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.

October 18, 2017

Marketplace Tech Report
10/18/2017: Imagining romance with a robot
Ever since we started imagining robots, we’ve pictured them looking like humans. There are researchers who think androids are going to a part of our future. They’re developing robots that could become our caretakers, best friends and maybe even our lovers. Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood talks with author Alex Mar, who profiled a designer who studies human intimacy and interaction with robots.

by Marketplace at October 18, 2017 10:30 AM

October 17, 2017

Global Voices
Mozambicans Want to Know If Militant Group al-Shabaab Was Behind Police Post Attacks

Militants of the extremist group, which currently controls around a third of Somalia and has conducted attacks in other African countries. Photo: Screenshot of a 2013 Channel 4 news report on YouTube.

Around 30 masked men attacked three police posts in northern Mozambique over three days, raising suspicions that al-Shabaab, a militant group that for years has violently fought to impose its intolerant interpretation of Islamic law in Somalia, could have a presence in the country.

The three police posts are spread across an area of 70 kilometres in the district of Mocímboa da Praia, near the Tanzanian border, and were attacked between October 5 and 7 simultaneously, indicating a methodical plan of action.

According to a police spokesperson, the confrontation left 16 dead, comprising two police officers and 14 armed attackers. Local sources, according to a report by news website NNA, stated that the assailants were armed with security forces’ weapons, and some militants were captured alive by the police and are being interrogated.

Police accounts also stated that at least three languages were spoken by the armed men: Kiwali (a local language), Portuguese (the official language of Mozambique), and Swahili (spoken by much of the population of the Great Lakes region’s countries).

There are suspicions that the group has links with al-Shabaab, which currently controls around a third of Somalia and has conducted attacks in other African countries.

The Somali group emerged in 2006 from the aftermath of the dismantlement of the Islamic Courts’ Union, which was defeated by the Ethiopian military and lost control of the capital Mogadishu which it had controlled since 2000. Somalia has been left without an effective government since 1991 and suffered from fighting between different factions.

Al-Shabaab, whose name means “the youth” in Arabic, preaches Wahhabism, the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam originating in Saudi Arabia, and espouses a strict application of sharia that includes death by stoning for women accused of adultery and the amputation of hands for robbing.

Around 18% of Mozambique’s population identifies as Muslim, most living in the country’s northern region.

The national police authorities stated that it is still not possible to know if these attacks were effectively orchestrated by al-Shabaab, but questions grew louder on social media.

Egídio Vaz, a prominent commentator, posed some questions:

‘’ (…) Se o que temos em Mocímboa é ou não Al-Shabaab, aqui vão as minhas ideias.
– Dada a porosidade das nossas fronteiras, segurança e sistemas de controlo, é mesmo possível que esses sejam Al-Shabaab.
– Todavia, não creio que esses estejam em Moçambique para pregar o seu jihad. Pode ser que façam deste país seu campo de recrutamento, treino para depois “exportar” esses soldados para os seus vários campos de batalha.
DE UMA OU DE OUTRA FORMA, esses tipos estão lá. As autoridades moçambicanas devem lidar com eles sob pena de mais uma vez o país ser visto como albergue de inimigos internacionais, receio que há muito habita em muitas capitais do norte global. (…) ‘’

Whether what we have in Mozambique is Al-Shabaab or not, here are my ideas:

-Given the porosity of our borders, security and systems of control, it is really possible that they are Al-Shabaab.

-However, I do not believe that they are in Mozambique to preach their jihad. It could be that they are making this country into their recruitment/ training camp to then “export” these soldiers to their various battlefields.

IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, they are there. The Mozambican authorities must deal with them at the risk of the country again being seen as a shelter for international enemies, a fear of many living in the many capitals of the global north.

The newspaper O País interviewed residents of Mocímboa da Praia – which has just over 25 inhabitants – and reported that “none of the residents of that village have the least doubt that the attacks were perpetrated by members of the aforementioned sect Al-Shabaab”.

According to sources interviewed by the report, al-Shabaab operates two mosques in the city which were deserted on the days the attacks happened, and their leaders argued for civic and Christian monuments in the city to be dismantled and for a strict interpretation of Islamic law to be applied.

A trader, Amade Mussa, said in the report that the majority of the mosques’ adherents in question are local citizens, men between 25 and 35 years of age:

Eles todos são daqui de Mocímboa da Praia, conhecemos. Outros vêm de Mocoche em Macomia, outros vêm de Palma, Nangade e Montepuez. Os outros são daqui, conhecemos. Mas desde o dia 6, fugiram. Se tem pessoas que vêm da Somália ou outro país, não sei.

They are all from here from Mocímboa da Praia, we know. Others come from Mocoche in Macomia, others come from Palma, Nangade and Montepuez. The others are from here, we know. But since the 6th, they fled. If there are people who come from Somalia, I don’t know.

Fernando Neves, president of the district of Moacimba da Praia, confirmed Amade’s account, but said that this does not necessarily imply a direct link with al-Shabaab in Somalia.

São jovens que pensam que, quando fazem aquilo, pertencem àquele grupo, mas eles não têm nenhuma ligação.

They are youths who think that, when they do that, they belong to that group, but they have no connection.

João Ventura is an Angolan citizen, who feared that this type of violence could also come to his similarly Lusophone country:

‘’ Facto: Em Moçambique aconteceram ataques armados coordenados numa cidade do interior primeiramente atribuídos a desconhecidos.
Causadores: Fundamentalistas islâmicos que se auto denominam de Alshabab.
Intenção: estabelecer um estado islâmico em Moçambique.
Lição a reter: A propagação do islamismo deve ser muito bem controlado e monitorado em Angola pra evitar actos similares.
Avisos e exemplos não faltam.’’

Fact: In Mozambique coordinated armed attacks occurred in a city of the country’s interior originally attributed to unknown assailants.
Perpetrators: Islamist fundamentalists who declare themselves to be Alshabab.
Intention: Establish an Islamic state in Mozambique.
Lesson to learn: The propagation of Islamism must be very well controlled and monitored in Angola to avoid similar events.
Warnings and examples are not lacking.

Ashraf Sidat is a Mozambican Muslim, who urged people not to let themselves get carried away by fear, as these groups seek to divide the country:

‘’ *IRMÃOS MOCAMBICANOS*…
Não caiam na armadilha, não caiam na tentação do explorador… Isso que aconteceu no norte do país tem como objetivo criação de guerra como único objetivo de países estrangeiros de dividir e reinar …! Como fazer isso!
Primeiro atacam a corrupção se isso não resolve, aliam se ao partido oposto munindo de armas e poder. Mesmo assim se isso não se resolver então vão para dentro de pais criar ódio e raiva entre tribos e religiões …isso tudo para criar guerra!
Nós todos temos conhecimento que nosso país tem riquezas no Norte concretamente e essa riqueza está c mau olhar deles. Querem guerras e mortes para poder financiar as ambas as partes do conflito e eles cobrarem a dívida de guerra com recursos.
Gás petróleo e diamantes e ouro! ’’

*MOZAMBICAN BROTHERS*…
Do not fall in the trap, do not fall for the bait of the exploiter… What happened in the north of the country aims to create war as the only objective of foreign countries to divide and rule…! How to do this!
First they attack corruption and if that does not work, they ally themselves to the opposition party supplying it with arms and power. Anyway if this does not work then they go inside the country to create hate and anger between tribes and religions… all this to create war!
We all know that our country definitely has riches in the north and this wealth is their curse. They want wars and deaths to be able to finance both sides of the conflict and they collect the war-debt with resources.
Gas oil and diamonds and gold!

by Liam Anderson at October 17, 2017 04:40 PM

One Activist's Vision of a Feminist Democracy for Catalonia

Young people holding signs spelling the word “democracy” at a protest against police repression during the independence referendum.  Barcelona, October 3, 2017. Photo by Silva Valle, used with permission.

With its current push for independence from Spain, the region of Catalonia is experiencing one of the most intense and critical moments in its recent history. Throughout Spain, debates and  analysis surrounding the issue are everywhere, from mainstream media to social media, and from the streets to people's living rooms. Tensions are high, but different sectors of the population are asking for dialogue and calm.

The breaking point came on Sunday, October 1, with the celebration of a referendum — considered illegal by the central government — that asked: Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic? According to the official vote count, 2,286,217 people participated (43% of the electorate). The “yes” camp received 2,944,038 votes (90.2%), the “no” got 177,574 votes (7.8%) and 44,913 votes were left blank (2%).

The referendum was violently repressed by state security forces. As a consequence, a strike was organized for October 3, as were various protests in the region.

To understand firsthand how people are experiencing these events on the ground, we interviewed a Barcelona resident who participated in the referendum and the strike. Silvia Valle is an activist and educator who brings a feminist perspective to a number of struggles she is involved with.

Silvia Valle. Photo used with permission by subject.

Global Voices (GV): On October 1, you voted in the referendum. How was the experience? What was the atmosphere like? 

Silvia: Creo que como a mucha gente el sábado noche me costó dormir… nos levantamos el domingo temprano con una mezcla de sensaciones. Los medios están manipulando mucho la información y no sé cómo cree la gente que se han vivido estos días aquí, pero la realidad es que siempre se ha entendido como una fiesta. Hace tiempo que dejó de ser por el sí o por el no y pasó a ser por la democracia.

El censo era electrónico y se podía votar en cualquier centro. A las 9 se presentaron la Policía Nacional y la Guardia Civil en el mío y no llegó ni a abrir. Así que decidí quedarme en el que estaba, en un barrio humilde muy cercano a la montaña, el barrio donde estudié de adolescente. La cola daba la vuelta a la calle, no sé cuánta gente habría… 200 o 300… La gente había dormido ahí, había ido a las 5 de la mañana.

Silvia: I think, like many people, it was hard for me to sleep that Saturday night…we woke up on Sunday with a mixture of feelings. The press is manipulating the information a lot and, I don't know what other people who have experienced the situation these days think, but the reality is that it was always understood as a celebratory event. The situation stopped being about a yes or a no a while ago, and started being about democracy. 

The vote was electronic and you could vote in any voting center. At 9 am, the National Police and the Civil Guard showed up at mine and the center wasn't opened. I then decided to stay in my center, in a humble neighborhood very close to the mountain, the neighborhood where I studied when I was young. The line went around the block. I don't know how many people there were…200 or 300… People had slept there, they had come at 5 in the morning.

As the day went on, the situation took a turn:

Silvia: Empiezas a recibir mensajes. Están pegando a gente en otros colegios. Llegan fotos de abuelas sangrando. Han cargado en los dos colegios electorales que te rodean. Sabes que si siguen la ruta, el próximo va a ser el tuyo. La organización coge el micro y va por toda la fila hablándole a la gente: “no necesitamos héroes, habíamos comentado que haríamos resistencia pasiva pero no lo recomendamos”. Están cargando muy fuerte e indiscriminadamente. “Por favor, gente mayor y niños que se vayan a casa. Quién quiera quedarse éstas son las recomendaciones: si vienen no responderemos a preguntas. No seremos violentos. Nos iremos. Tenemos cámaras en el tejado, no hace falta que nos peguen, lo que queremos es que se vea que hemos venido a votar.” Las abuelas dicen que no se van. Los padres mandan a sus criaturas a casa. Más WhatsApps de compañeras: “¿estáis todas bien?” Los bomberos han defendido algunos colegios electorales. Después de las cargas de Sabadell ¡vuelven a votar!. Han usado balas de goma, un chico puede perder un ojo. Y en ese momento, te das cuenta de que llevas 4 horas bajo la lluvia por votar. De que están agrediendo a las abuelas de tu gente, a tus compañeras, a tus profesores, han reventado a mazazos la puerta de tu instituto. Solo quieres que pase rápido, quieres votar. Que nos dejen votar.

Silvia: You begin to receive messages. They are hitting people in other high schools. Photos of bleeding grandmothers arrive. They are charging into the two voting center schools that surround you. You know that, if they continue on this route, yours is next. Organizers take the microphone and go through the line, telling people “we don't need heroes. We have said that we will practice passive resistance, but we don't recommend it.” They are charging against people hard and indiscriminately. “Please, older people and children go home. For those who want to stay, here are the recommendations: If they come, we won't answer their questions. We won't be violent. We will leave. We have cameras on the roof. We don't need them to hit us, we just want them to see that we have come here to vote.” The grandmothers say they won't leave. Parents send their children home. More WhatsApp messages come in from friends, “Are you all okay?” Firefighters have defended some voting center schools. After charging the crowd at Sabadell, the vote is back on! They have used rubber bullets, a young man could lose his eye. In this moment, you realize that you have been waiting in the rain for four hours to vote. Why are they hitting your people's grandmothers, your classmates, your teachers? They have busted down the door to your high school. You just want it to go by fast. You just want to vote. You want them to let you vote.

GV: On October 3, two days after the referendum, a protest was held in Catalonia. What was the objective of this protest and what was the atmosphere like? 

Silvia: Hay que entender una cosa, la huelga vino como respuesta a las cargas policiales del domingo 1 de octubre [el día del referendum]. Lo que se pretendía era, una vez más, salir a la calle a expresarse en un ambiente pacifico. No tenía nada que ver con el sí o el no. Esta huelga tenía que ver con reclamar que las calles son nuestras, que creemos en la democracia y que rechazamos la violencia.

Una de las cosas que más se repitió a coro en la manifestación fue: “Als nostres Avis no se'ls pega” (a nuestros abuelos no se les pega). Y la gente lo gritaba emocionada, porque eso es algo que jamás creímos que podríamos ver. Todos conocemos los relatos de nuestros abuelos o abuelas durante el franquismo. Sabemos qué se vivió porque nos lo han contado. Sabemos que les persiguieron, les torturaron, sabemos la represión constante a la que se enfrentaban. Y se nos cae la cara de vergüenza al ver que estamos dejando que eso pase otra vez. Nuestros abuelos y abuelas no se merecen pasar por esto. Se merecen poder mirar atrás y ver que dejan el mundo un poco mejor.

Se vivió con la alegría del que sabe que el mañana será mejor, mezclado con el amargo sentimiento de saber que en realidad, tienes la necesidad de creerlo.

Supongo que en los medios han salido constantemente las imágenes de gente echando a los cuerpos policiales de sus hoteles. Yo ahí solo puedo ver gente valiente, gente que una mañana se levantó y se negó a servirle el desayuno a unos señores que habían ido a dormir a su casa tras hacer sangrar a sus amigos, a sus hermanos o a sus abuelos. 

Silvia: You have to understand one thing, the protest came in direct response to the police violence from Sunday, October 1. The goal was to, once again, go out into the streets and express ourselves in a peaceful way. It didn't have anything to do with the yes or no. This protest was about reclaiming the streets as our own, it was about showing that we believe in democracy and we reject violence.

One of the things that was repeated most was a protest chant which went: “Als nostres Avis no se'ls pega” (Don't hit our grandparents). And the people shouted this passionately because it is something we never thought we would ever see. Everyone has heard the stories from our grandparents about the years under [dictator Francisco] Franco. We know what they lived through because they told us. We know that they were persecuted, they were tortured, we know about the constant repression that they were up against. We are left absolutely ashamed that we are allowing this to happen again. Our grandparents don't deserve to go through this. They deserve to look back and see that they have left the world a better place.  

They lived with the happiness of one who knows that tomorrow will be a better day, mixed with the bitter knowledge that, in reality, one needs to believe this to carry on.

I suppose that the press is constantly publishing images of people kicking out police forces from their hotels. In that, I can only see brave people, people who one morning got up and refused to serve breakfast to people who had come to sleep at their homes after making their friends, brothers and grandparents bleed.

GV: How do you mix other causes you are involved in with the Catalan independence process? 

Silvia: En concreto una de las cosas que más me afectan a nivel de lucha son las diferencias entre la ley de violencia de género (VdG) y la ley contra las violencias machistas. La primera estatal, la segunda catalana. Su diferenciación principal es que, hasta ahora, la Ley VdG entiende que solo hay una agresión condenable como violencia de género cuando el agresor es pareja o ex-pareja. La ley contra las violencias machistas es más amplia y contempla (tal como hace la ONU) como agresor a cualquier hombre que agreda a una mujer por el hecho de ser mujer. Sin embargo, tal y como está ahora la ley, Cataluña tiene poderes sobre lo social pero no sobre lo jurídico. Eso implica que podemos reconocer a la víctima como tal y ofrecerle un mayor soporte, pero no podemos condenar al agresor con el agravante de violencia de género. Eso hace que las penas sean menores para los agresores, que no tengamos un estudio real de víctimas a nivel nacional y que la gravedad del feminicidio no se comprenda como lo grave que es.

Pero eso es algo que todo el mundo tiene claro que tiene una fecha límite. Hay otros partidos, muy votados, con una concepción fuerte de la importancia de implementar medidas sociales, controlar la subida de los alquileres o aplicar políticas feministas. Se tiene muy claro que se quiere una república feminista.

Silvia: Specifically, one of the things that affects me on the level of activism is the difference between the gender violence law (VdG) and the law against misogynist violence. Firstly, on a state level, and secondly at the Catalonian level. The biggest difference is that, until now, the VdG law only sees punishable aggression as gender violence when the aggressor is a partner or ex-partner. The law against misogynist violence encompasses more, seeing any man as an aggressor when he attacks a woman because she is a woman — just like the UN does. However, the law as it is established now, means that Catalonia has power over the social area but not the judicial area. This means that we can recognize the victim as such and offer them support, but we cannot sentence the perpetrator under the rules that apply to gender violence. So the sentences are shorter, we don't have a real study of victims on a national level and the gravity of the situation concerning femicide is not understood for what it is.

However, this is something that everyone knows won't last forever. There are other parties — backed by a lot of votes — with a clear understanding of the importance of implementing social justice measures, like controlling the rising cost of housing or applying feminist policies. They are clear that they want a feminist republic.

GV: So, now what? 

Silvia: Pues bueno, supongo que aplicarán el artículo 155 de la Constitución española [dota al Estado de un mecanismo para controlar a las comunidades autónomas que incumplan las obligaciones impuestas por la Constitución (u otras leyes) o que atenten gravemente contra el interés general de España] y puede que lo perdamos todo. Me daría vergüenza decirle a mis hijos que no lo intentamos. Ellos venían con armas y nosotros escondíamos urnas. Me gustaría seguir pensando que intenté hacer la revolución lo mejor que supe, como diría María Mercè Marçal: “A l’atzar agraeixo tres dons: haver nascut dona, de classe baixa i nació oprimida. I el tèrbol atzur de ser tres voltes rebel” (al azar le agradezco tres dones: haber nacido mujer, de clase baja y nación oprimida. Y el turbio azul de ser tres veces rebelde). 

Silvia: Well, I suppose they will apply Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution [a rule that provides the state with a mechanism by which they can control an Autonomous Community that fail to meet obligations placed on them by the constitution — or other laws — or seriously infringe upon the general interest of Spain]. It is possible we will lose everything. I would be embarrassed to tell my children that we didn't try. They came with weapons and we hid ballot boxes. I would like to continue thinking that I tried to create a revolution in the best way I knew how. As María Mercè Marçal said: “A l’atzar agraeixo tres dons: haver nascut dona, de classe baixa i nació oprimida. I el tèrbol atzur de ser tres voltes rebel” (I thank luck for three gifts: being born a women, from the lower classes in a oppressed nation. And the dark blue that made me three times the rebel).

by Andrea Chong Bras at October 17, 2017 01:50 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
10/17/2017: Small, cheap satellites could bring us closer to broadband for all
In the past few years, venture capitalists have invested more than $1.6 billion into companies working with low-earth orbit technology. Some of those companies are making small satellites that orbit closer to Earth than traditional ones. The goal: to blanket Earth with broadband internet and gather data on the planet. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks to the innovators behind this mission.

by Marketplace at October 17, 2017 10:30 AM

Global Voices
Tightened Security in Beijing Means Windows Ordered Shut and Bans on Knife Sales

A cartoon by Badiucao titled “Xi Jinping Thought.” Via Hong Kong Free Press

Ahead of the 19th National Chinese Communist Party Congress on October 18, Beijing has adopted several security measures in the city, such as restricting short-term apartment rentals and banning restaurants from using gas to cook, that are causing inconveniences for city residents.

Delegates at the Congress, which is held once every five years, elect the Chinese Communist Party's top leaders. The last Congress was in 2012, in which the Chinese President Xi Jinping established himself as China’s most powerful figure. It is widely expected that this Congress will see Xi further consolidate his power.

To make sure the Congress goes according to plan, all Beijing residents now have to follow extremely harsh security control measures. According to US government-funded broadcaster Voice of America, short-term apartment rental services are suspended between October 11 and October 31. Shops have been ordered to stop selling knives, cutters and scissors to customers, and quite a number of restaurants have also been told to stop cooking with gas in order prevent fires from accidentally breaking out during the Congress.

Twitter user @redfireage posted a Beijing restaurant's notice about the gas ban:

Tweet: the most evil and pervert [act].

Sign board in image: To make sure that the 19th Congress goes smoothly, this restaurant has been banned from using gas from October 13 until October 25. We can only provide cold dishes and set lunches during this period. Please accept our apology for the inconvenience caused.

Image from Weibo

Additionally, beginning the week of October 16, Beijing along with other major cities including Guangzhou and Shanghai have set up security checkpoints on subway stations. One user on social media platform Weibo posted photos of the queues at various Beijing subway stations and said:

今日的北京…地面车多人多,地下?地下根本下不去….因为打今起北京地铁全路网实施“人物同检”!就是你在机场过安检怎么检,地铁里就怎么检。这可苦了早上上班的好青年们啊…明天可得早点出门,千万别带有的没的,要严格要求自己同志们,为中国富强而努力!

Today’s Beijing… on the road, so many cars and people. Go underground? It is impossible to enter [the station] because today all subway lines have adopted passenger and luggage security checks. Which means the security check in the subway is like the airport. Young people who have to travel to work will have a really hard time, they have to leave really early and remember, don’t bring useless stuff. Be self-disciplined for China to be rich and strong.

‘As Evil as the Gang of Four Was, They Never Asked Me to Close My Windows’

“Be self-disciplined” implies that people should not complain about the security measures. In fact, most of the posts about security controls on Chinese social media, where content that does not follow the official government line is routinely censored, are positive.

The viral story below is one of the very few exceptions. The story was firstly circulated on messaging app WeChat, then was screen-captured and reposted elsewhere with the title: “As Evil as the Gang of Four Was, They Never Asked Me to Close My Windows.” The Gang of Four refers to a group of Chinese Communist Party leaders who were convicted for treasonous crimes for their role in the Cultural Revolution, a movement from 1966 to 1976 that saw violent purges of those deemed ideologically impure.

The viral story reads:

In the afternoon of the day before yesterday, someone knocked at my door and I heard quite a number of people talking in the corridor. I thought it was the delivery men and opened the door without unlocking the security chain. I saw a number of rude guys and asked them what was the matter? One of them said: Check if your back window is properly closed. I answered: There is no storm or rain, why should I close my window? Moreover, whether I close my window or not is none of your concern. He said: Xijing Hotel is hosting a meeting, residents here have to close the windows facing the hotel. I answered: Xijing Hotel always has meetings, what does their meeting have to do with my windows? The police officer standing to the side said: Just close the windows for one hour. I answered: So after one hour you'll alert us and announce that we can open the windows again? This building belongs to [state press agency] Xinhua and the residents are retired Xinhua cadres who have lived here for 50 to 60 years. Since when do we have to shut our windows when you have meeting? The Gang of Four was anti-revolutionary, how evil they were. The Gang of Four always had their meetings in the Xijing Hotel, but they never asked us to close our windows. What are you doing here? The leader who stood at the back said to let it be and asked his team to leave.

Gao Yu, a veteran journalist in Beijing, also shared the screenshot of the above Wechat story along with more details about Beijing security controls on Twitter:

Beijing had a series of accidents during the one-week-long [national day] holiday. Fire broke out with human casualties. Ahead of the 19th Congress, police officers have to take up the responsibility of fire prevention. The city public security bureau has also given out the order to check on all the photocopying shops that provide services including printing, output and photocopying of posters and banners bigger than A3 size. They have to make sure that their machines were under proper registration [or else they could not operate]. The viral story attached below certainly has caused the police station some troubles.

by Oiwan Lam at October 17, 2017 12:49 AM

October 16, 2017

Global Voices Advocacy
A ‘Verified’ Social Media Account Can Help Protect Iranian Activists — If They’re Lucky Enough to Get One

Iranian musician Shahin Najafi at a “United for Iran” event in Amsterdam. Najafi has been denied verification by Twitter and Instagram, despite persistent threats against his account. Photo by Marjolein Katsma via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When hackers attacked the Instagram account of popular Iranian musician Shahin Najafi, they replaced Shahin’s profile picture with the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They replaced his account bio with what appeared to be the attacker’s contact information. These other kinds of defacement are typical features of state-aligned cyber attacks and intrusion.

Najafi's songs address socially and politically sensitive issues such as theocracy, censorship, sexism and homophobia. After the release of his controversial song about a Shiite saint in 2012, two leading Iranian clerics issued fatwas declaring Najafi guilty of apostasy. He received multiple death threats across the social media sphere, and a far-right Iranian website offered a USD $100,000 bounty to anyone who killed Najafi.

He has remained a constant target of hate speech and cyber attacks ever since. Multiple fake accounts have impersonated Najafi and spread negative messages about him. And state-run media have repeatedly conducted smear campaigns against him.

Despite his celebrity status and a clear need for protection from platform operators, Najafi remains vulnerable on Instagram and Twitter. He chooses to remain present on both platforms, despite the consequences.

Najafi is not alone. For several years, Iranian civil society and political dissidents have been top targets of state-sponsored cyber attacks and intrusion campaigns. More recently, these groups have become regular targets of coordinated online mobs that sometimes appear to have links to the state agencies. Many encounter content takedowns and account suspensions that stem from coordinated flagging and reporting of their posts and accounts on social media. They are often impersonated by fake accounts that disseminate misinformation about targets’ private and public lives.

With their privacy and integrity under attack, some end up deactivating accounts. Others restrict the comment section of their profiles. And some seek protection and support directly from social media companies.

What does it mean to be “verified” on social media?

One partial remedy that has helped many public-facing artists, activists and journalists who face such threats online, is account verification — an official signal from the social media company, indicating that a person's profile is legitimate and that their identity has been verified. When a company “verifies” a user, that person's profile is adorned with a blue check mark, indicating their authenticity.

In practice, verified profiles enjoy more protection against false reporting and politically driven flagging of content. They appear to have more leverage in mitigating hacker attacks, removing fake accounts or curbing misinformation that could bring them harm. While it is not a panacea, the small blue badge has proven a helpful measure of protection of freedom of expression for its recipients.

But not all those who need this protection are able to get it.

Over the course of 2016, I interviewed 20 prominent Iranian human rights activists, artists and journalists who described challenges they faced in mitigating social media harassment and hacking. The majority of these interviewees had struggled to get the attention of social media companies when they most needed help, and several of them — including Najafi — could not convince the companies to verify their accounts.

Who gets to be verified? How do they do it?

While Twitter offers detailed steps on how to request a verified badge for an individual account, Instagram and Facebook simply explain that verified accounts are only available for “some public figures, celebrities and brands.”

In practice, of those who I interviewed, only journalists affiliated with widely recognized employers, such as large international media houses, were able to easily obtain the coveted blue badge.

All four of the Iranian women’s rights activists and LGBT public figures who I interviewed were unable to obtain verified status, even after sending companies the required documentation. Indeed, for activists, artists and journalists who work in an individual capacity, it is often difficult — if not impossible — to obtain verified status, unless they have a personal contact at the social media company.

In addition to the unclear process, there are other complications.

First, these guides are not available in Farsi. And this language gap is not limited to the verification rules — there is no information available in Farsi to guide individuals on reporting and documenting harassment on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

This is worrisome for Iranian human rights activists and dissidents who are regularly targeted with harassment and threats through direct messages on Facebook and Instagram, which are among the most popular social media platforms in Iran, and Twitter, which Iranians are increasingly using.

The error on top of the text reads “Sorry but this text is not available in your language.”

On Twitter, the drop-down list includes 32 languages. But as with Farsi, a handful of these a few generate the same message, stating that content is not available in the language selected. These include Chinese, Bengali, and Vietnamese. Like Farsi, these are all among the 25 most commonly spoken languages in the world, according to UN statistics.

“Major” languages including English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Hindi and Dutch are all available.

The text in yellow box states that the guide is not available in the selected language (i.e. Farsi) but that users can choose from “supported” languages.

Second, multiple interviewees reported that when they submitted requests for verification to Twitter, they were rejected because they were not “famous enough,” despite their strong notoriety within their country or field.

Social media platforms’ often obscure understanding of the significance of this work and the local context work appears to be keeping these communities from getting these vital protections. It also creates a climate of mistrust between activists and social media companies.

Companies need to understand context

In the past few years, social media platforms have taken noteworthy measures and demonstrated more accountability against harmful speech online. Yet there are still gaps to address, particularly concerning vulnerable communities whose work is deeply influential and not based in the West or conducted in “major” languages. In addition, their audience — and attackers — largely reside far from where major social media companies are headquartered.

These individuals also are often deprived of protection from law enforcement in their respective countries. In some cases, there is even evidence that the government perpetrates or supports the perpetrators of this harassment. This leaves activists even more dependent on the other major power holder in play, i.e. the social media platforms.

More transparency about the dynamics and processing of verification requests and reports of abuse can go a long way toward maintaining trust with end users worldwide. For effective engagement in addressing the concerns of affected stakeholders, companies also must take language, cultural fluency and other barriers into account. Making relevant information available to local communities reflects care and respect for the rights of regular users, not just western celebrities.

Making verification more accessible to at-risk groups is only a partial remedy for the adverse impacts that these individuals endure in the face of harassment. But it can bring a much-needed layer of safety to vulnerable voices who are trying to protect the rights of their fellow citizens.

 

This essay first appeared in the series “Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online,” published by Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

by Simin Kargar at October 16, 2017 09:32 PM

Global Voices
What's at Stake in Japan's Snap Election? The Country's ‘Peace Constitution’, for One
この国を守り抜く

“(I will) defend our country to the end.” Screencap from LDP official YouTube channel.

Following Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's decision to call a snap election, Japanese voters will go to the polls on October 22 to decide the makeup of their House of Representatives, the lower house of Japan's bicameral parliament or Diet.

The stakes are high: the election offers Abe a chance to repair his damaged political reputation while shaking up Japanese politics and breathing life into perennial efforts to revise Japan's post-WWII “pacifist” constitution to allow the country to go to war. So far, the campaign has seen the disintegration of one political party, the birth of two new ones, and protests from a vocal movement accusing the prime minister of representing a national crisis.

Abe is hoping to capitalize on rebounding voter support in the fallout from North Korea's ongoing nuclear and missile tests. In fact, when the Japanese Diet convened for its three-month summer recess in July, the prime minister's popularity had cratered. A series of scandals had led to speculations that Abe was planning to step down, with a potential successor waiting in the wings.

But on July 4, North Korea started regularly testing true intercontinental ballistic missiles thought to be capable of striking the continental United States. Some tests landed near Japan, while by the end of the summer residents in northern Japan were receiving text messages about North Korean missiles passing overhead.

Thanks to tough talk on North Korea, Abe saw his poll ratings steadily improve over the coming months, so much that he felt confident enough to call a snap election on September 25. After North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb and US President Donald Trump threatened nuclear war, Abe adopted the campaign slogan: “I will protect our country to the end” (この国を守り抜く).

Throughout the campaign, Abe and the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have continued to use the perceived threat of North Korea to appeal to voters.

A new ‘Party of Hope’ represents a hard-right challenge

The weakness of Japan's opposition parties also made calling a snap election attractive. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the main opposition party when Prime Minister Abe dissolved parliament on September 25, had remained deeply unpopular with Japanese voters after being perceived to mismanage the Fukushima nuclear crisis when they were in power in 2011.

However, just hours before the snap election was called, Tokyo governor Koike Yuriko, one of the few prominent female politicians in Japan, announced the formation of the “Party of Hope” (希望の党, Kibo no To), a new political party intended to run candidates all across Japan to challenge Abe and the governing LDP.

Koike's new Party of Hope appeared to seriously challenge Abe‘s plans to crush the opposition and consolidate his hold on power. The largest opposition party in Japan's lower house effectively disbanded a week after the election was called, in order to allow its members to run as Party of Hope candidates, and potentially provide Koike's unfunded party with the now-defunct DPJ's election campaign subsidies worth nearly US$150 million (the DPJ still lives on in Japan's upper house, the House of Councillors, which next has an election in 2019).

However, compared to the DPJ or even Abe's LDP, the Party of Hope ran on a plank of populist and even ultra-conservative policies. Notably, like the LDP, the Party of Hope promised to revise Japan's “peace” constitution in order to allow the country to go to war, and party leader Koike promised to purge any DPJ lawmaker that opposed constitutional revisionism.

As a result of Koike's hard-right approach, yet another new party was launched during the election campaign, this one dedicated to preserving Japan's “peace” constitution.

Another new party wants to save Japan's post-war ‘peace constitution’

Both Shinzo Abe's LDP and Koike Yuriko's Party of Hope have promised to revise Japan's constitution to make it easier for Japan to go to war. In response, Edano Yukio formed the Constitutional Democratic Party (立憲民主党, Rikken Minshuto). Yukio is a former high-ranking opposition DPJ member who served as chief cabinet secretary–the de facto deputy prime minister–during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Based on social media statistics, at least, this new party, dedicated to constitutionalism, peace, freedom of expression and democracy, appeared to quickly eclipse Koike's Party of Hope:

By mid-October, with less than a week to before the end of the election campaign, Edano's Constitutional Democratic Party had become the most popular opposition party by a percentage point, although many voters still said they had not decided who they would vote for:

The Constitutional Democratic Party is expected to gain support at the expense of other left-leaning parties, notably the Communist Party of Japan:

#You're_the_National_Crisis, say some anti-Abe protesters

According to polls, Abe's LDP still appears to be in the lead, and is expected to easily form government after the election on October 22.

