Archivi categoria: Global Voices

Hong Kong press watchdog calls for investigation into police abuse against 26 journalists during protests

“Those abusive officers were fully aware of their journalists’ identity”

Photo: Todd R. Darling / HKFP. Used with permission.

The following post is originally written by Jennifer Creery and published by Hong Kong Free Press on 19 June 2019. It is republished on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

Hong Kong’s press freedom watchdog filed a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) on Monday claiming police caused bodily harm to 26 journalists during several days of protests against the city’s controversial extradition bill.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said the alleged misconduct was a breach of the Basic Law. It called on the chief executive to set up an independent committee to ascertain whether a top-level order was the cause of the incidents. The statement stressed,

A media that can do its job without fear is of utmost importance in the balance of police power and public safety as well as the protection of the public’s right to know.

Hong Kong was rocked by protests in recent weeks over the government’s proposed amendments to extradition laws which would allow it to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – such as mainland China. The bill would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight. Critics have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.

Photo: Todd R. Darling / HKFP. Used with permission.

The occupation of the space outside the city’s legislature on June 12 ended in violence as police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against protesting crowds after a few protesters advanced forwards and threw objects at the police officers.

The abuse alleged by the HKJA included:

  • 10 cases of police officers firing tear gas bombs at close range towards reporters, three of whom were hit on the head;
  • One case of a journalist wounded by an object believed to be a rubber bullet or bean bag round;
  • At least one reporter was hurt when police officers pushed them away using shields and batons;
  • Two cases of projecting strong lights at cameras making filming difficult;
  • Three cases of police searching journalists without reason.

The cases outlined by the HKJA arose between June 10 and 14 and were reportedly verified using photographs or videos provided by journalists or peers who witnessed the incident.

HKJA said that aside from a few journalists who were concerned about their safety or their employers’ policies, all agreed to provide background information to the IPCC.

The watchdog added that all journalists affected had their press credentials clearly displayed on their helmets or high visibility vests, and were not standing among protesters when the incident happened: “The Association has, therefore, sufficient reasons to believe that those abusive officers were fully aware of their journalists’ identity,” their statement read.

Written by Hong Kong Free Press · comments (0)
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Public pressure forces Trinidad & Tobago government to drop amendment to Freedom of Information Act

Critics called the amendment ‘undemocratic’ and ‘a retrograde step’

Screenshot of a PDF of Trinidad and Tobago's Freedom of Information Act, 1999

Under pressure from the public, Trinidad and Tobago's government on the night of June 17 withdrew a controversial amendment it was proposing to make to the country's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Act, passed in 1999 and in effect since 2001, allows members of the public to seek access to information held by public authorities. Applicants filing FOIA requests are supposed to receive a response within 30 days.

In early June, however, the government proposed an amendment to the Act which would have extended the allowable response time to 90 days, prompting an outcry from over 47 groups, including the Law Association, Chamber of Commerce, and the Trinidad and Tobago Media Association (MATT), who held a forum on the matter on June 15. Many stakeholders and civil society organisations believed that the proposed amendments had the potential to frustrate the work of a free press, as well as prevent the public from accessing information in a timely manner.

MATT president Sheila Rampersad, interviewed on television on the morning after the withdrawal was announced, said that:

“It's a morning when people should be very proud of Trinidad and Tobago and very proud of a democracy that obviously is quite healthy—that civil society came together quickly and comprehensively as it did, and that government was sufficiently responsive.”

Amendment slammed as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘retrograde’

The amendment to the Act, called Clause 7, formed part of an omnibus bill called The Miscellaneous Provisions (Tax Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank and Non-Profit Organisations) Bill, 2019. The initial draft of the Clause not only extended the time for state agencies to respond to requests from 30 days to 90, but also proposed the addition of another 90 days in which the attorney general could either endorse or overrule the decision to deny the request.

In practice, the turnaround time for responses to FOIA requests was often longer than the prescribed period, and some state bodies have refused to release information, citing confidentiality. The government would often find itself embroiled in lawsuits when FOIA requests were denied, with some litigants taking their cases all the way to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Trinidad and Tobago's highest appellate court.

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, the architect of the original Act, came out strongly against a sitting attorney general (a political appointee) having the final say on whether or not a request would be denied, calling it “undemocratic.” Maharaj even suggested he would initiate legal proceedings and launch a campaign if necessary to advocate for public consultation in the matter.

The amendment was on the parliamentary agenda on June 10. Attorney General Faris Al Rawi admitted he had misjudged the response, but dismissed the need for consultation on the amendment, which was debated and passed in the Lower House on June 14 and 15 June 15.

Attorney Michael Rooplal of the Assembly of Southern Lawyers called the amendment “a retrograde step,” noting the senselessness of making such a shift in at a time when digital technology makes it easier to store, retrieve, and organise information. Rooplal added that:

“The FOIA is a vital cog in the public’s right to know and right to participate in the administration of our democratic society. Any derogation of these rights should be strongly guarded against, particularly in the present circumstances where there has been absolutely no consultation with the public on this issue.”

