anti-corruption protests that took place across Russia].

GV: What drove the decision to develop this bot and not just rely on other methods like the hotline, private messages on VKontakte, and so on?

BB: We didn’t stop using any of the old methods of communication, including the main one, the hotline. But we wanted to lessen the burden on the hotline, because during days of big protests, it’s hard to deal with a large number of calls, so chat is more convenient then. Now a large part of our internet communications are happening with the bot, and the hotline got a bit of a break. We liked this not just from a technical standpoint, but also because from our point of view, Telegram is the most secure method of communication we use. We trust it and believe that through the bot, we can talk about things that are better left unsaid by telephone.

GV: How many people shared their contact information before the protests on Sunday?

BB: As of now, 16,002 people contacted the bot, of which 8,185 left their contact information and gained access to its primary functions.

GV: How many of them reported their arrest through the bot?

BB: Not a big number, 184 (the great majority of them started talking to the bot that day to report their arrest).

GV: Do you think the bot was a success? Are there any other functions you’d like to add?

BB: Considering the effort that went into its creation, it’s definitely a success. One indicator of success are the growing pains: it got tough to manage the flow of messages the old way so we have to develop special administrative functions. Of course, we also want to develop other functions for the user. Particularly, instructions for defense at court will be added soon; unfortunately, repression of protestors doesn’t end at arrests in our country.

by Christopher Moldes at September 25, 2018 05:33 PM

Venezuelans say they are unable to access key Google services

Illustration by Eduardo Sanabria. Used with permission.

During the first days of September, many Venezuelan Internet users reported having difficulties accessing Google services through the state-run Internet service provider, CANTV, the largest telecommunications company in Venezuela. The service seemed to be working again by mid September, but the conversation revealed the many ways online users are deprived of information and communication online.

Blogspot, Hangouts, Google Drive, and image services, including Gmail attachments were among the services affected.

I think our little friends from the broadband Internet service (ABA) at CANTV are blocking access to specific Google CDNs (content delivery networks). I'm not sure of the breadth of the service outage/block, but it is consistent. Run a quick test by opening the Play Store to see if the app images are downloaded.

In the absence of official information, users began to speculate about the reasons behind this outage, pointing to an intentional block by CANTV as a possible cause.

Venezuela Inteligente, a Venezuelan civil society group, said that Facebook and Twitter had also been affected by the outage, suggesting that content distribution platforms may have been the intended target. It could not confirm, however, if this blackout was caused by an intentional block:

We are continuing to review the problems of accessing several important platforms via #CANTV, many of these problems are occurring in the CDN platforms (content distribution networks, which load common files more quickly) At this time WE CANNOT CONFIRM an intentional block #internetve #9Sep

Meanwhile, Fran Monroy, a technology journalist, declared that the blackout stemmed from a combination of technical failures:

A colleague specialized in telecommunications @fmonroy explained that #CANTV has two problems at this time in #Venezuela Read the thread.

It is worth mentioning that frequent outages have been an enduring characteristic of state-run Internet services. It not only happens with the Internet connection, but also with the electrical grid.

In Venezuela, attacks against the Internet are not new. Among other cases, in June 2018, the anonymous browser Tor, and various pornography sites were blocked.

Furthermore, a recent study by Venezuela Inteligente, IPYS Venezuela and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) found that the censoring of news websites in Venezuela by means of DNS tampering and HTTP filtering is a wide-spread practice.

When content is blocked by means of DNS tampering, the domain name server does not respond to the Internet protocol (IP) request. When a specific web address is entered in the browser, the IP request is prevented from being carried out. Meanwhile, HTTP filtering blocks access to information whose principal code contains a syntax seen as invalid by the system.

In the past, Venezuelans have reported being unable to access of radio frequencies, but more recently, stricter control has been seen with the direct blocking of independent news sources and the arrest of journalists. A few days before the latest reports of blocked platforms, international media outlets had already condemned attacks against independent news sources.

Meanwhile, other limitations linked to the political and economic crisis have also meant less freedom of press and expression. The shortage of basic goods such as paper, or the recent economic measures (that include, for example, a 60-fold increase in the minimum wage, due to soaring inflation rates) have forced several media outlets to close their doors.

As a result, the number of news outlets that could oppose Nicolás Maduro's government are being reduced in a sustained and ever-accelerating manner.

A study co-written by the author of this post and Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights) reports a deterioration in online communications in Venezuela. The study also indicates that the restriction of information and communication that has been documented in Venezuela and the lack of transparency in the use of personal information are a violation of human rights.

by Marianne Diaz at September 25, 2018 05:30 PM

Creative Commons
Findings from the Discovery phase of CC usability

In January, Creative Commons kicked off an exciting new initiative called CC usability with two primary goals:

  1. To update the experience of CC licensing and discovery to reflect the realities of how people are sharing in 2018
  2. To anticipate and design for the future of digital content sharing

In the next two sections, I provide background on the initiative and the process we used to conduct the research. If you’re short on time, you can skip all of it and go directly to the findings. You can also peruse this slide deck for a quick visual summary.

I’m also pleased to announce that in order to further this work, I have stepped into a new role at CC. As the Director of Product and Research, I will lead the strategy, design, and implementation of CC’s product vision for CC Search and related products. Our work will be driven by a research-based approach, which you can learn more about below.

Background

“Relevance to the real world is what separates innovation from invention. Understanding why and how people do what they do today is essential to making new concepts fit into their lives tomorrow.”

— Erika Hall, Director of Strategy at Mule Design, Just Enough Research

The driving motivation behind this initiative is relevance. CC was founded in 2001 and launched its first licenses in 2002, and in the 16 years since, the landscape of the internet has changed a great deal. The CC licenses have been versioned several times over to adapt to international copyright laws and trade agreements, and we’ve developed some new tools (Public Domain Mark, CC0). Lots of programs have been founded and re-founded, driving growth of a global commons of 1.4 billion works, fostering collaboration across an international network of advocates and practitioners, and shifting norms and policies within governments and educational institutions.

But one thing that has not changed in the past decade or so that I’ve been with Creative Commons is how to actually CC license a work. Or for that matter, how to figure out which license is right for you. Or how to add license information so that your computer can detect it. And really, the following things have not changed much either: How to find licensed works. How to attribute authors. How to know whether your application of a CC license is even the right call, since your work may very well fall into the nebulous land of “emerging media and technology” that didn’t exist 16, ten or even a few years ago.

All of this is to say that while the internet and platform technologies for sharing content have changed pretty drastically — the trend towards a few major companies monopolizing content sharing and distribution, machine algorithms determining the content you consume, mobile becoming ubiquitous, media emerging that didn’t exist before like 3D printing and virtual reality — the technicalities and user experience of CC licensing and discovery have remained largely the same, raising the question of CC’s relevance in the internet of 2018.

Is CC still relevant? CC’s tools are used in many different fields, so there’s no one answer on how to be relevant, but in all fields we know the landscape has changed. The way content is created and shared has changed, and even the number and composition of the communities who do the creating and sharing has changed.

I’m happy to report that after six months of user research, I do think CC is still relevant, namely because 80+ people told us as much, and we did not just speak with the choir.

The catch? In order to remain relevant, CC will have to evolve.

Human-Centered Design

“Human-centered design is all about starting with people and building deep empathy; generating lots of possible ideas; building and testing prototypes with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting new solutions out into the world to improve lives.”

— IDEO.org

We adapted human-centered design principles to conduct our research. HCD is a philosophy and set of tools that have permeated all aspects of user experience and product design today. The specific term — human-centered design — was popularized by IDEO, the design consulting firm, which became known for its multidisciplinary approach to solving real world problems. HCD consists of three phases: discovery, design, and development. Discovery is research, including ongoing background research and reading, but most importantly, talking directly to the people who you are designing for, which in our case are the actual users and creators of digital content.

From February through July, we conducted a total of 81 interviews, in addition to pulling 36 interviews from relevant publications (CC Talks With, Humans of the Commons, Made with Creative Commons). We interviewed super, expert, and future users and creators of all kinds of media, including images, text, data, audio, 3D designs, games, virtual and augmented reality assets. We defined super users as those creators or users who have been using CC for years. We considered expert users people at the forefront of their fields, like academics and company founders, who think a lot about how CC and their subject matter intersect. And we wanted future users that were both professionals in fields like photography who don’t currently use CC but could, and those who have yet to enter a profession because they are too young, like Generation Z (yes, there is a generation after the oft talked about Millennials!). We talked to each person for roughly an hour about their motivations, behaviors, problems, and ideal outcomes for sharing content online, with and without CC licensing.

Then we aggregated, analyzed, and synthesized everything people said in all 117 interviews.

image-wall

Findings

“An Insight is both an opportunity and a problem statement — two things with tension, two things where you can’t readily have both. For example, share stuff for free but also make money.”

~ Tom De Blasis, Design Strategy Consultant at (tbd) collective

Working closely with two experienced design consultants, we pulled patterns from the data, ultimately extracting nine key insights pertaining specifically to the sharing of images and longform texts (we tabled the domains of data and emerging media/tech for a later date). Insights fell loosely into three categories:

  • i) insights pertaining to CC’s current tools,
  • ii) insights pertaining to the core experience of sharing content, and
  • iii) insights about futures CC might help build.

The following nine insights are a direct result of many people voicing the same needs and concerns across 117 interviews. To preserve the privacy of our interviewees, we will not share the full interviews, but anonymous quotes are included in the slide deck.

The nine insights are:

  1. People understand that CC stands for free content sharing, but the nuances of the specific licenses are lost on them — including experts and longtime CC users.
  2. People are motivated to license their work under CC, but have a hard time figuring out how to do it.
  3. People are motivated to give credit to other people, but they find attribution complicated and a hassle.
  4. People like seeing how their work is used, where it goes, and who it touches, but have no easy way to find this out. This insight incorporated the following two insights:
    • People care that the work they share resonates with people, especially personally, but can only know this if they are told directly by the person it resonated with.
    • People want their work to have real world or social impact, but their sense about what these impacts are are vague. However, people can identify some real or potential outcomes from sharing their work that they enjoy.   
  5. People are often first introduced to CC when they have completed a work, but at that point they are more interested in getting the work out there than thinking through a whole new system for sharing.  
  6. People want to share and find good work, but find it difficult to navigate the abundance of content and information online.
  7. People like the efficiency of sharing via centralized platforms, but are frustrated by the lack of control and ownership over their work, and increasing devaluation of individual creativity.  
  8. People aren’t driven to create for the money, but money is always a good outcome. People like sharing freely, but if someone is making a lot of money off their work, they want to be fairly compensated.
  9. People have a desire to create work that is lasting and meaningful, that eventually has a life of its own, but don’t know what to do with a work beyond publishing it.

Insights 1-3 pertain to CC’s current tools; insights 4-6 pertain to the core experience of sharing content, and insights 7-9 are about futures CC might help build.

Some of these insights may seem obvious. If so, then we did our job by bringing what was obvious to the forefront, but this time backed by data and not conjecture. Other insights are less obvious, such as the one about introducing the concept of CC too late in the process of creation. These are the kinds of insights we relish, and we dug into all insights by developing specific design challenges and generating potential solutions to meet them.

image wall

This occurred in a design workshop with CC staff from legal, product, development, and communications. Over the course of 2.5 days, we generated 250+ ideas, heat mapped them to find common issues and approaches, fleshed out the most viable ideas, and decided on nine interventions to bring forward into the Design phase. They are not the only things we’ll ever do, but they are experiments we want to try to see if they can meaningfully address the needs we have identified.

The nine interventions are:

1) New step-through process / Redo language + pathway

Prototype a new pathway and educational tool that clearly communicates the licenses and leads the creator to the appropriate license for her needs. (Insights addressed: 1, 2)

2) Publish a “How To Guide” for where to find your work

Develop and publish a guide to finding where your CC-licensed work was used online, e.g. via reverse image search. (Insights addressed: 4)

3) Button for contact

Prototype an easy way for a user to get in touch with a creator and/or vice versa that ties to a CC license or tool. This could be done in a number of ways, including a button that is chosen from a new CC chooser, a deed + platform solution that connects users to creators, or a separate “contact me” button. (Insights addressed: 4)

4) Archiving

Prototype a few concepts that provide creators with the choice of archiving a version of their works when CC licensing. This could be an archive we provide as a service, tied to a new chooser tool, a separate web page for preserving your work, and also in partnership with an organization like the Internet Archive. (Insights addressed: 7, 9)

5) Reward & Delight — infuse through all prototypes, esp #1

Use this as a framework for all prototypes we develop. In addition, prototype a small, fun idea that gives reward and delight to users, e.g. a graphic CC mascot overlaid to help users navigate the licensing process. (Insights addressed: All)

6) “Polaroid” watermark

Prototype a CC branded watermark that lives outside the image that can be added on download from CC search, as part of “no click attribution.” (Insights addressed: 3, 4)

7) No click attribution

Prototype a tool that removes all friction for users providing correct attribution. This could play out in a number of ways, including having attribution and related information attach upon download of an image (0 click attribution) in CC search, an attribution filter/plugin service that bulk links attribution, or a credit that is automatically added by a platform or related service. (Insights addressed: 3)

8) Narrow use case search

Prototype in CC search a way to search for specific materials to use for specific types of projects, starting with the most popular use cases, e.g. CC music for videos or podcasts. (Insights addressed: 6)

9) Obtain a unique ID to track your work

Prototype a CC unique ID registry that links to the CC catalog and provides information about each CC work through the ID, e.g. CC/12345 would display information such as author, number of shares, etc. (Insights addressed: 3, 4, 6)

What’s next

These nine interventions will be developed or prototyped over the next 3-6 months (pending alignment with CC’s overall product strategy given my new role). Ready prototypes, including those built related to CC Search, will be demo-ed and tested at the Mozilla Festival and Nonprofit Software Development Summit in October and November. Following the design phase, CC will reassess prototypes along user feedback and against new organizational objectives to decide which to phase into development. It’s important to note that some of these ideas might not work out, and might not solve the problems they seek to address. That’s part of the iterative process of human-centered design. Separately, CC will evaluate findings from usability research that did not make it to the design phase as part of its other organizational objectives.

The question of CC’s relevance to various user groups, particularly mainstream creators, is ongoing. We will bring forward a plan to engage more deeply in that work in the next phase of the initiative in 2019, and will engage the community in that discussion at the CC Global Summit in Lisbon next May.

Get involved

If there’s one thing you can do now, it’s to join the #cc-usability channel over at the Creative Commons Slack (https://slack-signup.creativecommons.org) and say — Hi! I’m interested in providing feedback on CC search and usability prototypes as you roll them out — or something to that effect. I’d just like to get to know you and where you’re coming from, like we got to know the 81 people we talked to earlier this year.

You can also follow me (@janedaily) on Twitter, where I’ll post updates and conferences I’ll be at.

If you’re a developer, or versed in the ways of developers, you can follow our progress on each prototype at CC’s public Github repos. We have one specifically for intervention #4 (Archiving) at https://github.com/creativecommons/cc-archive, and will be posting the rest as part of other repos at https://github.com/creativecommons.

The post Findings from the Discovery phase of CC usability appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Jane Park at September 25, 2018 04:17 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
If you lead people to a more private search engine, will they care?
Searching the web is one of the most revealing things you can do. It shows what you're looking to buy, where you want to go and if you're worried about a weird rash. When you search Google, those searches help power its huge digital advertising networks, which is why you might see skin cream ads for that rash days later, on a totally different website. But do people know how much information they're giving up? And do they care? Molly Wood looks at search engine DuckDuckGo - the “anti-Google” - and growing investment in it. (09/24/18)

by Marketplace at September 25, 2018 10:40 AM

Global Voices
Nepalese citizens fight against impunity with the “Rage Against Rape” campaign

A protest rally was held in solidarity with #JusticeForNirmala campaign at Maitighar Mandala, Kathmandu, Nepal. Image by Sanjib Chaudhary, used wth permission.

Following the gruesome rape and killing of 13-year-old Nirmala Panta in southwest Nepal in late July 2018, shocked Nepalese citizens have launched the #RageAgainstRape campaign, sparking nation-wide conversations about violence against women in Nepal.

Injustice and oppression exceeded the limit, we were forced to come on the road. While there is a countrywide protest and [the city of] Pokhara remains silent, it cannot happen. Today Pokhara spoke in favor of justice. This solidarity has given new hope. People have risen up together.

Nirmala had reportedly traveled to a friend’s house in the town of Kanchanpur to study but never arrived and was later found dead in a sugarcane field. A 41-year-old convicted criminal was accused of the crime, and two women whose home Nirmala had visited earlier that evening were also held for questioning.

The police concluded that the primary male suspect was “mentally unstable,” infuriating local individuals and civil society groups who accused authorities of an attempted cover-up.

In Nepal, three cases of rape are reported on a daily basis. The police recently released data revealing 1,480 rape cases reported in Nepal in 2017, almost double the numbers in 2016. The number is suspected to be even higher due to the fact that most incidents go unreported.

Activists took to the streets in the capital city of Kathmandu to express their rage against acts of rape along with dissent against the state for not taking sufficient measures to bring the perpetrators to justice. During protests in late August 2018, one protester was killed and many were hurt as police used force to control the crowds.

Coordinated, ongoing protests persist nationwide:

There is citizen gathering for #justiceforNirmala nationwide. Please be present at your nearest one.

Throughout the year, activists and civil society groups have accused the government of not taking adequate measures to curb violent crime against women and protests have swept the country calling for the arrest of all perpetrators of rape:

In patriarchal South Asia, women's safety and security has been an urgent concern, especially following a shocking gang-rape and killing in Delhi, India that sparked massive protests. In neighbouring Nepal, where the culture of impunity is no different, citizens have been outraged.

The reality of reporting rape in Nepal

There are several reasons why a victim of rape would hesitate to report it in Nepal. In a cultural climate where rape victims are often blamed, it takes immense courage. Victims face complicated legal loopholes as obstacles to justice — often, police investigations drag on too long and DNA testing results are delayed or manipulated.

At the beginning of 2018, when Nepalese men suspected of another horrific gang rape were released, activists cited a failed judicial system that disregards rape cases even when perpetrators have been identified.

Amidst pressure, the Nepalese government has issued new codes strengthening laws related to gender-based violence, including longer 25-year jail sentences for rape. If the victim is a minor, disabled or elderly, the accused can receive a life sentence.

But implementing this law remains doubtful due to cultural norms and high levels of corruption that allow criminals to slip through the cracks.

Throughout the protests, some activists have focused specifically on justice reforms in honor of victims who continue to suffer in silence.

Sanjib Chaudhary contributed to this post.

by Palash Ranjan Sanyal at September 25, 2018 09:51 AM

A new indie film festival features the struggles and triumphs of indigenous Papua, Indonesia

A few participants in the second Papuan independent film festival. Source: Facebook page of Papuan Voices, used with permission.

Papuan Voices, a video advocacy organization, has organized two independent film festivals since 2017 to celebrate the lives and struggles of indigenous Papuans in the southeastern province of Indonesia.

In 2015, Global Voices first featured Papuan Voices as a project with EngageMedia, and during the same year, Papuan Voices established itself as an independent organization with a presence now in six Papuan regions.

As the country’s most resource-rich but cash-poor area, a recent influx of Indonesians from other regions has displaced many indigenous Papuans. Some Papuans decry it as an illegal occupation and demand their independence from Indonesia.

Map of Papua and West Papua province of Indonesia. Image courtesy Google Map.

Within this context, as the first film festival held in Papua, it aimed:

to highlight the issues of the indigenous people of Papua through documentary films as well as to build public awareness of the important issues impacting them.

Nearly 30 films were submitted, 50 people participated in the pre-festival production workshops, and 10 films were produced through youth-focused workshops.

Inspired by its inaugural success, the organization held a second film festival last August 2018 with over 1,000 audience members. A total of 19 films from different areas in Papua were submitted.

Mecky Yeimo, a film festival participant, said that the films provided a lot of information about the land disputes between indigenous Papuan landowners and investors acquiring local lands for mining and palm plantations.

Franky Samperante, the director of Pusaka, an indigenous Indonesian non-governmental organization, noted the importance of the film festival:

In Papua, there are very limited options to obtain information by ordinary people because information is controlled by certain dominant groups. The information in these films will be very useful for many people at the local, national and international levels.

Many of the films featured during both festivals depict the everyday struggles of Papuans.

For example, the 2017 Best Film award winner ‘Monce Truck’ is a documentary directed by Imanuel Hindom about a former truck driver for a palm oil plantation in Keerom Regency who found a way to help Papuan women sellers (“Mama-mama” in Papuan) find a new source of income by transporting their vegetables to new markets in the capital city of Jayapura:

‘The Caretaker of Isio Hill Forest’ is another inspiring short documentary which narrates the story of Alex Waisimon who turned a lush forest in Papua into a famous bird-watching spot for tourists. The film was directed by Asrida Elisabeth, Harun Rumbarar, Bernad Koten, Yosef Levi.

Since 2011, both Papuan Voices and EngageMedia have trained more than 50 filmmakers and produced approximately 100 films which were screened in more than 50 locations in and out of Indonesia.

by Mong Palatino at September 25, 2018 12:19 AM

September 24, 2018

Global Voices
As xenophobic policies sweep Central and Eastern Europe, refugee aid is criminalized

Illegal migrants living in a hostel room in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo: courtesy of the project by the Center for Legal Aid “Voice in Bulgaria”/José Antonio Sanchez Manzano via BlueLink Stories.

This article is based on Refugee-Fear Politics Targets NGOs, originally published by BlueLink Stories as a part of the project “Remembering Europe: Civil Society Under Pressure Again”, implemented by the BlueLink Foundation with co-funding from the European Union's Europe for Citizens Programme, and republished through a partnership with Global Voices, written by .

The political hysteria against refugees entering Europe is on the rise although migration in the region has decreased since 2017. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán has taken the toughest anti-migrant stance, followed by politicians in the ‘Visegrád Four’ or V4 (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Polan, and Slovakia).

On World Refugee Day, June 20, 2018, the Hungarian Parliament ironically adopted legislation criminalizing help for asylum seekers, refugees, or undocumented migrants. A two-thirds majority of the current ruling party Fidesz passed the new Article 353/A into the Criminal Code which states that any person providing legal help or distributing leaflets and other materials on the refugee rights and housing opportunities should be arrested and cited for “facilitating illegal migration.”

If conducted on a regular basis or in the context of an organisation or network, the punishment is up to one year in prison. The government can also shut down these organisations, halt or severely limit their activities, or slap them with a fine.

The Venice Commission issued a detailed explanation of why this code violates basic human rights principles, limits the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and breaks international standards and legal protocols. They say the law does not effectively target illegal migration, for which regular provisions are already in place under Article 353.

Orbán, who believes United States philanthropist George Soros is responsible for facilitating migration to Europe, named the legislation “Stop Soros,” and clearly targets the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), an NGO providing legal aid to refugees and asylum seekers that is funded by Soros’ Open Societies Foundation. [Editor's note: Global Voices also receives funding from Open Societies Foundation]. 

The law came into effect on July 1, 2018, with questions from both the Jobbik and Socialist parties about how the law would actually work. Hungarian NGOs are still unclear about how the new law will impact their work.

In a press release following the adoption of the anti-migrant law, the HHC stated:

[We] will continue to provide legitimate and free-of-charge legal assistance to asylum-seekers and will seize all available legal and advocacy opportunities to challenge this law that breaches fundamental rights and [European Union] EU law.

Staff of Hungarian Helsinki Committee in their office in Budapest.

The HHC office. In 2017, they received the Calouste Gulbenkian Prize in Human Rights for its “unique and exemplary” character in providing regular and free legal assistance to asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons in Hungary. Photo: Ákos Stiller, used with permission.

“The most ridiculous piece of legislation we’ve seen in a while”

The anti-migrant law has sparked fierce debate among Hungary's political parties as well as citizens. Hungary's two major political parties, the ruling Fidesz party, and the far-right Jobbik party, both support the law, holding 80 percent of seats in parliament.

The third largest party, the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), considers the law useless in fighting illegal migration. MSZP chairman Bertalan Tóth says:

The interest of this government is to keep this problem alive instead of solving it.

The Democratic Coalition (DK) also opposed the law with chairman Ferenc Gyurcsany calling it “not just political but historical sin” and

an attack on people seeking safe haven from persecution and those who carry out admirable work to help them.

Surprisingly, even Jobbik leader Márton Gyöngyösi, in his comment to BlueLink.info, acknowledged:

this is the most ridiculous piece of legislation we’ve seen in a while.

He says his party faced a “difficult dilemma” prior to voting on the bill that remains unresolved. He admits:

…real measures were omitted from the new bill, while several new elements were added, concerning judicial reforms or a constitutional amendment. Therefore we see it as a clearly politically motivated piece of legislation, that’s only goal is to satisfy Fidesz’ voters who expect aggressive rhetoric from the government. In our opinion, measures envisaged in this law are ridiculous and not likely to have a real effect. Voting for this legislation had no real importance.

Fidesz representatives did not answer the inquiry for a comment at the time of publishing this article.

Those who oppose the law say it doesn't match the reality of current statistics showing a significant drop in the number of refugees entering Hungary. Around 20,000 people in 2017 were blocked from entry at the border fence or escorted to the external border. According to the HHC, 267 refugees were granted protection in 2018 while rejecting at least 326 applicants, mostly hailing from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Anti-migrant sentiment spreads

In neighbouring Slovakia, approximately 79 percent of citizens surveyed report negative perceptions of immigration. These sentiments were then stoked by politicians to gain support during parliamentary elections held in March 2016.

However, since August 2015, the government has regularly consulted with NGOs helping migrants and allocated 500,000 Euro (nearly 589,000 USD) for immediate humanitarian assistance as well as ongoing projects. In 2016, the government created a 20 million Euro (nearly 24 million USD) “reserve” fund for migration-related issues.

According to statistics, Slovakia has one of the lowest numbers of asylum seekers among all EU countries.

Alena Krempaska, a programme director at the Human Rights Institute in Slovakia, confirmed in a comment to BlueLink.info that the Slovak government supports NGOs working with migration issues. The Human Rights League received a grant from the Ministry of Interior in 2016 for working with migrants. Yet, Krempaska sees it all as a “political game, a discourse, rather than real steps.”

NGOs do the work and take the blame

CEE governments tend to comply with international and EU standards by providing funds to NGOs who provide a wide range of refugee support services, all free of charge to their clients. Yet, from Poland to Bulgaria, aid looks different across the CEE region depending on how well NGOs and state authorities cooperate.

According to Radostina Pavlova, a legal expert with Voice in Bulgaria, Bulgarian authorities often help migrant-support organizations that the state, in principle, should fund. Access to State Agency for Refugees (SAR) funds is tricky, often dependent on a strict timetable misaligned with real-time needs. Pavlova notes, however, that

the Ministry of Interior has significantly improved in the past two years and many organisations now work in the closed centres for migrants which are under its supervision.

A Council of Europe report published in April 2018 corroborates this funding dilemma and SAR itself noted in its annual report that cooperation between local and international NGOs and state authorities is limited, leaving a huge burden of care on the NGOs.

Following Hungary's new anti-migrant measures, Pavlov worries the same could happen in Bulgaria. While Bulgaria's refugee numbers have also significantly dropped since 2017, Bulgarian authorities still monitor Turkish borders, where they say a newly built fence with a surveillance system does not always work and refugees can still cross illegally.

Not in my backyard

While many CEE governments acknowledge the need to finance refugee support activities, NGOs lament a lack of support for their work on the ground, with governments preferring to support external activities in crisis zones.

Children in a classroom in Raqqa, Syria, sitting at desks and looking at the photographer.

An education project in Syria by Free Syria Foundation with the donations collected in Poland. Photo by wolnasyria.org.

Samer Masri of Free Syria Foundation in Poland acknowledged in his comment to BlueLink.info that Polish NGOs face difficulties in cooperating with state authorities even though his foundation receives at least half its funds from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

We are realising projects that are in line with the Polish government’s policy … We also brand our project as an act of gift from great Polish Nation to Syrians … and we use Polish national symbols … So, everybody likes us and we can do what we want and of course we get support if we need it.

During the European Council summit in June 2018, a majority of leaders supported policies to prevent migration to Europe, including tactics such as strengthening relations with “origin and transit” countries, halting illegal border crossings, and supporting refugee facilities in Turkey — keeping refugees out of Europe's backyard.

by BlueLink at September 24, 2018 05:01 PM

Creative Commons
Big changes for CC Search beta: updates released today!

Today, we’ve released a significant update to our working beta of the CC Search product. We launched the project in February 2017 to provide a new “front door” to the Commons with the ultimate goal to find and index all 1.4 billion+ CC licensed works on the web. Since then, our newly formed tech team – myself, Alden Page, Sophine Clachar, and Steven Bellamy – have been working to move this project toward its next iteration, which I am proud to share today.

More providers, better metadata

search-screenshot

This is a work in progress — it has great new features, and also has a few bugs, which we’re working on as we go (you can leave feedback here or file issues at Github). This iteration of CC Search integrates access to more than 10 million images across 13 content providers. The data was obtained by processing 36 months of web crawl data from the Common Crawl corpus (an open repository of web crawl data maintained by the Common Crawl Foundation).

The full list of providers:

Provider Domain # CC Licensed Works
Animal Diversity Web https://animaldiversity.org/ 14,839
Behance https://www.behance.net/ 5,245,785
Deviantart https://www.deviantart.com/ 206,506
Digitalt Museum https://digitaltmuseum.org/ 88,970
Encyclopedia of Life http://eol.org/ 547,488
Flickr https://www.flickr.com/ 426,214
Flora-On http://flora-on.pt/ 26,498
Geograph UK http://www.geograph.org.uk/ 1,018,560
IHA Holiday Ads http://www.iha.com/ 2,058,272
McCord Museum http://www.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/ 108,800
The Metropolitan Museum of Art https://www.metmuseum.org/ 96,260
Museums Victoria https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/ 64,719
Science Museum – UK https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/ 14,280

In addition, the new release contains several new features, including AI image tags generated from our collaborator, Clarifai. Clarifai is a best in class image classification software that provides tagging support and visual recognition. Clarifai’s API was integrated in the process-flow as a means to automatically generate tags for the new and existing images. This means that CC search has machine generated tags, user-defined tags, and platform-defined tags that were obtained from the web crawl data. Collectively, these will enhance the user’s search experience and improve the quality of the results. Currently, 10.3 million images have their respective Clarifai tags and the outstanding images will be integrated on an ongoing basis. Thank you to Clarifai for their support.

clarifai

A New Look


gif-searchThe new design allows users to search by category, see popular images, and search more accurately across a wide range of content.

Users can also now share content and create public lists of images without an account using an anonymous authentication scheme. Shares.cc is a new a link shortening system that makes it easy to share cool stuff you find on our platform to social media – users can share both images and lists, no login required. In addition, the new platform provides the ability to filter by provider, license, creator, tag (including those generated by Clarifai), or title.

(Please note: If you made private lists in the previous system, they will not carry over to this release. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. If there is a list you would like us to recover, please email us at info@creativecommons.org.)