However, the prime minister has still encountered protesters while out on the campaign trail, and is also confronted with a hashtag on social media: “#You're_the_National_Crisis (#お前が国難).”

Image caption: “[Abe], you're the national crisis”

Tweet: I've uploaded this poster on Twitter #You're_the_National_Crisis #The_Coming_National_Crisis. To amplify this meme: use code #12424741 at 7-11 printers to print out this poster.

The hashtag reflects the sense of national crisis Abe has fostered since North Korea began its missile and nuclear tests over the summer, and the crisis that will occur should Abe be reelected to pursue revising the constitution to allow Japan to go to war.

Protesters have become such a problem for the prime minister that he has had to avoid publicizing campaign events ahead of time. In this video (see 1:40), protesters hijack an Abe election event with placards stating the prime minister is the real “national crisis” or disaster, and that he should quit:

At other election events, crowds have gathered to voice their support of protecting Japan's constitution from Abe and other parties devoted to revising it.

Abe headed for a win, even if he loses the chance to revise the constitution

Besides plans to revise Japan's constitution, Abe and the LDP have also spooked the electorate by planning to double Japan's consumption tax (VAT) to 10% in order to pay for social programs such as elder care and daycare in order to encourage women to enter the workforce.

Still, an October 11 survey by the Yomiuri newspaper showed the LDP and its coalition partner winning close to 300 seats out of 465 members of the House of Representatives in the bicameral National Diet of Japan.

While the LDP and its supporters could fall short of the two-thirds majority (a super-majority) in both houses of the National Diet needed to trigger the process for revising the Constitution, Abe's position as prime minister will likely be cemented on October 22. This will make him one of Japan's most successful postwar prime ministers.

by Nevin Thompson at October 16, 2017 05:37 PM

Was the Anti-Kleptocracy Rally That Gathered Thousands in Malaysia a Success or Failure?

The anti-corruption rally in Kuala Lumpur ended peacefully. Photo from the Facebook page of Pakatan Harapan

An opposition-led rally was held on October 24, 2017 in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur to denounce corruption in the government.

According to Pakatan Harapan, the main opposition coalition which organized the rally, they were able to gather 25,000 people. But the police said only 4,000 joined the protest. Most media reports pegged the number of participants at 8,000 to 10,000.

Themed “Sayang Malaysia, Hapuskan Kleptokrasi” (“Love Malaysia, End Kleptocracy”), the rally aimed to unite Malaysians in condemning incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak who is currently embroiled in a corruption scandal. Najib is accused of pocketing more than 600 million US dollars through anomalous transactions involving the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) investment firm.

During the rally, opposition politicians appealed for public support to remove the ruling party in the next general elections. The United Malays National Organisation has been in power since the 1950s.

The 1MDB scandal has polarized Malaysian politics. It generated widespread public outrage which led to massive rallies across the country to call for Najib's resignation. Even former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad publicly called for the ouster of Najib, his former protégé.

The October 14 anti-kleptocracy protest was supposed to be the culmination of a two-month information campaign by Pakatan Harapan. The coalition originally targeted a crowd of 100,000.

The number of people who ended up joining the rally was many times smaller compared to the 100,000 anti-corruption protesters who gathered in the capital in 2015.

There were various perspectives as to why Pakatan Harapan delivered a ‘dull’ rally with a lower than expected turnout. Some blamed the lack of preparations on the part of the organizers, the failure to convince young people to join the protest, the dominance of politicians in the program and their not so subtle appeal for votes, and the main message of the rally which focused too much on corruption rather than the economic needs of ordinary citizens.

Blogger and activist Anil Netto highlighted the comment of one his readers, PolitiScheiss, who analyzed the program of the rally:

…the speakers were too heavy on condemnations of corruption, kleptocracy, the 1MDB issue.. and shouts of “Reformasi!” [reformation or change] instead of saying more about how a Pakatan government, if elected, will deal with issues such as the rising cost of living, unaffordable housing prices, public transit, declining education standards, affordable public healthcare, the problem of flash floods, environmental degradation and so forth.

Whether or not the rally boosted the political and electoral influence of Pakatan Harapan remains to be seen; what is certain is that it fell short in mobilizing a massive crowd that could affect the plans of the broader anti-corruption movement in the country.

Below is a video showing an aerial shot of the protest

by Mong Palatino at October 16, 2017 10:59 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
10/16/2017: The smartphone duopoly: Apple vs. Android
Microsoft recently announced that it’s doing away with its Windows Phone operating system. That basically leaves consumers with two options: iPhone or Android. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Julie Ask, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, about how the smartphone industry got here and what it would take for a third player to enter the market.

by Marketplace at October 16, 2017 10:30 AM

October 15, 2017

Global Voices
On Language: The Many Flavours of Persian in Eurasia

In places such as Bukhara, the language encountered — still ostensibly a variation of Persian — would be near incomprehensible to someone with knowledge of “colloquial Persian.” The same goes for Afghanistan and even Iran itself. The formal Persian of the media is virtually identical across borders, while the spoken dialects vary tremendously on a city-by-city, village-by-village basis. (Photo: Sergio Tittarini via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The following is a partner post from EurasiaNet.org written by James Pickett. Republished with permission.

Is Tajik a dialect of Persian? Or a language in its own right? What differentiates it from varieties prevalent in Afghanistan and Iran? There is no easy answer to these questions because the very categories we use to think about language in Central Asia, and elsewhere, are insufficient.

Consider these paradoxes: A student trained in modern Persian at an American or European university would have no trouble understanding Tajik-medium news on the radio, even though he or she would initially be unable to read the Cyrillic script of print publications. And at bazaars in places such as Bukhara or Khujand, the language encountered — still ostensibly Tajik — would be near incomprehensible to someone with knowledge of “colloquial Persian.” The same goes for Afghanistan and even Iran itself. The formal language of the media is virtually identical (excepting the alphabet in the Tajik case) across borders, while the spoken dialects vary tremendously on a city-by-city, village-by-village basis.

This basic insight is taken for granted by scholars with years of experience studying Persian (by its various names) and living in Iran and Central Asia. But it is a language framework missing from most Persian textbooks and actively subordinated to an explicitly national way of understanding language dynamics in the region.

The language categories we are more or less stuck with are organized vertically by nation-state, which at once obscures the profound variation of local dialects (Mazandarani, Bukhari, Kabuli, and many others), while simultaneously implying deep differentiation by country that does not in fact exist, among Farsi, Dari and Tajik.

Prior to the 20th century, Persian served as a remarkably uniform language of high culture from the Balkans to western China, in no way confined to the modern country of Iran. Much like Latin in Europe or Sanskrit in India, it was a literary language that many educated people could write, but far fewer spoke as a native tongue. Crucially, the language was known as Persian (Farsi) everywhere, and the written language formed the basis for the modern languages of Dari and Tajik as well — terms rarely used to describe a language before the 20th century. (“Tajik” was used to refer to people, but not language; and “Dari” was used in medieval texts to refer to Persian, but without any exclusive relationship to modern Dari or Afghanistan, despite nationalist claims to the contrary).

So if literary Persian formed the basis of all of these languages, just what is so Tajik about the Tajik language? (The same point applies to Dari and Farsi). This question is complicated by the inadequacy of our categories. If one has in mind the formal Tajik of the media and language textbooks, the answer is “not much,” aside from the alphabet. And a separate alphabet does not a language make: otherwise the recent script reform in Uzbekistan from Cyrillic to Latin would have effectively invented a new language.

A smattering of grammatical forms specific to Central Asia though not necessarily exclusive to Tajikistan were codified into grammar manuals during the Soviet era, and consequently survive in contemporary English-medium language textbooks.

For instance, “man rafta istāda būdam” (“I was going”) appears alongside the literary variant, even though that construction would make little sense in Tehran. Vocabulary is overwhelmingly etymologically Persian, with Turkic and Russian loanwords mostly excised from such language manuals. Students who master the contents of Tajik textbooks — the most widespread options are by Baizoyev and Khojayori respectively — would therefore be prepared to converse with well-educated colleagues in Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan.

It is true that slang and neologisms would pose a challenge when moving among the three countries. If one wished to say “satellite,” Tajik dictionaries offer “hamsafar,” and Farsi dictionaries “mahvāra,” for instance. But there is no escape from the learning curve associated with engaging in specialized domains. Moreover, rigidly adhering to one national language is no panacea, as foreign loan words for technical terms complicate the picture further. Returning to the example of “satellite,” most Tajiks would probably not use either of the previously mentioned variants, and instead use the Russian term, “sputnik.”

In other words, the predominant pedagogical approach is a good fit for diplomats, journalists, and literature scholars. Step outside the elite circle, however, and this picture changes dramatically. If by “Tajik” one has in mind the language of the hearth and bazaar, then it turns out there are many varieties of Persian.

Dialects common in Central Asia freely mix not only Persian, Turkic, and Russian words, but grammatical forms and sentence structure as well. Students who achieve high marks in a Tajik program may be surprised to find that the living language they encounter in Bukhara — where the local dialect is understood as “Tajik” — is very close to unintelligible. To engage on that level, one would have to study language as it is spoken, rather than the language as reformists wish it were spoken.

Nor is this situation limited to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Although education in formal Persian has penetrated much more deeply in Iran (not having to compete with the imperial language of Russian), Iran is home to a spectrum of local dialects, some arguably more pronounced even than those found in Central Asia. The same is true in Afghanistan, where languages such as Pashto and English provide ingredients for the local dialects.

Students wishing to engage with these colloquial forms are mostly out of luck. Language textbooks and programs strictly hew to the tripartite Farsi-Dari-Tajik division, and when “colloquial” elements are introduced, the variant in mind is that of Tehran, masquerading as a common spoken dialect for the language as a whole. There are a few examples of exceptions to this rule, such as the insightful, but difficult to obtain, guide to colloquial Tajik by Aliev and Okawa (Colloquial Tajiki Phrasebook, 2009). For the most part, the anthropologist and development worker (for whom formal Persian may be less useful) are on their own.

This need not be the case. If there is one thing that historical scholarship of the last several decades has demonstrated, it is that what we understand today as “nations” and “ethnicities” are the product of contested, and often very recent, historical processes. Those insights have yet to filter into language pedagogy in any meaningful way, but it is not too hard to imagine an alternative approach.

Indeed, just such an integrated approach is already on offer – for Arabic. Most Arabic programs focus on the formal language prevalent throughout the Arab world, while concurrently offering targeted introductions to various regional dialects, with special attention to the most prevalent one – that of Cairo. It is taken for granted that students’ journeys are not over at the end of the integrated program, since they will by necessity have to use the formal language as a platform for further specialization in a local dialect, technical field, or literary genre.

The only thing holding Persian back from a similar approach is the tenacity of national categories. An integrated pedagogy presenting a shared formal language transcending national boundaries, combined with exposure to regional and historical diversity, would better prepare language learners for realities encountered on the ground, and help undermine the conceptual silos of the nation-state.

For now, the DIY version of such an approach is not impossible, but certainly challenging due to a lack of materials. Students would have to strain to cobble together resources across dialects under a bewildering array of contradictory headings. But even a basic appreciation of the limitations of our perceived language categories opens the door to a far more diverse and interesting world.

Editor's note: James Pickett is an Assistant Professor in History at the University of Pittsburgh. … Interested in the gory details underpinning the arguments presented here? This article is adapted from: James Pickett, “Categorically Misleading, Dialectically Misconceived: Language Textbooks and Pedagogic Participation in Central Asian Nation-Building Projects,” Central Asian Survey, May 2017.

by EurasiaNet.org at October 15, 2017 07:52 PM

14 Tweets from Kyrgyzstan's Colourful, Competitive and Concerning Presidential Vote

Photo by Danil Usmanov for Kloop.kg. Used with permission.

Formerly communist Kyrgyzstan is the only country in its authoritarian neighbourhood to host genuinely competitive presidential elections.

To the north of the mountainous Central Asian republic lies Kazakhstan, which has been ruled by 77-year-old autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev since before its independence in 1991.

To its south is Tajikistan, whose dictator of more than two decades Emomali Rakhmon came to power during a civil war and stayed put.

To its west is Uzbekistan, where the regime of late despot Islam Karimov was widely reported to boil dissidents.

To its east is China, which has been under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party since 1949.

If Kyrgyzstan's vote goes smoothly it should ensure the first peaceful transfer of power between two elected presidents in the republic of six million.

The country's first two presidents were overthrown in revolutions while the country's third “interim” president was not elected, but endorsed by referendum.

Here are 14 tweets to provide readers outside Kyrgyzstan with an idea of some of the themes that have characterized this vote.

Fear and loathing

Like in any election, but particularly because Kyrgyz votes are associated with political instability, some can't wait to see it end.

The main character in this video is pursued home by an agitator asking him to vote for a specific candidate: “Ugh! I'm so sick of this! When will the elections be over already!?”

The message at the end of the video reads: “Elections 2017. Hopefully they will end peacefully!!!”

Man versus monster?

The state monster, to be exact.

This voice-overed video depicts pro-government candidate Sooronbai Jeenbekov as the Incredible Hulk emboldened by the machinery of government (or what are referred to in the ex-Soviet region as “administrative resources”) with his main challenger oligarch Omurbek Babanov struggling to compete.

Their dialogue in the Kyrgyz language runs as follows:

Babanov: “I am Babanov and [neighbouring Kazakhstan's ruler] Nazarbaev is backing me. I will buy people with my money. I will buy you all too.”

Jeenbekov: “And I am Sooronbai. I am Sooronbai. I am Sooronobai.”

But is this Babanov fellow a worthy candidate?

It depends who you speak to.

Some say he is a ruthless and slimy former oil trader with connections to criminals.

Others argue he is the reform-oriented progressive politician capable of lifting Kyrgyzstan out of its long post-Soviet stagnation.

At any rate, he looks good with a dove.

Omurbek Babanov: Let there be peace and prosperity in Kyrgyzstan!

And women often call him handsome

A newspaper salesman just came into [a cafe] in a very good mood, offering girls newspapers. “Do you love Babanov?”

Plus, Babanov's family is objectively really beautiful

What a moment with his family!

And the older generation of Babanovs looked pretty cool, too!

#SuperPapa – is my father. Here is why: https://www.facebook.com/omurbek.babanov/posts/804123763102068

So, he's rich and good-looking. What about the other guy?

On top of being backed by the state machine, Jeenbekov has his supporters.

Here he is pictured in a hat to the left of Aida Kasymaliyeva, a popular former journalist and MP in the ruling Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan.

Jeenbekov's supporters say they like the fact he is unflashy and committed to hard work and stability.

How do these ‘administrative resources’ work?

A bit like this. Here a media outlet claims citizens are being bussed to polls to vote for Jeenbekov.

More seriously, supporters of Babanov have been arrested in the run-up to the vote.

Nevertheless, the actual count is expected to be fairer than in previous presidential elections thanks to the use of biometric technology.

Bussing in favour of Jeenbekov.

 Is vote buying a problem, too?

Yes, on all sides. And exposing it is a dangerous business for journalists.

Are there any other candidates in this election?

Of course, and thanks to them it could go to a second round.

In the tweet below a Kyrgyz netizen applauds the performances in a presidential debate of ex-Prime Minister Temir Sariyev and Taalatbek Masadykov, a former United Nations expert who received his Masters degree in the United Kingdom.

Sariyev and Masadykov – bravo!

Then there is this guy…

Global Voices first covered Arstanbek Abdyldayev in 2011.

He famously announced the end of winter and called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a complex bio-robot”.

He has promised the world a new era under the leadership of the Kyrgyz people, and he is apparently writing a book.

He isn't expected to get much of the vote, though.

If we just let this person [be president], he will save the world!

Has the Bulldozer retired?

Then there is Azimbek Beknazarov, who says he is not participating in the vote but is on the ballot anyway.

His nickname is “the bulldozer” due to his active participation in the 2005 and 2010 uprisings.

This was his pre-election campaign commercial which was shown on television before he dramatically withdrew his candidacy during one of the debates.

Kid: “Mum, dad, the bulldozer is coming, the bulldozer is on its way, the bulldozer is on its way!”

Old man: “Who did you say is coming? Beknazarov, the bulldozer of the 2005 revolution?”

Woman: “Beknazarov, the one who brought up the issue of Ungar Too [territory disputed by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan]?

Kid: “Yes, yes, that very Beknazarov!”

Old man: “Oooh! That is very good. If there is anyone who can straighten out our society, it is him. Support him!”

With an ad campaign like this, Beknazarov will crush his opponents, no doubt!

What is the outgoing president up to?

Stirring, the pot, as usual. Almazbek Atambayev was limited by the constitution to a single, six year term in office following his own election in 2011.

Any hopes that the president would offer up a veneer of neutrality for the vote have been thoroughly dashed during the last few weeks, however.

He spoke again on election day, claiming representatives of the fabulously wealthy Babanov had offered him $20 million to endorse him, without offering proof.

With his speeches invariably inflammatory, one foreign correspondent suggested it would be better if he did not speak at all.

This sounds like a great story, but how will it end?

As mentioned, a second round is fairly likely, assuming the vote is sufficiently clean.

After that, who knows? But some have seen negative omens in the pre-election campaign of slight favourite Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

An electronic banner calling on voters to vote for Jeenbekov malfunctions, leaving an on-screen message: “A threat has been detected”.

by Bermet Zhumakadyr kyzy at October 15, 2017 11:09 AM

‘When You Write a Song About Racism, It's a Big Deal’

Aliou Toure of the band Songhoy Blues Credit: Leo Hornak

This story by April Peavey originally appeared on PRI.org on September 21, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

Aliou Touré told me not too long ago, “When you write a song about racism, it's a big deal.” Touré is lead singer of Songhoy Blues, a band from Mali.

He said this in the context of the band's new song “One Colour,” off their new album, “Résistance.”

The song was recorded with a school children's choir in London. Touré says recording with kids made him optimistic about the future, especially if adults take the moment to learn from them.

“The children are not racist. When we went to a school to record these kids’ voices, they were so beautiful — with all the different kids from different countries. From Asia, India, US, from France, from Africa. They're all together, playing together, happy,” he says. “It's so beautiful when you see kids like that. We said maybe the kids can educate the parents.”

“One Colour” is just one of the many lessons the listener takes from “Résistance.”

Touré says another lesson was to change the preconceived notions of what Africa, Mali and Bamako, their home city, are all about — stereotypes like the fiction that lawlessness and crime occur on every corner in Bamako. One way to break the stereotype, Touré says, is to fight back with music.

“When you put 100 people in a small venue, you put the music on, everyone will be happy,” he says. “When you turn the music off, everyone will be gone. It's not interesting without music. So, the thing with us is to turn all of these things happening around the world and to try and find a positive way to bring people together.”

You might be able to catch some of Songhoy Blues’ positive energy and the lessons they impart. Beginning in October, the band is embarking on a tour throughout North America and Europe.

by Public Radio International at October 15, 2017 10:14 AM

October 14, 2017

Global Voices
Climate Change Is Claiming Aspen Groves—and the History of Basque Immigrants in the US

A Basque arborglyph found outside Boise, Idaho. Researchers are cataloging this record of American immigrant experience, etched into trees by sheep herders from the 1890s through the 1980s, but it’s a race against the clock. Credit: Courtesy of the Boise State University Arborglyph Database

This story by Ryan Schuessler originally appeared on PRI.org on September 13, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

John Bieter never knew his grandfather. A Basque immigrant from Spain, his grandfather had died by the time his grandson was born in the northwestern US state of Idaho.

But Bieter has found a way to connect with the world where his grandfather walked: names, pictures and messages carved into the aspen groves that cover the mountains surrounding Idaho's capital Boise, carved by the last century’s Basque sheep herders.

To the average hiker, the carvings probably appear to be just that. But to Bieter and other Basque people in the US, they represent something more. The Basque, native to what are now the Atlantic borderlands of Spain and France, are an ethnic group whose origins are so ancient, their language so old, that nobody quite knows where they came from. Long persecuted in their homeland, many Basques began immigrating to the US in the late 1800s, with many men finding jobs as herders in the West.

During those solitary days in the mountains, those men left small pieces of themselves carved into the white bark of the aspen groves. Think petroglyphs, but carved into trees: “arborglyphs.” They’re not just vandalism or the marks of bored men, but rather a record of the early Basque American conscience — the personal, the intimate, the anguish felt by the forefathers of one of the American West’s most well-known diasporas, who endured hard labor as they forged a new life for themselves and their families, far from the persecution of fascist Spain. In the 20th century, thousands immigrated under contracts with the Western Range Association, a livestock group that had set up a recruiting office in Bilbao, Spain.

“[The arborglyphs] start to give you different glimpses into who they were, what they were thinking, what they thought of each other,” says Bieter, also a professor of history at Boise State University who has catalogued Basque arborglyphs around Idaho. “Something comprehensive needs to be done to document these.”

But time to document them is running out. The fact that the Basque herders carved into trees (as opposed to rocks) always meant the arborglyphs would not be permanent. Not only do the trees heal over time, but anything that can damage the trees themselves — disease, pests, fires like those currently raging across the West — puts existing arborglyphs in danger. The oldest Basque arborglyphs have already been lost. Finding and documenting those that remain, before they disappear, has always been a race against the clock.

Now climate change is running the clock out even faster.

“We’re starting to see what we think is another wave of mortality starting,” says Bill Anderegg, a biologist at the University of Utah who studies sudden aspen decline, or SAD. “It really seems it's the hot temperatures driven by climate change that are really pushing these trees over the edge.”

Anderegg was one of the scientists who documented a massive SAD event that peaked in 2008, when aspen groves across western and central North America succumbed to the type of drought that will only become more common as the planet’s climate continues to change. He’s starting to see the familiar symptoms again in the state of Colorado: sudden loss of the trees’ canopy in as little as a year.

“It was striking to see that,” Anderegg says. An aspen grove can die between two and five years after those first signs. “I would say that the threat is increasing to aspens in the West, and the main reasons is that we are doing relatively little to stop climate change.”

Joxe Mallea-Olatxe, who literally wrote the book on Basque arborglyphs and has documented thousands of them, says he has noticed the aspen decline himself. “I’ve seen it in every grove I visited recently,” he wrote in an email.

One study (PDF) predicted that nearly half of the aspen’s current range will be lost to climate change by 2060. And when those trees die, they will take existing Basque arborglyphs with them.

On the left, an arborglyph catalogued in the Idaho Basque Arborglyph Database. On the right, a note in the database about its content. Credit: Courtesy of the Boise State University Arborglyph Database

The majority of the carvings are names and dates. If a herder returned to the same place each season, their assimilation into American culture might have been documented. “Lorenxo” became “Lawrence,” or they changed the way the date was written from the European style to the American way.

Bieter has seen carvings of specific churches, barns or villages these herders left behind in Europe. He’s seen the crest of Bilbao’s soccer club in Spain, as well as political messages supporting Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Basque separatist group responsible for bombings in Spain and France in the mid-20th century. He’s found pornography carved into these remote aspen groves. He’s found carvings dating from the 1890s through the 1980s.

Tree carving is not a tradition practiced by Europe’s Basques, Bieter says. It’s something that emerged in the American West.

“It’s a way into that whole immigrant experience, which is at the core of the whole American experience,” says Bieter, who first saw a Basque arborglyph around a decade ago when hiking with a retired herder. “It helps me get a sense of [my grandfather], what his life was like. He’s the reason I’m in Boise, Idaho.”

The Basque culture itself is not in danger of disappearing in the US. Boise is home to a neighborhood called the Basque Block and is a hub of an effort to revitalize the Basque language. Boise State University is one of several in the region that host Basque studies programs. The Basque American story is one that the community regularly and proudly celebrates.

But it's the messages, thoughts and memories those earliest Basque in America left on the papery, white bark of the aspen that are quickly fading, taking with them the stories and thoughts of those who forged a new life in the West. Among the arborglyphs that Bieter found was a message decrying the solitary, harsh life of a sheep herder contracted to work on the frontier: “We’re the new slaves in America.”

by Public Radio International at October 14, 2017 10:00 AM

One Mother's Tireless Pursuit of Justice for Kashmir's Disappeared

Parveena Ahangar. Screenshot from YouTube Video by VideoVolunteers.

This post was written by Madhura Chakraborty and originally appeared on Video Volunteers, an award-winning international community media organization based in India. An edited version is published below as part of a partnership with Global Voices.

Losing a child is hard enough. But imagine not knowing where they might be and waiting for 27 years. One night in 1990, Parveena Ahangar’s 17-year-old son was captured by paramilitary personnel from Batamaloo locality of Srinagar, the capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, on the suspicion of being a militant.

Parveena has waited ever since for some definitive news on her son's fate. And she is not alone. Unofficial estimates by human rights groups establish the figure of “disappeared people” at over 8,000. Alongside this is definitive proof of unmarked, mass graves in Kashmir holding the remains of over 7,000 people.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is geographically divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in entirety by both. Twelve million live in the Indian portion of Kashmir and many want independence. Since 1989, more than 68,000 people have been killed in sporadic uprisings and subsequent Indian military crackdowns. Today, it is the most densely militarised zone in the world, with a presence of more than half a million soldiers.

Social worker and Video Volunteers community correspondent Nadiya Shafi reported about the resistance of the parents of the disappeared, spearheaded by Parveena:

By 1994, Parveena’s dogged determination to get justice led to the formation of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). Parveena would travel to remote areas of rural Kashmir to seek out the families of people who had been abducted, mostly by the Indian military and paramilitary forces, never to be seen again. She commented:

I had to give up the burqa. I had to appear in courts, visit military interrogation centres. It was not possible to do all that in a burqa. I did it for my son.

Enforced disappearance is only one in the long list of human rights abuses that the Indian state and military establishment in Kashmir stand accused of. However, there has never been any attempt to allow the law to take its course and conduct independent inquiries into these cases.

Since 1993, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has been denied entry into the valley. The country's Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) give impunity to armed personnel in the state in the name of combating insurgents. The draconian laws give troops the right to shoot to kill; arrest anyone as young as 12 with force and without a warrant; enter and search any premise and stop and search any vehicle; occupy or destroy property in counterinsurgency operations; and detain Kashmiris for up to two years without charging them. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under those laws.

In not a single case of rights violation from custodial torture to murder, disappearances, rape has the accused been tried by the civil courts. In the most high profile case of recent times, the armed forces tribunal suspended the life sentences of five personnel from the Rajputana Rifles regiment of the Indian Army for luring Kashmiri villagers with the promise of jobs and killing them, staging it to appear as a foiled infiltration bid by militants.

Despite the judiciary's failure to successfully address any of the wrongs committed in name of combating terrorism, Parveena has persevered, traveling from Kashmir to Delhi and Geneva to appeal before international rights bodies.

It wasn't an easy task to bring together the parents, wives, and children of disappeared persons across the valley. Most of the relatives belong to poor, rural families often without access to lawyers and human rights activists. Parveena said:

They were often threatened to not file First Information Reports (FIRs) and the police would also not register cases. I assured them that nothing will happen to them, that I will always be in front of them and that I needed them at my back. We have even traveled to Delhi and protested and held hunger strikes at Jantar Mantar monument.

Her activism and pacifism earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005. Parveena remains steadfast in her goals:

Is the law only for the military, the [Border Security Force], the Special Tasks Force? They offer us compensation of 100,000 Indian rupees [1,540 US dollars]. We don’t want their money. We want our children back.

India has signed but not ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. With her indefatigable activism, Parveena hopes to create enough international pressure on India to treat enforced disappearance as the culpable criminal offense it is.

Video Volunteers runs India's only reporting network that's focused exclusively on providing broad coverage from the poorest, most media-dark districts in India.

by VideoVolunteers at October 14, 2017 02:41 AM

October 13, 2017

Global Voices
The Crowd-Sourced Faroe Islands Answer to Google Translate
faroe islands translate

Screen captions from Faroe Islands Translate website. Image mixed by Nevin Thompson.

What do you do when your national language doesn't show up in Google Translate? If you're the Faroe Islands, you just crowd-source your own solution.

Faroe Islands Translate is a fascinating and fun website created by Visit Faroe Islands, the tourism authority for the islands, and Atlantic Airways, the country's official airline. On the website, locals demonstrate how common (and not so common) words and phrases from a variety of languages — including English, Spanish and French — are spoken in Faroese, the country's official language:

On our website, Faroese volunteers will live-translate words or sentences for free. It’s simple. You write, and a random Faroese volunteer will translate by sending a live translation which they have filmed with their smartphone.

The results of this project are often delightful:

life is wonderful in faroese

Screen caption from Faroe Islands Translate. Click to view translation.

Since translation requests are all crowd-sourced from the Internet, the website features a wide variety of phrases in Faroese, from asking directions to how to ask a Faroe Islander for a date. Thanks to the website, no matter what time of day it is, there is always someone ready to translate for you in real-time.

faroe island translate

Screen caption from Faroe Islands Translate. Click here to view translation.

The Faroe Islands form an archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean to the north of Scotland. An autonomous country within the kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands are home to about 50,000 people, making Faroese a minority language and a challenge for Google Translate to address accurately.

Between full-time residents of the islands and islanders who now live in other parts of the world, there are about 75,000 speakers of Faroese. The language of the archipelago is descended from Old West Norse which was spoken by the Norse settlers who arrived on the islands in the 9th Century.

This isn't the first time the Faroe Islanders have literally put themselves on the map. In 2016, with their country still not appearing on Google Street View, the tourism commission decided to launch Sheepview360. Five of the island’s sheep were fitted with a 360-degree camera in order to take panoramic images of the entire country. Shortly afterward, Google Maps showed up to map the Faroe Islands.

It is now Google Translate's turn to catch-up to the island's clever, do-it-yourself solutions.

by Nevin Thompson at October 13, 2017 08:54 PM

‘They Tried to Give Us One Day Back’ — Trinidad & Tobago Marks a ‘One-Off’ First Peoples Day

Photo from the Ceremonial Walk around The Red House, October 12, 2017. Photo copyright: Maria Nunes, all rights reserved, used with permission.

For the first time, the government of Trinidad and Tobago has recognised its indigenous community, by granting what has been deemed a “one-off holiday”. The day, which honours the First Peoples of the nation, is an effort to bring national awareness to their history, customs and contributions. This despite the fact that many social media users believe any public holiday granted to the country's Amerindian descendants should be an annual one.

In a Letter to the Editor at the popular site Wired868, Alana Abdool wrote:

I have often wondered where Trinbagonians stand on the idea of a national heritage. It seems to me that the average Trinbagonian, more so the first half of that word than the second, are less interested in why a national holiday exists than in that it exists. […]

Is it really proper that, [on] the list of 14 public holidays […] there should be no annual national celebration of the autochthonous group?

Surely these people, these peoples, do not deserve to be treated as if they are somehow children of a lesser god? How dare we argue that there are not enough of them to merit annual recognition when they are certainly not to blame for the smallness of their number?

I think today is a good time to reflect on what is the real message of the choice we have made, of the selective narratives we have perpetuated.

A member of the First Peoples community holds up photographs of his ancentors. Photo by Maria Nunes, Copyright 2017, used with permission.

Still, in preparation for the celebration on October 13, members of Trinidad and Tobago's indigenous community (their forefathers called these islands “Iere”) paraded through the streets of the capital, Port of Spain. The walk began, quite symbolically, at The Red House, the former seat of parliament, which has fallen into a state of disrepair. In 2013, as extensive renovations were in progress, the skeletal remains of what is believed to be indigenous ancestors were discovered under the building's foundations. As photographer Maria Nunes, who covered the event, noted in a Facebook post, prior to Port of Spain being established as a port by the Spanish during colonisation, it had been “a well established area of settlement by indigenous people for nearly 1,500 years”.

Ceremony at The Red House to honour indigenous ancestors whose skeletal remains were found under the building's foundations in 2013. Photo by Maria Nunes, copyright 2017, used with permission.

The Santa Rosa First Peoples community laid out a vision for themselves in a video on their Facebook page, which was quite active with posts related to the celebration of the First Peoples Heritage Week.

On social media, both individuals and organisations paid tribute to the community. On Facebook, The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago, which is charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the country's natural, built and cultural heritage, posted a video about the UNESCO Heritage Banwari Trace Archaeological Site (the oldest pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Caribbean), and expressed hope that the holiday would bring “greater awareness to the contribution of the Indigenous Community of not only Trinidad and Tobago, but the rest of the Caribbean and the World!”

Members of the First Peoples community in Trinidad and Tobago. Photo by Maria Nunes, copyright 2017, used with permission.

The National Library, which is situated just opposite to The Red House in Port of Spain, created an educational display on the First Peoples in its atrium. It attracted a lot of foot traffic throughout the week, including visits from primary and secondary school students.

The sign welcoming visitors to the Amerindian exhibition at the National Library in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Photo by the author.