Written by Janine Mendes-Franco, Georgia Popplewell · comments (0)
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Meet Ibrahima Malal Sarr, the host of the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account for June 19-25

Photo provided by Ibrahima Malal Sarr.

In 2019 as part of a social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online, African language activists and advocates will be taking turns managing the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of African languages. This profile post is about Ibrahima Malal Sarr (@ibrahimasaar) and what he plans to discuss during his week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

I am a linguist, web developer and programmer from Senegal. I am also a former Mozilla Rep and a member of ANLOC (African Network for Localization). As a long term Mozillian and Fulah localization team lead and a SUMO and KB l10n contributor, I have created most of Fulah Internet and IT terminology from scratch. I was a part of the incredible team of Reps present at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015, reporting the event in social media.

I studied Applied Linguistics, Translation, and Computer Assisted Language Learning at Moray House College in Edinburgh, Scotland. I feel like I am a true “indigenous geek” who is passionate about making technology available in my own language, Fulah (ff).

I have been involved in Fulah language translation and localization, as well as promoting the language on the Internet (www.pulaagu.com and www.blog-pulaagu.com ). In 2009, I led Fulah teams in the 100 African Language Locales initiative.

I also created most of the Fulah terminology for ICT, especially Firefox terminology. I feel that my biggest achievement yet is the localization of Firefox into Fulah, which was released in June 2012. Since that time, Firefox OS has also been localized into Fulah, making it the first African language to have fully localized the new OS.

RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?

Fulah (ff) is spoken natively by around 46 million in 20 countries from Senegal to Sudan (native speakers and lingua-franca). Language code is “ff-SN” for Senegal (Name of language in Fulah: Pulaar) I have been contributing to open source for 9 years now and I am the Fulah team lead for Firefox localization and other open source projects. We have translated Facebook recently (launched in 2016).

The status of the language is somehow awkward. Fulah is marginalized in many countries with a strong second most spoken, sometimes even the most spoken, Many states have a hidden agenda to favour one language and are doing everything to stop Fulah from being used in the media and education.

While it has been chosen by the Academy of African languages as a “cross-border vehicular” language, it is nonetheless not a majority language in all those countries, except maybe Guinea where it is still quite marginalized.

In spite of and because of that, we have developed a strong commitment to develop the language by active militancy and motivation. The result is a much more codified language and a lot of work done in the spread of writing and publishing books.

As far as on-line presence is concerned, Fulah has been on the web since 1994 with the very first web site I created as part of the Pulaar Project. At that time I was hosted by Compuserve, one of the ISP's of that period. Later, that project became “pulaagu.com“, which is still active and visited by thousands from 37 countries!

We have translated so many software into Fulah. Among those: Firefox (2012 all platforms), Abiword, VLC media player, VIrtaal (a CAT tool), Pootle (Web-based Translation Server), Facebook (launched in 2016).

Facebook is no doubt the platform that has given Fulah the most decisive boost as far as writing is concerned. There are hundreds of groups where people spend a lot of time discussing in Fulah, and that helped a lot to learn to write the language correctly instead of using French or English!

With the help of keyboards we developed for PC and Android, people find it more convenient to write and discuss on-line using a dedicated keyboard. We still lack a keyboard for ISO as I personally don't own a MAC computer, which is necessary to develop for the Apple platform.

Generally speaking, Internet has helped Fulah achieve thing that would have been difficult otherwise, given the efforts to keep the language back in many countries. Now apart from the website, there are many on-line radios and TV and many dedicated Youtube channels since local TVs usually don't have a single program in Fulah or national TVs having a ridiculous 10 minutes a day/week or even sometimes less!
 

RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account?

First of all, I would like to address three target audiences: the international community, the governments that are doing everything to impose only one (other) language, and the Fulah speakers themselves. Accordingly, I will be focusing on achievements of the language, thanks to the Fulah community, also to show that much remains to be done. Then I would like to draw attention on the “linguistic oppression” that the language is being victim as part of the cynical agenda to wipe the language out of sight in many countries. Finally I will be urging governments to respect international agreements that protect linguistic heritage and remind them their responsibilities in giving the language its full rights, including the right to be used as an educational and administrative medium.

RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?

We as a community and personally, would not have given so much to the language if governments did their job by treating the languages equally and not trying to push Fulah out! The motivation is rather an instinct of survival because the language would virtually disappear if we did not develop our aon strategy to codify, write and teach it with no official help whatsoever!

My dream is to reach a decent literacy rate that would make the language impossible to ignore. But our short term objectives include to have Android translated into Fulah, as our community is a “connected” people who use the smartphone daily and communicate thought apps. We are also looking for assistance to gather data for voice technology and terminology and dictionaries.

My ultimate dream is that everyone learn languages from their neighbours instead of trying to make them disappear!

Written by Rising Voices · comments (0)
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On displacement

A Trinidadian poet contemplates the Venezuela migrant crisis

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash. Public domain.

The following is an edited version of a short essay posted on Facebook by Trinidadian poet Shivanee Ramlochan, responding to the reception of Venezuelan migrants in Trinidad and Tobago. 