With gratitude

CC Search is made possible by a number of institutional and individual sponsors. Specifically, we would like to thank Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, Mozilla, and the Brin Wojcicki Foundation for their support. With the generous support of our funders, Creative Commons is able to significantly advance its work in pursuit of a more open and sharing world that illuminates the Commons and recognizes the major potential of transformative human knowledge.

Full release notes available here.

 

The post Big changes for CC Search beta: updates released today! appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Paola Villarreal at September 24, 2018 04:06 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
This former political operative now helps tech companies wrangle government
It used to be that stories of tech companies breaking all the rules and fighting city hall were considered sexy. But right now we’re having conversations with more suspicion about things like unproven driverless technology, online advertising, unstoppable data collection and automation. Yet, here with a defense of tech’s disruptive mentality is Bradley Tusk. He's a political operative turned tech consultant who has a new book called “The Fixer.” It’s full of pirate stories of him helping heroic startups like Uber work around innovation-killing politicians and their rules. Molly Wood talks with Tusk about the politics of tech. (09/24/18)

by Marketplace at September 24, 2018 10:30 AM

Ben Adida
Letter to my Two Sons on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

 

My sons. You are 9 and 6, old enough to understand certain aspects of consent, but not quite old enough for me to tell you all the things I want to tell you about what’s going on right now with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. So I’m writing it here, for posterity, so you can read it and so I can later remember how I felt in this moment.

As you grow, and as your dreams and desires bump up against the people and world around you, you will be faced daily with decisions about the kind of person you want to be. You won’t always know, in the moment, how these decisions will come to define you. And many of the people around you, especially the loud ones, will not be good moral compasses in that journey.

So here’s one rule you should follow, at all times, in all inter-personal relationships: you cannot, under any circumstance, use physical force to coerce another person into doing what you want. In particular, when it comes to intimate relations, you should engage only when they are enthusiastic and you are enthusiastic. There are no exceptions to that rule.

If you break the rule, even in a way that seems inconsequential to you in the moment, you are likely to leave the other person distraught, maybe scarred for life. When you have long forgotten their names, they may still be cursing yours. And if you tiptoe over the line even once, maybe because you’re young and foolish and drunk and your friend told you that’s how it’s done… you may end up rationalizing your behavior. Because you’re a good guy. And good guys don’t do bad things. Ergo the thing is not actually bad. You may then end up justifying the next, slightly worse violation. And the next one.

None of us is born good or bad. None of us stays good or bad their whole life. We all make mistakes. Some mistakes, however, especially those mistakes that directly harm another human, define who you are at warp speed. Some actions are unforgivable. Engaging in intimate acts with another individual without their clear consent is one such action. Even if you’re drunk. Even if you’re young. Even if you were just going along with what others were telling you.

I have made plenty of mistakes. I have never broken the rule. Please, make plenty of mistakes and learn from them. But don’t ever break the rule.

So let’s say you never break the rule. Good. You don’t deserve a medal, by the way, but good. Also, you’re not done. As men, you and I bear a responsibility to help rectify an age-old situation that cannot stand: that we need to believe and support women who speak out about the trauma they suffered at the hands of men.

There are, unfortunately, far too many men who break the rule. It’s taken me a long time to accept that it’s not just a few bad apples. There are many bad apples. They’re all around us, and they terrify dozens of women (and sometimes men) in their lives. I don’t know why they do this. Maybe because they tiptoed across the line once and got away with it, then rationalized it because they think of themselves as “good guys.” Whatever the excuse, they leave a trail of broken people in their wake.

One day, one of the people they broke will speak out. And that person, usually a woman, will not be believed. You won’t believe her. Maybe she regretted it the next morning, you’ll think. Maybe she’s exaggerating. Surely this guy couldn’t be that bad. You will hold as a fixed point in your mind that humanity must be overall good, thus the only explanation is that this woman is lying. It is human of you to doubt that there are such terrible actors in the world. But it is, sadly, so so wrong. And your job, as a man, is to fight whatever primordial kinship you feel for this other man simply because you share a gender, and consider, just for a second, the risk this woman is taking by making this accusation. Once you do, once you really put yourself in her shoes, you will see the obvious: it’s not impossible that she’s lying, but it’s incredibly unlikely.

This will be hard, because, when you believe it, you will also have to believe that the world contains far too many awful, awful people. You know many of them. They were just as innocent and well-meaning as you are today, at ages 9 and 6. They became, at some point, through some series of decisions, morally corrupt. You, my dear innocent boys, are morally corruptible. You will not grow up to be good men only because you believe you are good men. You become good men by way of the critical decisions you make each and every day.

The bad news is that the World needs better men. The good news is, you can be one of those better men, if you choose to be. Do not break the rule. Believe women. Be better men.

by benadida at September 24, 2018 06:48 AM

September 23, 2018

Global Voices
A sea-change in Maldives politics as opposition presidential candidate declares a win
Contestants of the Maldives 2018 Presidential Election - Incumbent President Abdulla Yameen and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Two contestants of the Maldives 2018 Presidential Election: Left: Incumbent President Abdulla Yameen. Right: Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Image via Wikimedia Commons from Public Domain.

The Maldives, an archipelago nation situated in the Indian Ocean, has faced political turbulence as citizens at home and abroad lined up to vote on Sunday, September 23 in the 2018 presidential elections.

Incumbent Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Progressive Party (PPM) ran against opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Under Yameen's leadership, the island has faced a series of political crises that left citizens desperate for change.

Solih has been a member of parliament since 1994 and played an instrumental role in establishing multi-party democracy in the Maldives in 2009.

According to the BBC as of 2 a.m. in the Maldives (GMT+5) Solih “said he had won by a 16 percent margin over incumbent Abdulla Yameen, with 92 percent of votes counted” and urged for a peaceful transition on the troubled islands.

A fragile democracy

Yameen was elected president in controversial 2013 elections in which he defeated former president Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who worked to establish a multi-party system alongside Solih.

In fiercely contested 2013 election results, Naheed and the MDP claimed a clear lead. But strong disputes led to the annulment of the original election. Yameen ultimately won with a very narrow margin in the re-elections and Nasheed was forced into exile.

In his first five-year term, Yameen has gained notoriety for the imprisonment or forced exile of many of his political rivals. He boldly locked down parliament after a vote of no-confidence and survived a few impeachment attempts through creative measures such as the anti-defection ruling, which prevents members of parliament from switching parties.

Yameen's government has been accused of silencing dissent and media crackdowns, including the arrest and exile of journalists and newspaper shutdowns. Yameen also pulled the Maldives from The Commonwealth in 2016 after threats about its human rights record.

In September 2016, Al Jazeera released Stealing Paradise, an investigative report that revealed how President Yameen and his associates embezzled millions of dollars, bribed judges and other high-level officials and maneuvered to remove government workers who got in the way.

Yameen survived a judicial coup in February 2018 when the Supreme Court overturned the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed who remained in exile. The court reversed its decision after Yameen declared a state of emergency and ordered the arrest of two judges.

Last June, Nasheed decided to exit the presidential race after the Election Commission barred the candidacy to anyone convicted of criminal charges, leaving the opposition coalition to chose Solih for the 2018 elections.

Unprecedented voter turn out

The Maldives election commission boasted an “extraordinary high turnout” from its pool of 250,000 potential voters and extended polling by three hours as voters complained of long delays in the voting process.

No violence or disruptions were reported as per government sources:

Free and fair elections?

On the eve of Sunday's election, international election monitors who were banned from the Maldives expressed concerns about a free and fair election after Maldivian police raided opposition campaign headquarters.

Opposition leaders also expressed concerns about a free and fair election. In a recent press release, the Maldives Election Commission refuted claims of vote rigging and massive voter fraud.

A vote for change

Maldivian citizens impatient for democratic change stood in long lines, sometimes up to eight hours, to cast their votes.

Early polling results showed a clear lead for opposition candidate Solih.

Live statistics from the Maldives news portal Miharuu.com showed voter turnout at 88 percent of the eligible 262,135 voters. Another site called mvdemocracy.com continues to stream live results.

Maldivian citizens eager for a new beginning, especially when it comes to measures to protect the archipelago from the negative impact of climate change, will watch carefully in the coming days to see how the transition plays out.

by Rezwan at September 23, 2018 09:06 PM

September 22, 2018

Global Voices
Amidst typhoon rescue efforts in Japan, a Taiwanese diplomat dies. Did misinformation play a role?

Screenshot from a viral video showing a Chinese representative from the Chinese consulate in Osaka, Japan, explaining evacuation efforts to stranded Chinese tourists during Typhoon Jebi in September 2018.

Taiwanese diplomat Su Chii-cherng died by suicide on September 14, 2018, while stationed in Osaka, Japan.

According to NHK (Japan's national broadcasting station), the 61-year-old diplomat left behind a letter saying he was deeply pained by public criticism accusing his office of not doing enough to rescue Taiwanese tourists stranded at the Kansai International Airport in Japan when Typhoon Jebi struck the region in early September 2018.

When mainland Chinese media outlets circulated several stories praising the Chinese consulate in Japan for successfully evacuating its citizens, Taiwanese netizens slammed their own consulate for failing to assist Taiwanese tourists with equal measure.

Some social media reports said that Taiwanese citizens had to feign Chinese identities to get a seat on evacuation buses. Taiwan has been a de-facto self-ruling state since 1949 and the majority of Taiwanese want to distinguish themselves from mainland China. A proclamation of Chinese identity would signal an acceptance of the “One China Principle” and is, therefore, an insult to Taiwanese dignity.

Amidst a flurry of outrage and criticism, Taiwanese authorities tried to clarify that they were following rescue protocols set by the Japanese government, but misinformed criticism and complaints continue circulating online and the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they would thoroughly investigate the situation.

Following the death by suicide of Su Chii-cherng in the early morning of September 14, criticism aimed at his consulate halted. The following day, a journalist group, Taiwan Fact-check Center published a report denouncing the mainland Chinese versions of the rescue story circulated widely online.

Misinformation over evacuation priorities 

According to officials at Japan's Kansai International Airport, Japanese airport authorities arranged evacuation buses for all stranded passengers, regardless of nationality. Japanese authorities rejected a demand by the Chinese consulate to send their own buses.

However, during the evacuation procedures, representatives from China Southern Airlines grouped only mainland Chinese tourists into one of the buses and, after they arrived at the collection point, the Chinese consulate allegedly arranged its own transport to rescue others.

The Chinese consulate in Osaka first shared information about their rescue efforts for Chinese citizens in a brief announcement:

截至日本当地时间9月6日凌晨,驻大阪总领馆协助因台风滞留中国旅客1044人(包括香港同胞117人,澳门同胞5人和台湾同胞32人)分六批安全撤离关西国际机场。

Until September 6 midnight, China consulate in Osaka had assisted 1044 Chinese tourists, including 117 Hong Kong fellows, five Macau fellows and 32 Taiwanese fellows, to retreat from Kansai international airport in six batches.

Another announcement claims the consulate sent representatives to the Kansai airport after midnight on September 4 to discuss a rescue plan that was then implemented by the Japanese authorities on September 5 specifically for Chinese tourists:

经我馆积极协调,日方于9月5日上午11时30分(原计划8时开始,因故推迟)启动集中转运中国旅客工作。

After the consulate’s proactive coordinating work, the Japanese side started transporting Chinese tourists [to downtown transit center] at 11:30 am on September 5 (the original plan was at 8 am but deferred due to other causes).

This gave readers the impression that transit buses arranged at Kansai International Airport was the result of negotiations by the Chinese consulate on behalf of Chinese citizens.

Chinese state-affiliated Guan Cha Net published a video on the night of September 5 further exacerbating this narrative, with Chinese consulate staff reporting that 15 buses had been arranged for Chinese tourists.

The video also shows an interview with a Chinese traveler named Mr. Wang who confirmed that a bus arranged by the Chinese consulate picked up Chinese travelers stranded at the airport, adding that he was proud to be a Chinese passport holder.

The report included a WeChat post:

【中國人先上車】昨天3千人滯留大阪關西機場,中國駐大阪總領事館准備了15輪大巴,優先安排中國公民撤離關西機場,並給大家發了吃喝的,離開機場的時候,日本人和其它國家地區的群眾還在排隊,一眼望不到頭。為強大的祖國點贊。PS 遇到幾個台灣同胞問,我們能上這輛車嗎?統一回答可以呀,只要你覺得自己是中國人就可以上車跟祖國走。

[Chinese get onboard first] Yesterday 3,000 people were trapped at Kansai International Airport, the China consulate in Osaka arranged 15 buses to transport Chinese citizens away from the airport. It also distributed food. When departing the airport, Japanese and people from other countries were still lining up and you could not see where the queue led. Please praise for the strength of our mother country. P.S. We ran into a few Taiwanese fellows who asked if they could get on the bus. We all said yes. If you identify yourself as Chinese, you can get on the bus and follow mother country.

The state-affiliated media outlet Global Times also ran a story on September 6 boasting that Chinese tourists were the first to be evacuated. The report credited the Chinese consulate for rescue coordination:

就在今天一早,被困机场的中国旅客却得知了一个令他们很受感动的好消息:中国领馆来接他们了!

Chinese tourists who were trapped in the airport heard a moving good news early this morning: the China consulate had come to fetch them!

Reports and commentary on the evacuation efforts in Japan originally appeared on September 6 on PTT (a Taiwanese forum). Taiwanese media outlets then picked up the story, eventually running sensational headlines like “Taiwanese follow China bus,” “Taiwanese had to rely on Chinese transportation to get away” and “To get on the bus, one has to pretend Chinese”.

Taiwan's fact-check failure

Taiwanese officials’ continued attempts to clarify the situation fell on deaf ears and netizens continued to blame Taiwanese diplomats such as Chii-cherng in Japan. Taiwanese politician Frank Hsieh attempted to address the misinformed criticism of Taiwan's evacuation response:

中國大阪領事館網站登出他們派巴士車去機場載受困中國旅客,而我們沒有,更傳言有國人偷偷去搭他們的車,還要表明自己是中國人,消息傳出,網民羞憤,有人趁此宣傳感覺持有中華人民共和國護照是驕傲的事情,我的網站因此被灌爆,我現在無暇仔細說明許多查明的細節,承受大家憤怒的出口,也沒有關係。但請大家冷靜想想,如果9/5日私人巴士或汽車可以到機場接人,那麼機場一定大亂,寸步難行,反而不能有效率地疏散。所以日本做法是只准出不准進,所有人都是坐機場的巴士或高速船離開機場到泉佐野站(電車有通)或神戶港。

China consulate in Osaka posted on their website that they had sent buses to the airport to pick up Chinese tourists. On the other hand we did nothing. Some hearsay even claimed that Taiwanese had to proclaim themselves as Chinese in order to get on the buses. The news had enraged [Taiwanese] netizens. Some made use of the incident to propagate the sense of pride in holding a PRC [People's Republic of China] passport. My website was flooded with negative comments. I could not explain all the details at this moment and it is OK for me to take the blame. But please stay calm. If Japan allows private vehicles to enter the airport on September 5, the airport would be very chaotic and no one would be about to get out. It would effect the evacuation work. That’s why Japan had forbidden vehicles to enter, all people in the airport had to take airport buses or turbo ship to leave the airport and go to Rinku (where there is tram service) or Osaka harbour.

But Hsieh's explanation sparked angry comments and the demand for his resignation. Then came the news that his colleague Su Chii-cherng took his own life.

The incident begs series reflection on the collective psychological stress that stems from years of political tension between China and Taiwan that so easily stoked the spread of deadly misinformation.

 

The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit Befrienders.org to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.

by Oiwan Lam at September 22, 2018 02:13 AM

Beijing authorities slam Swedish police for humiliating Chinese tourists, but there's another side to the story

Screenshot of the clash between Chinese tourists and Swedish police on September 2, 2018, posted by the Swedish media out Aftonbladet.

On September 14, 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a safety alert for Chinese travelers visiting Sweden, after claiming that three Chinese tourists had been brutally abused by Swedish police while vacationing in Stockholm.

A number of Chinese media outlets reported the incident as “brutal” with vivid details and video clips that showed three Chinese tourists screaming and crying for help outside the Generator Hostel in an apparent confrontation with Swedish police.

Reports from Chinese outlets quickly stirred patriotic sentiments on Chinese social media. However, a video released the next day from the Swedish media outlet Aftonbladet offered a different side to the story, leaving viewers to question the veracity of the debacle.

The Chinese side of the story

According to a report from the Global Times, a media outlet affiliated with the Chinese Community Party, the Zeng family of three arrived in Stockholm past midnight on September 2, hours before their official check-in time, and demanded to rest in the hostel's lobby. The staff allegedly felt threatened by the Zengs’ demands and called the police, who forcibly dragged all three out of the hostel.

Zeng claims his father then had a heart attack and fainted while standing outside the hostel and that the police did nothing to assist. Zeng also told the Global Times that the police later dragged them into police vehicles and beat his parents. Instead of taking them to the police station, Zeng claims the police “dumped them in a cemetery at least 30 kilometers south of the hostel.”

The Swedish side of the story

In response to the safety alert announcement made by the Chinese government, Swedish Chief Prosecutor Mats Ericsson said that authorities investigated Zeng's allegations of the incident and on September 7, they exonerated the police of all wrong-doing.

Ericsson denied allegations that the Swedish police had beaten Zeng's parents. However, he did admit that the police did lead the Zeng family into a police vehicle and dropped them off at the Skogskyrkogården subway station near the famous cemetery-garden tourist destination, located only eight kilometers south of the hostel. The police explained that anyone who creates a public disturbance in Stockholm is typically brought to this subway station and expected to fend for themselves.

Hu Shijin, the chief editor of the Global Times, agreed that the Zeng family's behavior was ‘uncivilized,’ but insisted that the Swedish police should not have stranded them at the subway station.

The Swedish media outlet Aftonbladet released a video of the altercation and also interviewed the hostel manager who said they only called on security guards when Zeng's demands became threatening:

We only know that we have done everything we could do for this guest, but at the same time we cannot accept that our staff are exposed to threats and that other guests will suffer from a threatening situation. [English translation of the interview via Guardian]

One passerby interviewed by Aftonbladet says that Zeng’s family was making a scene and pretended to fall down when approached by police. This testimony was backed up by the video released via Aftonbladet.

Shifting opinions leads to critique of Chinese government

As the Aftonbaladet video of the incident circulated on social media, Chinese public opinion began to shift. One Twitter user reposted the video and used the term “china” (meaning “ceramic”) to mock what he calls a “staged crash”:

Isn’t this a typical staged crash? Chinese china steps out of the country, Chinese china steps out to the world, Chinese china scares the Swedish police, Chinese china shows off to the world. It makes Chinese face’s shine. Let’s use this Chinese saying – repost this or you are no Chinese.

The following are some popular comments from Weibo, China's largest social media platform, where netizens critiqued both the Chinese government and the family:

外交部本来想借这事煽动民族情绪,给向来都不把大天朝放在眼里的瑞典政府压力,可这届网民的是非观太強,没被忽悠。煽自己脸了。

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted to make use of the incident to stir patriotic sentiment to exercise pressure on Swedish government. But netizens know too well what’s right and wrong and now it slaps its own face.

深夜抵达斯德哥尔摩,却不预定酒店,妄图赖在酒店大堂里,横躺,睡觉,不被允许,就一哭二闹三上吊,碰瓷,这招很好用,但是,瑞典是法治社会,跑到瑞典去这么闹,瑞典警察才不惯着这些无赖呢。 外交部还为这种无赖站台,真是丢人现眼,那些对瑞典喊打喊杀,引导粉蛆,煽动民粹的官媒,要脸吗?

Arrived at Stockholm late at night without booking a hotel and expected to sleep at the hotel lobby. When rejected, cried, yelled, hung themselves and staged crash. This is an effective strategy [in China], but not working in Sweden. The Swedish police don’t care about such scoundrels. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs backed them up, this is so embarrassing. Party mouthpieces which kept attacking Sweden, channeling patriotic sentiment and inciting populism, do they care about their reputation?

On Twitter, more critical comments surfaced about China's motives for circulating this story:

Three Chinese made a scene in Sweden and were forcibly moved away. So many Chinese media outlets and patriots protested and condemned the act. However, when Beijing evicted rural workers at negative eight degrees Celsius and both adults and children were left homeless in the streets, these people kept silence and didn’t dare making a fart. The whole thing makes me understand one thing: those who talk in righteousness when no courage is required while choose to keep silence when courage is needed, they are not cowards but hypocrites.

Chinese-Swedish cultural conflict reveals deeper political rifts

Joe Chung, a political news columnist, provided a list of reasons why the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs would bother to comment on such a minor dispute:

一,是在瑞典公民桂民海被中國政府長期綁架一事上拒絕合作,到本年6月,更有37份包括瑞典大報的瑞典報章,發聲明敦促中國政府釋放桂民海,並指控中國政府嚴重違反人權。現在中國駐瑞典大使譴責瑞典當局違反該三名中國旅客的人權,就是想令外界,尤其是中國人相信,瑞典政府也違反人權,哪有資格向中國指手畫腳。
二,瑞典作為一蕞爾小國,竟敢於今年6月,將為中國政府蒐集瑞典流亡藏人信息的特務人員多傑嘉登(Dorjee Gyantsan),判監22個月。
三,容許達賴喇嘛於上週訪問瑞典。

1. Sweden refused to keep silence on the abduction of its citizen Gui Minhai. Last June [2017], 37 Swedish newspapers co-signed a statement urging the Chinese government to release Gui Minhai and criticizing the Chinese government for infringement of human human. Now the Chinese Embassy in Sweden condemns the Swedish authorities for infringing on the rights of three Chinese tourists to make Chinese people believe that Sweden has no position to criticize China.
2. Sweden, a small country [in the eyes of China] dared giving a 22-month jail sentence to Dorjee Gyantsan, a Chinese spy responsible for collecting exiled Tibetan communities’ information in June this year [2018].
3. Sweden accepted [Tibetan] Dalai Lama visit to the country last week [Tibet and China have longstanding political issues].

Chinese party-affiliated media outlets have not apologized for spreading misinformation on the incident. Instead, they criticized Chinese netizens for acting like ‘slaves’ to Western opinion and taking the wrong position.

In an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen on September 17, Chinese Ambassador Gui Congyou defended the family's rights, insisting that the Swedish police had threatened and humiliated the Zeng trio.

The Chinese version of the interview was widely circulated online.

by Oiwan Lam at September 22, 2018 02:07 AM

September 21, 2018

Marketplace Tech Report
What else can Big Data do? Pick stocks.
This week, we've been covering how technology has changed investing and will continue to change it. That conversation leads us to artificial intelligence. A Wall Street industry poll earlier this year said a majority of hedge funds are now using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help them make trades. Huge quant funds are even fighting Google and Facebook for engineers to crunch tons of data and build algorithms to predict the next great stock buy. This has all made markets faster, more efficient and more accessible to online investors. On the other hand, there are some worrying aspects. We dig into that in Quality Assurance, our Friday segment where we take a deeper look at a big tech story. Host Molly Wood talks with Simone Foxman of Bloomberg. (09/21/18)

by Marketplace at September 21, 2018 10:38 AM

Global Voices
Venezuelans say they are unable to access key Google services

Illustration by Eduardo Sanabria. Used with permission.

During the first days of September, many Venezuelan Internet users reported having difficulties accessing Google services through the state-run Internet service provider, CANTV, the largest telecommunications company in Venezuela. The service seemed to be working again by mid September, but the conversation revealed the many ways online users are deprived of information and communication online.

Blogspot, Hangouts, Google Drive, and image services, including Gmail attachments were among the services affected.

I think our little friends from the broadband Internet service (ABA) at CANTV are blocking access to specific Google CDNs (content delivery networks). I'm not sure of the breadth of the service outage/block, but it is consistent. Run a quick test by opening the Play Store to see if the app images are downloaded.

In the absence of official information, users began to speculate about the reasons behind this outage, pointing to an intentional block by CANTV as a possible cause.

Venezuela Inteligente, a Venezuelan civil society group, said that Facebook and Twitter had also been affected by the outage, suggesting that content distribution platforms may have been the intended target. It could not confirm, however, if this blackout was caused by an intentional block:

We are continuing to review the problems of accessing several important platforms via #CANTV, many of these problems are occurring in the CDN platforms (content distribution networks, which load common files more quickly) At this time WE CANNOT CONFIRM an intentional block #internetve #9Sep

Meanwhile, Fran Monroy, a technology journalist, declared that the blackout stemmed from a combination of technical failures:

A colleague specialized in telecommunications @fmonroy explained that #CANTV has two problems at this time in #Venezuela Read the thread.

It is worth mentioning that frequent outages have been an enduring characteristic of state-run Internet services. It not only happens with the Internet connection, but also with the electrical grid.

In Venezuela, attacks against the Internet are not new. Among other cases, in June 2018, the anonymous browser Tor, and various pornography sites were blocked.

Furthermore, a recent study by Venezuela Inteligente, IPYS Venezuela and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) found that the censoring of news websites in Venezuela by means of DNS tampering and HTTP filtering is a wide-spread practice.

When content is blocked by means of DNS tampering, the domain name server does not respond to the Internet protocol (IP) request. When a specific web address is entered in the browser, the IP request is prevented from being carried out. Meanwhile, HTTP filtering blocks access to information whose principal code contains a syntax seen as invalid by the system.

In the past, Venezuelans have reported being unable to access of radio frequencies, but more recently, stricter control has been seen with the direct blocking of independent news sources and the arrest of journalists. A few days before the latest reports of blocked platforms, international media outlets had already condemned attacks against independent news sources.

Meanwhile, other limitations linked to the political and economic crisis have also meant less freedom of press and expression. The shortage of basic goods such as paper, or the recent economic measures (that include, for example, a 60-fold increase in the minimum wage, due to soaring inflation rates) have forced several media outlets to close their doors.

As a result, the number of news outlets that could oppose Nicolás Maduro's government are being reduced in a sustained and ever-accelerating manner.

A study co-written by the author of this post and Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights) reports a deterioration in online communications in Venezuela. The study also indicates that the restriction of information and communication that has been documented in Venezuela and the lack of transparency in the use of personal information are a violation of human rights.

by Kristina Edinger at September 21, 2018 06:41 AM

Journalist's expulsion from restaurant leads to debate about racism in Angola
Vestimentas de Hossi Sonjamba no dia do acto | Foto usada com permissão por Hossi

Hossi Sonjamba’s clothes on the day | Photo used with Hossi’s permission – 26 August 2018

The alleged violent eviction of a journalist from an upscale restaurant in Luanda has caused an online controversy, leading to debates about racism and discrimination in Angola.

On 26 August, journalist and activist Simão Hossi visited the Café Del Mar restaurant with a group of friends. On the instructions of the managers, two employees followed Hossi when he was on his way to the restroom. The employees then allegedly assaulted and expelled him from the restaurant with the excuse that Hossi was poorly dressed.

Afterwards, Hossi took to Facebook and shred his version of events in a post:

Ontem, domingo 26 de Agosto, desloquei-me a Ilha de Luanda, em companhia de 3 amigos sendo um deles um Cidadão Norte Americano que esteve em Angola a trabalho, trata-se de Jeremias Dito Dalí, Massilon Chindombe, e o Rudy Massamba que veio de Washington DC.

(…) enquanto procurava-se pelo lugar para sentarmos decidi ir ao banheiro e, como não conhecia a casa perguntei a uma atendente, esta indicou que fosse sempre em frente por estar apresada, como não achava, perguntei a uma funcionária de limpeza, está por sua vez questionou-me logo de onde vinha, eu respondi a ela no caso a funcionária que estava no interior do restaurante e que precisava do banheiro, ela indicou-me e fui usar o mesmo.

Tão logo saí do banheiro deparo-me com mais ou menos 4 a 5 seguranças internos vulgos Caenches que abordaram a minha pessoa com as questões, o que estava aí a fazer, de onde vinha e, estes por sua vez obrigavam a segui-los eu questionei para onde eles queriam levar-me se estava acompanhado. Foi assim que eles a força, um deles pegou me a força como se um bebê até fora do recinto do restaurante onde fui atirado ao chão, este mesmo que carregou deu-me bofetadas, para além destes em conjunto terem preferidos palavras de que, aquele não era o local para mim, mesmo eu tendo insistentemente afirmado que estava acompanhando com mais 3 pessoas.

Quanto a questão das minhas vestimentas, eu estava de chinelas de facto, estava com uma calça e camisola normal, havia pessoas com calções e chinelas mas fui mesmo o alvo.
Para mim o pessoal da segurança não agiu isoladamento, tiveram cobertura da gerência do restaurante.

Yesterday, 26 August, I visited the Ihla de Luanda, in the company of 3 friends, one being a USA citizen who was in Angola for work, they were Jeremias Dito Dalí, Massilon Chindombe, and Rudy Massamba who came from Washington DC.

(…) while looking for a place for us to sit I decided to go to the bathroom and, as I did not know the place I asked an attendant, they said it was straight ahead as he was busy, as I did not find it, I asked a cleaning employee, for her part she asked me quickly where I came from, I answered her like the employee inside the restaurant and that I needed the bathroom, she showed me and I went to use it.

As soon as I left the bathroom I came across more or less 4 to 5 muscly internal security staff that accosted me with questions, what was I there to do, where did I come from and, they then forced me to follow them, I asked where they wanted to take me while accompanied. It was then they used force, one of them took me by force like a baby outside the restaurant area where I was thrown to the floor, the same one who carried me also struck me, and as well as this they also chose words that, this was not the place for me, even though I had been insistently saying that I was accompanied by 3 other people.

As for the question of my clothes, I was actually in flip-flops, I was wearing normal trousers and a long shirt, there were other people with shorts and flip-flops but the target was just me.

For me, the security staff did not act alone, they were covered by the restaurant’s management.

The story was widely shared on social media and many people have publicly criticized and protested the restaurant's actions — among them long-time clients. Hossi was also invited to discuss what happened on the most watched television channel in Angola, TV Zimbo.

In a Facebook post, which was later shared in the newspaper O País, Presidential advisor Ismael Mateus claimed that this case of racism against Simão Hossi is only one of thousands that occur in the country.

According to Mateus, racism in Angola is nothing new, but people prefer to pretend nothing is happening. In some companies, he explained, having lighter skin is a passport to a job or preferential treatment:

Acontece nas nossas barbas e enquanto não tomarmos consciência disso, as coisas vão continuar. Um dia, quando alguém perder a cabeça e acontecer um incidente grave, ninguém se irá lembrar das pessoas que andam há anos a dizer que precisamos de discutir o racismo contra a grande maioria negra.

It happens in front of us and while we do not take notice of it, these things will continue. One day, when somebody loses their head and a serious incident happens, nobody will remember the people who have been saying for years that we need to discuss racism against the large black majority.

The restaurant's reaction

In their own defense, the restaurant wrote that Simão Hóssi had been dressed inadequately and unacceptably. According to their version of the incident, Hossi was approached by a member of the cleaning staff who reproached him for his poor state of dress. The restaurant management then alerted the head of security who asked Hossi to leave the area which created an unpleasant situation for other clients.

Outside the establishment, police officers on patrol in the area were called in to intervene on behalf of Simão Hossi, who alleged that he had been assaulted. This was disregarded by the officers as he did not show any signs of being assaulted.