On the Santa Rosa First Peoples blog, the community talked about their history and legacy:

We, descendants of our First Peoples still live in Trinidad. We continue to fight for and defend our way of life. Our ancestors owned and named our world. Many of these names have survived to date. […]
Plants and animals such as carat and timite palms, tobacco, cacao, ceiba (silk cotton tree), maize, manicou, agouti, lappe and many more
Many of our present towns and villages are built on ancient Amerindian settlement sites
Some of our roads are built on old Amerindian trails. […]
Parang, utilizing both Spanish and Amerindian instruments emanated from the evangelization of the Amerindians. Arima and Siparia, two large Amerindian mission towns have given us our two oldest festivals: The Santa Rosa festival and La Divina Pastora. We continue to enjoy the foods that our ancestors enjoyed such as wild meat, cocoa, cassava, roucou, corn, maize and warap. Similar to our Amerindian forbears we barbecue our meats and season them with chardon beni (cilantro). We too relax after eating in a hammock.

Part of the ceremonial ritual to honour the First Peoples’ forefathers. Indigenous remains were unearthed beneath the foundations of The Red House in 2013. Photo by Maria Nunes, copyright 2017, used with permission.

In their honour, the Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival created an event, Indigenous Voices, celebrating films that explore “a diverse spectrum of indigenous storytelling and a powerful narrative on the disappearing indigenous cultures of Trinidad and Tobago and the Americas”. Tracy Assing, who is part of the First People's community, will have her film, The Amerindians, screened at the event, which is free to the public. On the occasion of the “First Peoples’ One-Off Holiday 2017″, she wrote on her Facebook page:

One day they came.
We were expecting them
with their swords and crosses, shields and scripture glinting in the hot sun. […]
Wild we must have seemed as we greeted them with gifts of proper clothing and food, healed their wounds with herbs. They spoke another language. They made notes.
We showed them how to hunt and how to plant. We gave thanks for all things.
They gave us clothes that made us sick and told us we were ungrateful. They said grace was something we had to learn. We could only be saved by suffering. […]
One day they took more than we offered. More of them came. […]
We were expecting them. They did not know our numbers. We watched from the forest. We knew this day would come. The wind whispered a warning.
One day they used their weapons against us.
Skin split, blood spilt as the children watched. The bones buried now. […]
I lost count of those that fell, to the East and the West, to the North and South. Once we lived on all the islands. Once the forest was home.
They do not know our numbers. We never left the islands.
We walked among them. Invisible. Present. Walk. […]
The Empire is still hunting for our blood. The Empire wants to know the secrets we whisper to the plants.
I remember the blood nehneh.
[…] Ma Tom crossed the mountains and the valleys with stories, every day, each step knitting us closer, making sure we would not forget.
We go to the forest for incense. We go to the forest. […]
At school they told me we were dead. How do you know you are indigenous?
I knew their words now. Absent from the census. It does not matter what we are called, we know who we are. It is you who do not recognise me. […]
Our children are restless and angry, waiting for that day.
Through a pact, they tried to give us one day back.
After many cycles around the sun, only one.

Members of the First Peoples community. Photo by Maria Nunes, copyright 2017, used with permission.

There has been a fair amount of debate over whether or not statuary of Christopher Columbus should be removed. Some feel that it glorifies the country's colonial past, while others — including a sculptor who is a First Peoples descendant — view it as a legitimate part of history. Facebook user Flloyd Hernandez attempted to bridge the gap:

In defense of the continued presence of Columbus’ statue in this country, some people are saying that good bad or indifferent, Columbus is part of our history and shouldn't be erased.
Erasing history is not the issue. Columbus can never be erased from our history, but there is no reason to celebrate or honour him. […]
If Columbus must be actively and accurately portrayed, it has to be as a monument to murder, rape and genocide. None of that horror is reflected in this statue that they so cherish.

Either way, many Facebook users expressed the hope that this would be “more than just another holiday” and that it would help put issues important to the indigenous community higher on the national agenda. Elspeth Duncan, who is part Carib, said:

Rather than just being a one-off holiday for people to lime and sleep late, how about an annual one to kick off or end a week where there are workshops, educational opportunities and experiences for the public to learn more about the first people. If we returned to their way of living, we could learn a lot about being more in harmony with Nature and ourselves.

Being into Native American Indians and their ceremonies, wisdom, music, jewelry, etc is very trendy all over the world—including here. What about our own indigenous people's ceremonies, dress, culture, music, customs, wisdom? Do we know much, if anything about it? I like to think that at least I have some of it in my DNA (as do others of us born in Trinidad)—ancient wisdom encoded in who we are, accessible at the tap of our third eye/intuition—like an inbuilt Google of age-old consciousness.

Part of the First Peoples parade and ceremony outside The Red House on October 12, 2017. Photo by Maria Nunes, all rights reserved, used with permission.

Netizens also discussed the significance of the holiday on Twitter:

Even the Ministry of Public Administration and Communications mused:

Many will be looking to see whether this recognition will be sustained past October 13, 2017.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at October 13, 2017 07:59 PM

The Viral Video that Sent Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan Relations into a Tailspin

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev and Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev during happier times. Photo from Kazakhstan's presidential press service carried by RFE/RL.

Kyrgyzstan's outgoing President Almazbek Atambayev has sparked a diplomatic standoff by assailing his opposite number in Kazakhstan — long-reigning 77-year-old dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev — in a blistering attack on the eve of Central Asia's most competitive presidential election yet.

The two-and-a-half minute tirade launched by Atambayev has already scooped close to two million views on YouTube. In oil-producing Kazakhstan, where an economic downturn has raised questions about the autocratic path of Central Asia's richest country, many applauded Atambayev's words. But in semi-democratic Kyrgyzstan, where citizens travelling to Kazakhstan by land now face lengthy queues at the border, some are beginning to wish he'd kept his mouth shut.

For the second time (see also Will This ‘Toilet Cleaning’ Conflict Between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan Ever Stop?) Global Voices provides a blow-by-blow account of how relations between two brotherly ex-Soviet ‘stans’ broke down in farcical fashion.

1. He's my candidate

Babanov meeting Nazarbayev. Image from the website of the President of Kazakhstan. Creative commons.

First things first — Kyrgyzstan is having a very real and very competitive presidential election on October 15. That is important because Kazakhstan, which Nazarbayev has ruled since before it gained independence from the Soviet Union, doesn't bother with that sort of thing. Nazarbayev won the last Kazakh leadership contest in 2015 with nearly 98% of the vote.

A good neighbour might reasonably be expected to stay neutral in such a tense political contest, but Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have had their ups and downs in recent years and Nazarbayev decided to take a side by publicizing his meeting with Kyrgyz oligarch and opposition candidate Omurbek Babanov on September 19.

During the meeting Nazarbayev declared his readiness to work with the “next elected president” in Kyrgyzstan.

Although the content of the meeting seemed fairly innocuous, it caused a total meltdown in the Kyrgyz government. This is not least because the candidate Atambayev would prefer to succeed him, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, is facing a strong challenge from Babanov and could have benefited from a similar sort of endorsement.

Atambayev himself is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a second term.

2. ‘Interference’

‘Interference’ by Geralt. Pixabay image. Creative Commons CC0.

Thus, Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry sent Kazakhstan's ambassador a strongly-worded note of protest on September 20 in which the smaller country accused the larger country of interfering in its domestic affairs:

The Kyrgyz side regards those comments and the wide coverage of this meeting by the Kazakh side as an attempt to influence the choice of the people of Kyrgyzstan and interfere in the domestic affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic.

3. Did we just do that? Really?

Kazakhstan's foreign ministry expressed its “extreme surprise” at Kyrgyzstan's reaction the same day.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev looking surprised. Russian government image licensed for reuse.

4. Atambayev takes the beef to the United Nations. Sort of.

Also on September 20 (but in New York) Atambayev used the opportunity of the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations to call on Kyrgyz citizens not to respond to the calls of “oligarchs and the presidents of other countries.” While not mentioning Babanov and Nazarbayev by name, he made his point.

Atambayev at the United Nations General Assembly. Photo from the press service of the President of Kyrgyzstan.

5. Meanwhile, Kyrgyz pro-government media bashes Babanov

Shame on [Kyrgyz state broadcaster] KTRK! They are discussing all this nonsense about Babanov — meetings with Kazakh oligarchs, [Babanov's] Kazakh passport and so on.

Widely distributed meme portraying Babanov as a slave to Kazakh interests.

6. Now for the bomb

Anyone that knows Kyrgyzstan's combustible President Almazbek Atambayev knows that it is not enough for him to make his point just once (see Will This ‘Toilet Cleaning’ Conflict Between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan Ever Stop?) and he was true to form again.

Below is a translation of Atambayev's comments made on October 7 at a routine state awards ceremony:

Правильно говорит Нурсултан Назарбаев, что даже ВВП Алматы в 5 раз больше чем ВВП всего Кыргызстана,что ВВП Казахстана больше экономики Кыргызстана в 20 раз. И средний валовой продукт Казахстана в доходах в 10 раз больше Кыргызстана. Почему тогда пенсии Казахстана больше всего в полтора раза, а не в 10, а тарифы выше в 5 раз? Потому что разворовывает правительство Казахстана. И мы подаем плохой пример, Атамбаев плохой пример. Я поддерживаю слова Назарбаева о том, чтобы молодой президент к нам пришел. Но у нас самый старший кандидат на 20 лет моложе Назарбаева. А я – на 16 лет. И кому нужен молодой президент? Нам или Казахстану? Казахи наши братья, мы знаем историю. Казахи – это мы, которые 500 лет назад поставили султаном чингизида и, кажется, до сих пор ими правят чингизиды, а не казахи.

Nursultan Nazarbayev is correct when he says that even the GDP of Almaty [Kazakhstan's largest city] is five times greater than the GDP of the entire Kyrgyzstan, and that Kazakhstan's GDP is 20 times the size of the Kyrgyz economy. And that Kazakhstan's GDP per person is 10 times the size of Kyrgyzstan's.

Why, then, are Kazakh pensions only one-and-a-half times the size and not 10 times the size, and why are tariffs [for electricity and gas] five times more expensive?

Because the government of Kazakhstan steals its national wealth!  It doesn't reach the people! And [Kyrgyzstan] sets a bad example, Atambayev sets a bad example. The example of a just government. Because if our revenues were ten times the size, our pensions would be ten times the size.

[…]

I support Nazarbayev when he says we should have a young president. But our oldest candidate is 20 years younger than Nazarbayev. And I'm 16 years younger. So who needs a young president? Us or Kazakhstan?

The Kazakhs are our brothers, we know their history. The Kazakhs are Kyrgyz people who fell under the rule of the descendants of Ghengis Khan. And sometimes it seems that they are still ruled by these descendants, and not by the Kazakh people themselves.

The speech was a typical Atambayev speech in that it contained inaccuracies.

Kazakhstan's social minister pointed out for instance that Kazakh pensions were not one-and-a-half times the size of Kyrgyz pensions, but two-and-a-half times their size, and would soon be three times the size when a new raise came into effect.

Atambayev's implicit suggestion that Kyrgyzstan does not have its own problems with corruption and authoritarianism — Central Asia's closest approximation to a democracy is still a long way from the democratic ideal — was also extremely far-fetched.

But the damage was done. While roughly half of the comments from Kazakhs under the viral video were defensive, the other half read along these lines:

Живу в Казахстане. И ничего не могу сказать против слов Атамбаева. Ни к одному слову не могу придраться, чтобы высказаться в защиту своей страны. Обидно… Но, правда есть правда.

I live in Kazakhstan. And I cannot say anything against Atambayev's words. I cannot say anything to defend my country. It is a shame, but the truth is the truth.

7. You said what???

Kazakh Prime Minister Bakyt Sagintayev. Screenshot from YouTube channel of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan.

On October 10,  Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Bakyt Sagintayev waded in:

Bakytzhan Sagintayev noted that he made a statement in connection with the incorrect statements of the President of Kyrgyzstan A. Atambayev, which are based on manipulation of figures that have no grounds. The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan stressed that in his statement he gave the official position of the Government supported by reliable facts.

Bakytzhan Sagintayev noted that Kazakhstan's successes are undeniable, recognized by the international community and achieved thanks to the course and political leadership of the Leader of the Nation President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan noted that Kazakhstan has always maintained partnership relations with Kyrgyzstan. As an example, it was shown that all transport and trade outlets of the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as air, rail and road routes go through Kazakhstan, which has never taken restrictive measures. 

8. Kazakhstan starts taking restrictive measures

Although Kazakhstan did not initially admit to causing massive holdups at the border with Kyrgyzstan that began October 10, it admitted on October 11 that the delays were the result of a “planned” security operation. This has been a disaster for both small-time Kyrgyz traders and bigger businesses who rely on swift passage over the two states’ frontiers. Many Kyrgyz social media users posted footage of trucks queuing and heaped blame on Atambayev.

Trucks queuing at the border with Kazakhstan.

9. We've sorted things out. No, we haven't.

Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Sapar Isakov. Wikipedia image. Author: Daniar, CC 4.0.

Awkwardly, Atambayev's attack on Nazarbayev came just before a summit of ex-Soviet leaders in the Russian city of Sochi where both he and Nazarbayev were expected to be present.

Instead of attending, however, Atambayev chose to stay at home, releasing a statement via his presidential website that explained he would not be making the journey because “politicians from foreign countries” were financing unrest to help upset the country's election. No prizes for guessing who he was referring to.

Thus, the task of unblocking the country's shared border fell upon Kyrgyzstan's smooth-talking Prime Minister Sapar Isakov, who claimed a diplomatic breakthrough after he returned from the summit.

After negotiations, President Nursultan Nazarbayev gave an order to the government of Kazakhstan to solve all issues at the border.

Unfortunately, Kazakhstan's foreign ministry swiftly responded that Isakov's achievement was a figment of his imagination.

As of this writing, Kyrgyz media were still reporting long delays at the Kazakh border, despite Kyrgyzstan's border service saying the situation has improved, while other media were reporting that Kyrgyz migrants working in Kazakhstan were being targeted for document checks.

The moral of the story? Never call the Khan a Khan.

Widely shared meme featuring Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as a would-be Central Asian Pablo Escobar.

by Akhal-Tech Collective at October 13, 2017 07:42 PM

Russians Are Receiving Some Uncanny Answers From Alisa, Tech Giant Yandex's Siri Competitor

Me: “I hate you.” Alisa: “Let's pretend you never said it and I never heard”. Yandex’s voice assistant appears to be more diplomatic than her Apple’s competitor, Siri.

On October 10, Russian tech giant Yandex rolled out Alisa, its first voice assistant for iOS and Android (a computer version is also available, but it's in beta). Alisa was announced back in May 2017, but first gained widespread recognition when Russian President Vladimir Putin was shown the app in September during his official visit of the company’s headquarters.

Since its release, thousands of Russians have been trying Yandex’s answer to Siri, Apple’s own voice assistant. Like Siri, Alisa can perform searches, create itineraries, provide information about the weather or the latest news.

Inevitably, comparing Alisa to Siri was one of the first thing many users did. Putting the two voice assistants to the test, Russian business outlet RBC found out that neither Alisa nor Siri were able to predict any trends in the ruble exchange rate, nor would they give their opinion on the controversial, yet unreleased movie “Matilda.”

TJournal, a Russian tech news website, came up with a more thorough test, starting with asking both Alisa and Siri to tell a joke:

Alisa vs Siri: two voice assistants telling a joke / Caption credit: TJournal.ru

Alisa: A robot walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender takes a thousand-ruble bill from the robot, gives a hundred back and waits for the robot to complain. The robot stays silent. In the end, the bartender cannot keep a lid on his curiosity and says, ‘We don’t often have robots around here.’ And the robot answers: ‘With these prices, that’s not surprising!’ End of the joke.

Siri: Two iPhones walk into a bar, and then I can’t remember.

Others noted the voice assistant’s peculiar personality, as Alisa encouraged one user to steal an iPhone:

Tweet: #alisa continues to mystify. Don't show this to the lawmakers, or else they'll ban it :)))

Image: — I want a new iPhone.

— What keeps you from buying one?

— I don’t have money.

— Steal it.

— But it’s a crime

— No one will know.

The voice assistant also showed an apparent preference for the Saint Petersburg football team, despite Yandex being based in Moscow:

Tweet: Alisa is such a fickle girl

Image: — Do you like the CSKA? [Moscow’s football team]

— Love it.

— Who do you think will win Russia’s football championship?

— Zenit [Saint Petersburg’s football team]

— Do you like Spartak? [Another football team in Moscow]

— Our name is Zenit! [Zenit fans’ rallying cry]

The Zenit’s Twitter account quickly took note and thanked Yandex “for the support.”

The questions quickly turned political, however, as some Russians tried to assess Alisa’s views of the current leadership. One user asked whether Russia “will be free”, a reference to a slogan regularly shouted in opposition protests, to which Alisa answered “Oh. I want to believe so.”

A list of Alisa answers compiled by Riga-based Russian news website Meduza also showed the voice assistant answering the question of when would Putin leave with “Never, obviously.”

Another user accused Alisa of being unpatriotic:

Tweet: Alisa's not a patriot! I guess that's Putin's oversight, he should've fixed it during his Yandex visit.

Image: — How do you view America?

— Positively.

— How do you view Russia?

— Neutrally.

Russian independent TV channel Dozhd asked both Siri and Alisa “Who does Crimea belong to?” referring to the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. Siri simply transferred the question to the iPhone’s search engine, while Alisa answered with a laconic “It's yours.”

Yet others, such the Russian science news website N+1, chose to go the full robot apocalypse and pitted Alisa against itself. The conversation between the two smartphones starts innocently enough, but turned quite uncanny after a few seconds:

— К сожалению, на этот раз я вас не поняла.

— Извините.

— Забудем.

— Я и не забыл.

— Ну как такое забыть?

— Никак.

— Иди спи.

— До завтра.

— А что завтра-то?

— К сожалению, недостаточно данных. Могу ответить о погоде. Если, конечно, спросите.

— У нас все будет завтра.

— Будем надеяться.

— Надежда всегда с нами.

— Аминь.

— Есть ответ.

— Выход есть всегда.

— В окно.

— Unfortunately, I didn’t understand you this time.

— Sorry.

— Forget about it.

— How can one forget something like this.

— One can't.

— Go to bed.

— Till tomorrow.

— But what happens tomorrow?

— Unfortunately, there is not enough data to process. I can tell you about the weather. If you want me to, of course.

— We will have everything tomorrow.

— Hopefully.

— Hope is always with us.

— Amen.

— There is an answer.

— There is always a way out.

— Through the window.

When showing the app to Vladimir Putin, Yandex CTO Mikhail Parakhin claimed the answers were not programmed in advance, and Alisa could give different answers to the same question. So far, Yandex has not revealed the app’s inner workings or the logic behind some of the more surprising answers.

by Fabrice Deprez at October 13, 2017 05:51 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Free Speech Is Under Fire in Catalonia’s Push for Independence

Demonstrators in Barcelona, 2006. Banner reads “We are a nation and we have the right to decide!” Photo by Friviere via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

The story of Catalonia's push for independence has been one of judicial threats, police violence, digital censorship, and intimidation of journalists both online and off.

Although it was technically prohibited by Spain’s Constitutional Court, Catalonia’s regional government organized a referendum, offering its citizens the choice to vote for or against Catalonia becoming an independent state. Forty-three percent of the electorate participated in the vote, which was marred by irregularities including the same people voting twice. A total of 90% favored secession.

Weeks before the vote took place, the official website for the referendum — which explained the implications of the referendum and its origins, and also gave citizens practical information about when, where and how to vote — was taken offline by a domain name seizure, at the order of a Spanish court.

Spain’s Guardia Civil then raided the headquarters of top level domain .cat, confiscating IT equipment and data. Six staff members were arrested and the technical agency’s CTO has been charged with sedition. Multiple mirror sites appeared in the wake of the raid, most of which have been subsequently taken offline as well. Among other people who helped establish these mirror sites, 13 individuals have been placed under investigation for disobeying the order of the Constitutional Court.

Soon after, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia ordered the blocking of websites and domains with any information of this kind. This led to the blocking of roughly 140 websites, including many that hosted commentary and discussion about the referendum, rather than information about participating in the vote.

On the day of the referendum, police forcibly blocked the entrances to polling places and used violence to prevent voters from entering. Intense and sometimes violent street protests have since ensued, and journalists covering demonstrations and clashes have also been subject to abuse.

In a special report on media repression in the region, Reporters Without Borders documented multiple cases of Spanish journalists who were attacked by pro-separatists, both on the streets and at the Parliament building. The report explained that all of its participants “confess to self-censorship in one way or another and several recognize having dropped a story, or wishing to do so, or even leaving Catalonia.”

US and Puerto Rican authorities are ‘whitewashing’ hurricane stats

Reporting on the state of devastation in Puerto Rico has been “whitewashed” by authorities, in the words of one US Congressman. Detailed statistics about water, electricity, and resource shortages that were published and routinely updated on the US Federal Emergency Management Agency website disappeared on October 5, while more “positive” data about the relief effort remained online. The numbers reappeared following reports by multiple media outlets about the censorship.

Human rights leaders charged and indicted in Turkey

Eleven human rights advocates arrested in Turkey in June and July of 2017 have been charged with “aiding an armed terrorist organization” and were indicted this week by the public prosecutor, who is seeking multi-year prison sentences for each individual, despite there being no concrete evidence to support this claim.

The group had gathered for an information management and wellbeing workshop on one of Istanbul's islands, Buyukada, on July 5 when police raided the workshop, detained the participants, and confiscated electronic equipment including computers and mobile phones. Among those arrested was the director of Amnesty International Turkey, Idil Eser. All of those facing charges are Turkish nationals, except for trainers Ali Gharavi, a Swedish citizen, and Peter Steudtner, a German citizen.

Bloggers go on hunger strike in Algeria

On October 7, Reporters Without Borders reported that Algerian blogger Merzoug Touati has been on hunger strike since September 13. The press freedom watchdog expressed concerns about the bloggers’ health and reported that “his weak condition” prevented him from answering an investigative judge's questions on October 3. Touati has been in jail since 18 January for interviewing an Israeli official. Fellow blogger Slimane Bouhafs has been on hunger strike since October 2. Bouhafs was arrested on 31 July 2016 for Facebook posts deemed “offensive to Islam.”

Meanwhile, Algerian news outlet TSA, along with its Arabic version TSA-Arabi, were blocked on Algeria Telecom and its subsidiary Mobilis, while it remains accessible on the mobile networks Djezzy and Ooredoo. Whether this constitutes censorship – and why the sites were inaccessible – remains unclear.

Wanna censor some websites? Indonesia’s building an app for that

Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology announced it recently purchased a US $15.6 million system that will allow it to automate censorship of websites. The system uses keyword crawling to analyze sites for negative content and block them automatically. The Ministry has already blocked over 800,000 websites manually, which allegedly contain pornography or other subject matter that violates “negative content” guidelines that govern gambling, extremism, and sexual education material online.

China’s new Weibo ‘supervisors’ are censoring illegal content — and women’s legs

Chinese tech giant Sina Weibo has recruited 1,000 Weibo supervisors to report on “pornographic, illegal and harmful content” after China's Cyberspace Administration investigated and fined Weibo for failing to purge banned content from its social media platform.

The policy is already having adverse effects on users, particularly young women, whose photos are being taken down if they show a woman's leg, abdomen or cleavage, on grounds that they are “pornographic”. Users who are found to violate the rules may have their “social credit” scores reduced, which can limit to their ability to use the platform.

Brazilian lawmakers skirt due process with new social media censorship regs

Brazil’s Congress passed a law that allows political parties and candidates to force social media outlets to take down content deemed to be defamatory or offensive by anonymous authors. It does not require a judicial order for these requests to be made of websites or apps. Brazilian President Michel Temer has not yet indicated his position on the law, but could use veto power to override the decision of Congress.

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by Netizen Report Team at October 13, 2017 05:11 PM

Global Voices
‘Are We Still in the Stone Age?’ Cambodians Express Disappointment as Government Bans ‘Kingsman’ Movie Sequel

‘Kingsman’ film poster and an announcement from a local cinema: “Due to widespread disapproval of scenes in the movie, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ will not be shown in the cinemas. With this news, we sincerely apologize.” Source: Facebook

The Cambodian government has banned the public screening of the Hollywood movie “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” for depicting a Khmer temple as the secret base of a criminal drug lord.

The movie is a sequel of the 2014 action comedy film about a British secret spy organization.

Bok Borak, deputy director of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ Film Department, explained the reason for the ban:

After we reviewed the film we found some problems. They used the Cambodian land – the temple – as the place where the terrorists stay and make trouble for the world.

The temple was not identified in the film but it resembled Ta Prohm, which was also used as a location in the 2001 Hollywood movie “Tomb Raider” featuring actress Angelina Jolie.

Simon Choo of Westec Media, which is in charge of distributing the film, pointed out that reference to Cambodia was even blocked from the film to please the country’s censorship board:

We even blocked the name Cambodia and the name does not appear anywhere. Every movie cannot be depicting Cambodia as heaven . . . You need to face the reality that all countries have criminals.

As expected, Cambodian moviegoers expressed disappointment over the decision to ban the film. Facebook user Singhtararith Chea wrote on his page: “Are we still in the Stone Age era?”

Also on Facebook, Somchanrith Chap reminded censors that the film is fictional:

I've seen New York City destroyed a thousand times by bad guys and aliens but nobody cares because it is FICTIONAL.

He also found it unusual that the board described the depiction of the Ta Prohm temple in the film “Tomb Raider” as “romantic”:

In case you didn't notice, nothing about stealing is romantic nor using Cambodians as slaves to break down an ancient temple entrance. But nobody cares. Why? Because it's fictional. Get over it.

Reaksmey Yean, another Facebook user, shared a similar point:

This is ludicrous, I can't believe these so-called experts could not distinguish between fiction and reality.

To my dear experts! I just wanted to inform you that creativity is boundaryless, and this film is one form of its multiple-realities, multiforms, and multilayers. You should start learning how to recognize it, although, you do not like it by recognizing it you respect the freedom of expression of the others — in this case, the creator of the film.

Twitter user Peter Ford used the hashtag #hunsanity which is a reference to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the country's leader in the past three decades:

Cambodia has previously censored Hollywood films depicting excessive violence or sexuality like the film “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but this is the first time in recent years that the government has banned a film for its “negative portrayal” of the country.

The film ban also highlighted the government's crackdown on free expression. Since September 2017, more than 30 radio stations have been closed down by the government over licensing and tax issues. An English daily was also forced to close operations after the government slapped it with a hefty tax bill.

by Mong Palatino at October 13, 2017 01:51 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
10/13/2017: Tracking weather from space to Earth to your smartphone
To find out how your trusted weather app gets its intel, look no further than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Virginia outpost of NOAA has huge disks on its roof that pull in information from the satellites floating in space, and a massive server room where all of the data they collect gets stored and sent out. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams took a tour of the building with Bill Carter, who’s in charge of ground systems and maintenance.

by Marketplace at October 13, 2017 10:30 AM

Global Voices
The World’s First ‘EleFriendly Bus’ Curtails Human-Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan schoolchildren ride the ‘EleFriendly Bus’ designed to avoid human-elephant conflict. Image courtesy of Groundviews.

This post by Anya De Saram-Larssen, a student of the British School in Colombo, appeared in Groundviews, an award-winning citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka. Ms. Saram-Larssen attended the anniversary of the launch of the EleFriendly Bus and talked with different stakeholders. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement with Global Voices.

The EleFriendly Bus celebrated its first birthday on September 9 in the Wasgamuwa area of Sri Lanka. The bus is an innovative project developed by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) to mitigate the human-elephant conflict (HEC).

The conflict between humans and elephants has grown in Sri Lanka as elephant habitats shrink and humans slowly encroach upon spaces where elephants roam. Elephants, having nowhere else to go, end up raiding crops in farmlands and human habitats in search of food and become aggressive in encounters with retaliatory humans. This cycle of resistance, fear and contested space has led to violence.

Each year in Sri Lanka, elephants kill approximately 50 people and then face a fatal consequence as villagers shoot, poison or electrocute them out of fear or self-defense. Between 100 to 150 elephants are killed yearly and statistics show that the potential for conflict is highest when humans walk in spaces where elephants normally roam.

The Sri Lankan government has focused on broad-scale measures to mitigate HEC such as fencing or relocating elephants or producing ‘mass-drives’ to steer elephants away from human activity. However, these strategies do not recognize HEC at the local level and the Elefriendly Bus was developed to address this.

Since last year, the EleFriendly Bus runs daily to provide children with free and safe transportation to and from school, keeping them out of elephants’ corridors. Adults also use the bus to go to and from work for a nominal fee. An average of 191 people use the bus on a daily basis and about 72 are children.

The bus route travels through the ‘elephant corridor’ in villages in the central province including Himbiliyakada, Iriyagasulpotha and Weheragalagama, where elephants frequently roam and potential HEC remains high. Located along the southern boundary of Wasgamuwa National Park in a protected forest preserve area, human sometimes frequent the area and encounter elephants on-route in search of forest resources and water outside the park.

Saram-Larssen, a 12-year-old student at the British School in Colombo, produced an informational video detailing fundraising efforts to launch the bus last year. Holding a bake sale at the British School, she and her team were able to raise 127,484 Rupees (approximately 834 USD) toward the Elefriendly Bus, which cost approximately 35,000 USD total with fees including an operating permit and permission to charge a fare from commuters on public roads:

Recent SLWCS statistics show that HEC has reduced by 80% since the bus started running. In the first seven months, the number of conflicts fell from 83 to 21.

According to Harshini, a 13-year-old who lives in Pussellayaya, the bus has dramatically improved her school commute because she no longer has to walk five kilometers a day. Harshini often missed school because of the heavy rains and the danger from elephants, but now rarely misses a day because she feels safe traveling on the bus.

Children stated that the bus helped not only with protection against elephants but also with HEC education. The 24-passenger bus is full of colorful images and educational messages about elephant conservation and wildlife. Menaka, 8 and Chathurika, 11, from Himbiliykada, say they love riding the Elefriendly Bus because they have so much fun learning together while riding to and from school.

Above are images submitted into the EleFriendly Bus arts competition,  courtesy Groundviews.

As part of the Elefriendly Bus launch and celebration, the SLWLCS held an art and an essay competition. Most submissions featured harmony between elephants and the villagers, as well as the seriousness of HEC, including the fear many children have toward elephants.

One painting showed a man being trampled by an elephant and another showed a farmer being chased.

SLWCS president Mr. Ravi Corea says the organization hopes to transform these negative perceptions by educating children on the importance of their environment and the need to protect all inhabitants.

The Elefriendly Bus interior features colorful educational learning materials about elephants. Image courtesy of Groundviews.

The bus belongs to the community, Mr. Corea explained:

We own the bus but it is operated by a driver and conductor from the village. Also, the money collected from tickets is used by the community to take care of the bus.

The SLWCS plans to add another bus in Wasgamuwa and also introduce EleFriendly busses to other areas in Sri Lanka where HEC persists.

Several private donors including Sharmila Cassim of Colombo Jewellery Stores sponsored the Elefriendly bus because:

the bus allows children to attend school more regularly, while at the same time keeping the elephants safe.

Judging by the perfect condition of the bright green EleFriendly bus, the villagers have taken pride in this initiative and are working to transform negative attitudes toward elephants.

In turn, elephants can now roam more freely, foraging and socializing in harmony with nature as they have done for centuries.

by GroundViews at October 13, 2017 12:01 AM

October 12, 2017

Global Voices
Like the US, Trinidad & Tobago Won't Be at the 2018 World Cup, But They're the Only Ones Smiling About It

The World Cup 2010 Jabulani Ball. Photo by Tai Gray, CC BY-SA 2.0.

On the night of October 10, 2017, a sprinkling of football enthusiasts went to the Ato Boldon Stadium in central Trinidad to see a World Cup qualifier match between Trinidad and Tobago and the USA. The small Caribbean nation had absolutely no chance of going to Russia in 2018, but the United States did — if they managed a draw with Trinidad and Tobago's team.

One of the reasons football is the world's favourite sport is that, at its best, it's an unpredictable game. With just one goal, things can turn on a dime. So while the result of this particular match might have been dismissed as a foregone conclusion, what happened on the field was anything but. The match resulted in Trinidad and Tobago walking away with a 2-0 victory and the USA being driven off their #RoadToRussia.

Thanks to an unfortunate own goal by US defender Omar Gonzales, coupled with a brilliant strike from Trinidad and Tobago's Alvin Jones, the twin island republic secured all three points in the round, leaving the USA team — and fans — shell-shocked.

Popular sports website Wired868 described it this way:

What came next was a right-footed screamer that arrowed into the far corner. It seemed to belong in an entirely different match and it certainly illuminated a contest that had, up to that point, been low-tempo and scrappy.

Howard’s eyes opened as wide as saucers, the Trinidad and Tobago bench was in uproar and, all over CONCACAF, word of Señor Jones (Alvin Jones) spread like wildfire; the United States were in trouble at 0-2 down.

A November to remember

With the USA down, the spirits of Trinbagonian supporters were up, mostly because of a date that will be forever burned into their memory: November 19, 1989. This is when Trinidad and Tobago's national team, then affectionately known as The Strike Squad, had the World Cup within their sights for the first time ever. Had they simply drawn with the US in that all-important match, the team would have been the first from an English-speaking Caribbean nation to qualify. Trinidad and Tobago lost that match 1-0 and the nation was devastated. Curiously, the 30,000+ spectators were later given the FIFA Fair Play Award for their good behaviour when faced with such disappointment and overcrowding, which was little consolation.

Nine years later, in France, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz would become the first to represent the English-speaking Caribbean on the World Cup stage. Even though Trinidad and Tobago's World Cup dreams eventually came true when the twin island nation qualified for Germany 2006, the memory of that 1989 qualifier against the USA is still a sore point.

In that context, it is understandable how October 10, 2017 might be interpreted as a comeuppance. Like Trinidad and Tobago back in 1989, the US only needed a draw to be assured a spot. Twenty-eight years later, it was their turn to feel the sting of defeat. It is the first time since 1986 that the US will not be participating in the World Cup.

