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.

March 06, 2015

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Creative Commons
Open Business Models – Call For Participation

Creative Commons has long celebrated everyone who uses our licenses. TeamOpen profiles give a good sense of the diversity of use and purpose. The creative ways individuals, not-for-profits, governments, and businesses use our licenses is inspiring.

For every TeamOpen example there are many others who want to move in that direction but don’t know how. The question we frequently hear is, “How do I earn a living, pay the bills, and keep the lights on if I openly license my work and give it away for free?” This question is asked not just by entrepreneurs but by people in non-profits and government too.

We are pleased to announce, through gracious funding from the Hewlett Foundation, that we’re launching a Creative Commons open business models initiative aiming squarely at showing how our licenses can, and are, used by businesses, non-profits, and governments.

Open for business sign
Building an open source business by Libby Levi licensed CC BY-SA

We aim to help businesses see how to use and contribute to the commons in a way that aligns with the norms and values of the commons, while at the same time operating as a business. We want to show what sustainability models look like. We’re planning to generate designs for how to move from closed to open. We want to provide models for businesses whose aim is to provide products and services that have both economic and social value. We aim to make visible how open business models work and provide tools and strategies for designing and developing your own.

We want to do this work in a community-based way with all of you. So this blog post is an open call for participation.

The Creative Commons open business models initiative provides you with a set of interactive tools which you can use to design your own open business models. You can use the tools to model anything from a new startup open business to an existing open business, or something in between.

The Creative Commons open business models initiative asks you to share the models you come up with including your analysis of your own models and provide suggestions for improvement of the open business model tools themselves.

Creative Commons invites you to participate in these open business model activities:

  1. Join us in designing, developing, and iterating a set of interactive Creative Commons open business model tools that anyone can use to design an open business model.
  2. Use these open business model tools yourself to generate your own open business model(s).
  3. Share the results of your participation including the open business models you generate.
  4. Provide feedback and recommendations for improving the Creative Commons open business model tools and process.
  5. Partner directly with Creative Commons on developing an open business model for your specific initiative.
  6. Participate in a Creative Commons workshop on generating open business models.
  7. Contribute to a Creative Commons open business models report.

See our Creative Commons Open Business Models Participation Activities document for further details on each of these activities, including specifics for participation, and links to the tools.

We’re excited about doing this work with all of you and growing the commons through open business models.

by Paul Stacey at March 06, 2015 04:31 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
"It's scary when we can do this out of love and there's nothing you can threaten us with"

Cross-posted from ethanzuckerman.com

What’s a “holy shit visualization”?

It’s a way of looking at data that makes turns a statistic you might have flipped past in a book or skimmed by on a web page into something that you can’t forget. It’s a visceral reminder of the power of images and the power of looking at dry numbers in human terms.

For Mike Evans, the map below was a holy shit visualization. Properties in yellow are in tax distress. Those in orange are under tax foreclosure. Those in red have been foreclosed.

In 2014, 50% of properties in the city of Detroit were in danger of foreclosure, being foreclosed, or owned by the city. That’s a frightening statistic. But seeing what it looks like on the map makes the scale of the problem more visceral.

holyshitmap

Evans knew this was a powerful visualization when he took the map to the county treasurer, who had his own “holy shit” moment seeing the data. Mike asks, “What does it mean when the county treasurer doesn’t know this? What does this mean for a homeowner who’s far more removed from this information?”


Mike Evans, image from Crain’s Detroit Business

Evans is senior developer with Loveland Technologies, a for-profit technology consultancy in Detroit, MI that focuses on mapping land ownership in cities, especially in Detroit. He visited Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab yesterday to talk about the community mapping work he and his team have taken on in Detroit and around the US. Loveland is a project started by Jerry Paffendorf, who had the clever idea of selling distressed properties in Detroit one square inch at a time. Detroit auctions thousands of properties at a time, and properties that don’t sell for outstanding taxes begin auctioning for $500 apiece. Paffendorf bought some of these properties and started selling them off via Kickstarter for a dollar per square inch (one of the first Kickstarters ever started), and Loveland Technologies got its start building a map that let people see their property ownership, much as the Million Dollar Homepage allowed advertisers to see their online presence purchased a pixel at a time.


Merry Inchmas from Inchy, Loveland’s first mascot.

(There was a serious side to the idea. Paffendorf felt like most people don’t get the chance to be property owners, and speculated that owning even a tiny piece of Detroit would get people thinking more seriously about the problems and challenges the city faces.)

The map, designed to visualize a fanciful public art project, began growing more complex features. But it took on a life of its own when Evans layered data from the county’s massive foreclosure action onto the map. Suddenly, the Loveland map became a resource for Detroit homeowners to tell whether their neighbors were in trouble, whether their neighborhood was in danger of attracting blighted properties, whether they might lose their homes.

“We put this out and suddenly people are calling us up, complaining that we’re illegally foreclosing on their property, demanding that we take them off the list,” Evans remembers. “We’d explain that we weren’t the authorities – we were just visualizing data. And people, not unreasonably, would say ‘You wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t the city.'”

“It’s a powerful experience,” he explains. “You look up your childhood home and you either breathe a sigh of relief or you call your mom. You click on your neighbors and your friends, and when you get bad news, you start thinking about how you might help them.” The tool quickly became popular with churches, who would look up houses of congregants, and then raise money to rescue members who were in distress. Often churches and friends wouldn’t raise enough money to pay off people’s debt, but payments as small as $300 could often forestall foreclosure for as much as three years.

The name Evans and colleagues gave the tool – Why Don’t We Own This – has at least two meanings. Why are Detroiters being removed from their homes when no one else wants to buy these properties? And how can Detroit take ownership and responsibility for the problems facing the community?

As the map gained prominence, “We became ‘the guy who can get you things'” Evans explains. City council members began asking for reports on their districts so they knew what areas were most affected. With high-level requests for data coming in, Evans and colleagues had more leverage to ask for data. While they’d scraped the initial set of auctions data despite city objections, people within city government started volunteering data sets to the project, and the tool became more feature-rich.

In portraying the city’s foreclosure crisis, Evans offers sympathies for both homeowners and for the city. Many of these forecloses houses were left in wills by grandparents to grandchildren, he explains. The people who inherited properties didn’t know about the water bills and property taxes they would need to pay, and quickly found themselves falling behind. At the same time, it’s hard to put too much blame on the city, which is coping with municipal bankruptcy, accusations from the UN that Detroit’s water shutoffs violate human rights, and a fire department so broke that it uses a fax machines and Faygo cans filled with change as a fire alarms.


Detroit fire alarm. Really. Photo from Detroit Free Press.

Every mayor who’s taken leadership of the city agrees that a critical step towards improving the city is confronting the problem of urban blight. (Evans refers to these as “OMGWTFBBQ” properties.) Abandoned houses attract illegal dumping. They lower the property values of other houses on the street. Kids are afraid to walk to school past the buildings, not knowing who or what is in them. There’s widespread perception that every mayor has failed to address blight… but Evans points out that the city has torn down more than 25,000 buildings between 1995 and 2014. “Cities don’t get the love even when they do what they said they would do,” Evans offers. “But actually, it’s government’s job to make sure we know what they’re doing regarding blight.”

Addressing blight is a major motivation for offering open data in Detroit. Detroit has an open data portal, but it’s not exactly a marvel of usability – to really use the data, in many cases, you need to export the data to a GIS program like ESRI. Evans offers a real-world example of the importance of accessibility: a homeowner who wants to attack blight in her neighborhood by mowing the lawns of unoccupied houses on her street needs a simple way to know whether properties are occupied or not. “Accessibility is the real open data. Just having it open isn’t important if people can’t utilize it.”

The idea of accessible, usable data that Detroiters could leverage to protect their neighborhoods helped inform the project Loveland Technologies is most famous for: Motor City Mapping. Based on the success of their map of foreclosed properties, the Loveland team was invited to a meeting involving Dan Gilbert (local billionaire, founder of Quicken Loans), the White House, the Kresge and Skillman Foundations, and local projects like U-Snap-Bac, which provides funding to restore distressed properties. The team started with the idea of removing every blighted building from the city, and quickly realized that they would need a comprehensive map of Detroit’s blighted properties. The Loveland Technology team made the argument that they should instead map every property in the city, take photos and try to determine whether those properties are occupied or not.

What resulted from the discussions was Motor City Mapping, a wildly ambitious project that mapped 400,000 properties in about a month using 150 volunteers armed with Android tablets. As Evans explains it, he wanted nine months to take on the project and ended up being negotiated down to a month-long development cycle. As he was unboxing and syncing 150 new Android tablets, the data collection software he’d built was two days old and still riddled with bugs. (Evans had wanted to roll out on iOS, but the process of releasing software, waiting for Apple’s approval and reinstalling was too slow and pushed him onto Android, at a time when the tablets he wanted were just coming on the market and were hard to obtain.)

For the next month, 150 surveyors walked the streets of Detroit photographing each property, reporting its condition, identifying blight and determining whether a house was occupied. Evans and a colleague stayed in the office, fixing bugs and adding features. “It was the best kind of scope creep. We’d realize we needed Google Street View data as a double-check for locations. We’d want to add in assessor data. The tool got more complicated and more useful every day.”

Having real-time data matters when you’re trying to transform a city. In particular, it’s critically important to have data about whether properties are occupied or abandoned. Detroit’s police force is so stressed that they generally don’t evict homeowners when their properties have been foreclosed on. As a result, buying a foreclosed property at auction in Detroit is a deeply uncomfortable gamble. The property you bought for $500 might be abandoned and ready for you to fix it up… or it may be occupied by a family unhappy about you showing up on their doorstop. Most investors don’t want to purchase the occupied buildings, which is why having Motor City Mapping’s data on occupied properties is so crucial. As the project has continued from its startup phase, the team prioritizes re-surveying tax distressed properties they believe are occupied, trying to minimize situations where people are purchasing occupied buildings.

Realtime, or near realtime, mapping of a city has other positive implications. When the city wants to provide services like cutting grass, they can use the maps to scout areas ahead of time, and can mark maps once they’ve provided services.

discovery interface

Evans shows off the ability to generate custom maps based on queries. What properties in your neighborhood are in poor condition or recommended for demolition? The map above shows how to generate that information with a few button clicks.

official info

It’s important, also, that maps are annotateable. The image above shows an apartment building that was in good condition when Motor City Mapping checked it out. But below, a resident has reported that the building was damaged by a suspicious fire and should now be considered a blighted structure.

community info

Real-time mapping was challenging and expensive to accomplish. Most of the 150 workers who surveyed the city didn’t have cars, Evans explains, so Quicken Loans employees volunteered to act as their drivers. Since volunteers would be in a car all day with workers, Motor City Mapping then ran background checks on their workers, and ended up losing 30%, who had records for violent offenses or felonies. Maintaining a team of mappers long term may not be something Detroit can afford – instead, mapping may come in part from citizens who download the app and use it to maintain maps of their communities.

Loveland Tech, in the mean time, is taking on government contracts and expanding their system to include dozens of other cities. They sell the tools that allow other cities to overlay data sets on their street maps. Unfortunately, the tool is only one part of building a system like the one in Detroit. Buffalo, NY, a city that features many of the problems Detroit faces, offers a beautiful map but without information on condition or occupancy. To make the maps really useful, cities need to work with Loveland to release key data sets, a process that can trigger resistance from government agencies, some of which see selling this data as a way to address their budget shortcomings. Evans remembers that it took two months into the Motor City Mapping project before the Wayne County Assessor would give the team their data set – until they came under massive public pressure, the Assessor wanted to sell the data instead.

If the impact of Loveland’s maps makes city officials say “holy shit”, it’s worth asking how Evans and his team have been so successful in taking on these controversial, provocative and deeply useful projects. Evans credits much of the success to being in the right place at the right time, to being invited to meetings like the one that launched Motor City Mapping.

I think Evans, Paffendorf and others have a secret weapon in these battles: the power of whimsy. Before joining Loveland Technologies, Evans was the founder of PishPosh.TV, a video production company that wanted to build “a discovery channel that doesn’t suck”, showcasing maker culture and teaching people about low-cost computer hardware like Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. (It’s taken on a newsier, muckraking tone recently with Slash Detroit.) Evans heard that Paffendorf was building a free, urban minigolf course with art professor Steve Coy and decided to make a video of the project. Soon after, Evans moved his video production company in with Paffendorf’s “Imagination Station“, and became a co-conspirator on multiple projects.

Not all these projects are easy to explain. Paffendorf gained a certain amount of notoriety in Detroit by raising $67,000 to build a statue of Robocop, to be erected in downtown. Slopping reporting and online rumor-spreading led to outrage over the idea that a bankrupt city would use public funds for a fanciful sculpture – as Evans patiently explains when I bring up Robocop, all money came from donors (many from outside of Detroit), and the statue will be build from molds made by the original designers of the costume at Universal, and forged at Venus Bronzeworks, a venerable Detroit institution. But the sheer silliness of the idea has a life of its own and has led to previous Detroit mayors coming out publicly to oppose the statue project.

I think this gift for whimsy helped Evans and Paffendorf avoid some of the initial resistance they might have faced when launching projects like Why Don’t We Own This. After all, it’s hard to worry about a couple of kids upending Detroit’s foreclosure policy when they’re the guys best known for urban minigolf and fanciful Kickstarter projects.

Evans has a simpler explanation than the one I offer. When you’re broke and taking on projects out of passion, not out of profit, it’s hard for people to stand in your way. When he began scraping auction data from county websites, it was easy to ignore any potential legal consequences. “What are you going to do? Sue us? We’ve got nothing. You want to bankrupt us? Okay, here – you can have our dog.” (Fortunately, the county chose to work with them, rather than threatening legal action.) When the laughter at Center for Civic Media dies down, Evans explains, “It’s scary to those in power when people are able to do projects like this out of love, and there’s nothing you can really threaten them with.”

by EthanZ at March 06, 2015 04:26 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Blogger Law Violations Go Unpunished in Russia
Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Violations of the Russian blogger law are going unpunished as law enforcement seems to care little for imposing fines on those who use swearwords, promote drug use, or offend someone's religious sensibilities while blogging.

Since the infamous ‘blogger law’ came into power in Russia seven months ago, the telecommunications watchdog Roscomnadzor has documented 67 violations in 53 of the blogs added to the new blogger registry. TJournal reports that 40 of them deal with profanity use in the blogs, 17—with “promoting drug use.” Other violations include calls of extremism, propaganda of Nazi symbols, and content offensive to sensibilities of religious persons.

Roscomnadzor's head Vadim Ampelonsky explained that the watchdog can only record the violations, but cannot dole out the punishment, since the law mandates that various law enforcement agencies are responsible for the repercussions.

Само ведомство этого делать не может, так как «санкции» предусмотрены не законом о блогерах, а другими нормами права: например, ФСКН может заставить отвечать за пропаганду наркотиков, а Генпрокуратура — за экстремизм.

Our institution cannot do this itself, as the “sanctions” are based not on the blogger law per se, but on other legal norms: for instance, Russia's Federal Drug Control Service can hold you responsible for drug use promotion, and the General Prosecutor's Office can enforce [sanctions] for extremism.

An interesting conundrum, according to Roscomnadzor, is that the Russian police doesn't consider the Internet a “public space,” so it sees no need to prosecute users for profanity and swearing in blogs. Ampelonsky said they're currently in discussions with representatives of the police force about whether administrative norms can and should apply to the online spaces.

The blogger law came into force on August 1, 2014 and tasked Roscomnadzor with adding all Russian bloggers with over 3000 unique daily views to a special registry. The bloggers, who were essentially equated with mainstream media, were banned from sharing unverified information, spreading calls to extremism and swearing. The popular bloggers were also obligated to disclose their personal information on their websites. Violations of the law would be punished with administrative fines.

On August 1, when the law gained force, the RuNet staged a symbolic protest, with many users deliberately adding profane hashtags, words and images to their tweets in order to demonstrate the law held no power over them.

On February 12, 2015, a Ukrainian MP proposed a draft law regulating blogger activity that was essentially a carbon copy of the Russian one. After a public outcry from journalists, free speech advocates and the Internet in general, the MP withdrew his proposal, citing peer pressure.

by Jillian York at March 06, 2015 02:54 PM

Global Voices
A Week in the Life of a Tokyo ‘Salary Man’

A recent video upload by prolific YouTube vlogger Stu in Tokyo has gone viral, so far reaching more than half a million views.

The topic of video? A week in the life of a Tokyo “salary man,” the common name in Japan for a salaried office worker:

Stu works for a British financial services company in Tokyo, he explains in the video. Typically the months of January, February and March are “crunch time”, requiring long hours.

So, Stu decided to keep a video diary of just how much he works each day, and what he actually has time to do after he gets off work. It doesn't turn out to be much of anything at all.

But that's okay, says Stu. “There are definitely people in Tokyo who do this all year round in order to support their families. I couldn't imagine having to do this if I had those kinds of responsibilities as well.”

There are signs this cornerstone of Japanese working corner is in the process of changing.

Although current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has floated the idea of eliminating regulations that limit daily working hours entirely, the government has in fact introduced plans to require Japanese salaried workers to take five days of paid vacation every year.

Until now, while many Japanese salaried employees receive paid vacation time as part of their compensation package, very few workers actually make use of it.

Due to workplace culture, Japanese workers are reluctant to book vacation time on their own, leaving coworkers behind to pick up the slack.

Instead, if Japanese workers do take a day off, they typically take one during one of Japan's national holidays.

Japan currently has 16 nationally legislated holidays, the most of any G20 country (the UK has only 8 national holiday, and the United States 10).

The abundance of national holidays in Japan may compensate for long working hours and peer pressure that frowns on taking a day off for personal reasons.

However, when everyone in a nation of 126 million people goes on vacation at the same time on a national holiday, the result can be clogged rail lines, monster traffic jams, and long lines at airports.

The new vacation labour regulations are an attempt at addressing this problem. There is also the hope that mandatory paid leave, combined with the large number of national holidays will spur tourism and in turn encourage consumer demand, stimulating Japan's sluggish economy.

by Nevin Thompson at March 06, 2015 11:38 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Macedonia’s Massive Illegal Wiretapping Operation Allegedly Monitored Journalists and Diplomats
This phone is tapped. Photo by Cory Doctorow, CC-BY-SA 2.0

This phone is tapped. Photo by Cory Doctorow, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Leaked tapes revealed by Macedonia’s opposition seem to suggest that the country’s intelligence services have been illegally wiretapping more than 20,000 citizens on the order of conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and members of his family. Opposition leaders claim that among those tapped over a four-year period were government employees, opposition members, journalists, editors, and foreign diplomatic representatives in the country. 

Zoran Zaev, the leader of the Social-Democrat Party, brought the tapes to the public’s attention in early February 2015. Zaev, who was allegedly one of the targets of the Counter Intelligence Service’s wiretapping, said his party has filed lawsuits against several intelligence officers, including the Interior Ministry's top intelligence official, Sasho Mijalkov

The Social Democrat Party claims that tens of thousands of Macedonian citizens unofficially labeled by the current government as “traitors”—including opposition members, journalists, NGO workers, and unaffiliated political activists, as well as some of their own workers and the current Minister of Interior—were under surveillance for several years.

Just one week before the tapes were revealed, Prime Minister Gruevski had charged Zaev and others with conspiring with a foreign intelligence service to topple the government. Zaev has since had his passport confiscated by authorities and cannot leave the country. 

The man accused of heading the illegal surveillance operations, Mijalkov, has been a controversial character in Macedonian politics for several years. He was instrumental in implementing financial pressure on a critical Macedonian weekly magazine in a defamation lawsuit in 2014, which ultimately led to the magazine’s shutter and large fines for its editor and journalists.

Later that year, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), together with Macedonian Nova TV and the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, published an investigative piece about the amassed wealth of Mijalkov, who is a first cousin of the prime minister.

Zaev, leader of the largest opposition party in Macedonia, claims to have evidence of thousands of instances of illegal wiretapping that allegedly went on for at least four years of the eight years that Gruevski has been in power. Opposition members claim to have received the evidence from “patriots working for Macedonia's secret service” who are now allegedly seeking amnesty under a whistleblower protection act. Zaev's party, SDSM, has been boycotting any involvement in Parliament after the April 2014 elections, in a show of protest, claiming that the elections had been rigged.

The Mijalkov-Gruevski political dynasty has held power during much of Macedonia's transition to democracy. Jordan Mijalkov was the first interior minister after the country gained independence, until his death in a car crash. His nephew Nikola Gruevski was finance minister from 1999 to 2002 and prime minister from 2006 till today. The son of late Minister of Interior Jordan Mijalkov, Sasho Mijalkov, who is seen as the grey eminence behind the family “throne”, served in Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito's Honor Guard alongside his brother as a military policeman, and has held high positions in defense and interior ministries of Macedonia since 1998.

This new scandal has sent the Macedonian government into damage control overdrive. Weeks ahead of the announced press conference by Zaev, the government made several arrests of people they suspected to be whistleblowers and publicly labeled some opposition members as “foreign spies”. To pacify any complaints of these activities in the public, the government turned to coverage of what might be deemed as more pressing issues, such as announcing revisions or minor changes to the new education laws and taxes for part time workers, which have been the subjects of several protests in Macedonia over the past year. The official parliament daily agenda for the session of February 11 suddenly included at least five “emergency” legislative amendments.

An announcement was also made by government officials just after the revelation of the alleged wiretapping that 3,000 new people will be employed in the public administration. Macedonia currently has an unemployment rate of almost 30%, and the government has been promising the creation of new jobs for several years. In many southeastern European countries, the promise of more government jobs is often used by politicians as a resource to buy the loyalty of their supporters, with taxpayers’ funds, in particular ahead of elections or in a time of crisis.

Following the revelations, Macedonian students began organizing sit-in protests and occupying universities in late 2014, and part-time workers went on to stage a third big protest on February 13. Many remain unimpressed by the prime minister’s new promises and see it as another attempt to divert from the real issues in the country. The plethora of protests organized in the country over the past year, from those against new tax laws to new education laws and student living conditions at university dorms, have taken place and seen different social and ethnic groups coming together, often crossing long-standing ethnic differences.

People on social networks and citizen media have criticized Macedonian media for lack of coverage of these protests. Blogger Jane Gjorgjioski pointed out in a February 13 blog post:

Coverage of the “occupation,” which includes thousands student participants, by the media—the TV stations with national coverage, and especially by the Public Service Macedonian Television (MTV)—is nonexistent or, mildly said, pitiful. Here’s how the pro-government TV stations, which cover most of the market, informed about the first day of the occupation:

  • The 4 pm news on Sitel TV aired the news about the occupation in the 16:27 minute of the show, and the news item had duration of 1:30 minutes.
  • On MTV, which is paid by all the citizens and is obliged to inform objectively, the 5 pm news aired the news in the 17:25 minute, with a duration of 0:55 minutes – yes, the news lasted for 55 seconds!
  • Alfa TV news from 5:30 pm the news was mentioned in the 17:55 minute with a duration of 1 minute and 20 seconds.

At a press conference on February 27, after further examination of the wire tapping recordings that the opposition claims to have, Zaev stated that numerous journalists and editors in the country were among those monitored during the illegal wiretapping escapade, as well as what Zaev called “the six most influential embassies” in the country. Several international organizations and media have voiced their concern of Macedonia's already fragile democracy taking a turn for the worse as the wiretapping scandal continues to escalate.

by Jillian York at March 06, 2015 10:17 AM

Global Voices
Macedonia’s Massive Illegal Wiretapping Operation Allegedly Monitored Journalists and Diplomats
This phone is tapped. Photo by Cory Doctorow, CC-BY-SA 2.0

This phone is tapped. Photo by Cory Doctorow, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Leaked tapes revealed by Macedonia’s opposition seem to suggest that the country’s intelligence services have been illegally wiretapping more than 20,000 citizens on the order of conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and members of his family. Opposition leaders claim that among those tapped over a four-year period were government employees, opposition members, journalists, editors, and foreign diplomatic representatives in the country. 

Zoran Zaev, the leader of the Social-Democrat Party, brought the tapes to the public’s attention in early February 2015. Zaev, who was allegedly one of the targets of the Counter Intelligence Service’s wiretapping, said his party has filed lawsuits against several intelligence officers, including the Interior Ministry's top intelligence official, Sasho Mijalkov

The Social Democrat Party claims that tens of thousands of Macedonian citizens unofficially labeled by the current government as “traitors”—including opposition members, journalists, NGO workers, and unaffiliated political activists, as well as some of their own workers and the current Minister of Interior—were under surveillance for several years.

Just one week before the tapes were revealed, Prime Minister Gruevski had charged Zaev and others with conspiring with a foreign intelligence service to topple the government. Zaev has since had his passport confiscated by authorities and cannot leave the country. 

The man accused of heading the illegal surveillance operations, Mijalkov, has been a controversial character in Macedonian politics for several years. He was instrumental in implementing financial pressure on a critical Macedonian weekly magazine in a defamation lawsuit in 2014, which ultimately led to the magazine’s shutter and large fines for its editor and journalists.

Later that year, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), together with Macedonian Nova TV and the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, published an investigative piece about the amassed wealth of Mijalkov, who is a first cousin of the prime minister.

Zaev, leader of the largest opposition party in Macedonia, claims to have evidence of thousands of instances of illegal wiretapping that allegedly went on for at least four years of the eight years that Gruevski has been in power. Opposition members claim to have received the evidence from “patriots working for Macedonia's secret service” who are now allegedly seeking amnesty under a whistleblower protection act. Zaev's party, SDSM, has been boycotting any involvement in Parliament after the April 2014 elections, in a show of protest, claiming that the elections had been rigged.

The Mijalkov-Gruevski political dynasty has held power during much of Macedonia's transition to democracy. Jordan Mijalkov was the first interior minister after the country gained independence, until his death in a car crash. His nephew Nikola Gruevski was finance minister from 1999 to 2002 and prime minister from 2006 till today. The son of late Minister of Interior Jordan Mijalkov, Sasho Mijalkov, who is seen as the grey eminence behind the family “throne”, served in Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito's Honor Guard alongside his brother as a military policeman, and has held high positions in defense and interior ministries of Macedonia since 1998.

This new scandal has sent the Macedonian government into damage control overdrive. Weeks ahead of the announced press conference by Zaev, the government made several arrests of people they suspected to be whistleblowers and publicly labeled some opposition members as “foreign spies”. To pacify any complaints of these activities in the public, the government turned to coverage of what might be deemed as more pressing issues, such as announcing revisions or minor changes to the new education laws and taxes for part time workers, which have been the subjects of several protests in Macedonia over the past year. The official parliament daily agenda for the session of February 11 suddenly included at least five “emergency” legislative amendments.

An announcement was also made by government officials just after the revelation of the alleged wiretapping that 3,000 new people will be employed in the public administration. Macedonia currently has an unemployment rate of almost 30%, and the government has been promising the creation of new jobs for several years. In many southeastern European countries, the promise of more government jobs is often used by politicians as a resource to buy the loyalty of their supporters, with taxpayers’ funds, in particular ahead of elections or in a time of crisis.

Following the revelations, Macedonian students began organizing sit-in protests and occupying universities in late 2014, and part-time workers went on to stage a third big protest on February 13. Many remain unimpressed by the prime minister’s new promises and see it as another attempt to divert from the real issues in the country. The plethora of protests organized in the country over the past year, from those against new tax laws to new education laws and student living conditions at university dorms, have taken place and seen different social and ethnic groups coming together, often crossing long-standing ethnic differences.

People on social networks and citizen media have criticized Macedonian media for lack of coverage of these protests. Blogger Jane Gjorgjioski pointed out in a February 13 blog post:

Coverage of the “occupation,” which includes thousands student participants, by the media—the TV stations with national coverage, and especially by the Public Service Macedonian Television (MTV)—is nonexistent or, mildly said, pitiful. Here’s how the pro-government TV stations, which cover most of the market, informed about the first day of the occupation:

  • The 4 pm news on Sitel TV aired the news about the occupation in the 16:27 minute of the show, and the news item had duration of 1:30 minutes.
  • On MTV, which is paid by all the citizens and is obliged to inform objectively, the 5 pm news aired the news in the 17:25 minute, with a duration of 0:55 minutes – yes, the news lasted for 55 seconds!
  • Alfa TV news from 5:30 pm the news was mentioned in the 17:55 minute with a duration of 1 minute and 20 seconds.

At a press conference on February 27, after further examination of the wire tapping recordings that the opposition claims to have, Zaev stated that numerous journalists and editors in the country were among those monitored during the illegal wiretapping escapade, as well as what Zaev called “the six most influential embassies” in the country. Several international organizations and media have voiced their concern of Macedonia's already fragile democracy taking a turn for the worse as the wiretapping scandal continues to escalate.

by Danica Radisic at March 06, 2015 10:14 AM

Brazilian University Won't Enroll Guinea-Bissauan Woman, Even Though She Passed All Requirements
Students protest in front of a building, in the University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), on February 23. The sign reads: "UFRGS xenophobe". Photo:

Students protest in front of a building at the University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) on February 23. The sign reads: “UFRGS xenophobe”. Photo: Barricadas Abrem Caminhos/Facebook

When Domingas Mendes left her home in Guinea-Bissau, she was a nun heading for a mission in southern Brazil. A few years later, religious life no longer seemed like the right choice and she decided to pursue a degree in social services.

For months, her time was divided between work hours and the free course she attended at night to prepare for the tests to enter Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), one of Brazil's top schools, located in the city of Porto Alegre. As many black and poor applicants do, Domingas applied as a “quota candidate”.

The Brazilian quota system for high education, implemented as a law in 2012, reserves 50 percent of public universities’ vacancies for students coming from low-income families and public schools and who are of African or Indigenous descent.

Domingas passed the test and was approved. But then she learned the university wouldn't take her. As she wrote in a Facebook post:

O Edital e a lei de cotas exige que tem que ser preto e pobre. Sou preta, pobre, trabalhadora e comprovei isso! Outro elemento que quero chamar a atenção é a declaração do MEC sobre meu caso, também em entrevista para a rádio gaúcha. Conforme o Ministério da Educação as Universidades tem autonomia na definição do ingresso de seus estudantes em casos como o meu. Portanto, isso mostra que a alegação da UFRGS se trata de discriminação e segregação, pois não está previsto na lei nacional que escola pública precisa ser brasileira! Isso é uma política excludente da UFRGS para uma lei que se pretende o contrário: incluir e garantir cidadania!

The rules and the quota law require that you should be black and poor to apply to the quota vacancies. I am black, poor, a worker and I proved that! Another element that I would like to call attention to is the Ministry of Education's statement on my case, also in an interview to Radio Gaúcha. According to the ministry, the universities have autonomy to define the enrollment of students in cases such as mine. Therefore, this shows that UFRGS’ claim is discrimination and segregation, because it is not foreseen in national law that the public school needs to be a Brazilian one! UFRGS's policy is excluding me from a law that intends the exact opposite: to include and guarantee citizenship!

Domingas during the protest, in February, 23. Photo: Barricadas Abrem Caminhos/used with permission

Domingas during the protest on February 23. Photo: Barricadas Abrem Caminhos/used with permission

Rádio Gaúcha, a radio station from the city of Porto Alegre, had access to the document UFRGS issued confirming Domingas’ rejection. They published it in their website:

Ocorre que a reserva de vagas de que trata a Lei 12711/12 é destinada a estudantes egressos do sistema público de ensino do Brasil. O já mencionado decreto 7824/12, em seu artigo 2º, parágrafo único, determina que, para os fins a que se destina, consideram-se escolas públicas aquelas de que trata o artigo 19, I da Lei 9394/96. Este dispositivo, por sua vez, estabelece que são instituições públicas de ensino aquelas criadas ou incorporadas, mantidas e administradas pelo Poder Público.

What happens is that the reservation of vacancies established by the Law 12711/12 is reserved for students from the Brazilian public school system. The decree 7824/12, in its Article 2, says that for its intended purpose, public schools are considered those defined by article 19 of the Law 9394/96. This provision establishes that public schools are those created or incorporated, maintained and managed by the Public Power.

To date, the university hasn’t spoken publicly about the case.

After Domingas shared her story, hundreds of people started to engage in a campaign to demand the university allow her enrollment. On February 23, a protest organized inside the university’s campus by social services students gathered a hundred people and forced one of the vice deans to receive the Guinea-Bissauan.

But the resulting news wasn't good: as Domingas told Global Voices, the institution maintained its position, telling her to look for an alternative through “legal means”.

Journalist Thales Bouchaton said in his blog

… em uma bizarra interpretação da Lei de Cotas, entendeu a instituição por não aceitar o ingresso da estudante porque ela não fez o ensino médio em uma escola do Brasil. Porém, fui dar uma olhada na referida lei e ela não fala em nada disso e sim em “escolas geridas pelo Poder Público”, não especificando se essa escola é brasileira ou não.

…in a bizarre interpretation of the quotas law, the institution understood it should not accept the student because she did not attend high school in Brazil. However, from what I've seen in the law, it doesn’t specify any of this, but mentions “schools managed by the Public Power”, not specifying whether or not it needs to be a Brazilian school.

There is another catch to the story. In an interview for TV Negração, published on YouTube, Domingas noted that the university exempted her from paying the entrance test fee, something only allowed for public school students. Also, after eight years living in Brazil, Domingas has a permanent visa. According to the country's laws, except for political rights as the right to vote, the visa gives immigrants the same rights regarding access to public health and education as it does to Brazilian citizens.

Domingas touched on the sensitive issue of African immigration to Brazil in a Facebook post

Para eu ser trabalhadora para vender minha força de trabalho a preço barato é permitido. Todavia, eu qualificar minha força de trabalho e, assim, poder ter uma vida um pouquinho melhor não pode!

When it comes to being a worker, selling my labor for a cheap price, it's allowed. However, when it comes to getting better qualifications, so I can have a life that's a little better, it's not!

The numbers of African immigrants in Brazil have increased 30 fold in the past decade. Even though most are able to find jobs and send money to their families back home, it is clear that society has a place reserved for them. And, as Domingas’ story shows, this place is rarely a spot in a university.

One of the signs in the protest said: "Down with xenophobia and racism". Photo: Barricadas Abrem Caminhos/Facebook

One of the signs in the protest said: “Down with xenophobia and racism”. Photo: Barricadas Abrem Caminhos/Facebook

Domingas is currently following the institution's counseling and looking for a solution with the help of a public defender. In the video interview, she says she has presented all the requirements that UFRGS demands for quota students to enroll, and adds:

Eu acredito que não estão aceitando minha matrícula por racismo, xenofobia, preconceito e tratando o princípio da lei de forma contraditória mesmo. Porque uma lei que é para incluir, agora está me excluindo.

I believe they are not accepting my enrollment because of racism, xenophobia and prejudice and treating the law principle in a contradictory way. Because a law that is designed to include is now excluding me.