Internet users divided over the event

In a Facebook post, Joaquim Lunda, a friend of Hossi, said he did not understand how something like this could happen:

…várias vezes eu já estive neste local em que mencionas, de calções e chinelos e ainda hoje estive lá de calções e chinelos, mas tive um bom tratamento pelos funcionários…será que discutiste com algum funcionário, coisa parecida? Acho mesmo muito estranho isso que acabas de mencionar.

… I have already been several times to this place that you mention, in shorts and flip-flops and even today I was there in shorts and flip-flops, but I was treated well by the staff…could it be that you had an exchange with one of the staff, something like that? I think that it’s very strange, what you just mentioned

Miguel Quimbenze put the blame on Hossi, arguing that he must have treated the cleaning staff member badly:
Mano tu provocaste esta situação, trataste mal a funcionária auxiliar de limpeza, os seguranças apareceram em função da informação dada pela Sra. Penso que a pergunta que lhe foi feita pela Sra era normal.

Buddy you provoked this situation, you treated the cleaning staff member badly, the security staff came on the basis of the information given by this lady. I think that the question the lady asked you was normal

Meanwhile, André Mfumu Kivuandinga, an internet user who followed the event, encouraged Hossi to take the case as far as possible:
Mano tens que ir mesmo adiante com isso. Não se pode tolerar injustiças ou discriminações. Estou consigo, se precisar de minha ajuda, sabes onde me localizar. Aliás, posso fazer um trabalho sobre isso.

Buddy you have to go further with this. You cannot tolerate injustice or discrimination. I am with you, if you need my help, you know where to find me. For that matter, I can do some work on this

Presenter Salgueiro Vincente jumped to Hossi's defense,using Facebook to organize a protest near the restaurant, as well as debates, songs, and poetry.

Action taken in support of the activist and journalist Hossi Sonjamba | Photo used with permission

In response to Vincente's call to protest, Elísio dos Santos Magalhães highlighted the need for a country united against racism:

Estamos todos ligados nesta causa o racismo divisionismo, tribalismo, perconceito racial basts chega, chega, chega, chega Angola sem racismo todos somos um só! E muitos felizes ,chega de perconceito de cor da pele chega, um dia eu ja sofri isto ando muito magoado pelo os meus ex sogros e depois de vinte anos tiraram-me a mulher por eu ser mistiço abaixo o racismo nas familias ja destruiram muitas familias em Angola chega chega basta…

We are all linked in this cause, divisive racism, tribalism, racial prejudice, enough, enough, enough, enough, enough, Angola without racism, we are all one! And very happy, enough of prejudice about skin colour enough, one day I already suffered this I am very hurt by my former parents-in-law and after twenty years they took away my wife because I am mestizo, due to racism in families, families are destroyed in Angola, enough enough enough

On 9 September, the day of event, demonstrators shared photos of the protest in front of the restaurant:

Concentração de fronte ao restaurante | Foto usada com permissão - Hossi Sonjamba (09.08.2018)

Demonstration in front of the restaurant | Photo used with permission – Hossi Sonjamba (09.09.2018)

Concentração de fronte ao restaurante | Foto usada com permissão - Hossi Sonjamba (09.08.2018)

Demonstration in front of the restaurant | Photo used with permission – Hossi Sonjamba (09.09.2018)

According to Hossi’s online posts, the case is still being investigated by Angolan authorities.

by Liam Anderson at September 21, 2018 02:32 AM

September 20, 2018

Global Voices Advocacy
Will Brazil's forthcoming data protection law actually protect peoples’ privacy rights?

Michel Temer sanctions the Personal Data Protection Bill | Image: Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil/CC

After two years of negotiation at the National Congress, Brazil’s Personal Data Protection Bill was finally sanctioned by president Michel Temer on August 14. The original text was approved in both houses of Congress by a unanimous vote.

The bill, as defined by members of Congress, is a “legal framework for the protection, use and treatment of personal information”. The law intends to give individuals greater power to control their data, by requiring corporate entities to obtain a person's consent before collecting their information. This is an important move in Brazil where pharmacies, public transportation and other services often capture people’s data without their explicit consent or prior notice.

After the misuse of data captured on Facebook became a worldwide concern with the Cambridge Analytica scandal in early 2018, the Congress expedited its process on the bill.

But there is a catch. The text signed by Temer is not exactly the same one approved by at the Parliament. Temer vetoed some elements of the original.

Global Voices talked to Bia Barbosa, an activist part of the collective Intervozes and a member of Coalizão Direitos na Rede (Net Rights Coalition), to learn the groups’ concerns about the bill.

Barbosa explains that the text has a series of problems, mainly caused by the Temer's vetos. She highlights three of them:

O primeiro o veto à criação de uma autoridade independente e de um conselho de proteção de dados pessoais, que estaria vinculado à essa autoridade, garantindo participação multissetorial. Hoje, isso deixa a lei sem condições e garantia de sua aplicabilidade. O governo tem declarado que vai enviar um projeto de lei ou uma medida provisória para o Congresso para criar essa autoridade, mas as informações que a gente tem é de que o modelo que vai ser enviado pelo Executivo não respeita o modelo de autoridade que foi negociado nesse texto no Parlamento. Esse é o principal problema para a gente, porque sem uma autoridade realmente independente, com autonomia administrativa e poder sancionatório, a lei corre sérios riscos de não sair do papel.

Outro risco que nos parece bastante preocupante é o veto ao artigo 28 que estabelece o dever do poder público informar, de maneira pró-ativa a sociedade quando ele compartilha dados pessoais com outros órgãos do poder público. Esse artigo foi vetado, de uma maneira, na nossa avaliação, sem justificativa e gera uma deficiência de transparência no tratamento de dados pelo poder público.

O terceiro aspecto, que para as organizações de defesa de liberdade de expressão também é significativo, é o veto dado ao artigo que garantia a proteção dos dados pessoais dos requerentes de informação via LAI. Ou seja, os dados das pessoas que pedem informação ao poder público, tinham uma previsão garantiste de proteção aos dados desses requerentes e isso também foi vetado. Na nossa avaliação, apesar da grande maioria da lei ter sido respeitada, esses vetos são preocupantes.

The first one is the veto of the creation of an independent authority and of a personal data protection council, that should be submitted to this authority, ensuring a multi-sector participation. With this section removed, the bill no longer articulates conditions or protections for its enforcement. The government says it will send a new law to the Congress to create this authority, but the information that we've received indicates that the Executive’s model doesn’t respect the model that was negotiated at the Parliament. Without this, the bill has serious risks of not coming to fruition.

Another risk that is very worrisome to us is the veto of article 28, which establishes the public duty to inform society, in a pro-active manner, when sharing personal data with other public offices. This article was vetoed, in an unjustifiable way, limited the transparency of how public data is treated by public power.

The third aspect is the veto given to the article that guaranteed the protection of personal data of those who required information via the Access to Information Act (LAI). There was a provision to ensure protection of people requesting data, but it was also vetoed. To us, even though the majority of the bill was respected, these vetoes are concerning.

The collective Net Rights Coalition warned of the possibility that the president would veto the creation of a National Data Protection Authority (ANDP) before signing. The ANDP was meant to work as an independent regulatory agency. According to the federal government, it would be “unconstitutional” if the Congress was to create such authority, therefore a governmental office should have oversight in the process, in order to ensure its functionality.

Most importantly, the group noted that the military has been working to incorporate the Institutional Security Cabinet into the policy. The Brazilian Intelligence Agency falls under the authority of the Cabinet.

A possibilidade de deixar para um órgão do próprio governo a tarefa de garantir o respeito à lei pelo poder público coloca em total risco sua eficácia.

Por isso, o texto aprovado no Congresso prevê uma Autoridade independente administrativamente do Executivo. Este modelo de autoridade não é nenhuma novidade no Brasil e é o padrão da grande maioria dos países que têm leis gerais de proteção de dados pessoais.

The possibility of leaving an organ that is part of the government with the task of ensuring respect to the law puts its efficiency at a total risk. Therefore, the text approved by the Congress has foreseen an Authority that is administratively independent from the Executive. This model is no news in Brazil and is a pattern to a large majority of countries with general data protection laws

The vetos can also affect the enforcement of Brazil's unique Marco Civil or “Internet Bill of Rights” that was passed in 2014. As Barbosa notes, currently, there are around 200 proposals under review in Congress that would change Marco Civil. Most of these proposals are focused in two areas. The first is to remove a key check on state entities that wish to access personal data held by companies — the current legislation requires state actors to obtain a court order before doing this, but many of the pending proposals would remove this requirement.

Na nossa avaliação, isso abre um precedente muito perigoso, para risco de vigilantismo total do poder das forças de segurança, do poder investigativo para o cidadão comum, por isso a gente tem combatido esses projetos.

In our evaluation, this opens a very dangerous precedent, risking a total vigilantism for the power of security forces, or investigative power of a regular citizens, that’s why we’ve been fighting against these projects.

The second line of proposals would obligate social media and other platforms to immediately remove content after receiving a request, rather than awaiting judicial review. Many of them using the “blue whale”, an internet challenge that allegedly drives teenagers to commit suicide, as an excuse.

Para a gente isso também é perigoso, porque coloca nas mãos dessas plataformas a responsabilidade de avaliar esses conteúdos e, não necessariamente, isso vai ser feito de uma maneira equilibrada com a defesa do princípio de liberdade de expressão. Então, a gente tem combatido esses processos no sentido de manter o marco civil na sua integralidade, entendendo que é uma lei principiológica, bastante atual.

We also see this as dangerous move, because it puts on the hands of these platforms the responsibility to evaluate content and, not necessarily, this would be driven in a balanced manner, defending the principle of free speech. So, we’ve been fighting these processes in the sense of keeping Marco Civil at its integrality, understanding this is a principle law, very up to date.

Bia Barbosa also points to the fact that collecting data through apps, credit card, internet browsers, is now an “indiscriminate practice” of many companies. This leads to leaking, wrongful commercialization, sharing without consent. “All our data is being constantly treated and collected, without people knowing or being informed about it”, she says.

She also notes that although Marco Civil has multiple provisions ensuring protections for users’ privacy, the text has been disrespected or ignored, which has led civil society to propose a specific law aimed at personal data protection.

A gente espera agora que com a aprovação dessa lei, o Brasil comece a mudar a cultura da coleta de dados porque a ideia da lei não é impedir o tratamento de dados, mas definir em que condições isso pode acontecer, que o usuário seja informado, que respeite direitos fundamentais, que haja limites para esse tratamento, que a comercialização não seja feita de uma maneira indiscriminada e massiva como é feita hoje.

We now hope that with the approval of this law, Brazil will begin to change the culture of data collection, because the bill’s goal is not stopping data processing, but to define under which conditions that can happen — it says that users must be informed about it, respecting fundamental rights, and that puts limits on how data can be treated, stopping indiscriminate and massive commercialization as it’s done today.

Brazil is currently approaching presidential elections. Temer, who came to power after the controversial impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, being her vice-president, will leave office on January 1.

When sanctioning the bill he promised to send a new bill to create the agency “soon”. How the agency will operate or if it will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice has yet to be defined.

Valor newspaper quoted him saying:

“Eu vou mandar logo, muito brevemente um projeto de lei, mais ou menos com os mesmos dizeres, mas sem vício de iniciativa”, explicou o emedebista. (…) “Vou deixar mais ou menos como está”, sinalizou.

I will send, very soon, a draft law, with similar language, but without the initial vice (the fact that the Legislative power was creating and could make it unconstitutional, according to the Executive)…I'll leave it more or less how it is.

by Fernanda Canofre at September 20, 2018 02:43 PM

Global Voices
Will Brazil's forthcoming data protection law actually protect peoples’ privacy rights?

Michel Temer sanctions the Personal Data Protection Bill | Image: Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil/CC

After two years of negotiation at the National Congress, Brazil’s Personal Data Protection Bill was finally sanctioned by president Michel Temer on August 14. The original text was approved in both houses of Congress by a unanimous vote.

The bill, as defined by members of Congress, is a “legal framework for the protection, use and treatment of personal information”. The law intends to give individuals greater power to control their data, by requiring corporate entities to obtain a person's consent before collecting their information. This is an important move in Brazil where pharmacies, public transportation and other services often capture people’s data without their explicit consent or prior notice.

After the misuse of data captured on Facebook became a worldwide concern with the Cambridge Analytica scandal in early 2018, the Congress expedited its process on the bill.

But there is a catch. The text signed by Temer is not exactly the same one approved by at the Parliament. Temer vetoed some elements of the original.

Global Voices talked to Bia Barbosa, an activist part of the collective Intervozes and a member of Coalizão Direitos na Rede (Net Rights Coalition), to learn the groups’ concerns about the bill.

Barbosa explains that the text has a series of problems, mainly caused by the Temer's vetos. She highlights three of them:

O primeiro o veto à criação de uma autoridade independente e de um conselho de proteção de dados pessoais, que estaria vinculado à essa autoridade, garantindo participação multissetorial. Hoje, isso deixa a lei sem condições e garantia de sua aplicabilidade. O governo tem declarado que vai enviar um projeto de lei ou uma medida provisória para o Congresso para criar essa autoridade, mas as informações que a gente tem é de que o modelo que vai ser enviado pelo Executivo não respeita o modelo de autoridade que foi negociado nesse texto no Parlamento. Esse é o principal problema para a gente, porque sem uma autoridade realmente independente, com autonomia administrativa e poder sancionatório, a lei corre sérios riscos de não sair do papel.

Outro risco que nos parece bastante preocupante é o veto ao artigo 28 que estabelece o dever do poder público informar, de maneira pró-ativa a sociedade quando ele compartilha dados pessoais com outros órgãos do poder público. Esse artigo foi vetado, de uma maneira, na nossa avaliação, sem justificativa e gera uma deficiência de transparência no tratamento de dados pelo poder público.

O terceiro aspecto, que para as organizações de defesa de liberdade de expressão também é significativo, é o veto dado ao artigo que garantia a proteção dos dados pessoais dos requerentes de informação via LAI. Ou seja, os dados das pessoas que pedem informação ao poder público, tinham uma previsão garantiste de proteção aos dados desses requerentes e isso também foi vetado. Na nossa avaliação, apesar da grande maioria da lei ter sido respeitada, esses vetos são preocupantes.

The first one is the veto of the creation of an independent authority and of a personal data protection council, that should be submitted to this authority, ensuring a multi-sector participation. With this section removed, the bill no longer articulates conditions or protections for its enforcement. The government says it will send a new law to the Congress to create this authority, but the information that we've received indicates that the Executive’s model doesn’t respect the model that was negotiated at the Parliament. Without this, the bill has serious risks of not coming to fruition.

Another risk that is very worrisome to us is the veto of article 28, which establishes the public duty to inform society, in a pro-active manner, when sharing personal data with other public offices. This article was vetoed, in an unjustifiable way, limited the transparency of how public data is treated by public power.

The third aspect is the veto given to the article that guaranteed the protection of personal data of those who required information via the Access to Information Act (LAI). There was a provision to ensure protection of people requesting data, but it was also vetoed. To us, even though the majority of the bill was respected, these vetoes are concerning.

The collective Net Rights Coalition warned of the possibility that the president would veto the creation of a National Data Protection Authority (ANDP) before signing. The ANDP was meant to work as an independent regulatory agency. According to the federal government, it would be “unconstitutional” if the Congress was to create such authority, therefore a governmental office should have oversight in the process, in order to ensure its functionality.

Most importantly, the group noted that the military has been working to incorporate the Institutional Security Cabinet into the policy. The Brazilian Intelligence Agency falls under the authority of the Cabinet.

A possibilidade de deixar para um órgão do próprio governo a tarefa de garantir o respeito à lei pelo poder público coloca em total risco sua eficácia.

Por isso, o texto aprovado no Congresso prevê uma Autoridade independente administrativamente do Executivo. Este modelo de autoridade não é nenhuma novidade no Brasil e é o padrão da grande maioria dos países que têm leis gerais de proteção de dados pessoais.

The possibility of leaving an organ that is part of the government with the task of ensuring respect to the law puts its efficiency at a total risk. Therefore, the text approved by the Congress has foreseen an Authority that is administratively independent from the Executive. This model is no news in Brazil and is a pattern to a large majority of countries with general data protection laws

The vetos can also affect the enforcement of Brazil's unique Marco Civil or “Internet Bill of Rights” that was passed in 2014. As Barbosa notes, currently, there are around 200 proposals under review in Congress that would change Marco Civil. Most of these proposals are focused in two areas. The first is to remove a key check on state entities that wish to access personal data held by companies — the current legislation requires state actors to obtain a court order before doing this, but many of the pending proposals would remove this requirement.

Na nossa avaliação, isso abre um precedente muito perigoso, para risco de vigilantismo total do poder das forças de segurança, do poder investigativo para o cidadão comum, por isso a gente tem combatido esses projetos.

In our evaluation, this opens a very dangerous precedent, risking a total vigilantism for the power of security forces, or investigative power of a regular citizens, that’s why we’ve been fighting against these projects.

The second line of proposals would obligate social media and other platforms to immediately remove content after receiving a request, rather than awaiting judicial review. Many of them using the “blue whale”, an internet challenge that allegedly drives teenagers to commit suicide, as an excuse.

Para a gente isso também é perigoso, porque coloca nas mãos dessas plataformas a responsabilidade de avaliar esses conteúdos e, não necessariamente, isso vai ser feito de uma maneira equilibrada com a defesa do princípio de liberdade de expressão. Então, a gente tem combatido esses processos no sentido de manter o marco civil na sua integralidade, entendendo que é uma lei principiológica, bastante atual.

We also see this as dangerous move, because it puts on the hands of these platforms the responsibility to evaluate content and, not necessarily, this would be driven in a balanced manner, defending the principle of free speech. So, we’ve been fighting these processes in the sense of keeping Marco Civil at its integrality, understanding this is a principle law, very up to date.

Bia Barbosa also points to the fact that collecting data through apps, credit card, internet browsers, is now an “indiscriminate practice” of many companies. This leads to leaking, wrongful commercialization, sharing without consent. “All our data is being constantly treated and collected, without people knowing or being informed about it”, she says.

She also notes that although Marco Civil has multiple provisions ensuring protections for users’ privacy, the text has been disrespected or ignored, which has led civil society to propose a specific law aimed at personal data protection.

A gente espera agora que com a aprovação dessa lei, o Brasil comece a mudar a cultura da coleta de dados porque a ideia da lei não é impedir o tratamento de dados, mas definir em que condições isso pode acontecer, que o usuário seja informado, que respeite direitos fundamentais, que haja limites para esse tratamento, que a comercialização não seja feita de uma maneira indiscriminada e massiva como é feita hoje.

We now hope that with the approval of this law, Brazil will begin to change the culture of data collection, because the bill’s goal is not stopping data processing, but to define under which conditions that can happen — it says that users must be informed about it, respecting fundamental rights, and that puts limits on how data can be treated, stopping indiscriminate and massive commercialization as it’s done today.

Brazil is currently approaching presidential elections. Temer, who came to power after the controversial impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, being her vice-president, will leave office on January 1.

When sanctioning the bill he promised to send a new bill to create the agency “soon”. How the agency will operate or if it will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice has yet to be defined.

Valor newspaper quoted him saying:

“Eu vou mandar logo, muito brevemente um projeto de lei, mais ou menos com os mesmos dizeres, mas sem vício de iniciativa”, explicou o emedebista. (…) “Vou deixar mais ou menos como está”, sinalizou.

I will send, very soon, a draft law, with similar language, but without the initial vice (the fact that the Legislative power was creating and could make it unconstitutional, according to the Executive)…I'll leave it more or less how it is.

by Fernanda Canofre at September 20, 2018 02:34 PM

Netizen Report: Authorities shut down mobile internet in Ethiopia’s capital, as ethnic and political conflict persist

Protest in Ethiopia's Oromo region, 2016. Photo from Abdi Lemessa's Facebook page. Used with permission.

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

Just five months into the administration of Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, protests rooted in ethnic conflict and the administration of land rights policies have once again taken Addis Ababa by storm and led to the deaths of at least 20 people.

On September 17, in what appeared to be an effort to quell social unrest, mobile internet networks were shut down across the capital city. Ethio Telecom, the country’s sole, government-owned internet and phone service provider, did not offer any public statement about the shutdown.

Abiy Ahmed came into office in April 2018 after nearly three years of mass protests, ethnic conflict and violent military interventions in some regions of the country. Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn voluntarily resigned from office in February 2018 after his once-ruling coalition had splintered beyond repair, opening the window of possibility for Ahmed’s election.

Hailed as a reformer, the new prime minister has ordered the release of thousands of political prisoners, removed top-level police and security officials from the previous regime and worked to rekindle relations with Eritrea. He also lifted the country’s state of emergency, which had been in place intermittently since 2015.

The resurgence of protests and corresponding internet shutdown, both hallmarks of public life under the previous regime, have raised fears that Ahmed's efforts to restore peace and uphold human rights in the country are already faltering.

Reacting to the shutdown, activist and former prisoner of conscience Atnaf Berhane tweeted about the irony of this move on the part of the new government:

Kazakh police break up fact-checking workshop to arrest journalist

Ukrainian journalist Aleksandr Gorokhovsky was arrested in the northwestern Kazakh city of Uralsk while he was training a group of Kazakh journalists in fact-checking methods. The workshop was organized by regional newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, that has long been the target of state harassment, due in part to its precarious position near the Kazakh-Russian border, where there are strong political currents of pro-Moscow sentiment. Gorokohovsky was fined two days later by a local court, where the public prosecutor argued that when entering Kazakhstan, Gorokhovsky had failed to indicate who had invited him to the country on his migration form

With ethnic tensions rising, how will Facebook affect Cameroon’s elections?

The Cameroonian government is targeting the spread of misinformation online with presidential elections approaching on October 7. Online campaigns promoting ethnic violence have become a growing force in Cameroon’s internal conflict, where a separatist movement in English-speaking areas has led to clashes between armed separatists and military forces, with military attacks on Anglophone villages forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. For 230 days in 2017 and 2018, Anglophone regions of Cameroon also suffered one of the longest continuous internet shutdowns known to have occurred on the continent.

Cameroonian officials recently met with Facebook over concerns that the platform poses a threat to public security as calls for ethnic violence continue to spread on the platform.

Writing for Quartz Africa, Amindeh Blaise Atabong questioned whether the officials may have other additional motives: Facebook has been used to share videos that local experts say depict Cameroonian soldiers killing unarmed civilians in the separatist regions, and that the government may have hopes of blocking this material.

Malaysia’s ‘anti-fake news’ law may not last

Malaysia’s Senate blocked an attempt by the lower house of Parliament to repeal the country’s “Anti-Fake News Law”, which penalizes the distribution of “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false” with fines of up to 500,000 ringgit (USD $123,000) or a maximum sentence of six years in prison. The law has been criticized by a group of UN special rapporteurs for enabling restrictions on freedom of expression, and its repeal was one of the election priorities of the recently elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It will now return to the lower house for another vote.

Google’s China strategy will include plenty of censorship — and surveillance

After leaving the Chinese market in 2010, citing human rights concerns, Google is now preparing to launch a censored version of its search engine in China. The “Dragonfly” app would automatically identify and censor websites like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, BBC, Global Voices and many others that are currently blocked in China, and remove Google search results that government officials deem sensitive.

According to new findings by The Intercept, the app will also link users’ searches to their personal phone numbers so that the company (and presumably Chinese state officials) can monitor their queries. This reinforces the concerns of a coalition of 14 human rights groups expressed in an open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai that the storage of Google data in China could make users’ data vulnerable to government surveillance, and could make Google complicit in human rights violations.

European Court says UK surveillance programs violated human rights

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK’s mass surveillance programs violate the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The ruling, which responds to a challenge brought by organizations including Amnesty international and Privacy International, found that the programs lacked sufficient oversight for how data is collected and violated human rights doctrine and laws. It fell short of stating that the existence of a bulk data collection scheme would itself be in violation of the law.

New research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Advox at September 20, 2018 02:22 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Authorities shut down mobile internet in Ethiopia’s capital, as ethnic and political conflict persist

Protest in Ethiopia's Oromo region, 2016. Photo from Abdi Lemessa's Facebook page. Used with permission.

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

Just five months into the administration of Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, protests rooted in ethnic conflict and the administration of land rights policies have once again taken Addis Ababa by storm and led to the deaths of at least 20 people.

On September 17, in what appeared to be an effort to quell social unrest, mobile internet networks were shut down across the capital city. Ethio Telecom, the country’s sole, government-owned internet and phone service provider, did not offer any public statement about the shutdown.

Abiy Ahmed came into office in April 2018 after nearly three years of mass protests, ethnic conflict and violent military interventions in some regions of the country. Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn voluntarily resigned from office in February 2018 after his once-ruling coalition had splintered beyond repair, opening the window of possibility for Ahmed’s election.

Hailed as a reformer, the new prime minister has ordered the release of thousands of political prisoners, removed top-level police and security officials from the previous regime and worked to rekindle relations with Eritrea. He also lifted the country’s state of emergency, which had been in place intermittently since 2015.

The resurgence of protests and corresponding internet shutdown, both hallmarks of public life under the previous regime, have raised fears that Ahmed's efforts to restore peace and uphold human rights in the country are already faltering.

Reacting to the shutdown, activist and former prisoner of conscience Atnaf Berhane tweeted about the irony of this move on the part of the new government:

Kazakh police break up fact-checking workshop to arrest journalist

Ukrainian journalist Aleksandr Gorokhovsky was arrested in the northwestern Kazakh city of Uralsk while he was training a group of Kazakh journalists in fact-checking methods. The workshop was organized by regional newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, that has long been the target of state harassment, due in part to its precarious position near the Kazakh-Russian border, where there are strong political currents of pro-Moscow sentiment. Gorokohovsky was fined two days later by a local court, where the public prosecutor argued that when entering Kazakhstan, Gorokhovsky had failed to indicate who had invited him to the country on his migration form

With ethnic tensions rising, how will Facebook affect Cameroon’s elections?

The Cameroonian government is targeting the spread of misinformation online with presidential elections approaching on October 7. Online campaigns promoting ethnic violence have become a growing force in Cameroon’s internal conflict, where a separatist movement in English-speaking areas has led to clashes between armed separatists and military forces, with military attacks on Anglophone villages forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. For 230 days in 2017 and 2018, Anglophone regions of Cameroon also suffered one of the longest continuous internet shutdowns known to have occurred on the continent.

Cameroonian officials recently met with Facebook over concerns that the platform poses a threat to public security as calls for ethnic violence continue to spread on the platform.

Writing for Quartz Africa, Amindeh Blaise Atabong questioned whether the officials may have other additional motives: Facebook has been used to share videos that local experts say depict Cameroonian soldiers killing unarmed civilians in the separatist regions, and that the government may have hopes of blocking this material.

Malaysia’s ‘anti-fake news’ law may not last

Malaysia’s Senate blocked an attempt by the lower house of Parliament to repeal the country’s “Anti-Fake News Law”, which penalizes the distribution of “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false” with fines of up to 500,000 ringgit (USD $123,000) or a maximum sentence of six years in prison. The law has been criticized by a group of UN special rapporteurs for enabling restrictions on freedom of expression, and its repeal was one of the election priorities of the recently elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It will now return to the lower house for another vote.

Google’s China strategy will include plenty of censorship — and surveillance

After leaving the Chinese market in 2010, citing human rights concerns, Google is now preparing to launch a censored version of its search engine in China. The “Dragonfly” app would automatically identify and censor websites like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, BBC, Global Voices and many others that are currently blocked in China, and remove Google search results that government officials deem sensitive.

According to new findings by The Intercept, the app will also link users’ searches to their personal phone numbers so that the company (and presumably Chinese state officials) can monitor their queries. This reinforces the concerns of a coalition of 14 human rights groups expressed in an open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai that the storage of Google data in China could make users’ data vulnerable to government surveillance, and could make Google complicit in human rights violations.

European Court says UK surveillance programs violated human rights

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK’s mass surveillance programs violate the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The ruling, which responds to a challenge brought by organizations including Amnesty international and Privacy International, found that the programs lacked sufficient oversight for how data is collected and violated human rights doctrine and laws. It fell short of stating that the existence of a bulk data collection scheme would itself be in violation of the law.

New research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Netizen Report Team at September 20, 2018 02:19 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
Private money rules Silicon Valley, so where does that leave Wall Street?
A few decades ago, a company had to go public in order to attract enough investment to grow significantly. But times have changed. According to The Wall Street Journal, last year $2.4 trillion in private money was raised in the United States compared to $2.1 trillion in public markets. What’s that mean for ordinary investors? Molly Wood puts that question to Nizar Tarhuni, head analyst at research firm PitchBook, and Howard Marks, CEO of StartEngine, a company that allows everyday investors to put money into private companies. (09/20/18)

by Marketplace at September 20, 2018 10:38 AM

September 19, 2018

Global Voices
Serbian president apologizes for ‘stupidly’ citing The Onion, a satirical news platform

Screenshot of President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić publically apologizing for using information from The Onion, by N1 TV.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić publicly apologized to citizens on Friday, September 14, 2018, for claiming that a window washer dies every ten seconds in the United States as part of his remarks on the tragic death of two workers at a Belgrade Waterfront construction site.

Serbian social media users quickly debunked the statement, causing an uproar against the president:

Vučić claims that in America a window washer perishes every TEN SECONDS.
It was published by the satirical portal THE ONION, which is similar to [Serbian satirical portal] NJUZ.
The article is of course a fabrication.
If true, it would mean that more than 8500 window washers perish on DAILY basis.

The next day Vučić retracted his false statement, explaining that he had not thought his statement through carefully due to exhaustion:

‘Želim da se izvinim građanima, ja sam sinoć na konferenciji za novinare govorio o nesrećama u građevisnkom sektoru koji se dešavaju svetu i rekao kako na svakih deset sekundi ginu perači prozora u Americi, a to je podatak uzet sa nekog šaljivog sajta. Nisu krivi moji savetnici, da sam malo razmislio i da nisam bio umoran shvatio bih odmah’, rekao je Vučić i dodao da je normalno grešiti.

‘I want to apologise to all citizens, yesterday at a press conference I spoke about accidents that happen across the world within the construction sector and I said that every ten seconds a window washer in America dies, which is an information taken from some satirical website. I don't blame my advisers, if I had thought that through and if I wasn't tired I would realize it's odd,’ Vučić said, adding that it's normal to make mistakes.

The article used as a source for the quote by Vučić was published by The Onion, a United States-based satirical media platform, under the title “Study: Every 10 Seconds A Skyscraper Window Washer Falls To His Death” in March 2011:

A study released Monday by the Department of Labor found that every 10 seconds, on average, a window washer somewhere in the United States accidentally plummets to his or her death.

A video clip published by regional CNN affiliate N1 TV shows smiling Vučić saying:

“To što sam ja ispao glup i što je to bila glupost šta da radim, bez loše namere je bilo”.

‘I can't change the fact that it made me look stupid and that it was all stupidity, but there was no ill intent.’