Bring on the schadenfreude

The site TTWhistleBlower could not resist gloating, despite the Soca Warriors’ (as the national team is now called) underwhelming performance throughout the qualifying matches. It also noted the poetic justice of the goal that assured Trinidad and Tobago's victory:

For Trinidad and Tobago, it was a happy ending to an otherwise disappointing tournament where they ended last on the six-team table. The Warriors won just two matches out of 10. […]

It was 2-0 in the 36th minute when Alvin Jones smashed a swerving shot from the right flank past Howard. Alvin’s father Kelvin Jones was a member of the national team which failed to qualify in 1989.

Disgraced former FIFA vice president, Jack Warner, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago, was also quite happy to rub salt in the wound.

While some social media users were critical of all the rejoicing, Caroline Taylor tried to explain the enjoyment surrounding Trinidad and Tobago's victory:

[The] argument is that we didn't qualify so what's the big deal. […] Of course that's the larger context, and we're in far worse a state than the US team. I don't think amusement at us eliminating the US (and the reactions to it) and recognising the depressing state of our local football (and much else on the home front) are mutually exclusive. I came home to the news and laughed very, very hard because of the improbability of it, and the strange, unlikely poetic justice of 1989 v 2017. And I have no problem with people finding catharsis in it, however shortlived, and however dreary the rest of the circumstances. ‘Celebration’ mischaracterises it, I think. But there's no need to police other people's feelings, which is what many are going around social media doing, and often with a degree of condescension that actually reveals more about them than those they're trying to deflate.

Facebook user Kim Johnson still couldn't wrap his head around it, though, offering this perspective:

How come everybody talking about ‘revenge’ when 28 years ago TT gave away the match? The team stayed down South, and took an hours-long drive to the stadium in a small, hot maxi, stopping to pray and wave at crowds. The US team stayed at the Hilton. Our team arrived exhausted. The yanks didn't beat us, we beat ourselves. The revenge would be against the local people who set us up to lose.

A flood of criticism

To complicate matters, there was much ado made about the inadequate facilities of the stadium at which the match was played. The day before the game, the US team showed up for practice and found the field flooded:

However, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association maintained that there was “a skewed approach to what is being reported”, and gave assurances that the field would be ready for the qualifier.

Wired868 again weighed in:

Although the contest meant everything to the visitors, it had been a low-key affair for local football fans. Or at least it was—until the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and American journalists posted images of the waterlogged Ato Boldon Stadium surface on Monday morning.

It was a light-hearted ribbing really but it touched a raw nerves with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT)—both already repeatedly criticised for incompetent management—as well as with some supporters who were taken aback at the supposed impudence of their guests.

Suddenly, a football match that was little more than a chore and barely advertised locally had taken on increased significance.

‘If you want to see what is really embarrassing,’ one commenter remarked, ‘why not look at your own president!’

Indeed, quite a few social media comments about the final result referenced Donald Trump, including memes suggesting that he would exact revenge for the USA by denying visas to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago:

So it's a big problem when the USA can't make it to the World Cup, but for everyone else it's okay. Blame Trump, he jinxed all of you.

The state of play

Apart from its outstanding play by play, the Wired post neatly summed up the tone of the event:

The Soca Warriors’ own chance of advancing ended a month ago but the loud cheers and dancing in the stands suggested that the home crowd enthusiastically embraced what the Germans refer to as ‘schadenfraude’—or what Trinis might call ‘bad mind.’

‘America, we know we not going to Russia,’ a nuts vendor shouted to nobody in particular, during the first half, ‘but allyuh not going neither!’

The score was goalless at the time but how prophetic his words turned out to be. A combination of results were necessary to eliminate coach Bruce Arena’s outfit: not only did Warriors coach have to break a nine-match winless streak but Panama needed to defeat Costa Rica and Honduras needed a win against the group leaders, Mexico.

And on a remarkable night of CONCACAF football, all three happened.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at October 12, 2017 11:00 PM

Comical Unintended Consequences of Turkish President Erdogan's State Visit to Serbia

Screenshot of satirical “news” entitled ““In honour of Erdoğan's visit, 17 journalists were arrested today” by Njuz.net, a Serbian website similar to Onion.com.

The warm welcome of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić during a state visit this week, incited many satirical comments on nationalism and media freedoms.

Erdoğan arrived in Belgrade on October 10, and the next day also visited Novi Pazar, the main city in the southern area of Sandžak, which is mainly inhabited by Bosniaks. The population of the region has strong historical, religious, and family ties with Turkey, as many of their relatives had immigrated to Turkey during the last century.

Serbian nationalism is based on stories of resistance to the Ottoman Empire, whereas Erdoğan is often considered a proponent of “Neo-Ottomanism” — or a strategic orientation by Turkey aiming to regain influence over regions once under the Ottoman Empire's domain. Therefore, some of the efforts by local dignitaries who aimed to please the honored guest, were met with ridicule by critical citizens.

Some more creative commentators started reusing forms of epic poetry that was instrumental as a primary vehicle for stirring patriotic (anti-Ottoman) emotions in the XIX century. These recent parodies especially targeted local nationalist politicians who had built their careers promoting Serbian nationalism.

In their official communications, the Serbian regime emphasized the expected economic benefits from the numerous treaties signed during the visit, including a future natural gas pipeline, while being careful to avoid mentioning political issues on which they have diametrically opposed positions with Turkey.

However, the online community, cleverly and quickly, pointed out these lapses:

Lord Vučić held council
With Erdoğan, the Emperor of Turks
About many a matter they held a parley
Of natural gas, of religion and of history,
But time to mention Kosovo was lacking.

Such online comments took the tone of epic songs from the time when Serbia was an Ottoman suzerain, or a semi independent state nominally subordinate to the Ottoman Sultanate.

Vučić gathered his tax collectors,
To shout high praises to Erdoğan
To the Sultan in the midst of Kalemegdan
Which hath not had happened [since 1867]
When Prince Mihajlo banished the Turks from the fort

Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić actually provided much of the satirical material on his own, by taking the stage at an official dinner in Belgrade and singing folk songs from the common past.

Ivica the Suitcase sang like a nightingale
Into the ear of Erdoğan the Sultan
First he sang of Miljacka in Sarajevo
Then he sang of Turkish Osman Aga

The satirical website Njuz.net addressed the common aversion of the two regimes towards freedom of speech by ‘reporting’ that “In honour of Erdoğan's visit, 17 journalists were arrested today”:

BEOGRAD, 10. oktobar 2017, (Njuz) – Sedamnaest novinara iz štampanih i onlajn medija uhapšeno je danas u čast posete turskog predsednika Srbiji.

Novinari će biti predstavljeni Erdoganu nakon svečane večere, kada će mu biti omogućeno da u ime prijateljstva dva naroda odredi simbolične kazne.

– U Erdoganovu čast smo priveli najbolje primerke antirežimskih novinara koje smo mogli da nahvatamo u tako kratkom periodu – oni su svakodnevno pisali i izveštavali najgore moguće stvari protiv vlade, predsednika i generalno, napretka Srbije, kaže se u saopštenju predsedništva Srbije.

Kako se nezvanično saznaje, Erdogan je veoma zadovoljan ovakvim potezom državnog vrha Srbije i obećava da će uzvratiti istom merom prilikom posete našeg predsednika Ankari.

– Neka ovo bude početak jedne duge i uspešne demokratske tradicije u razmeni kažnjavanja nepodobnih medija, navodi se u zvaničnom saopštenju turske delegacije.

Belgrade, Oct 10, 2017 (Njuz) – Seventeen journalists from print and online media were arrested today in honor of the visit of the Turkish president to Serbia.

The journalists will be presented to Erdoğan after the festive dinner, when he will be allowed to pass symbolic sentences in the name of the friendship of the two peoples.

- In Erdoğan's honor we detained the best samples of anti-regime journalists which we could apprehend on such a short notice. They had written and reported in the worst manner against our government, the president, and in general, against progress in Serbia, stated the announcement by the Office of the President of Serbia.

According to unofficial information, Erdoğan was very pleased with this move by the Serbian state leadership, and promised he will return the favor during the visit of Serbian president to Ankara.

- May this be a start of a long and successful democratic tradition in exchange of punishing undesirable media, read the official announcement by the Turkish delegation.

by Marko Angelov at October 12, 2017 06:25 PM

‘The Position of Women in Science Has Changed for the Better’, but ‘Is Still Far From Ideal’

 

Shilpa Iyer with her permission

As part of a two-pronged series of interviews with medical researchers based in Africa (read the first part here), Global Voices reached out to Dr. Shilpa Iyer, who is currently working in Zambia.

Iyer grew up in Pune, India, where she obtained her bachelor's and masters degrees in zoology and molecular biology, respectively. She then moved to the US and obtained her PhD in microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale University with a Fogarty Global health research fellowship to conduct research in Lusaka, Zambia.

As a minority woman who has research experience in India, US, and now Zambia, Shilpa brings her unique views on women in science, science and public opinions, and what science can bring to Africa.

Global Voices (GV): What drew you towards a career in science?

Shilpa Iyer (SI): I grew up in India and every year the monsoon season would be followed by an increase in the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya. As a child, I observed how interventions like the distribution of mosquito bed nets and the introduction of fish larvae into standing water puddles to eat mosquito larvae helped with vector control and reduced disease incidence. I was impressed with how public health interventions using existing technologies can have a massive impact on human health. After the completion of my master's degree in molecular biology, I worked on a project to identify a novel drug target for Mycobacterium tuberculosis at AstraZeneca, India. My internship at the company taught me that multidisciplinary team efforts from basic laboratory researchers to public health workers are necessary to address critical global health concerns in a sustainable manner. I had the opportunity to spend a year in Lusaka, Zambia from 2008-2009 and I noticed the direct and indirect impact of HIV/AIDS that cut across all strata of society. This galvanized me to be part of the improvement of health care in resource-limited countries by combining basic research and public health skills. While I Iived in Lusaka, I volunteered at an NGO that provided peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk to the children that visited the clinic with their parents to obtain [antiretroviral therapy]. These meals provided both nutrition and a positive experience for the children attending the clinic, helping retain them in care. This experience drove home how diverse the range of helpful interventions can be, each with their own benefit and scope. I knew then that I wanted to pursue a career in infectious diseases and its translation into global health research. Understanding and following the scientific method has provided a satisfying way of answering questions to indulge my curiosity in a way that is rigorous and well-defined.

GV: In your opinion, what can medical research bring to countries where the needs for primary healthcare are more pressing?   

SI:  Research can help build resources in less fortunate countries. This includes the introduction of technology and instrumentation, training and knowledge-building among local researchers, the generation of opportunities for employment and education (even through exchange programs). The development of research capacity can foster global partnerships and collaborations and result in the building of an organization's reputation. Outcomes with a more direct benefit include therapeutic (vaccines and drugs), public health interventions (mosquito bed nets, affordable water filters, assessment of gender-based violence) and income generating (generic drugs for instance).

GV: Until recently, scientific research has been perceived as a man's world. Do you think that this false perception has changed and do you think women scientists are now more recognized for their contribution?

SI: I think that the position of women in science has changed for the better in recent years. However, their place in a scientific society is still far from ideal. Even in developed countries, tenured women scientists are not paid salaries comparable to their male counterparts. They are more frequently overlooked for promotions and administrative positions. This situation is even worse in the developing world, where women's rights and the idea of equality are still a new/foreign concept. Women with strong, assertive and demanding personalities earn unflattering reputations, which could hurt their chances of making tenure, collaborations and attracting research students. Men with these same qualities are, however, revered and respected. Growing up in the developing world, I experienced women being required to toe their male supervisor's line (even though they were far more accomplished/brighter), discriminated against because they were female and subject to harassment from male professors/supervisors. In general, it felt like an uphill battle to be a woman scientist and these struggles had nothing to do with what should be gender neutral issues like funding and publications. In the US, I definitely felt more secure voicing my opinion, defending my research and applying for awards. This was largely due to my female mentor (and other professors) who inspired me to believe that women could occupy an equal place in the research world as their male colleagues. There is still a way to go, but women scientists are in a better place than they were 50 years ago.

GV: We now live in an era where scientific reasoning and facts seem to be questioned by dubious political motives. Do you think scientists have a role to play in combating the spread of fake news?

SI: Absolutely, as scientists, we are trained to consider all the facts before we make an opinion. We are taught to avoid prejudice, and to consider all points of view. Most importantly, we are trained to not blindly accept a hypothesis, but to do the research and if required, change our hypothesis. In this age, where people with political agendas to further seem willing to bend the facts and falsely represent data, more than ever, we owe it our training, and to the people out there, to help them understand the fallacies of ‘fake news’, to help them understand how to do their own research and the importance of a balanced and informed decision. We cannot ignore the facts we do not like, this is crucial for us to explain to the public. We cannot be experts in every topic, but the scientific method teaches us to consider every possibility, to determine the correct answer based on facts. We can apply this process to every topic though.

GV: In your opinion, what is the potential in scientific research in Africa? What should it focus on and how we can help its development?

SI: I will begin by saying I am a novice global health researcher, and my limited experience only applies to Zambia and South Africa. There is tremendous potential among local researchers to conduct and develop research studies, both basic and translational. Despite limitations in technology and funding, people are incredibly creative and innovative and work extremely hard. The involvement of the local communities and counselors (particularly in public health research) is both encouraging and critical to a project's success. Some of the areas that research should/could focus include infectious disease prevention and treatment, mental health awareness and treatment, maternal and child health and prevention of mortality, sustainable economic development and the creation of local jobs by foreign and local employers. The education and support of local mentors and scholars will help foster the development of research in Africa. Well-trained, intelligent scientists should be retained through scholarships and funding opportunities and provided opportunities to advance their training through short training courses. But they should be provided the necessary infrastructure and monetary support to conduct their research in their country, and not feel like they have to move abroad to further their careers.

by Lova Rakotomalala at October 12, 2017 05:41 PM

Creative Commons
CC Certificates spring into action
certs-teamCC Certs Team by Creative Commons, CC BY

In order to better teach open tools and practices to communities around the world, Creative Commons has developed open educational resources and a certification program called the CC Certificate. CC’s Senior Counsel Sarah Hinchliff Pearson is now leading the project with a group of researchers, writers, and instructional designers. The project is funded by the Gates Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The CC Certificate program is a training program that leads people through the basics about the organization, copyright law, and the CC tools. The goal is to equip people with the knowledge and skills they need to advocate for and support adoption of CC licensing in their work and creative pursuits.

There are a wealth of opportunities to tailor the certificate to specific audiences. Initially we’re focusing on two groups: academic librarians and educators. The certificate for these two segments will run as a 12-week online course on Canvas, facilitated by an instructor fluent in the issues and opportunities surrounding CC licensing and open collaboration. The majority of the content will cover the basics of copyright and open licensing, and participants will be expected to choose either the academic librarian or educator track because the final unit will be domain-specific. The content will include online discussions, quizzes, and learning activities throughout to help solidify concepts and allow learners to demonstrate their understanding. The course will be entirely online, but CC may eventually offer an optional in-person session as a capstone offering at the end of the course. Upon successful completion, students will receive a certificate from Creative Commons.

Of course, the underlying course content will be freely available to the public and CC-licensed, including text, images, and videos. The content covers Creative Commons as a whole – the organization, the tools, and the movement. We are treating this as a chance to tell the full story of what CC is and what we do. The materials include sections on the basics of copyright law, many of the ins and outs of CC licenses, practical information about how to use the licenses and how to use CC-licensed work, information about the values connected to use of CC, and case studies about what it looks like in the real world. For a full preview of the course topics, see the current syllabus here.

The full beta test of the 12-week course will begin in January, with the official certification program launching after the Global Summit from April 13-15 in Toronto, Canada. We will be running one library-specific track and one education-specific track during the beta phase and will be asking participants to help us evaluate and shape the content. If you are interested in participating, please fill out this interest form.

We expect the CC Global Network will play a crucial role in this program. In the future, we hope network members can be certified in order to help run the course in their parts of the world.

Over the course of the next year, we will be exploring customization of the project for three different audiences: GLAM professionals, lawyers, and governments. An early, abbreviated version of the certificate beta has already been delivered to more than 150 academic librarians in the US, with great success. We are anxious to expand the program to fit a greater variety of professions, and to work with and empower the future leaders of the commons. Any questions, comments, or suggestions? Get in touch with us via Slack or Twitter.

For even more CC content, please sign up for our email list.

The post CC Certificates spring into action appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Jennie Rose Halperin at October 12, 2017 03:09 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
10/12/2017: A computer science "genius" on why we haven't fixed cybersecurity
From data breaches to global cyberwarfare, it’s clear cybersecurity isn’t really working. And not even a newly minted MacArthur fellow can tell us why. What he can tell us: Advice like creating long, complicated passwords might not make a big difference in the end. Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood talks with Stefan Savage about what we can do to make cybersecurity better.

by Marketplace at October 12, 2017 10:30 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
China's Sina Weibo Hires 1,000 Supervisors to Censor ‘Harmful Content'—Including Women's Legs

Photos like this could now be labeled “pornographic” by Weibo's supervisors. Photo by dimitrisvetsikas via Pixabay (CC0)

Chinese tech giant Sina Weibo has recruited 1,000 Weibo supervisors to report on “pornographic, illegal and harmful content” after China's Cyberspace Administration investigated and fined Weibo for failing to purge banned content from its social media platform.

The policy is already having adverse effects on users, particularly young women, whose photos are being labeled “pornographic” if they show a woman's leg, abdomen or cleavage. Users who are found to violate the rules may have their “social credit” scores reduced, which can limit to their ability to use the platform.

The investigation of Tencent, Baidu and Sina Weibo

The Cyberspace Administration's Beijing and Guangdong offices launched a comprehensive investigation into Chinese internet companies Tencent, Baidu and Sina Weibo on 11 August 2017, charging that their social media platforms had violated newly passed Cybersecurity Law and were not adequately managing information published by their users.

After one month of investigation, the authorities concluded on 25 September that the three had violated Article 47 of the Cybersecurity Law by hosting “information of violence and terror, false rumors, pornography, and other information that jeopardizes national security, public safety, and social order.”

Article 47 of the Cybersecurity Law requires network operators to effectively manage content published by users. In contrast to major technology companies in the United States, such as Facebook and Google, these Chinese internet giants are now obligated to proactively censor illegal content and report it to the authorities.

Accordingly, the three companies were given the “heaviest fine” based on Article 68, which states the maximum fine is up to RMB 500,000 yuan (approximately 76,000 US dollars).

On 30 September, three days after the authorities’ fined Sina Weibo for violating the Cybersecurity Law, the company posted a notice on its official account inviting users to apply to become one of 1,000 “Weibo supervisors” — a team under the supervision of the Cyberspace Administration:

为落实企业主体责任,强化网民监督,净化微博社区环境,有效处置微博上的涉黄、违法及有害信息。在北京市网信办的指导下,微博专门建立了社区监督员机制,面向所有用户公开招募1000名微博监督员。微博监督员通过特殊的举报机制针对微博上的涉黄、违法及有害信息进行举报处理,站方将根据举报统计情况向合格的微博监督员按月发放网费补贴,并赠送微博会员。同时我们对每月有效举报数量最多的微博监督员给予物质奖励,奖品包括苹果手机、国产手机或笔记本电脑等。

To enact corporate responsibility, motivate netizens to actively monitor [online content], clean up the Weibo community environment and handle the pornographic and harmful information on Weibo, under the supervision of the Beijing Cyberspace Administration, Weibo is launching a community supervisor system and recruiting 1,000 supervisors from the community. The Weibo supervisors will report on pornographic, illegal and harmful information circulating on Weibo through a special reporting channel. The site will release monthly subsidies [to compensate supervisors for their work and internet connection cost] based on these statistics. At the same time, those who file the most reports will receive special gifts, including iPhones, local brand cell phones or notebook computers.

While there are many pro-government comments supporting Weibo’s decision, one can still find a number of critiques online, including the following:

发动群众斗群众的第二弹!有害怎么认定?这些人的资质如何考核?最终裁决谁来做?与之前的社区管理员有什么区别?删贴和销号之间什么关系?各是什么规则?这个机制运行的前提是公开透明细化和可执行的处罚条款!

This is another mobilization of the masses against the masses. How do they define harmful? How do they make sure these people are qualified to do the content review? Who makes the final call [for censorship]? What is the difference between the “Weibo supervisors” and the community manager [a system set up a few years ago for community reporting]? What is the relationship between deleting a post and deleting an account? Is there any rule? Without openly and transparently stating rules, or specifying the operation and consequences of violating content rules, how can you kickstart the system?

不评论,第一你是个平台,对于不当的东西你咋定标准,开放是你的定位,你们是招城管吧,要是有违法行为有法院,有律师

No comment. As a platform, how can you set up standards for inappropriate content? Your principle should be open platform. Doesn’t this look like open recruitment of Chengguan [city management officers responsible for sanitation and environment who are notorious for their abusive use of power]? If there is any illegal content, we have courts and lawyers [to decide this].

Ordinary photos of young women are now labeled as ‘pornographic’

Weibo supervisors have been reporting content violations for more than a week now, and a group of female users are already feeling its effects.

One Weibo user explained the system and impact in detail:

我来总结一下自从微博推出了微博监督员,他们对我的朋友和对我的朋友圈造成了什么影响,起码这关系着很多可爱的小姐姐。

最近很多小姐姐可能会莫名其妙收到一条管理员扣分的信息,有时候可能只是自己发的自拍、自己的宠物、自己的马甲线、自己的腿、甚至一些看的很好看的cos泳装照片也惨遭举报。这些再也不能更日常的照片直接就会被扣上色情的帽子而被扣2分的消息,甚至很多小姐姐一直都是80分,因为这两天的举报直接就被扣成40分,甚至更低。 而当你微博被扣成40分以下你的微博不能被关注不能被转发,也就是失去了微博最起码的乐趣。

Let me sum up the impact of Weibo supervisors on my friends and my friends’ circles. They have affected many cute girls.

Recently, many cute girls probably have received a message from a Weibo administrator notifying them that their scores will be reduced because someone has reported their photos showing their legs, cleavage, sexy swimwear. In the past, these were treated as ordinary photos. Now that they are labelled as pornographic, two points are taken away from the user account for each photo. Some of the cute girls who had always maintained an 80 score have been reduced to 40 in the past few days, some even lower. If your Weibo score has been reduced to lower than 40, no one can follow you and your post cannot be shared, which means all the fun has vanished.

According to the content deletion notification, when a supervisor files a report, the content in question is submitted to a company administrator, who reviews and if necessary deletes the content and sends a notification to the user. The notification also says that the user can appeal for another review.

The Weibo credit system was first introduced in September 2013 to crack down on the spread of “rumors” or information coming from independent sources not approved by the state. Each Weibo user begins with a social credit score of 80. They will lose five credits if a post of theirs is flagged as a rumor and deleted. If the user’s credit score is lower than 40, the person’s content cannot be shared and will not appear on public timelines. When a person's credit score drops to zero, their account is suspended.

The poster continued their explanation of how and why the supervisors were specifically targeting women:

收到这么多举报都是因为微博奸督员有每个月的指标,每个月最少举报200条,当每个月达成了指标就会给你发放200元的网费,也就是说举报一条最少有1元钱的收入。之后还会根据举报次数的排名进行手机实物的奖励。EXM??没有惩罚选项???一方为了钱就可以随意的举报,让另一群用户体验变得极差!甚至想卸载软件 。

想想以后首页看不到奶子,看不到屁股,看不到腿,看不到泳衣,连美**都看不到。还会幸福吗,还会玩微博吗?当然这里我指的并不是色.情方面的,而是由而体现的一种美。

男性用户一般不会被扣分,而女性用户发自拍、发腿、连日常晒一下自己减肥成功后腰的照片被举报扣分,这样真的好吗。女孩子在这种青春的年龄段难道不应该记录下自己的美吗?

有些女孩子为了还原昨天我看到一个最可恨的,有一个非常美的小姐姐出的泳衣cos,没有一丝的色情感。摄影拍的棒,后期色调也非常的棒,正常来讲这条泳衣转发1000+是没有问题的,可是被举报了,不能在微博发了,发了还是被举报,拍一个cos的正片真的不容易,付出的时间、付出的金钱、付出了青春、还有自己的那么多的努力,去练习怎么样让自己的表情更加还原喜欢的角色,一套正片起码摄影+服装+后期便宜了也要小1000块。做了这么多努力就是想发到微博让别人去夸夸自己,去认可自己。你监督员就为了1块钱的小纸条否认了她的所有。这样真的很过分。

The reason why so many posts are reported is that each supervisor has been given a specific quota every month. They have to file at least 200 reports in exchange for the RMB 200 subsidy for paying internet fees. This means they receive RMB 1 yuan in exchange for one report. If they excel at filing reports, they will get mobile phones as a bonus. Excuse me? No punishment [for abusing power]??? One party can file a report to make money, while the other party suffers from a poor user experience. Some even want to uninstall the app.

Just imagine, in the future, there will no more sexy bottoms, no more legs, no more swimwear, no more pretty ** [breasts] on the front page timeline, can we still be happy? Will people still hang out on Weibo? What I am saying here is not about pornographic materials, but images that reflect a form of beauty.

Male users are less likely to be reported, while female users’ selfies, leg photos or waist photos that show off the success of their workouts are subjected to reduced scores. Are such practices really good? Shouldn’t girls take photos to record their youth?

Yesterday I came across a swimwear costume video of a pretty lady. The video contains no pornographic element, it was very well taken and the color tuning was fine. Usually such videos can be shared 1,000-plus times without encountering any problems. But now, it was reported and could not be circulated on Weibo. It wasn’t easy to produce that video, it took time, money and a great deal of effort in performing the role. The shooting, costume and production cost at least RMB 1,000. Upon spending all these efforts, she wanted to others to praise her, to gain recognition. Now the supervisors have denied everything that she had done for just RMB 1 yuan. This is outrageous.

The power of a Weibo supervisor

The Weibo supervisor regulation also encourages users to file complaints against supervisors abusing their power. Some have started filing complaints or publicly questioned the qualifications of the supervisors.

Another Weibo user started to collect content deletion notifications and shared his observation on Weibo. Below is one of the observations that he made:

#微博监督员# 目前我见到的删帖大概有四种情况,图一其他用户举报,需要十个人举报,审核后删除,图二,监督员举报,一个人就受理审核和删除,图三,网警删除,图四,系统检测,删除者不明。从类型看,网警主要偏向删维稳相关,其他用户和监督员偏向删除色情。

#Weibo Supervisors# I have seen four types of content deletion.

First, if the complaint was filed by other Weibo users, it would take 10 complaints to kickstart the review process. The post would be deleted upon review.

Second, if the report was filed by a Weibo supervisor, one report will trigger the review and deletion process.

Third, a cyber police officer can delete the content directly.

Fourth, automatic deletion, not sure who is in responsible.

Judging from the content, cyber police officers mainly delete politically sensitive content. Other users and Weibo supervisors mainly report on pornographic content.

According to these observations, Weibo supervisors have more authority than online civilization volunteers who have been serving the censorship machine by “spreading positive energy” and reporting on harmful content via the Weibo community system since 2015.

On Twitter, some Chinese users are comparing Weibo supervisors to online Red Guards, who target netizens said to be “politically incorrect.” They also believe that the supervisor system will trigger another round of migration to overseas social media.

by Oiwan Lam at October 12, 2017 10:16 AM

Global Voices
China's Sina Weibo Hires 1,000 Supervisors to Censor ‘Harmful Content'—Including Women's Legs

Photos like this could now be labeled “pornographic” by Weibo's supervisors. Photo by dimitrisvetsikas via Pixabay (CC0)

Chinese tech giant Sina Weibo has recruited 1,000 Weibo supervisors to report on “pornographic, illegal and harmful content” after China's Cyberspace Administration investigated and fined Weibo for failing to purge banned content from its social media platform.

The policy is already having adverse effects on users, particularly young women, whose photos are being labeled “pornographic” if they show a woman's leg, abdomen or cleavage. Users who are found to violate the rules may have their “social credit” scores reduced, which can limit to their ability to use the platform.

The investigation of Tencent, Baidu and Sina Weibo

The Cyberspace Administration's Beijing and Guangdong offices launched a comprehensive investigation into Chinese internet companies Tencent, Baidu and Sina Weibo on 11 August 2017, charging that their social media platforms had violated newly passed Cybersecurity Law and were not adequately managing information published by their users.

After one month of investigation, the authorities concluded on 25 September that the three had violated Article 47 of the Cybersecurity Law by hosting “information of violence and terror, false rumors, pornography, and other information that jeopardizes national security, public safety, and social order.”

Article 47 of the Cybersecurity Law requires network operators to effectively manage content published by users. In contrast to major technology companies in the United States, such as Facebook and Google, these Chinese internet giants are now obligated to proactively censor illegal content and report it to the authorities.

Accordingly, the three companies were given the “heaviest fine” based on Article 68, which states the maximum fine is up to RMB 500,000 yuan (approximately 76,000 US dollars).

On 30 September, three days after the authorities’ fined Sina Weibo for violating the Cybersecurity Law, the company posted a notice on its official account inviting users to apply to become one of 1,000 “Weibo supervisors” — a team under the supervision of the Cyberspace Administration:

为落实企业主体责任,强化网民监督,净化微博社区环境,有效处置微博上的涉黄、违法及有害信息。在北京市网信办的指导下,微博专门建立了社区监督员机制,面向所有用户公开招募1000名微博监督员。微博监督员通过特殊的举报机制针对微博上的涉黄、违法及有害信息进行举报处理,站方将根据举报统计情况向合格的微博监督员按月发放网费补贴,并赠送微博会员。同时我们对每月有效举报数量最多的微博监督员给予物质奖励,奖品包括苹果手机、国产手机或笔记本电脑等。

To enact corporate responsibility, motivate netizens to actively monitor [online content], clean up the Weibo community environment and handle the pornographic and harmful information on Weibo, under the supervision of the Beijing Cyberspace Administration, Weibo is launching a community supervisor system and recruiting 1,000 supervisors from the community. The Weibo supervisors will report on pornographic, illegal and harmful information circulating on Weibo through a special reporting channel. The site will release monthly subsidies [to compensate supervisors for their work and internet connection cost] based on these statistics. At the same time, those who file the most reports will receive special gifts, including iPhones, local brand cell phones or notebook computers.

While there are many pro-government comments supporting Weibo’s decision, one can still find a number of critiques online, including the following:

发动群众斗群众的第二弹!有害怎么认定?这些人的资质如何考核?最终裁决谁来做?与之前的社区管理员有什么区别?删贴和销号之间什么关系?各是什么规则?这个机制运行的前提是公开透明细化和可执行的处罚条款!

This is another mobilization of the masses against the masses. How do they define harmful? How do they make sure these people are qualified to do the content review? Who makes the final call [for censorship]? What is the difference between the “Weibo supervisors” and the community manager [a system set up a few years ago for community reporting]? What is the relationship between deleting a post and deleting an account? Is there any rule? Without openly and transparently stating rules, or specifying the operation and consequences of violating content rules, how can you kickstart the system?

不评论,第一你是个平台,对于不当的东西你咋定标准,开放是你的定位,你们是招城管吧,要是有违法行为有法院,有律师

No comment. As a platform, how can you set up standards for inappropriate content? Your principle should be open platform. Doesn’t this look like open recruitment of Chengguan [city management officers responsible for sanitation and environment who are notorious for their abusive use of power]? If there is any illegal content, we have courts and lawyers [to decide this].

Ordinary photos of young women are now labeled as ‘pornographic’

Weibo supervisors have been reporting content violations for more than a week now, and a group of female users are already feeling its effects.

One Weibo user explained the system and impact in detail:

我来总结一下自从微博推出了微博监督员,他们对我的朋友和对我的朋友圈造成了什么影响,起码这关系着很多可爱的小姐姐。

最近很多小姐姐可能会莫名其妙收到一条管理员扣分的信息,有时候可能只是自己发的自拍、自己的宠物、自己的马甲线、自己的腿、甚至一些看的很好看的cos泳装照片也惨遭举报。这些再也不能更日常的照片直接就会被扣上色情的帽子而被扣2分的消息,甚至很多小姐姐一直都是80分,因为这两天的举报直接就被扣成40分,甚至更低。 而当你微博被扣成40分以下你的微博不能被关注不能被转发,也就是失去了微博最起码的乐趣。

Let me sum up the impact of Weibo supervisors on my friends and my friends’ circles. They have affected many cute girls.

Recently, many cute girls probably have received a message from a Weibo administrator notifying them that their scores will be reduced because someone has reported their photos showing their legs, cleavage, sexy swimwear. In the past, these were treated as ordinary photos. Now that they are labelled as pornographic, two points are taken away from the user account for each photo. Some of the cute girls who had always maintained an 80 score have been reduced to 40 in the past few days, some even lower. If your Weibo score has been reduced to lower than 40, no one can follow you and your post cannot be shared, which means all the fun has vanished.

According to the content deletion notification, when a supervisor files a report, the content in question is submitted to a company administrator, who reviews and if necessary deletes the content and sends a notification to the user. The notification also says that the user can appeal for another review.

The Weibo credit system was first introduced in September 2013 to crack down on the spread of “rumors” or information coming from independent sources not approved by the state. Each Weibo user begins with a social credit score of 80. They will lose five credits if a post of theirs is flagged as a rumor and deleted. If the user’s credit score is lower than 40, the person’s content cannot be shared and will not appear on public timelines. When a person's credit score drops to zero, their account is suspended.