The students who organized the protest endorse this position. But the question of why a Brazilian university won't accept a Guinea-Bissau student remains to be answered. 

by Fernanda Canofre at March 06, 2015 08:49 AM

March 05, 2015

Creative Commons
#FreeBassel Day 2015: Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at EFF

Bassel
Bassel / Joi Ito / CC BY

Bassel Khartabil (also known as Bassel Safadi) is a computer engineer who, through his innovations in social media, digital education, and open-source web software, played a huge role in opening the Internet in Syria and bringing online access and knowledge to the Syrian people. Many people reading this blog know Bassel through his work as lead for CC Syria.

Sunday, March 15, 2015 marks the third anniversary of Bassel’s arrest and imprisonment in Syria, as well as the fourth anniversary of the Syrian uprising.

In San Francisco, #FreeBassel supporters, artists, and members of the open community are gathering at the Electronic Frontier Foundation for a community-building event organized around a Wikipedia edit-a-thon in Bassel’s honor. We’ll be working to improve and add articles and media content related to Bassel and articles of interest to him. We’ll also be discussing his case and brainstorming about new projects and ideas to help bring awareness to his case. Here are the details:

March 15, 2015
2:00pm — 6:00pm
EFF HQ: 815 Eddy St., San Francisco

No prior Wikipedia editing experience is necessary, we’ll have experienced editors present to help you get set up and make your first edit. Artists and activists interested in freedom of expression are encouraged to come contribute to the discussion. Experienced Wikipedians also welcome to come learn more about Bassel, contribute to Wikipedia, and help others to become involved.

For more details on the #FreeBassel Day event, click here.

This entry is remixed from Wikipedia:Meetup/San Francisco/FreeBassel Day 2015, available under CC BY-SA.

by Timothy Vollmer at March 05, 2015 11:40 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
#FragaWantsToPost: A Brazilian Activist Has Been Forbidden From Protesting for Two Years
Ricardo Fraga hanging the pictures people drawn at the wall in Vila Mariana. Photo: ARTICLE 19/Facebook

Ricardo Fraga hanging the pictures people drawn at the wall in Vila Mariana. Photo: ARTICLE 19/Facebook

In 2013, Global Voices told the story of Ricardo Fraga, an agricultural engineer gagged by a Brazilian court from speaking out on the streets and the Internet against the construction of a high-rise residential complex in a vacant lot in his neighborhood in São Paulo. Since then, for 728 days his right to protest has remained legally suspended. 

He is under a restraining order and can't come within 1 kilometer of the high-rise complex. His Facebook page, “O outro lado do muro – Intervenção Coletiva” (The Other Side of the Wall – Collective Intervention), is forbidden to post any content related to Mofarrej Co., the contractor which owns the lot and who is responsible for the complex's construction. If he disobeys, he must pay a fee of 10,000 reais (around 3,300 US dollars).

To mark the two years since the gag order, international NGO Article 19, which defends freedom of expression and has been following the case since the beginning, has organized a protest in front of the wall March 6, 2015. Fraga won't be able attend the rally, but protesters will be wearing a mask with his face to remember that #FragaQuerPostar (#FragaWantsToPost). 

It all started in 2011. For a few months that year, Fraga — a public servant who has worked for more than 20 years on environment and urbanism at São Paulo's City Hall — had a weekend ritual: he grabbed his kids’ white board, a few pens, a ladder and walked to the surrounding wall of a vacant lot located in São Paulo's neighborhood of Vila Mariana. Once there, Fraga invited people to climb the ladder, peek on the other side of the wall, think about what they would like to see there and draw whatever they had imagined. Soon the drawings became a Facebook page and a social movement.

He told Global Voices:

O movimento começou com o objetivo de promover uma reflexão sobre a forma como a cidade é apropriada, o modelo de verticalização que vem se impondo, suas consequências, o ideal de cidade que imaginamos e sobre o por que a sociedade pouco se mobiliza na preservação de espaços tão significativos.

The movement started with the goal of encouraging a reflection on how the city is appropriated, the verticalization model that is being imposed and its consequences, the ideal city that we imagine and why society doesn't mobilize itself for the preservation of such meaningful spaces. 

But Fraga soon had other company at the wall: Mofarrej started sending real estate agents to the site. A few weekends went by with no major problems, each man in one corner — until one year later, one of the agents approached him with a threat that Fraga “did not know what could happen to him”.

In 2013, the company decided to file a suit, asking for the suspension of Fraga’s protests and the Facebook page and for 100,000 reais (about 33,000 US dollars) compensation.

The next day, without hearing the defendant's side, a judge issued a restraining order against Fraga, forbidding him from coming within 1 kilometer of the wall, and demanded the movement’s page be removed from Facebook. The judge ignored the demand for material compensation, but imposed the 10,000-real fine for every breach of the orders.

Fraga filed an appeal in São Paulo State Court, with the support of Article 19 and a petition with 5,000 signatures supporting him. On May 15, 2013, the court upheld the judge's decision, but reduced the restraining order from 1 kilometer to one block and ruled that Fraga did not need to take down the Facebook page, but should delete all content related to Mofarrej Co. and not post any in the future.

But in September 2014 the first judge handed down his final decision: the restraining order went back to 1 kilometer. Fraga filed another appeal and now waits for a final ruling from São Paulo State Court.

NGO Article 19 says the decision violates article 19 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and makes Fraga into “one of the first people prohibited from protesting online by the Brazilian judiciary”. On their website, they argue that the decision didn't respect the “three-part test” (three provisions recommended respected when limiting freedom of expression: to be provided by the law, to have a legitimate aim supported by international law and to be necessary and proportional in a democratic state):

Caso o teste das três partes tivesse sido observado, a restrição contra a liberdade de Ricardo não teria sido concedida visto que tal restrição não se encontra prevista em lei e o interesse econômico de comercialização dos lotes pela empresa não esta acima do interesse publico concretizado na garantia da liberdade coletiva de manifestação. Em outras palavras, a decisao constitui limitação desproporcional e ilegitima ao exercício do direito de protesto de Ricardo e o direito a informação de toda a sociedade.

If the three-part test was observed, this restriction against Ricardo's freedom wouldn't have been handed down since it's not provided by the law and the company's economic interest in real estate commercialization is not above the public interest crystallized in the guarantee of collective freedom of expression. In other words, this decision is disproportional and denies both Ricardo of his right to protest and society of its right to information.

Guilherme Ravaglia Perisse Duarte from Advogados Ativistas (Activist Attorneys) told Global Voices that the case also sets a dangerous precedent:

A decisão é assustadora, pois submete os Direitos Fundamentais à liberdade de expressão, reunião pacífica e livre associação, garantidos pela Constituição Federal, ao suposto direito da construtora de vender os imóveis, independentemente da informação.

Utilizando essa lógica seria justificável proibir as pessoas, ou a mídia, de criticar qualquer produto, sob o argumento de que a empresa tem o direito de vendê-lo.

Como seria a sociedade capitalista se a Publicidade fosse a única forma de informar? Eu imagino um mundo de obesos comendo fast-food para emagrecer e é esse o mundo da decisão que proíbe o Fraga de falar, ainda bem que é um caso isolado!

The decision is frightening because it subjects fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, peaceful public gathering and free association, assured by the Federal Constitution, to the contractor's alleged right to sell real estate, regardless of the information.

By this logic it would be justifiable to forbid people, or the media, to criticize any product, under the argument that the company has the right to sell it.

How would capitalist society be if advertising was the only way to inform? I imagine a world of obese people eating fast-food to lose weight and this is the world of the decision forbidding Fraga to speak. Fortunately it’s an isolated case.

If this street were mine…

The largely residential neighborhood of Vila Mariana has more than 300,000 residents. It’s close to Parque Ibirapuera, one of the largest green areas in São Paulo's concrete jungle. It's the neighborhood Fraga chose to raise his kids. He still remembers how sometime between the 1990s and the 2000s children used to go climb that wall to play and grab fresh fruits from the trees in the vacant lot. He also remembers the time when one of the Mofarrej’s family members decided to cultivate vegetables at the site and sell them to the neighbors.

The wall of protest. Photo: ARTICLE 19/Facebook

The wall of protest. Photo: ARTICLE 19/Facebook

And he also remembers the rumor of a river passing through the lot:

(Um amigo engenheiro) disse que havia fortes indiciados que naquela área passasse um rio, o Boa Vista. Como no processo de licenciamento não constava nenhuma referência, fomos atrás de mapas antigos e descobrimos um de 1905 e outro de 1913 que dava indícios da existência do curso do rio. Com estes dois mapas encaminhei memorando como servidor ao secretário da secretaria do verde e do meio Ambietne municipal que suspendeu o licenciamento para averiguação.

(An engineer friend) told me there was strong evidence that a river ran through the area, the Boa Vista river. As the complex's licensing process did not make any reference to it, we started to search old maps, and found out one from 1905 and another from 1913 indicating the existence of the river. With these two maps, I issued a memo, as a public servant, to the Green and Environmental Municipal Secretariat who suspended the license to verify it.

After conducting an extensive geoprocessing study and finding new maps at the City Hall, Fraga found out that the information about the river was true. Twice the environmental license for construction was suspended, and twice the enterprise of 162 apartments and 650 parking spots – with estimated prices between 2.5 and 5 million reais (between 1 and 2 million US dollars) — came back.

So, when he had to hear the sentence on May 15, 2013, it was hard to hold in the tears:

He said:

Sou tb advogado e, assim que comecei a escutar a decisão do agravo impetrado, percebi que ela continuaria violentando-me, impedindo-me de postar na rede mundial de computadores e de impedir-me d ir ao local, mesmo após termos contestadas todas as acusações existentes na petição inicial da empreendedora.

I’m also a lawyer and, as soon as I started to hear the decision on the filed grievance, I realized it would continue violating me, stopping me from posting on the Internet and of going to that place, even after we contested all the accusations of the company’s initial petition.

But even with the prohibition, the Facebook page “O outro lado do muro” continues documenting and debating gentrification and occupation movements in the city of São Paulo.

Mofarrej Co’s three towers of apartments are almost concluded and ready to be delivered.

by L. Finch at March 05, 2015 11:33 PM

DML Central
Augmented Wearables and the Future of Museums
Augmented Wearables and the Future of Museums Blog Image

Wired’s recent cover article, “Microsoft in the Age of Satya Nadella,” is a fascinating piece about how the software giant is aiming to reposition itself to remain dominant in the next operating system revolution. They missed the boat when the rest of us migrated from desktops to mobile devices but, this time, their sights are focused on the next potential disruptor: augmented reality wearables. And, Microsoft’s unanticipated new play in this space was announced in January: Project HoloLens.

The article rightly grouped HoloLens with Google Glass, Oculus Rift and the largely-unknown Magic Leap. It's hard to predict which of any of these devices will tip with the public (none are actually available on the consumer market), but it’s clear that if a significant number of users drift from mobile operating systems to augmented wearables, the potential impact on museum-based learning is significant. But, what sort of impact?

Unfortunately, these devices get lumped together as if the user experience were all the same. They're not. And, the different user experiences suggest different areas of impact, in museums and elsewhere. To get my head around all this, I mapped the four devices against two axises — space and people — and created the following chart, which I named, for better or worse, the Mooshme Matrix of Place-based Augmented Devices:

The vertical axis of space charts “here" (the augmentation deepens the user with their surrounding physical space) to “there" (the augmentation transports the user to a different space, often referred to as virtual reality). The horizontal axis of people charts “me" (the augmentation is for a single user or each user has a personalized experience) to “us" (the augmentation connects the user with the people around them, their social network, and/or other users of the device).

Before I fill the chart, and explore what their placements suggest for the future of museums, allow me to briefly introduce each one.

Meet The Players

1. Google Glass has received the most attention. The user wears something similar to a pair of glasses; a small screen visible only to the user appears above one eye, projecting 2D information, primarily text or images. I took a friend’s pair for a tour of D.C. museums last spring and wrote about my experience. I used Glass to take photos of my trip, map point-to-point directions, call up Wikipedia to search topics, and more; it felt like the next step in integrating my daily activities with the world of web-based resources. Google Glass is currently on hold and no longer in public beta.

2. Oculus Rift was developed to be an immersive virtual reality headset for gamers. I first tried it in 2013 at a gaming conference. I sat at a chair and strapped the bulky device around my head. The Rift’s screen surrounded my field of vision, like a personal Imax screen. Using a keyboard I first explored a house on a hill — very peaceful — then launched into a military game where I tried to survive a gunfight for more than a few seconds. Midway through the experience, I added a headset and, from that point onward, I was no longer at the conference. I was still in my body — as I turned my head from right to left, I could look all around my new visual environment — but, it was a transporting experience. Oculus Rift was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for more than $2 billion. 

3. Project HoloLens’ promotional video gives a good sense of how Microsoft wants us to think about it: a device that places shared, holographic-style 3D-objects (which can be manipulated) around users wearing the lens. It is slated for a public release later this year, with Minecraft often discussed as the killer feature. 

4. Magic Leap is still somewhat of a mystery. Attention from the press built last year when Magic Leap announced $542 million in funding from Google, Qualcomm, Legendary Pictures and more. While we have little to see about the intended user experience, the prominence of the involved players has kept watchers like me riveted. For example, their press release asks us to "imagine being able to generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world." 

Enter the Matrix 

 

I placed the Oculus Rift in the quadrant of there and us. The there is obvious — Oculus' driving power is its ability to make you feel like you are somewhere else, such as climbing the wall in the Game of Thrones. Meanwhile, the social aspects are core to the Oculus design — originally for gamers to play together and now, evident through Facebook’s purchase, with hope to connect non-gamers as well.

Impact on museums: For some, the ability to be social in a virtual environment is a threat to museums: Why travel to meet friends and family to view a dinosaur fossil if you can stay home and interact with them in an immersive environment pretending to be the archeologists on the dig who discovered it? In other words, the science content can be engaged in new and exciting ways, but divorced from the original object and the building that stores and displays it. For others, that’s exactly the point — more engaging and educational experiences enabled by such technology will generate deeper and more informed interest in the original object and reify its value to the increased traffic who then seek it out in person. This suggests the potential for museum-produced immersive experiences outside the museum associated with in-person experiences that tout the value of the original object.  

I placed Google Glass in the quadrant of me and here. Glass is here because in most cases (but not all) the device is used to capture or learn more about the world around you. How do I get from here to there? Take a photo of what I am seeing? Translate the sign before me into a different language? Glass is me because the experience is personalized. To an outside observer, you and I each might be looking at the same painting, but while you’re taking a photo ,I’m searching online to learn more about it. (Content can be shared with Glass — you could send me your photo and I could email you the link I found — but, we might never learn its full social potential unless Google re-releases it in a new form.)

Impact on museums: To the extent that the features of Glass reflect a SmartPhone on steroids, it challenges us to think about how museums can keep up with how people increasingly self-mediate their visits. For example, How powerful are their mobile tools to create and share, and what do visitors require from the museum to meet their expectations? How strong is their desire and ability to seek multiple perspectives beyond the wall copy and how might museums facilitate that engagement? Do we really need to fear selfie sticks? The questions are endless and speak to our general interests and concerns about life in the digital age. And when I compare Glass to a smartphone I am really describing the power to call up everything on the Internet. But, what is the Internet? A decade ago, YouTube was just about to launch and few heard of this new site called Facebook. A decade from now, how will we have changed how we use the Internet and in what ways will that mediate museum visits?

I place Project HoloLens in the quadrant of us and here. HoloLens seems focused on placing “holographic” augmentations in the space around you (here) and using the device to collaborate with other users around or through those augmentations (us). For example, with Google Glass you might experience a virtual tour guide who travels with you on your visit, but it would be a me experience; other Google Glass users couldn’t join you, even if they could access their own private guide. With HoloLens, the guide wouldn’t follow you; you would follow the guide. All device users would see and hear the same thing, like the holographic video of Princess Leia in the first Star Wars film.

Impact on museums: us and here is the sweet spot of museum engagement. It is why people travel to museums in the first place — to have a place-based, shared experience with their friends and family. While Oculus offers a rich new way to contextualize and connect with exhibit content from the comfort of one’s home or classroom, HoloLens suggests an approach that leverages, rather than jettisons, one’s presence within a museum. Because the experience might be shared, rather than personalized, it also might alleviate the privacy concerns that undermined Google Glass. 

Then, of course, there is Magic Leap. Until we see a demo, it’s hard to say where this device will fit, but I can approach it now as I will anything new in this space, asking the questions that place it within the Mooshme Matrix of Place-based Augmented Devices: To what extent does it allow me to connect with friends and family? To what extent does it transport me to a virtual reality or anchor me where I am?

Digital devices come and go. Some will fail while others succeed in unexpected ways. But, the affordances they bring to museum visitors will undoubtedly increase over time and redefine the relationship between museums and their visitors in the near future. Whether that relationship leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation for science, art, history (and whatever else a museum may be designed to advance) will depend in large part on how successfully we respond to disruptive digital tools and the habits they generate amongst our visitors.

Banner image credit: Microsoft Sweden

by mcruz at March 05, 2015 06:46 PM

Global Voices
Beachgoers Form Human Chain to Save Drowning Swimmers in Peru
Cadena humana en okaya peruana. Foto ampliamente difundida en Twitter.

Human chain at Arica beach. Photo widely shared on Twitter.

An incredible act of kindness took place at Arica beach, 18 miles south from Peruvian capital, Lima, on Sunday, March 1. 

Dozens of beachgoers formed a human chain to save four swimmers who were struggling against heavy waves, which had prevented lifeguards from going into the sea to rescue them, according to Alejandro Espinoza, who reported the event to El Comercio newspaper's WhatsApp account. Peruvian news website Tawi.pe then picked it up.

The site explained:

[...] al percatarse que los rescatista no se abastecían para sacar del agua a los bañistas, los que se encontraban en el lugar armaron una cadena humana espontáneamente para poder ayudar.
A pesar de que había salvavidas, era complicado sacara (sic) a los bañistas, pues la corriente y las olas eran muy fuerte. Pero finalmente, la cadena humana pudo salvarlos y los que participaron del rescate recibieron los aplausos del público.

[...] when they noticed the rescuers weren't able to take the swimmers from the water, the people who were there spontaneously set up a human chain and so they could help.

Although there were lifeguards, it was complicated to take the swimmers out of the water, as the current and the waves were very heavy. But at last, the human chain was able to save them and those who took part in the rescue received applause from the public.

The news made headlines in various media outlets, and Twitter users shared photos of the human chain:

50 bathers formed a ‘human chain’ to save four…

Human chain saved four individuals at risk of drowning at Arica beach.

Human chain made up of swimmers at Arica beach saved four people who were drowning.

One Twitter user offered a message full of hope:

To witness the solidarity shown by swimmers at Arica beach to save some people with a human chain makes me believe in humanity!

Fortunately, acts of kindness like these are not unusual in Peru. Some time ago, hundreds of motorcycle taxi drivers used their vehicle lights to illuminate an airfield's runway in the Peruvian department of Ucayali so a small airplane that was transporting three patients of delicate health could take off.

by Gabriela García Calderón at March 05, 2015 05:53 PM

From a Promising Boxer to a Casualty of the Lyari Gang Wars in Pakistan
Gwadar: The city Talha Baloch grew up in (Source: Wikimedia)

Ariel shot of Gwadar's coastline. Talha Baloch grew up in Gwadar. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This story was originally written by Feroz Jan in Urdu for PakVoices. It was edited for context in English by Salman Latif and is published on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

A young man was killed in Lyari, Karachi, in an encounter with the Rangers, a paramilitary force combating gang violence and law and order problems in Pakistan's largest city. The man was later identified as Talha Baloch. 

In Lyari, one of Karachi's oldest, most densely populated and politicized towns, he went by “Gwadari.” He was originally a popular boxer from the coastal Balochistan city of Gwadar.

According to the police, 24-year-old Talha died of gunshot wounds on February 18, 2015. Aftab Nizamani, a senior police officer, claimed that Talha was involved in the recent murder of three members of the political party Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and was a prominent member of Uzair Baloch‘s gang, which recently had a falling out with the PPP. In a profile published on Dawn.com last year, Uzair was described as the “political face of the Pakistan Peoples Party in Lyari, a label the PPP is struggling to distance itself from.”

Back in his hometown, the circumstances of Talha's death irked many. Talha’s relatives in the coastal city said he had extraordinary boxing abilities but was disappointed by the lack of career opportunities there for boxers. They claimed that many connected people had promised Talha a chance in the ring but no one came through, leaving him disheartened. Talha’s friends said that he eventually gave up boxing altogether and couldn't find a job for two years. Ultimately, he left his city Gwadar, went to Karachi in 2008, and eventually settled in Lyari.

Lyari is known for producing excellent boxers over the years. In 1988, a Lyari boxer Hussain Shah won the bronze medal for Pakistan in the Olympic Games. The neighborhood features many boxing clubs, but coaches there bemoan lack of opportunities for their boxers.

This isn't the first time a promising boxer has been killed in Lyari's gang wars. Stuck between poverty and the notorious Lyari gang war, many are forced to turn to a life of crime and often have to pay with their lives. In the past, boxers in Lyari have been killed by local gangs and by the Rangers

Lyari is notorious for a continuing conflict between different criminal gangs in the area. Political parties and state institutions have been accused of running a “proxy war” there, trying to manipulate the gangs in Lyari to meet their own political agendas. Dawn reports that between 2003-2008, the gang war in Lyari claimed 500-600 lives. In 2013 alone, more than 100 lives were lost in Lyari-specific incidents of violence.

by Pak Voices at March 05, 2015 04:59 PM

Another Big Media Outlet Plagiarizes a Global Voices Story. What’s the Fix?
Guardian Plagiarism Correction

Screengrab from The Guardian's corrections and clarifications column.

Global Voices writer Owen Guo spent last Sunday—the day of his 28th birthday—writing a story about a documentary on China's horrific pollution problem that had been released hours before. By the time Owen’s story was published on Global Voices, the film had already been viewed 30 million times. During a chat session we had afterwards, he told me, “I'm really glad I spent my birthday doing something meaningful like this”—echoing the impulse that has kept the Global Voices community and our reporting alive and thriving for 10 years.

You should read Owen's story—it’s excellent. A writer at the venerable Guardian newspaper thought so too, copy-pasted significant portions of Owen's story and published it under his own name the following day. If you selected a sentence from Owen's piece and ran it through a search engine, chances were the Guardian story would appear in the results—such was the extent of the similarity. The writer had cribbed more than four of Owen’s paragraphs completely, and the essence of the piece was similar as well.

The Guardian story did not mention either Owen or Global Voices.

48 hours after the Guardian piece was published, the plagiarized paragraphs came to our attention. We contacted both the author and The Guardian’s readers’ editor. The author e-mailed an apology, as did someone from the readers’ editor's desk. A few hours later they added the necessary attribution, citing Owen several times, plus a correction at the end of the story. They also published a note in both the web and print versions of their corrections column.

But Owen, who started working in journalism four years ago, still feels cheated.

Not only did The Guardian steal his byline, the incident also left him feeling betrayed by a profession he deeply respects.

Our community also feels cheated.

This isn't the first time a reputable mainstream outlet has lifted Global Voices reporting verbatim from the site and presented it as their own work, and our community knows it won’t be the last. This in spite of our very liberal Creative Commons license and Attribution Policy, which allows anyone to republish our content for free with proper attribution.

Are the journalists who plagiarize our work exploiting the fact that we’re a small media outlet? As one colleague has pointed out, how come the Guardian writer didn’t lift the paragraphs from the New York Times article on the documentary that was published online shortly after Owen’s story?

To ask how we can fix this is beyond the scope of this piece, as journalistic ethics are forever under threat, and not only in the online space. But we still believe it’s a question worth asking: beyond the obvious reactive and retroactive steps, what's the fix here? What can we do to encourage the journalism industry to hold itself to higher values?

by Sahar Habib Ghazi at March 05, 2015 02:42 PM

Buddhist Villagers Protest Construction of Mosque in Northern Thailand
Protest against the planned construction of mosque in Nan province. Photo from @joe_black317 and  Khaosod, used with permission

Protest against the planned construction of mosque in Nan province. Photo from @joe_black317 and Khaosod, used with permission

About 800 people joined a protest against the proposed construction of a mosque in Mueang Nan, the capital district of Nan province in northern Thailand. A Buddhist monk, who represented the demonstrators, handed a protest letter to a provincial officer.

Most Thais are Buddhists and about 5 percent of the population are Muslims. Majority of Thailand's Muslims are living in the south part of the country, formerly known as the Pattani Kingdom. In fact, some Muslim groups are advocating the separation of this territory from Thailand.

The protesting villagers, who came from Ban Buppharam and other neighbouring districts, claimed that the Muslim community failed to properly consult them about the mosque.

The first hearing was conducted in January but the local Muslim committee failed to reach a consensus about the issue.

The Bangkok Post interviewed the villagers who insisted that a mosque is not necessary in the province. The report said people are afraid there might be a “hidden political or religious purpose” in building the mosque “which could lead to unrest and violence” in other parts of Thailand.

Incidentally, the proposed site of the mosque is only two kilometers away from a Buddhist temple and some are not happy about this. The people argued in their petition that the mosque might create a “noise pollution” or that it would lead to tension because of “differences in lifestyle and culture”.

Mr. Rikkraisak Kanta, 55 years old, explained to a local media his reasons for opposing the mosque:

Villagers have no problems with Muslims but this protest is because we are not happy with the local (provincial) government that allowed the building of this mosque in a Buddhist community. We should have a public hearing before the construction as this mosque has an impact on our community. If the province continues with the construction, the Nan people will continue the protest.

A Muslim representative said there are currently 60 Muslims in Nan and they have to travel 130 kilometers to a different province to perform their devotion. Another Muslim leader also defended the project by citing its positive impact on tourism. He said that “tourists from neighboring provinces, including foreigners and individuals who are Muslim, can visit the mosque. It will lead to more spending in the region.”

Some Thais are unhappy with the intolerance shown towards another religion:

You say you want peace and don't want segregation but what you are doing here is the beginning of segregation.

Come as promised! Nan people say don't build the masjid (mosque). Some people say that rally is politically motivated and to be against the army

The actions of the monk insult religion. This is a brute. His action is against the rules that govern monks.

Nan Governor Ukrit Puengsopha tried to strike a balance. He said that instead of constructing a permanent mosque, Muslims in the province can begin by building a balasah, which is a temporary place of worship. The community can upgrade it into a bigger mosque when there are more Muslims in the region, he said.

Similar to other faiths, Islam is officially recognized in Thailand and the population enjoys extensive relations with Islamic countries and organizations. However the threat of continued protests brings about the question of underlining societal ignorance of non-Buddhist faiths and the impact of intolerance towards Thailand's future.

by Zashnain Zainal at March 05, 2015 02:11 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: China Continues to Crack Down on Virtual Private Networks
"Tweeting from behind the Great Firewall" by Flickr user Karl Baron. Taken on January 13, 2010. CC-BY.2.0.

“Tweeting from behind the Great Firewall” by Flickr user Karl Baron. Taken on January 13, 2010. CC-BY.2.0.

Renata Avila, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Marianne Diaz Hernandez, Lisa Ferguson, Hae-in Lim, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in China, where the government continues its crackdown on the use of virtual private networks by blocking Avast.com, a free anti-virus and anti-spyware protection software for Windows, Android, and Mac users. According to technology blogger William Long, the block is linked to the site’s SecureLine VPN service.

In addition, Chinese companies including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and Sina Weibo deleted more than 60,000 accounts for reasons as wide as “being misleading, rumor mongering, links to terrorism, or involving violence, pornography and other violations”.

Quartz reports that for unclear reasons, when Chinese users attempt to navigate to sites banned by the Great Firewall, they are sometimes being directed to seemingly random sites, a hacking technique known as DNS poisoning.Normally, such requests are routed to non-existent IP addresses.

Ecuador’s President says “anonymity is for cowards”

During President Rafael Correa’s weekly address, he named and shamed people who wrote rude or abusive comments about him on Twitter and Facebook and said, “anonymity is for cowards,” calling on the public to help him identify users who lacked detectable information.

While Correa was lampooned during comedian John Oliver’s talk show recently, the severity of his actions have been outlined by the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Special Rapporteur urged the State of Ecuador to consider the consequences of these statements and to act urgently to ensure the safety of one user in particular, who runs a satirical Facebook page “Crudo Ecuador” or “Raw Ecuador.”  The user posted a photo to the page of flowers and an anonymous note containing a death threat, and ultimately decided to shut down the site out of safety concerns. Under Ecuadorian law, limits are placed on anonymous expression online and expressions that discredit or dishonor others are punishable by imprisonment of up 15 to 30 days.

A new trial for a Saudi blogger?

Saudi Arabia’s criminal court may attempt re-trying blogger Raif Badawi for apostasy charges, which carry the death sentence. Badawi has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for his criticism of Saudi clerics, although his lashes have been postponed since they were first administered, and were reportedly to be reviewed by the king’s office. A judge previously threw out the apostasy charge in 2013, after Badawi clarified for the court that he is Muslim.

Bangladeshi-American blogger killed

Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American blogger who denounced religious extremism and wrote about atheism was murdered by two men wielding machetes, possibly associated with the Islamist Ansar Bangla Seven. Roy lived in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, where 90% of its population of 140 million people are Muslim.

Eyes on Africa

In what has been dubbed South Africa’s WikiLeaks, Al Jazeera and the Guardian published “The Spy Cables,” a horde of documents painting Africa as the “El Dorado of espionage” and South Africa as a major hub for communications in the region. The documents, which date from 2006–2014, generally involve spying by or on Israel and Iran, with the CIA, the UK’s MI6, and others as supporting characters. Revelations include security weaknesses of the South African government and a partnership for satellite surveillance with Russia. Some have expressed concern about the consequences of the publication of the cables, which include the name of a potential North Korean asset who may now face torture or possibly death. Furthermore, Right2Know, a campaign launched in 2010 to oppose the proposed Protection of State Information Bill, worried that the humiliation stemming from the Spy Cables’ publication could provide the momentum to finally pass the “Secrecy Bill,” which could threaten whistleblowers and journalists with up to 25 years in prison for publishing “state secrets.”

Runa Sandvik recounts recounts how she was able to petition for photographs and personal information collected by US customs every time she entered the country under a Freedom of Information request.

“Right to be forgotten” could head to the Southern Hemisphere

The Buenos Aires legislature is considering a law similar to the European “right to be forgotten” ruling. The law would provide for the protection of personal data released by websites and search engines, with an exception for public persons for whom there is a “special interest” from citizens. The law would require users to submit requests for harmful content to be removed, and companies would need to comply with such requests within five days.

Move to reform Mexico’s copyright law

PRI federal deputy Denisse Ugalde and legal deputy coordinator Hector Gutierrez de la Garza presented an initiative to reform Mexico’s Law on Industrial Property and the Federal Copyright Act, known informally as the #LeyBeltrones. Digital activists have criticized the initiative as an effort to censor free speech in the guise of protecting copyright, and say it risks invading people's privacy online.

Google reverses position on content ban

Google revised its content policy for Blogger to ban sexually explicit images. Previously, it had only banned commercial pornography. After vigorous user feedback about the free expression implication this move could have, Google reversed its position, stating that it would be sticking with the status quo, and increasing its enforcement of the commercial porn ban instead.

Google Tehran HQ coming soon?

Google and other Internet companies may soon be able to set up offices in Iran, provided they respect the country’s “cultural” rules, according to the Fars news agency. Sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been blocked intermittently in Iran since a series of protests surrounding the 2009 presidential election. Iran’s Deputy Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Nasrollah Jahangard said that American businesses may face problems operating in the country due to U.S. sanctions, but he claimed companies outside the United States have begun negotiations to enter the market.

ISIS threats Twitter with war

An account attributed to the militant group ISIS—which controls large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria—posted a threat against Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey on the image-sharing site JustPaste.it, in response to Twitter’s “campaign to delete accounts.” The post said that Twitter’s “virtual war on us will cause a real war on you,” referring to Twitter’s shutdown of accounts violating its terms of service, including those that issue “direct, specific threats of violence.” The Guardian reported that during a July 2014 Lords’ committee hearing on social media and criminal offenses, Sinéad McSweeney, Twitter’s Director of Public Policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, stated that the company had “in excess of 100 people” examining reports made to Twitter across a range of issues.

Pakistan's accidental un-ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan since September 2012, but thanks to a technical glitch, it was available for a few days via some Internet service providers. Anusha Rehman, Pakistan’s Minister for Information Technology, stated that the forthcoming cybercrime bill would address the issue of intermediary liability.

Landmark net neutrality decision

The US Federal Communications Commission approved net neutrality in a landmark decision, requiring Internet service providers to treat Internet traffic in a neutral way rather than allowing them to charge higher rates to handle traffic at different speeds.

Netizens take on anti-privacy bills

A group of Canadian legal experts signed a collective open letter opposing Bill C-51, or the Anti-terrorism Act, asserting the legislation is overbroad and lacks any “enhanced protections for privacy and from abuse”.

Civil society and human rights activists in Paraguay signed a letter opposing draft Law S-146 438, which would establish the conservation of all traffic data belonging to Paraguayans— including the number of incoming and outcoming phone calls, IP addresses, and location data—for a period of 12 months.

New Research

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by Netizen Report Team at March 05, 2015 07:38 AM

March 04, 2015

Creative Commons
Creative Commons logo acquired by MoMA and featured in new exhibit

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) announced today its acquisition* of the Creative Commons logo and license icons into its permanent collection, currently featured as part of a new exhibit called, “This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good.” The Creative Commons logo (double C in a circle) and license icons for Attribution, ShareAlike, Noncommercial, and NoDerivatives are featured alongside universal designs such as the @ symbol and the International Symbol for Recycling.

From the MoMA blog,

“The exhibition takes its title from British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, who lit up the stadium at the 2012 London Summer Olympics opening ceremony with a simple tweet: “This Is for Everyone.” His buoyant message highlighted how the Internet—perhaps the most radical social design experiment of the last quarter century—has created seemingly limitless possibilities for discovering, sharing, and expanding knowledge and information.

The Creative Commons logos, and the organization and movement for the commons they represent, fit solidly within this narrative of imagining a better world through design — and Creative Commons is honored to be featured in this new exhibit and acquired as part of MoMA’s permanent collection. We’d especially like to highlight the designers: Ryan Junell of the original and now standardized CC logos, Alex Roberts of the re-conceived Attribution icon.

Read more about the acquisition at the MoMA blog and Wired’s coverage of the exhibit. Also stay tuned for a more detailed post on the origin story of the CC logos.

* Different museums have different criteria for acquiring objects into their collection. Here’s MoMA’s criteria in context of its @ symbol acquisition. To acquire doesn’t mean to own, but to obtain permission for reproducing the work as a matter of copyright. Our logos are still our trademarks!

by Jane Park at March 04, 2015 11:31 PM

Global Voices
Indian State Maharashtra’s #BeefBan Means Eating a Burger Can Send You to Prison
An activist ties a mask of a cow on another, demanding banning of cattle slaughter.