Media who are friendly to Vučić's regime conveyed the apology with a slant that painted him as “a cool guy,” using the term “šmeker”. Vučić's team used the blunder as an opportunity to add that the state will take care of the cancer treatment for Dušan Todorović, a cancer-stricken four-year-old.

In fact, the 191,000 Euro (approximately 225,000 USD) that enabled Dušan Todorović to travel to a Barcelona clinic last Saturday, September 15, had been raised in a frenzy by everyday citizens to save his life.  Over half the funds was gathered through the Support Life Foundation (Podrži život), while an anonymous donor paid the remainder directly to the Spanish clinic.

Netizens criticized Vučić's actions, blaming him for capitalizing on the error to gain political favor, and blaming the media as sycophants who enable his propaganda:

Two workers die – he states the stupidity of the century and they declare him šmeker (a cool guy).
He sells Kosovo – they declare him a patriot.
Citizens of Serbia gathered money on their own to pay for Dušan's treatment, he didn't do anything until it was over – they declare that he's the greatest humanitarian and benefactor.
And we keep silent?
OK then. We deserve to be screwed.

On Monday, September 17, Serbia's popular satirical website NJUZ NET (“njuz” is Serbian transliteration for “news”), reacted with its own satirical story entitled: “The president promised that in the future he would be more careful while obfuscating deaths of workers”.

“The president promised that in the future he would be more careful while obfuscating deaths of workers”

According to Meta.mk, a news agency, the results of the investigation into the death of two workers have not yet been made public. Since the beginning of 2018, 28 workers have died on the job in Serbia.

Belgrade Waterfront is a controversial project of urban renewal which the Vučić government often showcases as a huge success to attract foreign investors. Since its inception in 2014, the project has been steeped in controversies, scandals, and cover-ups.

The media has faced immense political pressure against reporting on the organized crime associated with the illegal demolition of existing buildings within the project's designated areas. This sparked a citizen protest movement known as “We won't let Belgrade D(r)own,” accusing the project of money laundering and corruption.

by Marko Angelov at September 19, 2018 09:11 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Hiring: Gobo Lead Developer
Are you worried about the power of social media platforms? They’ve increasingly centralized and have radically altered the idea of the “web” for hundreds of millions around the globe. Black-box algorithms govern what users see on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, with no mechanisms or accountability for their real world impacts. This has led to waves of backlash against these platforms, with the media and policymakers pursuing them with pitchforks. It doesn’t have to be […]

by rahulb at September 19, 2018 01:19 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
The business case for a stock market speed bump

Marketplace Tech is exploring investment technology as part of the Divided Decade project on the financial crisis of 2008. This is the second half of host Molly Wood’s conversation with Brad Katsuyama, whose IEX stock exchange aims to address some of the negative impacts of high-frequency trading by slowing down the system — by a whole 350 millionths of a second. This speed bump caused what Katsuyama calls “one of the biggest controversies” in the stock market’s recent history as IEX sought approval. (09/19/18)

 

by Marketplace at September 19, 2018 11:09 AM

Global Voices
Riverbank erosion disaster in Bangladesh leaves thousands homeless

A building engulfed by the Padma River in Bangladesh. Screenshot from YouTube Video by user TechTV BD.

As the mighty Padma River in Bangladesh experiences unprecedented levels of soil erosion, a vast area of Dhaka's Naria Upazilla region in the Shariatpur District has vanished.

The Padma river is currently facing increased water flows after extended periods of heavy monsoon rains in the upstream areas. More than 5,000 families and over 500 businesses in Naria have lost all their land and belongings in the last few months, according to Relief Web. In one week, 3,000 families in the area of Mokhtar Char lost everything. In addition to homes, many roads, bridges, culverts, businesses, shops and other critical infrastructure were submerged underwater.

Dataful.xyz, a non-profit data journalism project, plotted Satellite data sourced from the United States Geological Survey, providing Padma River erosion visualizations over the past decade. International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have deemed river erosion as a silent disaster in Bangladesh.

Massive structural damage

Shocking videos have surfaced online of the massive damage caused by soil erosion along the Padma, with entire buildings engulfed within seconds:

Md. Nowfel Mahmud Bhuiyan, a PhD candidate at the Tennessee Technological University, posts information on soil erosion impact on Facebook:

The Padma river has eroded approximately 0.4 sq km near Naria Upzilla (Shariatpur) in last few weeks. A quick analysis using satellite images shows at least three mosques, one health complex, one school, and one bank have been partially or totally engulfed by the Padma river. In the meantime, approximately 1.5 km of road and hundreds of houses and commercial infrastructure were lost although 2018 has not yet been a flood year in that area.

A qualitative damage assessment due to the Padma River erosion near Mulfatganj Bazar (Naria, Shariatpur) as on September 11, 2018. The analysis was done using satellite imagery and Google Earth data as field surveyed data was not readily available for verification. It should also be noted that the damage in that area must have changed by the time this article was prepared as the Padma River is eroding on a daily basis. Image credit Md N M Bhuyian, used with permission.

Inhabitants along the Padma River often experience damage from soil erosion due to the river's changing course but the rate at which the Naria region has vanished is alarming.

The site is a little more than 20 kilometers downstream from the Padma Bridge project, Bangladesh's largest bridge in the making.

The government's questionable efforts

The Bangladesh government has placed some geo-bags and sandbags along the free-flowing Padma River, but not enough to manage the deluge of water and debris breaking through the large, fragile sand beds along the riverbanks. The government has also prepared 39 crisis centers to provide food and shelter for victims.

In early 2018, the government approved a 255 million USD budget for the Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program so that the Bangladesh Water Development Board can construct at least 50 kilometers of riverbank protection structures and rehabilitate at least 89 kilometers of flood embankments, but the project never commenced and is now stalled due to flooding.

Netizen M.A. Latif wrote:

…The devastating erosion of the Padma river is ongoing for the last couple of years, no initiative to build a dam or embankment was taken by the local administration. A big portion of Naria Upazila Health Complex and a mosque adjacent to the hospital already washed away…

Mr. Latif believes the government should declare the area a disaster zone and start dredging the river along with building embankments to prevent further damage. The following video shows everyday citizens struggling with relief efforts along the riverbanks:

Riverbank erosion: a persistent problem

During the monsoon season, Bangladesh's approximately 24,000 kilometers of waterways carry huge amounts of silt, sand, and murky water. According to an August 2018 report published by the NASA Earth Observatory, over 66,000 hectares (256 square miles) of land has been lost due to erosion caused by the Padma River since 1967. Every year, at least 200,000 people become environmental refugees due to land lost from soil erosion:

A 2018 study by the Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) projected a loss of around 2,270 hectares of land in 2018 due to riverbank erosion. The report also predicted 22 probable vulnerable locations along the banks of the Jamuna, the Ganges, and the Padma rivers.

Journalists Mohammed Norul Alam Raju and Afroza Taznin wrote in an Op-ed in the Daily Star:

The government initiative is mainly focused on some subsidy programmes including relief distribution, Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), Vulnerable Group Development (VGD), etc., however, these programmes are often inadequate, disorganized, politicized, ad-hoc and ineffective; thus there is much scope for improvement of government initiatives.

The government should include river bank erosion disaster in its five-year programmes and a clear vision should be set for addressing it.

by Palash Ranjan Sanyal at September 19, 2018 02:25 AM

Doc Searls
We can do better than selling our data

fruit thought

If personal data is actually a commodity, can you buy some from another person, as if that person were a fruit stand? Would you want to?

Well, no.

Yet there is lately a widespread urge to claim personal data as personal property, and to create commodity markets for personal data, so people can start making money by selling or otherwise monetizing their own.

ProjectVRM, which I direct, is chartered to “foster development of tools and services that make customers both independent and better able to engage,” and is a big tent. That’s why on the VRM Developments Work page of its wiki a heading called Markets for Personal Data. Listed there are:

So: respect.

Yet, while I salute these efforts’ respect for individuals, and their righteous urges to right the wrongs of wanton and rude harvesting of personal data from approximately everybody, I also think there are problems with this approach. And, since I’ve been asked lately to spell out those problems, I shall. Here goes.

The first problem is that, economically speaking, data is a public good, meaning non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Here’s a table that may help (borrowed from this Linux Journal column):

Excludability Excludability
YES NO
Rivalness YES Private good: good: e.g., food, clothing, toys, cars, products subject to value-adds between first sources and final customers Common pool resource: e.g., sea, rivers, forests, their edible inhabitants and other useful contents
Rivalness NO Club good: e.g., bridges, cable TV, private golf courses, controlled access to copyrighted works public good: e.g., data, information, law enforcement, national defense, fire fighting, public roads, street lighting

 

The second problem is that nature of data as a public good also inconveniences claims that it ought to be property. Thomas Jefferson explained this in his 1813 letter to Isaac MacPherson:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation

Of course Jefferson never heard of data. But what he says about “the thinking power called an idea,” and how ideas are like fire, is essential in a very human way.

The third problem is that all of us as human beings are able to produce forms of value that far exceed that of our raw personal data.

Specifically, treating data as if it were a rivalrous and excludable commodity—such as corn, oil or fruit—not only takes Jefferson’s “thinking power” off the table, but misdirects attention, investment and development work away from supporting the human outputs that are fully combustible, and might be expansible over all space, without lessening density. Ideas can do that. Oil can’t, even though it’s combustible.

Put another way, why would you want to make almost nothing (the likely price) selling personal data on a commodity basis when you can make a lot more by selling your work where markets for work exist?

What makes us fully powerful as human beings is our ability to generate and share ideas and other combustible public goods, and not just to slough off data like so much dandruff. Or to be valued only for the labors we contribute as parts of industrial machines.

Important note: I’m not knocking labor here. Most of us have to work for wages as parts of industrial machines, or as independent actors. I do too. There is full honor in that. Yet our nature as distinctive and valuable human beings is to be more and other than a source of labor alone, and there are ways to make money from that fact too.

Many years ago JP Rangaswami (@jobsworth) and I made a distinction between making money with something and because of something. It’s a helpful one.

Example: I don’t make money with this blog. But I do make money because of it—and probably a lot more money than I would if this blog carried advertising or if I did it for a wage.

Which gets us to the idea behind declaring personal data as personal property, and creating marketplaces where people can sell their data.

The idea goes like this: there is a $trillion or more in business activity that trades or relies on personal data in many ways. Individual sources of that data should be able to get in on the action.

Alas, most of that $trillion is in what Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism: a giant snake-ball of B2B activity wherein there is little interest in buying what can be had for free.

Worse, surveillance capitalism’s business is making guesses about you so it can sell you shit. On a per-message basis, this works about 0% of the time, even though massive amounts of money flow through that B2B snakeball (visualized as abstract rectangles here and here). Many reasons for that. Here are a few:

  1. Most of the time, such as right here and now, you’re not buying a damn thing, and not in a mood to be bothered by someone telling you what to buy.
  2. Companies paying other companies to push shit at you do not have your interests at heart—not even if their messages to you are, as they like to put it, “relevant” or “interest based.” (Which they almost always are not.)
  3. The entrails of surveillance capitalism are fully infected with fraud and malware.
  4. Surveillance capitalism is also quite satisfied to soak up to 97% of an advertising spend before an ad’s publisher gets its 3% for pushing an ad at you.

Trying to get in on that business is just an awful proposition.

Yes, I know it isn’t just surveillance capitalists who hunger for personal data. The health care business, for example, can benefit enormously from it, and is less of a snakeball, on the whole. But what will it pay you? And why should it pay you?

Won’t large quantities of anonymized personal data from iOS and Android devices, handed over freely, be more valuable to medicine and pharma than the few bits of data individuals might sell? (Apple has already ventured in that direction, very carefully, also while not paying for any personal data.)

And isn’t there something kinda suspect about personal data for sale? Such as motivating the unscrupulous to alter some of their data so it’s worth more?

What fully matters for people in the digital world is agency, not data. Agency is the power to act with full effect in the world. It’s what you have when you put your pants on, when you walk, or drive, or tell somebody something useful while they listen respectfully. It’s what you get when you make a deal with an equal.

It’s not what any of us get when we’re just “users” on a platform. Or when we click “agree” to one-sided terms the other party can change and we can’t. Both of those are norms in Web 2.0 and desperately need to be killed.

It’s still early. Web 2.0 is an archaic stage in the formation of the digital world. surveillance capitalism has also been a bubble ready to pop for years. The matter is when, not if. It’s too absurd, corrupt, complex and annoying to keep living forever.

So let’s give people ways to increase their agency, at scale, in the digital world. There’s no scale in selling one’s personal data. But there’s plenty in putting our most human of powers to work.

The most basic form of agency in the digital world is control over how our personal data might be used by others. There are lots of developers at work on this already. Here’s one list at ProjectVRM.

Bonus links:

 

 

 

 

by Doc Searls at September 19, 2018 02:22 AM

September 18, 2018

Global Voices Advocacy
Arrested for fact-checking: Kazakh court fines Ukrainian journalist after police break up media workshop

Aleksandr Gorokhovsky. Photo taken by Raul Uporov for Uralsk Week. Used with permission.

A media fact-checking workshop in northwestern Kazakhstan came to an abrupt conclusion on September 15 when police barged in, broke up the event and arrested one of the workshop leaders, Aleksandr Gorokhovsky.

The workshop's organiser, Lukpan Akhmedyarov, is the editor of independent regional newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, that has long been the target of state harassment.

A respected journalist and media trainer from Kyiv, Gorokhovsky was slapped with a fine of roughly USD $110 after a Kazakh court found him guilty of violating Kazakhstan's migration legislation. The public prosecutor argued that when entering Kazakhstan, Gorokhovsky had failed to indicate who had invited him to the country on his migration form.

The two law enforcement officers that arrived on the scene said they were responding to a citizen complaint that “a seminar on Ukraine” was taking place in the Chagala hotel in the city of Uralsk.

Aleksandr Gorokhovsky with his lawyer. Lukpan Akhmedyarov is sitting in the row behind. Photo taken by Raul Uporov for Uralsk Week. Used with permission.

Ukraine emerged as something of a leader in media fact-checking after Russia invaded and annexed its territory of Crimea in 2014. The invasion was accompanied by a strident propaganda offensive that served to justify Moscow's actions towards the country.

Organisations like StopFake.org emerged as Ukrainian journalists worked to peg back the tide of lies emanating from Russian state media for the benefit of audiences both inside and outside Ukraine. Gorokhovsky's own media project, Bez Brehni (the name of which translates as Without Lies), is another website in the same genre that works with the International Fact Checking Network. He has also authored a book on fact-checking.

The arrival of a Ukrainian media trainer would logically cause anxieties for authorities in Uralsk, a town close to Kazakhstan's border with Russia. The country's leadership tends to avoid any discussion of Ukraine, reflecting a keen sensitivity to the pro-Moscow separatist potential in its own northern regions, where Russian influence is strongest.

But a more powerful motive for the police invasion may have been the fact the youth journalism school itself was the brainchild of Akhmedyarov, editor of the Uralskaya Nedelya newspaper, whose relentless reporting on corruption has been a thorn in the side for authorities in the region for years.

“I think it was a combination of the two things,” Akhmedyarov told Global Voices, speaking about police interference and Gorokhovsky's detention. “Anything the government thinks is related to Ukraine is extremely sensitive.”

On the other hand, he says, authorities have been hellbent on stopping the nascent journalism school from getting off the ground in recent weeks.

“When we tried to find spaces to rent for the school we kept on being turned away. Some of our students were told not to attend the course by their schools. Then there was a fake profile in my name on Facebook that advertised the course as costing money. But it is completely free,” he added.

The litany of obstacles described by Akhmedyarov is part and parcel of life for Uralskaya Nedelya, which is one of the few remaining independent media in authoritarian Kazakhstan.

These challenges are nothing new for Akhmedyarov and other staff at Uralskaya Nedelya, and some have been nearly fatal. In 2012, Akhmedyarov was attacked by a group of men who stabbed him multiple times and shot with air pistols. Although four men were sentenced to jail terms in connection with the attack, its ultimate organiser was never identified.

“It's dangerous to be your friend, Lukpan, you get fined for that,” joked one journalist colleague on Facebook after Gorokhovsky's punishment was confirmed.

An open disregard for the rule of law in Uralsk showed through in Gorokhovsky's trial, which descended into a farce almost immediately.

Talgat Katauov, the man that police said had called to inform them of the “seminar on Ukraine” appeared as a witness, but said he had never made any such call. He accused the police of using his name under false pretences and threatened to sue them in an angry tirade delivered in a mixture of Kazakh and Russian.

At the back of the courtroom, a man Uralskaya Nedelya journalists assumed was a young representative of Kazakhstan's Committee of National Security, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, shielded his face from photographers.

Akhmedyarov told Global Voices that authorities had set a “terrible precedent” by fining the trainer. “Now NGOs and other organisations in Kazakhstan will think twice before inviting foreign specialists,” he said.

When Akhmedyarov told Gorokhovsky that he planned to try to hold the youth journalism school again next year, the Ukrainian journalist could barely control his laughter.

by chrisrickleton at September 18, 2018 09:53 PM

Protestors artfully demand the release of Shahidul Alam, Bangladesh's prisoner of conscience

People gathered at the Shahbag Square in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka wearing masks to protest the detention of internationally acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam and other students. Image by Pranabesh Das, used with permission.

Detained Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam has once again been denied bail in a case filed under the Information, Communication and Technology Act (ICT) for instigating “students to continue a [recent] movement against the government” and “spreading propaganda against the government”. Alam and his acquaintances deny those charges.

Meanwhile, protests continued at home and abroad to release the photographer and other detained students. A number of students got bail a few weeks ago, but an unknown number are still detained.

Alam was detained on August 5, 2018, officially arrested the next day, and ultimately sued under the ICT Act, to which his counsels submitted the bail petition on August 28.

On September 4, a two-member High Court bench felt ‘embarrassed’ to hear Alam's bail in the case. In Bangladeshi judicial practice, the judges can sometimes feel embarrassed to entertain cases demanding a fair and impartial dispensation of justice, especially if any party in the case is personally known, directly or indirectly, or if they fear they will be threatened or intimidated. Alam's counsels appealed to the High Court who directed the lower court concerned with the case to dispose of the plea by Tuesday.

Arrested for expressing his views

Alam was arrested in August after covering the student protests against ineffective traffic laws in Bangladesh on his Facebook and Twitter accounts and discussed the protests on Facebook Live.

Thousands of secondary school students in the capital city of Dhaka took to the streets on July 29 in sustained protests lasing more than a week, demanding improved road safety and rule enforcement after two of their classmates were killed due to reckless driving by a public bus.

Alongside his social media coverage of the protests, Alam gave a television interview with Al Jazeera where he talked about the recent situation in Bangladesh and criticized the government.

Global outcry, artful protest

A number of international agencies, Nobel laureates, photography professionals, journalists and human rights organizations have urged the Bangladesh government to release Alam.

Indian writer Arundhati Roy, American linguist Noam Chomsky, Canadian author Naomi Klein, American playwright Eve Ensler and Indian journalist Vijay Prasad have issued their second statement to the Bangladesh government to drop charges against Alam.

Amnesty International has declared Shahidul Alam as Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.

In Bangladesh, numerous protests and solidarity rallies have been organized in the past weeks to demand the unconditional release of Shahidul Alam and other detained protesters.

On September 4, the Drik Gallery hosted an exhibition of selected photos of Alam titled “A Struggle for Democracy” to highlight his struggles and honor the fact that he founded the picture gallery 29 years ago.

Alam is also the founder of the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, a school of photography and multimedia journalism, and the Chobi Mela, a biannual International Festival of Photography.

On Sunday, September 9, a public gathering titled “Let democracy be free” was held at Shahbag Square in Dhaka to protest Alam's imprisonment along with several other students. Some of the images can found in this Instagram post:

Participants used art and performance to express their grievances.

One woman wore a paper bag which read “We are not supposed to have heads” and “we don't have tongues, words”. Another protestor sang and played guitar while wearing a makeshift cage. In front of the cage, a helmet and hammer were placed, signifying the pro-government vigilantes wearing helmets who attacked the student protestors using hammers.

A duct-taped camera was displayed along with a banner beside it that read “Let Democracy Be Free”.

“Let Democracy be free”. An innovative protest in Shahbag Square in Dhaka, demanding the release of Shahidul Alam. Image by Pranabesh Das, used with permission.

Worldwide solidarity

Protests in solidarity have been also arranged abroad in cities like London, New York, and Washington DC:

Instagram's visual protests

Alam's niece, London-based Sofie Karim, activated the visual power of Instagram to protest her uncle's detention:

View this post on Instagram

My uncle loves the world and the world loves him. Friends at @visapourlimage International photojournalism festival (France), NY, Washington DC and London – thank you so much. Love and truth beat torture and repression. Break the dark machinery of paranoia with your light. #freeshahidulalam – For my incarcerated uncle @shahidul001, prisoner of conscience. Link to petition in my bio. Please share this post freely. @hansulrichobrist @tate @liverpoolbiennial @whitechapelgallery @alessio_antoniolli @annemcneill215 @impgalleryphoto @icp @thephotographersgallery @bobandrobertasmith @fionabradleyxx @francesmarymorris @cammockhelen @joe_scotland @johnakomfrah @ikongallery @lubainapics @mahtabhussain @martinparrstudio @martinparrfdn @aceagrams @polly.staple @nicholascullinan @rachelwords @ranabegumstudio @autographabp @nadavkander @mack_books @loubuck01 @theartnewspaper.official @artnet @guardian @thetimes @jamesestrin

A post shared by SOFIAKARIM (@_sofiakarim_) on

View this post on Instagram

Arrow Through the Heart of Bangladesh Art: Screenshot of article in today’s The Art Newspaper @theartnewspaper.official with my imprisoned uncle’s @shahidul001 punjabi shirt trim. Artist friends please read this important article. @shahidul001 is one of Bangladesh’s leading art and humanitarian activism figures, with international reach. His (and hundreds of others’) treatment by the state of Bangladesh, changes everything for the art scene there. The state wants silence, but forcibly mute art has little credibility. @theartnewspaper.official @nytimes @washingtonpost @time @thetimes @financialtimes @skynews @guardian @itvnews @bbc @channel4 @cnn @dhakatribune @newage_bd2011 @dhakaartsummit @dailystarbd @bdnews24.comm @unitednewsofbangladesh@indiartfair @kochibiennale @kochibiennalefoundation @the_hindu @indianexpress @kathmandupost.official @lemondefr @indiaartfair @india.today @amnesty @peninternational @tatemodern_official @themuseumofmodernart @thephotographersgallery @photographmag @royalphotographicsociety @commonwealthinstitute @autographabp #freeshahidulalam #censorship #bangladesh #bangladeshprotest #asianart #contemporaryart #photography #royalphotographicsociety #blackphotography

A post shared by SOFIAKARIM (@_sofiakarim_) on

View this post on Instagram

‘Tell Someone’ (for my incarcerated uncle, photographer @shahidul001). When I was a child my uncle taught me: “if someone does anything bad to you, the best thing is to tell as many people as possible straight away. Don’t hide it, fearing others may not believe you. It won’t go away. Your best protection is to let people know and tell the perpetrator you are letting people know. But be transparent. Say what you say in front of everyone, including the perpetrator”. When he shouted that statement about his blood stained punjabi in those few moments he had, in front of the police, in front of the world, I knew he was applying that theory. He told the world and he let the perpetrator know that he told the world. (My son’s painting of the Bangladesh flag, on my aunt Rahnuma Ahmed’s sari). #freeshahidulalam @theartnewspaper.official @nytimes @washingtonpost @time @thetimes @financialtimes @skynews @guardian @itvnews @bbc @channel4 @cnn @dhakatribune @newage_bd2011 @dhakaartsummit @dailystarbd @bdnews24.comm @unitednewsofbangladesh@indiartfair @kochibiennale @kochibiennalefoundation @the_hindu @indianexpress @kathmandupost.official @lemondefr @indiaartfair @india.today @amnesty @peninternational @tatemodern_official @themuseumofmodernart @thephotographersgallery @photographmag @royalphotographicsociety @commonwealthinstitute @autographabp #freeshahidulalam #censorship #bangladesh #bangladeshprotest #asianart #contemporaryart #childrensart #photography #royalphotographicsociety #blackphotography#humanrights #prisonerofconscience

A post shared by SOFIAKARIM (@_sofiakarim_) on

More protest art is available through Karim's Instagram account and her interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

London-based Bangladeshi legal consultant Dr. Rayhan Rashid expressed his reactions about the denial of Alam's bail on Facebook:

‪Disgraceful cowardice on the part of the judiciary and the ruling Awami League government in Bangladesh! When a regime is governed by nothing but fear, it is often a sign that the regime might have lost its plot. Weaponising fear as a tool to govern citizens, or trying to act tough – do not hide who are the afraid ones here!

A nationwide demonstration has been called for by student organizations on September 17 if Shahidul Alam and other student leaders are not released.

by GV South Asia at September 18, 2018 09:19 PM

Three days behind bars for the ‘crime’ of journalism: Diary of a Nigerian journalist

Samuel Ogundipe. Photo by PREMIUM TIMES, used with permission.

On August 14, 2018, Nigerian investigative journalist Samuel Ogundipe was detained by Nigeria’s Special Tactical Squad after refusing to name his sources for a story concerning the Nigerian security service's involvement in preventing officials from entering the Nigerian National Assembly in early August 2018.

Ogundipe, who works for the privately-owned Premium Times online newspaper, spent three nights in detention and was then arraigned without his lawyers present. He was released on bail on August 17 at his lawyers’ urging. The following is an abridged first-person account of the incident, written by Samuel Ogundipe and originally published by Premium Times. This version was edited and published by Global Voices as part of a republishing agreement with Premium Times.

For three days, I lay on a rough blanket in a cell inside the police Special Tactical Squad (STS) detention centre in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

I sweated profusely as I read an old copy of a Christian daily guide, printed by Paul Enenche’s Dunamis Gospel Centre—a book precisely written to prevent people from finding themselves in a spot like this. But for three days, this mouldy, fetid cage — shared with dozens of violent crime suspects — was my reading, eating and sleeping corner.

The book, which had been smuggled in by a Dunamis devotee, was my first encounter with the work of Mr. Enenche and his ministry, and I tried to savour it. I read a passage that preached about the value of freedom, and what believers must do to avoid any form of incarceration. Where individuals find themselves in custody through no fault of their own, it recommended holding on strongly to faith.

It was a striking sermon, one which bore relevance to my case, and gave me confidence that justice would ultimately prevail.

I spent three days behind bars for the crime of journalism. During that time, I heard from several others how people had been in and out of STS detention due to sloppy investigation by the police. Their tales provided mental fodder that helped me endure my first experience in custody.

My experience with STS left me with a sense of a police unit more restrained than others, although some of its tactics still mirror the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The STS facility is housed in a bungalow inside the larger SARS compound for hardened criminals — gives the impression that it is only for temporary custody, but this does not seem entirely true.

As with SARS, STS detainees are condemned from day one, starting with the archaic prejudicial method of interrogation and unbearable living conditions. And also

like SARS, the STS seeks to psychologically torture detainees, to make them give in by isolating them in an attempt to crush their spirit and weaken their will. Many succumb. The only difference is that STS personnel appear more tidy, educated and less crude than their SARS colleagues, whose notoriety has made Abuja residents dub their premises an “abattoir” or “slaughterhouse.”

 

How it began

My journey through police detention began on August 11 when my colleague, Premium Times’ reporter Azeezat Adedigba, received a call from a police superintendent telling her she was being investigated for criminal offences. She alerted our office,and our managers advised that she proceed with caution.

Two days later, at her request, police delivered to our office a formal letter alledging that Ms. Adedigba had committed criminal conspiracy, cyber crime, attempted kidnapping and fraud, and ordering that she turn herself in by 10:00 a.m. on August 14.

My colleague honoured the invitation that Monday as instructed, accompanied by our Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed. As they waited to speak with police superintendent Emmanuel Onyeneho, a fully armed junior officer confiscated Ms. Adedigba’s mobile phone and then  detained her.

Hours later, Mr. Oyeneho appeared, returned Ms. Adedigba’s phone and asked her to dial a number on it. The number turned out to be mine. The detective then asked that I join them. I was halfway through a piece of choco pie when the call came in. I devoured the rest before reaching for my keys.

I was halfway through a piece of choco pie when the call came in. I devoured the rest before reaching for my keys.

I arrived at about 2:30 p.m. to a barrage of questions from Mr. Oyeneho, all aiming to find out the source of our story about Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris’ interim report to then-acting President Yemi Osinbajo on the State Security Service’s siege on the National Assembly on August 7.

I’d written the piece on the night of August 9, after receiving the report from a trustworthy source and getting it authenticated by two high-ranking police officers. The police had no complaints about the accuracy of the story. They only assumed it was not meant for public consumption. In fairness to the police chief, the five-page document, aside from being clumsy, contained too many errors that cast him in a bad light.

On my arrival, Mr. Oyeneho released Ms. Adedigba. “We only used you as a soft target to get our main suspect,” the officer told her.

 

‘Mr. Oyeneho could not get me to reveal my sources on the spot’

It soon became clear that Mr. Mojeed and I were going to be detained. An officer in jeans and a t-shirt suddenly took a seat beside us, blocking all pathways The officer was slightly dreadlocked and wore a yellow jungle boot. He kept a straight face and was completely attentive to our conversation.

Mr. Onyeneho demanded my phone when he came to collect me at the entrance, but I told him I didn’t have it. He was curious, and ambled around me to make sure. My editors had advised I should never take my phone if I was called  in for questioning, because the operatives might end up finding details unconnected with their investigation, and also bugging the device.

Just before Mr. Oyeneho started interrogating me, he boasted that my salary account with Ecobank had been frozen hours earlier. My mind immediately dashed to a transfer that failed to go through on my bank’s mobile app, just before I received the call to turn up at the station. Before I could ask whether he procured a court order before taking this measure, he started growing increasingly furious about the source of my story.

When Mr. Oyeneho could not get me to reveal my sources on the spot, the police superintendent informed his superior at the STS and sought the next move. The administrative officer in charge of the STS detention centre said we should proceed to the Force Headquarters for further interrogation.

 

‘He tried many times to tell me what to write’

Four plainclothes officers, the administrative officer and Oyeneho drove us into the bowels of the Force Headquarters.

We arrived at the office of Sani Ahmadu, the police commissioner overseeing the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Monitoring Unit, of which the STS is a department.

As we took our seats, Mr. Oyeneho tried to boast about the “intelligence operation” they executed to arrest me, but Mr. Ahmadu interjected, apparently feeling it was too much information for Mr. Mojeed and me.

Mr. Ahmadu told us the story Premium Times published had violated the law, but assured us his men would be civil in handling the matter. They gave me a pen and two sheets of paper to write a statement.

Nigerian police officers complete their training in 2015. Photo by AMISOM, released to public domain.

As I wrote, Mr. Oyeneho was interrupting. He tried many times to tell me what to write, but I declined each time. He insisted I state the number of times I had written unfavourable stories about Mr. Idris, Nigeria’s police chief, or the police as an institution, or even the Nigerian government in general. I paid no heed.

While I was writing my statement, an officer assisting Mr. Oyeneho whispered that I was “in trouble”.