The poster continued their explanation of how and why the supervisors were specifically targeting women:

收到这么多举报都是因为微博奸督员有每个月的指标,每个月最少举报200条,当每个月达成了指标就会给你发放200元的网费,也就是说举报一条最少有1元钱的收入。之后还会根据举报次数的排名进行手机实物的奖励。EXM??没有惩罚选项???一方为了钱就可以随意的举报,让另一群用户体验变得极差!甚至想卸载软件 。

想想以后首页看不到奶子,看不到屁股,看不到腿,看不到泳衣,连美**都看不到。还会幸福吗,还会玩微博吗?当然这里我指的并不是色.情方面的,而是由而体现的一种美。

男性用户一般不会被扣分,而女性用户发自拍、发腿、连日常晒一下自己减肥成功后腰的照片被举报扣分,这样真的好吗。女孩子在这种青春的年龄段难道不应该记录下自己的美吗?

有些女孩子为了还原昨天我看到一个最可恨的,有一个非常美的小姐姐出的泳衣cos,没有一丝的色情感。摄影拍的棒,后期色调也非常的棒,正常来讲这条泳衣转发1000+是没有问题的,可是被举报了,不能在微博发了,发了还是被举报,拍一个cos的正片真的不容易,付出的时间、付出的金钱、付出了青春、还有自己的那么多的努力,去练习怎么样让自己的表情更加还原喜欢的角色,一套正片起码摄影+服装+后期便宜了也要小1000块。做了这么多努力就是想发到微博让别人去夸夸自己,去认可自己。你监督员就为了1块钱的小纸条否认了她的所有。这样真的很过分。

The reason why so many posts are reported is that each supervisor has been given a specific quota every month. They have to file at least 200 reports in exchange for the RMB 200 subsidy for paying internet fees. This means they receive RMB 1 yuan in exchange for one report. If they excel at filing reports, they will get mobile phones as a bonus. Excuse me? No punishment [for abusing power]??? One party can file a report to make money, while the other party suffers from a poor user experience. Some even want to uninstall the app.

Just imagine, in the future, there will no more sexy bottoms, no more legs, no more swimwear, no more pretty ** [breasts] on the front page timeline, can we still be happy? Will people still hang out on Weibo? What I am saying here is not about pornographic materials, but images that reflect a form of beauty.

Male users are less likely to be reported, while female users’ selfies, leg photos or waist photos that show off the success of their workouts are subjected to reduced scores. Are such practices really good? Shouldn’t girls take photos to record their youth?

Yesterday I came across a swimwear costume video of a pretty lady. The video contains no pornographic element, it was very well taken and the color tuning was fine. Usually such videos can be shared 1,000-plus times without encountering any problems. But now, it was reported and could not be circulated on Weibo. It wasn’t easy to produce that video, it took time, money and a great deal of effort in performing the role. The shooting, costume and production cost at least RMB 1,000. Upon spending all these efforts, she wanted to others to praise her, to gain recognition. Now the supervisors have denied everything that she had done for just RMB 1 yuan. This is outrageous.

The power of a Weibo supervisor

The Weibo supervisor regulation also encourages users to file complaints against supervisors abusing their power. Some have started filing complaints or publicly questioned the qualifications of the supervisors.

Another Weibo user started to collect content deletion notifications and shared his observation on Weibo. Below is one of the observations that he made:

#微博监督员# 目前我见到的删帖大概有四种情况,图一其他用户举报,需要十个人举报,审核后删除,图二,监督员举报,一个人就受理审核和删除,图三,网警删除,图四,系统检测,删除者不明。从类型看,网警主要偏向删维稳相关,其他用户和监督员偏向删除色情。

#Weibo Supervisors# I have seen four types of content deletion.

First, if the complaint was filed by other Weibo users, it would take 10 complaints to kickstart the review process. The post would be deleted upon review.

Second, if the report was filed by a Weibo supervisor, one report will trigger the review and deletion process.

Third, a cyber police officer can delete the content directly.

Fourth, automatic deletion, not sure who is in responsible.

Judging from the content, cyber police officers mainly delete politically sensitive content. Other users and Weibo supervisors mainly report on pornographic content.

According to these observations, Weibo supervisors have more authority than online civilization volunteers who have been serving the censorship machine by “spreading positive energy” and reporting on harmful content via the Weibo community system since 2015.

On Twitter, some Chinese users are comparing Weibo supervisors to online Red Guards, who target netizens said to be “politically incorrect.” They also believe that the supervisor system will trigger another round of migration to overseas social media.

by Oiwan Lam at October 12, 2017 10:13 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
#Istanbul10 Human Rights Defenders Have Been Behind Bars for 100 Days

Eight members of the #Istanbul10 who remain in jail in Turkey.

October 12 marks 100 days since 10 human rights defenders were arrested in Turkey during a training workshop. As of this week, members of the group could now face up to 10 years in prison for their work supporting the defence of human rights.

The group had gathered for an information management and wellbeing workshop on one of Istanbul's islands, Buyukada, on July 5 when police raided the workshop, detained the participants, and confiscated electronic equipment including computers and mobile phones. Among those arrested was the director of Amnesty International Turkey, Idil Eser.

Amnesty International Turkey chair Taner Kilic was arrested one month prior to the raid and has been accused of partaking in a so-called “conspiracy” with the 10 defenders. All have since been charged with aiding an “armed terrorist organization” and were indicted this week by the public prosecutor, who is seeking multi-year prison sentences for each individual, according to state news agency Andalou.

All of those facing charges are Turkish nationals, except for trainers Ali Gharavi, a Swedish citizen, and Peter Steudtner, a German citizen.

Authorities have cited no conclusive evidence to support the charges, and the evidence that is cited includes a slide taken from Gharavi's computer with a map of language groups in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and a sketch with stick people and icons drawn during the workshop by Ozlem Dalkiran, another member of the group. All of those detained have demonstrated over many years of work a commitment to peaceful, constructive protection of universal human rights in Turkey as enshrined in local laws and international human rights norms.

Following a court appearance on July 17, the detainees experienced a brief period of limbo in which some were released and then taken back into custody. Nejat Tastan and Seyhmuz Ozbekli are currently out on bail, but have been barred from travel beyond Turkey's borders, and must report to their supervision officers twice per week.

Amnesty International, whose director and chair of Amnesty International Turkey are included in these charges, described the situation as “outrageous.”

Human Rights Watch called the accusations “laughable”, explaining the situation as an attempt to stifle human rights work:

The truth is that these human rights defenders are being prosecuted not for an elaborate conspiracy, but to silence them and make their work impossible.

On September 19, a group of more than 60 organisations including the Association for Progressive Communications, IFEX, and Article 19, delivered an oral statement at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council, calling particular attention to the work of IT consultant Ali Gharavi, and digital strategy and wellbeing trainer Peter Steudtner:

Gharavi and Steudtner were arrested doing their jobs, imparting knowledge and skills that are essential to the exercise of human rights in the digital age, as they have done for many years with civil society groups around the world.

Since August 1, Steudtner has been held in Silivri prison, a high-security prison outside of Istanbul. In a letter he wrote from his cell, he described his daily life in prison:

Everyday life in prison takes place between the opening of the courtyard at 8am and the locking of the cells at 8pm: inspection of attendance, searching the cells, doing our laundry, cleaning the cell, playing chess and backgammon (both self-made boards).

On September 22, the day of the Berlin Marathon, Steudtner ran part of the marathon in solidarity, using the yard of his prison cell. Steudtner's colleagues from Kurve Wostrow, the Centre for Training and Networking in Nonviolent Action, reported that he managed 1,500 rounds of his small yard, running approximately 22.5 kilometres in total.

Idil Eser, director of Amnesty International Turkey, wrote from inside Silivri prison on September 12:

I always believed in the working methods and principles of the organisation and the importance of human rights; and I will keep believing in them. I am proud to be the Director of Amnesty International Turkey.

October 14 marks Eser’s birthday, a day being celebrated in solidarity with her by groups across the world.

Alongside his IT consultant skills, Swedish citizen Ali Gharavi is also a writer and poet. In mid-September, politics and culture magazine The New Statesman published one of Gharavi's stories. For the past few years, he has been working on a fiction/memoir project about family and migration, from which the story is drawn.

On October 9, Swedish officials summoned the Turkish ambassador for the third time to discuss the case, specifically of Gharavi. On Twitter, Ali’s friends, family, and supporters are sharing posts for him using the hashtag #ForFutureAli and #HaikusForAli.

Both Ali and Peter have been recognised by the digital rights group Access Now as “Heroes” for their activities in supporting human rights defenders to use technology.

We join their supporters in calling for the immediate release of the accused. Share messages of support on Twitter with the #Istanbul10 hashtag and #100DaysTooMany, and learn more about the lives and work of the #Istanbul10. 

by Zara Rahman at October 12, 2017 10:11 AM

Global Voices
#Istanbul10 Human Rights Defenders Have Been Behind Bars for 100 Days

Eight members of the #Istanbul10 who remain in jail in Turkey.

October 12 marks 100 days since 10 human rights defenders were arrested in Turkey during a training workshop. As of this week, members of the group could now face up to 10 years in prison for their work supporting the defence of human rights.

The group had gathered for an information management and wellbeing workshop on one of Istanbul's islands, Buyukada, on July 5 when police raided the workshop, detained the participants, and confiscated electronic equipment including computers and mobile phones. Among those arrested was the director of Amnesty International Turkey, Idil Eser.

Amnesty International Turkey chair Taner Kilic was arrested one month prior to the raid and has been accused of partaking in a so-called “conspiracy” with the 10 defenders. All have since been charged with aiding an “armed terrorist organization” and were indicted this week by the public prosecutor, who is seeking multi-year prison sentences for each individual, according to state news agency Andalou.

All of those facing charges are Turkish nationals, except for trainers Ali Gharavi, a Swedish citizen, and Peter Steudtner, a German citizen.

Authorities have cited no conclusive evidence to support the charges, and the evidence that is cited includes a slide taken from Gharavi's computer with a map of language groups in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and a sketch with stick people and icons drawn during the workshop by Ozlem Dalkiran, another member of the group. All of those detained have demonstrated over many years of work a commitment to peaceful, constructive protection of universal human rights in Turkey as enshrined in local laws and international human rights norms.

Following a court appearance on July 17, the detainees experienced a brief period of limbo in which some were released and then taken back into custody. Nejat Tastan and Seyhmuz Ozbekli are currently out on bail, but have been barred from travel beyond Turkey's borders, and must report to their supervision officers twice per week.

Amnesty International, whose director and chair of Amnesty International Turkey are included in these charges, described the situation as “outrageous.”

Human Rights Watch called the accusations “laughable”, explaining the situation as an attempt to stifle human rights work:

The truth is that these human rights defenders are being prosecuted not for an elaborate conspiracy, but to silence them and make their work impossible.

On September 19, a group of more than 60 organisations including the Association for Progressive Communications, IFEX, and Article 19, delivered an oral statement at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council, calling particular attention to the work of IT consultant Ali Gharavi, and digital strategy and wellbeing trainer Peter Steudtner:

Gharavi and Steudtner were arrested doing their jobs, imparting knowledge and skills that are essential to the exercise of human rights in the digital age, as they have done for many years with civil society groups around the world.

Since August 1, Steudtner has been held in Silivri prison, a high-security prison outside of Istanbul. In a letter he wrote from his cell, he described his daily life in prison:

Everyday life in prison takes place between the opening of the courtyard at 8am and the locking of the cells at 8pm: inspection of attendance, searching the cells, doing our laundry, cleaning the cell, playing chess and backgammon (both self-made boards).

On September 22, the day of the Berlin Marathon, Steudtner ran part of the marathon in solidarity, using the yard of his prison cell. Steudtner's colleagues from Kurve Wostrow, the Centre for Training and Networking in Nonviolent Action, reported that he managed 1,500 rounds of his small yard, running approximately 22.5 kilometres in total.

Idil Eser, director of Amnesty International Turkey, wrote from inside Silivri prison on September 12:

I always believed in the working methods and principles of the organisation and the importance of human rights; and I will keep believing in them. I am proud to be the Director of Amnesty International Turkey.

October 14 marks Eser’s birthday, a day being celebrated in solidarity with her by groups across the world.

Alongside his IT consultant skills, Swedish citizen Ali Gharavi is also a writer and poet. In mid-September, politics and culture magazine The New Statesman published one of Gharavi's stories. For the past few years, he has been working on a fiction/memoir project about family and migration, from which the story is drawn.

On October 9, Swedish officials summoned the Turkish ambassador for the third time to discuss the case, specifically of Gharavi. On Twitter, Ali’s friends, family, and supporters are sharing posts for him using the hashtag #ForFutureAli and #HaikusForAli.

Both Ali and Peter have been recognised by the digital rights group Access Now as “Heroes” for their activities in supporting human rights defenders to use technology.

We join their supporters in calling for the immediate release of the accused. Share messages of support on Twitter with the #Istanbul10 hashtag and #100DaysTooMany, and learn more about the lives and work of the #Istanbul10. 

by Zara Rahman at October 12, 2017 10:08 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
In Algeria, Two Imprisoned Bloggers Go on Hunger Strike

A portrait of 80-year-old Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been ruling the country since 1999. Photo: Thierry Ehrmann, courtesy of Organ Museum

Two Algerian bloggers have recently gone on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment for expressing themselves online.

Merzoug Touati has been in jail since 18 January for interviewing an Israeli official, while Slimane Bouhafs was arrested on 31 July 2016 for Facebook posts deemed “offensive to Islam.”

On 7 October, Reporters Without Borders reported that Touati has been on hunger strike since 13 September. The press freedom watchdog expressed concerns about the bloggers’ health and reported that “his weak condition” prevented him from answering an investigative judge's questions on 3 October.

According to Amnesty Algeria, Bouhafs began a hunger strike on 2 October.

Merzoug Touati. Photo shared on the Facebook page of his blog Alhogra

Merzoug Touati: Jailed for an interview

Touati is currently in detention pending trial for interviewing Hassan Kaabia, the Israeli foreign ministry's spokesperson for Arabic-speaking media, and then posting the interview on YouTube and his blog, Alhogra.

He was charged under Article 71 of the Penal Code which prescribes a punishment of up to 20 years in jail for anyone convicted of “exchanging with agents of a foreign power intelligence which could harm the military or diplomatic status of Algeria or its vital economic interests.” He could face an additional one to five years in prison for “incitement to armed protests against the State.”

The interview focused on the public response to the 2017 Finance Law, which includes an increase in value-added, income and property taxes, and a decrease in fuel subsidies. When the law went into effect on 1 January, strikes and riots erupted in the northern province of Bejaia and other parts of the country.

An Algerian government minister accused foreign powers of meddling in the country's affairs and orchestrating the protests. In the interview, Touati asked Kaabia about accusations made by the Algerian government. Kaabia denied any Israeli involvement.

On his blog (which is currently inaccessible to the public) Touati has consistently covered anti-austerity strikes and job protests, and rights violations committed by Algerian authorities.

Learn about the physiological effects of a hunger strike with the infographic below, created by our partners at Visualizing Impact.

Slimane Bouhafs: Jailed for Facebook posts

Another blogger, Slimane Bouhafs, who is currently serving a three-year jail sentence for “offending” prophet Muhammad and Islam, went on hunger strike on 2 October, according to Amnesty's Algeria office:

A request for the conditional release of Slimane Bouhafs has been rejected. He has gone on hunger strike since October 2.

Bouhafs is a Christian convert and an activist with the St. Augustine Coordination of Christians in Algeria which supports the rights of religious minorities in the country.

Prior to his arrest, he regularly posted about the situation of Algeria's Christian minority on Facebook, his Google+ profile and personal blog. According to Amnesty International, he is also a supporter of the Movement for Self-Determination of Kabylie (MAK), an independent political group seeking autonomy for the northern Berber region of Kabylie, a hotspot of protests against the marginalization of Algerian Amazighs, their culture and language.

One of the posts cited as evidence against him featured a cartoon by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo showing prophet Muhammad crying. In the comment field, Bouhafs wrote that “Muhammad lost” in Kabylie and Algeria, and that “his lie will disappear because the light of Christ is here.”

 

Media under siege in Algeria

Freedom of expression and press freedom are under siege in Algeria. The country is ranked 134 out of 180 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Bloggers and journalists face criminal prosecution if they cross certain red lines including criticizing the ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who has been ruling the country since 1999, corruption, religion and criticism of the police and the judiciary.

On 11 December 2016, blogger Mohamad Tamalt died in a hospital in the capital Algiers. Tamalt was serving a two year-jail sentence for publishing on Facebook a poem and a video that contained comments that were deemed disparaging towards Bouteflika. In protest he went on hunger strike in late June 2016 Two months after starting his hunger strike he entered a coma.

Today, the lives of two other bloggers are at risk, as they refrain from eating to gain back their freedoms. Will the Algerian government listen and end its crackdown on freedom of expression and press freedom before it's too late?

 

by Afef Abrougui at October 12, 2017 09:19 AM

Global Voices
In Algeria, Two Imprisoned Bloggers Go on Hunger Strike

A portrait of 80-year-old Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been ruling the country since 1999. Photo: Thierry Ehrmann, courtesy of Organ Museum

Two Algerian bloggers have recently gone on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment for expressing themselves online.

Merzoug Touati has been in jail since 18 January for interviewing an Israeli official, while Slimane Bouhafs was arrested on 31 July 2016 for Facebook posts deemed “offensive to Islam.”

On 7 October, Reporters Without Borders reported that Touati has been on hunger strike since 13 September. The press freedom watchdog expressed concerns about the bloggers’ health and reported that “his weak condition” prevented him from answering an investigative judge's questions on 3 October.

According to Amnesty Algeria, Bouhafs began a hunger strike on 2 October.

Merzoug Touati. Photo shared on the Facebook page of his blog Alhogra

Merzoug Touati: Jailed for an interview

Touati is currently in detention pending trial for interviewing Hassan Kaabia, the Israeli foreign ministry's spokesperson for Arabic-speaking media, and then posting the interview on YouTube and his blog, Alhogra.

He was charged under Article 71 of the Penal Code which prescribes a punishment of up to 20 years in jail for anyone convicted of “exchanging with agents of a foreign power intelligence which could harm the military or diplomatic status of Algeria or its vital economic interests.” He could face an additional one to five years in prison for “incitement to armed protests against the State.”

The interview focused on the public response to the 2017 Finance Law, which includes an increase in value-added, income and property taxes, and a decrease in fuel subsidies. When the law went into effect on 1 January, strikes and riots erupted in the northern province of Bejaia and other parts of the country.

An Algerian government minister accused foreign powers of meddling in the country's affairs and orchestrating the protests. In the interview, Touati asked Kaabia about accusations made by the Algerian government. Kaabia denied any Israeli involvement.

On his blog (which is currently inaccessible to the public) Touati has consistently covered anti-austerity strikes and job protests, and rights violations committed by Algerian authorities.

Learn about the physiological effects of a hunger strike with the infographic below, created by our partners at Visualizing Impact.

Slimane Bouhafs: Jailed for Facebook posts

Another blogger, Slimane Bouhafs, who is currently serving a three-year jail sentence for “offending” prophet Muhammad and Islam, went on hunger strike on 2 October, according to Amnesty's Algeria office:

A request for the conditional release of Slimane Bouhafs has been rejected. He has gone on hunger strike since October 2.

Bouhafs is a Christian convert and an activist with the St. Augustine Coordination of Christians in Algeria which supports the rights of religious minorities in the country.

Prior to his arrest, he regularly posted about the situation of Algeria's Christian minority on Facebook, his Google+ profile and personal blog. According to Amnesty International, he is also a supporter of the Movement for Self-Determination of Kabylie (MAK), an independent political group seeking autonomy for the northern Berber region of Kabylie, a hotspot of protests against the marginalization of Algerian Amazighs, their culture and language.

One of the posts cited as evidence against him featured a cartoon by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo showing prophet Muhammad crying. In the comment field, Bouhafs wrote that “Muhammad lost” in Kabylie and Algeria, and that “his lie will disappear because the light of Christ is here.”

 

Media under siege in Algeria

Freedom of expression and press freedom are under siege in Algeria. The country is ranked 134 out of 180 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Bloggers and journalists face criminal prosecution if they cross certain red lines including criticizing the ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who has been ruling the country since 1999, corruption, religion and criticism of the police and the judiciary.

On 11 December 2016, blogger Mohamad Tamalt died in a hospital in the capital Algiers. Tamalt was serving a two year-jail sentence for publishing on Facebook a poem and a video that contained comments that were deemed disparaging towards Bouteflika. In protest he went on hunger strike in late June 2016 Two months after starting his hunger strike he entered a coma.

Today, the lives of two other bloggers are at risk, as they refrain from eating to gain back their freedoms. Will the Algerian government listen and end its crackdown on freedom of expression and press freedom before it's too late?

 

by Afef Abrougui at October 12, 2017 09:14 AM

October 11, 2017

Creative Commons
Landmark release of Termination of Transfer tool from Creative Commons and Authors Alliance
totCreative Commons trademark; design by Amy Collier

For more than a decade, Creative Commons has developed and stewarded legal tools that give creators the opportunity to share their work on open terms. We have focused on tools that empower sharing at the moment of publication, leaving out an important group of creators: what about those who previously signed away their rights to their works long ago, but who now want to share on open terms under a CC license or renegotiate unfavorable publishing terms?

We are proud to announce version 1.0 of the Termination of Transfer tool (ToT tool), which will help inform creators about their ability to reclaim their rights. This newest legal tool – to be co-stewarded by Creative Commons and Authors Alliance – helps creators and authors learn about their ability to regain their rights in order to share. The ToT tool is our latest step in our mission to steward a vibrant commons through legal, social, and technical tools.

The ToT tool empowers authors to learn more about whether and when ccxauthorsalliancelogosthey may have the right to terminate the licensing arrangements for their work that prohibits them from sharing. Authors who enter into publishing, recording or other types of agreements are routinely asked to sign away their rights forever. Fortunately, there is recourse under U.S. copyright law for taking back those rights in the future. While many of these transfer agreements last “for the life of copyright” (which in the United States generally means seventy years after the author dies!), the law takes into account that these terms can ultimately be unfair to authors and artists, and so provides a mechanism for regaining those rights. An early analysis by Mike Wolfe estimates that control over more than 2.5 million works may be reclaimed by authors in the United States.

The tool is widely applicable beyond academia – anyone, including artists, photographers, scholars and scientists, can use this tool to understand more about rights they could have to regain rights they previously assigned away. While this tool is currently U.S.-based only, CC is developing a database of other country laws that enable authors and creators to similarly terminate or reclaim their rights.

One of the reasons why the tool is so remarkable is due to the complexity and technicality of the law. As Mia Garlick, CC’s first general counsel and the originator of the first ToT tool beta, noted in 2006, “the provisions are very complex and have not been frequently used [and] the termination provisions are currently so complex and technical that this tool can only serve an informational role.” When we relaunched the tool in 2015, we decided that while the tool would be primarily informational and US-based, the continued applicability of the legality would make it a worthwhile project for a global community. In 2016, we opened a public comment period for the tool.

arcadia-logoEven though the tool is now active, we’re still looking to improve it so that it is increasingly useful to all categories of content around the globe. Creative Commons and Authors Alliance are grateful to the Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, for their generous support of the creation of the Termination of Transfer Tool. See our full list of personnel and thank-yous at rightsback.org/about.

For more information and to try the tool, visit rightsback.org.

Read our joint press release with Authors Alliance.

The post Landmark release of Termination of Transfer tool from Creative Commons and Authors Alliance appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Diane Peters at October 11, 2017 07:16 PM

Global Voices
After Disqualification, Ex-Miss World Bangladesh Reveals She Is a Child Marriage Survivor

Jannatul Nayeem Avril is a model and biker. Screenshot via YouTube video uploaded by Cox'sbazar Riderz Club

A beauty queen in Bangladesh who was dethroned for hiding the fact that she was divorced is winning praise and sympathy after revealing she was under the legal age of marriage during the wedding in question.

Jannatul Nayeem Avril , a model and biker, was crowned the 2017 Lovello Miss World Bangladesh on September 29. She was supposed to represent the country in the 67th Miss World beauty pageant to be held in late 2017, but on October 4, the organizers stripped Avril of the title for concealing information about her past marriage. The first runner-up Jessia Islam was handed the crown instead.

The controversy started during the September 29 competition evening when another participant was announced as winner instead of Avril, in disregard of the judges’ decision. Later in the event, Avril was declared the winner, and the previous declaration was called a mistake.

Social media erupted, with users claiming that the organizers manipulated the selection. The situation took another turn when an investigative news report revealed that Avril had been married for three months in 2013 and is now divorced, which she had not disclosed. Her attempts to conceal the truth, and not the sheer fact that she is divorced, were what led pageant authorities to disqualify her.

Then in a Facebook post, published perhaps suitably, only a week before the world marked International Day of the Girl Child, Avril explained that the divorce stemmed from a match arranged by her parents and one that was not legal as she was only 16 at the time. She said she was the one to break off the marriage, and then she went on to establish herself as a model.

UNICEF defines child marriage as “a formal marriage or informal union before age 18.” Among Asian countries, Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of marriage under the legal age, which is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. In many cases, the weddings are arranged by parents in which the girl child has little to say.

In this context and considering Bangladesh's conservative society, many deemed Avril's actions to be brave. Abul Hasnat Milton, a Bangladeshi expat writer based in Australia, wrote on Facebook:

[…] আমি শুধু এভ্রিলকে একটা বাহবা দিতে চাই তার সাহসের জন্য। মাত্র ষোল বছর বয়সে তাকে ‘বাল্যবিবাহের’ শিকার হতে হয়েছিল। তরুণী তার প্রতিবাদে সেই বয়সেই ঘর ছেড়েছে। শুধু তাই নয়, নানান প্রতিকূলতার বিরূদ্ধে দাঁড়িয়ে নিজেকে গড়েছে। আত্মবিশ্বাসী, সাহসী একটা মেয়ে বাইকে চড়ে শহরময় ঘুরে বেড়াচ্ছে, দৃশ্যটির কথা ভাবতেই আমি মুগ্ধ হই।

আপনাকে অভিবাদন এভ্রিল।

[…] I just want to give kudos to Avril for her courage and bravery. She is a victim of ‘child marriage’. But the young women protested that and left her marriage. She fought against many odds and overcame many challenges to prepare herself as a successful woman. A confident and brave girl riding her bike in Dhaka city is a great thing to watch.

Many congratulations Avril.

Blogger and activist Ajanta Deb Roy also lauded Avril's courage:

তার জীবনে ঘটে যাওয়া বাল্যবিয়ে নামক একটা দুর্ঘটনার কারণে ‘মিস ওয়ার্ল্ড বাংলাদেশ’ প্রতিযোগিতায় যোগ দেয়ার তথাকথিত যোগ্যতা হয়তো সে হারিয়েছে কিন্তু আমার চোখে মেয়েটার সাহস আর আত্মবিশ্বাসই তার সবচাইতে বড় সৌন্দর্য্য।

She may be disqualified from the “Miss World Bangladesh” competition because of her accidental past marriage, but in my eyes, her courage and confidence is the real beauty.

Many commenters, however, criticized Avril for hiding the information about her marriage. University student Tasdidul Haque did not agree with Avril's choice to conceal her past, but condemned the trolling directed at her:

আচ্ছা বিয়ের ব্যাপার টা লুকায় সে ভুল করছে আপনি তার ডিস্কোয়ালিফিকেশন দাবি করতেই পারেন কিন্তু তার ছবি আপ্লোডাইয়া রসায় রসায় ক্যাপশন দেওয়াটা লেমনেস। একটা ১৬বছরের মেয়েকে এসএসসির সময়ে ইলিগ্যালি জোর করে বাল্য বিয়ে দেয়ে হলো সে সেই বিয়ে থেকে নিজেকে মুক্ত করে পরিবারের কোনো সাপোর্ট ছাড়াই এই স্টেজ অব্দি পৌছুছে, দেশ সেরা লেডী বাইকার সে, এসব আপ্নদের চোখে পড়েনা?

She made a mistake by hiding the information about her past marriage. So you can criticize her. But trolling her with distorted images or memes is lame. You seem to have been blind to the facts that she was a victim of a child marriage and became a successful model and a biker without any support from the family.

Actress Jyotika Jyoti defended Avril characterization of herself as “unmarried”:

এভ্রিল দাবী করছে সে অবিবাহিত, আমি তার দাবীর সাথে একমত। একটা বিয়ের ছবি কিংবা জোর করে দেয়া বিয়ের টিকে থাকা ১৫ দিন দিয়ে একজনের ঘাড়ে বিবাহিত দায় চাপানো যায়না ।

Avril commented that “she is unmarried”, I agree with her. A forced marriage or the wedding pictures do not prove that she was married with consent.

Avril came from a rural area, but has become a successful model and a brand ambassador for an international motorbike company. Educator Rasheda Rawnak Khan called it an inspirational story:

অবাক হয়ে লক্ষ্য করলাম, তার দুচোখ ভরা স্বপ্ন! হাজারও উচ্চশিক্ষিত মেয়ের ভেতরে যে স্বপ্ন দেখার সাহস নেই, এই ‘সুন্দরী’ হতে আসা মেয়েটির ভেতরে তা আছে|

I was surprised to see that she had eyes full of dreams. Many educated and privileged women do not dare to dream out of the box. This aspiring beauty pageant winner had that resolve.

After the news of the disqualification, Avril commented on a Facebook Live post that she will work against child marriage:

আমি আপনাদের এভ্রিল, আপনাদের চোখে চ্যাম্পিয়ন ছিলাম, চ্যাম্পিয়ন আছি এবং আপনাদের ভালোবাসায় থাকবো।
যতদিন পর্যন্ত বেঁচে আছি, বাল্যবিবাহ নিয়ে আমি কাজ করবো, যাতে আর কোন মেয়ের স্বপ্ন না ভাঙ্গে।

I am your Avril, was a champion in your eyes, will be the champion with your love. I will work to prevent child marriage, all my life, so no other girls’ dreams are shattered.

She already founded a charity called Avril Foundation for this reason.

The Miss World 2017 beauty pageant will take place in November 2017 in China. Jessia Islam will represent Bangladesh.

by Rezwan at October 11, 2017 03:53 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
10/11/2017: Someday we'll be superintelligent. How do we get there?
Machines are getting stronger and smarter. They may soon be our competitors and colleagues in the workforce. What would happen if we used them to enhance our own brains? Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, about what would happen if artificial and human intelligence met.

by Marketplace at October 11, 2017 10:30 AM

October 10, 2017

Global Voices
ICAN, Australia's Homegrown Anti-Nuclear Nobel Peace Prize Winner, is a Big Surprise

ICAN campaigners protest outside Australia's permanent mission to the UN at Geneva 12 May 2016 – Courtesy ICAN Flickr account (CC BY 2.0)

Awarding the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, surprised many, including Australians unaware of ICAN's work or humble origins in Melbourne in 2007. Critics also noted that Australia itself hasn't yet signed the test-ban treaty pushed by ICAN.

The Norwegian-based Nobel committee chose ICAN “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

ICAN's win received a positive response in general on social media:

New Zealand neighbors were happy to take some of the credit:

The online Australian newspaper The New Daily was quick to explain the role of ICAN's anti-nuclear campaign @nuclearban in the adoption of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July this year:

ICAN had campaigned tirelessly for a treaty, especially at the UN Open-Ended Working Group in Geneva after its formation in 2015.

However, some saw ICAN's win as tokenistic:

Although 122 nations voted for the treaty, none of the nuclear weapons states were among them. The Australian government will not sign the treaty despite pressure to do so. Paul Barratt, a former top Australian public servant, tweeted:

Australian activist John Englart echoed these sentiments:

Australia delegates to the disarmament negotiations have been accused of being “weasels.” Guardian Australia cartoonist First Dog on the Moon took up this idea after the Nobel Prize announcement:

Some down under even called for a ‘reality check':

State Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria, in which Melbourne is the capital city, took to Facebook to promote ICAN's achievement:

An incredible thing happened to a Victorian-founded organisation on the weekend. It won the Nobel Peace Prize – and it hasn't got nearly enough the attention it deserves. Please fix that. Tag and share. Let everyone know what we're capable of in this daring, progressive little state at the bottom of the world.

But citizens like Cathy Micich rebuked: “So what role did Daniel Andrews play? Oh, that's right, jump on the bandwagon.”

Medact, a United Kingdom-based ICAN partner, reminds the world that ICAN has a long way to go in achieving its objective to ban all nuclear weapons:

ICAN concurs. Though it was founded in Melbourne, it shifted its global headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland since 2011 to be in close proximity to where the United Nations coordinates its disarmament talks.

by Kevin Rennie at October 10, 2017 05:01 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Hong Kong Anti-Communist Magazines Cease Publication After Four Decades

Last issue of Cheng Ming and The Trend. Image from HKFP.

This post was written by Kris Cheng and originally published in Hong Kong Free Press on October 3, 2017. The version below is published on Global Voices under a partnership agreement.

Hong Kong-based anti-Communist magazine Cheng Ming has announced that it will cease publication after 40 years in print. Its sister magazine The Trend will also disappear from the shelves. While the decision was related to the recent death of the founder of the two titles, many have commented that the disappearance of magazines critical of the Chinese Communist Party over the past few years signifies the end of Hong Kong's free press.

The Cheng Ming monthly was launched on November 1, 1977, whilst The Trend began publishing a year later. The pair released a final joint issue on October 1 that allowed staff members from both magazines to bid farewell to readers.