An activist ties a mask of a cow on another, demanding banning of cattle slaughter. Mumbai, India. Image by Awadeshkumar Sidhpuri. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2012)

A blanket ban on cattle slaughter in the Indian state of Maharashtra has sparked heated debate in India.

Cattle are considered sacred in Hinduism and their meat is taboo. The slaughter of cows was already prohibited in the state, but this law broadens the ban to bulls, bullocks and calves and makes the possession or sale of beef an offense punishable with up to five years in prison and a fine of 10,000 rupees (about 161 US dollars).

Water buffaloes are an exception to the ban; Maharashtra is the third largest buffalo meat producer in India.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee ratified the bill from right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s alliance Shiv Sena in the beginning of March, 19 years after Shiv Sena had first proposed it. The law amends the “The Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act (MAPA), 1976″, which allowed for the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and buffaloes with a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate. In 1995, Shiv Sena moved to widen the ban, but as the state government changed political hands, their bill remained in limbo. Two weeks after BJP politician Devendra Fadnavis was elected Maharashtra's chief minister, supporters of the bill pushed for its approval. 

Fadnavis tweeted welcoming the ratification by the president:

Member of parliament and BJP politico Kirit Somaiya called the development a “historic step, which has cultural as well as economic implications for the state.”

Twenty-four Indian states have laws preventing cow slaughter. Despite that, India projected to soon to be world's largest bovine meat producer.

Soon after the news went public, netizens reacted to the ban under the hashtag #BeefBan, which became one of the world's top trending hashtags, appearing 22,000 times in less than 24 hours.

Hundreds of activists, campaigners and Jain spiritual leaders stage a mass rally seeking a ban on cattle slaughter, and export. Mumbai, India. Image by Awadeshkumar Sidhpuri. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2012)

Hundreds of activists, campaigners and Jain spiritual leaders stage a mass rally seeking a ban on cattle slaughter, and export. Mumbai, India. Image by Awadeshkumar Sidhpuri. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2012)

Twitter user Mohammed Hisamuddin tweeted asking for ban to go even further:

A parody account of internationally acclaimed author Salman Rushdie tweeted:

In India, about 93 women are raped every day, according to the country's National Crime Records Bureau.

Freelance writer and comedian Neeti Palta added:

Columnist and novelist Shobhaa De reacted asking the chief minister to throw her in prison for eating beef:

Singer and actor Vir Das humorously suggested a ban on teeth:

On Facebook, investor Mahesh Murthy debated the merits of food bans:

[..] you consider the cow sacred and won't eat it. Well, I consider spinach sacred and won't eat it. But that doesn't mean I can stop you from eating spinach and you can stop me from eating cows. Why don't you worry about your diet, I'll worry about mine. [..]

In the same post, Murthy questioned the credibility of BJP failing to provide basic amenities while being able to chase for such stringent laws:

[..] is this what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was elected for? Of all the things that Maharashtra needs, apparently a ban on beef is more important and pressing than solving water, electricity and jobs problems?

Many Bollywood celebrities reacted on Twitter to the ban:

Blogger Shoaib Daniyal elaborated on the political sentiments of Hindu believers being compromised by politicians:

In his prime ministerial campaign, Narendra Modi used the emotive power of the cow to attack the United Progressive Alliance government. “It saddens me,” he wrote on his blog, “that present UPA Government led by Congress is promoting slaughtering of cows and exporting beef to bring ‘Pink Revolution’”.[..]
This contradictory approach to the issue of cow protection shows that it is treated more as a political rather than religious matter. Cow protection sentiments are exploited by the state and politicians to mobilise people and catch votes, targeting poor Muslims and Dalits by accusing them of cow slaughter. Of course, since other factors are clean ignored (as a result of economic considerations), these laws do nothing to actually improve the lot of cattle in the country.

Protest in Guwahati, Assam, India against the smuggling of cattle to neighboring Bangladesh where they would be slaughtered. Image by Abdul Sajid. Copyright Demotix (28/8/2009)

Protest in Guwahati, Assam, India against the smuggling of cattle to neighboring Bangladesh where they would be slaughtered. Image by Abdul Sajid. Copyright Demotix (28/8/2009)

“You should be outraged because the state is infringing on the freedom of communities to consume food of their choice. And if you're an animal rights activist you should cheer and redirect your outrage towards stopping the slaughter of chicken, pigs, goats and buffaloes [..]“, Arun George, a blogger, argued.

Like most other religious and communal issues in India, the current beef ban has triggered media and people to react strongly. In response, hardliners have strengthened their propaganda efforts and attacked people on social media for opposing the beef ban. Many voices speaking out against the ban have accused the state and central government of not taking issues like basic amenities, women’s rights and safety and growing poverty and lawlessness seriously, instead concentrating on a beef ban.

by Subhashish Panigrahi at March 04, 2015 11:12 PM

Global Voices, the Travel Guide for Anti-Tourists
travel_shelf

“I prefer bunking down in apartments, hanging with locals, and visiting local hangouts to staying in hotels, package tours, and museum visits. And rather than purchase guidebooks, I like to read the blogs of locals and expats—and Global Voices, of course—to get a sense of a place before I travel.”

A year ago I was in Italy with a friend, lamenting my choice of shoes. I had packed only running shoes and leather boots, and both were soaked to the core after several days of downpours. Our conversation gave birth to an idea: What if there were a website or app that allowed me to “visit” a country at ground level and see what kind of footwear was appropriate? The site would be curated by locals, and would therefore have the side effect of helping me fit in with local fashion, thus minimizing the chance I’d be labeled a tourist.

A silly idea, perhaps, but the impetus behind it isn’t: Many of my generation don’t want to feel or look like tourists when we travel. This explains the rise of companies like Airbnb, that help you avoid tourist hotels and “live like a local.”

Living abroad for a few years at a young age instilled this desire in me as well. I prefer bunking down in apartments, hanging with locals, and visiting local hangouts to staying in hotels, package tours, and museum visits. And rather than purchase guidebooks, I like to read the blogs of locals and expats—and Global Voices, of course—to get a sense of a place before I travel.

This got me thinking: Are there others out there who use Global Voices as a travel guide of sorts? I had the opportunity to put this  question to several of my GV colleagues at the recent GV Summit. Here’s what they said:

Marianna Breytman, one of our Spanish-to-English translators, told me:

“I always use GV when traveling because I think it's a really great way to see what issues are currently concerning any given region. Most recently I've done it when I visited Panama, Mexico, and Colombia, and I'm planning to do it again before my trip to Turkey in a few weeks.” 

Anna Schetnikova writes for GV in Russian and English. She said:

“I was travelling in Turkey at the time of the recent general elections last summer. And GV was great to use to know about political culture of the country, about different parties and activists and the society, so when I saw posters in the street, I knew what they were about.”

Mohamed ElGohary, GV’s Lingua Translation Coordinator and staff representative on the Board of Directors, recently got married and used GV to research his honeymoon in the Maldives. He said this post factored in his decision-making about which island to visit.

I also posed the question on Twitter: Have you ever used Global Voices to research a place before visiting? Emer Beamer, a social designer and educator based in the Netherlands (and regular GV reader), told me in an e-mail that when she’s looking for “good people” in a certain locale, “Global Voices is a port of call.” When she traveled to Cambodia, she met with three people that she located through GV, and is now working with a GV author on a project.

Beamer told me that she’d love to see GV implement a travel section, and that she would use it to understand “the local work ethic, where to find wifi [and] where the (idea) sharing or counter culture is happening in [a] city.” She said she usually recommends that the researchers she works with check GV before traveling.

Katie Mulloy, who works for UNICEF in Uganda, said that GV is “the logical place to look” for information about a new place, specifically “issues that fly under the radar of the mainstream media.” A seasoned traveler, Mulloy says she’s used the site to research Cambodia, Uganda and Malaysia.

I asked Mulloy to imagine what a Global Voices Travel section might look like. “Most ‘48 hours in X city’ articles are by well-traveled Westerners, for well-traveled Westerners,” she said. “But I’d be keen to know what a South Korean art student would flag as the best things to do in Seoul.”

Ben Valentine is a freelance writer currently living in Cambodia. “As a journalist and as a nerd,” he said, “I want information outside of Lonely Planet [such as] what are the new memes? What are the recent political battles for free speech in these countries? What are bloggers debating now?”

Understanding the perspectives of bloggers and social media users was a recurring theme among the people I spoke to. Moroccan blogger El Mahdi told me that reading GV before traveling gives him “an idea of how people of that country are commenting online in their own words, translated into a language I can understand…” He first used GV to prepare for a trip to Thailand, because he was seeking “things I could read to learn about the country and its culture besides Wikipedia and the clichés we all hear about tourism [there].”

In his e-mail to me, El Mahdi also managed to coin a new term:

“Since [that first trip], GlobalVoicing a country [has become] among the usual things I did before a travel, in addition of course to Googling and Wikipedi-ying the country, especially when I do not speak the country's language.”

 

by Jillian C. York at March 04, 2015 08:39 PM

As Floods Inundate Madagascar, Government Is Slow to Provide Relief
Pictures of floods in the Antananarivo region via twitter user @saveoursmile  with permission

Pictures of floods in the Antananarivo region via Twitter user @saveoursmile with permission

Locusts, plague, waste disposal issues, famine and now floods. Madagascar has been going through extremely difficult times, but none of that has shaken the morale of Malagasy people, just as the country’s stagnant economy hasn’t prevented its people from innovating and creating.

Antananarivo and other towns in the area have been on high alert following the floods that hit the region after torrential rains. The flooding reached tragic proportions on 26 February, when one of the dykes surrounding the capital burst. Other dykes subsequently collapsed, causing extensive damage throughout the region.

Residents, who have already had to endure the unrelenting dilapidation of the roads, are left wondering what new challenges they are going to have to face.

Official authorities report that as of March 3, 20 people have died, at least 41,581 people had their home affected by the floods, and 71,854 people have been displaced. 

Floods in Antananarivo posted by @MiranaPriscilla on twitter (with her permission)

Floods in Antananarivo posted by @MiranaPriscilla on Twitter (used with her permission)

The government has already received a fair amount of criticism for suggesting that residents should use public transport to solve the traffic problems caused by the state of the roads. Now there are delays in disaster relief and the government does not seem to have any suggestions. While waiting, residents have been documenting the damage caused by the floods with hashtags such as #tondradrano and #madaflood

Le Sud de la capitale dévasté par les eaux via page facebook L'Express

The south of the capital devastated by floods via L’Express Facebook page

A video by Global Voices editor Avylavitra shows the extent of the rising floodwaters in the capital Ankadimbahoaka. Click on the screen capture to watch on YouTube:

tondradrano video

Avylavitra added that his own house was affected by this disaster:

N'ose même pas prendre en photo ma maison qui s'est effondrée pendant la pluie d'avant-hier. putaiiiiiiiiiiin! ‪#‎Madagascar‬ ‪#‎madaflood‬ ‪#‎madadobodrano‬ ‪#‎tondradrano‬

Dare not even take a photo of my house, which collapsed in the rain the day before yesterday. Daaamn! ‪#‎Madagascar‬ ‪#‎madaflood‬ ‪#‎madadobodrano‬ ‪#‎tondradrano‬

Another dramatic video by John Radriarimalala posted on Facebook shows the rising flood waters in the town of Ampanefy:

tondradrano video2

As does this one by Mbolatahina Raharijaona taken from the centre of the town:

tondradrano video 3

Tsimok'i Gasikara's blog describes the state of alert of the people living near the dykes:

C’est l’Atsimondrano (Sud de Tana) qui est actuellement la plus touchée. Les secouristes font appel à la solidarité de tous pour apporter leur aide, preuve que les secours sont insuffisants. C’est donc le chaos total qui règne dans la ville voire même dans tout le pays. La population qui est livrée à elle-même au milieu des ordures qui n’ont pas été ramassées depuis belle lurette, les habitations inondées, les routes défoncées et pour couronner le tout, le prix des PPN qui flambe. Le pays se noie entièrement au sens propre comme au sens figuré !

Currently, Atsimondrando (southern Tana) is the worst affected area. Rescue workers are calling for everyone to show solidarity in providing assistance, which indicates that the response so far has been inadequate. So there is a state of total chaos in the town, indeed the whole country. People have been left to fend for themselves amidst rubbish that hasn’t been collected for ages, flooded homes, rough roads, and on top of all that, the price of basic essentials is soaring. The country is going under completely, in both the literal and figurative senses of the word!

Although the inventory of damage is far from complete, photos of the buildings in the capital speak for themselves. In the Isotry district via Tahina Rakotomanarivo:

Quartier Isotry par Tahina

Isotry district by Tahina

In Ankadilalalana, where an entire family perished under the rubble of a house, via Amirale Ernest:

Bâtiment délabré à Antananarivo via Amirale Ernest

Dilapidated building in Antananarivo via Amirale Ernest

This photo illustrates the state of disrepair of the region’s roads:

route delabrée via Andry sur Facebook

Devastated road via Andry on Facebook

It may well be that in the short term, residents will have no one to rely on but themselves to overcome these obstacles. But it is becoming quite urgent for the displaced population that national solidarity for rescue and recovery get started as soon as possible. 

by Elizabeth Tamblin at March 04, 2015 04:20 PM

“No Blood For Vanity!” Hong Kong Animal Right Activists Protest the Fur Fair
More than 100 animal rights activists protested against fur fair on February 25, 2015. Photo from Che Siaoyang Facebook.

More than 100 animal rights activists protested against fur fair on February 25, 2015. Photo from Che Siaoyang Facebook.

As a gigantic shopping center of extravagant goods for mainland China's noveau riche, Hong Kong is a “premier global fur trade center” and the city's annual International Fur and Fashion Fair, according to the Hong Kong Fur Federation, is the most significant event in the world for fur lovers.

This year, the fair was held from February 25 to 28 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, with local pop stars and government officials attending the opening ceremony. The occasion also attracted more than 100 animal rights activists protesting the industry's cruelty against animals.

Fur fashion is ecological, the advertisement claimed. Photo from HK animal post.

Fur fashion is ecological, the advertisement claimed. Photo from HK animal post.

The protesters displayed photos of dead animals and anti-fur slogans such as “No blood for vanity” and “No more fur trade” while picketing the exhibition center. In response, representatives of the fur industry took out an advertisement in local newspapers to promote the idea that their business is “ecological.”

Mark Mak, one of the protest's organizers, argued on Inmediahk.net against the industry's hypocrisy:

動保和皮草工業的人是一定對立的,根本不存在任何妥協的空間。 […] 原來他們想嘗試做說客,說服我們香港的皮草業是何等人道[...] 而他們也是很愛動物的。
皮草業的朋友也愛動物,此話實在驚天地泣鬼神。其說法是,他們為了保護瀕臨絕種的野生動物如雪地的銀孤,堅決不會用捕捉回來的動物作皮草,他們的皮毛全都是來自養殖場,即是自己養的動物自己殺,自己殺了的動物自己用。 啊! 這就是他們所說的「愛護動物,保護生態」! […] 他們亦解釋,坊間流傳的「活剝皮草」絕對不會出現在香港毛皮業協會。 他們出售的所有制品都有歐洲的一級認證,由品質到制作過程都有嚴格監控,不可能有虐待動物的情況出現。
我先退一步,完全相信這個說法。 但就可以合理化「謀皮害命」的行為嗎?而且謀皮,只是為了炫耀,不是為了求存,那不是很缺德的行為嗎? 再說,即管香港的皮毛業較為人道,但在中國內地將動物活剝生扑是人所共知的事實,香港人消費中的皮毛很大部份都是來自內地的, 而香港毛皮業協會每年搞個大型的皮草展,將使用皮毛等同為時尚的潮流,你不就是最大的幫兇嗎?

There is no space for any compromise between animal rights and the fur industry. […] They tried to persuade us that the fur industry in Hong Kong is very humane, green and that they love animals.

It is shocking to me that the fur industry can claim themselves animal lovers. They argue that they would not use captured animals for harvesting fur, in order to protect near-extinct wild animals such as silver fox. All their furs come from farms, which means they kill their own animal for their own use. Gosh! This is what they called “Love animal and being ecological” […] They also explained they would not skin animals alive, as their products have attained Grade-A certification in Europe, which means the quality and production process are monitored for potential abuse of the animals.

Let me take one step backward and accept their account as fact. Can we then justify the fact that they are killing for fur? And it's purely for vanity rather than survival. Isn't that immoral? Moreover, even if Hong Kong's fur industry is more humane, we all know that most of the fur products in Hong Kong come from mainland China. Every year, the Fur Federation holds this grand fur fair to promote the idea that fur is fashionable, but isn't [such marketing] assisting the inhumane killing?

Indeed, Hong Kong's fur industry caters mostly to those seeking luxury items, though cheap fur products from mainland China, where the industry isn't monitored closely, have flooded Hong Kong's local market. 

The Facebook group Say No to Cheap Fur pointed out that cheap furs also come from real animals:

「我呢件衫花園街平價貨嚟啫,點會用到真皮草?真動物毛?」
NoNoNo!可能好多人都有此想法,但原來真動物毛無處不在,衣領上、髮飾上、鞋上的毛毛,十幾蚊到幾百蚊,都絕大機會含有平價動物毛。平價皮草的受害者包括兔、浣熊、甚至貓、狗!買一次毛毛衣飾,動物都要承受致死的痛苦。
消費主義下,fast fashion充斥,商人刻意隱瞞產品的製造過程,尤其是藉剝判工人或動物的真相。
平價皮草製造過程十分殘酷。美國「善待動物組織」(PETA)公開了安哥拉兔養殖場片段,工人把兔子四足綁起後用人手扯毛、或電擊後連皮活剝,令兔子表皮紅腫流血!三個月後,當兔子重新長毛,便要再次受刑!可憐的兔子!

“[If] my clothes come from Garden Street [a bargain shopping area], how can they use real animal fur?”

NoNoNo! Many people believe so [that cheap fur isn't real fur]. The fact is that real animal fur is everywhere, on the collars of coats, on hair clips, on shoes. The price ranges from ten to a few hundred Hong Kong dollars [$2-100]. The victims of cheap furs are rabbits, raccoons, and even cats and dogs. Every time you buy fur, animals suffer from pain until they die.

Consumption culture gives rise to fast fashion and the businessmen hide the exploitative production process from the public.

The production of cheap fur is very cruel. The US-based organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a video on the breeding farm of Angora rabbits, depicting workers tying up rabbits’ feet, and pulling off their fur or skinning them alive. The rabbits were bleeding. Three months later, the poor rabbits had to undergo the same torture again.

Raccoon fur is sold for RMB 18 online. Photo from Facebook group, "No to Cheap Fur".

Raccoon fur is sold for RMB 18 online. Photo from Facebook group, “No to Cheap Fur”.

The group also captured image of fur products from the online shopping platform Taobao showing that most of the cheap fur products in China are not artificial furs but from real animals:

看看受害動物貉子的毛色,與不少大䄛衣領上的毛色十分相似。我們關注小隊更在淘寶網發現真貉子皮毛衣飾,只售人民幣18元!18元背後卻是可愛貉子被商人殘忍活剝的真相。少買一件毛毛衫,讓貉子脫離痛苦!

Look at the color of the raccoon's fur—it's very similar to the color of the fur in the collars of many coats. Our team found out from Taobao that the decorative raccoon fur is sold for only RMB 18 [approximately $3]! The lovely animal is skinned alive only for RMB 18! No fur! And free the raccoons from pain!

PETA's report on China's fur Industry in 2010 pointed out:

There are no penalties for abusing animals on fur farms in China, which is the world’s largest fur exporter, supplying more than half of the finished fur garments imported for sale in the United States.

by Oiwan Lam at March 04, 2015 03:03 AM

March 03, 2015

Global Voices
A Move to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage in Japan Reveals Hidden Prejudices
東京プライドパレードの様子。FlickrユーザーのDavid Martín Clavoにより2011年に撮影されたもの。

2011 Pride Parade in Tokyo by Flickr user David Martín Clavo. Usage rights: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A municipality in Tokyo has drafted a statute that proposes issuing long-term same-sex couples certificates, which will recognize these relationships as equivalent to marriage. Tokyo's Shibuya Ward assembly will debate the statute for ratification in March.

If the statute is passed it will be the first time same-sex unions will be recognized in Japan. Same-sex couples in Japan do not enjoy equal rights when renting apartments and other places to live, and are often denied visiting rights when their partner is hospitalized. Same-sex couples are denied visiting rights because they are not considered to be family members.

In Japan, municipalities play an important role in overseeing and administering family registries. According to the draft statute, residents of Shibuya Ward aged 20 and over, who are in long term same-sex relationships, will be entitled to receive a “Certificate of Partnership.”

Legal hurdles

According to some commentators including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Shibuya's new statute may be unconstitutional and violate Article 24, which states: ”marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”

Before Article 24 was passed, under Japan's pre-war constitution, women needed to seek approval of their head of household, when getting married, and they did not have the right to initiate divorce. In 1947, Article 24 was passed with the intention to rectify this inequality between the sexes. 

The movement

Setagaya, Tokyo's largest ward, is also moving to legalize same-sex partnerships. Setagaya has already moved to create a LGBT-friendly coming of age ceremony. Japanese youth achieve the age of majority at age 20, and are feted each January across the country at ceremonies hosted by municipal governments.

Nobuto Hosaka, the mayor of Setagaya, who has longed campaigned for progressive causes, spoke in support of same-sex unions at a ward assembly meeting in September 2014:

At a (Setagaya) assembly meeting in September I spoke in support of same-sex unions. As well this past spring during policy discussions I expressed my intent to respect sexual diversity and protect rights for sexual minorities. ["Setagaya Ward follows Shibuya in intent to protect rights for same-sex couples." - Asahi Shimbun]

Many have voiced their support for Hosaka's intent to speak at LGBT-friendly coming of age ceremonies each year, and  continue to see him as a voice that supports sexual minorities.

Thank you Mayor Hosaka for speaking at LGBT-friendly coming of age ceremonies! We appreciate your speech about “How a truly a great society does not attempt to hide diversity.” We are looking forward to collaborating with you in the future. - @2assam (Japanese marriage equality campaigner)

The efforts to create a supportive environment for Japan's LGBT community has answered the concerns of Setagaya Ward councillor Aya Kamikawa, the first openly transgender person to seek or win elected office in Japan.

Kamikawa identified as living with a gender identity disorder when she first campaigned and was elected to Setagaya's assembly in 2003.

She learned in 2012 that Shibuya Ward was considering protecting the rights of its LGBT community. In 2014 Kawakami posed the question to Setagaya mayor Hosaka: isn't there some way we can protect the rights of the LGBT community too?

Hosaka replied that he would help work towards this goal.

While pride parades have become a common sight in Tokyo, many in the LGBT community are asking why homosexuality and existence of sexual minorities are never acknowledged by Japanese society. There is still little awareness or even interest by Japanese society regarding LGBT issues.

The debate

So, the efforts of Setagaya and Shibuya to recognize same sex couples generated tremendous discussion online in Japan. Many people who are participating in online discussions approve of same sex marriage and the concept of a “Certificate of Partnership.”

While there is still lively debate about the pros and cons of recognizing same sex partnerships, many are appreciative of Shibuya and Setagaya's policy initiative:  

Shibuya's plans to recognize same sex relationships is a great idea! While there are some people who feel uncomfortable with the concept of homosexuality, if you can get over it you would realize that loving another person is a fundamental part of being human. There is nothing wrong with it at all… This is one small step forward towards happiness!

There are some who are opposed:

What do you think about Shibuya's plan to provide a Certificate of Partnership for same sex couples? It's totally gross. Homosexuals are defective biological organisms. By certifying gay marriage all you are doing is confirming their failure as human beings. What they ought to do is go and create some place just for gays and lesbians. After a few years they will all disappear.

Still others were not overtly opposed to gay marriage, but did express their disquiet with the concept:

While I am not opposed to recognizing same sex couples, it still feels pretty unnatural and gross.

While people freely express their views in favor or opposition to same sex partnerships, there were criticisms that the naysayers weren't basing their opinion on anything but emotion:

While I am not not necessarily opposed to those who themselves opposed to recognizing same sex unions, I do wish these people would provide reasons for why they are so opposed. Saying “gay marriage is gross” or “it's strange” is the same thing as rejecting the basic humanity of these people. 

Other commenters think that the initiative by Shibuya and Setagaya will worsen the problem of Japan's declining birth rate. However, yet other commenters respond that, since the declining birth rate has existed in Japan even when traditional marriages were the only game in town, it's save to say that recognizing same sex unions will have no effect whatsoever.

Some people are saying that Shibuya Ward's decision to recognize same sex partnerships will speed up population decline, and that recognizing the rights of the LGBT community will mean fewer women will have children. Do these people actually understand what they are saying? They don't make any sense at all!

Even though not all traditionally married couples have children, and even though the declining birthrate is a completely separate issue, I have now idea why it is being brought up in this this context. If we refuse to recognize same sex unions, will that reverse Japan's population decline?

And the discussion is even being debated in families: 

When my mom saw a same sex couple on TV she said it was “gross,” and she has felt really uncomfortable about it before. However my brother, an elementary school student said, “Do people who love each other always have to be men and women? You had better give up such illogical thinking.” I thought that was really great.

When Shibuya's decision to recognize same sex partnerships came on the news my mother and sister said, “Gross, aren't they embarrassed to be on TV?” I told them that I thought *they* were gross and embarrassing.

It seems families were arguing about the issue even before the movement to officially recognize same sex unions became a hot topic. Below are two tweets from 2014 that illustrate the same debate.

Earlier a same sex couple (two guys) came on TV. My family saw them and said they were gross. “That's it,” I thought. They're bigots. My family. Pathetic. I felt pretty bad.

My family were watching TV and a foreign gay couple came on. My parents said they could never understand how they could do it, it was just gross. I wondered if they would say the same thing if I were a lesbian. But that's what they really felt. All I can say is that I wish same sex couples the best!

Looking at the debate on Twitter over the proposed new ordinances in Setagaya and Shibuya wards, it doesn't seem as though there are many well thought-out reasons for opposing recognition of same sex partnerships.

At the same time, despite vocal opposition, there are calls that all of Japan should change based on Setagaya and Shibuya's pioneering efforts to recognize same sex partnerships.

A lot of people on my timeline saying that Shibuya's decision to recognize same sex marriage is “gross” or “disgusting,” which is really too bad. However, this is an opportunity to change things for the better in Japan.

by Nevin Thompson at March 03, 2015 05:36 PM

John Legend Tells Bahrain's Peaceful Protesters: I Stand With You
Screen shot 2015-03-03 at 6.24.55 PM

“Thank you Bahrain! I enjoyed performing for you. Full text of my remarks during “Glory” can be found here: http://showmecampaign.org/news/”. Posted on John Legend's official Instagram account (@johnlegend) on Mar 2, 2015.

Despite some activists calling for John Legend to cancel his visit, because of Bahrain's deplorable human rights record, the award-winning American singer performed to a sold-out crowd of 2000 people at a cultural event hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain on Monday night. 

Legend addressed critic concerns right before performing his award-winning song Glory from the film Selma. The film is based on the historic 1965 march in Alabama, led by American civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Legend said: 

A just society is one built not on fear or repression or vengeance or exclusion, but one built on love [...] We continue to fight in America to move toward this just society and we pray the same for the people of Bahrain. And for those who stand for justice, accountability, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom to organize without fear of retribution, please know that I stand with you.

The concert at the historic open-air Arad Fort in the capital was “guarded by anti-riot police vehicles outside the entrance”.

Bahrain's “Spring of Culture” events are hosted by the government of Bahrain every year. According to an investigation commission set-up by the King, while the government has been hosting these events it is also responsible for destroying centuries-old cultural monuments in Bahrain.

In the past, artists like the famous Arab composer Marcel Khalifa have boycotted the Spring of Culture in protest of the killing of unarmed civilians in Bahrain.

The small island country of 1.3 million people has been witnessing a brutal crackdown following a popular uprising in 2011. Activists have been torturedkilled or imprisoned. The country's majority Shia population are being systematically repressed.

Two opposition members who participated in conversations with the government were arrested in the last two months. Dozens of Bahraini bloggers, journalists and opposition leaders have had their citizenship stripped. 

Before arriving in Bahrain, John Legend published this statement:

Often, the best way to drive progress is to show up and participate in the conversation.
Part of my mission in life is to spread love and joy to people all over the world. I intend to do just that in Bahrain, regardless of my disagreements with some of their governments’ policies and actions

Many activists were skeptical whether Legend would even mention Bahrain on stage. Academic researcher and activist Ala'a Shehabi tweeted:

The press officer at Human Rights Watch Jan Kooy tweeted:

Many critics were surprised by Legend remarks before singing his award winning single “Glory”. Here's the full text of his speech: 

When I spoke at the Oscars last week, I quoted one of my favorite artists, American musician Nina Simone. She said that, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.” So I feel that it’s part of my job to express myself freely and passionately about issues I care about. I walk in the footsteps of so many great artists who came before me who did just that.

When you look at me, you may see the international superstar John Legend, but I am also the descendant of slaves. My grandparents and even my parents were born in a country where many of our schools were legally segregated, where many people who looked like me couldn’t vote and couldn’t expect to have the opportunities for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that were supposed to be the promise of America.

But we fought for change. I wrote this song “Glory” for a film called Selma. That film depicts the epic struggle for civil rights, justice and equality led by Dr. Martin Luther King 50 years ago. We haven’t achieved all of the goals that Dr. King fought for. We still have a long way to go. But we continue to have hope and we continue to march forward. We believe that change is possible because we have seen it happen before. Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

A just society is one built not on fear or repression or vengeance or exclusion, but one built on love. Love for our families. Love for our neighbors. Love for the least among us. Love for those who look different or worship differently. Love for those we don’t even know.

We continue to fight in America to move toward this just society and we pray the same for the people of Bahrain. And for those who stand for justice, accountability, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom to organize without fear of retribution, please know that I stand with you.

The struggle may not be easy. Some have already paid the ultimate sacrifice to make this vision a reality. But I believe there is a brighter future ahead. And, one day when the glory comes, it will be ours…

After John Legend finished his concert in Bahrain, news of yet another African American shot by the police in Los Angeles started circulating, and in Bahrain another detained woman started a hunger strike. Human rights activist Sayed Yousif tweeted:

The detainee Jaleela Alsayed Amin has started a hunger strike in protest to denying her visitation rights

by Mohamed Hassan at March 03, 2015 02:29 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Iran Wants to Befriend Google
Image remixed by author.

Image remixed by author.

Iran has a habit of blocking, unblocking and sometimes re-blocking Google platforms inside the country.

Google does not maintain physical infrastructure inside Iran, nor is there a google.ir domain. But Iran's Ministry of ICT announced today that they are willing to open a new chapter in the country's tumultuous relationship with the Internet giant and allow Google to operate inside Iran, as long as the company respects its “cultural conditions”. This announcement did not clarify what the conditions were, nor what the scope of Google's operations inside Iran might be. 

This Sunday Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology Nasrallah Jahangard told Fars News Agency (an ”independent news agency” according to their own website, but one that is viewed as a “semi-official” news agency of the state):

We don't oppose all those people who are in the international market and want to provide services in Iran, and we are ready to hold negotiations with them for their service providing in the Iranian market after accepting Iran's cultural conditions…Also, we are ready to provide Google or any other company with Iran's possibilities and facilities for service providing to the region.

In addition to lacking an Iranian domain, Google has had its affiliated platforms subjected to censorship over the years.

YouTube, Google's wholly owned video-sharing website was first blocked in 2006 for immoral content after a popular video featuring an Iranian soap opera star surfaced there. The block was later lifted but reinstated after the 2009 presidential elections.

The controversy over the Innocence of Muslims trailer in 2012 also led the government to temporarily block Gmail. Currently Gmail is accessible in Iran, while YouTube remains blocked.

The deputy minister acknowledged the strictures placed on the government when negotiating with foreign companies due to the US-backed international sanctions on the country, but said they were in negotiations with non-US companies over “imminent operations in Iran.” In May of 2013, the US removed communications sanctions on Iran, allowing for the sale of American communications equipment, fee-based software and instant messaging services. It was only in August 2013 that Google allowed its Google Play store to operate inside Iran. 

Google is no stranger to tenuous operating conditions. Originally the company complied with China's tight censorship regulations, much to the chagrin of digital rights advocates, but it changed tack after large scale China-originated hacks on the company and its Gmail accounts upset the relationship between the pair in 2010. 

Immediately following the hacks, Google redirected its Chinese operations to Hong Kong from the domain google.cn to google.com.hk, which is not subject to Chinese censorship and surveillance. 

Announcements from Iran's Telecommunications Infrastructure Company (TCI) also indicated that Iran wanted to initiate formal relations with the company as early as October 2013. The managing director of TCI announced that they were ready to start hosting data centers where Google and Yahoo would store information from their Iranian-based clients, much like they do in countries such as Turkey.

by Mahsa Alimardani at March 03, 2015 07:40 AM

Global Voices
Children Having Children: No School for Young Brides in Nepal
Girls from Newar community wearing traditional wedding dresses take part in Bael Bibaha, a practice where a girl is wed to a bael fruit, representing one of the gods, before her marriage. Image by  Nabin Baral. Copyright Demotix (3/12/2011)

Girls from Newar community wearing traditional wedding dresses take part in Bael Bibaha, a practice where a girl is wed to a bael fruit. Its not child marriage, but a traditional ritual which symbolises that once they are married (as adults), they will never become widows because they have been married to a symbol of god (the fruit) as children. Copyright Demotix (3/12/2011)

Child- parents are a harsh reality in South Asia where child marriage remains rampant despite efforts by governments and civil society to combat it. In this environment, it is particularly girls who suffer being trapped in a cycle of poverty through a sudden end to their education, trapping the next generation of children they have, in a similar fate.

Last year, 4,000 brides in Nepal were younger than 15-years-old, despite the fact that the legal age for marriage for both girls and boys is 18 with parental consent and 20 without consent.

Mainly affecting the most historically marginalized class, the dalits, (also known as ‘the untouchables’ for their position in the dying Hindu caste system), child marriage is often conducted in secret; part-ritual and part economic necessity, in the southern lowland belt of the country known as the Terai. In some of eastern Terai's districts data from 2012 shows that more than half of marriages involve girls under the age of 12.

A childhood lost 

Once married, child brides must immediately grapple with adult responsibilities imposed on them by their communities. Procreation — despite the fact they are not physically or emotionally ready — is a key expectation.

According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), when a young under-age bride gets pregnant, her risks of dying during childbirth are five times higher rate than a girl in her twenties.

After mothering children, it is highly unlikely that she will have the chance to resume her education, leaving her at the mercy of illiteracy, physical and emotional abuse, and poverty.

According to a 2014 report by the Global Partnership for Education, in Nepal the female literacy rate is only 57%, compared to 75% for men, largely due to a high dropout rate at schools in the country. Moreover, research indicates that girls who marry before their 15th birthday have three or more children compared to women aged between 20 and 24.