After about one and a half hours of back and forth with the officers, I turned in my statement, just as Mr. Ahmadu’s early evening meal was delivered. We would have to wait, I signaled to Mr. Mojeed, who was seated about a metre away.

 

‘Everyone brought in for interrogation is a “prime” suspect’

As we waited, I saw Mr. Ahmadu working the keypad of his Samsung phone. He was shopping for a warrant to keep me in custody. Another officer also could be heard  discussing efforts to convince a magistrate to issue a warrant. About 45 minutes later, a police prosecutor attached to the STS arrived with some paperwork.

He pulled out a document and showed it to Mr. Ahmadu and other officers. Mr. Mojeed signaled to me that it was a warrant, and asked me to stay calm nonetheless.

We heard the officers saying the warrant would be valid from August 15 until August 25. By then, Mr. Ahmadu was through with his meal. He had also read my statement, and was  ready to conclude the session.

Then Mr. Mojeed’s phones  started buzzing non-stop. Apparently, Azeezat and Tosin Omoniyi, another colleague who was also at STS before Azeezat was freed, had broken the news to other colleagues at the office. Halfway into my statement, Mr. Oyeneho had already started receiving calls from our lawyers and other concerned persons.

Just before I was returned to the STS by my minders, Mr. Ahmadu asked for the last time if I could reveal my sources. I turned him down yet again. As we made for the exit, Mr. Mojeed turned and told him:

“I just want to let you know that this action you are taking, this attempt to lock up a reporter for writing a story, would embarrass this country seriously.”

“I do not care,” Mr. Ahmadu said meekly before snapping: “Go and tell that to those who are afraid of the media. We are not!”

“I do not care,” Mr. Ahmadu said meekly before snapping: “Go and tell that to those who are afraid of the media. We are not!”

As we made our way down the stairway from Mr. Ahmadu’s office, the officers were asking Mr. Mojeed how detaining a journalist for publishing a confidential document would embarrass the country.

“Your question shows that you people do not understand the implication of the assignment you were given,” Mr. Mojeed answered.

Before they were able to give any coherent response we reached the car park. The same Hiace bus did a pirouette to take us back to the STS detention centre.

Within minutes, we were back at the detention centre. Mr. Oyeneho quickly prepared a docket for my detention.

He asked me to remove my wrist watch, belt and shoes as he prepared to move me into the cell. Though obviously angry and disturbed, Mr. Mojeed remained level headed, and he admonished Mr. Oyeneho on the need to ensure I was not physically tortured or hurt in detention.

“Okay, I will tell the guys in cell not to touch him,” the officer responded, to my relief. “That would go a long way,” I said.

“Okay, I will tell the guys in cell not to touch him,” the officer responded, to my relief. “That would go a long way,” I said.

A female officer taking records of inmates gave Mr. Oyeneho the key to the cell and pointed me in the direction of the cell. “Follow him,” she ordered.

Everyone brought in for interrogation is a “prime” suspect in this centre and treated with disdain, and it is even worse if you are being detained.

 

‘I will tell the guys in cell not to touch him’

Around 5:30 p.m., I was escorted into the cell. As the iron bar door opened, a musty odour oozed from the room. Mr. Mojeed was asked to step back while the officers pushed me in. For nearly a minute, Mr. Onyeneho called out the leaders of the cell and warned each of them to ensure my safety.

“President, IG, OC Torture,” he said, addressing various prisoners by their “roles” in the cell, “this person is a journalist and a visitor of the Inspector General, (referring to Nigeria’s police chief, Mr. Idris ), he did not come in here the same way the rest of you came here,” Mr. Oyeneho said.

“If he complains about any of you, the person will pay seriously for the offence, is that clear?”

“Very clear,” they chorused.

He then pointed to a blanket in a corner of the cell and said a space should be created for me there. Before I could whisper my appreciation, the officer had disappeared and the cell door slammed shut.

I had been told how new prisoners are usually tortured, especially those who came in with nothing. It is a form of ritual aimed at weakening a newcomer into submission to the existing authority in the cell.

“Who be that?” a sleepy voice mumbled from a mound of filthy football jerseys.

“Na one oga oh and dem don talk say make we no touch am,” the cell president responded. He’s a big man and we were told not to touch him.

“So person wey just come today now go dey siddon for president side, they sleep for president bed and e no bring anytin for president?” So this person that just arrived today will sit by the president’s side, sleep on the president’s bed and he did not bring anything for the president? another guy fumed.

“My people wan know whether you bring bread come, oga?” My people want to know if you came with some bread, boss, the president asked me.

“No, I no carry bread come but I get small change for my pocket if una wan buy anytin.” No, I did not come with bread but I have some small change in my pocket, in case you need to buy anything.

The whole cell erupted in ecstasy.

“This our new journalist e weigh so?” Is this our new journalist up to the task?, the president asked rhythmically.

“E weigh!” He’s weighty! He is up to the task.

“If una sure say e weigh make una give am seven gbosas!” If you’re convinced he’s weighty, then give him seven gbosa (greetings), the president said.

“Gbosa! Gbosa! Gbosa! Gbosa! Gbosa! Gbosa! Gbosa!”

I’d had about N6,000 (about USD $17) crammed in my pockets. Mr. Mojeed had advised that I should take only half into the cell. Even if I’d had no cash on me when I entered, the president would still have covered me from harm strictly on the basis of Mr. Oyeneho’s warning.

I learnt there are worse cells in the facility where people could be moved to. The president asked that I hold on to my cash until the next morning, when they would need to place an order for food.

I had barely spent 15 minutes in the cell and my head was already hot. 34 of us were packed in the 12×12 room. Inside the bare concrete cell, dozens of young men sat in rows, some with unshaved beards and dusty heads, laid out like an orchard plantation in the harmattan. It was difficult to imagine how they sleep at night in such a compressed setting.

Amongst the 34 men I met in the cell were kidnapping, armed robbery and even Boko Haram suspects. They had not been moved to the “condemned” suspects’ jail because they were providing intelligence to the police, and some were already negotiating their way out.

“I have been in this situation since February ending,” the president told me. “The former president smuggled this blanket in May and I inherited it from him when he was moved out.”

It was at this point that I realised the blanket I was sitting on had not been laundered for three months.

It was at this point that I realised the blanket I was sitting on had not been laundered for three months.

“I go bring clothes now make you use am do pillow, dem dirty small but you fit manage am.” I’ll bring some clothes that you can roll up and us as a pillow, they’re a little bit dirty but you can manage it, the president said in a bid to help me adjust to my new reality.

He was here on car-jacking allegations. An accomplice with whom he was arrested had since left after ‘bailing’ himself. But the president had no resources to extricate himself from the charges.

“Dem no even gree carry me go court again,” They don’t want to take me to court again, he said. “My mama and brother no get enough money wey dem fit use fight for me.” My mother and brother don’t have enough money to use in fighting for me.

 

Just add 18 minutes

It was already 7:30 p.m., and we were being called for Christian prayers; Muslim inmates had already concluded theirs. A digital wristwatch owned by the president read 7:12.

“We know say e no correct, but e get as we dey use am.” We know it’s not correct, but we use it like that.

“Why you no fit correct am?” Why can’t you correct it? I asked. He threw the watch at me, and I immediately noticed the crown was broken.

“Just add 18 minutes to anytin wey you see for the screen,” Just add 18 minutes to anything you see on the screen, he said.

After prayers, which lasted about an hour with songs of praise, it was time for dinner. And strong vexation rent the air. The cell president had ordered food at 4:40 p.m., but the vendor was yet to deliver.

“Cell guard!” he called out, trying to get the police officer on duty to look for the food vendor.

“Oga journalist, na so dem dey treat us for here.” Boss journalist, that’s how we are treated here.

The guys knew exactly which officers behaved well and which are unkind. They were taking mental notes.

The guys knew exactly which officers behaved well and which are unkind. They were taking mental notes.

At about 9:00 p.m., dinner arrived. The president, assisted by the IG and OC torture, served packs of food to 26 cellmates. Some had noodles, while others had ordered porridge beans. The food was divided, with each person getting not more than a small portion.

More than a dozen had only garri (cassava flour cereal) and kulikuli (a peanut-based snack) for the night. I was told these were inmates who had run out of money and had no family or associates that cared enough to visit them in jail, much less replenish their pockets.

As the others were eating, I quickly fell asleep. Luckily—and strangely—there were no mosquitoes. It was 5:00 a.m. before I woke up. By 6:40 a.m., both Muslim and Christian brothers had concluded prayers.

At 7:00 a.m., the cell guard came in for his routine counting of inmates. The others knew the officer was coming, so they were already standing.

“Who dey sit like chief for there?” Who is sitting like a chief there?, the officer said as he flashed a powerful torchlight into my eyes.

Of all the inmates, I was the only one the cell guard, who resumed shift that morning, was meeting for the first time. He asked that I join others on one end of the open concrete. One after the other, we were asked to move to the opposite side and given numbers as we obliged.

At some point, I pushed the OC Torture forward. “Na your turn,” It’s your turn, I said.

“Na you dey sleep for Aso Rock, make you go first.” You are the one sleeps in Aso Rock, so you have to go first, he replied. Aso Rock is what inmates call the cell president’s blanket area—a tongue-in-cheek reference to Nigeria’s presidential villa, which bears the same name.

Aso Rock is what inmates call the cell president’s blanket area—a tongue-in-cheek reference to Nigeria’s presidential villa, which bears the same name.

Before the counting session was over, I was already blending in with my fellow inmates, my remarks frequently eliciting cheers from many of them.

The impression I had  of prison cells was one of violence and exploitation. But I realised within one day that inmates, no matter how long they had been behind bars, could also be persons of candour.

We fraternised and discussed our individual ordeals without fear. Some talked openly about their offences in the cell, admitting things about which they had kept  investigators in the dark. An unwritten convention says cell mates should not divulge confessions shared, and flouting it could be costly.

Some said they had already confessed to the police and were waiting to be arraigned. The police often promise to help them through trial if they confess, but since such arrangements are seldom done before a lawyer, they are difficult to enforce. Yet the court continues to admit verbal confession of suspects as evidence.

I had a slight share of this one-sided practice in my own case, when I was secretly and hurriedly driven to court on the afternoon of August 15. The prosecutor and officers promised to let me call the office or our lawyers if I cooperated with them but this turned out to be a ruse.

 

Alone in the courtroom

Mr. Ahmadu, came to the detention centre to interrogate me a second time.

The commissioner’s expectation was that I would divulge the source of my story because I had become isolated from Mr. Mojeed. He also promised that I would be released immediately, and receive some unspecified benefits. But I dug my heels in, and it ended up being a wasted 40 minutes for both of us, or mostly for him.

Around 11:00 a.m., my breakfast arrived, brought in by Premium Times’ Administrative Manager, Williams Obase-Ota. He came in with one of our lawyers, and the two ensured I started eating before they left around noon.

By 1:00 p.m., I was being told preparations were underway to take me to court, and I started asking that I be allowed to call Mr. Mojeed or our lawyers. They declined. By 1:30 p.m., I was ordered into a Nissan light truck that would take me to court in Kubwa, about 25 minutes away. I insisted on being permitted to make calls, but I was denied yet again.

Abuja at night. Photo by Jeff Attaway via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The prosecutor called me aside, saying I should not resist because he would allow me to make a call along the way, and he had no plans of submitting any application to further detain me, anyway.

I got into the vehicle with three officers. The prosecutor went ahead in his own car.  We arrived at the magistrate’s court in Kubwa around 2:30 p.m. The prosecutor asked that we wait inside the car, and went into the chambers to meet the magistrate.

We were eventually called in around 3:45 p.m., after the discussion between prosecutor and the magistrate had dragged on for well over an hour. As we stepped into the courtroom, I was immediately put in the dock. While we were waiting outside, I repeatedly asked the prosecutor to live up to his words and allow me just a telephone call, but he declined repeatedly.

I was alone in the courtroom. The prosecution side had the prosecutor, another lawyer whom he had called to meet him at the court, and two of the three police personnel who had accompanied me. The charges were read: violation of sections 352, 288 and 319A of the Nigerian penal code, offences related to sexual assault and murder, not trespassing and obtaining police document, as the police officers had originally accused.

Even though I had not studied the charges closely, I entered a not guilty plea. The prosecutor who had promised not to seek my further remand demanded that the magistrate keep me in custody so officers could continue their investigation.

The magistrate immediately granted the relief, saying I should be kept in custody for five more days and returned to court on August 20.

Having listened to the charges and after the curious meeting the two held in camera, the prosecutor had stripped my identity and I needed to clarify this before the magistrate.

Just before the magistrate hit the gavel and retreated into his chambers, I quickly informed him that I was a journalist with Premium Times. I told him I did not burgle the Force Headquarters to steal documents from the IGP’s office, as the prosecutor implied in the first information report.

The magistrate was stunned, and looked right into the eyes of the prosecutor, apparently feeling a sense of manipulation. I needed to make a call, I told him. I had been denied access to my office and lawyers.

The magistrate was stunned, and looked right into the eyes of the prosecutor, apparently feeling a sense of manipulation. I needed to make a call, I told him. I had been denied access to my office and lawyers.

The magistrate initially said the prosecutor should allow me to make a phone call later. Then he changed his mind on the spot, demanding that the court registrar bring his cell phone to me so I could call whoever I wanted.

The entire court proceeding lasted about 10 minutes. I called Mr. Mojeed to brief him about it afterwards, passing across enough information before I was whisked back to detention.

I returned to detention devastated, unnerved at the thought of staying through the weekend. I wondered  why I was denied access to my office or lawyers.

‘They want to break your spirit as much as they can’

The next day Mr. Mojeed visited and urged patience, saying I would soon be out. It was at that time that he first hinted that my arrest had sparked even bigger anger amongst freedom lovers in and out of Nigeria.

“You will be very proud of yourself when you come out,” Mr. Mojeed said. “Just be patient and continue to endure whatever treatment you get in here, because you will soon be out.”

Just before Mr. Mojeed came in, an officer had denied me a chance to brush my teeth outside the cell, to say nothing of having a shower. I had now spent two full days without bathing, and brushed only once.

I whispered this to Mr. Mojeed inside Mr. Agu’s office. “I understand everything, it is all part of their tactics,” he responded. “They want to break your spirit as much as they can. Just hold on and do not let them succeed.”

Some minutes later, just before Mr. Mojeed turned to Mr. Agu to discuss my welfare, the senior officer offered both of us akara and water. That was my first meal for the day.

After discussing with Mr. Agu for about half an hour, Mr. Mojeed was ready to go. Mr. Agu asked that I remain at his office for some fresh air, but this was only a face-saving gesture. A few seconds after Mr. Mojeed exited the building, a personnel officer was called in to usher me back to the cell.

That was already past 7:00 p.m., and the president was preparing Christian inmates for prayer. The akara I had was too heavy in my stomach, knocking me straight to sleep in the middle of the evening prayer.

When the cell guard arrived for the routine count of inmates at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, he asked me to step outside and gave me a seat at the front desk.

“If you get anything for inside, make you go carry am.” If you have anything inside, go and collect it, he said.

I had nothing in there — I had been wearing the same clothes since Tuesday.

“Call that your oga make he come sign for your bail.” Call your boss, let him come and sign your bail, the officer said.

I called Mr. Mojeed, who was already on his way to the station. I later learnt that my release had been concluded the night before, but it was too late to take me to court at that time. I had to be taken before the magistrate who ordered my remand until Monday before I could be released on Friday.

“What if the magistrate denied me bail again?” I asked an officer.

“No be him put you for cell, e no fit talk say make we no release you.” He is not the one that ordered your detention, so he has no right to tell us not to release you.

Adding my experience before the magistrate two days earlier, I began to appreciate the domineering influence police and other law enforcement agencies wield over magistrates across the country. Magistrates are often said to cluck under police officers like hens, but I did not know much about this until now.

Just before Mr. Mojeed stepped in, the cell guard asked me to go and take a shower. There had been an order from above that I should not be allowed to leave the station in the tattered way I had been for days. Some of the kidnapping suspects in my cell were called out to fetch water from a nearby well.

I had my shower and put on new clothes my colleague brought the day before, but which I was denied from putting on because I could not shower.

 

Free on bail

I met Mr. Mojeed at the front desk as I emerged from the bathroom. “You are free now,” he said to me gleefully. “Amen, thank you sir!” I responded reservedly.

At about 10:00 a.m., we arrived at the court. Our lawyers were already present, and it was not long before the magistrate arrived.

The seats and the floor were filthy. A dirty quilt was abandoned on the floor between the dock and the wall. Not a single computer or clock in the room. The ornamental bulbs and blinds were also broken.

Magistrate Abdulwahab Mohammed took his seat around 10:15 a.m. My case was listed at number four, but the magistrate moved it to number one, seconds after the registrar had already called the first case on the list.

I entered the dock before being prompted. It was a bail hearing, so our lawyers were called on first. The application for my bail was moved and the prosecutor raised no objection. It was already a done deal.

The prosecutor even sought lenient bail terms for me, even on self-recognisance, he said.

The suave magistrate, likely in his thirties, found this funny, and he first concealed his chuckle with his pen before using the sleeve of his jacket.

“Is he the acting president?” he asked the prosecutor. “He is a known journalist, your lordship,” he responded.

The magistrate approved the November 7 adjournment sought by the prosecutor and agreed to the motion by our lawyers and the hearing quickly wrapped up. In less than half an hour I was a free man. The entire hearing and tidying of paperwork for my bail were concluded within 20 minutes.

The officers who brought me to court were the first to request selfies with me. I was reluctant at first, then one said the picture was only an innocuous way of showing that I had no personal reservations towards them. I obliged.

I also posed for photographs with our lawyers and Mr. Obase-Ota who was in court to drive me to the office. But just as we were about driving away, I saw a news item pop up on his phone, saying the police had accused me of violating the official secrets law.

Why would they charge me with violating official secrets when I am not a public official? What I could immediately think of was that the government was out to muzzle the press, and it would stop at nothing, no matter how ridiculous. Even then, it would be difficult to describe the document as secret because nothing in it warned it was, a fact widely observed.

Moreover, Premium Times later learnt separately, days after my release, that Mr. Idris was angry about some of my stories in the past. This is understandable, especially as the factual bases of my work were not in dispute. But this was not enough grounds to lock me up for days, one would imagine. Then again, there have been several cases of journalists being hounded in the past three years, some of which I chronicled here only last year.

 

The precarious work of journalism, with elections on the horizon

With the 2019 elections in view, there are fears that journalists may be deliberately targeted, or, like me, made scapegoats. It was in the car that my colleague informed me that another journalist, Jones Abiri, had been released after two years in custody. He was freed on August 15, a day after my arrest.

I also began noticing the magnitude of support and how big the story of my arrest was, when my colleague at the digital strategy desk would not allow me to get to the office before taking new pictures of me to upload with the breaking story of my release. Mr. Obase-Ota quickly parked at a safe compound and took pictures in the specified resolutions. The picture was everywhere before I got to the office, and both the management and I had to put together separate statements of gratitude.

The Buhari administration understands the critical role the media will play in the upcoming election, just like those before it, including the one that brought him to power three years ago. And, as The Punch noted in an August 24 editorial, Premium Times has been playing a leading role in unearthing the missteps of this administration, making the investigative newspaper a prime target for harassment.

Babajide Otitoju, a political analyst, also saw my arrest as part of a desperate strategy by state actors to instill fears in journalists ahead of 2019, describing it as an “elevated exaggeration.”

Babajide Otitoju, a political analyst, also saw my arrest as part of a desperate strategy by state actors to instill fears in journalists ahead of 2019, describing it as an “elevated exaggeration.”

Early last year, it was the leadership of the Nigerian Army that was uncomfortable with our journalism and goaded the police into arresting publisher Dapo Olorunyomi and Evelyn Okakwu, my colleague at the judiciary desk. They were released the same day and the matter was never brought to court, apparently because, as with my case, they had no serious complaint at the time.

I spent three days in detention. But it was enough time for me to appreciate the precarious fate of journalism in Nigeria, despite nearly two decades of uninterrupted civil rule.

I felt terrible to have been incarcerated and isolated and accused of crimes that were clearly unfounded.

But I remain eternally grateful to everyone around the world who pushed for my release. The unbelievable magnitude of support my organisation and I enjoyed during this episode has strengthened my resolve to always be a voice for the voiceless, while also pushing for the people’s right to know and holding our leaders accountable.

by Guest Contributor at September 18, 2018 07:26 PM

Creative Commons
Traditional Knowledge and the Commons: The Open Movement, Listening, and Learning

CC licenses and public domain tools help individuals, organisations, and public institutions better disseminate digital resources and data, breaking down the typical barriers associated with traditional “all rights reserved” copyright. At the same time, CC licenses can’t do everything for everyone. First, the licenses operate in the sphere of copyright and similar rights. They do not attempt to license, say, personality rights, trademark, or patent rights. Also, the CC community recognizes that voluntary licensing schemes will never be a comprehensive solution for access to and reuse of knowledge and creativity around the world. This is one reason why CC works on international copyright reform issues, including the protection and expansion of user rights.

Another dimension of openness that could be better understood from the perspective of the “open” community is the sharing of cultural works related to indigenous communities. This has been talked about with terms such as “traditional knowledge”. Traditional knowledge consists of a wide range of skills, cultural works, and practices that have been sustained and developed over generations by indigenous communities around the world. These communities hold entitlement over this knowledge as well as responsibility for the preservation of their knowledge, but haven’t always had the autonomy to decide what can be done with their knowledge. International and national instruments have attempted to codify the value of traditional knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples, but the place of such knowledge within conventional intellectual property structures remains  deeply contested and uncertain.

These issues and more were brought up at the 2018 Creative Commons Global Summit as well, and has since started an important conversation within the CC community. I’m an attorney and doctoral candidate at UC-Berkeley Law, and over the summer I worked as a research fellow for Creative Commons to conduct an investigation into the current issues regarding traditional knowledge and its intersection with the open movement. A draft of the paper is complete, and we welcome your thoughts and suggestions to it.

In addition, we’ll be hosting a session on the topic on Thursday, September 27 at 3:00p at the 5th Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest in Washington, D.C.

The tension between traditional knowledge protection and IP frameworks is exacerbated by digital technologies that have made the creation, dissemination, appropriation and remixing of knowledge and cultural artifacts easier than ever before. Indigenous communities’ preservation efforts and control over traditional knowledge sometimes also seem to conflict with the ‘open’ ecosystem, which consists of organizations, communities, and individuals supporting open and free culture, open licensing and access to knowledge. This is because traditional knowledge is often perceived as being part of the public domain by default, when it is not. 

There is a colonial history of this perception. The doctrine of discovery, which was used to legitimize and expand colonization, held the assumption that indigenous peoples were “uncivilized,” and hence could not own property like European settlers. Therefore, the land and knowledge of indigenous peoples were seen as part of the commons, open for ‘discovery’ and appropriation. Another oft repeated concern that traditional community representatives have voiced at global venues like WIPO is the misuse and appropriation of their knowledge. Appropriation refers not just to taking something of value to a community, but also reaping economic benefit from it. For these reasons, the public domain may be perceived as detrimental to the interests of indigenous communities. It’s important to recognize this because it affects how these communities might perceive open and free culture movements.

Copyright law in particular is based on a number of assumptions that are sometimes at odds with the protection of indigenous knowledge. For instance, sometimes it can be difficult to identify an author of a cultural work because “ownership” might vest in a community, is sometimes continually being invented, or might be passed from generation to generation. The categories of copyright law may not encompass the kinds of expressions found in traditional knowledge. For example, a dance could be manifested in several ways and may have a sequential unique style over several performances. One sequence might be removed and placed in a western song or performance. Not only would there be no protection for this disparate piece, any social or spiritual meaning that might be attached to that dance would also be lost. Furthermore, some traditions are conveyed and preserved orally, and this might not be ‘fixed’ in a tangible form to receive conventional copyright protection.

This perceived disconnect with copyright law in particular puts Creative Commons in a challenging position with regards to indigenous knowledge. On the one hand, Creative Commons strives to make knowledge and information as widely and freely accessible as possible. It seeks to empower individuals who want to define the terms of access to their works. On the other hand, Creative Commons must grapple with ownership structures of traditional knowledge, its position within copyright law, and the terms of access of different kinds of traditional knowledge online. The CC licenses were never meant to be applied to content that is not meant to be shared broadly — so to the extent such content is not intended to be shared broadly or if open licenses do not adequately meet the needs of these communities for reasons described above, then it makes sense not to expect acceptance or use of open licenses as currently available.

Despite these challenges, digital technologies also represent an opportunity to help resolve some of the tensions between IP structures and traditional knowledge and have been used by indigenous communities. Projects like Mukurtu and Local Contexts help preserve and label traditional works while giving indigenous communities autonomy to set the terms for sharing. Local Contexts also provides guidance to indigenous communities about controlling access and preservation of their knowledge. There are flexibilities within CC licenses that could be used in empowering ways by communities that want to make their works open. The conversation needs to involve more communities, policymakers and scholars and the Creative Commons team is exploring the possibilities of working with other projects and involving indigenous communities more closely to understand the role CC licenses could play in the protection and dissemination of traditional knowledge.

The post Traditional Knowledge and the Commons: The Open Movement, Listening, and Learning appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Mehtab Khan at September 18, 2018 04:14 PM

Global Voices
Japan moves to accept more workers from abroad, but public opinion remains divided
Pedestrians cross a street in busy Osaka. Image from Pixabay.

Pedestrians cross a street in busy Osaka. Image from Pixabay.

Japan is known for being a relatively homogeneous society. Just 2 percent of residents are foreign nationals, compared with neighbor South Korea's 4 percent. However, Japan may soon have little choice but to accept more workers from abroad in order to cope with an expected shrinkage in the working population caused by an aging and low birth rates. As the country's labor shortage has reached its most extreme level in more than 40 years, with 1.48 jobs for every applicant, there are signs the Japanese government is considering immigration as a solution to the problem.

Japan has traditionally favored domestic reforms that have avoided immigration as a solution, such as encouraging retired workers to re-enter the workforce and utilizing artificial intelligence.

A key part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy of economic reforms, dubbed “Womenomics“, also involves getting more women into the workforce. While this policy has achieved some limited success, domestic reforms alone are unlikely to be enough to fill the gaps in the labor market.

“We are opening up our country.”

In response to this growing concern, on September 14, 2018, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told the World Economic Forum that Japan needs to admit more foreign workers, claiming that the current policy was incapable of sustaining Japanese society.

“We are opening up our country,” said Kono. “We are now trying to come up with a new work permit policy so I think everyone shall be welcome in Japan if they are willing to assimilate into Japanese society.”

Prime Minister Abe also recently announced plans to attract 500,000 foreign workers to Japan by 2025 to fill chronic labor shortages in farming, construction, accommodation, and elder care by creating a new five-year visa category for non-professional foreign laborers. In order to support its graying citizenry and stabilize its population at 100 million, Japan would need to accept a whopping 200,000 immigrants each year.

The country had 1.28 million foreign workers as of October 2017, with Chinese workers making up the largest portion at nearly 30 percent, followed by those from Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brazil.

Non-Japanese cashiers are becoming more and more common, with non-Japanese workers accounting for some 5 percent of convenience store chain FamilyMart's employees.

As urban areas become increasingly international, one out of ten 20-somethings living in Tokyo are now foreign-born. For twenty-year-olds living in Tokyo, that number increases to one in eight.

For some people, immigration is already a reality in Japan.

While Japan is busy arguing about whether or not to accept immigrants, they're already coming in, and it's not as if there's a ban on immigration or anything. Tokyo is pretty much a haven for immigrants at this point.

A focus on temporary “trainees”, not “migrants”

Many foreign workers enter the country via the “technical intern trainee” system, a 1990 program designed to transfer technical skills. Critics see the scheme as encouraging simple and cheap labor by allowing businesses in the industrial, agricultural and fisheries sectors to cheaply hire youth from abroad.

Trainees cannot change jobs, and there have been numerous reports of their being subjected to illegally long work hours and physical abuse from employers. Vietnamese trainees were even made to take part in nuclear decontamination work in Fukushima. Twitter user Mulboyne shared a Mainichi newspaper report about a Vietnamese worker who, after being left with only the equivalent of US$200 per month in pay despite working full-time, found a better-paying job by working under the table:

While trainees are currently able to stay for a maximum of five years, Abe's proposed reforms would allow those who have completed the program to stay for up to five additional years. However, the focus remains on encouraging temporary stays over permanent immigration. Trainees would be unable to bring their families with them, and must temporarily return to their home countries after finishing the program. This would technically prevent them from applying for permanent residency because one of the requirements is to have lived in Japan for ten years or more.

“Japan's peace and harmony is based on it being a homogeneous country”

While Japan is already accepting more foreign workers, not everyone is comfortable with this change. “Many people in Japan believe that the country's peace and harmony is based on it being a homogeneous country where there are few foreigners,” says Chris Burgess, a migration researcher and lecturer of Japan studies at Tsuda Juku University in Tokyo, in an interview with CNN.

According to Burgess, underlying this belief is the so-called “foreign crime” debate, the fear that allowing in greater numbers of foreigners will harm public safety—a fear that has only been heightened in recent years by terrorist atrocities in Europe and other countries with high migration levels.

A recent poll shows that public opinion on this issue is mixed.

日本経済新聞が行った世論調査では、外国人の受け入れ拡大について賛成と反対がそれぞれ42%と結果は真っ二つとなりました。ただ年齢別の調査では傾向がはっきりと分かれているようです。18~29歳の若年層では賛成が約60%と反対の約30%を大きく上回っていますが、70歳以上は賛成が約30%、反対が約45%と逆転しています。若年層は人口減少の影響を直接的に受けていることや、グローバル化に慣れていることなどから外国人受け入れに前向きになっているものと考えられます。

A public opinion poll conducted by the Nikkei found opinion evenly split about whether Japan should admit more foreign workers, with 42% agreeing and 42% disagreeing. However, age was a large determining factor when it came to how people voted. Roughly 60% of 18-29-year-olds were for increased immigration, while just 30% were against it. The opposite trend was found among those aged 70 or older, with 30% for and 45% against. Young people are perhaps more accepting of foreigners as they are the ones directly affected by population shrinking, and they have grown up with the effects of globalization.

In this video from Asian Boss, reporters hit the streets to find out how ordinary Japanese feel about the issue:

While some interviewees were resistant to the idea of hiring foreign workers, others identified a need for Japanese people to accept people of various nationalities and to become more open-minded. “The Japanese love Americans and accept them, but to people from other Asian countries, the Japanese tend to be unkind,” one young woman explained.

Whether Japan will become a truly multicultural nation any time in the foreseeable future remains uncertain, but it is clear that increasing globalization is already having an impact on the nation. As for how demographic changes will shape Japan, only time will tell.

by Sarah Lee Stones at September 18, 2018 02:20 PM

At the peak of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Jamaicans remember ‘Wild Gilbert’

Hurricane Gilbert near peak intensity in the northwest Caribbean Sea on September 13, 1988. Public domain image via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), data superimposed by CooperScience.