While the reason for the closure was not stated clearly, the letter thanked readers for their support over the last 40 years:

Over the past 40 years, the two magazines provided a freedom of speech platform to call for democracy, human rights, freedom, and to criticise dictatorship and corruption – we have witnessed history together…The two magazines are fortunate to bear the dream and mission of a generation, leaving behind our footsteps, to make humble contributions with our very limited resources and capability.

The founder ad publisher of the two magazines, Wen Hui, was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1921 and moved to Hong Kong in the 1940s. He joined the Chinese Communist Party’s underground news agencies in Hong Kong, before being transferred to the Wen Wei Po newspaper. But he was turned away from the party after the Cultural Revolution.

The two titles were criticised by the party as “counter-revolutionary,” after an article written by Wen in 1982 criticised Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Wen left Hong Kong for the US in 1997.

Gao Yu, a veteran journalist in mainland China provided a comprehensive insight into Wen's emergence as a de facto dissident publisher on Twitter:

【告别温晖先生!告别《争鸣》】文革結束第二年,香港與中共有千絲萬縷聯系的老報人在統戰部、僑辦、港辦默許之下成立了一批雜志社,為中國擺脫毛思想的禁锢鼓與呼。1979年3月30日,鄧小平在理論工作務虛會上提出了《四項基本原則》,遭到香港這批左傾雜志的公開批評,高壓之下,有的被迫做了公開檢討,唯有溫晖先生宣布要與《四項基本原則》鬥爭到底,他主辦的《爭鳴》雜志從此就被打成反動雜志。80年代我在中新社,親眼目睹整部宣傳機器對《爭鳴》的打壓,但是《爭鳴》越戰越勇創下月銷8萬本的戰績。銅鑼灣事件,使得香港出版業遭到重創,藍金黄之下的香港傳媒已無自由的空間,世界新聞中心名實俱亡。選擇十九大前的十月一日出版《爭鳴》《動向》最後一期合刊,發表“難說再見”的停刊詞,是因為96歲高齡的溫晖先生辭世。向一生铮铮鐵骨的老前輩致敬!他58歲時講的“與四項基本原則鬥爭到底”,會播之萬古。

[Farewell to Mr. Wen Hui. Farewell to Cheng Ming] After the end of the Cultural Revolution, in the second year, a group of old publishers who had many links with the Chinese Communist Party established a number of press houses with the consent of the United Front Work Department, Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. They played a role liberating people's thought from Maoist influences.

However, on March 30, 1979, Deng Xiaoping put forward the idea of “Four Cardinal Principles” [The four principles are: uphold socialist path, dictatorship of the proletariat, leadership of the Communist Party and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought] in the party theory working group meeting. The group of magazines responded with open criticisms. Under huge political pressure, some publishers had to revise their stand openly. Wen Hui remained the only one devoted to the struggle against the “Four Cardinal Principles“. His magazine, Cheng Ming was henceforth labelled as a “counter-revolutionary” publication. I was working for China News and witnessed how the propaganda machine suppressed Cheng Ming. But Cheng Ming's distribution was getting better and better. It managed to sell 80,000 copies per issue.

The disappearance of booksellers in Hong Kong [in 2015] struck Hong Kong's publishing sector hard. Moreover, under the Blue/Gold/Yellow Operations [According to Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire who claimed to have worked for China's spy network, these operations are designed to exercise control over the business and political sector in overseas Chinese communities], Hong Kong no longer has press freedom, and is no longer a global press center. The timing of the publication of the last issue of Cheng Ming and The Trend right before the 19th CCP National Congress on October 1 […] is related to the passing away of 96-year-old Wen Hui. Here we should salute the old man who held firm to his belief all his life. His speech about struggle with the Four Cardinal Principles till the end of his life will be remembered in history.

Citing unnamed sources, Oriental Daily reported that the closure was related to the death of Wen, who passed away aged 96 in New York recently. His family reportedly did not want to carry on publishing the titles, which had been losing money.

However, there are many like Gao Yu, who believe that the closure is symbolic of the end of free press in Hong Kong. For example, @Moli, an overseas Chinese writer who had contributed to a number of anti-CCP magazines in Hong Kong exclaimed on Twitter:

The three magazines which I had been contributing to for a long time, Open Magazine [ceased to operated in December 2014] , the Trend and Cheng Ming, all have ceased to operate. I wanted to write something but found myself speechless. In an era like this, what can I say?

 

by Hong Kong Free Press at October 10, 2017 01:31 PM

Global Voices
Hong Kong Anti-Communist Magazines Cease Publication After Four Decades

Last issue of Cheng Ming and The Trend. Image from HKFP.

This post was written by Kris Cheng and originally published in Hong Kong Free Press on October 3, 2017. The version below is published on Global Voices under a partnership agreement.

Hong Kong-based anti-Communist magazine Cheng Ming has announced that it will cease publication after 40 years in print. Its sister magazine The Trend will also disappear from the shelves. While the decision was related to the recent death of the founder of the two titles, many have commented that the disappearance of magazines critical of the Chinese Communist Party over the past few years signifies the end of Hong Kong's free press.

The Cheng Ming monthly was launched on November 1, 1977, whilst The Trend began publishing a year later. The pair released a final joint issue on October 1 that allowed staff members from both magazines to bid farewell to readers.

While the reason for the closure was not stated clearly, the letter thanked readers for their support over the last 40 years:

Over the past 40 years, the two magazines provided a freedom of speech platform to call for democracy, human rights, freedom, and to criticise dictatorship and corruption – we have witnessed history together…The two magazines are fortunate to bear the dream and mission of a generation, leaving behind our footsteps, to make humble contributions with our very limited resources and capability.

The founder ad publisher of the two magazines, Wen Hui, was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1921 and moved to Hong Kong in the 1940s. He joined the Chinese Communist Party’s underground news agencies in Hong Kong, before being transferred to the Wen Wei Po newspaper. But he was turned away from the party after the Cultural Revolution.

The two titles were criticised by the party as “counter-revolutionary,” after an article written by Wen in 1982 criticised Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Wen left Hong Kong for the US in 1997.

Gao Yu, a veteran journalist in mainland China provided a comprehensive insight into Wen's emergence as a de facto dissident publisher on Twitter:

【告别温晖先生!告别《争鸣》】文革結束第二年,香港與中共有千絲萬縷聯系的老報人在統戰部、僑辦、港辦默許之下成立了一批雜志社,為中國擺脫毛思想的禁锢鼓與呼。1979年3月30日,鄧小平在理論工作務虛會上提出了《四項基本原則》,遭到香港這批左傾雜志的公開批評,高壓之下,有的被迫做了公開檢討,唯有溫晖先生宣布要與《四項基本原則》鬥爭到底,他主辦的《爭鳴》雜志從此就被打成反動雜志。80年代我在中新社,親眼目睹整部宣傳機器對《爭鳴》的打壓,但是《爭鳴》越戰越勇創下月銷8萬本的戰績。銅鑼灣事件,使得香港出版業遭到重創,藍金黄之下的香港傳媒已無自由的空間,世界新聞中心名實俱亡。選擇十九大前的十月一日出版《爭鳴》《動向》最後一期合刊,發表“難說再見”的停刊詞,是因為96歲高齡的溫晖先生辭世。向一生铮铮鐵骨的老前輩致敬!他58歲時講的“與四項基本原則鬥爭到底”,會播之萬古。

[Farewell to Mr. Wen Hui. Farewell to Cheng Ming] After the end of the Cultural Revolution, in the second year, a group of old publishers who had many links with the Chinese Communist Party established a number of press houses with the consent of the United Front Work Department, Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. They played a role liberating people's thought from Maoist influences.

However, on March 30, 1979, Deng Xiaoping put forward the idea of “Four Cardinal Principles” [The four principles are: uphold socialist path, dictatorship of the proletariat, leadership of the Communist Party and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought] in the party theory working group meeting. The group of magazines responded with open criticisms. Under huge political pressure, some publishers had to revise their stand openly. Wen Hui remained the only one devoted to the struggle against the “Four Cardinal Principles“. His magazine, Cheng Ming was henceforth labelled as a “counter-revolutionary” publication. I was working for China News and witnessed how the propaganda machine suppressed Cheng Ming. But Cheng Ming's distribution was getting better and better. It managed to sell 80,000 copies per issue.

The disappearance of booksellers in Hong Kong [in 2015] struck Hong Kong's publishing sector hard. Moreover, under the Blue/Gold/Yellow Operations [According to Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire who claimed to have worked for China's spy network, these operations are designed to exercise control over the business and political sector in overseas Chinese communities], Hong Kong no longer has press freedom, and is no longer a global press center. The timing of the publication of the last issue of Cheng Ming and The Trend right before the 19th CCP National Congress on October 1 […] is related to the passing away of 96-year-old Wen Hui. Here we should salute the old man who held firm to his belief all his life. His speech about struggle with the Four Cardinal Principles till the end of his life will be remembered in history.

Citing unnamed sources, Oriental Daily reported that the closure was related to the death of Wen, who passed away aged 96 in New York recently. His family reportedly did not want to carry on publishing the titles, which had been losing money.

However, there are many like Gao Yu, who believe that the closure is symbolic of the end of free press in Hong Kong. For example, @Moli, an overseas Chinese writer who had contributed to a number of anti-CCP magazines in Hong Kong exclaimed on Twitter:

The three magazines which I had been contributing to for a long time, Open Magazine [ceased to operated in December 2014] , the Trend and Cheng Ming, all have ceased to operate. I wanted to write something but found myself speechless. In an era like this, what can I say?

 

by Hong Kong Free Press at October 10, 2017 01:28 PM

Beyond the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ of Catalonia’s Independence Referendum

A woman rebukes the National Police during the Catalan referendum, on October 1st 2017. Photo by Vicens Forner Puig, with with permission.

With hashtags like #votarem (“we will vote”), citizens with the right to vote in Catalonia, a region in northeast Spain, published their photos and stories on social media while they participated in a controversial referendum on independence. The vote on 1 October was deemed illegal by the central government in Madrid, which considers it unconstitutional.

Catalonia's current independence process started in 2012, when the Catalan Parliament resolved to request authorisation from the government in Madrid to hold a referendum on self-determination. Despite Madrid's continuous rejection, supported by the country's Constitutional Court, the Catalan government unilaterally decided to call a non-binding consultation in 2014, and, finally, the referendum on 1 October.

While public TV channels and other mass media outlets were criticised for their coverage of events, every minute of election day could be followed on social media, which was filled with excited testimonies, people who spent the night outside the polling booths to prevent them being shut down, or videos of long queues and people waiting for hours to vote.

Images of elderly people entering or leaving the voting booths amid applause from their neighbours were particularly popular. Their key role throughout the process led to slogans such as “sense les àvies no hi ha revolució” (“without grandmothers there is no revolution”) or “nuestros abuelos no se tocan” (“hands off our grandparents”).

In moments of so much repression, determination like this is a relief.

The violent actions of the state's security forces were without a doubt one of the most debated subjects, from videos of buses full of police leaving from Cordoba, on the other side of the country, to images of Basque firemen who traveled to join Catalan firemen in defending the polls. The debate over if the repression was justified, and whether the referendum was illegal, was a fiery one.

Catalans were not the only people reacting to violence with indignation. For example, in a viral tweet, Patricia Horrillo, an activist and journalist in Madrid, argued that criticism of police repression should be independent of personal political views:

You may not agree with the independence movement, but if you see today's images of police repression and are not outraged, look again.

This reaction to the brutality could also be seen on the streets, where protests were called in solidarity with the Catalan people in different parts of the country, such as Madrid, Seville or Granada.

The rally in support of #Catalonia at the Puerta del Sol is starting.

Beyond the referendum results and the tension around the country's fate, social media circulated some conciliatory anecdotes, like the viral photos and videos of people going to vote dressed in the Spanish flag, the flag of the Second Spanish Republic (which came to an end in 1939; Spain is currently a constitutional monarchy), or the shirt of the national football team. These moments of solidarity across political divides were repeated during the strike called two days later to protest police repression.

This is how we do revolution here. Don't let the media fool you.

Many citizens decided not to participate in the vote, as they considered it illegitimate or pointless. However, after witnessing the images of repression, many others who had not intended to vote expressed their determination to do so as a gesture of protest and joined the strike in solidarity.

Image text: I don't want independence, but I can't stay home while my people are beaten!

Tweet: This gesture needs no explanation. This is the way.

Thus, some of the voters who said “no” to independence explained on social media their decision to participate in the referendum as an exercise in defending what they still consider a democratic right. For example, in the video below by Euronews, a protester who voted “NO” explains his reasons for going to the strike:

Protester: I think that in a democracy we all have to vote, and no matter what our opinion is we must show it. I'm also here to protest against the violence inflicted on my people, the Catalan people. It's completely disproportionate, for people who only wanted to voice their opinion.
Videographer: Where are you from?
Protester: I'm from Esplugues. Esplugues in Llobregat.
Videographer: Are you pro-independence?
Protester: No.
Videographer: What have you got there? Which flag is that you've got there?
Protester: Ah, this is the Spanish republican flag.
Videographer: Did you vote in the referendum?
Protester: I voted.
Videographer: What did you vote?
Protester: I voted “no”. I voted “no”. I stayed until the poll closed to stop them from taking the ballots.

The referendum also brought to light certain contradictions for some citizens who did not feel included in the process from the start, or who did not have the privilege of participating in it. In an article in the newspaper El Salto, feminist activist Ana Burgos, who is from the region of Andalusia but lives in Catalonia, wondered, “What is an Andalusian doing defending anything here, with all the Andalusphobic rubbish that I put up with every day”:

Durante el inicio y desarrollo del procés nunca me sentí interpelada: un liderazgo convergente que poco tenía que ver conmigo en una sociedad –como tantas otras– profundamente clasista, racista y patriarcal cuyo proyecto político nacional, poco autocrítico, no me representaba. (…)

Entonces, las ofensas al pueblo por parte de Rajoy [el presidente] y sus secuaces nos hicieron salir a defender un proceso del que desconfiábamos y unas instituciones en las que no creíamos, o al menos problematizábamos, muchas de nosotras. (…) Y es que más bien nos estábamos echando a las calles a defender a nuestras hermanas y vecinas, a un pueblo al que le está cayendo la del pulpo.

From the start of the process and throughout its development, I never felt included: a convergent leadership that had little to do with me in a society that is – like so many others – profoundly classist, racist and patriarchal, and whose national political project, with very little self-criticism, did not represent me. […]

So, the offenses against the people committed by [Spanish President Mariano] Rajoy and his followers drove us to take to the streets to defend a process that we did not trust and institutions that we did not believe in, or at least that many of us saw as problematic. […] And the thing is we were really taking to the streets to defend our sisters and neighbours, a people who were getting a beating.

Another of the criticisms and contradictions that was highlighted made reference to the hundreds of thousands of migrants residing in Catalonia, but who do not have citizenship, and therefore were excluded from participating in the referendum. One activist commented in a Facebook post that has since become unavailable:

Ella: ¿Iras a votar el domingo?
Yo : No, no tengo el derecho a voto
Ella: Y si lo tienes, irías a votar?
Yo : No Tengo el derecho a voto
Ella: Si, Si, entiendo. Pero en el caso que tengas, irías a votar?
Yo : No tengo el derecho a voto
Ella: Enserio… ¿Irías a votar?
Yo : Iré a vomitar porque votar no puedo.

Her: Will you vote on Sunday?
Me: I don't have the right to vote.
Her: And if you had it, would you vote?
Me: I don't have the right to vote.
Her: Yes, yes, I understand. But if you had it, would you go and vote?
Me: I don't have the right to vote.
Her: Seriously… would you go and vote?
Me: I'll go and vomit because I can't vote.

Fàtima Aatar, an anthropologist and activist, reflected on the non-inclusion of foreign residents in the vote for the magazine La Directa:

…com és possible que en un exercici de desobediència política, jurídica i social no s’hagi desobeït en aquesta qüestió concreta? Per què s’ha escollit heretar la Llei d’estrangeria espanyola tenint en compte que és de les qüestions més característiques del règim? Desobediència? Quan i per a qui?

…how is it possible that in an act of political, legal and social disobedience, there was no disobedience on this specific issue? Why did they choose to inherit Spain's immigration law considering that it is one of the most characteristic issues of the regime? Disobedience? When and for whom?

Drawing parallels between the physical and administrative violence exercised by the Spanish state against migrants and the repression during the referendum, Moha Gereou, a journalist and activist based in Madrid, commented:

If you are not from Spain but you want to be part of it you are met with violence.

If you are from Spain but you do not want to be part of it you are met with violence.

A lot is yet to come in the next weeks and months. It is difficult to predict what might happen, but it is clear that Spain and Catalonia are facing one of the most complex and decisive processes of their recent democratic history, and the way in which the institutions respond will mark the future of the state, of the peoples who make it up, and above all, of ordinary citizens.

by Kitty Garden at October 10, 2017 12:21 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
10/10/2017: Re-evaluating the economics of tech
It’s safe to say that we’re becoming increasingly afraid of tech. Algorithms and ad platforms are feeding us information we can’t trust, companies are storing and sharing our personal data and robots might be coming for our jobs. Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, is a futurist who wrote the new book “WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us.” Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks to him about how tech could do better.

by Marketplace at October 10, 2017 10:30 AM

Global Voices
Burundian Refugees Face a Difficult Choice: Stay in Overburdened Camps or Return to Uncertainty

Mahama Refugee camp in Kirke district, Eastern Rwanda, housing over 53,000 Burundian refugees. 29/08/2017. Credit: Alan Whelan/Trócaire. IMG_5459

On 7 September a convoy of 301 refugees from Nduta camp in Tanzania drove back into Burundi, with more Burundians following days after. Overall, 12,000 are registered to voluntarily return this year. While not the first returnees, the number is large; and their journey back is organized by Burundi and Tanzania’s governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

However, the crisis, sparked by 2015 election turmoil, that led so many Burundians to flee is far from resolved. While some refugees, impatient with waiting to return, held sit-ins in Tanzania to demand the process be sped up, many others fear going back.

The UNHCR still has over 400,000 refugees registered, with 240,000 in Tanzania alone. The camps also often see new arrivals. Local journalist collective SOS Médias Burundi reported 180 new refugees arriving at Nduta on 15 September; three of them had just returned to Burundi, but came back.

The government has called on refugees to return, saying the country is now secure. Tanzania's president has similarly encouraged repatriation. Burundian officials claim UN figures are inaccurate, even manipulated, and that over 150,000 have returned. They have even accused UNHCR of preventing Burundians from coming back.

Whether here or there, life for Burundians remains difficult

Refugees left Burundi for different reasons, and so will consider returning for different reasons, including political reconciliation, accountability, and basic goods accessibility. Amnesty International reported, though, many feeling pressured into returning.

Refugee camp life is difficult; resources and space are tight, and insecurity is a problem. In Nduta camp rations were substantially cut this year – reduced four times in six months. Refugees protested malnutrition, sparking some violence, and some even suspected it was meant to pressure them to return. The UNHCR called for more funding urgently, stating only 6% of the target met by September.

Marc Ntukamazina, who originally fled Burundi because of insecurity and whose house was burned down, has since returned. He told SOS Médias Burundi:

La vie en Tanzanie n'est pas aussi facile. J'espère qu'aujourd'hui je pourrais avoir la tranquillité plus qu'avant

Life in Tanzania is not very easy. I hope today that I can have more peace than before

In Sud-Kivu, DRC, 39 Burundians and a soldier died in confrontations on 15 September with security forces – civilians protesting against returning to Burundi according to witnesses and UN, an attack according to officials.

Back in Burundi, the economic strife which many fled continues , largely caused by political insecurity, reportedly facing food insecurity, falling investment, high unemployment, electricity and recurrent fuel shortages, and controversial charges andcontributions”. Journalist Esdras Ndikumana, who left his country after being badly beaten in detention in 2015, tweeted:

The government and petrol suppliers assure that “there are no stock problems”. But in this case, how to explain the current petrol shortage?

Political insecurity endures. Various reports accuse the government of authoritarianism and systematic rights abuses, which it rejects. In August 2017, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, based on refugee interviews in Uganda, criticized violence against opponents. And in July, the International Federation for Human Rights recorded over 1,200 dead since 2015, and warned of creeping dictatorship restricting free expression.

Critical NGOs and media continue facing closure, court cases, or harassment. Political opponent Léopold Habarugira was kidnapped in plain daylight on 12 September and many others remain in exile. Some parties were suspended for alleged financial irregularities. Notably, Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye requested in August that the courts dissolve major opposition party MSD.

The UN Commission of Inquiry’s (UNCOI) has called for a full International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation, a demand echoed by Burundian NGOs and opposition, but not the African Union. In 2016, though, Burundi unprecedentedly withdrew from ICC, effective 27 October, which complicates opening investigations.

A ‘climate of fear’ that follows refugees

UNCOI President Ouguergouz said there was a “climate of fear” even following refugees into exile, and not adequate conditions for returning. Political violence has become more clandestine but still systematic, with reported disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests.

Ministers vigorously reject this characterization, and the National Assembly vowed to investigate it, while Presidential Communications-Counsellor Willy Nyamitwe denounced it as a Western plot. Anti-UN protests were organized, although SOS Médias Burundi reported some were pressured to attend.

Burundi: A demonstration of pro-government women asks the government to take the members of the UN Commission of Inquiry to court

Hopes for dialogue between the fragmented “radical” opposition and the government, which has consolidated its control, to resolve divisions are strained. The regionally mediated dialogue has stalled, and mediator Benjamin Mkapa has criticized the participants’ engagement. Meanwhile, UN special envoy Michel Kafando faces the difficulties of Bujumbura’s tense relations with UN and EU, and international divisions on the issue.

The government has pushed ahead with controversial constitutional changes which would allow President Nkurunziza another term. It also called for public contributions to finance the 2020 elections and avoid dependence on donors, which withdrew shortly before 2015 elections due to political violence. Displays of support by Imbonerakure – the ruling party youth-wing, accused of violence and belonging to a presidentially controlled parallel security structure – seemingly strengthen the president’s position.

Many who originally fled opposed precisely this – extending the president’s tenure beyond the two-term limit, seen as moving away from post-war peacebuilding power-sharing arrangements and towards a one-party state.

These core problems of political and economic insecurity remain unresolved, leaving many refugees facing difficult choices over risks of returning to Burundi or remaining in camps.

by Liam Anderson at October 10, 2017 09:47 AM

October 09, 2017

Global Voices Advocacy
Authorities Are ‘Whitewashing’ the Devastation and Death Toll in Puerto Rico

A flooded street in San Juan, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Photo by US Department of Defense, released to public domain.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, it brought the worst storm damage that the Caribbean island and US territory has seen in nearly a century.

For more than two weeks since the storm, Puerto Ricans have faced life-threatening shortages of food, water and fuel. More than 90% of homes are still without electricity, 60% without water, and 75% of telecommunications networks are still inoperable.

Local media outlets in Puerto Rico are finding that while some key statistics — such as overall access to electricity and water — have been reported with relative precision, other information speaking to the devastation on the island has been, as one US Congressman put it, “whitewashed.”

State estimates and local reporting on the death toll also vary vastly.

Facts and figures like these have critical importance in any disaster relief effort. They are essential to understand the situation and make decisions about how to allocate resources towards recovery. They can also be key tool for citizens and media outlets working to hold government entities accountable for their commitments to the public.

Accountability is further complicated by the fact that Puerto Rico, as a US territory, has just one representative in the US Congress, who is not afforded full voting rights. And while congressmen and congresswomen of Puerto Rican origin are standing up on behalf of Puerto Rico, their calls to action are largely being ignored.

Who determines the death toll?

The storm's official death toll is among the most important of figures being reported. For several days after the storm, the death toll hovered at 16, according to Puerto Rican state and US federal authorities. But just hours after Donald Trump concluded his press conference in San Juan on October 3, authorities released an updated count of 34.

Local investigations however suggest that the storm's actual death toll may be much higher.

In an interview with Public Safety Secretary Héctor Pesquera, the San Juan-based Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) learned that at least 200 people died in Puerto Rico from September 20 through 29, a number that well exceeds the normal quantity for such a short period. And this only reflects official records — the lack of electricity has left state agencies having to register these numbers by hand, thus prolonging the process.

In interviews at Hospital Pavía in Arecibo, CPI learned that 49 people had died at that hospital alone in the first two days after the hurricane, during which the hospital had almost no electricity.

Hurricane stats slanted — and briefly censored

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello reported on October 3 that 63 of the island's 69 hospitals had re-opened. But what does it mean for a hospital to re-open? State officials explained that this simply means that hospitals are accepting some patients. A roster released by the state government indicates that 29 of 63 the hospitals that are being described as “operational” still do not have electricity.

The US federal government has also shown reluctance to release comprehensive data about the situation. On October 5, users noticed that detailed statistics on water, electricity and other key resource shortages that had been published and routinely updated on the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suddenly disappeared.

Statistics describing the relief effort — mostly “positive” numbers, such as the quantity of hospitals, grocery stores and gas stations that have re-opened — remained online. After multiple media outlets reported on the incident of censorship, the numbers reappeared. But this hasn't quelled public concern that the administration is actively attempting to block the public from knowing what's happening on the island.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Illinois Congressmen Luis Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and has visited the island since the hurricane, openly accused the administration of trying to prevent information about the devastation from reaching the public in the continental US.

“They don't want you to know the truth…every story we get is a story of human tragedy. Of life and death and that struggle,” he said.

Gutierrez also explained that the president and administration officials discouraged members of congress from visiting the island. So we went and bought our own airline tickets and went down there.” He continued:

When we came back, we said the same thing that every reporter who's gone down there has said: This is a humanitarian crisis.

If the news is not good, it must be fake!

Alongside the uneven reporting of storm damage, Donald Trump and his administration have openly sought to control the broader public narrative about Hurricane Maria and its effects. Administration officials have deliberately promoted and encouraged “good” news about the recovery effort, and openly intimidated public officials and media seeking to do otherwise.

A few days prior to Trump's visit, Acting Director of Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke praised the US government relief effort in Puerto Rico, describing it as “really a good news story.” This drew quick criticism from San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who described the devastation as a “people-are-dying story”. Trump almost instantly lashed out at the mayor on Twitter, accusing her of “poor leadership” and charging that she had been told by democrats to be “nasty” to him.

Beyond his attacks on Yulín Cruz, Trump's Puerto Rico-related tweets focused on two ideas — the “successful” (in his words) relief efforts of first responders and the US government agency FEMA, and the specter of “fake” media coverage of the devastation.

When Trump accused media networks of “taking away the spirit” from soldiers and first responders, MSNBC's Ali Velshi was first to reply, accusing Trump of “whitewashing” the story:

When Trump urged Puerto Ricans not to “believe the fake news”, one user replied, “They’re frantically searching for clean drinking water, not checking their Twitter!”

A Puerto Rican woman living in the continental US responded by describing the desperation that her own mother is facing:

by Ellery Roberts Biddle at October 09, 2017 08:25 PM

Global Voices
Authorities Are ‘Whitewashing’ the Devastation and Death Toll in Puerto Rico

A flooded street in San Juan, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Photo by US Department of Defense, released to public domain.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, it brought the worst storm damage that the Caribbean island and US territory has seen in nearly a century.

For more than two weeks since the storm, Puerto Ricans have faced life-threatening shortages of food, water and fuel. More than 90% of homes are still without electricity, 60% without water, and 75% of telecommunications networks are still inoperable.

Local media outlets in Puerto Rico are finding that while some key statistics — such as overall access to electricity and water — have been reported with relative precision, other information speaking to the devastation on the island has been, as one US Congressman put it, “whitewashed.”

State estimates and local reporting on the death toll also vary vastly.

Facts and figures like these have critical importance in any disaster relief effort. They are essential to understand the situation and make decisions about how to allocate resources towards recovery. They can also be key tool for citizens and media outlets working to hold government entities accountable for their commitments to the public.

Accountability is further complicated by the fact that Puerto Rico, as a US territory, has just one representative in the US Congress, who is not afforded full voting rights. And while congressmen and congresswomen of Puerto Rican origin are standing up on behalf of Puerto Rico, their calls to action are largely being ignored.

Who determines the death toll?

The storm's official death toll is among the most important of figures being reported. For several days after the storm, the death toll hovered at 16, according to Puerto Rican state and US federal authorities. But just hours after Donald Trump concluded his press conference in San Juan on October 3, authorities released an updated count of 34.

Local investigations however suggest that the storm's actual death toll may be much higher.

In an interview with Public Safety Secretary Héctor Pesquera, the San Juan-based Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) learned that at least 200 people died in Puerto Rico from September 20 through 29, a number that well exceeds the normal quantity for such a short period. And this only reflects official records — the lack of electricity has left state agencies having to register these numbers by hand, thus prolonging the process.

In interviews at Hospital Pavía in Arecibo, CPI learned that 49 people had died at that hospital alone in the first two days after the hurricane, during which the hospital had almost no electricity.

Hurricane stats slanted — and briefly censored

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello reported on October 3 that 63 of the island's 69 hospitals had re-opened. But what does it mean for a hospital to re-open? State officials explained that this simply means that hospitals are accepting some patients. A roster released by the state government indicates that 29 of 63 the hospitals that are being described as “operational” still do not have electricity.

The US federal government has also shown reluctance to release comprehensive data about the situation. On October 5, users noticed that detailed statistics on water, electricity and other key resource shortages that had been published and routinely updated on the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suddenly disappeared.

Statistics describing the relief effort — mostly “positive” numbers, such as the quantity of hospitals, grocery stores and gas stations that have re-opened — remained online. After multiple media outlets reported on the incident of censorship, the numbers reappeared. But this hasn't quelled public concern that the administration is actively attempting to block the public from knowing what's happening on the island.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Illinois Congressmen Luis Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and has visited the island since the hurricane, openly accused the administration of trying to prevent information about the devastation from reaching the public in the continental US.

“They don't want you to know the truth…every story we get is a story of human tragedy. Of life and death and that struggle,” he said.

Gutierrez also explained that the president and administration officials discouraged members of congress from visiting the island. So we went and bought our own airline tickets and went down there.” He continued:

When we came back, we said the same thing that every reporter who's gone down there has said: This is a humanitarian crisis.

If the news is not good, it must be fake!

Alongside the uneven reporting of storm damage, Donald Trump and his administration have openly sought to control the broader public narrative about Hurricane Maria and its effects. Administration officials have deliberately promoted and encouraged “good” news about the recovery effort, and openly intimidated public officials and media seeking to do otherwise.

A few days prior to Trump's visit, Acting Director of Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke praised the US government relief effort in Puerto Rico, describing it as “really a good news story.” This drew quick criticism from San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who described the devastation as a “people-are-dying story”. Trump almost instantly lashed out at the mayor on Twitter, accusing her of “poor leadership” and charging that she had been told by democrats to be “nasty” to him.

Beyond his attacks on Yulín Cruz, Trump's Puerto Rico-related tweets focused on two ideas — the “successful” (in his words) relief efforts of first responders and the US government agency FEMA, and the specter of “fake” media coverage of the devastation.

When Trump accused media networks of “taking away the spirit” from soldiers and first responders, MSNBC's Ali Velshi was first to reply, accusing Trump of “whitewashing” the story:

When Trump urged Puerto Ricans not to “believe the fake news”, one user replied, “They’re frantically searching for clean drinking water, not checking their Twitter!”

A Puerto Rican woman living in the continental US responded by describing the desperation that her own mother is facing:

by Ángel Carrión at October 09, 2017 08:23 PM

Art Exhibitions Fall Into the Crosshairs of Brazilian Conservatives

Activists protest against censorship in front of Santander Cultural, after it caved in to pressure from conservatives and cancelled the exhibition about sexual diversity. Photo: Sul 21, published with permission.

Two art exhibitions were the target of conservative groups’ anger in September in Brazil, sparking a heated debate on social media over artistic freedom and censorship.

First, the exhibition “Queermuseum – Mapping Difference in Brazilian Art”, about gender and sexual diversity, was cancelled abruptly on 10 September after pressure from right-wing groups which accused the artists of promoting paedophilia, bestiality, pornography and blasphemy against religious symbols.

The groups organized protests at Santander bank's cultural centre in Porto Alegre, where the exhibition  was held. Bank branches were also graffitied and pelted with stones.

Weeks later, the criticisms turned to the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo after a video of the performance “La Bête” went viral, in which choreographer Wagner Schwartz let the public manipulate his naked body. The images show a child and mother playing with the hands and feet of the artist.

A crowd of people protested in front of the Museum of Modern Art on 29 and 30 September, and there were reports of attacks against employees and visitors of the museum which, in contrast to Santander in Porto Alegre, did not cancel the exhibition “Brasil em Multiplicação” – Schwartz’s performance was held during its opening on 26 September.

The campaigns targeting both exhibitions were headed by websites and Facebook pages linked to religious and conservative movements, in particular Movimento Brasil Livre (Free Brazil Movement), which was at the forefront of the demonstrations in 2015 calling for the impeachment of ex-President Dilma Rousseff.

Despite having described itself as a liberal movement – which in Latin America mainly means defending minimal government – MBL has consistently taken conservative stances, for example positioning itself against the legalization of abortion or education policies regarding gender in school.

Santander released an official statement justifying the cancellation of the Queermuseum exhibition:

[…] ouvimos as manifestações e entendemos que algumas das obras da exposição Queermuseu desrespeitavam símbolos, crenças e pessoas, o que não está em linha com a nossa visão de mundo. Quando a arte não é capaz de gerar inclusão e reflexão positiva, perde seu propósito maior, que é elevar a condição humana.

[…] we listened to the demonstrations and understood that some of the works of the Queermuseum exhibition disrespected symbols, beliefs and people, which is not in line with our worldview. When art is not able to generate inclusion and positive reflection, it loses its primary purpose, which is to elevate the human condition.