One of the main reasons girls are married young is related to their dowry, or the price that they are required to pay to the groom’s family.

As a girl gets older and more educated, her dowry price increases. Indeed, with prices ranging from US$200 to $20,000, depending on the age of the bride and her qualifications, poor parents are dis-incentivised from sending their daughters to school. Her in-laws, themselves illiterate, will at any rate force her to focus on household chores. This explains why some experts have argued that the best way to combat the practice would be by prosecuting families, but law might be difficult to enforce in areas where the state's reach is limited.

Escaping is hard. But some, like the kidnapped 13-year old dalit child who was both courageous and lucky, are able to return to school.

Boys also suffer. Shashank Bengali, the Los Angeles Times’ South Asia correspondent, explains that child marriage is a popular way of controlling the sexuality of boys and getting rid of them in large families.

By the age of 13, many cross the border into India to find work as migrant laborers, leaving their wives and children at home to fend for themselves.

Breaking a cycle

With the effects of the practice well-documented, many question an apparent lack of progress in combating this practice:

The Nepali government and civic campaigners have attempted to tackle the dowry system:

These efforts are stymied by other realities such as the fact that schools are overloaded with children, not to mention often very far from villages, making the option of going to school difficult.

But there is hope.

Since 2009, schools through grade ten have been made free for girls. This has given rise to unexpected stories such as girls gaining empowerment through playing football or by actually being the initiators of their own marriages.

Some observe the rise of a ‘dating’ scene made possible by the penetration of hindi Bollywood culture and mobile phones:

Adolescents who work as advocates in Nepal’s western region suggest that in a patriarchal society such as Nepal, empowering girls to create change is more relevant than ever:

To stop the practice of child marriage however, will require much more effort:

In November of 2014, governments in the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) followed up on an August 2014 adoption of a Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage with a Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in Asia.

These plans support the specific target of ending child marriage through the use of the rule of law and legal strategies that promote accountability for ending child marriage.

It is hoped that these new steps will have a strong impact.

This last tweet leaves us with hope that no matter how old a person, a fresh outlook is always possible:

by Saprina Panday at March 03, 2015 12:03 AM

March 02, 2015

Creative Commons
CC Malaysia, where are we now? A mixtape, open data and more

CC Malaysia Album Cover Art
CC Malaysia Mixtape 2015 by Muid Latif under CC BY NC ND

A guest post by CC Malaysia Lead, Muid Latif.

In the recent years, Malaysia has been more active in adopting open culture. Local mainstream media has provided a continuous platform for Creative Commons Malaysia to reach out to Malaysians in promoting CC, and both government and the community have been proactive in spearheading interesting online projects for everyone’s benefit.

For example, last December I had the chance to approach several local musicians and producers who are familiar with Creative Commons licenses on SoundCloud to find out if they were keen to have their music under a CC license. It was great to see that local musicians are very supportive of CC and how it empowers their works. This resulted in the release of CC Malaysia’s very own Creative Commons Malaysia Mixtape 2015. Inspired by this year’s World CC Mixtape, the Malaysia collection features 12 tracks from eight artists: the notable DJ Rezabudculture, Space Gambus Experiment, Metahingaq, NERO ONE, Z-1, Zam Nayan, Ugendran and Mohammad Yazid. The tracks are mostly uptempo or experimental. Listen to it here.

Our community also wants to play a greater role in open data. One of the biggest outcomes from this is Sinar Project, a mainly volunteer-run organisation which uses open technology and applications to make government information–such as budget expenditure and assets of those holding political office and parliamentary bills–public and more accessible to the Malaysian people. The Sinar project won a 2014 Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) Award, under the “Rights” category (see more here). The Malaysian government has also taken the initiative to progress open data by setting up www.data.gov.my as well as adopting Big Data Analytics (BDA) mandates to the Ministry of Communication, the Multimedia, Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) and Multimedia Development Corporate (MDeC).

In this context, I have recently had the chance to contact the founder of the Big Data Malaysia network, Tirath Ramdas, about his view on open data here in Malaysia and concerns about citizen engagement. He thinks that open data is not a one way street. Any investment into open data from government will be a waste of taxpayer funds if the Malaysians do not make productive use of the data released. Raising general awareness of open data is therefore be highly important at this point in time. With this in mind, MDeC and Tentspark, an IT solutions provider, recently launched the National Big App Challenge to stress the importance of big data analytics in solving Malaysia’s challenges related to national issues and societal well-being.

In the near future, we would love to see Malaysia join the Open Government Partnership (OGP), following the Big Data Analytics Framework goal to have the framework ready by the end of this year and in line with the Digital Malaysia 354 Roadmap (DM354 Roadmap). With increased focus on sharing by both the government and private citizens, there seems to be a good chance for this to happen.

by Jessica Coates at March 02, 2015 11:56 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Did a Brazilian Judge Try to Use Marco Civil to Shut Down WhatsApp Across the Country?
Court order wants whatsapp to shut down

Court order wants WhatsApp to shut down

A Brazilian state court annulled a decision by a municipal judge to suspend WhatApp across the country. Appeals court judge Raimundo Nonato da Costa Alencar, from the Justice Court of the state of Piauí, claimed a nationwide suspension of the messaging application is not ‘reasonable'. His sentence, published on February 26, says:

A suspensão de serviços afeta milhões de pessoas em prol de investigação local. A princípio, independentemente do teor da ordem descumprida, em hipótese alguma se justifica a interrupção de acesso a todo o serviço.

The suspension of the service affects millions of people for the sake of a local investigation. In principle, regardless of the degree of WhatsApp's failure to comply with the requests, in no way it justifies the interruption of the whole service.

On February 11, Brazilian municipal judge Luiz de Moura Correia, from the city of Teresina, capital of Piauí state, issued a court order demanding that Internet service providers and mobile network operators throughout the country temporarily suspend the messaging application WhatsApp. 

The order gave the companies 24 hours to shut the app down, and stated that WhatsApp has been refusing to collaborate with police investigations related to crimes involving children and teenagers.  

Two companies, Claro and Embratel, filed an appeal to which the state judge later complied.

The Marco Civil connection

WhatsApp had not been suspended and kept working normally in Brazil, but the judge's initial decision went viral. The hashtag #SemWhatsAppEu (#WithoutWhatsApp) made the worldwide trending topics on Twitter on February 26. According to Topsy, a social analytics service, the hashtag was tweeted about 25K times in 4 days. 

‘Zueira’ (the fun) has no limits. #WithoutWhatsAppI (the photo caption says: After the Piauí judge's demand of suspending WhatsApp, Mark Zuckerberg, owner of Facebook and WhatsApp, said he would buy the state of Piauí. The value is being negotiated with president Dilma.

#WithoutWhatsAppI hahaha not.

Kátia Esteves, the chief of the police branch for the protection of children and adolescents in Teresina, said the court order was based on the Marco Civil bill, which Internet experts consider to be the best existing civil-rights based law for the Internet in the world. Esteves told reporters last week:

Com o Marco Civil da Internet, basta que o serviço esteja sendo oferecido no Brasil – e ele está sendo oferecido – e ter representante no país para que possa ser suspenso. No caso, o representante no Brasil do Whatsapp, apesar de ser uma empresa americana, é o Facebook.

With the Marco Civil law, it's only necessary that the service is being offered in Brazil — and it is — and have its representation in Brazil for it to be suspended. In that case, the representation of WhatsApp in Brazil, though it is an American company, is Facebook.

Marco Civil is the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet, a law that establishes rules on internet neutrality, privacy, data retention and intermediary liability, amongst other issues. It was sanctioned by President Dilma Rousseff in April 2014.

Experts in Internet law Dennis Antonialli, Francisco Brito Cruz and Mariana Giorgetti Valente published an article on their blog Deu nos Autos, hosted by newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo's website, where they explained the Marco Civil connection:

O Marco Civil da Internet, lei aplicável neste caso, possibilita sanções a empresas estrangeiras de Internet que se recusem a cumprir a legislação brasileira em seu artigo 12. Dentre as sanções possíveis, está a suspensão temporária das atividades – e até mesmo a sua proibição. Mas essa é a penalidade mais drástica que pode ser adotada. Outras alternativas seriam advertência e multa (que pode chegar até 10% do faturamento do grupo econômico no Brasil).

Fica a discussão se a medida adotada pelo juiz foi proporcional. Apesar do descumprimento de uma ordem judicial configurar um fato grave e que deve ser reprimido, deve-se levar em conta o prejuízo que uma ordem deste tipo pode causar a milhões de brasileiros.

Marco Civil, the applicable law in this case, allows sanctions to foreign internet companies who refuse to comply with Brazilian legislation (in its 12th article). Among the possible sanctions, there is a temporary suspension of its activities — even its prohibition. But this is the most drastic penalty that could be imposed. Other alternatives are warnings and fines (that could be up to 10% of the company's revenue in Brazil).

What follows is the discussion of whether the judge's ruling is proportional. The failure to comply with court orders is serious and should be reprimanded, but one should remember the losses an order of this kind could cause to millions of Brazilians.

However, Paulo Rená, director of the Beta Institute for Internet and Democracy and manager of a project of the Marco Civil bill, has a different opinion. He told Global Voices over email:

Na minha leitura, o Art. 12, mesmo quando prevê suspensão e proibição, não chega ao ponto de autorizar que a ordem judicial seja direcionada aos provedores de conexão. Em uma analogia grotesca, seria como uma ordem judicial ordenando às empresas de perdágio que impedissem os ônibus urbano de circular por um bairro xis no qual houve uma série de crimes dentro de alguns veículos coletivos. A empresa de pedágio não se submetem, ao meu ver, às sanções aplicáveis às empresas de ônibus. Já seria bizarro o suficiente determinar a proibição da circulação de ônibus, mas envolver uma terceira categoria de empresas ultrapassa a questão.

In my reading, Article 12, even though it provides for suspension and prohibition, doesn't go to the point of authorizing that the court order to be directed to internet providers. In a perhaps grotesque analogy, it will be like a court order forbidding toll collecting companies to forbid urban buses to circulate through a determined neighborhood where crimes inside buses have happened. The toll companies are not subject to the applicable sanctions to bus companies. It will be bizarre enough to demand the prohibition of bus circulation, but to involve a different category of companies in it surpasses the issue.

Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and has a Brazilian office, said it wouldn't comment because under its contract the social network company is not legally responsible for the messaging service.

Similar cases

In 2007, a São Paulo state court demanded that YouTube take down from its website an intimate video of actress Daniela Cicarelli and her partner. Since YouTube claimed it would be impossible to prevent the republications of the video, the court decided to block the website in Brazil, which affected millions of people. YouTube remained inaccessible for about 24 hours. The legal strategy was the same: the judge demanded internet providers to block traffic to YouTube's servers.

A different strategy was used for blocking the Secret app last year. The app, which is meant to share personal secrets anonymously, was being systematically used to bully, with users sharing names and intimate information of other people. In this case, the blockade was directed to app stores (Apple Store and Google Play) rather than through mobile operators. For the Secret app, the legality of the application itself was put in question, as anonymity is forbidden by the Brazilian Constitution. The app also didn't have terms and conditions available in Portuguese, which also contradicts the Brazilian Code of Consumer Defense.

At that time, the state judge responsible for the ruling wrote in his sentence:

“A liberdade de expressão não constitui um direito absoluto, sendo inúmeras as hipóteses em que o seu exercício entra em conflito com outros direitos fundamentais ou bens jurídicos coletivos constitucionalmente tutelados, que serão equacionados mediante uma ponderação de interesses, de modo a garantir o direito à honra, privacidade, igualdade e dignidade humana e, até mesmo, proteção da infância e adolescência.

Freedom of expression doesn't constitute an absolute right, there are numerous possibilities its exercise can be in conflict with other fundamental rights or other collective legal interests constitutionally provided for, which would be solved by debating interests in order to guarantee the right to honor, privacy, equality, human dignity and, even, protection in childhood and adolescence.

by Jillian York at March 02, 2015 03:53 PM

DML Central
KitHub Designed to Empower Young Innovators
KitHub Designed to Empower Young Innovators Blog Image

KitHub, “creative electronics for young innovators,” is a kit-of-the-month club for young makers, their parents, and their families. It was designed to empower kids and parents who weren’t necessarily close to a physical makerspace, by two women — Tara Tiger Brown and Luz Rivas — who are passionately devoted to maker education, not by an edu-biz conglomerate or VC-founded startup.

Brown has served as an entrepreneur, executive director, technical director and lead product manager for the MacArthur Foundation-supported Connected Learning Alliance, Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC, Born This Way Foundation, Topspin Media, and Microsoft, and is co-founder and chairwoman at LA Makerspace. Rivas, who has a B.S. in electrical engineering from MIT and a master’s in technology in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, founded DIY Girls to bring technology tinkering and learning to Latinas in the Los Angeles area

For $19.95/month, KitHub subscribers can gain knowledge, skills and confidence to “create, experiment, and design creative projects using electronics.” Online support resources and communication channels complement the physical project components. Brown and Rivas aim not just to bring STEAM education to people whose school shop classes closed years ago, but to encourage the kind of thinking that tinkering encourages. When schools and teachers are constrained by the need to teach to the test, the emphasis on getting the right answers displaces the all-important skill of messing around and experimenting with projects that might fail. As maker educators such as Kylie Peppler and Sylvia Libow Martinez have pointed out, debugging failure is at the heart of both coding and electronics. Tinkering thinking focuses on fixing what doesn’t work yet rather than avoiding doing something that might not work.

Informal places, projects, and materials for trying out things that young people might actually have fun doing are springing up. But, not everyone lives near a makerspace, not everyone has the time to bring the kids there regularly. KitHub makes it easy for parents, teachers, and students to connect concrete capabilities — making physical objects light up, make sounds, move, sense, react — with theories of how electrons move through circuits. Kit-building has been a staple learning tool for hobbyists for decades. Combining a kit that arrives at your door on a regular basis with online instructions, support, and a communication forum is a path to knowledge that doesn’t depend on schooling — avoiding the fear of failure and lack of time for the kind of play that is also systematic experimentation. In this video, I talk with Brown about what goes into the kits and watch learners unboxing their first kits.


Banner illustration credit: KitHub

by mcruz at March 02, 2015 03:35 PM

March 01, 2015

Global Voices
In Latin America, Gender-Based Violence Against Men Is Little Talked About
Kalighat_Painting_Calcutta_19th_Century_-_Woman_Strinking_Man_With_Broom

Kalighat painting; “Woman Striking Man With Broom” (1875) Unknown artist. Image of the Public Domain

There are numerous types of gender-based violence, but the term usually refers to physical or psychological violence against any person because of gender or the social interpretations assigned to it, something traditionally seen in violence against women. However, gender inequalities can also affect men. Gender based violences happen to men in a very much lower number, and when they do, they're little talked about. This has prompt us to ask, what do these gender-based violence look like? What are the structures behind them? 

It is important to underline the fact that gender based violence is overwhelmingly done to women. When talking about gender-based violence against men, we look at numers that add up to the consequences of inequalities based to the interpretation of human sexes and shouldn't  minimize the gravety of the numbers that affect women. It is also important to point out that putting a light on the cases in which men are affected by this kind of violence does not mean that the violences that are rutinely done to women are less alarming. Some groups have used the Internet to increase the visibility of the conversation about these problems and to open more spaces, something that's not without controversy. For example, British Mankind, an organization that offers support to male victims of domestic violence, circulated a video in early 2014 to highlight social perceptions of violence toward women perpetrated by men, and violence toward men perpetrated by women. The video remains today a source of frenzied discussion. A lot of the comments against these initiatives fear that these campaigns could play against the efforts to fight violence against women.

In Latin America, where traditions encourage big differences in gender roles, the problem of violence against men perpetrated by women is a very complex topic. The figures are based on complaints, and these acts of violence are not commonly reported to the authorities. In this regard, an essay published on the website of the University of Bio Bio in Chile highlights the problem of domestic abuse toward men and how the inequalities prevent their observation:

Actualmente la violencia hacia el varón apenas se consigna, situación que hasta el momento no permite precisar la real magnitud de varones que vivencian esta violencia [...] Dentro del espectro de la violencia intrafamiliar, la que se manifiesta con mayor frecuencia, según investigadores es violencia en la pareja [...] Diversos autores en violencia intrafamiliar, coinciden en lo difícil de trabajar el tema, porque entra la campo de las contradicciones, polarizaciones, conforme se explica la problemática, pero ¿qué pasa con la violencia en la pareja cuando se manifiesta contra lo percibido como común?

Currently violence against men is barely recorded, a situation that so far does not pinpoint the actual magnitude of men who experience this violence [...] According to researchers, intimate partner violence is the most frequent type of abuse within the spectrum of domestic violence [...] Several authors in domestic violence agree that it’s difficult to work on this topic, because it enters the field of contradiction, polarization, as the problem is explained; but, what about intimate partner violence when it manifests as something different than what is perceived as common?

Other terms used to address this topic are domestic or family violence because in many cases the attacks take place within the household, both against men or women. The portal Change the World uses the concept of abused men (hombres maltratados) and exposes some of the complexities of the problem:

Las formas más habituales de maltrato [de mujeres] hacia [hombres] son la humillación, el aislamiento familiar y social, el abuso económico, los celos infundados y la indiferencia afectiva. También el modo de resolución de algunos divorcios puede ser un tipo de violencia psicológica para los hombres, sobre todo, cuando se experimenta una dificultad para mantener los vínculos afectivos con los hijos.

The most common forms of female abuse towards men are humiliation, family and social isolation, economic abuse, unfounded jealousy, and emotional indifference. Also, some types of divorce settlements can be a kind of psychological violence for men, especially when they experience difficulty in maintaining emotional ties with the children.

Other forms of violence

Esther Pineda explains some violent situations, although, according to her, it is hard to recognize them:

Pese a la renuencia de muchos/as por reconocer el hecho de que algunos hombres son víctimas de violencia física, verbal y psicológica a manos de sus parejas mujeres, en el contexto de relaciones sexo-afectivas como el noviazgo, matrimonio o uniones libres, así como, la violencia ejercida contra los hombres por su preferencia sexo-afectiva no heterosexual, estas también son violencia de género.

Despite the reluctance of many to recognize the fact that some men are victims of physical, verbal and psychological violence at the hands of their female partners, in the context of sexual-affective relationships as dating, marriage or civil unions, as well as the violence against men because of their non-heterosexual sexual-affective orientation, these are also types of gender violence.

Through the website administered by Equidad's, a Mexican organization devoted to promote gender equality through policy proposals, Ben Wadham analyzes evidence of violence against men in Mexico, where a certain growth in statistics shows how women´s violence toward men is increasing, although not dramatically. Wadham shows how violence perpetrated by men against men can collaborate with the structure that silences most cases:

El hecho de que la mayor parte de las investigaciones sobre violencia doméstica reporte predominantemente violencia de los hombres contra las mujeres no constituye un ataque personalizado contra los hombres, sino una representación de cómo la violencia masculina amenaza la seguridad de mujeres y hombres. [...] Los hombres que son agredidos por mujeres podrían no reportar estos ataques debido a vergüenza y tensiones con sus ideas sobre la masculinidad, o porque un policía podría reírse de un hombre que reporta violencia pues “un verdadero hombre jamás dejaría que su mujer le pegue”…

The fact that most of the research on domestic violence predominantly reports male violence against women, it is not a personal attack against men, but a representation of how male violence threatens the safety of women and men. [...] Men who are abused by women may not report these attacks due to shame and tensions with ideas they have about masculinity, or because a policeman could laugh at a man who reported violence because “a real man would never let her woman hit him.”

And from a personal perspective, he adds:

Es contraintuitivo sugerir que las mujeres perpetran las mismas clases de actos violentos, en las mismas formas y por las mismas razones que lo hacen los hombres. [...] Más aún, personalmente, como hombre, son otros hombres quienes amenazan mis sentimientos de seguridad, no las mujeres. Para mí, esto implica que los hombres tenemos la obligación y responsabilidad de analizar la violencia masculina, no sólo por el bien de las mujeres, sino también por nuestra propia salud y nuestro bienestar. 

It is counter-intuitive to suggest that women perpetrate the same kind of violent acts in the same ways and for the same reasons that men [...] Furthermore, personally, as a man, other men are the ones who threaten my feelings of security, not women. For me, this means that we, men, have the obligation and responsibility to analyze male violence, not only for the sake of women, but also for our own health and well-being.

The legal question

The Argentine group Padres del Obelisco complains and gathers evidence of instances in which a mother prevents a father from having contact with children following a separation. Groups like this one argue that family laws protect women and leave fathers who lose contact with their children without any legal remedies. However, the group has also been challenged for defending cases in which the legal sentence was due to sexual abuse or violence. Sites like IndyMedia Argentina have been vocal about this. 

On his website, Fabio M. Baccaglioni, one of the most famous bloggers in Argentina, takes on this subject and talks about how the law treats people unequally because of the definition of gender and highlights the base element in all inequalities: power.

Y en el poder se centra la cuestión. [...] una mujer tranquilamente puede ejercer poder sobre un hombre y si la justicia, legislación y policía actúa de forma tal que las leyes sólo se aplican en un sentido, entonces puede ejercer esa ventaja por sobre su contraparte. 

Es exactamente lo mismo que hacían los machistas (y siguen haciendo) cuando a la mujer no la dejaban ni votar, ni tener propiedad ni nada, ¿hay poder disponible? si lo tengo lo ejerzo en contra de otras personas, en ese caso, otro género. 

And the issue focuses on power. [...] A woman can safely exercise power over a man, and if justice, legislation and police act in such a way that laws apply only in one direction, then she may exercise this advantage over her counterpart.

It's exactly what chauvinists did (and still do) when women were not allowed to vote or own property or anything. Is there power available? If I have it then I practice it against other people; in that case, another gender.

by Diana Navarrete at March 01, 2015 11:26 PM

These Photos of Filipino Children Working in Mines and on Sugar Plantations Will Make You Cry

child labor sacadaChild labor exploitation is worsening in the Philippines. In 2011, the Philippine National Statistics Office reported that there were 5.5 million working children in the country, 2.9 million of whom were working in hazardous industries such as mining and plantations. The agency added that 900,000 children have stopped attending school in order to work.

These alarming numbers highlight the poor conditions experienced by many Filipino children, who lack key social services and access to welfare.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments that aim to promote the welfare of children. There is also a popular initiative to build child-friendly government, especially at local level. But these laws and programs have not succeeded in eliminating the various forms of abuse, poverty and deprivation experienced by many children.

Last month, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education Research (EILER) published a baseline study which confirmed the prevalence of child labor in mines and plantations in various parts of the country. In plantation communities, about 22.5 percent of households have child workers. In mining towns, child labor incidence was 14 percent.

Child laborers in oil palm fields often serve as fruiters, harvesters, haulers, loaders, and uprooters. Meanwhile, child labourers in sugarcane estates work weeding, harvesting and fetching water.

child labor hacienda

child labor plantation

child labor negros

In mines, child labourers usually fetch water, carry sacks of rocks, load the thick logs used to support the underground tunnels, or become errand boys for regular workers. They are also reserve workers and ‘relievers', whenever regular miners cannot come to work. Girls in mines work in gold panning or providing services to miners such as doing their laundry or cooking meals.

child labor mining

child labor bicol

child labor gold mining

EILER observed that child workers are exposed to extreme weather conditions, long working hours and a difficult environment while using substandard tools and equipment.

In plantations, trucks pick children up from their homes and bring them to makeshift tents located in nearby provinces to stay and work for periods lasting from two weeks to a month without their parents. Since most plantations use harmful agro-chemicals, the children working on them are directly exposed to these threats.

Their counterparts working in mines, meanwhile, are handling dangerous tools and are made to work without protective equipment for long hours. Social hazards such as the use of illegal drugs to keep children inside the tunnels awake for hours are also a regular feature of the country's mines.

Pitang holding a placard which reads: "I am a child laborer". Photo from Facebook page of Jhona Ignilan Stokes

Pitang holding a placard which reads: “I am a child labourer”. Photo from the Facebook page of Jhona Ignilan Stokes

A former child worker from Mindanao, Pitang, shares her experience in the plantations during a recent public forum organized by EILER:

I was ten years old when I stopped going to school. I have lost hope that I might still go back to school, and I thought to myself that I would be a singer instead. I usually sing to endure and forget the feeling of pain and fatigue from working in plantation. It has been four years since I stopped schooling. I only reached the sixth grade level and then had to stop so I could work.

Fortunately, there are groups like EILER which are campaigning for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in the country. One of their programs is Balik-Eskuwela (Return to School) which seeks to bring child workers back to school. The European Union is one of EILER's partners on this project.

Child workers return to school. Photo from Facebook page of Balik-eskuwela

Child workers return to school. Photo from the Facebook page of Balik-eskuwela

*All photos by EILER, used with permission

by Mong Palatino at March 01, 2015 12:52 PM

The US Finally Lifts the Curse of the ‘Golden Cage’ Visa
Twenty-three people from 12 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance to become US citizens at the Grand Canyon National Park on September 23, 2010. Photo from Flickr user Grand Canyon National Park. CC BY 2.0

People from 12 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance to become US citizens at the Grand Canyon National Park on September 23, 2010. Photo from Flickr user Grand Canyon National Park. CC BY 2.0

This article and radio report by Carol Hills for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on February 25, 2015, and is republished as part of a content-sharing agreement.

H-1B visas are among the most coveted tickets into the United States. Each year, the US government issues about 85,000 of them, mostly to highly skilled tech workers who settle in places like Silicon Valley. But the spouses of H-1B visa holders weren't allowed to work or forge their own lives in the US  — until now.

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it's tweaking the rules of the H-4 visa, the visa issued to spouses of H-1B holders, allowing some of them to work legally in the United States starting in May. Under the new rules, spouses will be eligible for an Employment Authorization Document and a Social Security card.

“I can be my real self. I will no longer be my husband's wife only,” says Neha Mahajan, who moved to the United States almost seven years ago when her husband was transferred from a job in New Delhi to a tech firm in New Jersey. “I can go out, open up my own bank account. I can open my own business if I want to. I can go and study if I want to. I mean, I'm not restricted anymore to be just a homemaker.”

It's not just a matter of work. Mahajan says she tried going back to school in New Jersey several years ago, but no one would give her a student loan because she lacked a social security number. “I literally do not have an identity here in the US because I am dependent on my spouse,” she says. “When they gave me an H-4 visa, they made sure I was dependent in the real sense.”

Mahajan has been involved in the effort to grant H-4 visa holders the right to work. Spouses of foreign workers are active on social media, with a Facebook page as well as a blog titled “H4 Visa, a Curse.”

Mahajan was a television news reporter back in India. She'd just taken a break to have a baby when her husband's company decided to relocate him to the United States. “I was going to accompany him because, after all, America is the land of dreams,” she says.

Someone mentioned to her that she wouldn't be able to work, but she didn't take it seriously. When she got to the United States and contacted people in media to start looking for a job, they were adamant: Employment, even an internship, was impossible without a work permit.

Her husband's H-1B visa was also out of the question for her. “I'm not a technical person,” she says. “I'm not a software engineer. That's not my background.” So she volunteered for an organization in New Jersey that sponsors an annual film festival “to keep myself alive, to keep my skills and education and my talent alive.” 

The government estimates that as many as 179,000 spouses of H-1B holders could apply for work permits in the first year, and 55,000 each year after. That's produced blowback from some critics that the spouses of foreign workers will take jobs away from Americans. Mahajan counters that she came as a legal immigrant and is already in the process of becoming an American citizen.

“I am your neighbor. I live in the same neighborhood,” Mahajan says. “Even though I don't earn, I pay my taxes. I wouldn't be taking any jobs from you. I may just become an entrepreneur and will be opening up my own business if I was allowed, which I am now. So I'm not just here to take away jobs.”

by Public Radio International at March 01, 2015 06:00 AM

Aggressive Protests and Fake Images Stoke Tensions Between Hong Kong and China
Notice of restriction of powdered formula allowance at the Guangzhou-Kowloon Through Train departure concourse of Hung Hom Station in 2013. Wikipedia.

Notice of restriction of powdered formula allowance at the Guangzhou-Kowloon Through Train departure concourse of Hung Hom Station in 2013. Wikipedia.

Tensions between Hongkongers and mainland Chinese have escalated sharply amid a series of protests in the former British colony against the influx of mainland tourists and parallel goods traders during the period before and after the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Some mainland netizens found the protests offensive, while a fabricated image of a Hong Kong movie director's Facebook status, in which he appeared to be calling mainland Chinese ‘dogs', has sparked an outburst of hatred towards Hong Kong.

As the image went viral on Chinese social media the infamous censors of the People's Republic — never keen to show Hong Kong in a good light — did nothing to stem the wildfire.

Following its unification with China in 1997, Hong Kong has maintained a high level of political and economic autonomy under the policy of ‘One Country Two Systems'.

Yet China has appeared to be going back on that agreement in recent years, by depriving Hong Kong citizens’ right to nominate their city's top leader, which has led to broad mistrust of the Beijing government there. Political tensions have been transformed into growing social conflicts between the two populations over the years.

The latest round of acrimony stems from the food security crisis in mainland China, which has created a booming demand for goods from Hong Kong.

In addition, the multiple entrance visa policy that allows unrestricted entry for visitors from 49 mainland Chinese cities and provinces has resulted in large inflows of mainland tourists. In 2014, the total number of visits to Hong Kong from mainland China reached 60 million. Some — known as parallel traders — take advantage of the visa for business opportunities.

Everyday, parallel traders collect daily necessities including infant milk formula, medicines, snacks and even rice from stores and pharmacies in Hong Kong. The traders then order the goods hand-carried across the border to mainland China.

The situation has severely hampered the daily lives of residents from the northern districts of the New Territories near the border, so-called after concessions made by China to Great Britain in 1898, as local stores there have begun catering to the needs of parallel traders buying in bulk rather than locals.

In response to the tensions, Hong Kong's government has promised to raise the issue with Beijing, requesting authorities amend the multiple entry visa policy and impose a quota on entries into Hong Kong.

Offensive protests

Chinese netizens found the protests against parallel traders during the Chinese Lunar New Year offensive as photos showing Hong Kong protesters finger-pointing at Chinese tourists travelled back to mainland China via social media.

Many mainland Chinese netizens found Hong Kong protesters finger-pointing at tourists very offensive. Photo from

Many mainland Chinese netizens found Hong Kong protesters finger-pointing at tourists very offensive. Photo from Liu Shengjun's Weibo.

Financial Times Reporter Liu Shengjun posted one of the most controversial photos, which showed masked protesters yelling at a tourist couple on his Weibo. Liu commented:

【小小殖民地香港竟敢如此辱我中华】在香港,内地游客被称为“蝗虫”。上周日,在九广铁路沿线一家郊区购物中心发生了示威,香港警方逮捕了六名示威男子。一名示威者挥舞着殖民地时代的旗帜。还有一些人朝内地购物者大喊“滚回家”。这张照片令人震撼,斯可忍孰不可忍?!

[How dare tiny colony Hong Kong insult China like this] In Hong Kong, mainland Chinese tourists are called “locusts”. Last Sunday, a protest took place in a shopping center on the outskirts of the city along the Kwoloon-Canton railway line. Hong Kong police arrested six protesters. One of the protesters was holding a British-Hong Kong colony flag. Some yelled “get lost. go home” and shooed the tourists away. This photo is shocking.

‘Exercise book', a popular mainland Chinese microblogger that has written in support of Hong Kong's democratic development and is aware that the protesters represent an extreme minority, also found the protest photos shocking:

看到這照片之後,我對這些身份不明的示威者間充滿厭惡,甚至有了打人的衝動。。。這些人的身份與來歷,我無從查起,是否受到煽動或者指派,也無從獲知,但這種惡毒嘴臉與無耻舉動的確是「發自肺腑的真誠」。[...] 你們對著觀光購物者表達你們對水客的抗議你們不覺得自已是傻逼麼?世界上有哪一個地方禁止觀光者購物麼?沒有 […] 所以,你們不是真正的示威者,你們是老鼠屎。挑撥矛盾,制造禍端,引起紛爭。。。你們不配住在香港,朝鮮是你們最好的歸宿。

Upon seeing this photo, I find the anonymous protesters so disgusting. I even want to beat them up… I don't know these people's background, whether or not they are being assigned or instigated to do such a thing. But from their shameless and angry gestures, their hatred is sincere. […] Don't you find yourself stupid for protesting against shopping tourists in order to express your anger towards the parallel traders? Where in the whole world would ban tourists from shopping? Nowhere! […] You are not real protesters, you are rat shit, stirring up conflicts, scourges and disputes… you don't deserve to live in Hong Kong, North Korea is the best settlement for you.

A fabricated screen capture of Hong Kong director Pang Ho Cheung's Facebook status went viral on mainland Chinese social media. Photo from Weibo.

A fabricated screen capture of Hong Kong director Pang Ho Cheung's Facebook status went viral on mainland Chinese social media. Photo from Weibo.

Fuel to the fire

As if feelings were not already at boiling point, a photoshopped screen-capture of Hong Kong movie director Pang Hoi Cheung's Facebook status went viral on a large number of Wechat friend's circles on February 26.

The fake screen-capture image with Pang's photo read:

賺了你大陸人的錢,不代表就需要尊重你們,照樣把你們當狗

Earning money from you mainlanders doesn't mean [we have to] respect you. [We can] still treat you like dogs.

Underneath the photoshopped image an anonymous user had attached a message calling to cut electricity, gas, water and supplies of agricultural products to Hong Kong from mainland China:

支持香港取消自由行,還香港人民一個清靜。同樣支持取消廣東電網對港供電,取消東深供水工程對港供水,取消「三趟快車」對港農副產品輸入,取消西二線求大段管道對港供氣,還香港人民一個清靜,給廣東人民減少壓力!我是中國人!(這個必須轉)

Support the abolition of multiple individual travel visa policy and let Hong Kong people enjoy their quiet lives. At the same time, support the cancellation of electricity supply from the Guangdong [metropolis in mainland China] electric grid, water supply from the Dong-Shen water supply project, the “three express trains” for the importation of agricultural products, as well as the gas that flows via the Xier gas pipe. Let Hongkongers enjoy their quietness and reduce the pressure on people in Guangdong! I am Chinese! (Must forward this!)

Movie director Pang, an outspoken supporter of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, was an obvious target for a viral campaign. Despite the fact he explained via Weibo that the image was fabricated, it had already travelled far and stirred up hatred among mainland Chinese netizens.

Angry comments echoing the call for cutting electricity, water and food supply flooded all major social media platforms.

Distorting the conversation

It seems unlikely that such a massive mobilisation of online public opinion could have happened without a nod from China's web censors. Topics related to Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement have been subject to heavy censorship on Chinese social media platforms, yet authorities allow pro-Beijing newspapers and groups based in Hong Kong to lead online discussions.