As Hurricane Florence began to bear down on the Carolinas in the United States, and an uncertain storm named Isaac moved towards the Caribbean, Jamaicans took time out to remember the mighty Hurricane Gilbert of 1988 — a terrifying storm for which the island was largely unprepared.

Businessman Wayne Chen provided an overview on Facebook:

Thirty years ago [in] September 1988, Hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica with sustained winds of 125 mph as its 15 mile-wide eye moved from east to west across the length of the island leaving a swathe of destruction. It produced a 19 ft storm surge and brought up to 32 inches of rain, causing flash flooding. 49 people died and US$700 million in damage was sustained. More than 100,000 houses were destroyed or damaged and the country's banana crop was wiped out. Hundreds of miles of roads and highways were heavily damaged and the electricity supply was disrupted. The country struggled to regain normalcy, but we prevailed and Jamaica was mostly back on track within months.

Mainstream media marked the anniversary via call-in radio shows, newspaper articles and photo montages. One Twitter user reminisced that something as simple as ice was one of the most sought-after items post-hurricane.

Others shared vivid memories of the storm:

The eye of the storm passed directly over the island, from east to west, and many recalled being shocked at the level of devastation:

Journalist Janet Silvera shared on Facebook:

I don't think I have experienced anything like Gilbert ever before or ever since. The winds were ferocious; the water was violent; the trees howled under the pressure and every door in the house sounded as if they were ready to be unhinged. We prayed. We hoped. We asked for a speedy passage. Nightfall came. Morning came.
We knew there was devastation, but could not possibly have envisaged what we saw when all the ‘dust’ settled.
All the leaves were stripped from the trees, and the hills looked barren. The roads were impassable. Communication nil!

Blogger Wayne Campbell noted that the storm increased a sense of neighbourliness:

The aftermath of Gilbert brought Jamaicans closer. I recall the morning after [its] passage, all who could walk did just that around the community inspecting and commenting on the damage done. It was a time to meet and chat with old friends and get acquainted with new ones. It was also a time to get to know your neighbour. There was no electricity so the transistor radio was the main source of information and entertainment. The Jamaica Broadcasting Company (JBC) and Radio Jamaica (RJR) were the primary media entities at the time. ‘Young bud nuh know starm’ [‘Young people don't know storms’] Thankfully, we survived hurricane Gilbert.

A mother and her son (then four years old) talked about the Gilbert experience from their different perspectives:

Veteran politician Edward Seaga, who was prime minister at the time, recalled how the government coped with the disaster, while award-winning writer Nicole Dennis-Benn referred to the “Gilbert diet” of canned food and “bully beef” (corned beef):

It's no surprise that Hurricane Gilbert soon had its own theme song. Singer Lloyd Lovindeer was inspired to write the humorous song Wild Gilbert when he saw satellite dishes flying in the air from uptown homes. Many such pieces of 1980s technology were strewn on the hillsides around Kingston. The dish was a status symbol at the time, so Lovindeer's song carried piquant social commentary:

Netizens couldn't help but compare the means of communication back in 1988 with today's technology:

The Meteorological Service of Jamaica also noted that it is much easier now to track hurricanes, and that Jamaicans have become more knowledgeable and are better able to prepare; in the case of Gilbert, authorities only issued the hurricane warning the night before the storm hit.

Nowadays, the Jamaican public is far more aware, and the country takes fewer chances. With the increasing number, growing unpredictability, and sheer intensity of storms during the annual Atlantic hurricane season, people now regard being hit by a hurricane as almost an inevitability.

The message? Be prepared. Even for the weak and vacillating Hurricane Isaac, emergency response agencies are on the alert to carry Jamaica through the next few months as safely as they can.

by Emma Lewis at September 18, 2018 12:22 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
Too much high-frequency trading can rig the market, IEX founder says

Marketplace Tech is spending all week looking at the risks technology can introduce to investing. Today, part one of a look at high-frequency trading. Critics of too much high-frequency trading say it makes markets vulnerable to manipulation, and the algorithms that fuel it can cause abrupt dips and rises in stock prices. Brad Katsuyama is a former big bank trader who's the subject of the 2014 Michael Lewis book "Flash Boys." He started studying high-frequency trading before the 2008 financial crash and eventually decided to start his own stock exchange to remove the influence of trading technologies that he says rig the market. Molly Wood talks with Katsuyama and Jonathan Macey, professor of corporate law at Yale, about the implications of high-frequency trading. (09/18/18)

 

 

by Marketplace at September 18, 2018 10:44 AM

Global Voices
In Syria, regime loyalists use art as a tool of war

Group of artists turn tunnel dug by rebels near Damascus into an art gallery. Screenshot from a report by Kremlin media outlet RT. Source: Youtube.

The Syrian conflict has plunged the country into a vortex of death and destruction, and triggered a humanitarian crisis with little precedent, so much so that it seems inconceivable that any of this macabre reality can be associated with aesthetics.

Nonetheless, the warring sides have invoked aesthetic representations of the war — that have sometimes bordered on the romantic — in an attempt to get across tailored messages serving propaganda purposes. A military state has crept into forms of expression that are predominantly thought to be at variance with war and militarization. This has been evident in drama, art, fashion, pop music and other spheres. And nowhere has this been more blatant than in regime circles.

Since the early days of the revolution, the Syrian regime has idolized and romanticized a military state. At the entrance of Lattakia coastal province, the birthplace of the Syrian dictator, a gigantic military boot filled with flowers greets arrivals. Similar jackboots are scattered across areas under government control.

The Syrian regime's media has been keen to show lavish outpourings of affection for the Syrian military, with prominent figures and ordinary citizens shown ‘kissing’ the military boot in reverence as a token of loyalty and gratitude.

Syrian drama series’ and movies have tapped into ‘ready-made’ locations of destroyed neighborhoods resulting from government shelling that leveled entire neighborhoods, saving them a fortune in set design. Films such as ‘Rain of Homs‘ directed by Joud Said and ‘the Revolution Man‘ by Najdat Anzour have been criticized for polishing the regime's actions.

Many believe that these scenes ride roughshod over the feelings of the locals who have lost loved ones, lost homes or both, which is thought to further inflame sentiments in a country reeling from a devastating war. This is especially felt because these series seek to bear out the regime's narrative of events which blame the rebels for the city's wholesale destruction.

In October 2017, a loyalist Syrian fashion designer, Manal Ajaj, sparked controversy when she posed on the catwalk with models dressed in Syrian military uniforms during a fashion show in Beirut in what she said was a “homage to the Syrian army”.

Last month, Bashar Assad and his wife Asma visited an underground tunnel dug by rebels (who were branded as terrorists by the regime) after the Syrian regime's takeover of eastern Ghouta in April.

A group of Assad-supporting artists turned the tunnel into an “art gallery”, according to the Syrian state news agency.

In support of the artists’ work, Bashar Assad was quoted as saying:

Destruction, darkness and death are the culture of terrorists, while construction, light, life and art are our own.

In addition, a video of a Syrian soldier dancing to the tunes of a hit song on his way to Idlib province in northwestern Syria to fight opposition forces went viral. The loyalists touted the video as demonstrating the Syrian army's ‘high morale’ ahead of an imminent battle to eradicate a last major opposition stronghold in what is feared to be yet another bloodbath in the Syrian conflict.

by Maria Mattar at September 18, 2018 10:17 AM

Kyrgyz artist calls on girls to ‘create our own freedom’ in breakout song, *drops mic*

Screenshot from Zere's video ‘Kyz’.

Teenage artist Zere Asylbek has burst into public life in Kyrgyzstan with a song defending women's rights to do as they please with their bodies.

In doing so, she has also made her mark on a highly-charged debate with both national and global dimensions.

The song Kyz, which translates as ‘girl’ in Kyrgyz is Zere's first recorded song. Interviewed by the Kyrgyz service of RFE/RL on September 16, Zere said she did not consider herself a musician per se, but rather a “creative person in the freest sense.”

The point of Kyz, she said, was to highlight that while every person has their own mission, “the missions of others should be accepted, or at least acknowledged.”

What is this song all about?

In Kyrgyzstan, women's clothing has been a hot-button topic for some time, pitting conservatives against secularists wary of Islam's growing as social battles simmer over the ex-Soviet country's future.

Former President Almazbek Atambayev poured lighter fuel on the bonfire in 2016 when he endorsed a series of banners that asked “where (the Kyrgyz people) were headed?”

The banners printed by a patriotic group compared a relatively recent penchant for the niqab in some parts of the country unfavourably with traditional Kyrgyz dress.

Those banners were later met with an ironic response in the form of banners carrying the same alarmist question but instead showing Kyrgyz women wearing short skirts and shorts in place of the women wearing niqabs.

Atambayev called the authors of the second banner “smarty-pants.”

“Our women have been wearing miniskirts since 1950s, and they never thought about wearing an explosive belt,” said Atambayev.

His throwaway comments on Islamic dress have been echoed by politicians elsewhere, including former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson earlier this year.

A controversial banner calling on women to disavow the niqab as non-national was put up in Bishkek by a group of patriots and later across the country after it won approval from ex-leader Almazbek Atambayev. Some of the banners were damaged or burned. Photo by Sputnik.kg. Used with permission.

A response to the original banners. Photo by Kaktus Media. Used with permission.

United we stand

Poignantly, the video for Zere's debut song features women whose dress speaks to Kyrgyzstan's diversity. Unsurprisingly, that message has failed to please everyone.

Currently the video has gathered around 120,000 views in four days, a phenomenal number considering Kyrgyzstan is a country of just 6 million and the song is in the Kyrgyz language, rather than in the republic's second language, Russian.

As of this writing the clip has been liked 2,000 times and disliked 5,500 times. Many of the comments on Facebook posts featuring the video express disgust and even hatred towards the 19-year-old singer.

Writing on Facebook shortly after the clip's release, Zere Asylbek's father Asylbek Zhodonbekov said that he had received a mixture of congratulations and complaints from friends and acquaintances.

Zhodonbekov noted that Zere had become inclined towards political activism after a bride kidnapping victim was murdered by her captor inside a police station as she was waiting to write a witness statement against him in May.

The shocking crime sparked protests against law enforcement's negligence in a country where thousands of girls are kidnapped every year and “had a strong impact on her”, he said.

Some of the messages Zhodonbekov received were particularly harsh. One acquaintance even compared Zere to Baba Yaga, a scary witch-like character from Russian folklore. “Is this really your daughter?” the person asked.

“Yes, Zere is my daughter,” Zhodonbekov wrote in his post. “A free-thinking daughter of a free Kyrgyzstan.”

by Chris Rickleton at September 18, 2018 09:16 AM

September 17, 2018

Global Voices
In a blow against impunity, Guatemala's top court rules in favor of the return of UN anti-corruption commissioner

President's failure to comply could lead to removal from office

Guatemala's Constitutional Court. Photo: Nómada GT, published under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND).

The next 48 hours will be crucial for Guatemalan democracy. In a unanimous decision, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala ordered the government to allow Colombian jurist Ivan Velasquez to return to the country and resume his work as head of the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity (CICIG in Spanish).

Last month, President Jimmy Morales announced that he will no longer renew the mandate of the CICIG aside from barring the return of Velasquez, who is now based in the United States. The decision caused outrage nationally and internationally, prompting protests and condemnation from human rights defenders. The president's decision followed the Commission's allegations of corruption, specifically illicit campaign financing against Morales himself, and against members of his family who are now facing a fraud trial before the Constitutional Court.

The next two days constitute not only a test for Guatemala's democratic institutions, but also for the sectors which backed the president in the past. According to the Court's official document, disobeying the Court's orders could mean the president's removal by constitutional mechanisms.

Journalists like Nina Lakhani and other commentators on social media closely observe and reflect upon the different looming scenarios, especially if Morales refuses to comply with the court order and enlist the support of the Guatemalan army:

Human rights advocates, including the Ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, reacted with relief and satisfaction, but are still worried about the next move of the government and Congress:

An excellent news for the Guatemalan justice system. Welcome, commissioner Ivan Velázquez. Let's continue the struggle against corruption and impunity from Guatemala. It couldn't be otherwise. The honorable Constitutional Court reestablishes once again the public order.

What might happen in the next 48 hours, with the possible return of Ivan Velasquez to Guatemala:

A political deja vu?

These events gain special significance when seen in the light of the long and difficult struggle against corruption in Guatemala and the country's recent political turmoils. In fact, the rise to power of Morales followed an extraordinary popular movement fed up with the corruption and impunity of the political class that ended up with the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina in 2015.

After the political crisis of 2015, in which the presence of the Commission also had an important role investigating corruption cases, the government of Morales was expected to be under close scrutiny.

As Morales finds himself in the middle of political and corruption scandals, the current crisis is seen as an important moment in which Guatemala could take step forward in protecting its democratic institutions, or a possible slide towards authoritarianism.

Salvadorian journalist Héctor Silva Alvalos points at the contrast between Morales ‘the campaigner’ and Morales ‘the president':

Jimmy Morales assumed Guatemala's presidency backed by emerging groups, some of them with links to military intelligence. He arrived [to power] saying he was neither corrupt nor a thief. Today he's a president who raves over absolute power to avoid being investigated for corruption.

Meanwhile, the hashtag #RenunciaYa (“Step down now”), which was used during the 2015 protests, has started gaining followers again while protests have been organized in the streets. At the same time, international media outlets from the region like Colombian newspaper El Espectador, underscored the importance of seeing the Guatemalan crisis in its regional dimension and urged the international community to pay attention to its development:

Más allá de ese posible cambio de último momento, la situación demuestra las tensiones por las que atraviesa el país y las fibras delicadas que Velásquez ha tocado. Hay un intento innegable por sepultar el tema sin que se llegue al fondo del asunto. Por eso, la comunidad internacional debe acompañar a los guatemaltecos en la protección de sus instituciones y en la búsqueda de la verdad. Los ojos del mundo deben posarse sobre Guatemala, que está en un momento clave de su historia, cuyo desenlace puede influir en la de todo un hemisferio que vive trances semejantes.

Beyond any last minute change, the situation demonstrates the tensions that are taking place in the country and the raw nerve that Velásquez has touched, There's an undeniable attempt to bury the subject without digging deep on it. That's why the international community must accompany Guatemalan people in the protection of their institutions and in the search for truth. The eyes of the world should be put on Guatemala as the country goes through a key moment of their history; and the outcome could weigh on the history of a whole hemisphere going through processes of similar significance.

by Renata Avila at September 17, 2018 06:11 PM

Nigerian Twitter has an impersonation problem — and the platform is failing to take action

Twitter logo remix from The Daring Librarian's Twitter Template via Flickr. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Seven months ago, Nigeria's minister of state for foreign affairs Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim appeared to have privately messaged Twitter user Matt Navarra a rather strange message: the state official was soliciting Navarra's help to secure “unclaimed funds”. Navarra immediately sensed red flags and tweeted a screenshot of the message linked to Twitter account @MrsBukar2018. 

Predictably, this was a fake account impersonating Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, acting in clear violation of Twitter's impersonation policy.

Impersonation is a growing problem on Nigerian Twitter with some accounts set up using politicians’ names to promote propaganda while others snag celebrity names as part of marketing fraud schemes. Often, the differences are slight and difficult to detect for the unsuspecting user. 

Earlier this year, Femi Otedola, a billionaire Nigerian oil tycoon, publicly quit Twitter after the company failed to remove his impersonators. He used the platform for only six weeks. His Twitter handle has now been verified, although he is yet to resume tweeting.

These breaches have sent a warning to active Twitter users, calling attention to how easy it is to create and run fake accounts on the platform, despite its executives’ recent promise to wipe them away. The company claims to have purged up to 70 million fake accounts between June and July of 2018.

Yet unpaid citizens seem to be doing a better job at policing Twitter than the experts designated to monitor fraud and impersonation.

An apparent network of scam accounts

Evidence points to @MrsBukar2018 operating as part of a linked network of various accounts impersonating Nigerian ministers and targeting non-Nigerians in an advance-fee scam.

One of the accounts it followed was @Oyema201, which was impersonating Khadija’s real-life colleague, Nigeria’s senior Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. The @Oyema201 account also followed @Khadija_Bukar, yet another account impersonating Khadija. All three interconnected accounts were created in January 2018.

Twitter suspended @Khadija_Bukar on January 30. However, Twitter did not find @Oyema201 or @MrsBukar2018 — the account that originally sent the message to Matt Navarra —to be in violation of its rules.

Seven months on

As of August 20, the accounts @Oyema201 and @MrsBukar2018 are still active.

@MrsBukar2018 is yet to tweet with two followers and seven following (no change since January). @Oyema201’s followers have grown to 120. 

A look at @Oyema201’s archived timeline shows that 17 tweets were sent between 7:33 a.m. and 7:58 a.m. on March 22. All tweets, containing the same text and grammatical errors and were sent mostly to real estate businesses, said the following:

I am Mr Geoffrey Onyeama Nigeria Minister of Foreign Affairs;

I have interest to partner with you invest into your company or any other profitable venture in your country. can you manage such partnership,

The inaction of Twitter and the Nigerian government regarding the relatively straightforward cases of Geoffrey Onyeama and Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim are worrisome particularly with Nigeria’s general elections coming up in 2019.

While these particular accounts have relatively limited reach in terms of numbers, their existence along with the fact that they were not shut down by Twitter when reported, sends an alarming message.

by Rosemary Ajayi at September 17, 2018 05:31 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
AI storytelling on Messenger for youth citizenship
Youth and privacy in the Americas: UNICEF Brazil How do youth allies promote young people’s critical thinking on privacy, in informal learning contexts in the Americas? This blog post is part of a series showcasing the work of different organizations at the intersection of youth development, digital rights, and online safety. Quick facts Who: Nelson Leoni from UNICEF Headquarters and Pedro Ivo Alcantara from UNICEF Brazil What: Campaigning Mission/vision: To promote the fulfillment of children’s […]

by Mariel García-Montes at September 17, 2018 05:21 PM

Global Voices
‘Crimes of solidarity’ in Europe multiply as 11 stand trial in Belgium for helping migrants

The September 6, 2018, trial of 11 people who have helped migrants in Belgium has attracted a number of protesters. Photo: Melissa Vida. Used with permission.

Eleven people who had been arrested and charged with human trafficking in October 2017 appeared in court in Brussels on September 6, the first hearing of a trial that activists say is yet another case of “criminalization of solidarity” in Europe.

The defendants have allegedly assisted 95 undocumented migrants, including 12 minors, to travel from Belgium to the United Kingdom last year, either by hosting them in their homes, by lending them phones and thereby indirectly helping them cross the channel.

On the day of the trial, three hundred people protested in front of the courthouse. Demonstrators say this is a political trial, aimed at dissuading people from helping migrants by establishing an intimidating judicial precedent.

The defendants are two Belgian journalists, one Belgian-Morrocan social worker, a Tunisian man who is a legal Belgian resident and seven people who are undocumented migrants themselves. Eight of the defendants have been in jail since the arrest.

Belgian law states that there must be a monetary transaction involved for an act to be framed as human trafficking, something the defendants deny ever happening. However, the relationship between the migrants and their helpers seems to fall into a legal grey area, raising fears that the law's scope is unjustly being expanded to target activists.

Myriam Berghe, one of the two journalists, said in an interview with RTBF (Belgium's public service broadcaster) that she's received money on behalf of a migrant she was hosting. The migrant in question had been sent money from abroad via Western Union, Berghe says, but had no way of collecting it due to having no papers. What for Berghe was simply an act of kindness, in the eyes of the authorities was payment for smuggling.

In the same interview, she explains that despite some of the people she's hosted being smugglers themselves, she wouldn't consider them “human traffickers”:

Oui, j’ai hébergé des passeurs. Mais il faut voir de quelle réalité on parle. Les douze personnes interpellées dans ce dossier n’ont rien à voir avec ce que le droit appelle des “trafiquants d’êtres humains”. Ce sont des jeunes paumés qui essaient de survivre en devenant de petits passeurs, le temps de se payer eux-mêmes un passage.

Yes, I've hosted smugglers. But you need to understand what is the reality we're talking about. The 12 people indicted in this case don't have anything to do with what the law calls “human trafficking.” They're clueless youngsters that try to survive by becoming small smugglers until they save up enough to cross the border themselves.

Bergue and Anouk Van Gestel, the other journalist, have written an open letter to the Belgian prime minister. In this excerpt, they express their dismay at the current state of Belgium’s democracy:

Est-il acceptable que, dans un pays qui se dit être une démocratie, deux citoyennes se retrouvent inculpées d'association criminelle et de trafic d'êtres humains avec la circonstance aggravante qu'il s'agit de mineurs, parce qu'elles ont ouvert leur porte à des personnes en état de détresse absolue?

Is it acceptable that in a country that calls itself a democracy, two citizens are indicted for criminal association and human trafficking, with the aggravating factor that it involves minors, because they opened their door to people who were in total distress?

On the day of the trial, Selma Benkhelifa, one of the defense's lawyers, remembered how Interior Minister Jan Jambon has blamed the squatting of Maximilien Park, which is home for hundreds of migrants in Brussels, on the people who help them. She said:

C’est un procès éminemment politique. Jan Jambon a déclaré que la situation au parc Maximilien était la responsabilité des hébergeurs. On entend d’abord ces déclarations très provocantes et derrière on constate effectivement des poursuites qui vont dans ce sens.

It is a trial that is eminently political. Jan Jambon declared that the situation at Maximilian Park was the responsibility of the [migrants’] hosts. We first hear these very provocative declarations and afterwards we notice that there are real lawsuits that are filed.

This is only the latest event around border control policies that have deeply impacted European politics in recent years.

In Brussels, 10,000 people marched in February against anti-migrant government policies. In May, the death of a four-year-old Kurd asylum seeker at the hands of Belgian police caused widespread outrage. More recently, the government's reopening of a detention center for undocumented families also drew criticism from human rights workers.

People who have helped undocumented immigrants have also stood trials in other Europeans countries.

In France, helping undocumented migrants was illegal until June 2018. In Italy, a Spanish charity that helps migrant's boats stranded at sea is under investigation, while in Switzerland a pastor was fined €1,112 for hosting an undocumented Togolese migrant in his church.

In Spain, human rights activist and researcher Helena Maleno was charged with human trafficking after helping to save dinghies in the Mediterranean. Maleno says there are currently 45 lawsuits undergoing in different courts in Europe with people facing criminal charges after helping undocumented migrants. Maleno herself is still under investigation by the Moroccan authorities.

by Melissa Vida at September 17, 2018 02:45 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
How a piece of software helped fuel the 2008 financial crash
Here at Marketplace, we're doing a yearlong project on the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis called Divided Decade. At the center of it, of course, were dodgy housing loans that were packaged and resold as seemingly solid investments. They were known as mortgage-backed securities. Here's where the tech comes in: Back in the '90s, a guy named Michael Osinski and his wife, Isabel, wrote software that made it super simple to bundle loans into a security. Osinski retired from Wall Street eight years before the recession to farm oysters on Long Island, where he rode out the financial collapse with few ill effects on his life. Marketplace producer Eliza Mills met Osinski at his oyster beds to hear his story of making a tool that bankers used to bundle bad loans. She shares what she learned with Molly Wood. (09/17/18)

by Marketplace at September 17, 2018 10:29 AM

September 15, 2018

Global Voices
Protestors artfully demand the release of Shahidul Alam, Bangladesh's prisoner of conscience

People gathered at the Shahbag Square in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka wearing masks to protest the detention of internationally acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam and other students. Image by Pranabesh Das, used with permission.

Detained Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam has once again been denied bail in a case filed under the Information, Communication and Technology Act (ICT) for instigating “students to continue a [recent] movement against the government” and “spreading propaganda against the government”. Alam and his acquaintances deny those charges.

Meanwhile, protests continued at home and abroad to release the photographer and other detained students. A number of students got bail a few weeks ago, but an unknown number are still detained.

Alam was detained on August 5, 2018, officially arrested the next day, and ultimately sued under the ICT Act, to which his counsels submitted the bail petition on August 28.

On September 4, a two-member High Court bench felt ‘embarrassed’ to hear Alam's bail in the case. In Bangladeshi judicial practice, the judges can sometimes feel embarrassed to entertain cases demanding a fair and impartial dispensation of justice, especially if any party in the case is personally known, directly or indirectly, or if they fear they will be threatened or intimidated. Alam's counsels appealed to the High Court who directed the lower court concerned with the case to dispose of the plea by Tuesday.

Arrested for expressing his views

Alam was arrested in August after covering the student protests against ineffective traffic laws in Bangladesh on his Facebook and Twitter accounts and discussed the protests on Facebook Live.

Thousands of secondary school students in the capital city of Dhaka took to the streets on July 29 in sustained protests lasing more than a week, demanding improved road safety and rule enforcement after two of their classmates were killed due to reckless driving by a public bus.

Alongside his social media coverage of the protests, Alam gave a television interview with Al Jazeera where he talked about the recent situation in Bangladesh and criticized the government.

Global outcry, artful protest

A number of international agencies, Nobel laureates, photography professionals, journalists and human rights organizations have urged the Bangladesh government to release Alam.

Indian writer Arundhati Roy, American linguist Noam Chomsky, Canadian author Naomi Klein, American playwright Eve Ensler and Indian journalist Vijay Prasad have issued their second statement to the Bangladesh government to drop charges against Alam.

Amnesty International has declared Shahidul Alam as Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.

In Bangladesh, numerous protests and solidarity rallies have been organized in the past weeks to demand the unconditional release of Shahidul Alam and other detained protesters.

On September 4, the Drik Gallery hosted an exhibition of selected photos of Alam titled “A Struggle for Democracy” to highlight his struggles and honor the fact that he founded the picture gallery 29 years ago.

Alam is also the founder of the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, a school of photography and multimedia journalism, and the Chobi Mela, a biannual International Festival of Photography.

On Sunday, September 9, a public gathering titled “Let democracy be free” was held at Shahbag Square in Dhaka to protest Alam's imprisonment along with several other students. Some of the images can found in this Instagram post:

Participants used art and performance to express their grievances.

One woman wore a paper bag which read “We are not supposed to have heads” and “we don't have tongues, words”. Another protestor sang and played guitar while wearing a makeshift cage. In front of the cage, a helmet and hammer were placed, signifying the pro-government vigilantes wearing helmets who attacked the student protestors using hammers.

A duct-taped camera was displayed along with a banner beside it that read “Let Democracy Be Free”.

“Let Democracy be free”. An innovative protest in Shahbag Square in Dhaka, demanding the release of Shahidul Alam. Image by Pranabesh Das, used with permission.

Worldwide solidarity

Protests in solidarity have been also arranged abroad in cities like London, New York, and Washington DC:

Instagram's visual protests

Alam's niece, London-based Sofie Karim, activated the visual power of Instagram to protest her uncle's detention:

View this post on Instagram

My uncle loves the world and the world loves him. Friends at @visapourlimage International photojournalism festival (France), NY, Washington DC and London – thank you so much. Love and truth beat torture and repression. Break the dark machinery of paranoia with your light. #freeshahidulalam – For my incarcerated uncle @shahidul001, prisoner of conscience. Link to petition in my bio. Please share this post freely. @hansulrichobrist @tate @liverpoolbiennial @whitechapelgallery @alessio_antoniolli @annemcneill215 @impgalleryphoto @icp @thephotographersgallery @bobandrobertasmith @fionabradleyxx @francesmarymorris @cammockhelen @joe_scotland @johnakomfrah @ikongallery @lubainapics @mahtabhussain @martinparrstudio @martinparrfdn @aceagrams @polly.staple @nicholascullinan @rachelwords @ranabegumstudio @autographabp @nadavkander @mack_books @loubuck01 @theartnewspaper.official @artnet @guardian @thetimes @jamesestrin

A post shared by SOFIAKARIM (@_sofiakarim_) on

View this post on Instagram

Arrow Through the Heart of Bangladesh Art: Screenshot of article in today’s The Art Newspaper @theartnewspaper.official with my imprisoned uncle’s @shahidul001 punjabi shirt trim. Artist friends please read this important article. @shahidul001 is one of Bangladesh’s leading art and humanitarian activism figures, with international reach. His (and hundreds of others’) treatment by the state of Bangladesh, changes everything for the art scene there. The state wants silence, but forcibly mute art has little credibility. @theartnewspaper.official @nytimes @washingtonpost @time @thetimes @financialtimes @skynews @guardian @itvnews @bbc @channel4 @cnn @dhakatribune @newage_bd2011 @dhakaartsummit @dailystarbd @bdnews24.comm @unitednewsofbangladesh@indiartfair @kochibiennale @kochibiennalefoundation @the_hindu @indianexpress @kathmandupost.official @lemondefr @indiaartfair @india.today @amnesty @peninternational @tatemodern_official @themuseumofmodernart @thephotographersgallery @photographmag @royalphotographicsociety @commonwealthinstitute @autographabp #freeshahidulalam #censorship #bangladesh #bangladeshprotest #asianart #contemporaryart #photography #royalphotographicsociety #blackphotography

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‘Tell Someone’ (for my incarcerated uncle, photographer @shahidul001). When I was a child my uncle taught me: “if someone does anything bad to you, the best thing is to tell as many people as possible straight away. Don’t hide it, fearing others may not believe you. It won’t go away. Your best protection is to let people know and tell the perpetrator you are letting people know. But be transparent. Say what you say in front of everyone, including the perpetrator”. When he shouted that statement about his blood stained punjabi in those few moments he had, in front of the police, in front of the world, I knew he was applying that theory. He told the world and he let the perpetrator know that he told the world. (My son’s painting of the Bangladesh flag, on my aunt Rahnuma Ahmed’s sari). #freeshahidulalam @theartnewspaper.official @nytimes @washingtonpost @time @thetimes @financialtimes @skynews @guardian @itvnews @bbc @channel4 @cnn @dhakatribune @newage_bd2011 @dhakaartsummit @dailystarbd @bdnews24.comm @unitednewsofbangladesh@indiartfair @kochibiennale @kochibiennalefoundation @the_hindu @indianexpress @kathmandupost.official @lemondefr @indiaartfair @india.today @amnesty @peninternational @tatemodern_official @themuseumofmodernart @thephotographersgallery @photographmag @royalphotographicsociety @commonwealthinstitute @autographabp #freeshahidulalam #censorship #bangladesh #bangladeshprotest #asianart #contemporaryart #childrensart #photography #royalphotographicsociety #blackphotography#humanrights #prisonerofconscience

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More protest art is available through Karim's Instagram account and her interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

London-based Bangladeshi legal consultant Dr. Rayhan Rashid expressed his reactions about the denial of Alam's bail on Facebook:

‪Disgraceful cowardice on the part of the judiciary and the ruling Awami League government in Bangladesh! When a regime is governed by nothing but fear, it is often a sign that the regime might have lost its plot. Weaponising fear as a tool to govern citizens, or trying to act tough – do not hide who are the afraid ones here!

A nationwide demonstration has been called for by student organizations on September 17 if Shahidul Alam and other student leaders are not released.

by GV South Asia at September 15, 2018 02:50 AM

September 14, 2018

Global Voices
Netizen Report: Internet taxes are sweeping sub-Saharan Africa — and silencing citizens

June 2018 Women’s Protest Working Group march in Kampala, Uganda. Photo by Katumba Badru, used with permission.