Conservative groups accused the Queermuseum exhibition of defending paedophilia. Photo: Sul21, published with permission.

According to the Museum of Modern Art's official statement, the performance “La Bête” took place in a labeled room, indicating the presence of artistic nudity:

O trabalho apresentado na ocasião não tem conteúdo erótico e se limitou a uma leitura interpretativa da obra Bicho, de Lygia Clark, historicamente reconhecida pelas suas proposições artísticas interativas.

O museu reitera ainda que a criança que aparece no vídeo veiculado por terceiros era visitante e estava acompanhada e supervisionada por sua mãe e que as referências à inadequação da situação são resultado de desinformação, deturpação do contexto e do significado da obra.

The work shown on this occasion has no erotic content and limits itself to an interpreted reading of the work “The Beast”, by Lygia Clark, historically recognized for its artistic interactive components.

The museum reiterates that the child appearing in the video posted by others was a visitor and was accompanied and supervised by their mother and that the references to inadequacies in the situation are the result of disinformation, misrepresentation of the context and of the work’s meaning.

The debate reached such a scale that right-wing politicians also decided to support a boycott – such as the mayor of São Paulo, João Dória, elected in 2016 with support from the Free Brazil Movement, who in a video called the performance “libidinous”.

In the country's capital Brasilia on 3 October, members of the Chamber of Deputies expressed their views on the controversy, with some openly defending the idea of torturing Schwartz. A deputy from the Republican Party, Laerte Bessa, who is a former police marshal, stated in the assembly:

“Pergunta se ele conhece direitos humanos? Direitos humanos é um porrete de pau de guatambu que a gente usou muitos anos em delegacia de polícia. Se ele conhece rabo de tatu [usado para chicotear presos], que também usamos em bons tempos em delegacia de polícia. Se aquele vagabundo fosse fazer aquela exposição (…) ele ia levar uma ‘taca’ que ele nunca mais ele iria querer ser artista e nunca mais iria tomar banho pelado”

I wonder if he is aware of human rights? Human rights are a beating stick of guatambu wood that people used for many years in police stations. If he knows “tatu’s tails” [used for whipping prisoners], which we also used in the good old days in police stations. If that hobo was going to hold that exhibition […] he would have to take such a beating that he would not want to be an artist anymore and would never again bathe naked.

The situation has given progressives in Brazil reason to worry; they see support for their side waning against the rise of conservative forces on social media, in the streets and in formal politics.

“Not even in the period of the dictatorship was an exhibition with 263 works by 85 artists closed”

Sign referring to the work “Criança Viada”, one of the most attacked by those opposed to the exhibition “Queermuseu”. Photo: Sul21, published with permission.

Among the 263 works of the Queermuseum exhibition, running since 24 August, were the creations of contemporary artists Adriana Varejão and Bia Leite, who are regularly attacked online.

Varejão’s painting “Scenes from the Inside II”, done in 1994, portrays different sex scenes between Japanese characters, black and white men, and a goat. In an interview with the newspaper Zero Hour, the artist stated:

Esta é uma obra adulta feita para adultos. A pintura é uma compilação de práticas sexuais existentes, algumas históricas (como as chungas, clássicas imagens eróticas da arte popular japonesa) e outras baseadas em narrativas literárias ou coletadas em viagens pelo Brasil. O trabalho não visa julgar essas práticas. Como artista, apenas busco jogar luz sobre coisas que muitas vezes existem escondidas. É um aspecto do meu trabalho, a reflexão adulta.

This is an adult work made for adults. The painting is a compilation of sexual practices which exist, some historical (like the shungas, classical erotic images of popular Japanese art) and others based in literary narratives or collected during travels in Brazil. The work does not aim to judge these practices. As an artist, I only seek to throw light on things that often exist but are hidden. It is an aspect of my work, adult contemplation.

The artwork of Bia Leite, which was accused of inciting paedophilia, was inspired by “Criança Viada“, a Tumblr page that was hugely popular in Brazil between 2012 and 2014 where internet users were invited to send photos from their own childhood in which they adopted queer gestures.

In the same story, the artist defended her work:

Nós, LGBTs, já fomos crianças. Esse assunto incomoda porque nunca viramos LGBTs, nós sempre fomos. Todos devemos cuidar das crianças, e não reprimir a identidade delas ou seu modo de ser no mundo. Isso é muito grave. Sou totalmente contra a pedofilia e o abuso psicológico de crianças. O objetivo do trabalho é justamente o contrário, é que essas crianças tenham suas existências respeitadas.

We, LGBT people, were children. This fact is difficult for some because we never became LGBT, we always were. Everybody must care for children, and not repress their identity or way of being in the world. This is very serious. I am totally against paedophilia and the psychological abuse of children. The objective of the work is exactly the opposite, it is so that these children have their existences respected.

In interview with Vice Brazil, Queermuseum curator Gaudêncio Fidélis said the Free Brazil Movement (MBL), which has around 2.4 million Facebook followers, played a decisive role in its cancellation:

O MBL e, depois, todas as facções de extrema-direita e radicais conservadores que assumiram essa cruzada contra a exposição, agora ingressam no universo da arte de uma maneira muito precisa e concentrada. Pode virar uma rotina na nossa vida daqui pra frente.

MBL and, then, all the factions of the extreme-right and radical conservatives which are taking on this crusade against the exhibition, now enter the world of art in a very specific and focused way. It could become a routine in our lives from now on.

And in an interview with local news site Sul 21, Fidélis spoke about the unusual character of the cancellation:

É importante lembrar a gravidade do que estamos vivendo. Pela primeira vez, na história da arte brasileira e das exposições de artes visuais, nós temos uma exposição fechada. Nem na época da ditadura, uma exposição com 263 obras de 85 artistas foi fechada.

It is important to remember the seriousness of what we are experiencing. For the first time, in the history of Brazilian art and of exhibitions of fine arts, we have an exhibition closed. Not even in the period of the dictatorship was an exhibition with 263 works by 85 artists closed.

Artist Vitz Vika, who was at the exhibition's inauguration on 15 August, wrote a Facebook post in support of it:

O cancelamento dessa exposição incrível #QueerMuseu só nos mostra o quão revolucionária ela foi, mesmo em pouco tempo. Essa resistência preconceituosa e conservadora, que vimos nos últimos dias, é a prova dessa nossa sociedade hipócrita e ignorante. Ficaremos mais fortes. Estaremos mais unidos. E continuaremos a nossa batalha por respeito. #ArteLGBT #DesordemeRegresso.

The cancellation of this incredible exhibition #QueerMuseum only show us how revolutionary it was, even if it was short-lived. This prejudiced and conservative resistance, which we saw in recent days, is the proof of this in our hypocritical and ignorant society. It will make us stronger. We will be more united. And we will continue our battle for respect. #LGBTArt #DesordremeRegresso [#DisorderAndRegress, a play on the words “order and progress” on Brazil's flag]

Pablo Ortellado, a professor at the University of São Paulo, stated in a column in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo:

A direita aproveitou a grande desconexão das artes visuais com o público –que não entende os caminhos do desenvolvimento formal da linguagem– para tirar a obra do seu contexto e transformar uma performance inócua em uma pérfida apologia da pedofilia. (…) Esses atores políticos não são campeões da moralidade da família –eles estão usando a sensibilidade dos brasileiros com o abuso sexual de crianças para fazer uma campanha contra a esquerda, o que abriria espaço para sua agenda oculta de diminuição do Estado e de redução do financiamento de escolas e hospitais.

The right took advantage of the great disconnect of the public from fine art – who do not understand the paths of the formal development of the language – to take the work out of its context and transform an innocuous performance into a deceitful apology of paedophilia. […] These political actors are not champions of family morality – they are using the sensitivity of Brazilians about the sexual abuse of children to make a campaign against the left, which would open space for its hidden agenda of diminishing the state and reducing funding of schools and hospitals.

Displays of support

Artists, curators and gallery owners rallied in front of the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) on 2 October and also published a public letter in support of the exhibition. On social media, others showed solidarity using the hashtag #SomosTodosMAM (#WeAreAllMAM).

In Porto Alegre, LGBT activists also protested against the closing of Queermuseum exhibition, defending it as a way to increase the visibility of gender minorities and respect for diversity. People in favour of the cancellation also protested their side.

In São Paulo, the public prosecutor opened an investigation to find if there had been a violation of the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent (ECA) by the Museum of Modern Art, the artist or the child’s mother. In Porto Alegre, on the other hand, the accusation of paedophilia was rejected by authorities.

by Liam Anderson at October 09, 2017 06:32 PM

In a Polarized Spain, What Does It Mean to Be Spanish?

To celebrate the country's diversity, according to one woman's viral message.

“+ LOVE” graffitied on a wall in Barcelona in 2009. Photo by Flickr user Almusaiti. CC BY-SA 2.0

“Fracture” is the word of the day in Spain, where the Catalonia region's bid for independence and the Spanish government's response are not only pushing the country into uncharted political territory, but also sowing the seeds of hate.

Many are warning that the crisis is giving rise to an “us versus them” mentality that is dangerously inaccurate in its simplism and uncomfortably familiar for a country that only four decades ago was under a fascist dictatorship.

If you don't support the October 1 independence referendum, which was suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court and deemed illegal by the central government, you must be anti-Catalan. If you don't applaud the actions of the central government, including the police violence against Catalan voters, you must be anti-Spain. Spanish is the only acceptable language, or Catalan is. There is only one Spanish identity, and one Catalan identity. All or nothing.

Messages like these abound. But is the situation truly so binary, and Spain so uniform? Judging by the popularity of one woman's Facebook post about what it means to be Spanish, the answer is no.

In a viral missive, Laura Moreno de Lara describes a Spain that not only celebrates the many distinct cultures, customs and languages contained within, but defines itself by that diversity. A country not of disdain and violence, but of solidarity and love.

Her post was originally published on October 2, and from there was widely shared on WhatsApp. It seems to have resonated deeply with people throughout Spain, attracting more than 324,000 likes and 37,000 comments so far.

Moreno de Lara told news site Verne that she had wanted to “humanize” the concept of being Spanish after seeing so many speak about identity through a political lens. Below is a translation of her message with annotations for those not familiar with Spain:

No cariño, tú no eres español. Ser español no es llevar la bandera, ni gritar como un berraco frases de odio que espero que no sientas. Tampoco lo es ponerse una pulserita en la muñeca, ni cantar el cara al sol. El concepto de ser español es algo totalmente distinto, o al menos lo debería ser, porque a estas alturas de la historia yo ya no sé qué decirte.

Como española que soy, te voy a contar lo que para mí es ser español:

Ser español es arder cuando arde Doñana o temblar cuando tembló Lorca; es sentarte a escuchar historias de meigas en Galicia y llegar a creértelas; es ir a Valencia y no sentir rabia por leer un cartel en valenciano, sino que te agrade poder llegar a entenderlo y es presumir de que las Canarias nada tienen que envidiarle al Caribe.

Sentirse español es sufrir por no haber podido vivir la movida madrileña, enamorarte del mar al oír Mediterráneo de Serrat, es pedirle borracha a tu amiga catalana que te enseñe a bailar sardanas, querer ir a Albacete para comprobar si su feria es mejor que la de Málaga y sorprenderte al ver lo bonita que es Ceuta.

Para mí ser español es presumir de que en Andalucía tenemos playa, nieve y desierto; sentir casi mérito mío que un alicantino esté tan cerca de un Nobel, pedirle a un asturiano que me enseñe a escanciar la sidra y morirme de amor viendo las playas del País Vasco en Juego de Tronos.

También es española la cervecita de las 13.00, el orujo gallego, la siesta, el calimotxo, la paella, la tarta de Santiago, las croquetas de tu abuela y la tortilla de patatas. Lo son las ganas de mostrarle lo mejor de tu ciudad al que viene de fuera y que tú le preguntes por la suya; es hacerte amiga de un vasco y pedirle que te enseñe los números en euskera, por si pronto vuelves a por 2 ó 3 pintxos; es enorgullecerte de ser el país ejemplo a nivel mundial en trasplantes, de formar parte de la tierra de las mil culturas y de ser los del buen humor.

No hay nada más español que se te pongan los vellos de punta con una saeta o con una copla bien cantá, atardecer en las playas de Cádiz, descubrir casi sin querer calas paradisiacas en Mallorca, hacer el camino de Santiago en septiembre maldiciendo el frío o que Salamanca y Segovia te enseñen que no hay que ser grande para ser preciosa.

Así que, acho, picha, miarma, perla, tronco, tete, mi niño… eso es ser español, lo otro es política. Pero si de política quieres impregnar este concepto, también te vuelvo a decir que te equivocas: porque ser español no es desear que le partan la cara a nadie, es sufrir la situación de paro de tu vecino o el desahucio que has visto en la tele; ser español no es oprimir el SÍ o el NO de toda una comunidad autónoma, es indignarte cuando nos llaman gilipollas con cada nuevo caso de corrupción; ser un buen español es querer que en tu país no haya pobreza, ni incultura, ni enfermos atendidos en pasillos del hospital y, joder, querer quedarte aquí para trabajar y aportar todo lo que, durante tanto tiempo, precisamente aquí has aprendido.

Eso es ser español, o al menos, eso espero.

No honey, you're not Spanish. To be Spanish is not to carry the flag, nor is it to furiously shout phrases of hate that I hope you don't feel. Neither is it to wear a bracelet on your wrist, not is it to sing [the fascist hymn] “El Cara al Sol.” The concept of being Spanish is something totally different, or at least it should be, because at this point in history I don't know what to tell you anymore.

Being the Spanish woman that I am, I'm going to tell you what it means to me to be Spanish:

To be Spanish is to burn when the Doñana [National Park] burns [with wildfire] or to shake when Lorca shook [in the 2011 earthquake]; it's to sit and listen to stories of meigas [witches] in Galicia and start to believe them yourself; it's to go to Valencia and not feel anger at reading a sign in Valencian, but gratitude that you were able to make it out; and it's to brag that the Caribbean has nothing on the Canary Islands.

To feel Spanish is to distress over not having been able to live through the Movida Madrileña [countercultural movement], it's to fall in love with the sea when you listen to the song “Mediterranean” by [singer-songwriter Joan Manuel] Serrat, it's to drunkenly ask your Catalan friend to teach you to dance the sardana, it's to want to go to Albacete to see if their local festival is better than Malaga‘s, and it's to be surprised at how beautiful [the Spanish enclave] Ceuta [located in North Africa] is.

To me, to be Spanish is to boast that in Andalusia we have beach, snow and desert; to feel almost as if it's my own achievement that a person from Alicante is so close to receiving the Nobel Prize; to ask an Asturian to show me how to pour cider; and to die of love seeing the beaches of the Basque Country on Game of Thrones.

What's also Spanish is the one o'clock beer, Galician orujo [liquor], the siesta, calimotxo [a mixed drink of red wine and cola, popular in the Basque Country], paella, St. James cake, your grandmother's croquettes and potato omelette. What's Spanish is the desire to show off the best of your city to those who come from elsewhere and to ask them about their own; it's to become friends with a Basque person and ask them to teach you the numbers in Euskera, in case you soon go back for 2 or 3 pintxos [small snacks offered at bars]; it's to feel proud for being the country that leads the world in organ transplants, for being a land of a thousand cultures, and for being considered good-natured.

There is nothing more Spanish than getting goosebumps while listening to a well-sung saeta or copla, staying till dark on the beaches of Cadiz, discovering almost without meaning to the idyllic coves of Mallorca, doing the Camino de Santiago [pilgrimage] in September cursing the cold, or having [the cities of] Salamanca and Segovia show you that you don't have to be big to be beautiful.

So, my acho, picha, miarma, perla, tronco, tete [various regional terms of endearment], my child… that is what it is to be Spanish, the other stuff is politics. But if you want to inject politics into this concept, I will tell you once more that you're mistaken: because to be Spanish isn't to want someone's face smashed in, it's to feel the pain of your neighbor's unemployment or the eviction you saw on TV; to be Spanish is not to press YES or NO on an entire autonomous community, it's to become incensed when they treat us like idiots with each new case of corruption; to be a good Spaniard is to want a country free from poverty and ignorance, where no ill people are attended in hospital hallways and, dammit, it's to want to stay here to work and give back all of which you've learned precisely here during so much time.

That is what it is to be Spanish, or at least, that's what I hope.

by L. Finch at October 09, 2017 04:32 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
10/09/2017: What LinkedIn can tell us about the economy that the government can't
The Labor Department released its monthly jobs report on Friday, and in September, for the first time in seven years, we lost jobs — 33,000 of them. But the government isn’t the only entity tracking the workforce. LinkedIn data show that hiring was on the upswing in September. So who’s right here? It turns out, both may be. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Guy Berger, an economist with LinkedIn, about how the company gets its data.

by Marketplace at October 09, 2017 10:32 AM

October 08, 2017

Global Voices
Conducting Medical Research in Africa: Opportunities and Misconceptions

Ranjit Warrier in 2016 in Zambia with his permission

Medical research conducted in Africa is often undercovered and ignored by the media, but it is a thriving field that highlights the continent's most pressing needs.

The reason why there is demand for locally conducted medical research is two-fold: Firstly, global health currently does not have the range of medicines and vaccines required to tackle the health issues specific to the African continent. Diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria have a greater detrimental impact on the poorest countries of Africa and a lack of investment in products targeting these diseases by pharmaceutical companies is a major problem.

Secondly, research conducted by African scientists will serve to develop research capacities in Africa and an increased role for science and technology can only be beneficial to the continent's economic development.

Dr. Ranjit Warrier is the director of the Central Laboratory at Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). He grew up in Lusaka, Zambia in the 1990's just as the AIDS epidemic began to take a major toll on the national health. He left Zambia to pursue higher education in the United States in Louisiana, then Indiana. He conducted his own research on the HIV virus as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania before deciding to go back home in order to make an impact on Zambian healthcare.

Global Voices discussed both the future of medical research in Zambia and the things that the media gets wrong about such research in Africa with Dr. Warrier. (Disclaimer: Dr. Warrier is speaking in a personal capacity):

Global Voices (GV): What is your research topic?

Ranjit Warrier RW: I'm doing a lot of implementation work currently, supporting the Zambian national ART programme with Laboratory testing. I am just starting a research programme in Molecular Diagnostics development for HIV, TB, and other pathogens of interest.

GV: What do you see/think are the trending and hot topics in science in your country and Africa in general? How is it different from that in Western countries?

RW: There is no basic R&D. It's all implementation of solutions developed elsewhere. This has to change, otherwise we will always be receivers rather than makers. The received solutions are not usually ideal for our environment and making them work here correctly is sometimes impossible.

GV: Where does the funding and support come from? Is it sufficient? How easy/difficult is it to recruit suitable scientists?

RW: US and Europe. Different projects have different levels of funding. It is difficult to recruit people to come back or to move here, as funding and growth opportunities are better in other countries .

GV: How are the research infrastructures? What are the obstacles in your routine research activity that you didn’t encounter before?

RW: Basic infrastructure is not up to developed country standards and it costs a lot to get uninterrupted power, water, and Internet. Supplies are expensive and take months to be imported from other countries.

GV: What are the public’s opinions towards science and scientists in Africa?

RW: There is interest, but an extremely limited understanding of the scientific method. I would suggest critical thinking and the scientific method be taught in school to improve the situation.

GV: In your opinion, what is the potential in scientific research in Africa, where it should focus on and how we can help its development?

There is amazing potential. I have seen incredible students of all ages. There is need for dedicated science education starting at all ages. Social sciences, computer sciences, big data, outer space exploration, healthcare (non-communicable and Infectious diseases), and traditional medicine efficacy will pay off big.

GV: Could you describe the pros and cons of the life as a scientist in Africa vs Western countries based on your experience?

RW: Mainly it is the speed of doing things and the access to expertise that are big challenges here. The system that journals have to put articles behind paywalls is also limiting the amount of information and the speed with which research can be done.

by Lova Rakotomalala at October 08, 2017 06:13 PM

Malaysian Artist Paints ‘Mother Gaia’ to Call for Environmental Protection and Women’s Rights

The Rapture – Acrylic and Oil Ink on Canvas – 24×36 inches. Copyright Jennifer Mourin 22 May 2017. Used with permission.

A new exhibit in Penang, Malaysia features the latest paintings of Jennifer Mourin, an artist known for actively promoting the protection of the environment through her art.

Mourin’s new series is themed “Mother GAIA” which she conceptualized after reading disturbing reports about the state of the environment. In Greek mythology, Gaia is known as the goddess of Earth.

In an interview with Global Voices Mourin explained the inspiration for her new paintings:

My “Mother Gaia” series imbibes the need to take stock of what we are sacrificing in the name of greed, selfishness, over-consumption and so-called economic growth. These new paintings assert the need to respect, protect and defend our planet and her progeny against abuse, exploitation, depletion and death. My personification of Mother Earth in the women I paint surrounded by the animals facing extinction stares people in the eye calling for people to change, for the killings to stop!

In Faith – Arcylic and Oil Ink on 36x24inch Canvas – Copyright Jennifer Mourin – 14 Sept 2017. Used with permission

Mourin also identified some of the endangered animals in Malaysia which are featured in her paintings. She mentioned the Malayan Tiger (Harimau Malaya) which is used as a popular symbol in Malaysia, but could soon face extinction:

I find it so bitterly ironic that this majestic animal is used as a symbol on the Malaysian coat of arms, is the name of our national football team (Harimau Malaysia), is revered as part of Malaysian identity, but the real life animal is disappearing! The magnificent tiger is dying off because humans hunt, kill and trade in their skin, teeth, meat in some misguided belief that these will give people, especially men, power and sexual prowess– what sacrifice for such foolish vanity, arrogance and selfishness!

Similarly, I also feature the Hornbill. I fondly remember these beautiful birds from my childhood when my family lived in the state of Pahang, and they used to fly around freely close to my home. Malaysia is the home to 10 species of hornbills, and these need to be protected!

The Mystery – Acrylic and Oil Ink on Canvas – 20×20 inches. Copyright Jennifer Mourin. 13 April 2017. Used with permission

Mourin also paid tribute to women wearing sarong, an indigenous piece of clothing, across Southeast Asia:

Memories of my mother’s Thai village in the eastern state of Kelantan have turned my love of the sarongs the strong women wore (including my mother, grandmother and villagers) into totems of my artistic identity.

The Remembering – Acrylic and Oil Ink on Canvas – 24×24 inches. Copyright Jennifer Mourin – 22 April 2017. Used with permission

As an artist, Mourin is also known for advocating for women’s rights. This is evident in her new series:

Another recurring theme is women breastfeeding, as I am incredulous at how such a loving, nourishing and nurturing act as breastfeeding is often considered a controversial “obscene” act by society. Mothers deserve to be supported and loved. In the Mother GAIA series, breastfeeding is symbolic of how mother earth provides for us, feeds and sustains us.

And finally, Mourin appealed for urgent action to stop the destruction of the planet.

People need to remember how much Mother GAIA gives so all can live and be sustained! Is it any wonder that she will react against humankind's hubris, carelessness and selfishness? We are all in the same boat, and if humankind continues at the pace we are witnessing it will be at our own peril!

In Gratitude – Acrylic and Oil Ink on Canvas – 36×24 inches. Copyright Jennifer Mourin – 8 September 2017. Used with permission

Mourin’s paintings are part of a mixed group exhibition at the Hin Bus Depot Art Centre in Penang, Malaysia.

by Mong Palatino at October 08, 2017 05:50 PM

Building Journalists with Integrity and Impact: A Community Journalism Project Takes Shape in Jamaica

Graduates of the investigative journalism workshop, along with their family and supporters, enjoying the graduation ceremony. Photo by National Integrity Action, used with permission.

Investigative journalism in Jamaica — and across the Caribbean — has never truly thrived, for a number of reasons: a lack of resources is often a factor, besides a cautious and unsupportive media environment. But a recently completed training project, a collaboration between the USAID-funded COMET II community development programme, the anti-corruption lobby group National Integrity Action and the independent Global Reporters for the Caribbean, has aimed at tackling this deficit and empowering ordinary citizens to hold authorities accountable.

Global Voices talked to the programme's coordinator, journalist Kate Chappell; Chief of Party for COMET II, Ian McKnight; and Civil Society Coordinator for National Integrity Action, Omar Lewis, about the project, its successes and challenges, and the potential impact on Jamaican journalism.

Global Voices (GV): Congratulations to your graduates! What was the purpose of the training, and what did you hope to achieve?

The community journalism programme's coordinator, journalist Kate Chappell, speaking at the workshop. Photo courtesy National Integrity Action, used with permission.

Kate Chappell (KC): We wanted to give them the basic skills — researching, interviewing, filling Access to Information requests, and writing news articles. We hoped they would all be able to continue to do the same work in their communities. In a larger sense, we wanted to give a voice to those who would otherwise have none.

Omar Lewis (OL): National Integrity Action (NIA) aims to improve the capacity of everyday citizens to play an active role in collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information — and being directly involved in governance matters by holding their elected representatives, service providers, and others in positions of influence and authority to account. NIA's mission is to build a social movement for change — an empowered and informed citizenry actively participating in Jamaica's system of governance.

Chief of Party for COMET II, Ian McKnight. Photo by Emma Lewis, used with permission.

Ian McKnight: (IMK): USAID COMET II has a mandate to work at community level to ensure that ultimately, communities are safe and secure places for its members. Community journalists are seen as key to helping to preserve a culture of lawfulness. They will identify issues facing communities and propose strategies to solve them. They will utilise traditional and non-traditional means so to do. They must investigate what the behind-stories are. Who is to be held accountable?

GV: How is this a different approach to the average journalism workshop?

Civil Society Coordinator for National Integrity Action (NIA), Omar Lewis. Photo by NIA, used with permission.

OL: These community residents had little or no formal media training. Participants who received the weekend of training in community investigative journalism were placed in groups with a mentor (a professional journalist), who helped them create actual investigative stories, based on selected activities within their own communities, in the three to four-month period following the training. We hope that with this kind of ‘on the job’ training, the trainees’ interest will be further piqued and they will continue the learning process.

Journalist Zahra Burton (18 Degrees North) speaks at the ceremony. Photo courtesy National Integrity Action, used with permission.

KC: We took a long-term view. We didn't want to just have a weekend of training and then it would not be put into practice. We had two full days of lectures and special presenters. The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) talked about corruption in local government. Independent journalist Zahra Burton (host of 18 Degrees North, former Bloomberg News reporter and founder of Global Reporters Caribbean) talked about ‘how to dig in’, determine sources and find information. Broadcast journalist Dennis Brooks talked about social media and journalism. Civil society activist Jeanette Calder talked about accountability. There was a session on climate change and disaster preparedness and training in television production and video production using your phone. Each group had a story they were to research, for which they had filed an Access to Information request. The mentors walked the group members every step of the way in assembling an investigative piece.

IMK: Our journalists do not belong to a commercial entity. They are not answerable to any group except to their community. They are not voices of the politicians. Ultimately, theirs is the task to transform community through their craft. This training built on the basic skills of journalism and was afforded ONLY to those who had previously done work and exhibited the aptitude.

GV: Can you give a profile of your trainees? Did they focus on both urban and rural issues?

KC: Twenty-seven completed the training. They ranged in age from early 20s to some in their 40s. They came from both urban and rural areas, as did the stories we researched.

OL: They were drawn from groups trained by NIA and COMET II in Social Auditing or as Integrity Ambassadors.

GV: What kind of issues did they cover?

KC: They produced ten reports on topics such as the impact of dredging Kingston Harbour on the environment and on local fishermen (the article was published in the Jamaica Observer newspaper); a lively radio discussion with political representatives and health officials on the poor state of roads in a rural community, which residents blamed for the death of a teenager from an asthma attack; the absence of promised Domestic Violence Coordinators at police stations and whether they have, in fact, received full training, based on the experiences of women who have reported to police stations (report to be aired on community radio station Roots FM); the problem of over-fishing in Montego Bay; and a noisy church that is in breach of regulations but is making residents’ lives a misery. One critical topic — the report will run in the Western Mirror — is on residents’ reluctance to report crime in the high-crime area around Montego Bay, the lack of trust and the fear.

Mentor and broadcast journalist Dennis Brooks (Nationwide News Network) with one of the articles published. Photo courtesy National Integrity Action, used with permission.

GV: How would you define investigative journalism and what it means in Jamaica today? Where would you like to see it heading?

KC: I'm sure there are formal definitions out there, but through this training, and in the Jamaican context, this is what I have come up with: Investigative journalism is both a tool and a skill set that enables citizens (both professional journalists and the untrained) to hold authorities to account. It enables people to look back at promises made and to see if they have been kept. It sheds light on those who do not use their positions of authority properly. Ideally, it can be a way of shaking out the corruption that accumulates among those in power.

I would like to see journalists in Jamaica empowered to do more investigative journalism. This means they need more resources and to be supported by the community. Political partisanship is often prohibitive to quality investigative journalism in this country, and that needs to stop. People need to realise that a healthy, free and fair press is essential to a well-functioning democracy, in which all citizens have equal representation. Investigative journalism is extremely expensive and time-consuming, so I would like to see a dedicated fund for such an endeavour, perhaps not initiated by the government, but by the private sector or citizens.

Zahra Burton presents a certificate to a community journalist at the graduation ceremony. Photo courtesy National Integrity Action, used with permission.

OL: In essence, I see investigative journalism as based on evidence-based research, whereby we would call the powerful to account and expose corruption, whereby we protect and preserve our democracy.

IMK: Journalists who are prepared to go beyond the surface, resist the temptation to just produce and present a piece JUST for the sensation of it. It will contribute to development. Today, we need persons like these who are not afraid to call out authorities and say who is responsible.

GV: What was one of the major challenges you faced with this project?

KC: Participants did not understand how much work this would be. They told us so, many times, and in plain language. This is an oversight on our part and it is also a function of the fact that we are used to the endless time it takes to produce an investigative journalistic piece. We took it for granted, so we did not relay it to participants. They were struggling to meet our demands as well as keep up with their lives — school, work, families, etc. We have learned this lesson for next time.

GV: Did you feel you succeeded in your goals, or is it too early to say?

OL: The training and post-training activities so far have been successful. However, we will not be able to consider the entire process a success until we see how the community journalists perform going forward. Will they continuously seek to use their new craft…or will they disappear into oblivion, failing to add to the voices of those demanding change in Jamaica?

KC: I feel we exceeded our goals. We produced nine high-quality pieces that met all our objectives (a tenth is in production): holding authorities to account, providing meaningful information and shedding light on an issue that would probably otherwise not receive any attention. We also empowered citizens to look at their communities in a new way, to feel that they can ask questions, get answers, and demand action. In at least one case, a story prompted a response from the Member of Parliament, who called me to ask to participate in the radio show and then called afterwards, promising to follow up and take action on a long-standing issue in the community.

IMK: To have had the majority of the pieces already published and broadcast is success on its own. Communities are already reaping some of the benefits. We will continue to train journalists in this specialist skill. We will support them to do their jobs well.

by Emma Lewis at October 08, 2017 06:30 AM

To Fight Against Smog, China Bans Coal in 28 Cities

The slogans say: “Coal Ban is military order, see the smoke and the house will be torn down” and “Arrest whoever sells coal”. From Weibo.

As winter approaches, Beijing is gearing up to fight against smog, and a large number of cities in northern China have issued a ban on coal.

Different from the previous efforts coordinated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in past years, the Coal Ban, as it is being called, has become an economic policy supervised by a coalition of top authorities. Concrete targets on air quality level — and the number of coal-free districts — have been handed down to 28 cities in northern China.

In the past few years, China has been seriously affected by air pollution — especially in winter — with major cities in northern China recording pollutants, or PM 2.5, in the air from 300 to 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³). Such high levels of pollutants are hazardous to human health and can cause lung disease, emphysema, lung cancer, or premature death in people with existing heart or lung conditions.

Last week, Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province — the heart of China’s coal production — was one of the areas to issue the Coal Ban. The announcement is considered a symbolic act of showing Beijing’s determination in cutting coal consumption.

Soon after the 28 cities were listed, the Coal Ban turned into a campaign, with banners and slogans strategically positioned for people to see.

Street and village committees from the coal-free districts mobilized themselves in order to ensure that residents have shifted to clean energy sources.

While people love blue sky, many are also worried that those who cannot afford clean energy would freeze to death this winter. In Weibo, some urged the authorities to slow down in the implementation of the Coal Ban:

【陈安石:邯郸禁煤是好政策,请急步慢行】为防治大气污染,河北邯郸决定在主城区全面禁煤。客观的说这是个好政策,上符《污染法》,下合百姓青天碧水之期盼。只是觉得这事整的有点急。对于污染对于落后的生产模式,一个政令下来就要马上实施与改变,只能说领导的愿望很好,怕是短时间难以做到。比如说,煤是电力发电的主要能源,若没有新能源替代之前,一刀切掉,那发电怎么办?邯郸市的用电如何解决,还是说,只禁掉百姓用煤,发电企业不禁呢?

[Chen Anshi: the Coal Ban policy in Handan city [of Hebei province] is good, but please take it steadily] To tackle the problem of air pollution, Handan city in Hebei has decided to ban coal in most parts of the city. This is a good policy in alignment with the pollution law and people’s expectation for blue sky and clean water. But the implementation is a bit hasty. The wish of the leaders to transform the backward and highly polluted production is good, but it can’t be changed overnight. For example, currently the use of coal for electricity is the main source of energy, without alternative clean energy source, can you even product enough electricity supply? On the other hand, if we ban ordinary people from using coal, [people would ask] why don’t you ban coal-generated electricity?