With an attempt to address the distorted communication across the border, inmediahk.net compared the number of followers of pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong on Facebook and Weibo to show the political role being played by China's mouthpieces:

三大左報更重要的功能,是製作「給內地人看的香港新聞」,三大左報在在內地社交媒體均有「強大」的傳播力,其中在新浪微博上,《香港商報》有近30萬粉絲,《香港文匯網》有近30萬粉絲,《大公報 – 大公網》更有近133萬粉絲。

三大左報發佈相關新聞及「帖子」,成為不少內地網民討論及轉發的「資料來源」。內地網民把對內地人有不滿的都歸類為黃絲,亦不懂分辨雨傘運動支持者及驅逐水貨客人士,甚至和港獨劃上等號,令內地人增加對香港不滿,不會支持香港的民主運動。

The major function of the three newspapers is to write ‘Hong Kong news for mainland Chinese', their reach in mainland Chinese social media is great. On Sina Weibo, Hong Kong Commercial Daily has 300,000 fans, Wen Hui Bao also has around 300,000, Tai Kung Pao's number of fans has reached 1,330,000.

The news that [these newspapers] distribute has become the main source of information for mainland Chinese netizens discussing Hong Kong. These netizens consider yellow ribbon [pro-democracy Hongkongers] as the driving force of Hong Kong society's antagonism towards mainland Chinese and they cannot differentiate between the protesters from the Umbrella Movement and anti-parallel trade campaigns. Some of them even see [the yellow ribbon] as supporters of Hong Kong's independence. As tensions between China and Hong Kong escalate, mainland Chinese public opinion will not support democratic development in Hong Kong.

by Oiwan Lam at March 01, 2015 04:09 AM

February 28, 2015

Global Voices Advocacy
Iran Reacts to the Latest Snowden Leak on SIM Card Hacks
Twitter user @AmirMehrabian posted this photo promoting Free Software, and opposing American Products and the NSA on the February 11, 2014 anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Twitter user @AmirMehrabian posted this photo promoting Free Software, and opposing American Products and the NSA on the February 11, 2014 anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The Iranian Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, Mahmoud Vaezi, has been assuring Iranians that his ministry is investigating the SIM cards of its mobile carriers to make sure they are not susceptible to American and British hacks. This is in reaction to this month's report by The Intercept on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealing that American and British spies were hacking the internal computers of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards, Gemalto

The report further indicated that Iran was amongst one of the countries targeted for data retrieval earlier on in their operations in 2010. The emails of employees of Iran's second largest mobile phone carrier MTN Irancell were regularly targeted by the GCHQ operations. The government hacks searched for technical terms in the Irancell emails that could allow for further mining into those individuals accounts leading to the companies broader accounts. The Intercept explained: 

In its key harvesting “trial” operations in the first quarter of 2010, GCHQ successfully intercepted keys used by wireless network providers in Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, India, Serbia, Iceland and Tajikistan…..GCHQ harvested the emails of employees of hardware companies that manufacture phones, such as Ericsson and Nokia; operators of mobile networks, such as MTN Irancell and Belgacom; SIM card providers, such as Bluefish and Gemalto; and employees of targeted companies who used email providers, such as Yahoo and Google. During the three-month trial, the largest number of email addresses harvested were those belonging to Huawei employees, followed by MTN Irancell.

This GCHQ internal document reveals that Iran's mobile carrier Irancell was targetted for data retrieval in 2010.

This GCHQ internal document reveals that Iran's second largest mobile carrier Irancell was targeted for data retrieval in 2010. Photo taken from The Intercept.

In an initial response to the recent revelations, Vaezi told Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency on February 25 that he urges all state employees and ordinary Iranians to use their mobile phones when necessary, and to rely on their landlines for most communications.  The minister also made a point of reminding Iranians that these kinds of interceptions by the Americans are ordinary occurrences in “this day and age,” alluding to the current security and privacy concerns in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Vaezi further elaborated:

We were even witness to the news that the German Chancellor's mobile was subject to American surveillance. It is within this context that we have been made aware of another important issue, that next to operators all over the world, Iranian cell phone operators have been subject to SIM card hacks.

The minister assured Iranians that as long as these threats to national security involve the scope of his ministry, there will always be a budget for it. He explained that within the past six months a budget of 200 billion Toman (about 60 million USD) had already been set aside to assure Iranian communications technologies were secure from foreign interception. 

Iran has also been working on implementing a number of local Internet platforms for social media, email and search engines in efforts to nationalize Iran's Internet. While it remains unclear whether a national Internet is an effort to eventually close off Iranians from the world wide web, recent promotion and launch of national search engines such as http://www.gorgor.ir/ highlight these efforts. Iran has taken the experience of the Snowden revelations, and this involvement of Iran's mobile operators, to further strengthen their argument towards a national Internet.

Vaezi emphasized that in light of the SIM card hacks, Iranians should “use local mobile social media platforms as much as they can, since the hosting of these platforms occur within the country. These precautions however are futile in the face of foreign hacking of foreign made hardware such as SIM cards, and Iran's central communications operations. 

Also not included as part of the national response to NSA hacks are Iran's own communications surveillance efforts, and especially those targeted at their own citizens. The ubiquitous nature of state surveillance practices against its own citizens have even become part of mainstream media, particularly following the revelation in July 2013 when a member of parliament Ali Motahari's office was subject to wiretapping. Similarly, Abbas Salehi, the current Vice Minister of Culture to the Hassan Rouhani administration and the Head of Iran’s Atomic Agency, wrote in Khorasan newspaper that “surveillance is so widespread in society that landlines and cell phones, alongside mailboxes, have no privacy…when attending meetings, are holding important conversations, cell phones are usually turned off or set aside.”

This was a point alluded to on the Day We Fight Back in 2014, when we called on the US government, alongside all other governments around to world, to bring transparency and accountability to their intelligence operations in the wake of the Snowden revelations. However, the intelligence operations of both the United States and Iran can be contextualized in the increasing Cyberwarfare in which both countries are entangled.

by Jillian York at February 28, 2015 09:04 PM

Global Voices
Iran Reacts to the Latest Snowden Leak on SIM Card Hacks
Twitter user @AmirMehrabian posted this photo promoting Free Software, and opposing American Products and the NSA on the February 11, 2014 anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Twitter user @AmirMehrabian posted this photo promoting Free Software, and opposing American Products and the NSA on the February 11, 2014 anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The Iranian Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, Mahmoud Vaezi, has been assuring Iranians that his ministry is investigating the SIM cards of its mobile carriers to make sure they are not susceptible to American and British hacks. This is in reaction to this month's report by The Intercept on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealing that American and British spies were hacking the internal computers of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards, Gemalto

The report further indicated that Iran was amongst one of the countries targeted for data retrieval earlier on in their operations in 2010. The emails of employees of Iran's second largest mobile phone carrier MTN Irancell were regularly targeted by the GCHQ operations. The government hacks search for technical terms in the Irancell emails that could allow for further mining into those individuals accounts leading to the companies broader accounts. The Intercept explained: 

In its key harvesting “trial” operations in the first quarter of 2010, GCHQ successfully intercepted keys used by wireless network providers in Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, India, Serbia, Iceland and Tajikistan…..GCHQ harvested the emails of employees of hardware companies that manufacture phones, such as Ericsson and Nokia; operators of mobile networks, such as MTN Irancell and Belgacom; SIM card providers, such as Bluefish and Gemalto; and employees of targeted companies who used email providers, such as Yahoo and Google. During the three-month trial, the largest number of email addresses harvested were those belonging to Huawei employees, followed by MTN Irancell.

This GCHQ internal document reveals that Iran's mobile carrier Irancell was targetted for data retrieval in 2010.

This GCHQ internal document reveals that Iran's second largest mobile carrier Irancell was targeted for data retrieval in 2010. Photo taken from The Intercept.

In an initial response to the recent revelations, Vaezi told Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency on February 25 that he urges all state employees and ordinary Iranians to use their mobile phones when necessary, and to rely on their landlines for most communications. The minister also made a point of reminding Iranians that these kinds of interceptions by the Americans are ordinary occurrences in “this day and age,” alluding to the current security and privacy concerns in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Vaezi further elaborated:

We were even witness to the news that the German Chancellor's mobile was subject to American surveillance. It is within this context that we have been made aware of another important issue, that next to operators all over the world, Iranian cell phone operators have been subject to SIM card hacks.

The minister assured Iranians that as long as these threats to national security involve the scope of his ministry, there will always be a budget for it. He explained that within the past six months a budget of 200 billion Toman (about 60 million USD) had already been set aside to assure Iranian communications technologies were secure from foreign interception. 

Iran has also been working on implementing a number of local internet platforms for social media, email and search engines in efforts to nationalize Iran's Internet. While it remains unclear whether a national Internet is an effort to eventually close off Iranians from the world wide web, recent promotion and launch of national search engines such as http://www.gorgor.ir/ highlight these efforts. Iran has taken the experience of the Snowden revelations, and especially this direct involvement of Iran's mobile operators, to further strengthen their argument towards a national Internet.

Vaezi emphasized that in light of the SIM card hacks, Iranians should use local mobile social media platforms as much as they can, since the hosting of these platforms occur within the country. These precautions however are futile in the face of foreign hacking of foreign made hardware such as SIM cards, and Iran's central communications operations. 

Also not included as part of the national response to NSA hacks are Iran's own communications surveillance efforts, and especially those targeted at their own citizens. The ubiquitous nature of state surveillance practices against its own citizens have even become part of mainstream media, particularly following the revelation in July 2013 when a member of parliament Ali Motahari's office was subject to wiretapping. Similarly, Abbas Salehi, the current Vice Minister of Culture to the Hassan Rouhani administration and the Head of Iran’s Atomic Agency, wrote in Khorasan newspaper that “surveillance is so widespread in society that landlines and cell phones, alongside mailboxes, have no privacy…when attending meetings, are holding important conversations, cell phones are usually turned off or set aside.”

This was a point alluded to on the Day We Fight Back in 2014, when we called on the US government, alongside all other governments around to world, to bring transparency and accountability to their intelligence operations in the wake of the Snowden revelations. However, the intelligence operations of both the United States and Iran can be contextualized in the increasing Cyberwarfare in which both countries are entangled.

by Mahsa Alimardani at February 28, 2015 07:41 PM

Rising Voices
Eikofɨ: In the Bosom of Mother Earth

Rising Voices Grantee Project Update

Juan Kuiru, foto usada con autorización del proyecto.

Juan Kuiru. Photo used with authorization from the project.

Location: House of Juan Kuiru, Milán, La Chorrera.
Transcription: Ever Kuiru
Writing and translation: Ever Kuiru and Laura Areiza

Juan Kuiru is my brother and is wise inherited from my father, Aurelio Kuiru. He is my teacher. The nɨmairama, knowledgable that becomes inspired on his own connecting with the spirits. He is a great meditator and healer. Here we present one of the dialogues that we had together at the mambeadero, the place where we chew coca leaves and enjoy the honey of tobacco.

Yadiko family house. Image provided by the project and used with authorization.

Yadiko family house. Image provided by the project and used with authorization.

Here we share some words about the Mother Earth with the confusion that is caused the depletion of our natural resources. We are the guardians of those resources, but only those that feel and follow the word of Moo, our father creator. However, we don't build temples or venerate images. Following the word of Moo is to preserve our tradition and to have a sweet heart. For us, it is very important to preserve our language and because of that, with the help of collaborators, we present a selection from the bilingual words of the wise Juan Kuiru:

Abuelo y padre de Ever Kuiru. Foto usada con autorización.

Ever Kuiru's father and grandfather. Photo used with authorization from the project.

Kue mamekɨ Juan Kuiru, kue nonuiyaɨ Jitómagaro imɨedɨkue.
Mei o jɨkanoga ¿mɨnɨka bie enɨena?
Ba ua kaɨ eiño, binɨiño daɨna,
kaɨ ua bini eiño jogobe.
Bini daɨna, jae ua moo dama imabikaiya yezika.
Afemɨe jafiñoga jagɨiyɨ ,
monifue jagɨiyɨ .
Ua eiño komuiyano.
Nɨ eiño uaidɨno.
Ie jana arɨ binɨena
moo moziñote.
Monifue ini, bini,
meita bie enɨe eiñoza.
Iemo bie kaɨ mei komuidɨkaɨ.
Jirari kaɨ mei ua binɨe eiño daɨdɨkaɨ.
Daje enɨemona guitɨkaɨ.
Daje enɨe kaɨ jagɨiyɨ
ɨaɨbikaiyadɨ ñue fɨnoka.
Daje enɨe jaɨnoibi ñue fɨnoka.
Ɨaɨredɨno afemɨe zaɨtaga.
Iemona arɨ bene ie
jana kaɨ ei ba kaɨ komuitate.
Kaɨ ua duera jizadɨkaɨ.
Ua nɨnomona eiño komuiya
nakuri eromo
mozibikaidɨkaɨ.
Dɨnómo jébikaidɨkaɨ.
Guiñeno, eiño ua guiga naɨeri
jébikaidɨkaɨ.
Iedo jékana jaidɨkaɨ.
Ikaɨ jino kaɨ monaiyado
eiño naɨ ua monoɨdo úikaigakaɨ.
Dai kaifo monaitɨkaɨ.
Akie izoide bie enɨe,
jirari kaɨ ei daɨdɨkaɨ.
Nana ua bie enɨe emodori ite,
enɨedo kade.
¿Nofɨkɨ bie emodo kade mɨnɨka dɨnomo iya? Iñena.
Bie enɨedo kade: Amena, chamu, okaina, jemɨnɨaɨ, ofokuikɨ.
Ua nana, nana enɨedo kade.
Enɨe iñedenia kañede.
Enɨe iñedenia bie jagɨiyɨ ɨaɨrede.
Enɨe jagɨiyɨ ñue fɨnoka
ie jagɨiyɨ jafiñotɨkaɨ.
Bie enɨemo ite amenaikɨ daje jagɨiyɨdo kádɨkaɨ.
Okaina, chamu, nana jagɨiyɨdo
kade,
enɨemona ite jagɨiyɨ .
Ie jirari ei enɨe daɨdɨkaɨ.
Akɨnɨ ua ei enɨena
mameidɨno.
Meita kaɨ mamekɨ
monifue urukɨdɨkaɨ.

My name is Juan Kuiru, I'm fomr the nonuiyaɨ Jitómagaro clan.
You ask me, what is this land?
It's our mother, this mother earth,
our land, the breast of the mother.
We say this land, before the time when Moo purified himself.
The breath invoked,
an air of abundance.
Ua is the origin of the mother.
It's the word by the mother.
This image above in the land
Moo settled it.
The land of abundance, this land,
that's why it's the mother earth.
From there we were born.
That's why we say mother earth.
From that same earth we eat.
The same earth our polluted breath purifies.
The same earth that the water cleans.
What is murky He clears.
From there, up on high
the image of our mother carrying child.
We were small children.
Where the mother was carrying child,
in the womb, the uterus,
we were also developed.
There we matured.
Without eating, with the substance the mother consumes we mature.
With that we become mature.
And we out there, still with her breast the mother nurtures us.
That's how we grew up.
Like this land,
that's why we call it mother.
Everything on earth, through the earth lives.
Above the rock, there is life, what life there? Nothing.
Due to this land live the tree, the fish, the animals, the micos churucos, the birds.
Ua is everything, everything lives from the earth.
Without the earth there won't be life.
Without the earth the wind would be dirty.
The earth purifies the air
this air we breathe.
The trees on earth breath the same air
Animals, fish, all live through the breath
with the air that's on earth.
That's why we call it Mother Earth.
to that Mother Earth we really call.
Then our name is
children of abundance.

by Ever Kuiru at February 28, 2015 07:14 PM

Lawrence Lessig
Does this ring a bell?

I’m looking for an example of an ad with a series of talking heads, all speaking the same…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at February 28, 2015 04:01 PM

Global Voices
Imported Bollywood Films Have Become Quite a Drama in Bangladesh
Film Development Corporation complex, The hub of the film industry in Bangladesh.

Film Development Corporation complex, the hub of the film industry in Bangladesh. Image via Wikimedia. CC By 3.0

Film distributors and cinema owners in Bangladesh have retaliated against popular actor Shakib Khan, who led protests against the screening of Indian movies in the country, by slapping a ban on all the films that he appears in.

Khan was not alone in his protest. Many Bangladeshi film actors, directors and production workers participated in a campaign against Bollywood movies being shown for fear that it will collapse the already crippled local film industry. At the time of the protests, Indian actor Salman Khan's “Wanted” movie was released for the first time in Bangladesh in 60 cinema theatres.

They ended their protest at the end of January after getting assurance from the government that no more Indian movies would be imported.

Distributors and cinema owners defended their decision to show Bollywood films, saying not enough people see Bengali movies while Indian movies draw a bigger crowd and keep them in business. The decline in Bangladesh's homegrown film industry has prompted the closure of more than a thousand cinemas in the past decade. At one point, nearly 100 movies were made each year; now there are only 30-40. (Read a Global Voices report for more information)

Bangladesh has had a legal prohibition on Indian films dating back to a brief war between India and Pakistan in 1965, when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. The government briefly lifted the ban in 2010, caving to the demands of the struggling cinemas. But officials quickly reinstated it following furious protests by local actors and directors, who claimed the Bangladesh film industry was at risk from the imports.

To save the struggling movie industry and bring back audiences to the theatres, the government had again lifted the ban in 2015.

Meanwhile, Shakib Khan, the actor whose were banned in retaliation, wrote on Facebook:

কোন একটি দেশকে ধ্বংস করার প্রথম শর্ত সেই দেশের সংস্কৃতিকে ধ্বংস করে দেওয়া। বাংলাদেশে হিন্দি সিনেমা মুক্তির সিদ্ধান্ত নিয়ে একটি কুচক্রিমহল বাংলাদেশের চলচ্চিত্র নয়, দেশ ধ্বংসের পাঁয়তারা করছে।

To destroy a country the first step you will take is to destroy its culture. By deciding to release Bollywood films in Bangladeshi theatres, a a group of conspirators is planning to destroy the country.

Facebook user Kallol Mustafa thought that by importing Indian movies, the imperialisation of the Hindi language and Indian culture will be enforced:

আমি বিদেশী ছবি আমদানীর বিপক্ষে নই। বরং সারা দুনিয়ার মানসম্পন্ন ছবি যেন দেশের মানুষ দেখতে পারে সেটাই আমার কাম্য। কিন্ত সেটা এখন যেভাবে বাজারি প্রতিযোগীতার মাধ্যমে করার কথা বলা হচ্ছে তার পক্ষে নই। কারণ বাজার দেখে মুনাফা, মুনাফার প্রয়োজনে বাজার বাজারি ছবিই আমদানী করবে আর তার সাথে প্রতিযোগীতায় লিপ্ত হয়ে এদেশের চলচ্চিত্রের পুরো বিলুপ্তি ঘটবে নতুবা আরও অধগতি হবে আর পার্শ্বপ্রতিক্রিয়া হিসেবে হিন্দীভাষা আর আধিপত্যবাদী সংস্কৃতি আরো জাকিয়ে বসবে।

I am not against importing foreign films. I would rather want Bangladeshis to be able to watch quality movies from all over the world. But here the screening of Indian movies are being promoted only for commercial reasons. So the commercial interests will only look for commercial movies to import which will make quick money. In the process the movie industry of the country will lose not being able to compete with big budget Hindi movies and the cultural imperialism will be established.

Wahid Ibne Reza also protested the screening of Indian films:

সিনেমার বড় পর্দায় আমাদের অনেক নিজস্ব গল্প আছে বলার। এই গল্প বলার অধিকার ছিনিয়ে নেবার অধিকার পৃথিবীর কারো নেই।

We have our local stories to tell on big screens in the theatres. Nobody should be allowed to take this away from us.

Blogger Himu had a more logical approach to the problem — dubbing them in Bangla:

বাংলাদেশের দাপ্তরিক ভাষা দুটি, বাংলা ও ইংরেজি। এর বাইরে অন্য কোনো ভাষার চলচ্চিত্র নিয়ে যদি প্রেক্ষাগৃহ মালিকরা ব্যবসা করতে চান, সেক্ষেত্রে বাংলায় ডাবিংকে অবশ্যপালনীয় শর্ত হিসেবে রাখা হোক। একই সাথে এ ডাবিং হতে হবে বাংলাদেশের কোনো ডার্বিং স্টুডিওতে, এমন শর্তও আরোপ করা হোক।

The official languages of Bangladesh are Bangla and English. If any cinema owner wants to earn money with screening foreign films, they should dub the films — that should be the law. Also, this dubbing should be done inside the country — that should be added.

Journalist and blogger Rezaur Rahman Rizvi was in favour of not importing any foreign film. However, blogger Ekush Tapader opined that films from all over the world should be imported:

নির্লজ্জ নকলবাজরা যখন বলে তমুক দেশের সিনেমা চালালে আমরা সিনেমা বানানো বন্ধ করে দেব তখন সেটা জাতির জন্য আর্শীবাদ :)
পৃথিবীর সমস্ত দেশের, সমস্ত ভাষার সিনেমা দেখতে চাই।

When the copycat producers say that they will stop making films if films from a particular country are screened, I think that's a boon for the country. I want to watch movies from all countries, of all language.

Screenshot of Video label for the movie Beder Meye Jotsna, the best commercial success for Bengali movies. Image courtesy Image arcade.

Screenshot of the video label for the movie Beder Meye Jotsna, the best commercial success for Bengali movies. It earned 150 million taka. Image courtesy Image arcade.

Facebook user Pritom Ahmed mentioned that some movies made in Bangladesh are copies of Bollywood movie scripts and songs. Bangladesh actors even adopt the family name Khan as their screen name, copying a trend of Bollywood up-and-coming actors who do so to emulate megastars like Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan:

এদেশে হিন্দি সিনেমা প্রদর্শন বন্ধের দাবি তোলার আগে আমি দাবি জানাই বাংলা সিনেমার নায়কদের নামের পাশে বোম্বে ইন্ডাস্ট্রি থেকে ধার নেয়া “খান” উপাধি লাগানো বন্ধ করেন । যে দাদা ভাইদের নামের অংশ নিজের নামের সাথে জুড়ে দিয়ে নায়ক স্ট্যাটাস নিয়েছেন, যে দাদা ভাইয়ের ব্রেসলেট থেকে শুরু করে চুলের ডিজাইন পর্যন্ত নকল করছেন সেই দাদা ভাইয়ের বিরুদ্ধে লড়বেন কি ধইঞ্চা হাতে ??

Before banning Indian movies in this country, please stop adding “Khan” as the title of the actor mimicking Bollywood. When you are copying them from head to toe, how can you fight them?

Facebook page Dhallywood Karcha echoed Pritom's statement:

হিন্দি সিনেমা প্রদর্শনে এতো জোরালো বাধা ও হিন্দি সিনেমার প্রতি এতো তীব্র ঘৃণা থাকার পরেও তাদের সিংহভাগ সিনেমা কেন হিন্দি সিনেমার কপি পেস্ট? এই নকলের ব্যাপারে তাদের জোরালো কোন ভূমিকা কখনো দেখা যায় না কেন? তাহলে প্রতিবাদের কারণ কি নিজেদের অক্ষমতা? ভালো, মৌলিক ও মেধা না খাটিয়ে সিনেমা বানাতে চাওয়া? অথবা নকল ধরা পড়ার ভয়?

They have immense hatred of Bollywood films and protest against importing them. But why are the majority of their films copies of Indian movies? Why they did not even try to change that? Is this protest happening now because it will expose them? Or they don't want to invest the time and money into producing unique and quality movies?

Journalist and blogger Mahbub Morshed wrote:

এইসব টিভি চ্যানেল আর এইসব সিনেমা আর এইসব এফডিসি দিয়া ভারতীয় বিনোদন আধিপত্য ঠেকানো যাবে না। নিজস্ব বাজার সংরক্ষণের নামে আবাল পোষার দিন শেষ। কচু বনের শেয়াল রাজাদের দেখে দেখে হয়রান হয়ে গেলাম।
এবার নতুন কিছু করো।

You cannot impede the Indian entertainment imperialism by blocking TV channels and cinemas or through the poor performing Film Development Corporation. The days of protecting a bunch of idiots in the name of protecting our own market have come to an end. Lets do something new.

by Rezwan at February 28, 2015 03:48 PM

Macedonian Girl Dies Awaiting Grand Opening of Medical Center
Protesters in white mask demand justice for 9-year-old Tamara Dimovska's death in Macedonia on February 19, 2015. Photo by Vancho Dzhambaski. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Protesters in white masks demand justice for 9-year-old Tamara Dimovska's death in Macedonia. February 19, 2015. Photo by Vancho Dzhambaski. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When Tamara Dimovska needed treatment for her rare and debilitating spinal disorder, her family was told that Macedonia, a country of just two million people, didn't have the necessary specialist to perform the operation. They sought to take her abroad for the complex surgery, but the country's public health insurance fund repeatedly denied their application for funding.

The family used Facebook and held events to ask for donations so that they could pay for the medical costs abroad. Authorities then approached the family and asked them to stop the effort, promising that state medical services would take care of it – a new medical center would soon open nearby and 9-year-old Tamara could have the operation at home.

But delays persisted and then it was too late. Tamara died on February 9, 2015.

Amid a series of protests on public expenditures and corruption, a mass outcry erupted in the capital city of Skopje when independent media sources alleged that authorities intervened in the girl’s case because they wanted to showcase the child as the new medical center's first successful case. “So she died waiting, died for their PR,” said Filip Stojanovski, a writer for Global Voices. 

The decision was made by committee and signed by the committee's deputy head, Aspazija Sofijanova, who admitted in recent testimony that she had done so against her professional judgement because she was told “from above.” Sofijanova is a highly politicized figure who state-affiliated media routinely depict as a humanitarian who supports ruling politicians whenever possible.

Biljana Nikolovska, a journalist who has covered the case from the beginning, commented on Facebook a few days after Tamara died about all that she had observed: 

Истражувам, разговарам со лекари и доаѓам до информација дека се подготвува спинален центар за сколиози кој треба да биде отворен за два месеци. Си велам можно ли е ова да е причината за одлагањето на операцијата на Тамара. Ја чуваат ли за да се сликаат покрај неа. Доктори ме убедуваат дека имаат стручни колеги во земјава, за кои ова би било „боза“ операција. Повторно контрадикторност. Зошто тогаш во конзилијарното мислење го напишале спротивното? Се што дознавам објавувам, но официјална изјава нема од никој.

I research, I talk to physicians and I get the information that the Spinal Center for Scoliosis is in the works and should be opened in two months. I tell myself is it possible that this is the reason for delaying Tamara's surgery. Do they keep her under wraps in order to have another photo op? Medical doctors tell me that they have expert colleagues in the country, for whom such an operation would be easy, a “piece of cake.” Why, then, the opinion of the Consilium [committee] stating the opposite? I publish everything, but can't get official statements from anybody.

Shortly before her daughter’s death, Zhaklina Dimovska was reported to have approached the Prime Minster Nikola Gruevski and personally begged for his mercy to obtain approval for the surgery. An administrative letter dated February 6 approving the operation was not sent until February 11, two days after Tamara died. The letter, pictured below, contained no expression of condolence.

First page of the administrative letter regarding Tamara Dimovska's treatment.  Image courtesy Novatv.mk

First page of the administrative letter regarding Tamara Dimovska's treatment. Image courtesy Novatv.mk

Over the last two weeks, Macedonians have taken to social media using the hashtags #ОставкаЗаТодоров (resignation for Todorov) and #ТодорOFF (Todorov-OFF), calling for the resignation of Health Minister Nikola Todorov, who had promised Tamara's family in November 2014 that the government would pay for her surgery. Over 18,000 people have lent their support to the campaign, led by the family and media personality Ognen Janeski

On February 19, a small group of people wearing blank masks, as a symbol of the faceless heartlessness of institutions, protested in front of the Ministry of Health. Organized by the civic platform AJDE!, the demonstration demanded resignations from the health minister, committee members, and health insurance fund managers and board members. 

A few days later, thousands of people led by Janevski and Tamara's mother gathered in front of the health insurance fund and marched through the main streets of Skopje to the Ministry of Health. 

No medical professionals involved in the case have faced prosecution as of yet. In light of public protests, two public health insurance fund officials resigned

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights has filed charges against Todorov for abuse of power and authority in the case, but it's unclear if the public prosecutor will act on them. 

Todorov has defended himself, saying he did everything he could “and even more than that” to approve the funds for Tamara's surgery. In a separate interview on state TV, he referred to the girl's death as an unfortunate event that overshadows his reforms to the country's healthcare system.

On February 21, he announced that the government will be hiring 2,000 new medical personnel — 700 doctors and nurses, and the rest janitors and other technical staff.

Conversations on social networks and coverage in the country’s small but fierce independent media today provide ample evidence of the need for greater accountability among public officials in the country. Between public outcry over economic reforms and unemployment — which is the highest in Europe, at 30% — and the case of Tamara Dimovska, it seems that Macedonia may soon reach a boiling point.

by Ellery Roberts Biddle at February 28, 2015 11:45 AM

Miriam Meckel
Gleiche und Ungleiche

WiWo_10_15_Titel_Ungleichheit_Web

Soziale Marktwirtschaft lebt vom Wettbewerb. Auch im sozialen Aufstieg. Dazu braucht es Chancengerechtigkeit, nicht Gleichheit.

Ungleichheit war früher eine Frage des Traurings. Gleich fünf Töchter muss das Ehepaar Bennet in Jane Austens Roman „Stolz und Vorurteil“ unter die Haube bringen. Dass sich Tochter Elizabeth gegenüber den Anträgen wohlsituierter Herren störrisch ablehnend zeigt, ist nicht nur gegen die gesellschaftliche Moral. Es bedeutet auch, eine Chance des gesellschaftlichen Aufstiegs auszuschlagen. Die einzige, die zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts garantiert funktioniert hat.

Heute gibt es andere Wege. In der sozialen Marktwirtschaft soll niemand warten, bis er oder sie die soziale Leiter rauf verheiratet wird. Persönlicher Lebenserfolg lässt sich individuell gestalten.

Ungleichheit schadet dabei nicht – im Gegenteil. Unterschiede in Einkommen, sozialem Status und Lebenssituation sorgen für Wettbewerb um Ziele und Positionen. Wir brauchen Unterschiede, die für uns einen Unterschied machen, so hat es der britische Soziologe Gregory Bateson verwirrend, aber klug beschrieben. Nur das Signal, es geht auch anders, setzt den Anreiz, etwas zu verändern. Wo alles gleich ist, wird auch jede Bemühung egal.

Falsch! Stopp!, ruft manch ein Ökonom, wenn Unterschiede als Voraussetzung von Wettbewerb und Wettbewerb als Weg zu Verbesserung genannt werden. Der Franzose Thomas Piketty hat die These wachsender Vermögens- und Einkommensungleichheit mit seinem Buch „Das Kapital im 21. Jahrhundert“ besonders lautstark und erfolgreich ins Gespräch gebracht.

Die Verteilung von Einkommen und Vermögen in einer Gesellschaft werden mit dem Gini-Koeffizienten gemessen. Er kann zwischen 0 (vollkommene Gleichverteilung) und 1 (einer hat alles) liegen. In Deutschland lag er 2012 nach einer Studie des Deutschen Instituts für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW) für das Vermögen bei 0,78. Die schlechte Nachricht: Kein anderes Land in der Euro-Zone hat eine höhere Spreizung bei Einkommen und Vermögen.

Die gute Nachricht: Der Wert hat sich in den vergangenen zehn Jahren nicht groß verändert. Deutschland wird also – entgegen manch alarmistischer These – nicht immer ungleicher.

So weit die Statistik. Aber was will sie uns sagen? Dass Wirtschaftswachstum, internationaler Handel und technologischer Fortschritt eine Gesellschaft nicht gleicher, sondern ungleicher machen? So einfach ist es nicht.

Vielleicht muss daher die Frage anders gestellt werden: Hilft es den armen Menschen in einem Land, wenn die Reichen weniger reich sind? Nein. Hilft es den Armen, wenn die Reichen ihren Reichtum mit ihnen teilen? Kurzfristig ja.

Eine Gesellschaft, die sich dauerhaft auf Umverteilung stützt, hat perspektivisch nichts zu bieten. Abhängig zu sein von den Almosen anderer ist, zugespitzt formuliert, die Wiedereinführung der Ständegesellschaft. Wer einmal einer sozialen Gruppe angehört, bleibt da, wo er ist. Der andere wird für ihn sorgen. Genau wie bei Jane Austen und dem Aufstieg über Heirat.

In der sozialen Marktwirtschaft ist der Gegensatz von Ungleichheit nicht Gleichheit, sondern Gerechtigkeit. Es geht nicht um gleiche Ergebnisse, sondern um gleiche Voraussetzungen. Jeder muss die Chance haben, seine Position in der Gesellschaft, sein Einkommen und seinen Aufstieg zu gestalten. Das ist gerecht.

Das aber ist in Deutschland so nicht der Fall. Zwei Drittel der Deutschen mit kleinen Einkommen schaffen es nicht mehr, in eine höhere Einkommensgruppe aufzusteigen. Das Elternhaus bestimmt über die Bildungschancen, und die bestimmen über Aufstieg und Einkommen. Das Ticket für die Lebensreise wird bei der Geburt gelöst: Holzklasse oder Businessclass.

Bücher sind ein Spiegel der sozialen Ordnung. Die Jane Austen von heute heißt – mit erheblichen Qualitätsabstrichen – E L James. In ihrem Werk „50 Shades of Grey“ wird gezüchtigt statt geheiratet. Wenn man die Elite nicht im übertragenen Sinne schlagen kann, dann wenigstens ganz konkret.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at February 28, 2015 09:17 AM

Global Voices
French Teenagers Speak a Language All Their Own. Confused? Here's a Guide
La tour de Babel vue par Pieter Brueghel l'Ancien CC-BY-20

The Tower of Babel by Peter Bruegel the Elder CC-BY-20

The purpose of a language is to meet the communication needs of the society that uses it, so any living language is by its very nature bound to evolve as a result of social changes. Thanks to advances in technology, these developments sometimes progress quickly in certain demographic groups, particularly among teenagers, creating a significant chasm in the relationships between parents and teenagers.

One can often hear French parents bemoan their inability to comprehend conversation between their teenage children. It is not an insurmountable problem, but a decoder is needed to bridge the gulf. Here are some tips for French-speaking parents to reopen the channels of communication that have been obstructed by generational, technological and occasionally cultural factors.

SMS language (texting language)

SMS language came about as a way to reduce the length of words used and thus avoid exceeding the number of characters allowed by text messages, as well as to speed up typing on mobile phone keypads. These technological constraints gave rise to a form of communication that seems more intuitive to frequent users of SMS messaging and less familiar to parents, who do not recognise most of the codes, abbreviations and spellings used.