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

In the wake of Tanzania’s “blogger tax” and the social media tax recently implemented in Uganda, Zambia’s cabinet approved a similarly-styled tax social media users and internet-based communication platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber and the like in mid-August.

The government of Benin also approved a similar tax amendment that targets standard telephony-based mobile messaging and calls, and then puts an additional tax on the use of internet-based communication apps.

The focus on these applications raises a long-standing issue that many governments have taken with internet-based communication applications, such as WhatsApp, which are free of charge for any person with internet access. Government actors have long voiced concern about revenue losses for national telecom operators who were once the primary providers (and cost beneficiaries) of these services.

But at this stage in the development of the telecommunications sector in much of sub-Saharan Africa, tools like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are key platforms for the distribution of community information, news, and public alerts during emergencies. Making them more expensive may drastically reduce citizens’ ability to communicate with one another.

Zambia’s new tax was approved despite opposition from various sectors, including the country’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who anticipated the tax creating major strains on businesses.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Zambia chapter released a statement of concern on the matter, in collaboration with Blogger of Zambia, a national collective. They wrote:

This is a form of double and punitive taxation and taxing individual users in lieu of the social media companies that actually make money. We are concerned about this proposal because it falls within a pattern of government clampdown on online expression as we have noted of late.
[…]
Why should we make this expensive in the midst of already over-taxed residents, coupled with high poverty levels?

Quartz Africa also pointed out that mobile internet use has dropped in Zambia, from 6.1 million to 5.2 million in 2017, suggesting that the cost of connecting has become too high. With the new tax coming into effect, these numbers may fall once more.

Myanmar military sets up shop on Russia’s VKontakte

After Facebook banned a total of 18 accounts and 52 pages related to Myanmar's military in late August, in tandem with United Nations findings that the military had promoted ethnic violence against Rohingya people, the office of the Myanmar Military Chief swiftly created a new account on Russian social media site VKontakte (VK), and several other military officers followed suit.

As of September 14, the account had 37,000 followers. Time will tell whether this transition will allow the military to rebuild its online presence on VK. Similar to Facebook, the platform prohibits content that “propagandizes and/or contributes to racial, religious, ethnic hatred or hostility, propagandizes fascism or racial superiority.”

Chinese women arrested for warning friends of flood-related health risks

Two WeChat users in China’s Shandong province were arrested on August 25, 2018 for spreading “rumors” about the spread of disease in livestock, triggered by record-level flooding in Shandong. The users had both posted messages warning friends and family to be careful of disease, which has spread due to flooding from Typhoon Rumbia. In China, any piece of information that does not come from official government channels can be considered a rumor.

Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Shawkan to be released from prison

Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Shawkan, who was sentenced to five years in prison for covering police abuses of protesters in 2013, will soon walk free. Shawkan's verdict was part of a mass trial that included 739 people charged after the violent dispersal of a protest camp in support of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. During the same trial, 75 prominent members and affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death.

Google obliges Russia’s demands to censor activists

One day before a major rally against an unpopular pension reform was planned in Russia, Google informed the rally organizers, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, that it was taking down their YouTube videos promoting the rally, citing violation of Russian election laws. Legal experts say that this is a questionable interpretation of the law. Leonid Volkov, a former campaign manager of opposition activist and former Moscow mayoral candidate Alexey Navalny, warned against the company's unquestioning compliance with censorship demands from repressive governments.

What if the new European Union copyright directive gives tech companies even more power?

The European Parliament approved a Copyright Directive that will likely have major implications for online free speech. The directive includes a so-called “link tax” that will allow publishers to collect a fee from major platforms like Google when listing links to their publications or papers. The directive will also require user-generated content platforms like YouTube to assess the ownership of a piece of content — whether it be video, audio, text or image — before a user can successfully upload the file. In a critique of the measures for The Guardian, James Ball argued that rather than taking power away from major internet platforms, they will do the opposite:

“…building these pre-filters will be time-consuming and expensive – meaning that they will serve to entrench existing social networks in their positions of power and make it harder for new competitors – perhaps with better business models not based on data harvesting – to appear.”

India decriminalized gay sex — this could help privacy rights

India’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a 157-year-old law that criminalized homosexual sex was unconstitutional and struck the law down. The court’s decision could set a strong precedent for defending a variety of privacy rights, especially online. Commenting on the judgement, APC Women’s Program director Jac sm Kee said: “The work of concretising the right to privacy and its critical link to the right to autonomy, life and dignity is an important recognition of this fundamental right in an age of increasing digital surveillance and intrusion into the embodied, private and public lives of individuals by states, corporations and other parties.”

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Advox at September 14, 2018 06:10 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Internet taxes are sweeping sub-Saharan Africa — and silencing citizens

June 2018 Women’s Protest Working Group march in Kampala, Uganda. Photo by Katumba Badru, used with permission.

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

In the wake of Tanzania’s “blogger tax” and the social media tax recently implemented in Uganda, Zambia’s cabinet approved a similarly-styled tax social media users and internet-based communication platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber and the like in mid-August.

The government of Benin also approved a similar tax amendment that targets standard telephony-based mobile messaging and calls, and then puts an additional tax on the use of internet-based communication apps.

The focus on these applications raises a long-standing issue that many governments have taken with internet-based communication applications, such as WhatsApp, which are free of charge for any person with internet access. Government actors have long voiced concern about revenue losses for national telecom operators who were once the primary providers (and cost beneficiaries) of these services.

But at this stage in the development of the telecommunications sector in much of sub-Saharan Africa, tools like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are key platforms for the distribution of community information, news, and public alerts during emergencies. Making them more expensive may drastically reduce citizens’ ability to communicate with one another.

Zambia’s new tax was approved despite opposition from various sectors, including the country’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who anticipated the tax creating major strains on businesses.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Zambia chapter released a statement of concern on the matter, in collaboration with Blogger of Zambia, a national collective. They wrote:

This is a form of double and punitive taxation and taxing individual users in lieu of the social media companies that actually make money. We are concerned about this proposal because it falls within a pattern of government clampdown on online expression as we have noted of late.
[…]
Why should we make this expensive in the midst of already over-taxed residents, coupled with high poverty levels?

Quartz Africa also pointed out that mobile internet use has dropped in Zambia, from 6.1 million to 5.2 million in 2017, suggesting that the cost of connecting has become too high. With the new tax coming into effect, these numbers may fall once more.

Myanmar military sets up shop on Russia’s VKontakte

After Facebook banned a total of 18 accounts and 52 pages related to Myanmar's military in late August, in tandem with United Nations findings that the military had promoted ethnic violence against Rohingya people, the office of the Myanmar Military Chief swiftly created a new account on Russian social media site VKontakte (VK), and several other military officers followed suit.

As of September 14, the account had 37,000 followers. Time will tell whether this transition will allow the military to rebuild its online presence on VK. Similar to Facebook, the platform prohibits content that “propagandizes and/or contributes to racial, religious, ethnic hatred or hostility, propagandizes fascism or racial superiority.”

Chinese women arrested for warning friends of flood-related health risks

Two WeChat users in China’s Shandong province were arrested on August 25, 2018 for spreading “rumors” about the spread of disease in livestock, triggered by record-level flooding in Shandong. The users had both posted messages warning friends and family to be careful of disease, which has spread due to flooding from Typhoon Rumbia. In China, any piece of information that does not come from official government channels can be considered a rumor.

Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Shawkan to be released from prison

Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Shawkan, who was sentenced to five years in prison for covering police abuses of protesters in 2013, will soon walk free. Shawkan's verdict was part of a mass trial that included 739 people charged after the violent dispersal of a protest camp in support of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. During the same trial, 75 prominent members and affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death.

Google obliges Russia’s demands to censor activists

One day before a major rally against an unpopular pension reform was planned in Russia, Google informed the rally organizers, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, that it was taking down their YouTube videos promoting the rally, citing violation of Russian election laws. Legal experts say that this is a questionable interpretation of the law. Leonid Volkov, a former campaign manager of opposition activist and former Moscow mayoral candidate Alexey Navalny, warned against the company's unquestioning compliance with censorship demands from repressive governments.

What if the new European Union copyright directive gives tech companies even more power?

The European Parliament approved a Copyright Directive that will likely have major implications for online free speech. The directive includes a so-called “link tax” that will allow publishers to collect a fee from major platforms like Google when listing links to their publications or papers. The directive will also require user-generated content platforms like YouTube to assess the ownership of a piece of content — whether it be video, audio, text or image — before a user can successfully upload the file. In a critique of the measures for The Guardian, James Ball argued that rather than taking power away from major internet platforms, they will do the opposite:

“…building these pre-filters will be time-consuming and expensive – meaning that they will serve to entrench existing social networks in their positions of power and make it harder for new competitors – perhaps with better business models not based on data harvesting – to appear.”

India decriminalized gay sex — this could help privacy rights

India’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a 157-year-old law that criminalized homosexual sex was unconstitutional and struck the law down. The court’s decision could set a strong precedent for defending a variety of privacy rights, especially online. Commenting on the judgement, APC Women’s Program director Jac sm Kee said: “The work of concretising the right to privacy and its critical link to the right to autonomy, life and dignity is an important recognition of this fundamental right in an age of increasing digital surveillance and intrusion into the embodied, private and public lives of individuals by states, corporations and other parties.”

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Netizen Report Team at September 14, 2018 06:06 PM

Global Voices
Indigenous telecommunications network in Mexico to provide telephone and internet services via satellite

Screenshot of the official Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias website (Indigenous Community Telecommunications).

After months of fighting a legal battle that threatened its very existence, Mexico's first indigenous telecommunications network has unveiled plans to provide mobile phone and internet via satellite.

Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias A.C (TIC AC) began offering mobile phone and internet services at a mere 2 percent of the average cost of commercial providers to 356 small towns in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz in 2013.

While their service initially relied on community-fundedm land-based towers, the indigenous telco will soon start providing satellite-based services, which will allow it to significantly expand their coverage.

The plans were announced on August 17 by Redes por la Diversidad, Equidad y Sustentabilidad AC (Networks for Diversity, Equity and Sustainability), an organization that is part of TIC AC:

Indigenous Community Telecommunications (TIC AC) will expand its coverage via satellite capacity to provide mobile phone and Internet services in difficult to reach areas. https://t.co/29lRb7KdY4

— Redes AC México (@redesac_mx) 17 August 2018

In an interview for the Mexican newspaper Reforma, the Deputy Co-ordinator General of Networks for Diversity, Equity and Sustainability AC, and one of the main legal advisors of TIC, Erick Huerta, indicated that this will be made possible through a soon-to-be signed agreement between TICand the Mexican government:

Firmaremos un convenio con la SCT [Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes] que nos va a permitir hacer una alianza para aprovechar la capacidad satelital del Estado mexicano y con esa capacidad vamos a poder llegar a comunidades donde no había manera de llevar internet. Vamos a llegar a través de satélite y fortalecer la calidad de los servicios actuales.

We will sign an agreement with the SCT [Secretariat of Communications and Transportation], which will allow us to form a partnership to make use of the satellite capacity of the Mexican State and with this capacity we are going to be able to reach communities where there has been no way of having Internet. We are going to reach them via satellite and strengthen the quality of our current services.

Because satellite technology does not rely on the installation of cables or phone lines, as occurs with fixed and mobile broadband, it is a viable and effective alternative when providing network connectivity in remote areas where there is no infrastructure. By simply installing a satellite dish that connects to a satellite, data can then be sent and received.

This is the year's second milestone for TIC AC, who has endured a legal battle against Mexico's telecommunications regulator after it demanded that it pay 50,000 dollars for use of the radio-electric space. The case ended up in court and in May a landmark ruling instructed the regulator to reconsider the fee on the grounds of protection indigenous people’s right to freedom of expression.

by Laura Dunne at September 14, 2018 01:59 PM

Marketplace Tech Report

September 13, 2018

Rising Voices
‘Bien Chabacano’ blog preserves and promotes Asia's only Spanish-based creole language

Zamboanga City Hall in the Philippines. Flickr photo by JC Tuclaud (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Chabacano, one of the Philippines’ 170 languages, is widely spoken in the southernmost city of Zamboanga and stands out as Asia's only Spanish-based creole language. To preserve and promote Chabacano, ‘Bien Chabacano’ blog was created as an online resource for Filipinos and non-Filipinos interested in learning the language:

It's all about the Chabacano de Zamboanga. Bien Chabacano is the first and only blog designed for Chabacano language enthusiasts which discusses and analyzes Chabacano word origins, Chabacano grammar, and vocabulary, and so much more!

Jerome Herrera, the ‘Bien Chabacano’ blog creator, explains his inspiration for initiating the project:

Bien Chabacano seeks to instill pride and improve proficiency in the Chabacano language among the young Chabacano speakers by talking about its rich and colorful history and demystifying its grammar's many intricacies and nuances.

As a creole language, Chabanaco is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous languages that evolved from a history of colonial interactions between Spain and the Philippines. It is estimated that there are more than 600,000 Chabacano speakers in the country today.

The Philippines was a colony of Spain for more than three centuries from 1565 to 1898. But unlike other former colonies of Spain, the Spanish language was not taught in the Philippines. Instead, Spanish friars and officials introduced Christianity and ruled the country by studying the Phillippines’ indigenous languages.

Spain subjugated the entire Philippine archipelago but encountered fierce resistance among some indigenous groups. In the southern island of Mindanao which used to have a Muslim-majority population, Spanish troops established a garrison in nearby Zamboanga that was subsequently used as a base to attack Mindanao's Muslim settlements. However, Spain never completely established control over Mindanao throughout its colonial occupation of the Philippines.

The city of Zamboanga health office featuring its slogan: “Nuestro deseo un ciudad sin enfermedad” (Our desire is a city free of illnesses). Photo and caption from Bien Chabacano, used with permission.

Professor John M. Lipski of Pennsylvania State University in the United States studied the colorful history of Chabacano and its origins in Zamboanga:

Chabacano is the product of a rich cross-fertilization that could only have occurred in a region in which both great linguistic diversity and considerable overlapping areal features predominated. Chabacano is a manifestation of linguistic and cultural resilience, a language which continues to grow in number of speakers and sociopolitical impact.

The blog ‘Bien Chabacano’ teaches readers basic words and phrases in Chabacano. It features popular songs and short stories, and even a Chabacano translation of the Little Prince book. Here is the Chabacano translation of the first paragraph of the Little Prince. Notice its similarity with the Spanish language:

Una vez, cuando seis años lang yo, tiene yo un libro acerca del vida de maga animal na monte cuando no hay pa alla tanto gente. Maga Experiencia De Mio el nombre del libro y ya puede yo alla mira un bien bonito retrato. Un retrato aquel de un grande culebra quien ta traga un animal. Taqui el copia de aquel retrato.

Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book called True Stories from Nature about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.

Image of a Zamboanga City bookstore advert written in Chabacano which roughly translates to: “The perfect place for you is appearing soon.” Photo and caption from Bien Chabacano, used with permission.

The blog directs readers to websites and social media pages where Chabacano is being used such as radio programs, television news reports, and government announcements.

The blog provides a brief background on the history of Chabacano, its different accents across the Zamboanga province, and the impact of migration and a modernizing economy on its development. It also laments a lack of concerted efforts to promote Chabacano:

The state of Chabacano today is lamentable. Let me sound the alarm bells as early as now! Unless more aggressive preservation efforts will be implemented, the day will come when Chabacano will only be spoken inside the home. This prediction is bleak but it is not without merit.

Through online platforms like ‘Bien Chabacano’, it is hoped that it will spark more enthusiasm in the Philippines and inspire students and netizens to learn, embrace, and continue to develop the Chabacano language.

by Eddie Avila at September 13, 2018 08:49 PM

Global Voices
Japan’s vending machines strike again—this time with pizza and crepes
vending machines in japan

Vending machines in Honmachi entertainment district, Tsuruga, Japan. Photo by Nevin Thompson.

Japanese vending machines have long been famous for selling the most curious things, like flowers, umbrellas, and ties. But even with one vending machine for every 23 people and annual sales that exceed $60 billion, one can still be surprised at what comes out of their take-out port.

User senegirl on Japanese curation site Naver Matome tells the story of three unique food vending machines found in three separate cities that have captived Twitter.

A first in Japan? Seems that way… It's a fresh-baked pizza vending Machine! (ha ha) I bet there's an old guy inside making them.

In the city of Hiroshima, residents have been abuzz over the appearance of a pizza vending machine located near local hangout TSUTAYA, part of a national chain of bookstores in Japan. The vending machine serves up two kinds of pizza: margherita (basil, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce) for about US$ 10 and four-cheese for about US$ 13 with a cooking time of just three minutes. TSUTAYA's parent company, which is behind the vending machines, hopes to eventually have other such machines at bookstores across Japan.

In the meantime, locals are pleasantly surprised by just how tasty machine-baked pizza can be.

The first of its kind in Japan! A fresh baked pizza vending machine. (^^)

It's near my job so I thought I'd go and try it. Here it is with my Lemonsco. I didn't have time to get it, but next time I'll give it a go! (*'▽'*)

Meanwhile, in Inashiki, a city located in the Ibaraki prefecture, about an hour by train northeast of Tokyo, one restaurant was found to have fully-functioning antique vending machines from the 1960s.

Along side the national highway at an old auto stop stands an old, nostalgic vending machine where you can buy bento boxes. For 300 yen (US$3.00), you can purchase a bento made by nearby store.

For 300 yen, travelers can purchase a simple meat-and-rice bento box with chopsticks. There are three types to choose from: fried chicken, pork cutlet, and grilled meat, with the last being the most popular choice.

The famous grilled meat bento machine featured on TV.

Finally, hidden in the city of Kagoshima, on the southwestern tip of the island of Kyushu, lies a fresh crepe vending machine. It's located in Kagoshima's Tenmonkan shopping district, hidden near a bus stop and reportedly difficult to find.

Those lucky enough to find this most unusual of vending machines are treated to tasty crepes at the cost of 200 yen (about US$ 2).

Kagoshima's hidden gem: a crepe vending machine!

The vending machine serves a variety of flavors of crepe, including chocolate cream, caramel, strawberry cream, and cheese. The crepes are delivered in a glass bottle, which customers are asked to return after they are done.

With this machine being a one-of-a-kind favorite, some users are wondering if other cities also have one of their own:

“This crepe vending machine is in Kagoshima, but does anyone else have one in their prefecture?”

“No, we don't. You're so lucky…”

by N'Donna Russell at September 13, 2018 07:57 PM

‘Bien Chabacano’ blog preserves and promotes Asia's only Spanish-based creole language

Zamboanga City Hall in the Philippines. Flickr photo by JC Tuclaud (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Chabacano, one of the Philippines’ 170 languages, is widely spoken in the southernmost city of Zamboanga and stands out as Asia's only Spanish-based creole language. To preserve and promote Chabacano, ‘Bien Chabacano’ blog was created as an online resource for Filipinos and non-Filipinos interested in learning the language:

It's all about the Chabacano de Zamboanga. Bien Chabacano is the first and only blog designed for Chabacano language enthusiasts which discusses and analyzes Chabacano word origins, Chabacano grammar, and vocabulary, and so much more!

Jerome Herrera, the ‘Bien Chabacano’ blog creator, explains his inspiration for initiating the project:

Bien Chabacano seeks to instill pride and improve proficiency in the Chabacano language among the young Chabacano speakers by talking about its rich and colorful history and demystifying its grammar's many intricacies and nuances.

As a creole language, Chabanaco is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous languages that evolved from a history of colonial interactions between Spain and the Philippines. It is estimated that there are more than 600,000 Chabacano speakers in the country today.

The Philippines was a colony of Spain for more than three centuries from 1565 to 1898. But unlike other former colonies of Spain, the Spanish language was not taught in the Philippines. Instead, Spanish friars and officials introduced Christianity and ruled the country by studying the Phillippines’ indigenous languages.

Spain subjugated the entire Philippine archipelago but encountered fierce resistance among some indigenous groups. In the southern island of Mindanao which used to have a Muslim-majority population, Spanish troops established a garrison in nearby Zamboanga that was subsequently used as a base to attack Mindanao's Muslim settlements. However, Spain never completely established control over Mindanao throughout its colonial occupation of the Philippines.

The city of Zamboanga health office featuring its slogan: “Nuestro deseo un ciudad sin enfermedad” (Our desire is a city free of illnesses). Photo and caption from Bien Chabacano, used with permission.

Professor John M. Lipski of Pennsylvania State University in the United States studied the colorful history of Chabacano and its origins in Zamboanga:

Chabacano is the product of a rich cross-fertilization that could only have occurred in a region in which both great linguistic diversity and considerable overlapping areal features predominated. Chabacano is a manifestation of linguistic and cultural resilience, a language which continues to grow in number of speakers and sociopolitical impact.

The blog ‘Bien Chabacano’ teaches readers basic words and phrases in Chabacano. It features popular songs and short stories, and even a Chabacano translation of the Little Prince book. Here is the Chabacano translation of the first paragraph of the Little Prince. Notice its similarity with the Spanish language:

Una vez, cuando seis años lang yo, tiene yo un libro acerca del vida de maga animal na monte cuando no hay pa alla tanto gente. Maga Experiencia De Mio el nombre del libro y ya puede yo alla mira un bien bonito retrato. Un retrato aquel de un grande culebra quien ta traga un animal. Taqui el copia de aquel retrato.

Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book called True Stories from Nature about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.

Image of a Zamboanga City bookstore advert written in Chabacano which roughly translates to: “The perfect place for you is appearing soon.” Photo and caption from Bien Chabacano, used with permission.

The blog directs readers to websites and social media pages where Chabacano is being used such as radio programs, television news reports, and government announcements.

The blog provides a brief background on the history of Chabacano, its different accents across the Zamboanga province, and the impact of migration and a modernizing economy on its development. It also laments a lack of concerted efforts to promote Chabacano:

The state of Chabacano today is lamentable. Let me sound the alarm bells as early as now! Unless more aggressive preservation efforts will be implemented, the day will come when Chabacano will only be spoken inside the home. This prediction is bleak but it is not without merit.

Through online platforms like ‘Bien Chabacano’, it is hoped that it will spark more enthusiasm in the Philippines and inspire students and netizens to learn, embrace, and continue to develop the Chabacano language.

by Mong Palatino at September 13, 2018 03:10 PM

Meet Ujwol Dangol, founder of Kathmandu's first skate park

Ktm Skate Park in Kathmandu's Valley. Image from the Skate Park's Facebook page. Used with permission.

Amid the cramped buildings that dot the banks of Bishnumati River, a group of kids gathers to hone their skills at a sport still largely frowned upon by Nepalese society: skate.

It is in this small, concrete-lined plot of land that lies “Ktm Skate Park”, Kathmandu's first-ever skatepark. Running the show is Ujwol Dangol, a local skater who first jumped on the board when he was around 14 and since then has never looked back. In June 2018, he spoke to Global Voices about his projects and plans for the future.

Ujwol first felt inspired to open a skatepark in the Kathmandu Valley in 2014 after returning from a trip to Bangkok, where the skate scene has thrived for much longer. He first opened up a skate shop, then began collecting the ramps and materials for the park as well as working towards securing a location to build it. It all finally came true in 2016.

And here's a photo of Ujwol with his board:

Ujwol is now a central figure in the skateboarding scene in Nepal, where the sport has been slowly taking off. Despite its growing popularity around the world — even set to debut in the summer Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo –, in Nepal, it is still somewhat associated with drugs and criminality.

But Ujwol doesn't let that discourage him: besides organizing classes in schools, he also runs events to help popularize the sport around the country. Eventually, he would like to see skating a widely accepted sport in schools.

In 2016, he took two skaters to compete at the Asian Skateboarding Championship in Shanghai, China, and this year was the manager of the skateboarding team at the Asian Games in Jakarta (unfortunately neither competition produced any medals for Nepal).

Amid the skaters who frequent Ujwol's skatepark is Jitendra, whose disability doesn't get in the way of his passion.

Ujwol frequently uses social media to showcase other skaters in the park:

The Ktm Skate Park seems to be fuelling a skateboarding craze in Nepal, with some other skateparks popping up in different parts of the country — the Annapurna Skate Park in Pokhara is the latest addition to the list.

by Sanjib Chaudhary at September 13, 2018 01:54 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
When Hollywood producers need to get the future right, they call a futurist
We are still at least 15 years away from the first human mission to Mars — that’s at the earliest. But that hasn't stopped Hollywood from skipping ahead to the future. Hulu, the online streaming service, is out with a new series Friday called "The First." It's set in the 2030s, and as the name implies, it imagines what that first mission might be like. In addition to getting the astrophysics right, the show producers had to get the future right. And for that they called a futurist. Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, usually helps businesses with strategy. But from time to time, she consults on films or shows set in the future. One of the questions she had to answer on “The First”: Will smartphones still be around in 15 years? She talks about it with Molly Wood. (09/13/18)

by Marketplace at September 13, 2018 10:37 AM

Global Voices
As online spaces for sexual harassment proliferate, Hong Kong authorities struggle to keep up

Photo from Hong Kong Free Press. Used with permission.

This article is originally written by Jennifer Creery and published on Hong Kong Free Press on September 8, 2018. The version below is republished on Global Voices according to a content partnership agreement.

It was a slew of messages on a Telegram group of 10,000 users, which shared explicit images of women without their consent, that led activist Emilia Wong to take action.

Wong is an online activist who runs a “Gender blog,” where she publishes essays on bodily autonomy. After six months of quietly watching the Telegram group, she put up a series of damning screenshots on her platform. What resulted was a media furore that triggered an intense debate over the legal protections afforded to victims of smartphone-related sex crimes.

The Telegram group, “Street Shooting Valley @callginhk”, had been operating on the messaging app for over a year, and had amassed a loyal following of voyeurs who posted over 100 new explicit photos a day. Their name is a reference to the practice of taking surreptitious upskirt photos of women in the street and sharing them online. But their images also include leaked nudes and some, Wong thinks, of underage girls. She said:

Their values are really twisted…They treat women as extremely sexual objects. They think that a woman’s worth is solely invested in her sexuality and how appealing she is to men.

Under Section 161 of the Crimes Ordinance, a person who is convicted of “access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent,” (smartphones included) is liable to five years’ imprisonment. However, prosecutions have been put on hold until the court of final appeal clarifies the law over a disputed case next year.

The delay was applauded by users of @callginhk, according to Amy (not her real name), who joined the group after being upskirted in July. She explained:

I was on the MTR and a man tried to follow me, like a detective…He was obviously taking photos of me, because his phone was at his stomach or knee area, in quite a low position… I was frightened and thought he might have mental problems.

Afterwards, Amy’s friend told her that the images might be on a rumoured group for voyeurs on Telegram — an app that had become popular in the community for its secure encryption. Amy got the name of the group from her friend and joined in:

When I entered, there were so many members…I was shocked and afraid because I thought Hong Kong was a safe space, but now I doubt its safety.

A representative from women’s rights social media platform, The Asian Feminist, told HKFP that poor legal protection of women in the city leaves them vulnerable:

Hong Kong generally has lagged behind in tackling violence against women, from domestic violence to upskirting. There is currently no law specifically to tackle upskirting, and from what we read from media reports about the crime, the punishment tends to be light, like the 18-month probation given to a doctor who took upskirting photos of hospital patients.

Those found taking indecent photos are currently prosecuted under a range of laws, including “Disorder in Public Places” and “Loitering.” However, a representative from the anti-sexual violence support group Rainlily told HKFP that these laws fail to criminalise the sexual nature of the offence.

‘They think they are heroes’

The @callginhk screenshots paint an unforgiving portrait of the users — narcissistic, entitled and crass. Wong shared her observation:

They think they are heroes…If a woman is not physically attractive to them, then she is basically worthless. They only treat them as pieces of meat, It’s quite degrading.

She said users will proclaim that it is a woman’s honour to have their pictures taken by them as it shows their appreciation of her.

Wong herself is a bodily autonomy advocate, posting non-explicit nudes to a small group online:

I would post more revealing pictures and say that women have the right to wear what they want and still be respected.

But in a world of ubiquitous communication, word (or images) travels fast, and soon her pictures found their way to the Telegram group, where users lambasted her appearance: “Let’s all report the fat c**t’s posts,” user Thomas Chan urged, while another, Kit Hey, declared “There are probably thousands of people who hate the fat c**t.” One user on Facebook speculated that she was a part-time prostitute.

Her activism has led to a torrent of online abuse, including death threats and emails to her teachers and employers. This hasn’t shaken her resolve. She said that she plans on setting up an online system to report abuse and offending users:

It’s like a balancing strategy, to make them feel like they are not as safe in those groups.

Easy technology

On Taobao, a popular Alibaba-owned shopping website, spy cameras disguised as pens and car keys sell for as little as HK$160. There are no restrictions on who can buy them, making them an easy tool for upskirting offenders. Wong said:

In [@callginhk] they have discussed how to take these pictures better. They talk about the cameras that are hidden in glasses, in your specs, in zippers, in shoes…They ask whether anyone has bought these cameras, and are these cameras usable…From some of the pictures, you can see that the angle is really weird, as if there’s a camera in someone’s shoes, because it’s impossible for the angle to be that low if you’re holding a normal camera or your phone – so I think someone has bought it and is using it in Hong Kong now

One issue facing authorities tackling online sexual harassment is the rapid turnover of groups like @callginhk. As soon as one is discovered, it’s quickly deleted and replaced by another under a different name. “Telegram is the most severe platform right now because of how safe the perpetrator feels,” Wong said.

Wong said that her efforts to report the group to police were swept aside:

I have contacted the police, but I think their actions are rather slow… only after these things were exposed to the media that they really did their follow-up. Before, they didn’t really reply [to] me…I don’t think the police can really adjust to the fast-changing environment of social media and the internet era.

In a statement to HKFP, the police have said that they are investigating the incident:

The Police remind the public that the cyber world of the internet is not a virtual space beyond the law. Under the laws of Hong Kong, most of the ordinances stipulated in the real world may also apply for the cyber world.

Telegram has not responded to multiple requests for comment from HKFP. @callginhk no longer operates as it did before – administrators have now banned nude content and upskirt photos, but users can still access dozens of links to groups for pornography and prostitutes. With a wealth of other groups to browse from, there appears to be no clear end in sight.

by Hong Kong Free Press at September 13, 2018 05:49 AM

September 12, 2018

Creative Commons
With the European Parliament vote on the copyright directive, the internet lost – for now
© European Union 2018 – European Parliament, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Today the European Parliament voted 438-226 (with 39 abstentions) to approve drastic changes to copyright law that, if ultimately enacted, would negatively affect creativity, freedom of expression, research, and sharing across the EU.

The Parliament voted in favor of almost all provisions that extend more rights to the establishment copyright industries while failing to protect users and new creators online.

The Parliament voted in favor of Article 13, which will essentially force online platforms to install expensive content filters to police user uploads and remove content if there’s any whiff of unauthorized sharing of copyrighted materials. The rule covers all types of content, from music to video to images. If platforms don’t take action, they assume liability for what their uses publish online. Upload filters will limit freedom of expression, as the technologies can’t tell the difference between copyright infringement and permitted uses of copyrighted works, such as memes shared as parody, or the incidental capture of an advertisement in the background of a selfie.