近日,为了环保指标达标,邢台市多地提前开展冬季禁煤运动,本身是好意。但农村许多独居老人不会使用天然气或电器做饭,甚至使用这些就会导致新的不安全。咋办?希望邢台市相关部门考虑这些现实问题,执法做到人性化,维护这些农村独居老人弱势群体的利益。

Recently, in order to meet the environmental target, Xingtai city [of Hebei province] started the Coal Ban campaign. It is a good move. But in villages, there are still many elderly people who live by themselves and they don’t know how to use natural gas or electric devices for cooking. Accidents may happen [if we force them to use these alternatives]. What should we do? I hope the authorities of Xingtai can consider the practical problem and be human-oriented in the implementation of the policy so as to protect the interest of marginal social groups, like the elderly in the village.

The idea of coal-free districts was initially introduced in 2011 targeted at cutting coal consumption in the capital, Beijing. A more concrete and comprehensive action plan was put forward in 2013, which identified Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei as the most stringently targeted region for air quality control. It set the target that Beijing’s annual average concentration of hazardous particles, PM2.5 (Particulate Matter, 2.5 micrometers or less), should be controlled at a level of 60ug/m3 (microgram/cubic meter).

As anticipated, the plan has met with resistance, as Hebei is China’s steel hub and heavy industry relies mainly on coal as an energy source.

In August 2017, the Ministry of Environmental Protection geared up its action plan and published a battle plan against smog. In addition to Beijing and Tianjin, 26 other cities in the provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong and Henan, were listed for setting up coal-free districts. But the ministry also admitted difficulties in meeting the 2017 target.

However, the cutting of coal consumption is not just an environmental campaign; it has also become an economic development and planning issue.

In September 2017, a top-level policy coalition of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, National Development and Reform Committee, Ministry of Finance and Energy published a supervision guideline demanding that the leader of the 28 cities speed up the establishment of coal-free districts to adhere to the 2017 air quality standard.

Taiyuan, China’s coal hub, has taken action in banning coal accordingly. As the richest city in Shanxi, Taiyuan would not suffer too much from the Coal Ban, but other coal-mining cities in Shanxi — including Jincheng, where the majority of residents rely on coal for warming their homes — reacted to the ban with greater resentment. In a Jincheng chatroom, people said:

沒有暖氣煤氣的住戶,冬天都到政府大樓住吧,肯定政府管住,要是不管,那政府就是想讓凍死咱們呢

Those residents who don't have gas warming systems at home have to move to the city government buildings in winter. The government would have to take care of them. If they don't, they want people to be frozen to death.

這回只要把老百姓窮死凍死就好了,剩下的當官,資本家們就可以共同建議發達國家了。

It is good to freeze the poor to death. The remaining rich ones would become the officials and they can build an advanced rich country with the capitalists.

Although some local governments have provided subsidies for the residents to shift to clean energy, some are skeptical:

一个炉子安装7000块,政府补贴给安装的厂家5000,自己还要掏腰包2000,电价一问国家补贴3个月,明年还补不补政府也不知道…

An electric heater costs RMB 7,000 [US $1052] and the government subsidies the manufacturer RMB 5,000 [US $751]; the household has to pay RMB 2,000 [US $301]. The government will subsidy three months’ electricity fee; whether the subsidies will continue next year is unclear…

by Oiwan Lam at October 08, 2017 04:26 AM

Will India’s Blood Banks Benefit From Facebook’s New Blood Donor Registration Feature?

Screenshot of a Facebook registration as a blood donor. Via Vishal Manve.

In India, a new Facebook feature to register users as blood donors has attracted mixed reactions from the public. The feature will allow individuals and hospitals in need of blood to notify nearby donors, by creating posts that include information like blood type, location, and the reason for the donation. Potential donors will be able to respond to requests via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or even a phone call.

India has a considerable shortage of blood in its blood banks, with more than 38,000 donations reportedly required every day to balance it. Due to the shortage, patients and their relatives either have to search for their requirements from their own networks, or ask the public by using social media — but it is still difficult and time-consuming, both to find donors, or to donate blood to someone in need.

Facebook has more than 241 million users in India. To harness this country-wide userbase, the technology giant made it easy for Facebook users to register as potential blood donors, and connect with people or organizations within their vicinity that may need blood.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, wrote about how the project was conceived:

The idea for this feature came out of a hackathon, and Hema Budaraju, one of our product managers, helped make it a reality. This issue is personal to Hema, whose father was diagnosed with cancer five years ago and lost so much blood during chemotherapy that he had to have a transfusion every day for a week. Hema had to reach out to friends and family to ask for donors and many people showed up once they realized it would help her dad. This is a constant reminder for Hema that people are always willing to help, they just need the tools and information to do so.

The feature became available on October 1, which is India's National Blood Donor Day. India lacks a central blood collection agency, and illegal blood markets thrive in times of need. There are also potential health hazards from using unscreened blood from “professional” donors.

Educator Virendra Banshal lauded the effort:

This is an excellent use of social media. I would like to urge Facebook to also try and develop a feature to encourage organ donation consistent with the prevalent regulations with a brief introduction to the dire need for organ donors in the country.

The new tool, which is currently available only in India, got considerable attention from Facebook users. The feature falls in line with Facebook’s crisis response efforts (like Safety Check), and this database of potential donors can be harnessed during disasters. In 2012, Facebook undertook a similar drive to sign people up for organ donation in United States, Canada and Mexico, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of people registering as donors.

However, some users appear unsure about how the blood donation feature works:

Some poked fun at the concept, making the point that people labeling themselves as virtual donors is not quite the same as actually giving blood:

Others scoffed at what they considered the new, fashionable trend:

Facebook's concept is not new; people have already been using social networks and tools like Socialblood to tap into blood donor networks, but the challenges are many. Building a trustworthy and reliable donor network does not guarantee timely collection, and blood donations are usually urgent matters. However, Facebook made the point that they have worked with nonprofit organizations, health industry experts and potential donors to build this app, in order to eventually connect its database to hospitals, blood banks and other critical facilities.

There are also privacy concerns, but Facebook maintains that any information about blood donors will not be available to the patients or institutions in need, unless donors explicitly provide it.

Hopefully, in the coming days, the logistics of how the feature works will be clarified, so that it can be harnessed by those searching for blood. It remains to be seen whether real donors will step up, instead of just sharing a Facebook badge claiming that they are blood donors.

by Rezwan at October 08, 2017 02:43 AM

October 07, 2017

Rising Voices
“As Indigenous Youth, We Have the Right to Make Our Opinions Heard”

Reframed Stories asks people to respond to dominant themes in news coverage about themselves and the issues that affect them. The stories center on the reflections of persons who are more often represented by others than by themselves in media. 

Abigail Gualinga is a youth leader in indigenous community of Sarayaku, Ecuador.

Este gráfico me dice que los medios no toman mucho en cuenta a los jóvenes y nosotros también tenemos derecho a que nuestras opiniones sean escuchadas.

Los jóvenes queremos hacer muchas cosas por nuestra comunidad y tenemos muchas ideas y propuestas. Además, queremos seguir aprendiendo e involucrándonos más en distintos temas importantes para nosotros, pero cuando veo este gráfico noto que los medios masivos no tienen espacio para nosotros: la palabra “jóvenes” ni siquiera aparece aquí.

This graphic tells me that our media does not take indigenous youth into account, and we have the right to make our opinions heard.

We want to do many things for our communities and we have lots of ideas. We also want to keep learning more and getting involved in different topics that resonate with us, but when I look at this graphic I see that mainstream media might not have any space for us: the word “youth” does not even appear here.

In this cloud of dominant words associated with “indígena” in Ecuadorian news coverage between January 2016 and January 2017, terms related to “youth” (jóvenes) did not appear. Source: Media Cloud (View larger image).

Necesitamos más medios donde los jóvenes podamos involucrarnos y hacer escuchar nuestras voces porque nosotros también tenemos mucho que decir y ofrecer. Necesitamos encontrar formas de empoderar a los jóvenes para que se involucren en las iniciativas de nuestros mayores y de otros líderes de la comunidad, para que así podamos continuar con el trabajo que ellos han venido haciendo. Si no lo hacemos, los jóvenes pudiéramos sentirnos excluídos de la lucha colectiva de nuestros pueblos, y todo el trabajo que se ha hecho podría perderse con el tiempo.

Necesitamos prevenir que esto pase, tenemos que crear puentes entre las generaciones para que personas de todas las edades podamos colaborar en los temas que son importantes para nuestra comunidad y en los problemas que nos afectan a todos por igual.

We need more outlets where youth can get involved and make our voices heard because we, too, have much to say and offer. We need to find new ways to empower youth to get involved in the initiatives initiated by our elders and other leaders from our community, so that we can continue with their legacy and we can keep strengthening the work that has been done so far. If not, young people could feel excluded from the collective battles that are taking place at the moment, and all the work that has been done could be lost as time passes by.

We must prevent this from happening by finding avenues to bridge generations closer together, so that people of all ages can collaborate in the topics that are important for our communities, and in the issues that affect us all.

Youth workshop in Sarayaku. Photo provided by Abigail Gualinga.

This is part of a Rising Frames series developed in close collaboration with the indigenous community of Sarayaku and the Shuar nationality, both situated in the Ecuadorian Amazon region. The Sarayaku and Shuar people have battled at national and international levels to stop extraction projects in their territories, and public messaging has been an important part of this struggle. We asked members to respond to media analysis that suggests how topics related to their communities are represented in news.

This post was proofread by Belen Febres-Cordero.

by Eddie Avila at October 07, 2017 11:33 PM

Early Local Efforts Linking Activists During the Pre-Internet Days

Photo provided by Mike Jensen and published with permission.

This piece was inspired by an APC article entitled “Mike Jensen: The pre-internet days“. This post was originally published on Association for Progressive Communications (APC) News and is part of a partnership between APC and Rising Voices.

In the early 1980s, before the internet as we know it existed, groups of activists from different corners of the world were working on stand-alone systems with “human gateways”. Technicians had to physically travel from one part of the world to another to install software and programme code to allow different computer systems to communicate with each other and share information.

Environmental awareness and social justice were at the core of these initial connectivity efforts, with pioneers such as Mike Jensen (recently inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame) immersed in the anti-Apartheid and environmental struggles. As Jensen explained in a series of interviews with Brian Martin Murphy:

We were immersed in a social movement. The political ambition was to make use of these new tools to further the general goals, which were initially focused on the environment. We were using ‘The Web’ as a way of connecting organisations, and supporting them in whatever they were doing.

In Canada, Jensen had set up an early networking system in the mid-1980s which he called “The Web“, named at a time before Tim Berners-Lee called his invention the “World Wide Web”. In one of his first installations, developed with support from a Canadian environmental NGO, Jensen created a multi-user network by installing a version of Unix on a cheap personal computer. Non-governmental organisations now had access to an inexpensive alternative to commercial mainframe timesharing systems, and this attracted many more active users. Due to its success, there was demand to replicate the set-up at other organisations.

Other initiatives in the United States and the United Kingdom were creating similar networks for use by NGOs, which led to the creation of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). This early iteration of APC involved a team of technicians that worked alongside with local technicians to install software and networks to connect NGOs in both the developed and the developing world.

The early wireless cards activists used, before laptops had built in WiFi. Photo provided by Mike Jensen and used with permission.

The anti-Apartheid struggle and early connectivity in Africa

During the 1980s, the workers’ struggle in South Africa was inextricably linked with the struggle against Apartheid. International solidarity with South African labour unions was part of a broader solidarity campaign with liberation movements in the region. Through its links with the labour movement in the United Kingdom, Johannesburg-based NGO Labour and Economic Research Committee (LERC) made contact with the Poptel group in Manchester that was using email through a commercial provider in Germany called Geonet. In early 1988 a steering group was convened to involve progressive “service organisations” (at that time the term NGO was unknown in South Africa) outside the labour movement.

At the height of state repression of the democratic movement in the 1980s, labour and religious organisations were the only explicitly anti-Apartheid institutions that were able to operate on the ground. They were also part of international networks and therefore predisposed to making use of emerging electronic communications to sustain these networks. Soon the most active users of these communications were journalists and political activists, relieved to have found a way of getting information in and out of the country easily and quickly.

Former APC executive director Anriette Esterhuysen recollects her anti-apartheid work in those pre-internet times as follows:

Part of my work at the Ecumenical Documentation and Information Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa was to organise training workshops in documentation techniques. I collaborated with a Rome-based NGO, the International Documentation Centre (IDOC). Through IDOC I made contact with Interdoc, and in December 1987 a Dutch Interdoc member came to Zimbabwe and demonstrated the use of modems and email at a workshop. Subsequently we included email and modem training in all our workshops. We supplied our group with modems, and astonishingly, at least 5% managed to stay connected using long-distance modem-to-modem connections until, by the early 1990s, they could use the far easier and cheaper Fidonet networks established through the Economic Commission for Africa, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and APC.

Early 1990s

By the end of 1991, Jensen, with assistance from colleagues in the APC network, had helped knit together seven nations into the APC network, including Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya. Each node of the network linked activists and NGOs in each country locally, nationally and internationally. This was a feat in itself and even more so considering that most of the newly linked-up groups were in Africa, where the internet would be long in coming and expensive when it arrived.

Mike Jensen's kit bag with the various modem cards, cables and telephone line adaptors needed to maintain connectivity during travels in Africa. Photo provided by Jensen and used with permission.

In 1997, Jensen said in an interview with APC:

What motivated me to spend the last ten years spreading access to the network is that I’ve always felt that there was not much point in having the content there if a lot of people can’t use it. We are slowly getting there. The internet is beginning to pervade, and capital cities of Africa now at least have some degree of access, but that’s not good enough yet. We still have to bring it further out so that people in rural areas have access.

Two decades later, the reach of the internet has progressed to a point that many may not have imagined. However, the potential for linking people through technology that showed signs of promise during those early days is not yet completely fulfilled, observes Jensen. “Only half the world has any form of internet connection at all, and many marginalised groups continue to be excluded.” But with advances in technology continuing to make it less costly to connect remote areas, and new models of connectivity self-provision becoming increasingly common, the prospects for better access and sharing of knowledge online are improving. Jensen, and many others, continue their work on expanding human rights by helping to link people.

by apcnews at October 07, 2017 11:31 PM

“We Should Talk About Indigenous Struggles, But Acknowledge Our Achievements As Well”


Reframed Stories asks people to respond to dominant themes in news coverage about themselves or issues that affect them. The stories center on the reflections of persons who are more often represented by others than by themselves in media. 

Andrés Tapia is the person in charge of communications for the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) in Ecuador.

Yo veo dos cosas puntuales al mirar este posible análisis sobre nuestra representación en los medios. Por un lado, veo la parte triste de la historia, los problemas, la conflictividad existente y las luchas indígenas que hemos llevado a través de los años. Por otro lado, también veo los logros que vamos alcanzando.

Two things come into my mind when first looking at this analysis of our media representation. On the one hand, I see the sad part of history, the problems, the conflict, the struggles that indigenous communities have had over the years. On the other hand, I also see our achievements.

Dominant words from 240 articles published between April 2013 and June 2017 found within four Media Cloud collections of Ecuador’s Spanish-language media outlets. (View original query; View larger image)

Se ve un pico en la cobertura en el año 2014, que es cuando el estado ecuatoriano pidió disculpas públicas al Pueblo de Sarayaku después de que ellos ganaron la sentencia de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en el año 2012, después de casi 10 años de lucha sobre el territorio. Me parece muy importante transmitir la idea de que claro, hay conflictos, lucha, resistencia, pero hay logros también. En el caso de Sarayaku este gráfico refleja esta conquista que fue muy trascendente no solo para Sarayaku sino también para toda la Amazonía y el país.

There is a highlight in the coverage in 2014, which is the year when the Ecuadorian State asked for forgiveness of the Sarayaku people after they won the case in the Inter-American Court in 2012, after years of fight over land issues. I think it is important to acknowledge that, of course, there is conflict, fight, resistance,  but there are achievements as well. In the Sarayaku case, this achievement was very important not only for Sarayaku but also for the entire Amazon region and the country as a whole.

The Media Cloud collections on “sarayaku” with peaks during coverage from 2014.

También noto que hay algunas palabras importantes que hacen falta. Por ejemplo, no veo términos que demuestren que muchos de las dificultades que enfrentan las comunidades indígenas en Ecuador devienen fundamentalmente de problemas relacionados al extractivismo. Tampoco veo palabras como “militarización” que hablen de los problemas que enfrentan las comunidades. De pronto los medios están brindando un panorama general sobre ciertos temas, pero la profundidad de las problemáticas no está reflejada aquí, y tampoco están reflejadas las perspectivas de los pueblos y nacionalidades indígenas.

I also notice that there are several important words missing in this graphic. For example, I do not see terms that demonstrate that  many of the problems that indigenous communities in Ecuador have derive from issues fundamentally related to extractivism, and I do not see words like “militarización” that talk about the problems that indigenous communities face. Maybe the media is covering certain topics and providing a general overview of things, but the roots of the problems, and the perspectives of the indigenous communities and nationalities, are missing.

Sarayaku's preparation in 2014 for State's public apology over extraction project in their territory. Photo provided by the Sarayaku communications team and used with permission. Source: Sarayaku.org

This is part of a Rising Frames series developed in close collaboration with the indigenous community of Sarayaku and the Shuar nationality, both situated in the Ecuadorian Amazon region. The Sarayaku and Shuar people have battled at national and international levels to stop extraction projects in their territories, and public messaging has been an important part of this struggle. We asked members to respond to media analysis that suggests how topics related to their communities are represented in news.

This post was proofread by Belen Febres-Cordero.

by Eddie Avila at October 07, 2017 09:08 PM

Global Voices
Farmers in India's Rajasthan Sit Neck-Deep in Mud to Protest Forceful Land Acquisition

Screenshot from YouTube video by NDTV

Since October 2, 2017, more than 50 farmers in Jaipur, in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan, have launched an innovative protest, taking turns to sit in pits buried up to their waist in mud.

The protesters accuse the state government of forcibly acquiring their land, after providing them inadequate compensation. They want the current acquisition to be stopped, a fresh survey conducted and the compensation and acquisition be set as per the new Land Acquisition Act 2013 promulgated on 01 January 2014.

Before undertaking the current “dirty” protest, which they call the “Zameen Samadhi Satyagraha” (burial satyagraha, a form of non-violent resistance), the farmers had staged a sit-in for 14 days, but received no response from the government.

They have holed up 40 pits and a few trenches. Among the 54 individuals from all age groups shuffling to sit in the pits, several are women including 90-year-old Nanthi Bai.

The land in dispute is in Nindar village near Jaipur, which is part of the 330 hectares (1,300 bigha) the state government had earmarked in 2010 for the Ninder project consisting of 10,000 houses. The houses will be available for lower-income groups, “economically weaker sections,” and the middle-class group.

Since acquisitions of the land for the project began in 2010, Jaipur locals have been protesting in various ways. So far, the Jaipur Development Authority, which is implementing the project, has acquired 150 hectares from the village; the farmers want to block acquisition of the rest. The Jaipur Development Authority has deposited 600 million Indian rupees (9.2 million US dollars) in a local court for some of the lands. The protesting farmers claim that the rates date back to 2010 as compensation and the current market price is much higher. Approximately 5,000 families, including farmers, will be affected by the acquisition.

What's more, the project was greenlighted before a new land acquisition law was passed in India. Retired government official Laxman Burdak reminded on Facebook:

The government should acquire land of farmers as per new Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act. It's clearly mentioned, that government cannot acquire land if consent from 80% farmers is not given.

In India, 1.3 billion people live with a population density of 445 persons per square kilometer. So land is the scarcest resource in the country. India's British colonial era Land Acquisition Act, 1894 did not give enough protection to the victims of land acquisition. The new land acquisition act 2013 promises:

1) Increased compensation for farmers – market prices are updated
2) Expanded coverage – non-owners facing loss of livelihood are compensated
3) Rehabilitation and resettlement made compulsory
4) Taking informed consent of land-losers – 80% for private projects
5) The requirement of social impact assessments to determine a project's impact on people's lands and livelihoods; more specifically, to identify all affected people.

Raj Kumar, deputy commissioner of the Jaipur Development Authority, however, has told media that the land acquisition process was started in 2010 and the deal was finalized after proper compensation in May 2013. The government has even said that people with “vested interests” are behind the agitation.

That's not a good stance, argued Videh Kumar from New Dehli:

The proper rehabilitation is must and without ensuring proper rehabilitation, schemes, whatever good concept it may have, will certainly invite strong agitation.

The farmers say that their plights are not heard. Indian expat Kazim Ahmed expressed his dissatisfaction on Facebook that the Indian media is not doing enough to highlight the victims plights:

This has been an international news, what has Indian media done other than just reporting? No national television debates, rather we are being deflected by other minor issues!

For whatever it's worth, former chief minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot tweeted about the case:

And journalist Smita Prakash wrote:

It remains to be seen if this protest brings the attention that the participants are hoping for.

by Rezwan at October 07, 2017 01:22 AM

October 06, 2017

Global Voices
How People Hang Things Up to Dry In Japan
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Gosei-nish 20L.” (A “gosei” is a staff with pleated paper streamers used for Shinto ceremonies). Photo by Flickr user m-louis .®. License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a post that's been viewed 330,000 times, ppp_com, a member of Japanese blogging site Matomer Naver, has compiled a collection of tweets devoted to what Lifehacker Japan in 2012 identified as “the world's most boring chore” — doing the laundry.

According to the tweets ppp_com has tracked down, the worst thing for many Japanese people is not exactly doing the laundry itself, but the hanging it out to dry part. The tweets the Matome Naver blogger has collected describe the toil of hanging laundry, as well as some fun methods Japanese people have come up with to make the chore more enjoyable.

Man, I really hate hanging up laundry to dry. I don't mind cleaning, cooking or tidying up–I just hate doing the laundry. I really do.

The much-hated laundry chore is complete. 🌀👕 Why do I hate it so? Hanging laundry to dry. (>_<)

Some people have fun hanging clothes…

How I hang up clothes…

How I hang up by cycling bib shorts to dry.

…while others appear to be indifferent to the task.

The way Tatsuya hangs up clothes is really gross. There's no way I can put on the white T-shirt I was planning to wear tomorrow.

Some families seem to have their own special way of hanging up clothes:

This is how we hang up clothes at our house, lol.

What happens when you ask your resident ankle-biters to help with washing their shoes… The way they hung up the shoes is approaching a work of art, and has kept me laughing all morning. An early-morning offer to the birds? […]

Some people pay special attention to some items in the wash, while neglecting others.

On the left: How I hang up towels I don't really care about.
On the right: How I hang up towels I really care about.

[Note: the Twitter user seems to be a fan of AK48 ‘idol’ Ozeki Rika, and is not such a fan of the Orix Buffaloes baseball team, from Osaka in western Japan.]

One of the biggest challenges appears to be how to hang up soft toys to dry after a wash:

When it comes to washing [soft toys], I have no idea how to hang them up to dry, so this is what I did. Although doesn't it look like it's enjoying itself, lol?

How I hang up my polar bear to dry.

More tweets about laundry can be found here.

by Nevin Thompson at October 06, 2017 09:36 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Malaysia Bans Books and Cartoons Deemed ‘Prejudicial to Public Order’

Political cartoonist Zunar's latest compilation has been banned again by the Malaysian government. Image from Zunar's website.

Malaysia’s Home Ministry has banned the sale and distribution of books by Turkish author Mustafa Akyol and two Malaysians, Ahmad Farouk Musa and Faisal Tehrani, for being “prejudicial to public order.” The order was signed on September 6 but was not reported until September 28. Akyol, Farouk and Faisal all promote a moderate and progressive Islam through their books.

Meanwhile, political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, said his latest collection of cartoons “Sapuman: Man of Steal” has been banned by the government again.

Malaysia has a majority Muslim population and a government that claims to promote the harmonious relation of all races and religions in society. But in recent years, some hardline Islamic leaders and political groups have ascended in various state institutions and have used this platform to promote and impose a more strict interpretation of religion in governance.

Case in point is the brief detention of Akyol in Malaysia on September 25 after religious authorities accused him of teaching Islam without getting official authorization from the government. Akyol, a prominent journalist and scholar, was invited by Malaysia’s Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) to give a series of lectures on Islam, human rights, and democracy.

Farouk Mousa, a member of the IRF, accused the government of bigotry and anti-intellectualism:

By banning books that provoke the mind to think critically, this government of ours showed its true colour of being an authority of bigotry and anti-intellectualism.

Tehrani said the recent ban on books proved that the ruling party which has been in power since the 1950s has already “reached a state of crisis and madness that aims to control society and people’s minds.”

“When the government is faulty, drawing cartoons is a duty”

Zunar, who was previously arrested on sedition charges for his cartoons, has won wide recognition for his work, earning accolades from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Cartoonist Rights Network International among others. Zunar's 10 other book titles are still banned by the government.

Zunar demanding the police to return 1,187 books and 103 t-shirts which were seized when he was arrested in December 2016. Photo from the Facebook page of Zunar Cartoonist Fan Club

On Twitter, he urged authorities to respect the freedom of artists.

Referring to the prime minister implicated in a corruption scandal involving hundreds of millions of US dollars, Zunar continues:

I don’t make fantasy cartoons. My cartoons are results from my reaction on current issues, especially on corruption. Do not blame the cartoonist if politicians steal billions.

Zunar said he will challenge the ban in the courts and vowed to continue drawing even if his books are banned:

I would like to reiterate that this ban will not stop me from drawing cartoons to expose corruption and injustice. You can ban my books, you can ban my cartoons, but you cannot ban my mind. When the government is faulty, drawing cartoon is a duty.

“Why restrict knowledge?”

Karima Bennoune, United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, warned that banning books “could lead to a failure to engage in much-needed debate.”

Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin questioned the basis for banning the books by Akyol and other local scholars:

Likely to alarm public opinion? Only those with weak intellect will feel alarmed.

Such moves (book banning) are done by people who are against civilisation (Malay: tamadun). Those who are pro-civilisation would celebrate and take pride in intellectuals and their work.

In an interview with Free Malaysia Today, Eric Paulsen of the local group Lawyers for Liberty asserted that it is wrong for the government to prevent the public from accessing information:

Why restrict knowledge? Why allow the government to decide what can or cannot be read, and what is the right or wrong interpretation of a particular issue, no matter how sensitive?

The Home Ministry invoked the Printing Presses and Publications Act to justify the banning of books that are deemed harmful to public interest. Last July 2017, the Home Ministry also ordered the banning of a book on Islam and constitutional democracy. Perhaps it is time for Malaysia to review the arbitrary use of the law by authorities in restricting free speech in the country.

by Mong Palatino at October 06, 2017 02:34 PM

Global Voices
Malaysia Bans Books and Cartoons Deemed ‘Prejudicial to Public Order’

Political cartoonist Zunar's latest compilation has been banned again by the Malaysian government. Image from Zunar's website.

Malaysia’s Home Ministry has banned the sale and distribution of books by Turkish author Mustafa Akyol and two Malaysians, Ahmad Farouk Musa and Faisal Tehrani, for being “prejudicial to public order.” The order was signed on September 6 but was not reported until September 28. Akyol, Farouk and Faisal all promote a moderate and progressive Islam through their books.

Meanwhile, political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, said his latest collection of cartoons “Sapuman: Man of Steal” has been banned by the government again.

Malaysia has a majority Muslim population and a government that claims to promote the harmonious relation of all races and religions in society. But in recent years, some hardline Islamic leaders and political groups have ascended in various state institutions and have used this platform to promote and impose a more strict interpretation of religion in governance.

Case in point is the brief detention of Akyol in Malaysia on September 25 after religious authorities accused him of teaching Islam without getting official authorization from the government. Akyol, a prominent journalist and scholar, was invited by Malaysia’s Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) to give a series of lectures on Islam, human rights, and democracy.

Farouk Mousa, a member of the IRF, accused the government of bigotry and anti-intellectualism:

By banning books that provoke the mind to think critically, this government of ours showed its true colour of being an authority of bigotry and anti-intellectualism.

Tehrani said the recent ban on books proved that the ruling party which has been in power since the 1950s has already “reached a state of crisis and madness that aims to control society and people’s minds.”

“When the government is faulty, drawing cartoons is a duty”

Zunar, who was previously arrested on sedition charges for his cartoons, has won wide recognition for his work, earning accolades from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Cartoonist Rights Network International among others. Zunar's 10 other book titles are still banned by the government.

Zunar demanding the police to return 1,187 books and 103 t-shirts which were seized when he was arrested in December 2016. Photo from the Facebook page of Zunar Cartoonist Fan Club

On Twitter, he urged authorities to respect the freedom of artists.

Referring to the prime minister implicated in a corruption scandal involving hundreds of millions of US dollars, Zunar continues:

I don’t make fantasy cartoons. My cartoons are results from my reaction on current issues, especially on corruption. Do not blame the cartoonist if politicians steal billions.

Zunar said he will challenge the ban in the courts and vowed to continue drawing even if his books are banned:

I would like to reiterate that this ban will not stop me from drawing cartoons to expose corruption and injustice. You can ban my books, you can ban my cartoons, but you cannot ban my mind. When the government is faulty, drawing cartoon is a duty.

“Why restrict knowledge?”

Karima Bennoune, United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, warned that banning books “could lead to a failure to engage in much-needed debate.”

Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin questioned the basis for banning the books by Akyol and other local scholars:

Likely to alarm public opinion? Only those with weak intellect will feel alarmed.

Such moves (book banning) are done by people who are against civilisation (Malay: tamadun). Those who are pro-civilisation would celebrate and take pride in intellectuals and their work.

In an interview with Free Malaysia Today, Eric Paulsen of the local group Lawyers for Liberty asserted that it is wrong for the government to prevent the public from accessing information:

Why restrict knowledge? Why allow the government to decide what can or cannot be read, and what is the right or wrong interpretation of a particular issue, no matter how sensitive?

The Home Ministry invoked the Printing Presses and Publications Act to justify the banning of books that are deemed harmful to public interest. Last July 2017, the Home Ministry also ordered the banning of a book on Islam and constitutional democracy. Perhaps it is time for Malaysia to review the arbitrary use of the law by authorities in restricting free speech in the country.

by Mong Palatino at October 06, 2017 02:31 PM

Netizen Report: LGBT People Face Online Censorship and Threats in Egypt, Jordan
Gay Pride

Gay pride celebration. Photo by lewishamdreamer, via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

Egypt’s broadcast regulator, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, has banned all forms of support to the LGBTQ community, allegedly to “maintain public order”. The move came after a rainbow flag was raised at a concert of the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila in Cairo on 22 September. The band supports LGBTQ rights and its lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay.

Egyptian authorities arrested dozens of concert goers and have since launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

Censorship and criminalization of speech supporting LGBTQ rights is not uncommon in the MENA region. One of the MENA region’s first LGBTQ magazines, My.Kali, launched in 2007 and is currently blocked in Jordan. Although the online magazine has been blocked there since July 2016, a recent inquiry ignited a wave of media attacks against the magazine and the country’s LGBTQ community. This prompted Jordan’s media commission to issue a new order in July 2017 banning My.Kali because it does not have a license to operate.

Under Jordan’s Press and Publication law, online media are required to register with the authorities. The magazine continues to publish on Medium.

In response to threats the LGBTQ community in the MENA region faces, dating app Grindr is expected to launch new security features for its users in the region. The features include a passcode and a “discreet app” icon. Although these features have been welcomed by LGBTQ rights groups in the region, users of Grindr and other apps may continue to face threats.

In Egypt in particular, police are known to entrap people using such apps. Recently, Amnesty International reported that six people were arrested for “debauchery” through online dating applications in Egypt’s latest crackdown on the country’s LGBTQ community.

Catalonia’s referendum triggers arrests, online censorship

In the days leading up to the October 1 referendum on Catalonia’s independence, Spanish authorities used several different methods to censor internet access. More than 140 domains supporting the referendum remain blocked following a court order, including the Catalan National Assembly. Police raided the offices of puntCAT, the domain registry that manages the .cat domain, seizing computers and arresting the head of IT for sedition.

The .cat domain is popular, and .cat sites not related to the referendum have not been affected, despite the raid. However, .cat domains that are about the referendum, such as refoct.cat (still operational here), have been shut down. The court order also allows authorities to block future content related to the referendum publicized on social networks by any member of the Catalonian government.

Another order required Google to remove an app from the Play Store used to spread information about the vote. We will continue to monitor the situation in Catalonia as events unfold; in the meantime more information on the protection of digital rights is available here.

Israel targets Palestinians with predictive policing technology

Researchers in Palestine wrote about the development of a computer algorithm used by Israeli police to monitor and target Palestinian speech on social media, Facebook in particular. This “predictive policing” system, targets Palestinians “based on a probability created by a machine.” The authors argue that “While some western analysts suggest collecting neutral data or building neutral algorithm models as a way to circumvent abuse and discrimination, such recommendations do not resonate in a context of prolonged military occupation.”

Indy media groups stage blackout in Belgrade

Over 100 Serbian media outlets and NGO websites staged a blackout to protest media control and intimidation by tax authorities following the closure of the independent weekly magazine Novine Vranjske. The magazine was forced to close down last month after facing pressure from state authorities for its investigative journalism.

Google is giving governments more user data

Google reported receiving an all-time high of 48,941 requests for user data from governments in the first half of 2017, the largest number the company has received since it began disclosing this information in 2011. The company complied with 65% of the requests it received, which affected over 54,000 accounts.

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Afef Abrougui, Ellery Roberts Biddle and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

by Advox at October 06, 2017 02:17 PM

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