Poster contre le langage SMS écrit lui-même en langage SMS. CC-BY-20

(Written in text speak) “This is a web forum, not a cell phone. if you want an answer to your query, try writing in a proper language”.  Anti-SMS language poster itself written in SMS language. CC-BY-20

Here are some examples of SMS language decoded for the uninitiated by the Gralon forum:

- je vi1 2 = je viens de
- tu vas réu6r = tu vas réussir
- il tadi 2 / ke = il t’a dit de / que
- koi 2 9 = quoi de neuf ?
- 2m1 = demain

- je vi1 2 = je viens de (“I’ve just”)
- tu vas réu6r = tu vas réussir (“you can do it”)
- il tadi 2 / ke = il t’a dit de / que (“he told you that”)
- koi 2 9 = quoi de neuf ? (“what’s new?”)
- 2m1 = demain (“tomorrow”)

This utilitarian transformation of language is not to everyone’s taste. Désirée explains in her post what she finds most irritating when reading texts in SMS language:

Le langage sms, c'est bien pour les ados qui veulent se montrer rebelles, pour les gens qui ne veulent pas passer trop de temps à rédiger un sms et qui s'en fichent des fautes et ceux qui s'en fichent que leur correspondant pourrait ne pas comprendre leurs hiéroglyphes immondes. On l'aura compris, je suis contre ce langage préhistorique! J'avais moi-même testé quand j'étais ado et même dans ma période la plus rebelle, je n'ai pas pu me résoudre à envoyer des messages bourrés de fautes [..]  LE problème c'est que la plupart des gens qui écrivent en langage sms ne font plus aucune différence entre mail et sms, ce qui n'est pas trop grave quand il s'agit de quelqu'un qu'ils connaissent mais qui devient un sérieux manque de respect quand il s'agit de quelqu'un qui leur est totalement inconnu.

Text speak is for teens who want to appear rebellious, for people who don’t want to spend too much time composing a text message and don’t care about errors, and people who don’t care that the person they’re writing to cannot understand their hideous hieroglyphics. As you might have guessed, I’m opposed to this prehistoric language! I tried it myself as a teen, and even in my most rebellious phase, I couldn’t bring myself to send messages full of errors […] The problem is that most people who write in text language make no distinction between emails and texts, which doesn’t matter too much when they’re writing to someone they know, but becomes seriously disrespectful when it’s to a total stranger.

Tizel is also opposed to the spread of this form of communication. He decries the increase in incomprehensibility of messages:   

Le langage SMS est un vrai fléau. J'en veux pour preuve le nombre de forum devenus illisibles à cause de l'absence totale de modération sur ce plan. Mais ce fléau se retrouve également dans les blogs : la majorité des Skyblogs sont formulés en SMS; les commentaires déposés sur les blogs sont eux aussi, la plupart du temps, en SMS. Même certains mails que l'on m'envoie sont rédigés de la sorte. En plus, à force de rédiger de la sorte, je suis persuadé que ces personnes déforment leur orthographe.

SMS language is a real scourge. This is borne out by the number of forums that have become unreadable because of the total absence of moderation in this area. But this scourge is also found in blogs: the majority of Skyblogs are written in SMS; the comments posted on the blogs are mainly in SMS as well. Even some of the emails I receive are written the same way. I am also convinced that by writing this way these people are adversely affecting their spelling ability.

Some, however, see this evolution as an opportunity. Many novels for young people use text speak to convey a sense of realism. Others, such as Philippe Marso, have even written a whole novel in text speak.  

Verlanised or anglicised language

Verlan is a form of French argot, in which the syllables of a word are inverted. When coupled with anglicisation of the vocabulary, it is sometimes difficult for parents to understand. Here is a glossary from Magic Maman of the words most commonly used by teenagers:  

Accoucher : se dépêcher. 
Arracher (s’) : partir. 
Auch : verlan de chaud, cela signifie « c’est difficile ». 
Balle (c’est de la) : c’est génial (une variante est possible avec « c’est chanmé !). 
Boss : chef de bande ou patron. 

Accoucher (literally: give birth): se dépêcher (to hurry). 
Arracher (s’) (literally: tear oneself off): partir (to leave). 
Auch (literally: hot but spelled in reverse): verlan de chaud, c’est difficile (It's difficult”). 
Balle (c’est de la) (literally: it's the bee's knees): c’est génial or another variant is c’est chanmé! (“That's great!”). 
Boss: chef de bande ou patron (boss). 

But influences on the language don’t come just from English. Diversity in cities has impacted on the use of the French language amongst young people. Expressions from former colonies (mainly West and North Africa) have been naturally incorporated in this evolution. A project by a group of young people from Evry (Essonne) entitled Lexik des cités has been compiling a book of the expressions most used by young people from the cities. Here is an introduction to the project, which can be found on le Dino Bleu's blog:

 ”J’suis en pit », « Lui, c’est un 100 % roro », « J’ai invité mes sauces au barbecue », « Laisse tomber, il a toyé tout le monde ! », « Aujourd’hui je rince un grec », « Je suis yomb de toi »…Vous avez tout compris ? Non ? C‘est exactement pour cette raison qu’un groupe de jeunes originaires d’Evry a imaginé ce Lexik des cités illustré, bien différent des dictionnaires classiques. Pour que tous les durons (parents) autour d’eux puissent enfin comprendre leurs expressions et mieux les interpréter ! Voici la peinture d’une banlieue qui déchire, drôle et optimiste, où le langage est coloré et va du verlan à la métaphore, en passant aussi bien par l’arabe, l’africain, l’argot, le gitan que par… l’ancien français !

J’suis en pit (“I am in pit”), Lui, c’est un 100 % roro (“He is 100% roro“) J’ai invité mes sauces au barbecue (“I have invited all my dressings to the BBQ”), Laisse tomber, il a toyé tout le monde! (“Let it be, he just toyed with everyone”), Aujourd’hui je rince un greg (“Today, I will wash out my liquor”), Je suis yomb de toi (“I am yomb for you”)…Did you understand all that? No? That's exactly why a group of young people from Evry came up with the idea for this illustrated Lexik des cités, which is quite different from traditional dictionaries. So that all the parents could finally understand their expressions and interpret them better! It depicts the suburbs as vibrant, funny and optimistic, where language is colourful and goes from verlan to metaphor, drawing as much from Arabic, African, slang and gypsy as from old French.

Le Dino bleu adds:

C’est surtout l’intégration qui caractérise cet ouvrage. La juxtaposition de sensibilités, d’inspirations, de cultures, d’idées,… venues des quatre coins du monde et qui trouvèrent vite dans leur isolation forcée les conditions idéales pour se mélanger loin du conformisme ambiant si peu porteur d’inventions. Trop souvent présentés comme des zones de non-droits où ne règnent que la violence et les trafics en tous genre, en général par des médias en quête de ce sensationnalisme qui garantit une certaine audience, les cités développent en fait leur culture propre depuis un certain temps. Une identité forgée à partir de toutes ces civilisations d’Afrique, d’Asie, d’Europe de l’Est et d’ailleurs qui trouvèrent là un creuset où couler cet alliage dont on n’a pas encore pleinement mesuré la richesse.

Integration is the defining characteristic of this work. The juxtaposition of sensitivities, inspirations, cultures, ideas, etc. from all four corners of the world, which quickly found that their forced isolation gave them the ideal situation to mix together, a far cry from the prevailing conformity that does little to stimulate creativity. Too often, cities are presented as no-go areas riddled with violence and all kinds of trafficking, generally by the media looking for the kind of sensational headlines that guarantee a certain audience, but these cities have actually been creating their own culture for quite some time. An identity has been forged from all the civilisations of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere, which found a melting pot there in which to cast this alloy, whose value hasn’t yet been fully appreciated.

The language of social networks or Internet slang 

Another development that has arisen from advances in technology is digital language or Internet slang, which speeds up writing and punctuation, but can also let you know rapidly that a message has been read or understood. The main thing is to convey a message or idea to one’s correspondent in real time.

This language is constantly evolving owing to the growing impact of online culture on the general public. Websites such as Urban Dictionary or Know Your Meme are reference sites that provide a better understanding of web culture. The list of internet slang terms is growing rapidly, that’s for sure. Some terms have already passed into everyday written language, for example: FYI (for your information), JDCJDR (je dis cela, je dis rien – “just saying”) or BRB (be right back).

The Internet’s role in the evolution of languages is certainly a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it speeds up the disappearance of languages by standardising the means of communication. But it also plays a role in the preservation of endangered languages, by creating communities that ensure the conservation of languages in their traditional forms.

Despite the numerous objections to the misuse of language and syntax errors, it seems pointless to be hellbent on preventing a language from evolving in response to the developments of modern society. Ultimately, isn’t the most important thing to be able to create a relationship with other people, to pass on knowledge and ideas, and to understand each other?

by Elizabeth Tamblin at February 28, 2015 06:00 AM

Parliament Watchdog Connects Ugandans to Women MPs Through Twitter
Uganda's parliament in session. Photo by

Uganda's parliament in session. Photo used with permission from parliament Watch Uganda.

Ugandans are taking advantage of social media to bridge the gap between citizens and legislators, thanks to Parliament Watch Uganda, a virtual tracker that monitors the Parliament of Uganda on a regular basis and provides both relevant data and expert analysis.

On 26 February, 2015, the initiative organized the #MPsEngage Twitter chat with women members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss the topic ‘Making Women Count in Legislative Processes'. Three audiences participated in the chat in real time: the people of Gulu in Northern Uganda, female members of parliament and Uganda's social media audience.

Gulu is a post conflict district in Northern Uganda. It was the center of conflict between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Women in the area face many challenges inherited from the war and the general neglect of the central government.

Members of the audience in Gulu asked questions via microphones, which were tweeted to the MPs by a social media expert in the audience.

During the chat, the female MPs were tasked to take stock of their achievements and challenges that they've faced during their term in office.

Ugandan social media users took it upon themselves to comment, quote and direct the attention of their followers to #MPsEngage.

Ugandan journalist and blogger Raymond Qatahar observed:

Jackie Asiimwe, a Ugandan lawyer, asked:

Kollin Rukundo brought up the issue of the marriage and divorce billThe bill, among other things, makes asset-sharing mandatory in a divorce, provides cohabiting partners with property rights and makes marital rape illegal:

Quoting Miria Matembe, a former minster of ethics and integrity, Jackie Asiimwe said:

Daniel Turitwenka, a social media consultant, shared a photo of a participant in Gulu, northern Uganda, in a live phone conversation during the chat:

He quoted one of the participants:

Gulu residents made their needs known:

They decried poor service delivery:

Although the chat took place on Twitter, Denis R Tumusiime noted that female MPs have not yet embraced social media:

As the debate drew to a close, Jackie Asiimwe, the lawyer, noted that engagement should not be a one-off:

by Prudence Nyamishana at February 28, 2015 05:23 AM

Libyan Kids Have Been Out of School for Months, so One Woman Is Bringing the Classroom to Them
Children in Tripoli in August 2011. Photo by MITSUYOSHI IWASHIGE. Copyright Demotix

Children in Tripoli in August 2011. Photo by MITSUYOSHI IWASHIGE. Copyright Demotix

This article and radio report by Shirin Jaafari for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on February 26, 2015, and is republished as part of a content-sharing agreement.

As Libya was torn apart by a revolution in 2011, Haifa El-Zahawi left the country for the United States.

Now a dentist, she's looking for jobs. But she's also devoting herself to a different project: Teaching kids back in Libya.

The volatile security situation there has kept kids out of school since October. So if kids can't get to their classrooms, El-Zahawi thought, why not bring the classroom to them? The Benghazi Skype School was born.

“We started with a personal account and a Skype,” says El-Zahawi from New York. She posted about her project on social media, asking Libyans if they were able to help. Within a week, she was receiving “a really huge and positive response.” She even heard from an IT company in Libya that wanted to sponsor her project.

Of course, Internet classrooms have their own problems. Patchy Internet connections are a major hurdle, as are the frequent power outages that Libyans face. “We try and make [the classes] live as much as we can, but due to the problems … we try to record the lessons and post them online,” El-Zahawi says.

But despite the challenges, the Benghazi Skype School has been a success so far. “Families send us pictures of the students doing their homework,” El-Zahawi says. “They're even wearing their school uniforms.”

The bigger idea behind the school, El-Zahawi says, is to bring hope to the families and kids who “really need it.” She's worried about news like the recent beheading of a group of men in Libya at the hands of ISIS, and she hopes that educating Libyan children will help stop the spread of radicalization.

“We have to educate our kids,” she says, “Only by learning, we can fight.”

by Public Radio International at February 28, 2015 05:00 AM

Doc Searls
My Firefox phucked by phishing?

So I wanted to give GIMP a try on my MacBook Air. I’ve used it on Linux boxen, but not in awhile. These days I edit my photos with Photoshop and Lightroom on the Mac because there are so many things only those tools do well. But I’m tired of being in silos.

Alas, when I did a (defaulted) Yahoo search on my Firefox browser, I made the dumb mistake of clicking on the top result, which was an ad (I think for gimp.us.com, but I’m not sure). I then clicked on the download link, unpacked the .dmg file, did the install — which failed — and have regretted it since. Nearly every link I click goes somewhere Netcraft’s toolbar add-on tells me has a huge risk, or gives me a “Phishing Site Blocked” message.

Down some link paths I get a Firefox cross-site script warning (or something like that — can’t find it now), or this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.40.29 PM

It also talks.

What to do? No idea. Suggestions welcome.

by Doc Searls at February 28, 2015 03:03 AM

Figuring @Flickr

Here’s a hunk of what one set (aka Album) in my Flickr stream looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.57.58 PM

And here are what my stats on Flickr looked like earlier today (or yesterday, since Flickr is on GMT and it’s tomorrow there):

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.02.09 PM

I ended up with 32,954 views, with no one of my 49,000+ photos getting more than 56 views. More than 95% of those views arrived via Flickr itself. The stats there are spread across 87 pages of results. Pages 1 to 63 go from 395 views (#1) down to 2. From page 64 to 87, all the results are for 1 view.

I just pulled the searches alone, and got this:

1

Searched for: bay area aerial

395

2

Searched for: doc searls

307

3

Searched for: los angeles aerial view

206

41

Searched for: sunrise

164

48

Searched for: aerial view of mountains

143

49

Searched for: aerial sand dune

139

51

Searched for: “toronto” “aerial”

138

56

Searched for: ewr

134

57

Searched for: aerial farmland

134

75

Searched for: wyoming coal

113

79

Searched for: nasa gov

108

87

A contact’s home page

100

88

Searched for: nuclear bomb

100

92

2013_12_30 Montserrat Mountain in Catalonia 

/photos/docsearls/sets/72157639251295255/w…

95

95

Searched for: diablo canyon nuclear

93

96

Searched for: aerial island

93

102

Searched for: arctic circle

90

107

Searched for: united airlines

86

110

Searched for: aerial view farmland

83

111

Searched for: aerial

82

130

Searched for: toronto aerial

70

131

Searched for: containers transport

69

139

Searched for: maple leaves

63

144

Searched for: airplane sunset

61

153

Searched for: aerial santa cruz

58

154

Searched for: aerial ocean

57

165

Searched for: road aerial desert

54

166

Searched for: fly

54

167

Searched for: magician

53

169

Searched for: chicago skyline

53

171

Searched for: airlines

51

173

Searched for: las vegas aerial

51

174

Searched for: “toronto” “aerial” “night”

50

178

Searched for: desert aerial

50

179

Searched for: siltstone

50

184

Searched for: lax -sport -sports -lacrosse

49

189

Searched for: landslides

47

203

Searched for: lithium             

41

Searched for: internet connections

39

211

Searched for: bayonne

39

212

Searched for: diablo nuclear

39

216

Searched for: “salt lake city” aerial

38

220

Searched for: save the internet

37

221

Searched for: river delta aerial

37

225

Searched for: cargill

37

229

Searched for: wyoming coal mine

36

235

Searched for: army aviation desert

34

239

Searched for: mt. wilson

33

244

Searched for: sandcastle

32

249

Searched for: ice circle

31

251

Searched for: carole lombard

31

252

Searched for: atomic tests

31

262

Searched for: governor brown

29

264

Searched for: carpinteria sunset

29

265

Searched for: graveyard airlines

29

269

Searched for: sunset carpinteria

28

272

Searched for: /search/?tags=cambrian

28

273

Searched for: hassle

28

274

Searched for: city aerial view

28

275

Searched for: glover park

27

276

Searched for: diablo canyon nuclear plant

27

284

Searched for: nyc pulaski skyline

26

287

Searched for: network branches

26

300

Searched for: roads aerial desert

24

The numbers on the left are where they fall in the order of popularity. I think the last one means there were 24 searches for roads aerial desert, which was the #300 search.

When I go to the bottom of the pile where all are tied with just one view, I get this stuff:

Searched for: lunch in the city

1

Searched for: ice shore

1

Searched for: snake

1

Searched for: street, walk

1

Searched for: father and his two kids

1

Searched for: misty winter

1

Searched for: valley roads

1

Searched for: child large picture shy

1

Searched for: recycling symbol

1

Searched for: boston old subway

1

Searched for: coffee

1

Searched for: mountain road

1

Searched for: open road

1

Searched for: san mateo county infrastructure

1

Searched for: pointy rocks

1

Searched for: new york by night

1

Searched for: alcoa

1

Searched for: parliament canberra

1

Searched for: afternoon sky

1

Searched for: summer sun park

1

Searched for: france versailles night

1

Searched for: dog scratching

1

Searched for: cloud painting

1

Searched for: pregnant 1946

1

Searched for: big leaf maple

1

Searched for: grasp

1

Most of the results are not searches, but photos, or photos that are “with” another shot. For example: https://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/with/9382370440/. Somehow all those are “with” this shot: https://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/9382370440/.

I think that means somebody searches, finds a shot, and looks for other shots like it. Not sure, though.

What I am sure about is that my photos get more action than my writing. I never meant it that way, but there it is.

by Doc Searls at February 28, 2015 01:04 AM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Visualizing Impact: Data Driven Journalism in Palestine

This is a liveblog of a talk by Ramzi Jaber entitled Visualizing Impact: Data Driven Journalism in Palestine at MIT on February 27, 2015. It was blogged by Erhardt Graeff and Dalia Othman.

 

 

Ramzi Jaber is the co-founder and co-director of Visualizing Palestine, an initiative to amplify civil society actors working in Palestine through powerful and shareable design work. It is the first project of a larger effort called Visualizing Impact, an interdisciplinary nonprofit.

Ramzi begins by showing a data visualization of politician’s salaries across the Arab world and Africa. It was inspired by Lebanese politicians salary, where politicians still earn their salary after their deaths. In the case of Norway and Hungary the politician earns more than the citizen, but still stares the citizen in the face. Lebanon and Jordan at about 15 times and Palestine at 24 times and Kenya at 97 times are far from the average citizen. 

Visualizing Impact is about "visual stories for social justice." Ramzi mentions the issue of administrative detention—an archaic law, a vestige of British colonialism—that is still being used and exploited to put thousands in jail. It has been used by Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. One detainee, Khader Adnan, had enough and started a hunger strike. A campaign started on Twitter to support Adnan with the hashtag #dying2live. It wasn’t until day 50 that the first media outlet (Al Jazeera) reported on Khader Adnan's hunger strike, then other outlets followed around the world. Eventually at day 66 Khader Adnan ended his hunger strike and was soon released. 

 

To aid the effort, the Visualizing Palestine team looked through 21 medical reports to visualize what happens to the body when you go on hunger strike. Journalists, activists, and authors used the visuals and shared them on social media.

VP has created a series of visualizations since then. Looking at topics like:

  • A Policy of Displacement, using data from organizations like the House Demolition Committee
  • West Bank Water, he talks about the amount of rainfall in Ramallah as opposed to London.
  • Across the Wall represents Israel's settlement bus routes, by scraping data from multiple sites and visualising that by using GIS
  • Checkpoint Births presents maps about the checkpoints and the restrictions to movement and the number of women that have given birth at checkpoints
  • Typologies of Segregation is a map about the roads that are restricted for Palestinians with data from B’tselem.
  • Uprooted visualizes the deforestation of olive trees by Israel that would otherwise be the agricultural and economic heritage of Palestinians.
  • Where Law Stands on the Wall looks at the legality of the wall being built on Palestinian land

At some point a lot of people were asking VP why they were visualizing issues strictly about Palestine. So Ramzi and the team decided to create infographics about how to make infographics to spread their model of data storytelling to make change. They are also partnering with Egyptian news company Mada Masr to create visuals on Egyptian issues.

One visual was created about Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, many refugees can’t work, banned by labor law in Palestine. Another visual provides information about refugees in Syria, Ramzi “The situation in Syria is really bad that some of the refugees had to go to Gaza”

The Visualizing Impact visuals have been displayed in art galleries as well as advertisements. Ramzi shows one on display in the DC Metro. The infographics have been translated into 10+ languages all by volunteers; Ramzi compliments the Koreans on being particularly generous and fast in their translations.

Another effort VP is working on in partnership is "The Palestinian Guide to Keeping Yourself Occupied." Here Ramzi began quoting statistics around Palestinian governance and citizenry. 80% of the PA’s revenue is directly controlled by others such as Israel. Their security budget is about 36% which is higher than most countries and high for an interim government. 67% of West Bank Palestinians feel they are living in an undemocratic system. The PLO represents Palestinians with 37% of them residing in Palestine and the remainder 63% are either refugees or live in the diaspora.

Ramzi says part of VP's current plan focuses on the ID system in the OPT. In South Africa, they had a number of different ethnicities in SA. There was a pencil test in South Africa where people placed pencils in their hair, if the pencil slipped then the person was considered white, if it did not then they were considered non-white. In 1950, SA introduced the ID system, and each ID number represented your ethnic race. There is similar situation in Israel, with specific numbers for different IDs. VP visualized where in Israel/Palestine the different IDs give you access: Blue (Israeli) or Green (Palestinian Authority). A green card ID holder is not permitted to enter Israel, drive the same car, etc.

Ramzi mentioned another project he’s now pursuing to look at online censorship. He's inspired by the Anti-SOPA movement in the United States and the blackout day on the internet, which was an effective tactic in inspiring policy change and may represent where VP could go in the future in their campaigns.

VP is not without critics. Groups like CAMERA have challenged them on their factual basis and sources.

Question & Answer

Can you tell us a bit about you?
Ramzi was born in Jerusalem and had studied engineering in UAE. He wanted to return to Palestine and thought of starting TEDx there.

How big is the team and how are you funded?
The team is currently at nine people. Our funding depends on contracts with organizations such as UN, OXFAM, and ILO amongst others. VI also receive grants from a number of foundations.

How much exposure does your work get within Palestine?
Not as much as I’d like to, and that’s mainly because the infographics were set up to influence foreign policy and for the Palestinian Diaspora. We started in Ramallah and we had one team member who was crossing the borders to start working with us, but he was stopped at the borders and denied entry by Israel, so we were forced to move our offices abroad. We have an office in Lebanon and soon in Toronto.

Have there been active efforts to shut you down?
No, we have not.There was one instance where we created a video in reaction to a short posted by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Our video went viral and Danny Ayalon actually published a video in response.

Do you have coverage in Israel?
Well, Israeli media keeps Israelis in the dark about Palestine.

What metrics do you used to measure your impact?
There are two kinds of measurements, qualitative and quantitative. We hear anecdotal evidence all the time, but it’s hard to always measure the number of downloads since our visuals are CC, but we also look at number of shares on social media.

How do you ensure the integrity of your data?
All our sources are from organizations and you can click on the data on the site next to each visual.

There is a difference between infographics and data visualizations and are you considering doing some data visualizations?
Yes, we’re working on that.

What about other countries?
Yes, we have focused on Lebanon and Syria. We are now creating Visualizing Egypt. But we have to partner with local organization to work in it.

Are there ways for us to donate?
Yes, go to the VP site.

by erhardt at February 28, 2015 12:24 AM

February 27, 2015

Global Voices Advocacy
Renowned Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Still Detained After 10 Months
Pu Zhiqiang. Photo by Voice of America, released to public domain.

Pu Zhiqiang. Photo by Voice of America, released to public domain.

This post was written by Alinda Vermeer of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.

Prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who was arrested on 4 May 2014, has now spent ten months in detention without a trial. He is facing charges that include inciting ethnic hatred, inciting the splitting of the country and creating a public disturbance; the latter an increasingly popular means of silencing dissent often described as a “pocket crime”, as anything can be stuffed into it. If found guilty on all charges, Pu could face 20 years in prison.

Pu was arrested shortly after attending a small private gathering in Beijing commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, but the factual basis for his detention has long been unclear. After an eight months of what looked more like a fishing expedition than a criminal investigation, the Chinese authorities announced that the charges stemmed from a selection of 28 posts on Sina Weibo and investigations Pu conducted on behalf of some of China’s most respected media outlets.

A student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen protests, Pu was committed to free speech and often represented high profile activists or political dissidents. His clientele ranged from artist Ai Weiwei to communist Party officials demanding redress for torture they suffered during investigations on corruption charges. He also represented Tang Hui, the mother who was sent to a labour camp for peacefully petitioning against the lenient sentences given to the men who raped and prostituted her 11-year old daughter. 

Pu’s witty, scathing Weibo posts chronicled many of the public details of his cases and attracted tens of thousands of followers. Each time his following reached a certain level, Chinese authorities would close his account, after which Pu would open a new one. Looking more closely at the posts that landed Pu in jail, and which according to one of Pu’s lawyers are the prosecutors’ sole evidence on the three speech-related crimes he is accused of, it is clear that his comments on public figures and incidents may have been crude or harsh, but do not warrant criminal prosecution.

In post No. 6 for instance, days after devastating floods in Beijing in 2012, Pu responded to allegations that Beijing authorities were downplaying the death toll: 

[f]rom top to bottom, this party can’t live a day without lying

In post No. 25, Pu responds to critics calling him a traitor: 

I’m not the one who chose the Communists to rule the country and they never asked my views on the matter. Where does their demand for my unconditional support come from? If being a traitor could mean releasing our citizens from their torment by handing over a dozen or so provinces and three or five hundred million people to democratic countries, then my deepest regret would be only that I have failed as a traitor.

Other posts comment on terrorist attacks, ethnic tensions in Xinjiang and Tibet, and “separatism” in or around Taiwan. The selection is random and not representative of Pu’s writing in general. In some cases, the context of the post is completely unclear. 

Pu’s arrest is of what human rights experts says is the worst crackdown on activists and lawyers China has seen in a decade. China has consistently been among the lowest ranking countries in the press freedom ratings, but since Xi Jinping became China’s leader in 2012, the crackdown on dissent has further intensified. At least 500 human rights activists and dissidents have been arrested and sent to prison. China’s legal system is highly politicised and as a result the case against Pu is rife with irregularities. Human rights organisations are concerned that, with Pu’s potential conviction, self-censorship will become even more pervasive.

To raise awareness about Pu’s case, the Media Legal Defence Initiative petitioned the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in December 2014, urging the UN Working Group to call upon the Chinese government to immediately release Pu and withdraw all charges against him. Read the petition here.

 

by Ellery Roberts Biddle at February 27, 2015 07:51 PM

Global Voices
Bolivia Might Have the World's Most Devoted ‘Simpsons’ Fans
A protester holds up a Bart Simpson head during a rally calling for Unitel to bring back "The Simpsons". Screenshot from YouTube.

A protester holds up a Bart Simpson head during a rally calling for Unitel to bring back “The Simpsons”. Screenshot from YouTube.

Bolivian TV channel Unitel probably didn't imagine that a decision some weeks ago to move “The Simpsons” out of its usual time slot to make room for reality show “Calle 7“ would provoke demonstrations in several cities in Bolivia.

March organized on Facebook against Calle 7 asking for The Simpsons in La Paz and Santa Cruz. D'oh!

Marches were held on February 6 in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and they drew hundreds of noisy fans of the popular series.

I liked a YouTube video: Chanting “Death to Calle 7″ The Simpsons march Bolivia

But demonstrators also protested against so-called “trash TV” and asked for more cultural programs on local television.

March for The Simpsons, against Calle 7 program that airs on Unitel and against Trash TV #SantaCruz

As could be expected, not everyone agreed that protesting for a television program was the best use of time when there are more important issues:

 We believe that this is a joke…. Where did “cultural decolonization” end up. Ha ha ha.

Local people will march for The Simpsons, but nobody says anything about crime.. Good Santa Cruz..Good

The demonstration succeeded in convincing Unitel, the station airing “The Simpsons”, to return the series to Bolivian screens on March 9.

The Simpsons are back after a massive and unprecedented demonstration in three cities (And Delius no longer on TV, great achievements)

However, some people were suspicious about the whole thing:

@jcpereirasta why? Rather shows something that always occurs in Bolivia: if you do not like something, protest, I love it.

@juanjosebolivia the problem is just that: organizing demonstrations (Simpson) for commercial purposes (Unitel) = manipulation

Even “The Simpsons” themselves showed their appreciation for Bolivian fans' loyalty on their Facebook account:

 

>

by Diana Navarrete at February 27, 2015 06:14 PM

The Political Violence in Bangladesh Is Claiming Too Many Lives
The victims of a petrol bomb attack in a bus receiving treatment in hospital. Image by Khurhsed Alam Rinku. Copyright Demotix (24/1/2015)

The victims of a petrol bomb attack in a bus receiving treatment in hospital. Image by Khurhsed Alam Rinku. Copyright Demotix (24/1/2015)

An ongoing political protest has crippled Bangladesh for the past two months. A coalition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has orchestrated stoppages for almost eight weeks now. Demonstrations have become violent and more people are dying each day. The total number of casualties is now more than 100.

Most deaths have been the result of homemade bombs, arson, and random acts of violence. More than 1,000 vehicles have been torched and vandalised, and another 100 people have been admitted to Dhaka medical college with serious burns.

The BNP-led opposition started the blockade on January 5, 2015, asking the government to call snap elections. One year prior, on January 5, 2014, Bangladesh held a general election, which BNP boycotted, disputing the terms. With low voter turnout, the incumbent Awami League and its coalition government were elected, despite violent protests by the opposition in an attempt to disrupt the voting. Roughly 100 people died during these events. (Read the Global Voices report here.)

With the political storm clouds gathered once again, Bangladesh Internet users have frenziedly discussed the violence in the streets, commenting on arson attacks, in particular.

Writer, educator, and a scientist Muhammad Zafar Iqbal writes in an op-ed for BDNEWS24.com:

আমরা খুব দুঃসময়ের ভেতর দিয়ে যাচ্ছি। প্রতিদিন খবরের কাগজে মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মারার ছবি দেখে, মানুষকে হত্যা করার খবর পড়ে দিন শুরু করতে হয়। মাঝে মাঝে খবরের কাগজটি সরিয়ে রাখি, যেন চোখের সামনে থেকে সরিয়ে নিলেই সেই দুঃসহ ঘটনাগুলো জীবন থেকে সরে যাবে।

We are passing through a bad time. Each day, I see images of people being burned to death, and I start the day with a heavy heart. Sometimes I keep the newspaper distant from me, as if this can keep all those horrible incidents away from my life.

Economist Shameem Ahmed writes in a column for the same online newspaper about living with the fear that he could be burned to death every time he leaves his home: 

[...] পত্রিকায় পোড়া লাশের ছবি আসে, মনে হয় এইচবিওতে ‘মমি’ মুভিটা দেখছি। অস্থির লাগে। এইসব চিন্তা করতে করতে গাড়ির জানালা তুলে দিই। এসিটা ছেড়ে দিই অন্যমনস্কভাবেই, মনে হয় একটা ফায়ার ডিস্টিংগুইসার কিনতে হবে সহসা। গাড়িতে আগুন লাগলে শুধু তা নেভাতে না, বরং নিজে গাড়ি থেকে নেমে পালানোর একটু সুযোগ তৈরি করে নেবার জন্য।

When I see burnt corpses in newspaper it seem like I am watching The Mummy on TV. I can't stand it. I close the windows of my car, start the air conditioning and think of buying a fire extinguisher. [That way] if a bomb is thrown inside my car, I'd be able to douse the fire enough to escape and survive.

Supta Ahmed protests the arsons against common people in SomewhereinBlog:

[…] আমি রাজনীতি বুঝিনা, মানুষ বুঝি!!আমি ক্ষমতা বুঝি না, একটা নিরাপদ বেঁচে থাকা বুঝি!!

I don't understand politics. I understand people. I don't understand the battle for power, but I understand the right to safety.

Shaon Chowdhury compares the political violence that's characterized the battle for state power to a massacre.

After bullets and summary executions, now common people are being killed by bombs on buses and cars. So will my country be a killing field?

The BNP-led opposition claims they are mobilizing the protests to defend democracy, but Munazir Hussain Sayed says throwing bombs at crowded buses to enforce a strike can't be reconciled with democratic aims.

Jalal Tarafdar asked the government to resign and pave a solution to the political stalemate.

There would be no agreement for peace until the government resigns and a fresh election is held under a neutral caretaker government.

Bangladeshi day-laborers passing idle-time due to ongoing political unrest. Image by Shafiqul Alam. Copyright Demotix (9/2/2015)

Bangladeshi day-laborers passing idle-time due to ongoing political unrest. Image by Shafiqul Alam. Copyright Demotix (9/2/2015)

The continuous blockades and strikes are not only costing lives, they are disrupting an entire nation's commerce, education, and other sectors. Experts say Bangladesh's economy has suffered Tk 750 billion ($9.6 billion) in losses thanks to the prolonged blockade, the labor stoppages, and growing political violence. 1.5 million students appearing for their secondary-school certificate examinations have also been affected, and the strikes have resulted in postponements to many students’ examinations. Bangladesh's transportation has been among the hardest hit economic sectors, with the blockade and regular vandalism of trucks slowing the movement goods to a crawl. As a result, the prices of basic commodities has skyrocketed.

Read a previous report in Global Voices about past violent protests in Bangladesh and the plight of the common people.

by Rezwan at February 27, 2015 12:20 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Why John Legend Should Perform In Bahrain

 

John Legend performing at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on December 5, 2008. The US performer is scheduled to perform in Bahrain on March 2. Photo by Judy Glova (CC BY 2.0)

John Legend performing at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on December 5, 2008. The US performer is scheduled to perform in Bahrain on March 2. Photo by Judy Glova (CC BY 2.0)

I tried to avoid writing about this issue, as I see no use in highlighting individual events and would prefer to focus more on the social and cultural aspects of my struggle in my country. But moved as I was by the speech made on February 21 by Common and John Legend as they accepted their Academy Award for “Glory” as Best Original Song, I would love if this open letter gets to them somehow.

This it too personal to be just another post citing experts and opinions regarding your planned concert in Bahrain, which many of my friends would love to see cancelled. I, however, would like to see you go to Bahrain, as that would permit at least one of us to witness the beauty of my country as I spend my days in exile thousands of miles away.