They approved Article 11, which provides extra copyright-like rights to press publishers. Article 11 would force news aggregators to pay publishers for linking to their stories. The rule covers links and snippet over a single word. The Parliament’s vote also included giveaways to other groups, such as a new right for sporting event producers to lock down the sharing of fan photography and short videos at sporting events.

The Parliament refused to make much needed changes to the text that would help ensure that Europe can remain a relevant player for research and innovation. It approved only a limited copyright exception for text and data mining that restricts its use only for approved non-profit research organisations, instead of providing a blanket exception supported by libraries, research organisations, and the EU startup community that would make “the right to read is the right to mine.” As a result, investment and innovation in this space will move to outside of Europe where there’s a more conducive legal environment for text and data mining, such as the United States.

Not only does the plan approved by the Parliament fail to produce benefits for its intended frame, the digital single market, it also does almost nothing to protect user rights, improve the ability to share remixes and other user-generated content (UGC), or protect the public domain. The commonsense amendments in support of UGC, freedom of panorama, and calling for support of the public domain were all voted down.

Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, appeared on BBC Radio this afternoon for an interview on the copyright directive vote. He reiterated that artists should be able to receive fair and appropriate compensation for their work, and that Creative Commons was formed in order to provide alternative choices for creators in how they share creativity online. But he said that most of the provisions passed in today’s EU Parliament vote only benefited major rights holders like TV networks or music labels:

If you’re a regular person or an independent artist who needs the internet for your every day life or for work or for fun, if you’re somebody who reads articles online or makes your own music or has an idea for a startup, or you’re a scientist who wants to cure a disease, you lose in this proposal. The EU is a less good place to make your art, to make your music, or to drive innovation or discovery.

What’s next?

Now the Parliament enters into closed-door three-way negotiations with the Council of the European Union (the EU Member State governments) and the European Commission (the EU executive body which proposed the original text of the copyright directive). These three bodies will work to reconcile their versions of the directive text, and the final text will again be voted on in the European Parliament probably early in 2019.

The European Parliament was given the chance to fix copyright for 500 million Europeans, and signal to the world that progressive changes to law can empower new creators and champion creativity and the open web. Instead, they chose to side with the most powerful corporate rights holders whose sole objective is to minimize the impact brought about by digital technologies and the internet on their legacy business models.

The fight for the future of the internet is far from over. While today’s Parliament vote was a major setback, it’s up to all of us to continue to organize and advocate for the free and open web we want and need, in the EU and beyond.

The post With the European Parliament vote on the copyright directive, the internet lost – for now appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Timothy Vollmer at September 12, 2018 10:45 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Under Austria's right-wing government, ‘ethical’ principles for journalists could hijack media rights

An ORF journalist interviews lawyer and politician Rudolf Vouk. Photo by Eino81 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Written by Eliška Pírková.

When members of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and radical right Freedom Party (FPÖ) were elected into power in 2017, there was little response. There were  almost no protests, except for a few gatherings in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

The now majority right-wing populist government has since tightened asylum laws, put migration on hold, and set its sights on restricting press freedom.

Just few months after the government’s inauguration, Norbert Steger, a member of the board of trustees at the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), accused ORF of being biased in its recent reporting on the parliamentary elections in Hungary. Steger is a former chairman of the Freedom Party and maintains close ties with its leadership.

Steger demanded that the public broadcaster take “steps towards more objective reporting” and threatened that failure to do so could result in one third of foreign correspondents losing their jobs. Steger does not have the authority to make this happen, but he does have significant (if soft) political power.

As the Freedom Party (FPÖ) keeps friendly ties with Hungarian right-wing Fidesz party, led by Viktor Orbán, one can imagine why FPÖ party members might have thought ORF’s coverage to be too critical. Steger also stated in the same interview that journalists who violate the newly drafted “Social Media Guidelines on Journalists’ Behaviour” will receive a warning but could also risk losing their jobs.

But at the time of the interview, in April 2018, ORF employees and other journalists had not even been told about the guidelines. They had been written, but not communicated to journalists or the public.

After months of tensions between FPÖ and ÖRF staff, and numerous personal attacks against journalists, the draft Social Media Guidelines were officially released in June 2018.

They immediately raised concern among many media workers. They present troubling example of how such “self-regulatory” codes of conduct can be abused by those who wish to establish stricter control over the media in the country.

Ethical guidelines are common practice in media regulatory frameworks across Europe. Their general purpose is in the name: it is to guide. ORF itself has had social media guidelines in place since 2012, which followed the example of BBC Social Media Guidance for Staff. Their general role is to articulate ethical principles for journalism and are traditionally meant to serve as as the voice of reason, underlining and protecting the professional integrity of journalism.

But the newly drafted ORF Guidelines (still yet to be approved), threaten precisely what their proponents claim to protect: independence and objectivity.

The draft Guidelines stipulate:

…öffentliche Äußerungen und Kommentare in sozialen Medien, die als Zustimmung, Ablehnung oder Wertung von Äußerungen, Sympathie, Kritik und “Polemik” gegenüber politischen Institutionen, deren Vertreter/innen oder Mitgliedern zu interpretieren sind.

…public statements and comments in social media should be avoided, which are to be interpreted as approval, rejection or evaluation of utterances, sympathy, antipathy, criticism and ‘polemics’ towards political institutions, their representatives or members.

Every single term used in the aforementioned sentence, whether it is “antipathy” or “polemics,” is extremely vague at its core. Such vagueness could allow authorities to use these guidelines as ammunition against any critical statement aimed at the current government, no matter of how objective, balanced or well-intended the critique may be.

Second, the Guidelines ask journalists to refrain from the following:

…öffentliche Äußerungen und Kommentare in sozialen Medien, die eine voreingenommene, einseitige oder parteiische Haltung zum Ausdruck bringen, die Unterstützung derartiger Aussagen und Initiativen Dritter sowie die Teilnahme an derartigen Gruppen, sofern damit Objektivität, Unparteilichkeit und Unabhängigkeit des ORF konterkariert würde. Die entsprechenden Meinungsbekundungen können dabei sowohl durch direkte Äußerungen erfolgen als auch indirekt durch Zeichen der Unterstützung/Ablehnung wie Likes, Dislikes, Recommends, Retweets oder Shares.

…public statements and comments in social media that express a biased, one-sided or partisan attitude, or a support for such statements and initiatives promoted by third parties, and participation in such groups, provided that objectivity, impartiality and independence of the ORF may be compromised. The corresponding statements of opinion can be made both by direct statements and indirectly by signs of support / rejection such as likes, dislikes, recommendations, retweets or shares.

Here again, terms such as “partisan opinions” are very problematic. Would criticism of human rights violations or fact-based coverage of groups fighting climate change qualify as biased? With this wording, the chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression is inevitable, and may lead journalists to censor themselves, in order to avoid difficulties and further insecurities in their workplace.

At the same time, if the main public broadcaster in the country seeks to achieve relative neutrality — in an effort to best serve the public interest — it must  showcase a diverse range of opinions. This commitment to impartiality and neutrality is intended to prevent the misuse of media for propaganda and other forms of manipulation.

Finally, the new guidelines also employ language suggesting that they represent a mandate, rather than recommendations, as was stipulated in the original wording of the Guidelines from 2012. The June 2018 draft uses a very different tone. The document creates a shadow of hierarchy by forcing every ORF journalist to think twice before they share anything on their social media.

The primary duty of the Austrian press is to monitor and to inform whether the rule of law is intact and fully respected by the elected government. Due to its great importance in preserving democracy, the protection of the free press is enshrined within national constitutions and enforced by domestic media laws. Freedom of expression not only guarantees the rights of citizens to write or to say whatever they want, but it also protects and promotes the right of the public to access important information of consequence.

Although not legally binding document, the Guidelines still pose a real threat to democracy. The non-binding nature of the Guidelines serves as an excuse for policymakers who defend its provisions as ethical principles for journalists’ conduct and not the legal obligations per se, enforced by a state agent. But in practice, the independent and impartial work of journalists may be increasingly jeopardised, as every statement, whether in their personal or professional capacity, is subject to much stricter self-censorship in order to avoid further obstacles to their work or even an imposition of “ethical” liability for their conduct.

If the current draft is adopted as it stands, it will provide for an extra layer of strict control that aims to silence the critique and dissent.

When in 2000, FPÖ and ÖVP formed their first ruling coalition, the Austrian government was shunned by European countries and threatened with EU sanctions. But today’s atmosphere in Europe is very different. Authoritative and populist regimes openly undermining democratic governance are a new normal. Under such circumstances, human rights of all are in danger due to a widespread democratic backsliding present in the western countries as much as in the eastern corner of the EU.

Without a doubt, journalists and media outlets have a huge responsibility to impartially inform the public on these and other matters of public interest. Ethical codes of conduct can play a crucial role in journalistic work, acknowledging a great responsibility to report accurately, while avoiding prejudice or any potential harm to others.

However, when journalists’ freedom of expression is being violated, the right to receive and impart information of all of us is in danger, and so is democracy. Human rights and ethics are two different things. One cannot be misused to unjustifiably restrict the other.


Eliška Pírková is a research fellow at the Privacy and Sustainable Computing Lab in Vienna who specializes inn freedom of expression and protection of digital rights. She is originally from Slovakia.

by Guest Contributor at September 12, 2018 04:52 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
Apple's secret weapon? The semiconductor
Most people are looking at the new iPhones and thinking about the camera performance, the size of the screen, the notch situation. But we nerds here at Marketplace Tech will be thinking about the semiconductor. Many people will probably ignore the part in Apple's new gadgets announcement Wednesday about the A12 processor and what a big difference it's going to make for speed, performance and battery life. But these guts are actually what set Apple apart — and ahead — of other smartphone makers, because Apple designs its own semiconductors for all its mobile devices. Anshel Sag is a semiconductor analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. Molly Wood asks him what the benefits are of making your own chips. (09/12/18)

by Marketplace at September 12, 2018 10:35 AM

Global Voices
Pakistan government's pro-minority stance questioned as Ahmadi economist's appointment is revoked

Economist Dr. Atif R. Mian, a professor at Princeton University, is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect. Screenshot from a video interview via YouTube

Pakistan's newly elected Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government asked  Pakistani-American economist Dr. Atif R. Mian to step down from the newly created Economic Advisory Council (EAC). This controversial move occurred on September 7, just a few days after Dr. Mian's appointment to the Council and under mounting pressure from right-wing religious parties, who objected to the appointment on religious grounds.

Dr. Atif Mian, a professor at Princeton University in the US, belongs to the Ahmadiyya sect, which was declared non-Muslim by the second amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan in 1974. A 1984 ordinance promulgated by the government of General Zia ul Haq imposed further prohibitions against Ahmadi Muslims, including making the public practice of Islam and the use of Islamic symbols and titles a punishable crime.

After Mian's appointment, a smear campaign ensued in social media against him and the government. Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Maulana Fazal ur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) threatened nationwide protests, and a notice signed by a number of members of Pakistan National Assembly was served to Parliament.

The EAC is headed by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, and Dr. Mian was one of 18 nationally and internationally renowned members appointed to the Council. Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Information Minister and government spokesperson, initially defended the government's decision, reminding critics that “it is an economic council, not Islamic Ideology Council.” Minister Chaudhry also declared that “Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority.” These statements were received with optimism, a ray of hope for ‘Naya Pakistan’ (New Pakistan), which turned out to be short-lived.

Writing on Indian news portal The Print, columnist Gul Bukhari noted that:

On Pakistani social media, the attack came from two fronts. The first attack came from the religious bigots who jump onto bandwagons to flay Ahmedis all the time and cannot see them in any office of public importance or authority. This class seeks vengeful persecution of Ahmedis.

The second category is what I would call ‘fake bigots’, who are merely seeking to score a political point against Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for its putrid campaign in the election. This lot wants to drive home the hypocrisy of the government, but its invective is pouring out as apparent religious hatred.

On the day Dr. Mian's appointment was revoked, Senator Faisal Javed Khan confirmed the action on Twitter:

For the good of Pakistan

Backtracking on his earlier statements, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Minister Fawad Chaudhry noted that the decision was taken to avoid division in the country:

The government wants to move forward alongside scholars and all social groups, and it is inappropriate if a single nomination creates an impression to the contrary.

The minister added that:

Khatm-i-Nabuwwat [belief in the finality of the prophethood] is a part of our faith and the recent success achieved by the government in the matter of blasphemous sketches is reflective of the same connection.

Dr. Atif Mian tweeted his reasons for complying with the request:

Backlash

Many have condemned the government's revoking of the appointment and expressed support for Dr. Mian.

Blogger Sehar Tariq from Islamabad tweeted:

Lahore-based feminist journalist Sabahat Zakariya expressed her disappointment with the system:

Two other members of the EAC—London-based economist Dr. Imran Rasul, and Harvard University’s Evidence for Policy Design unit co-director Asim Ijaz Khwaja—resigned from the Council in solidarity with their colleague, citing moral and religious principles:

The removal of Dr. Mian has also started a new debate in Pakistan over the rights of minorities. Young Pakistanis who voted for the PTI thinking it was a liberal, pro-minority party expressed disappointment. Advertising creative Bismah Mehmood, expressed satisfaction that PTI followers—known for their brash behaviour and trolling on Twitter—were at least taking a nuanced view of the situation:

by Umaima Ahmed at September 12, 2018 01:57 AM

September 11, 2018

Global Voices
Cubans can now join public debates on new Constitution through digital platforms

Young people using the public Wi-Fi service in a plaza in Havana. Photograph by ‘Kaldari’. Shared under license of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Cuba’s new Constitution is now the subject of government-backed public debates across the country. To encourage greater public participation several online tools were developed enjoining Cubans from all walks of life, including those living outside the country, to share their views and ideas about the proposed constitutional reforms.

Debates started on August 13 and will continue until November 15 of this year, after which the changes considered pertinent will be made and placed for a vote.

One of the most common takeaways brought to this project is the elimination of communism as the main basis of the state ideology, and also Article 68, which posits that marriage is the union between two people with the legal capacity to do so. This last one, in particular, assumes the legal union between people of the same gender, which has been understood by many as a green light for marriage equality.

“Nation and Emigration”

One of the tools in place is a space inside the web portal “Nation and Emigration”, put together by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.

Screenshot of the online space to share opinions and observations through the government's platform. The page contains the project for the new constitution and the application seen in the image has a link to a help document guiding the user to submit his data and his opinion.

The digital platform started functioning in early September. The site contains articles and documents guiding the users through the process and an online template in which users are able to send their comments and observations. However, civil society couldn't wait until the section was opened and turned to social networks to begin the debate on pages hosted on Facebook or under articles from online media sources such as Granma or Cubadebate, both managed by the Cuban government.

Postdata Club

But in order for these informal exchanges to have a common space, university professor and Doctor of Science, Yudivian Almeida, who was once a blogger and participant in the Bloggers Cuba project, developed an online tool to be able to comment in an organized way on the articles of the proposal.

This tool is part of the website of the Postdata Club project, directed by Almeida, and it functions through Disqus, a tool to host and manage comments on blogs and online communities.

Interviewed by journalist Milena Recio for Oncuba Magazine, Almeida explains that the main content available on the site is supported by technologies that use web-based hosting services, which means that people can still have access to it in their digital devices, even when disconnected from the internet. This, he says, is very useful to Cubans who have limited internet access inside the island and is also what makes this project so unique, as it allows access to the text of the new Constiution to compare it with the current one.

Screenshot of PostData devoted to the debate on the project for the new Constitution. On the left, users can access the different articles that they can read in the middle of the page. The debate, powered by Disqus, can be seen at the bottom of the image. Each article displays a different space for discussion, similar to the comment spaces in blogs and other Web 2.0 tools.

In addition, the tool can be used equally by those within the national territory as well as those who reside outside the island. For many people who are involved in the exchanges that are already taking place online, participation in the consultation process with Cubans living abroad may lead to consideration for them to be able to vote.

Almeida also explained that it is a simple tool that does not seek to substitute the exchanges encouraged by the government, and that it will continue to develop as participants use it:

En un espacio como este no hay que pedir la palabra, no existe un horario para debatir. Se puede ir argumentando en la medida en que se le ocurran respuestas, interrogantes, o planteamientos. Se sale de las condiciones físicas y temporales que tiene la consulta popular.

In a space like this no one has to ask to speak up, there is no schedule for debate. Everyone can engage in the debate right when they think of solutions, questions, or approaches. It is beyond the conditions of place and time held by a public consultation.

The proposed new constitution has been in the works since 2013. A commission designated by the National Assembly of People's Power, during the current legislature, presented the version to be discussed by the parliament members in the regular session of the National Assembly on July 21 and 22 of 2018.

by Lisa G Khanna at September 11, 2018 09:36 PM

Creative Commons
Spanish Translation of 4.0 now available (La traducción al castellano de la versión 4.0 de las licencias está ahora disponible)
se oyeSe Oye Libre Radio by @creativecommons Colombia @monequerias @julianitaquetal y su invitada especial @pepebrrs director #iff Creative Commons Instagram

CC licenses reach 1/2 billion more creators and users!

After more than three years and many rounds of consultation with legal experts throughout Latin America and Europe, including Spain, Creative Commons is proud to announce the release of the Spanish language translation of the CC 4.0 license suite. This process included standardizing legal terms across multiple Spanish speaking-countries with differing legal systems, and involved the active participation of dozens of community members from different countries. Check out the CC Attribution license (CC BY) in Spanish.

Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world, with approximately 447 million native speakers and an estimated 570 million total speakers worldwide. It is also one of the most geographically widespread languages, reaching a vast number of countries that recognize Spanish as an official language. This brings the total number of people who are able to understand our 4.0 licenses in their first language to more than 2.2 billion.

Spanish speaking communities have been active ever since the launch of Creative Commons in 2001 and some of the oldest chapters were formed in Latin America and Spain. Under the new structure of the CC Global Network, we’re seeing an increase in the number of Spanish-speaking chapters. As more chapters are formed to promote the licenses and the communities that depend on them for sharing, we expect that the Spanish license suite will help more institutions, creators and artists in these countries embrace CC licensing.

We would like to thank the incredible leadership of María Juliana Soto (CC Colombia) and Ignasi Labastida (CC Spain) in drafting the first versions of the translation, and the work of several contributors around the CC Community, including: María Paz Canales (CC Chile); Claudia Cristiani (CC El Salvador); Evelin Heidel (a.k.a. Scann, CC Argentina), as well as the support of CC Staff to bring this forward.

¡Felicitaciones por el trabajo realizado, equipo!

En Español:

La traducción al castellano de la versión 4.0 de las licencias está ahora disponible
¡Las licencias CC ahora alcanzan a 500 millones más de usuarios y creadores!

Luego de más de tres años y varias rondas de consulta con expertos legales a lo largo de América Latina y España, Creative Commons se enorgullece en anunciar el lanzamiento de la traducción al español de las licencias CC 4.0. Este proceso incluyó estandarizar el conjunto de las licencias a lo largo de múltiples países hispanoparlantes, con la participación activa de decenas de miembros de la comunidad de varios países. Pueden ver la licencia CC Atribución (CC BY) en español.

El español es la segunda lengua más hablada en el mundo, con alrededor de 442 millones de hablantes nativos y un estimado de 570 millones de hablantes en el mundo. También es uno de los idiomas más difundidos geográficamente, alcanzando un gran número de países que lo reconocen como su idioma oficial. Esto lleva a que más de 2.200 millones de personas puedan entender nuestras licencias 4.0 en su idioma materno.

Las comunidades hispano-parlantes han estado muy activas desde el lanzamiento de Creative Commons en 2001. Algunos de los capítulos más antiguos fueron formados en América Latina y España. Bajo la nueva estructura de la Red Global de CC, estamos viendo un incremento de capítulos hispano-parlantes. A medida que se forman más capítulos para promover las licencias y las comunidades que dependen de ellas para compartir, esperamos que las licencias en español ayudarán a más instituciones, creadores y artistas a adoptar CC en estos países.

Nos gustaría agradecer el increíble liderazgo de María Juliana Soto (CC Colombia) e Ignasi Labastida (CC Spain) en armar los primeros borradores de la traducción, y el trabajo de varios colaboradores en la comunidad de CC: María Paz Canales (CC Chile); Claudia Cristiani (CC El Salvador); Evelin Heidel (a.k.a. Scann, CC Argentina), así como el apoyo del staff de CC para completar esta tarea.

¡Felicitaciones por el trabajo realizado, equipo!

The post Spanish Translation of 4.0 now available (La traducción al castellano de la versión 4.0 de las licencias está ahora disponible) appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Scann at September 11, 2018 08:15 PM

Global Voices
Strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years largely forgotten following massive earthquake
KANSAI AIRPORT

Captions: “Live from Kansai International Airport: flooding causes damage, when will runway, access bridge be repaired?” Screencap from ANN official YouTube channel.

In the summer of 2018, Japan experienced a succession of natural disasters that left government and local authorities scrambling to provide support. The media has also struggled to cover them, leaving many people feeling that some calamities are eclipsing others in the public consciousness.

The series of disasters began in July, when much of western Japan experienced torrential and unprecedented rainfall, leading to flooding and landslides that killed hundreds of people. Next, a sustained heat wave resulted in more than a hundred deaths and tens of thousands of hospitalizations.

Then, on September 4, Typhoon Jebi became the strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years. But the disaster, which primarily affected Osaka and the surrounding region, was eclipsed by a massive earthquake that struck Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, on the next day. So far, 39 people have been reported dead as a result of the quake and much of the island was left with no electricity.

The succession of massive natural disasters left some puzzled over all the images flooding the internet:

Others lamented the fact that attention quickly moved on from Typhoon Jebi despite it leaving widespread damage around Osaka in a region known as Kansai, which is home to 22 million people and Japan's third-biggest economy after Tokyo and the Kanto region.

Nearly two million people were evacuated in the face of Typhoon Jebi, but the storm still left 11 dead and hundreds injured in its wake. Ten thousand households are in still the dark a week after the end of the storm.

Here's the aftermath of the typhoon in Senshu (southwestern Osaka prefecture). While the media is now focusing on the Hokkaido quake, I wish there was more discussion of what's happening in Senshu. I want people to know how impossible it is to try to get by with no electricity or running water. I just wish there was a way to help out.

Kansai International Airport, which serves twenty million passengers a year, was left with no electricity, air conditioning, cellular service, or even an escape route. While a storm surge has flooded the airport's buildings, all access was cut off after powerful typhoon winds pushed a drifting freighter into the only bridge that connects the mainland to the artificial island where the airport is located.

An estimated 5,000 travelers had to spend a hot, sleepless night at the airport. When speaking with television journalists, stranded passengers reported a total lack of information from the outside world. Travelers lining up for food and water outside the airport on the following day were captured on this video:

In some cases, it was up to outside organizations to mobilize a rescue.

The Chinese consulate in Osaka had to charter 15 buses in order to evacuate Chinese travelers stranded at Kansai airport. Apparently, passengers on the buses could be heard praising China, saying, “We now realize China really is a grand country” and “I love China,” a great PR win for that country.

While media reports helped publicize the plight of those stuck in Kansai airport, not everyone was appreciative of the coverage's emphasis on the government's inaction. Blogger and media critic Fujiwara Kazue's was one of those critics:

(Translation of Fujiwara Kazue's embedded tweet above) As airport staff desperately do their best in the midst of a catastrophic crisis, this reporter decides to come to Kansai airport to complain and stir up trouble. Perhaps he could please tell us what he would actually do to fix the situation?

Fujiwara's tweet was shared 25,000 times and the conversation about media coverage of Kansai airport resulted in at least 500 comments that were also largely critical of journalists.

All morning the news programs have been saying how the government isn't doing this, or the Self-Defense Force (Japanese armed forces) have been doing that, and that children and the elderly are being kept waiting… but even as others are working hard on the ground, (the media) just says whatever it wants back in the television studio.

The earthquake in Hokkaido that followed on the heels of Typhoon Jebi has also shut down another major air hub. Once again, thousands of travelers were stranded in Chitose airport, which serves as the gateway to the city of Sapporo. A journalist writing for the daily newspaper the Mainichi Shimbun observed:

While the number of foreign tourists to Japan has been increasing, I wonder if the complete shutdown of both Kansai and Chitose airports will affect that rising trend. Japan has become the sort of country that you travel to without knowing if you'll actually be able to make it back home again. It would be unfortunate if such a perception of Japan starts to spread, and people stop coming here.

While Chitose airport was able to quickly reopen following the earthquake, many homes in Hokkaido will remain without electricity until early October. Due to the damaged bridge and widespread flooding, it will take even more time to restore full operations at Kansai airport.

For some people, post-disaster life can feel very surreal. A breakdown in logistics has made it tough for supermarkets to keep their shelves stocked. There are many reports of convenience stores and other shops offering little variety. This tweet of a convenience store in Sapporo selling nothing but bananas has been shared more than 70,000 times.

The (Lawson) convenience store near my house has turned into a banana stand.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the convenience store selling bananas is in Sapporo, and is not in the Kansai region.

by Nevin Thompson at September 11, 2018 03:53 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
The insurance industry gets a tech makeover. But is it more than skin deep?

Insurance is, as the tech industry likes to say, ripe for disruption. It's old, inefficient, and not consumer-friendly. But can a startup with no experience really be a better option? Lemonade Insurance Company lets you buy renter's or homeowner's insurance through an app. An automated bot named Maya guides you through the process. And when you've got a claim,  you take it to Maya, too. It's billed as insurance for millennials and urban dwellers. There are a lot of companies like Lemonade, trying to make insurance more efficient, or even likable. There’s even a name for it: Insurtech. Molly Wood talks to Daniel Schreiber, co-founder and CEO of Lemonade. (09/11/18)

 

by Marketplace at September 11, 2018 10:34 AM

September 10, 2018

Global Voices
Jamaica finds new appreciation for beloved cultural icon and language activist, ‘Miss Lou’

A screengrab of an official photo from Jamaica's Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, capturing the unveiling of the statue honouring poet Louise Bennett-Coverley, posted on Twitter by Robert Nesta Morgan. Present at the ceremony were Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his wife, who is the Member of Parliament for the area, as well as Miss Lou's son.

Gordon Town, small, picturesque, and unpretentious, is nestled on the Hope River just outside Kingston, tucked between steeply sloping foothills. Travellers, who often pass through the town square on their way to the Blue Mountains, now have a reason to stop and take a look: Gordon Town was also the home of Louise Bennett-Coverley — fondly called “Miss Lou” — poet, folklorist, comedian, and above all, defender of the Jamaican language. On September 7, 2018, on what would have been her 99th birthday, residents, cultural activists, and government officials alike were proud to witness the unveiling of a statue in her honour in the town square.

Unlike other depictions of respected national figures, the statue won the approval of the Jamaican public; there are now plans to build a small museum and rename the square Miss Lou Square.

Diaspora writer Geoffrey Philp tweeted his reaction to the statue in Jamaican Patois:

Now that is what a statue is supposed to look like! Not a little weak, ineffectual, toothless person who looks as if he/she couldn't squash an ant.

While government officials waxed lyrical about the unveiling of the statue on social media, university researcher Deborah Gordon Hickling asked about the availability of Bennett-Coverley's work locally, even though a Deed of Gift was signed earlier in the week, handing over a collection of her work to the National Library of Jamaica:

I gotta ask, where in Jamaica has her work been curated in a place that Jamaicans can readily walk into and see and hear everything Miss Lou? Where can the documentary testament to her life’s work be seen? […] Where are audio tapes, the interviews to be publicly heard and celebrated? In Canada, McMaster University has a room of her work. Where can we see curated work about her groundbreaking, foundational, identity-forming work in Jamaica Welfare? Her social interventions that built pride and awareness of who we are.

Miss Lou always was much more than a lovable exponent of Jamaican culture. Her cheerful personality and comedic performances belied the serious intent of her work, which was to promote and popularise Jamaican Patois, a language that had been scorned throughout the colonial era:

Bennett-Coverley emerged at a time when it was particularly important for Jamaica to establish its national identity; however, more than fifty years after Jamaica's independence from Great Britain, Jamaica is still reluctant to fully embrace Patois. Broadcaster and educator Fae Ellington, a lively exponent of the language, recorded her thoughts on Miss Lou's birthday on both YouTube and Facebook:

It's September 7, Dr. The Honourable Louise Bennett Coverley would have been 99 today.
#Patriot
#Nationalist
#SocialCommentator
#Actress
#Poet
She reminded me that, ‘Yuh haffi tek kin teet suh kibba ‘eart bun’. True wud.

It's September 7, Dr. The Honourable Louise Bennett Coverley would have been 99 today.
#Patriot
#Nationalist
#SocialCommentator
#Actress
#Poet
She reminded me that, ‘You have to laugh to cover your heartburn (pain). True words.’

In Jamaican parlance, Miss Lou was skilled in the Jamaican art of “tek serious ting mek joke” — creating humour in a serious situation. As writer Claude Mills put it:

Underneath her wily […] comedic style, she forced the society to face unpleasant truths about itself through the multi-hued, multiracial colours in her verbal palette. But it is the bold, proud, unapologetic championing of the use of the Jamaican language internationally that so endeared her to many Jamaicans.

But Bennett-Coverley was not dogmatic in her approach. In a 2016 presentation at the National Library, Professor Mervyn Morris pointed out:

Miss Lou was trying to redress cultural imbalance by enhancing respect for Creole. She did not favour ‘so-so English’ [‘only English’]. […] She did not hesitate to speak and write in English as well as in Jamaican Creole. She was comfortable in both.

Miss Lou's work resonated far beyond Jamaican shores. One of her best-known poems, “Colonisation in Reverse”, was a wry commentary on the influx of Caribbean immigrants to the United Kingdom in the 1950s and '60s. A member of the diaspora herself, Bennett-Coverley introduced Canada — where she lived for a number of years — to Jamaican Patois, and her influence in her adopted country was considerable.

Miss Lou has received numerous honours and awards, of which the statue in Gordon Town is the latest tribute. However, some Jamaicans believe this is not nearly enough to honour her. Cultural activist Professor Carolyn Cooper is among those who believe Miss Lou should be made a national hero. During a heated debate last year, sparked by a young dancehall star's comments that were widely perceived to disrespect Miss Lou's legacy, she observed:

Louise Bennett's mission was essentially about black power. She said, ‘When I was a child, nearly everything about us was bad, yuh know; they would tell yuh seh yuh have bad hair, that black people bad, and that the language yuh talk was bad. And I know that a lot of people I knew were not bad at all — they were nice people and they talked this language.’

The lasting insult to Miss Lou is […] our continuing refusal to acknowledge the power of our Jamaican language. At home and in school! The Ministry of Education must ensure that every child is able to learn in his or her home language. It's a human right. That's one of the ways in which we will continue to honour Louise Bennett for generations to come. And while we're at it, we should just officially recognise the fact that Miss Lou is a national heroine.

Whether Miss Lou does acquire official status, or is simply regarded as a cultural legend, it appears that Jamaicans are acquiring a deeper appreciation of the significance of her work and the importance of language as the most fundamental expression of culture.

by Emma Lewis at September 10, 2018 07:47 PM

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