My name is part of the problem, or rather the preconceived notions that are be linked to it. Like many things over which I had no control, my name, my birthplace, my ethnicity, all of which were decided when I was born have largely determined the course of my life. In Bahrain these things determine where you can live, what jobs are available to you. Since I was a kid I have feared men in uniform. Until the day I left Bahrain I lived in fear of running into a police checkpoint where I could be “hunted like a rat“, a situation I think you might find familiar.

In the last month six American anthropology students were detained because they were living in Duraz, the village my mother comes from. They were given the choice to relocate to a less “problematic” area as the state media described, or to leave the country. What happens in places like Duraz, where there is a majority Baharna population (Baharna is the name used to describe native or indigenous people like me), has become a secret the government is trying its best to hide. Protests erupt on daily basis in some of them. Journalists are usually denied access to this country and people trying to cover events on ground, like I did, risk arrest and torture. This is how people like me are considered, a problem that should be hidden from the rest of the world, a problem that just cannot be solved. 

Recently I did something that I think would make my mother scream, were she  ever to read these lines: I got a tattoo. This matters to me because of the story behind it.

Last year, while I was imprisoned for blogging and had little to no hope of getting out, I was taken to the office of the public prosecutor, who told me that I was now accused of establishing a terrorist group. Of course I wanted to laugh, but feared the repercussions. I went back to my cell and sat quietly. A man my father’s age came to me and asked me why I was looking so sad. I told him what had happened and that I couldn’t see a way out of the situation. He said to me: “This time next year you will be out and you will owe me dinner.” He then wrote on a paper a verse of Quran that says “Patience will be rewarded”.

I was eventually released on bail and fled the country, while the elderly man was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. It was the third time he had been arrested. The first time was 25 years ago. Since then I have kept repeating that phrase every time I run into trouble: Patience will be rewarded, patience will be rewarded.

I was walking in Camden Town here in London, where I currently live, when I came across a tattoo shop. It looked a bit scary, but I needed something that would link me to that moment, the moment when I was given a lifeline, when I had hope, so I drew that phrase on a sheet of paper and had it tattooed.

My compatriots in Bahrain have been patient, to say the least. Our struggle for equality and justice has been ongoing for over 90 years. Sometimes I feel like it's a curse that is inherited by one generation after another, a curse I don't want my children to carry. I dream of a country where my children will never feel that my bloodline is a reason for their misfortune, where last names, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or social status don't decide the course of your life.

I hope that you enjoy your time in Bahrain, but I hope that when you go there that you will visit my birthplace, the highly “problematic” area of Sitra. And just as you performed in Selma, Alabama, I wish you could have the chance to inspire the people of my island to be patient for their dreams to come true.

I doubt this message will reach you, and even if it does, I doubt you will visit Sitra. But I promise you that one day you will hear about the thousands of imprisoned Bahrainis who fought for justice, and achieved glory.

by Mohammed Hasan at February 27, 2015 11:52 AM

Global Voices
Why John Legend Should Perform In Bahrain
John Legend performing at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on December 5, 2008. The US performer is scheduled to perform in Bahrain on March 2. Photo by Judy Glova (CC BY 2.0)

John Legend performing at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on December 5, 2008. The US performer is scheduled to perform in Bahrain on March 2. Photo by Judy Glova (CC BY 2.0)

I tried to avoid writing about this issue, as I see no use in highlighting individual events and would prefer to focus more on the social and cultural aspects of my struggle in my country. But moved as I was by the speech made on February 21 by Common and John Legend as they accepted their Academy Award for “Glory” as Best Original Song, I would love if this open letter gets to them somehow.

This it too personal to be just another post citing experts and opinions regarding your planned concert in Bahrain, which many of my friends would love to see cancelled. I, however, would like to see you go to Bahrain, as that would permit at least one of us to witness the beauty of my country as I spend my days in exile thousands of miles away.

My name is part of the problem, or rather the preconceived notions that are be linked to it. Like many things over which I had no control, my name, my birthplace, my ethnicity, all of which were decided when I was born have largely determined the course of my life. In Bahrain these things determine where you can live, what jobs are available to you. Since I was a kid I have feared men in uniform. Until the day I left Bahrain I lived in fear of running into a police checkpoint where I could be “hunted like a rat“, a situation I think you might find familiar.

In the last month six American anthropology students were detained because they were living in Duraz, the village my mother comes from. They were given the choice to relocate to a less “problematic” area as the state media described, or to leave the country. What happens in places like Duraz, where there is a majority Baharna population (Baharna is the name used to describe native or indigenous people like me), has become a secret the government is trying its best to hide. Protests erupt on daily basis in some of them. Journalists are usually denied access to this country and people trying to cover events on ground, like I did, risk arrest and torture. This is how people like me are considered, a problem that should be hidden from the rest of the world, a problem that just cannot be solved. 

Recently I did something that I think would make my mother scream, were she  ever to read these lines: I got a tattoo. This matters to me because of the story behind it.

Last year, while I was imprisoned for blogging and had little to no hope of getting out, I was taken to the office of the public prosecutor, who told me that I was now accused of establishing a terrorist group. Of course I wanted to laugh, but feared the repercussions. I went back to my cell and sat quietly. A man my father’s age came to me and asked me why I was looking so sad. I told him what had happened and that I couldn’t see a way out of the situation. He said to me: “This time next year you will be out and you will owe me dinner.” He then wrote on a paper a verse of Quran that says “Patience will be rewarded”.

I was eventually released on bail and fled the country, while the elderly man was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. It was the third time he had been arrested. The first time was 25 years ago. Since then I have kept repeating that phrase every time I run into trouble: Patience will be rewarded, patience will be rewarded.

I was walking in Camden Town here in London, where I currently live, when I came across a tattoo shop. It looked a bit scary, but I needed something that would link me to that moment, the moment when I was given a lifeline, when I had hope, so I drew that phrase on a sheet of paper and had it tattooed.

My compatriots in Bahrain have been patient, to say the least. Our struggle for equality and justice has been ongoing for over 90 years. Sometimes I feel like it's a curse that is inherited by one generation after another, a curse I don't want my children to carry. I dream of a country where my children will never feel that my bloodline is a reason for their misfortune, where last names, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or social status don't decide the course of your life.

I hope that you enjoy your time in Bahrain, but I hope that when you go there that you will visit my birthplace, the highly “problematic” area of Sitra. And just as you performed in Selma, Alabama, I wish you could have the chance to inspire the people of my island to be patient for their dreams to come true.

I doubt this message will reach you, and even if it does, I doubt you will visit Sitra. But I promise you that one day you will hear about the thousands of imprisoned Bahrainis who fought for justice, and achieved glory.

by Mohamed Hassan at February 27, 2015 11:46 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Bangladeshi-American Blogger Hacked to Death in Dhaka
Avijit Roy, Image Credit: Tanmoy Kairy

Avijit Roy. Image Credit: Tanmoy Kairy

Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger who founded the Mukto-Mona (Free Mind) blog, was hacked to death close to University of Dhaka in Bangladesh on Thursday, February 26, 2015. His wife, blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna, was also severely injured when unidentified assailants stabbed them near the campus where the national book fair Ekushey Boi Mela is taking place.

Roy was born in Bangladesh but was a naturalized American citizen. He had just returned to his native country from the US a week before his death to attend a launch ceremony for his new book at the fair.

So far, no arrests have been made in the killing, which sparked outrage on social media:

Roy, who called himself an atheist, wrote on topics including science, society and philosophy. He is known for his books “Biswaser Virus” (Virus of Faith), “Samakamita” (Homosexuality), “Obiswasher Darshon” (Philosophy of Atheists) and “Sunyo theke Mahabiswa” (From Vacuum to the Great World). His writing and blogging had evoked the ire of religious extremists, and he received regular threats from Islamist groups. He often spoke out against Islamist groups, as many other bloggers in Bangladesh do, and promoted critical thinking about all religions. 

In December, online newspaper BDNews24 reported that a person named Shafiur Rhaman Farabi had written a threatening Facebook post that read:

Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.

Horrifying photos of the attacked couple covered in blood circulated on social media. In one of the photos [Warning: graphic content], Rajida Ahmed Bonna appears to be holding her husband's head while people stand and watch. One of the Twitter accounts that shared the photo wrote, “May be it's Avijit Roy's bloody wife with Husband's Head.#Beheaded He was a top Target 4 last 3/4 years.”

The account also seemed to rejoice in the killing:

The Twitter user was referring to a “hit list” of bloggers who Islamist groups like Hefazat had labeled atheists or blasphemous. Two years ago, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was brutally killed outside his home in Dhaka because of his writings against war criminals and Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh. His name had appeared on the list, as did Roy's. 

Bangladesh is a non-religious parliamentary democracy, meaning there is no sharia or blasphemy law. People who identify as atheist have the same rights as other citizens. However, under Section 295A of Bangladesh's Penal Code (1860), any person who has a “deliberate” or “malicious” intention of “hurting religious sentiments” is liable to imprisonment. Government inaction and police ineffectiveness have also given Islamist groups a certain amount of impunity in recent years. 

On February 16, another hit list was published and shared on Facebook threatening the publishers of Roy's books. The author of the list, a user named Salman Ahmed, wrote:

আসুন এমন কিছু প্রকাশকে দেখে নেই যারা কথিত মুক্তমনা ইসলাম বিদ্বেষী নাস্তিকদের বইগুলোকে নিয়মিত প্রকাশ করে যাচ্ছে ।এরাও লেখকদের মত সম অপরাধী, প্রথমে এদেরকে আঘাত করুন ,এদের স্টল জ্বালিয়ে দিন,এদের অফিসে ককটেল,বোমা যাই পান তাই দিয়ে হামলা করুন ।

Look at these publishers who publishes these anti-Islamist atheists’ books. These have also sinned like the writers. First hit them, burn their shops, attack their offices with bombs, IEDs or anything you can get hold of.

Commenting on the lack of protection for atheists in Bangladesh, medical practitioner and activist Pinaki Bhattacharya wrote on Facebook:

বাংলাদেশে সবচেয়ে সহজ টার্গেট একজন নাস্তিক। নাস্তিক মানেই আক্রমন যোগ্য, হত্যা যোগ্য। নাস্তিক কে প্রকাশ্য হুমকি দেয়া হত্যা করা যেন কোন অপরাধ নয়। নির্মম মৃত্যুই যেন তাঁদের প্রাপ্য।

In Bangladesh an easy target is an atheist. As if atheists can be attacked, killed. As if threatening atheists openly is no crime. Painful death is their destiny.

Journalist Polash Datta reminded the police about the existing threats against Avijit Roy:

তাহলে আমরা এভাবেই চলতে থাকব? আমাদের দেশের আইন-কানুনও এভাবেই চলতে থাকবে?

একদিকে প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনাকে ফেইসবুকে ‘হত্যার হুমকি’ দেয়ার অপরাধে কোনো এক বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় শিক্ষকের সাত বছরের কারাদাণ্ড হবে। আর অন্যদিকে একজন লেখককে হত্যার হুমকি দিয়েও বহাল তবিয়তে ঘুরে বেড়াবে ধর্মান্ধ মৌলবাদী ফারাবি শফিউর রহমান। এবং তার হুমকিমতোই দেশে এসে বৃহস্পিতবার রাতে খুন হবেন কুসংস্কার ও মৌলবাদবিরোধী লেখক অভিজিৎ রায়।

So will we be happy with this? Our law and police are carrying out their affairs like this?

In one instance, n university professor was sentenced to prison for allegedly threatening the prime minister. In another instance, radical fundamentalist Farabi Shafiur Rahman roams around freely after posting a threat against a writer on Facebook. And in line with his threats, anti-fundamentalist writer and free thinker Avijit Roy was killed on a Thursday night.

Even before 2013, renowned writer Humayun Azad was attacked in strikingly similar manner outside of the book fair in February 2004. Earlier this month, the publisher of a Bangla translation of a controversial book by 20th-century Iranian rationalist and politician Ali Dashti about the Prophet Muhammad's life received death threats after displaying the work at Bangladesh's national book fair. 

The International Crimes Strategy Forum (ICSF), a body of experts, activists and organisations committed to end impunity for international crimes, wrote in a statement:

The targeted murder of Avijit Roy is a part of the systematic and planned attacks on free and progressive thinking that have been taking place in Bangladesh at regular intervals, especially since the gruesome attack on Professor Humayun Azad ten years ago. Apart from major attacks on progressive symbols such as bomb attacks on Udichi’s Bengali New Year celebrations, and attacks on various Language Monuments throughout the country in 2013, religious extremists have over the years carried out horrific attacks on a number of people.

Haider's violent death in 2013 triggered nationwide protests by thousands of activists at the time, and five people remain on trial for his murder. Since then, other bloggers in addition to Roy have been attacked, too. All trials are incomplete to date.

by Jillian York at February 27, 2015 11:44 AM

Global Voices
Oil and Water Don't Mix—Except in Trinidad
"Loading The Water Trucks in Montrose". Photo by Taran Rampersad, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

“Loading The Water Trucks in Montrose”. Photo by Taran Rampersad, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Trinidad and Tobago's Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), the public entity charged with the reliable delivery of pipe-borne water to the country, admitted that the safety of the water supply was compromised this week after residents in central Trinidad noticed a strange smell coming out of their taps and an oil-like film in the water.

The company's website still has no information on the situation (up to the time this post was published, this was the most recent press release, about a water supply interruption last month), but it did issue a statement via its Facebook page:

At 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday 24th February 2015, operators at the Caroni Water Treatment Plant observed an poly substance in the river, which led to the immediate stoppage of operations at the plant.

The facility was restarted at approximately 12:45 a.m. [...] Wednesday 25th February 2015, after the river was cleared of the oily substance, as well as clean up and disinfection works on the plant.

The Authority assures customers that the supply from the Plant is safe and meets World Health Organisation standards, however, flushing exercises are currently being carried out in order to eliminate any residue of the substance that may have entered the distribution system.

In the same breath, the release advised customers “who may be experiencing a kerosene-like smell in their supply [...] not to use, but allow the supply to run until it clears”. It also noted that the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) had been contacted to investigate the contaminant observed in the river.

In an update on its own website, the EMA noted that its Emergency Response and Investigations team “is scouring areas upriver of the Plant to ascertain the possible source/s of the substance while simultaneously conducting tests on the water leaving the Plant to ascertain the presence of hydrocarbon.” They have since found a renewed presence of diesel sheens in the river, which subsequently led to a second shutdown of the water treatment plant. Tests conducted at 6:30 p.m. on February 25 showed a reading of 0 milligrams per litre (mg/L) for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons, which was an encouraging sign.

It did little to assuage the concerns of affected residents, however, and WASA soon dispatched a truck-borne water supply to critical areas. Netizens were soon sharing, after several requests to the relevant authorities, information about the areas that were served by the Caroni Water Treatment Plant:

Areas affected by the contaminated water supply; screenshot of text that was widely shared.

Areas affected by the contaminated water supply. Screenshot of text message that was widely shared.

Mrs. Nanan, who lives in central Trinidad, drinks about a litre of water a day — and yesterday was no different. By mid-morning, she was experiencing nausea, chills and weakness and could not understand why. She had already drunk half a litre of tap water. Facebook user Elana Nathaniel, who lives in the same area, posted:

Since yesterday my water has been smelling like kerosene. Now I hear that the caroni dam has been compromised…DIESEL! Be careful folks

Nathaniel reported that initially the contamination “was so bad that when you flushed the toilet there was the residual oil floating and markings!” Today, her supply has improved slightly and the smell is not as strong, but her family is still not drinking it or cooking with it.

Meanwhile in T&T thought a visually composited representation of the situation would be more effective:

"Meanwhile, in Felicity" - Photoshopped image by Meanwhile in T&T's Facebook group.

“Meanwhile, in Felicity” – Photoshopped image by Meanwhile in T&T's Facebook group.

Even locations in north Trinidad — densely populated areas that are mixed use zones (residential and commercial) — have discovered that they are served by the Caroni plant. Ian Wilcox, who lives in the heart of Woodbrook, reported that he woke up this morning to the discovery that his water had a funny smell. “You could have lit a match in there,” he said, “the smell of oil was so strong.” Like many other consumers, his concern is how to get the oil residue out of his water tank. (Most households and businesses in Trinidad and Tobago have water storage facilities on their property to ensure an uninterrupted water supply, even when there is no water being supplied via the mains.)

The ODPM's initial recommendation was vague, advising people to use “household cleaning agents [...] before you refill your tanks”. Facebook user Cecile Pemberton pressed them to be more specific:

Such as? Disinfectant? Detergent? Bleach?

State officials later answered that bleach was the most effective cleaning agent in this situation. In response to netizens’ concerns about health repercussions from ingesting the water, the ODPM said:

The ODPM does not hold jurisdiction in the areas of education or health. Should a school be affected, the principal or other officer in charge takes appropriate action as guided by the Ministry of Education. In the event a person experiences adverse effects as a result of ingestion of this water, they should seek medical attention from the Ministry of Health. In addition, affected persons may utilise the services of our Customer Care Centre at 511.

Some schools in the area were also affected:

Social media users continued to share their experiences via various public Facebook threads. Eme Blake wanted to know what measures were in place to test the country's water supply on a regular basis:

Can you please advise what Trinidad and Tobago's drinking water standards are? (How often is water sampled and tested? For which contaminants? What are the MCLs etc.) I cannot find any data online.

Roelle Donwner, who also lives in Woodbrook, was disappointed in the level of communication with citizens over what she considered a pressing public health threat:

I had to hear about this from a friend about 8am this morning and checked my water and sure enough there was a smell [...] I tried calling WASA customer service SEVERAL times with no success. I decided to contact the EMA head office in POS and they said they weren't aware of the situation and gave me a number for the central office. They confirmed the situation and I ranted about there not being an offical release anywhere. Apart from households being affected by this what about schools and hospitals that were not aware??? This should have gone out as a bulletin on TV, Radio and Social Media!!! [...] Get your act together Trinidad!!

Gerzel Serrette-Soverall, who is pregnant, also thought the advisory came too late:

This is a bit to [sic] late wasa, since monday i notice that once i drank the water i hv experience[d] excessive bowel movements. I hope tht my un born baby is ok.

Official sources are not yet confirming whether or not the contamination was an act of sabotage, but there were many calls for whoever was responsible to face some sort of consequences, whether or not it was accidental. What many people cannot understand is why, when WASA discovered the problem on the night of Tuesday, February 24, the plant was not immediately and permanently shut down — at least until the source of the contamination was found and stopped, and the integrity of the water supply could be verified. Mrs. Nanan said:

What I CANNOT understand is that WASA knew the water was contaminated but still sent it to people from Tuesday. There was water by me right through Tuesday until Wednesday.

The water supply to her area was only turned off during the wee hours of Thursday morning. She is calling for better security at the dams, as she realises how easy it is for the water to be contaminated. In response, WASA has said that they intend to step up security measures:

As of the time of this writing, WASA still had not determined what the contaminant actually is. The consensus on Twitter was that it was kerosene, but this suspicion is yet to be confirmed.

One citizen, who preferred not to be named, said that he heard a radio interview on Thursday afternoon with a WASA official, who explained that the company has measures in place to detect contaminants below the water, but not on the surface. The organisation is apparently in the process of purchasing the required equipment to test surface level contaminants, as well.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at February 27, 2015 11:32 AM

Behind the Scenes of Mayor Antonio Ledezma's Arrest in Venezuela

Video capture of Antonio Ledezma's arrest from The Pin.

Political clashes in parts of Venezuela escalated this weekend with the arrest of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Ledezma is accused of being part of a foreign plot to force the current administration from power. The arrest and the authorities’ allegations have provoked a lively debate online, where Internet users have traded words of support and outrage. 

Supporters of Nicolás Maduro‘s Chavista government pointed to the history of alliances and criminal accusations in Ledezma's political career, saying his arrest is justified for reasons beyond the current charges. Many celebrate the arrest of such a visible political figure seen publicly as an symbol of the corruption of political parties.

According to JM Álvarez:

El presidente llama al pueblo a resistir, anuncia que no va a renunciar y captura a este criminal en un gesto muy bien acogido por todos los chavistas pero también por los opositores moderados que no quieren una guerra civil ni que este “monstruo” (como le llama el pueblo) sea su jefe político y por la gran mayoría del pueblo. Tiene toda razón Maduro en expresar su desconfianza con respecto hacia este político profesional, jefe administrativo y policíaco de un régimen podrido y agente del imperialismo [estadounidense] que resume en su persona toda la inmundicia de una camarilla de traidores sin moral alguna que se enriquecieron en un país petrolero mientras el 80 % del pueblo era relegado entre pobreza y miseria.

The President calls on people to resist and announces he's not going to resign. He will also capture this criminal in a gesture well received by Chávez supporters and for moderate opposers who don't want a civil war, who don't want to see this “monster” (as the people call him) become their political chief. Maduro has good reason to express his distrust with respect to this professional politician—this administrative police chief from a rotten regime and an agent of [American] imperialism, who embodies all the filth of an immoral traitor group living off a petroleum-rich country, while 80 percent of the people are stuck between poverty and misery. 

Internet opponents demand the mayor's release through various online campaigns such as #LiberanALedezma. They accuse the governor of circumventing the law (not for the first time) and creating more political prisoners in the country. The mayor's capture reminds many of the list of people who have been and continue to be held in prison without clear legal proceedings. One of the opposing figures on the list is Leopoldo López, who has been in prison for a year for “intellectually participating” in the violent riots of the 2014 protests

Even so, the mayor's arrest begs questions about the government's lawfulness and the radicalization of the law against the opposition. Many online are concerned about the reluctance of police groups to end their competition because of legal and constitutional demands. 

Hugo Pérez Hernáis from Venezuela Conspiracy Theories reflects on Maduro's political motives and their possible meaning—among them, a creating a diversion from the country's economic hardship. It highlights how government spokespeople have drawn up a plan already set in place with convincing evidence of their supported decisions, but the evidence will be presented later:

El gobierno no parece muy apurado por mostrar la evidencia de sus argumentos de conspiración y así convencer a la oposición y a los votantes indecisos de la existencia real de la planificación de un golpe de Estado. En lugar de esto, al gobierno le preocupa más bien establecer una retórica de “ellos o nosotros” al apuntar a una lucha contra un enemigo ampliamente definido, que incluye el Imperio [estadounidense], la oposición local, los exilados en Miami, Bogotá y Madrid; y básicamente cualquiera que no jure lealtad a la revolución [bolivariana].

The government does not seem to be in any rush to show the evidence of its conspiracy claims and thus convince the opposition and the undecided voters of the existence of an actual and real coup d’état plot. Instead, the government is concerned with clearly establishing an “either-us-or-them” rhetoric by pointing to a struggle against a broadly defined enemy that includes the [American] Empire, the local opposition, exiles in Miami, Bogota, and Madrid, and basically anyone who does not pledge loyalty to the [Bolivarian] revolution.

On the Prodavinci website, various opinion writers proposed analyzing the issues that are sometimes left out of discussions. José Ignacio Hernández presents arguments that question if Ledezma's arrest would be considered constitutional and advises “the case should be assessed in a wider context with international standards of the protection of human rights,” a point that should worry Chavistas and oppositionists alike:

[Los] hechos noticiosos comentados permiten concluir en el carácter arbitrario de la detención, al no haberse mostrado esa supuesta orden al momento de su detención, al no existir información sobre aspectos tales como el sitio de reclusión y los motivos de la detención, y por el uso desproporcionado de la fuerza y por el carácter político con el cual se ha asociado esta detención.

The newsworthy events allow us to establish the arbitrary nature of the arrest: the failure to show the alleged warrant at the moment of his arrest, the absence of details like the confinement site, and political motives for the arrest, as well as the disproportionate use of force by police. 

Francisco Toro from Caracas Chronicles argues that this series of events shows how Nicolás Maduro's government isn't falling, but is actually growing stronger:

Cómo puede leerse el arresto del Alcalde Mayor de Caracas Antonio Ledezma? Es una muestra de un gobierno desesperado en sus últimos bastiones? O es una muestra de fuerza, un despliegue de su habilidad para hacer lo que quiere sin temer consecuencias?

Ninguna de las dos. El régimen no se está derrumbando, pero es débil. Ya no puede mandar sobre una mayoría electoral, y se adapta entonces a esta nueva y radical realidad.

How to read yesterday’s arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma? Is it a sign of a government that’s desperate? On its last legs? Or is it a show of strength—a display of its ability to do what it wants without fear of the consequences?

It’s neither. The regime isn’t crumbling, but it is weak. It can no longer command an electoral majority. And it’s adapting to that radically new reality.

by Nico Jackson at February 27, 2015 11:03 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Digital Citizen 2.4
"I am Charlie ... and I am Muslim."

“I am Charlie … and I am Muslim.” Photo by Maya-Anaïs Yataghène

Digital Citizen is a biweekly review of news, policy, and research on human rights and technology in the Arab World.

Last month, a horrific attack on the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo sparked new conversations about free expression among media and online activists around the world. The reactions from writers across the Middle East and North Africa varied widely, from full solidarity with the Je suis Charlie campaign to skepticism of European attitudes toward free speech.

Sudanese writer Khalid Albaih penned a piece for Al Jazeera English in which he stated: “I believe that the assailants’ religion or ideology is irrelevant; I believe they were simply looking to wage an attack; they would have attacked something else if they didn't attack Charlie Hebdo.”

Lebanese blogger Karl Sharro, writing for the Atlantic, said: “[R]estricting free speech further, even in the case of so-called hate speech, would be precisely the wrong response to the carnage in Paris. Instead, we should reassert the rights of satirical magazines and radical preachers alike to express their views, and the freedom of anyone and everyone to challenge them.”

Across the region, there has been emphasis on the importance of satire, as well. Fundacion Al Fanar published a series of cartoons from around the region showing a diversity of views. And in the Globe and Mail, Nahrain Al-Mousawi reminded readers that satire is a key feature of the Middle East, noting that “The use of mockery and caricature as a way of mocking Islamic extremism is, in fact, in some ways far more pronounced in the Middle Eastern media than it is in Europe.”

Bahrain

On 11 January 2015, a court renewed detention of satire blogger Hussain Mahdi, known online as @Takrooz, who has been detained without trial since 15 June 2014. His lawyer claims that Mahdi has been tortured and forced to sign confessions on charges of insulting the Bahraini king, defaming several figures over Twitter and incitement against a group of citizens. 

Former opposition MP Sayed Jameel Kadhem was released from prison on 1 February after paying a fine. A court sentenced Kadhem on charges of ‘disturbing the elections’, in reference to a tweet he posted on 9 October 2014 stating that “the offers of political money reached up to 100 thousand BHD” for those who agreed to take part in the country’s previous election held in November 2014.

On 20 January, prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and a fine of USD 530 on charges of insulting security institutions on Twitter. Rajab has been bailed and he is appealing the verdict.

Activist Nader Abdulemam was released after spending nearly 6 months in prison for “publicly insulting a religious figure of worship” in relation to comments he had posted on Twitter. The tweets were deemed derogatory towards Khalid bin al-Waleed, a companion of the prophet Muhammad and a renowned Islamic commander. A court of appeal reduced Abdulemam’s initial jail sentence from 6 to 4 months and he was set free on 15 January.

A website for the Bahraini Interior Ministry announced on 27 January the arrest of 9 individuals ‘for misusing social media’, a charge punishable by a up to two years in prison, under the kingdom’s penal code.

Journalists, opposition members, and human rights defenders are among 72 individuals who have recently been stripped of their citizenship by the government. The Ministry of Interior said that these persons have been responsible for a number of ‘illegal acts’ including spying, smuggling weapons, defaming the regime, spreading false news and defaming brotherly countries. UK based blogger Ali Abdulemam, founder of the online forum Bahrain Online, was among those stripped of their nationality. Charged with spreading false information, he was imprisoned between late 2010 and early 2011. Three weeks after his release he went into hiding and he was sentenced to 15 years in absentia for plotting to overthrow the regime. Writing for Index on Censorship about losing his citizenship, Abdulemam said:

It is not for the government to give it [citizenship] or take it away, it is not for them to take me from my roots, I will not accept to be unrecognised by the world. I will keep telling myself, my kids, and my friends that I am from the country that created the “Lulu” revolution [in reference to the 14 February 2011 Bahraini uprising]

Egypt

On 4 January, the Egyptian interior ministry arrested two Facebook users for ‘inciting violence’ against the police and claiming responsibility for a number of ‘rioting acts’. The ministry also arrested a woman administering twenty-six Facebook pages and groups in support of Islamist ideologies and groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS.

A student identified as Karim al-Banna was sentenced to three years in jail for announcing his atheism and insulting Islam on Facebook. Banna has been in jail since last November. According to his lawyer, the prison sentence could be suspended, if a bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (USD 140) is paid, until the court of appeals issues a new verdict in the case.

In a resolution adopted on ‘the situation in Egypt’, the EU Parliament called on 15 January for an EU-wide ban on the export of surveillance technologies to the country. The resolution could prevent EU companies such as the UK based Gamma which had previously offered its Finfisher program to the Mubarak regime, from selling and exporting surveillance technologies to Egypt.

Iraq

Judge Abdel Satar Bayrakdar announced in a press release last week that Facebook will heretofore be considered a media platform, in which insult and libel will be punished by the law.

Kuwait

Kuwaiti authorities jailed ex-minister Saad al-Ajmi over an online article alleging government corruption, published two years ago by the opposition Al-Aan electronic media. Al-Ajmi and the co-owner of the newsletter Zayed al-Zaid were both sentenced in absentia on 8 January to a week in prison. 

On 13 January, the Kuwaiti parliament voted in favour of stripping MP Abdul Hamid Dashti of his immunity for posting ‘offensive’ tweets against Bahrain. 

In late January, several online activists have been detained for “offending” the late Saudi King Abdullah. Activist Mohammed al-Ajmi was detained on 28 January for questioning over comments related to Saudi Arabia posted to Twitter, while at least four other activists have been arrested by state security over tweets deemed offensive to King Abdullah.

Lebanon

Hisham Zayat, a Lebanese political activist and journalist for Yasour in the south of Lebanon was detained for a few hours and questioned on 8 February in the police station for expressing his thoughts on Facebook about the passing King of Saudi Arabia. Zayat was released immediately after questioning.

Oman

Government critics in Oman routinely face harassment and detention, Human Rights Watch said on 19 December. According to the NGO, the authorities rely on a judicial arsenal that criminalize “illegal gatherings” and insulting the country’s ruler, Sultan Qabus bin Said Al Said, to crackdown on peaceful activists.  

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) approved nationals to register Omani domain names without owning a business. Omanis previously could not register a .om personal domain name, as the domain was restricted to businesses.

Palestine

The Palestinian Authority arrested and interrogated student Baraa Al Qadi for ‘lampooning’ top sports officials on Facebook. According to a report from the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), this is not the first time Al Qadi has been detained and interrogated. His most recent arrest occurred on September 14th, during which he was detained for over two weeks.

It is worth noting that MADA has reported an escalation in violations of freedom of expression in December. The organization has recorded an increase of violations committed by the PA against journalists and activists who voice their opposition to the government over social media. 

Saudi Arabia

After condemning the attack against the French publication Charlie Hebdo, Saudi Arabia began lashings for blogger Raif Badawi for allegedly ‘insulting Islam’. Last May, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticizing his country’s powerful clerics and religious authorities on the Liberal Saudi Network, a blog he founded. Badawi is scheduled to receive 50 lashes each Friday over a period of 20 weeks.

On 16 January, Badawi’s lashing was postponed on medical grounds. According to Amnesty, a doctor concluded that the wounds from the first round of lashings had not yet healed properly and that Badawi would not be able to withstand another round. On 29 January, Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haider said that his “health condition is bad and it's getting worse and worse.”

The kingdom’s Supreme Court is set to review the flogging punishment against the blogger.

On 12 January, a criminal court in the capital Riyadh sentenced Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair to 15 years in prison. Al-Khair had previously been sentenced to serve 10 years in prison, and to an additional 5 year suspended jail term. Founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Al-Khair faced what the Gulf Center for Human Rights has called ‘multiple trumped up charges’ including ‘antagonizing international organisations against the kingdom', ‘incitement of public opinion against authorities’ and ‘setting up and supervising an unlicensed association’.

Women’s rights activist Souad al-Shammari—who co-founded with Badawi the Saudi Liberal Network—was released on 29 January after spending three months in jail. Shammari had been detained without charge since 28 October 2014 over tweets mocking religious figures

Twitter users in Saudi Arabia will now have to be careful what they retweet. According to one legal consultant, retweeting abusive or offensive tweets is subject to the same punishment as the original posters under the country’s anti-cybercrime law. 

Saudi media reported that a man who filmed and published on the web a video showing the gruesome beheading of a woman convicted of murder had been arrested and would be prosecuted under the country’s anti-cybercrime laws.

Sudan

Sudan has adopted an access to information law, but local journalists are concerned that the law may be used against them in a country that has a long history with press freedom violations.

“Theoretically, the draft law is a good step,” blogger Usamah Mohamed told SMEX. “At the practical level, it is not going to lead to any progress with the current strict restrictions on freedom of expression and the press,” he added.

Tunisia

On 20 January a military court sentenced blogger Yassine Ayari to one year in jail on charges of ‘defaming the military’ through a series of Facebook posts in which he criticized the Minister of Defense Ghazi Jeribi and the counter-terrorism failures of the military institution. Living between Tunisia and France, Ayari had initially been sentenced in absentia to three years in jail. He was arrested on 24 December upon his arrival at Carthage International Airport in Tunis.

Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned his imprisonment.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE has blocked the website of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), a non-government group working to support human rights defenders in the Gulf region.

New research

  • Mass surveillance is a fundamental threat to human rights, says a report by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe

 

In other news

  • The Guardian published a selection of writings by Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

  • Egyptian women resort to social networking sites to expose harassers.

  • Collective Tunisian blog Nawaat interviews ‘Fallaga,’ a group of Islamist hackers.

 

From our partners

 

Upcoming events

Digital Citizen is brought to you by Advox, Access, EFF, Social Media Exchange, and 7iber.com. This month’s report was researched, edited, and written by Afef Abrougui, Hamza Ben Mehrez, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Jessica Dheere, @freedomprayers, Abir Ghattas, Mohamad Najem, Dalia Othman, Courtney Radsch, and Jillian C. York and translated into Arabic by Mohamed ElGohary.

 

by Digital Citizen at February 27, 2015 10:41 AM

Global Voices
5 Bills Threatening the Amazon That Brazil's Congress Might Consider in 2015
Indigenous peoples protest in the National Congress in Brasília to prevent the voting of PEC215 bill. Photo by: Mídia Ninja, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Indigenous people protest in Brasilia against the passage of PEC 215 in December 2014. Their pressure made the vote to be canceled. Photo by: Mídia Ninja, CC BY-NC-SA)

This article was written by Stefano Wrobleski and originally published on Infoamazonia's blog. It is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing partnership. Context and news updates, which broke during the translation process, have been added to the original text.

The bills listed below were mentioned by experts from different environmental NGOs interviewed by Infoamazonia as five matters that could brought up again in both houses of Congress in Brazil. If approved, they might have a negative impact on the Amazon.

1. Demarcation of indigenous lands 

The PEC (Proposal of Constitutional Amendment) 215 bill, presented in 2000 by former federal deputy Almir Sá, wants to alter the Brazilian Federal Constitution, giving the National Congress the authority to approve the demarcation of indigenous lands. Currently, the final word rests with the Ministry of Justice after a long process that includes anthropological studies lead by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) and deadlines for objections by any interested party in the ruling.

If approved, the bill will also require the creation of another law defining the criteria and procedure of all indigenous land demarcation. Experts believe that revisions of the bill's text might also transfer to Congress the authority to recognize and demarcate quilombo lands (hinterland settlements founded by African slaves during colonial times) and environmental conservation units, the system through which Brazil classifies protected areas.

Take a look at the map below showing indigenous lands and the Amazon's protected areas to see how much deforestation has taken place over the last decades.

In 2014, discussions on the PEC 215 in the Chamber of Deputies were brought to a halt by numerous protests from social movements and the invasion of the Congress by indigenous leaders.

“It’s an extremely worrying bill,” says Aldem Bourscheit, public policy expert for WWF Brasil. “The arguments [in favor of PEC 215] are ridiculous, akin to ‘Brazil already has too many indigenous lands.'” He says that in practice the bill's passage would make it more difficult to demarcate those territories.

For Márcio Astrini, campaign coordinator of Greenpeace Brazil, indigenous lands are the “the most efficient way to fight logging.”

Filed in 2014, the PEC215 could be discussed by a special commission in 2015. For that to happen, discussion on the bill needs to be reopened by one the 26 deputies who signed in favor of the proposal in 2000 and were also reelected in 2014. They have until July 31 to do so. When it was first written by Almir Sá, the bill had the support of 232 deputies (see the list here). Because it’s a proposal that will change the constitution, at least 171 signatures are necessary (a third of the Chamber of Deputies) for discussion to be reopened.

2. Genetic resources

For Adriana Ramos, coordinator for the Amazon at the Socio-Environmental Institute, another bill that could come up again in 2015 is the PL (Project of Law) 7.735 of 2014. This bill intends to take the place of the Provisional Measure 2.186-16/2001, which currently regulates the commercial use of genetic resources, such as plants, animals and microbes.

Traditional communities, like indigenous and quilombola communities, have first-hand knowledge of how to use these resources, which interests the pharmaceutical, food, cosmetic and other industries. Home to one of every five species on the planet, Brazil has one the vastest biodiversities in the world, with many of its traditional communities knowing how to make use of it.

The bill, if approved, would establish that small companies don't need to share their profits anymore with the local communities. “But big corporations often use those small companies to make use of genetic resources,” Adriana says. The Socio-Environmental Institute also claims that the communities have not been consulted on the bill's drafting, which contradicts the 169 Convention of the International Labour Organization, to which Brazil is a signatory. “The bill simplifies the legislation concerning the use of biological diversity. Currently, our government needs to oversee the whole procedure, so the executive power drafted this law to ease its own burden.”

Update: On February 9, the Chamber of Deputies passed the bill. It now goes to the Senate to be examined under a special urgency scheme — whereby the House has up to 45 days to vote on it. The Socio-Environmental Institute's website reports that the bill's approved text states that traditional communities will only have right to compensation if the traditional knowledge is “the main element of aggregated value” of the developed product, and if this product is included in a list that will be drafted by a couple of ministries. Products based on the access of traditional knowledge that were developed before June 2000 are also exempt from sharing profits.

3. Mining Code

The new Mining Code, currently in discussion in the Chamber of Deputies, wants to take the place of Law Decree 227 of 1967, which regulates the activity. The new bill determines the areas that the government will open up to bidding, which should increase state revenue.

The proposal faces a lot of pressure from companies with activities in the sector, because, as reveled by Agência Pública in December 2013, it influences fundraising for the election campaigns of politicians involved with the special commission currently analyzing the draft.

The bill doesn't advance mining regulations in environmental terms, but the whole discussion worries Adriana Ramos from the Socio-Environmental Institute. “It seems that attempts will be made to approve proposals for mining in indigenous lands separately,” she said. Aldem Bourscheit, from WWF Brazil, believes the country does need a new legislation on mining. “But, unfortunately, up until this moment, the current proposed laws don't take the protection approach that we are seeking,” he said.

Drafted by deputy Weliton Prado, who was reelected in 2014, the bill is being processed on a “priority basis”, which means it should enter the voting agenda right after any urgent bills. He has until July 31 to request that discussion be reopened on the bill.

4. Sugar cane in the Amazon

Drafted by senator Flexa Ribeiro, the Senate Bill (Projeto de Lei do Senado – PLS) 626 of 2011 wants to legalize the planting of sugar cane in damaged areas in the Amazon.

Currently, planting sugar cane in the Amazon is discouraged because of Decree No. 6.961, published by former President Lula in 2009, which prohibits the concession of rural credit (financial lending programs or lines of credit that are focused on impacting a rural population) to that kind of plantation inside the biome.

Take a look at the advance of deforestation in the Amazon in the map below: 

For Marcio Astrini, the problem is that the cultivation could increase the “pressure for deforestation”. “The sugar cane will occupy the large areas that today are used for livestock, rice, cotton and soy, and will push those into the forest,” he said. The Greenpeace environmentalist added that there is a “lack of governance” in the region's zoning, which would undermine the situation even more and also increase the forest's destruction.

The bill was approved in May 2013 on a “terminative basis” (which means it only needs the approval of the responsible commissions and doesn't go to plenary voting) by the Commission of Environment, Consumer Advocacy, Surveillance and Control. But senator Cristovam Buarque included an amendment to the voting and asked for the inclusion of two other committees in the discussion for it to be approved. The bill is currently in the hands of the Committee of Economical Affairs, where it met resistance from its rapporteur Rodrigo Rollemberg. Another three committees still need to analyze the bill for it to be approved.

Because the eight-year term of Flexa Ribeiro ends in 2019, the bill hasn't been filed and is currently following the regular course.

5. Mining in protected areas

For Aldem Bourscheit from WWF, of all the proposals that could make a comeback this year, one of the most worrying is PL 3.682, de 2012, which would allow mining activities to be carried out in up to 10% of Brazil's full protection conservation units. Its author is deputy Vinícius Gurgel, who was reelected in 2014.

Currently mining activities are forbidden in fully protected conservation units, but may be allowed in sustainable use units. In defense of the bill, Gurgel argues that a great number of full protection units, especially in the Amazon, were created in areas rich in mineral deposits, and exploiting them is necessary for economic growth.

In return, the bill would require the mining company that exploits those areas to donate land “to the competent environmental agency” that is “double the size of the one granted with the same characteristics.”

“The impact would never be limited to those 10%. Mining activities always cause a lot of impact,” says Bourscheit. “There are conservation areas that could meet those mining demands. Brazil doesn't need to damage its protected areas to foster those activities.”

Take a look at the map below to see where there is mining in the Amazon, combined with data on protected areas and indigenous lands

The bill, which is being processed on a “conclusive basis”, is in the Mining and Energy Commission, where it still hasn't been put to a vote, but already has the favorable opinion of its rapporteur, deputy Bernardo Santanda de Vasconcellos. The deputy proposed a substitute to Gurgel's bill that would move all delimitation of full protection conservation units to the National Congress and wouldn't establish limits on mining companies in those areas, or require them to compensate in some way any environmental harm they cause. The bill still needs to go through two other commissions to be approved.

Because he was reelected, Gurgel has until July 31 to request that discussion be reopened on the bill.

by Taisa Sganzerla at February 27, 2015 09:46 AM

Bangladeshi-American Blogger Hacked to Death in Dhaka
Avijit Roy, Image Credit: Tanmoy Kairy

Avijit Roy. Image Credit: Tanmoy Kairy

Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger who founded the Mukto-Mona (Free Mind) blog, was hacked to death close to University of Dhaka in Bangladesh on Thursday, February 26, 2015. His wife, blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna, was also severely injured when unidentified assailants stabbed them near the campus where the national book fair Ekushey Boi Mela is taking place.

Roy was born in Bangladesh but was a naturalized American citizen. He had just returned to his native country from the US a week before his death to attend a launch ceremony for his new book at the fair.

So far, no arrests have been made in the killing, which sparked outrage on social media:

Roy, who called himself an atheist, wrote on topics including science, society and philosophy. He is known for his books “Biswaser Virus” (Virus of Faith), “Samakamita” (Homosexuality), “Obiswasher Darshon” (Philosophy of Atheists) and “Sunyo theke Mahabiswa” (From Vacuum to the Great World). His writing and blogging had evoked the ire of religious extremists, and he received regular threats from Islamist groups. He often spoke out against Islamist groups, as many other bloggers in Bangladesh do, and promoted critical thinking about all religions. 

In December, online newspaper BDNews24 reported that a person named Shafiur Rhaman Farabi had written a threatening Facebook post that read:

Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.

Horrifying photos of the attacked couple covered in blood circulated on social media. In one of the photos [Warning: graphic content], Rajida Ahmed Bonna appears to be holding her husband's head while people stand and watch. One of the Twitter accounts that shared the photo wrote, “May be it's Avijit Roy's bloody wife with Husband's Head.#Beheaded He was a top Target 4 last 3/4 years.”

The account also seemed to rejoice in the killing:

The Twitter user was referring to a “hit list” of bloggers who Islamist groups like Hefazat had labeled atheists or blasphemous. Two years ago, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was brutally killed outside his home in Dhaka because of his writings against war criminals and Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh. His name had appeared on the list, as did Roy's. 

Bangladesh is a non-religious parliamentary democracy, meaning there is no sharia or blasphemy law. People who identify as atheist have the same rights as other citizens. However, under Section 295A of Bangladesh's Penal Code (1860), any person who has a “deliberate” or “malicious” intention of “hurting religious sentiments” is liable to imprisonment. Government inaction and police ineffectiveness have also given Islamist groups a certain amount of impunity in recent years. 

On February 16, another hit list was published and shared on Facebook threatening the publishers of Roy's books. The author of the list, a user named Salman Ahmed, wrote:

আসুন এমন কিছু প্রকাশকে দেখে নেই যারা কথিত মুক্তমনা ইসলাম বিদ্বেষী নাস্তিকদের বইগুলোকে নিয়মিত প্রকাশ করে যাচ্ছে ।এরাও লেখকদের মত সম অপরাধী, প্রথমে এদেরকে আঘাত করুন ,এদের স্টল জ্বালিয়ে দিন,এদের অফিসে ককটেল,বোমা যাই পান তাই দিয়ে হামলা করুন ।

Look at these publishers who publishes these anti-Islamist atheists’ books. These have also sinned like the writers. First hit them, burn their shops, attack their offices with bombs, IEDs or anything you can get hold of.

Commenting on the lack of protection for atheists in Bangladesh, medical practitioner and activist Pinaki Bhattacharya wrote on Facebook:

বাংলাদেশে সবচেয়ে সহজ টার্গেট একজন নাস্তিক। নাস্তিক মানেই আক্রমন যোগ্য, হত্যা যোগ্য। নাস্তিক কে প্রকাশ্য হুমকি দেয়া হত্যা করা যেন কোন অপরাধ নয়। নির্মম মৃত্যুই যেন তাঁদের প্রাপ্য।

In Bangladesh an easy target is an atheist. As if atheists can be attacked, killed. As if threatening atheists openly is no crime. Painful death is their destiny.

Journalist Polash Datta reminded the police about the existing threats against Avijit Roy:

তাহলে আমরা এভাবেই চলতে থাকব? আমাদের দেশের আইন-কানুনও এভাবেই চলতে থাকবে?

একদিকে প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনাকে ফেইসবুকে ‘হত্যার হুমকি’ দেয়ার অপরাধে কোনো এক বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় শিক্ষকের সাত বছরের কারাদাণ্ড হবে। আর অন্যদিকে একজন লেখককে হত্যার হুমকি দিয়েও বহাল তবিয়তে ঘুরে বেড়াবে ধর্মান্ধ মৌলবাদী ফারাবি শফিউর রহমান। এবং তার হুমকিমতোই দেশে এসে বৃহস্পিতবার রাতে খুন হবেন কুসংস্কার ও মৌলবাদবিরোধী লেখক অভিজিৎ রায়।

So will we be happy with this? Our law and police are carrying out their affairs like this?

In one instance, a university professor was sentenced to prison for allegedly threatening the prime minister. In another instance, radical fundamentalist Farabi Shafiur Rahman roams around freely after posting a threat against a writer on Facebook. And in line with his threats, anti-fundamentalist writer and free thinker Avijit Roy was killed on a Thursday night.

Even before 2013, renowned writer Humayun Azad was attacked in strikingly similar manner outside of the book fair in February 2004. Earlier this month, the publisher of a Bangla translation of a controversial book by 20th-century Iranian rationalist and politician Ali Dashti about the Prophet Muhammad's life received death threats after displaying the work at Bangladesh's national book fair. 

The International Crimes Strategy Forum (ICSF), a body of experts, activists and organisations committed to end impunity for international crimes, wrote in a statement:

The targeted murder of Avijit Roy is a part of the systematic and planned attacks on free and progressive thinking that have been taking place in Bangladesh at regular intervals, especially since the gruesome attack on Professor Humayun Azad ten years ago. Apart from major attacks on progressive symbols such as bomb attacks on Udichi’s Bengali New Year celebrations, and attacks on various Language Monuments throughout the country in 2013, religious extremists have over the years carried out horrific attacks on a number of people.

Haider's violent death in 2013 triggered nationwide protests by thousands of activists at the time, and five people remain on trial for his murder. Since then, other bloggers in addition to Roy have been attacked, too. All trials are incomplete to date.

by Palash Ranjan Sanyal at February 27, 2015 08:56 AM

February 26, 2015

Global Voices
Venezuela's Military Can Now Legally Use Firearms Against Demonstrators
Foto de protesta el 15 de febrero de 2014 en Caracas, Venezuela. Foto de la cuenta de Flick de Andrés E. Azpúrua usada bajo licencia Creative Commons.

Demonstration on February 15, 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo from Flickr by Andrés E. Azpúrua used under Creative Commons.

Venezuela's Ministry of Defense has authorized the military to use firearms against demonstrators as a last resort in the demonstrations taking place in the country.

Released through a regulation published in the Official Gazette on 27 January, the measure seeks “to avoid disorder, to support the legitimately constituted authority and to reject any aggression, facing it immediately and with the necessary means”. 

While some people supported the measure, opposition politicians, human rights activists and citizens condemned the announcement, especially through social networks: 

What should be done if demonstrators use firearms? “Venezuela Is Asked Not to Use Firearms” http://t.co/z77TRHsmSI

Even before firearms were authorized to suppress protests in #Venezuela, there were 43 deaths in February… http://t.co/Fu4WO8L8ve

The Venezuela's Constitution expressly prohibits the use of firearms and toxic substances for controlling demonstrations or public meetings. The text of the Magna Carta states:

Artículo 68: Los ciudadanos y ciudadanas tienen derecho a manifestar, pacíficamente y sin armas, sin otros requisitos que los que establezca la ley. Se prohíbe el uso de armas de fuego y sustancias tóxicas en el control de manifestaciones pacíficas. La ley regulará la actuación de los cuerpos policiales y de seguridad en el control del orden público.

Article 68: Citizens have the right to demonstrate, peacefully and without arms, without other requirements than those established by law. The use of firearms and toxic substances to control peaceful demonstrations is prohibited. The law shall regulate the actions of the police and security forces for maintaining public order.

The coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, Delsa Solórzano, reported that a request will be filed before the Supreme Court to overturn the regulation, which she considers “abominable” and unconstitutional; she also made arrangements in the United Nations, which yesterday condemned the regulation.

Meanwhile, Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López said that those opposed to the regulation are part “of an offensive that has tried to put the people of Venezuela in distress”.

Se han dedicado a extraer y a descontextualizar ese documento hermosísimo, de profundo respeto a los derechos humanos, a la vida y a los manifestantes.

They have focused on extracting and de-contextualizing the most beautiful document of profound respect for human rights, life and demonstrators.

Venezuela's ombudsman Tarek William Saab offered his support on his Twitter account for the regulation:

5) Res 008 610 MD in article 24 allows “progressive and differential use of force when the use thereof is required” for peace

At a press conference, opposition leaders read a statement against the measure. “We call on the National Armed Forces to fulfill their institutional duties… do not turn arms against the people,” said Caracas's Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

The Student Movement of the Catholic University Andres Bello (UCAB) also rejected the proposed measures, demanding that the government of Venezuela address the crisis in the country and urge the government to stop the persecution of students.

In the first quarter of 2014, Caracas and other cities in Venezuela were the scene of several demonstrations against the government of President Nicolás Maduro that resulted in 43 dead and over 800 injured, according to figures from the Venezuelan Penal Forum (FPV). From February 4, 2014 until January 7, 2015, 3,414 arrests were reported. 

by Diana Navarrete at February 26, 2015 10:06 PM

Banksy Visits Gaza, Calls on World to Act
A scene from Banksy's mini-documentary from his visit to Gaza

A scene from Banksy's mini-documentary from his visit to Gaza

Famous British street artist Banksy went undercover in Gaza and released a series of thought-provoking graffiti as well as a mini documentary.

Banksy also released a short two-minute documentary entitled “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination” on his website and YouTube page. In it, we see Banksy entering Gaza through one of the countless tunnels dug by Gazans across their borders with Egypt and Israel.

The documentary looks like a sarcastic version of a tourism ad as Banksy welcomes us to this city that's “well away from the tourist track”. He describes the people of Gaza as liking it so much they never leave, before adding between parentheses “because they're not allowed to”.

Screenshot from Banksy's ""

Screenshot from Banksy's “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination”

Banksy then went on to describe Gaza's neighbors as friendly, and then adding that over 18,000 homes were destroyed in Gaza during Israel's so-called ‘Operation Protective Edge', as we previously covered on Global Voices. ‘Development opportunities are everywhere', he tells us before adding “no cement has been allowed into Gaza since the bombing.”

Soon after, we see the first graffiti, entitled “Bomb Damage” and possibly inspired by Rodin's “The Thinker“. It was posted to his Instagram account and got over 12,000 likes at the time of writing. Rather than representing philosophy as The Thinker does, this figure seems to be sheltering herself from the devastation around her.

"Bomb Damage" by Banksy. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

“Bomb Damage” by Banksy. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

The second one, originally posted on streetartnews, transforms a symbol of Israel's occupation, a towering guard station, into an object of amusement for children. Guard stations are placed along the ‘Apartheid Wall', one of the terms used for Israel's West Bank barrier, which will be approximately 700km (434 miles) upon completion.

Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

The third one targets the Internet's love of cats. In it, we see a kitten playing with a ball of coiled metal rather than the usual cotton ball. Banksy was quoted in RT as saying: “A local man came up and said ‘Please – what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

Cat

Cat playing with a ball of coiled metal. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

We see Gazan children playing next to the kitten, and a father interviewed by Banksy tells us:

This cat tells the whole world that she is missing joy in her life. The cat found something to play with. What about our children? What about our children?

Finally, Banksy's message can be summarized by the quote he wrote on a wall in Gaza, which reads:

If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful – we don't remain neutral.

Palestinian kid climbs the wall featuring Banksy's message

Palestinian kid climbs the wall featuring Banksy's message. Image from Banksy.co.uk

This is not the first time that Banksy visits Palestine. The graffiti that he made on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier remains some of his most well-known ones. Here are a few of them.

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

Banksy in the West Bank. Photo from www.banksy.co.uk

by Joey Ayoub at February 26, 2015 09:06 PM

Why Did Egyptians Tie and Behead a Dog as Onlookers Watched?
This dog was "slaughtered" in a public beheading in Egypt. On Twitter, @ahmedadel755 remarks: "This is the faithful dog and this is his treacherous dirty owner."

This dog was “slaughtered” in a public beheading in Egypt. On Twitter, @ahmedadel755 remarks: “This is the faithful dog and this is his treacherous dirty owner.”

News of the public “slaughtering” of a dog in a busy Cairo neighbourhood as onlookers watched has sent shock waves around the world, with many questioning how people have become this violent, and why no one stopped the grisly act caught on video.

Cherine Kendous posted a summary for what happened:

The owner of the dog had a fight with other people. The dog then defended its owner and bit one of the other people, who made a complaint in the police station afterwards. The dog's owner was then sentenced to a year in jail. He thus wanted to reach an agreement with the attacked person, so they decided that they will drop the lawsuit if he handed the dog over to them for them to take revenge their way. They tied the dog in a pole and attacked it by knives and slaughtered it.

Zeinobia wrote about the story and posted the video of what happened. The video was removed later on from Facebook for being graphical.

The brothers asked for one thing: To kill the dog in front of everybody in the street so they could restore their pseudo-prestige after being humiliated by a dog. The dog’s owner agreed and we had that video. 

Social media reacted to the incident with anger, some criticising the lack of law and order that has driven people to take such actions. Nirvana Said tweets:

And Maryse Matthew shares a quote:

Yet, the question remains, why people are becoming this violent?

Beesan Kassab blamed it on the custom of bringing children to watch the slaughter of sheep in Eid Al-Adha feast:

طب ما هو مؤگد فيه كم رهيب من البشر مستغربين ليه فيه كم اقل مصدومين من قصة ذبح الكلب ، اذا كانوا بيجيبوا عيالهم يتفرجوا على دبح خروف العيد؟ بالنسبة لحد بيشوف المشهد ده وهو طفل اكيد المسألة هتبقى ابسط لما يكبر…زي ما فيه اطفال اهاليهم بيعلموهم يصطادوا العصافير للتسلية بس،ولما حد يفتح بقه لازم اسطوانة ” ركزوا والنبي في البني ادمين الاول” تشتغل ، تقولش حضرته اللي بيتكلم كارل ماركس اسم الله

If they bring their children to watch the sheep while being slaughtered in the feast? For someone who watches such a scene while being a child, of course, he will be accustomed to the thing when he grows up. Like the parents who let their children shoot birds for fun. And whenever someone complains about these, they are faced with responses like “lets focus on human rights first”.

Actually, Fatima Said's tweet is a good demonstration for Beesan's last sentence.

This particular Eid Al-Adha custom has been discussed a lot, especially after a Saudi 3-year-old child stabbed his sister after being influenced by the slaughtering rituals.

On the other hand, Ehab Kamel draws his own lines between this incident and what happened to some people in Egypt a couple of years ago, for having different religious beliefs than their neighbours. He wrote:

فيديو تعذيب و قتل و التمثيل بجثة الكلب ليس بعيدا عن ما حدث للشيخ حسن شحاتة منذ مدة و ليس غريبا عن السلوك العام لهذا المجتمع فنحن في الإطار العام و في المجمل مجموعة من ال Psychopaths أو السيكوباتيين التي عانت لفترة طويلة جدا من ال Passive Aggression أو العنف السلبي أو المكبوت و لذا و بعد عقود بدأ يظهر هذا العنف المكبوت على السطح في شكل إنحراف حاد و شبق و شهوة لا تنطفئ تجاه القتل و التلذذ بالدم و التعذيب ، فنحن بصدد مجتمع بأكمله في حالة متأخرة من المرض النفسي ، جدير بالذكر أننا نتيجة التجريف و التحريف و التجديف الذي مورس علينا من جانب أنفسنا و إستسلمنا له بالتوحد معه صرنا مجتمع بلا قيم بلا أخلاق بلا هدف بلا قضية بلا عقيدة بلا عقد إجتماعي بلا نسق أو نظام ……..

The video of torturing and killing the dog is not that distant from what happened to Sheikh Hassan Shehata a while back. It is not strange from the general behaviour of the society. We are generally a group of psychopaths who suffered for a long while from passive aggression and it started to come to the surface after decades now, in the form of non stoppable lust towards killing and torturing and blood. We are in front of a society in a late stage of psychological illness. It is worth saying that, as a result of the distortion that been exerted on this society, we surrendered to it and face a society with no values, no morals, no goals, no social contract nor any form of system.

So, the question remains. Is this violence due to some social customs or is it the result of the oppression exerted on the people by their regime?

I better end this article by a quote for Paulo Freire.

Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence; to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.

This incident has reportedly taken place four days ago, and three men have been arrested in connection with the crime.

Author's note: My previous article on Global Voices was a little more than one year ago. In the past period I have been somewhere in between shock and indifference towards the continuous news coming from Egypt. Whether it is the police being accused of killing two handful of football fans for not having tickets, to the killing of 800 protesters in one day, to the habit of jailing Alaa Abdel-Fattah. Today's story is also shocking in its own way, and it made me wonder.

by Tarek Amr at February 26, 2015 07:11 PM

Did Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung Newspaper Let Advertisers Dictate Its Content?
Süddeutsche Zeitung. Photo by Flickr user Thomas Angermann.

Süddeutsche Zeitung. Photo by Flickr user Thomas Angermann. CC BY-SA 2.0

Sebastian Heiser, a former writer for Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany, has raised heavy accusations against the southern German newspaper. On his blog, he revealed his experiences as contributor to the services supplement desk of the newspaper, describing how the interests of advertisers influenced the emphasis of the editorial staff. Going one step further, he claimed that the newspaper indirectly advertised tax evasion.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is Germany's largest trans-regional quality newspaper, with 397,000 issues and a reach of roughly 1.3 million readers. On its website, the newspaper writes, “the SZ distinguishes itself through its opinionated and independent journalism. It lays value on critically minded editors and readers.”

Heiser was employed with the trade desk at the Süddeutsche Zeitung from the beginning of January 2007 to the end of March of the same year. The services supplement desk deals with topics ranging from profession and career, to real estate, energy and finance. The content it produces is not marked as an advertorial; it is expected to conform to journalistic standards, such as editorial independence from advertisers, just like the rest of the paper.

But now, eight years after his resignation, Heiser has disclosed protocols from editorial staff meetings and recordings that he secretly compiled.

For Heiser, there were two fundamental differences between his working atmosphere and what is considered correct journalism; the chosen topics were motivated by money, and there prevailed a hostile and relatively uncritical attitude. Heiser claimed that the Süddeutsche Zeitung chose topics not according to their relevance, but rather for their appeal to advertisers. In addition to this, he accused the newspaper of not calling for more critical reporting in its articles: 

Bei dem Journalismus-Imitat in meinem Ressort wird nicht nach Relevanz entschieden, sondern nach Geld. Rein kommen die Themen, für die Anzeigen geschaltet werden. Die Daumenregel: Für jede viertelseitige Anzeige (Kosten damals: rund 20.000 Euro zuzüglich Mehrwertsteuer) erscheint eine Seite über dieses Thema.

At my desk, with its impersonation of journalism, decisions were made not based on relevance, but according to money. Only topics were addressed that benefited the advertisements. Their rule of thumb: for every quarter-page advertisement (back then that came out to 20,000 euros plus taxes) an entire page would follow, discussing the advertisement's topic.

Heiser was especially critical of the fact that he provided readers with information in an article about Swiss bank account numbers, for the sake of being able to reduce the tax burden. Looking back, Heiser reflected:

Es ist eine unverhohlene Werbung für Steuerhinterziehung. Gedruckt von der Süddeutschen Zeitung, weil sie dafür eine gut bezahlte Anzeige von der Tiroler Sparkasse erhält. Und ich bin dafür zuständig, die Texte auf dieser Seite zu schreiben oder von anderen Mitarbeitern zu bestellen und zu redigieren. Wie bin ich hier nur reingeraten?

It's a blatant advertisement for tax evasion, printed by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, because in exchange it will receive a handsomely paid advertisement from the Tirol Sparkasse bank, for which I am responsible for writing an accompanying text, or requesting texts from my coworkers that I can then edit. How did I even wind up here?

‘Covert advertising is a form of corruption’

On social media, people responded to Heiser's disclosure under the hastag #szleaks. Some users described it as “naive” to expect supplement editorial departments to report objectively, which is the norm in most editorial departments:

Who can be so naive and expect tough, political reporting from #sonderthemen-Beilagen [trade contributions] at newspapers? #szleaks 

Show me a “trade editorial department” where things run differently. Contributions have always been intended for advertisers. #szleaks

Others, however, were outraged by the disclosure. Twitter user Uwe Krüger wrote that such conduct should not be the norm:

#szleaks Covert advertising is a form of corruption. If many people consider this the norm, then it just goes to show how perverted our standards have already become

He added that many readers consider these additional pages as common editorial content:

From what I've seen, the number of cases from #szleaks is determined by whether the “fleeting average reader” is able to recognize such pages as non-editorial. 

According to an interview with the news portal Newsroom, the Süddeutsche Zeitung does not plan to comment on Heiser's allegations. Newsroom writes that Süddeutsche Zeitung assistant editor Wolfgang Krach emphasized that Heiser's claims are indefensible. Krach argued that the newspaper never gave instructions for tax evasion and that Heiser never had to present his texts to the advertising department. 

Krach macht im Gespräch mit Newsroom.de aber deutlich, dass seiner Zeitung keine Vorwürfe zu machen seien. „Warum entstehen Beilagen, warum veröffentlichen wir Sonderseiten? Es ist wie bei jeder anderen Zeitung in Deutschland, die Anzeigenabteilung kommt auf die Redaktion zu und schlägt ein Thema vor. Was wir dann journalistisch daraus machen, welche Themen in diesen Beilagen gesetzt werden, das entscheidet die Redaktion“, betont Wolfgang Krach. Er verweist dabei auch auf die „illegalen Mitschnitte“: „Hören Sie sich die Bänder genau an, dann wird klar, dass an den Vorwürfen nichts dran ist.“

But Krach makes it clear in discussion with Newsroom.de that there are no allegations to be made against his newspaper. “Why do supplements exist? Why do we publish special pages? It's the same with every other newspaper in Germany. The advertising department comes to the editorial staff and proposes topics. It's the editorial staff's decision what we then do journalistically and what topics we choose to include in our supplements,” says Wolfgang Krach. He then refers to the “illegal recordings.” “Listen to them really closely, and it will become clear that the allegations don't hold up.”

Heiser also uploaded audio from editorial meetings that he had secretly recorded onto his blog. Some observers have questioned the ethics of doing so. In an unrelated incident, Heiser's current employer, German daily Die Tageszeitung, publicly accused him last week of using keylogging software to steal data from 16 of his colleagues. In a statement, the paper said it will file charges against him.  

Similar allegations against the Telegraph

Journalist Peter Oborne has recently raised similarly harsh allegations against his former employer the Telegraph, saying that the interests of the readers and of quality journalism are no longer at the fore. The Telegraph is a large quality newspaper in Great Britain with roughly 500,000 copies.

On news and opinion website openDemocracy, Oborne accused the Telegraph of protecting the London bank HSBC. He wrote that after the newspaper published stories that were critical of HSCB in late 2012, the bank stopped advertising with the Telegraph. To woo HSBC back, Oborne said the newspaper adopted a policy of not publishing any criticism of the bank, however small.  

The bank had recently been placed in the hot seat due to involvement with tax evasions in Switzerland. While other large British newspapers reported on this, one could spend hours searching for the topic in the Telegraph, according to Oborne. 

The Telegraph's recent coverage of HSBC amounts to a form of fraud on its readers. It has been placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to Telegraph readers. There is only one word to describe the situation: terrible.

Traditional media's coverage

#szleaks has been discussed above all on social media and forums, while traditional media has been slow to react. Twitter user Uwe Krüger noted:

#szleaks What is Süddeutsche Zeitung writing about the covert advertising allegations of a former employee? NOTHING #fail 

In international media, little has been reported about the accusations against the Telegraph. In German media, however, there are considerably more reports about the Telegraph than about the accusations against the Süddeutsche Zeitung, including one published in Süddeutsche Zeitung itself. German coverage of Heiser's accusations against Süddeutsche Zeitung has largely focused on his journalistic methods, not on the media's credibility or the accusations themselves.

Although both cases aren't entirely comparable, they address the same issue: credibility. In light of anti-Muslim protests in Germany, the German press has been described by demonstrators as a “press of lies,” and many of the movement's members and organizers avoided contact with journalists. At many demonstrations there resounds the rallying cry “press of lies – shut up.” “Press of lies” became a buzzword of 2014, and triggered a debate in Germany about the media's credibility that has been shaped by serious and some less serious criticisms. 

Accusations against a large German quality newspaper could breathe some fresh air into the discussion. Stefan Winterbauer wrote on the website Meedia:

Gleichzeitig bekommen Anhänger von Verschwörungstheorien im Internet eine immer größere Bühne, auf der hemmungslos über eine vermeintliche Gleichschaltung von Mainstreammedien debattiert wird. Vorwürfe, wie sie hier erhoben werden, sind Wasser auf die Mühlen der Medienkritiker. Sie zielen auf das höchste Gut der Zeitungen, ihre Glaubwürdigkeit. Mal ganz abgesehen von den Wirrköpfen, die bei jeder sich bietenden Gelegenheit “Lügenpresse” rufen: Sobald Leser das Gefühl bekommen, Zeitungen schreiben Anzeigenkunden nach dem Mund, gibt es keinen Grund mehr für teure Abos.

At the same time, believers of conspiracy theories are increasingly coming more into the fore, where an unrestrained debate about the perceived synchronization of mainstream media is raging. Allegations as they're raised here are wind to the sails of media critics. They appeal to the newspapers’ highest good: their credibility. But scatterbrains, who call out “press of lies” every chance they get, aside, the moment readers sense that newspapers are writing what advertisers want to hear, there's no longer a reason for expensive subscriptions. 

Winterbauer concluded his observations by calling on the media to better deal with such critiques, thereby further strengthening their credibility:

Zeitungen, die sich solchen Vorwürfen ausgesetzt sehen, wie jetzt die Süddeutsche und der Telegraph, sollten entschlossen, ausführlich und konkret Stellung beziehen und ihre Arbeitsweisen möglichst transparent machen. Bezeichnend ist zum Beispiel auch, dass die Süddeutsche gar keinen eigenen Pressesprecher mehr hat. Eine gute Idee wäre es auch, Kritiker einzuladen zu einer öffentlichen Diskussion. Ja – shocking! – dies womöglich auch noch im eigenen Blatt, auf der eigenen Website zum Thema machen. Auf diese Weise kann Glaubwürdigkeit sogar noch gestärkt werden. Eine solche Strategie des offenen Visiers und der Transparenz funktioniert aber natürlich nur, wenn die Medien tatsächlich nichts zu verbergen haben.

Newspapers that are subject to such allegations, such as the Süddeutsche Zeitung and The Telegraph, should take a resolute, extensive and concrete position, and make their operating procedures as transparent as possible. It is also peculiar that the Süddeutsche Zeitung no longer even has a press spokesman. Another good idea would be to invite critics to an open discussion. And yes, how shocking would it be to hold such a discussion in its own newspaper. In this way, credibility can be strengthened. Such a strategy of open visors and transparency works, of course, only when the media don't have anything to hide. 

by Daniel Staechelin at February 26, 2015 06:20 PM

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