I have been thinking about the physical and psychogeographic architecture of displacement. The reasons are obvious and immediate ones, and they preoccupy me every day, in thoughts of what I have said about the global Venezuelan migrant crisis, and what I have failed to say. I confess to a certain paralysis of sorrow in the face of so much daily reported. . . xenophobia on its own barely, scarcely, feels like the right word.

A sidestream discussion, on that topic: if I am to say anyone is xenophobic, I'm more interested in thinking about the roots of that disavowing of the foreign: what causes it, from country to country, from village to village, from citizen to citizen? And how, truly, are the tendrillings of Trinidadian xenophobia rooted in the rhetoric and action of postcolonial trauma, and its attendant paranoia, its attendant and inherent suspicion, its sense that, having worked so hard through the inheritance of forefathers, what is ours *is ours*, by God and the laws of *this land*?

And how, specifically, the systematic generations of enforced denial at the hands of empire, and the inheritance of our own unfair, corrupt hands taught to work against our own interests — in the defense of propriety, and a rigidly taught respectability politics — has made us, all of us, xenophobe and humanitarian alike, more open to this fear, lying on the other side of rage? It is a fear that promises bitter reprisals if what we've worked for (whether or not we have ourselves worked for it) could so easily, so encroachingly, be taken away.

There is a sidestream of worry to the thing I'm here to think out loud about, which is displacement. But it needs to be said, because we displace ourselves, we are in perpetual danger of displacing ourselves, from the people we could or should be, because of it. We can, and do, throw rocks instead of bread, without realizing we're being swept up in the same stream of unpredictable national danger. That it has taken longer to ravage our entirety of life does not mean that it won't, or couldn't, or some day in this anthropocene, will.

When I think of displacement, I think of people sleeping on foldout cardboard boxes in dirty streets. I think of people who have periods, bleeding indiscriminately and staunching the sight of their own indifferent redness with dirty linens. I think of dirty, unwashed children, slapping at the irritated mosquito-riddled patchwork of their feverish infant skin. I mention dirtiness repeatedly because it occurs to me that this is one of the things mass displacement steals from you first: a chance to be clean by your own standards.

I think, too, of what many of us come to expect from the displaced people we help, either publicly or far from the scope of an Instagram lens: that we expect or demand a milky-mannered subservience of attitude, a garment of perpetual gratitude thrown around shivering shoulders, a litany of ‘gracias, gracias, mil gracias’ as pads are distributed, as mattresses and Milo and maybe even money exchange hands. We often, myself very much included, reflect more on the nature of our own charity when elbow-deep in the act of giving anything, and the contracts we enforce usually demand a certain pageantry of munificence for meek and tearstruck adoration. And an adoration for what? Common, baseline decency? Stars in the eyes of migrants, for bread and cheese and jam? Genuflections for tampons and teabags in styrofoam cups?

Of course, people are grateful for acts of love. I wonder what kinds of love many of us, myself included, carry out, hoping to receive from those who have less than nothing. And if that sounds baleful, I mean it to sound baleful. I've seen the ways certain men have been looking at certain girls. I've seen the ways certain men have been looking at certain boys. I've heard, and read, and witnessed enough to know that when mass discontent meets a mob, what once seemed indecent to ponder becomes almost expected. A number of flesh taxes, exacted.

Displacement has no particular citizenship, requires no special visa for entry. It comes on a slow, malarial boat, or dropped from the sky on small islands buffeted by storms in the Caribbean, our common sea. I think, with no clear answers except tidal dread and heartache, of what we will do, collectively, when it displaces us. Whether it falls on my head, or the braided, ribboned hair of my great-great-great granddaughter, when the island is sinking, and all the signs leading everywhere else say No.

Shivanee Ramlochan's 2017 poetry collection, Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, was shortlisted for the 2018 Felix Dennis Award for best first collection.

Written by Shivanee Ramlochan · comments (0)
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Demolition of a 150-year-old building highlights government neglect of Bangladesh’s heritage sites

The landmark building was demolished despite a High Court Directive

The dilapidated state of “Jahaj Bari” before being demolished. It was the first commercial house in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, built in 1870. Image by Shakil Ahmed. Used with permission.

In Dhaka, a century-old heritage building was demolished clandestinely on the night of Eid-ul-Fitr on June 5, 2019. The ship-like structure, known locally as “Jahaj Bari”, was built around 1870 and considered to be the first commercial building in Bangladesh's capital. Its demolition has caused many to speak out against the neglect of Dhaka's architectural treasures.

Media reports alleged that supporters of the ruling Awami League (AL) party brought three bulldozers to the location and demolished the building. The supporters claim that their leader, local member of parliament (Dhaka-7) Haji Md. Salim, bought the property to build a multi-story building on the site. The AL supporters also claimed that the building was not included on any heritage list.

A statement from the Member of Parliament HAJI SELIM's office claiming that he has bought the property and that he has the right to decide whether to keep the building get rid of it . what about High Court Judgement ?…it seems he… https://t.co/afLCbu0pWh

— usg.dhaka (@USG_Dhaka) June 15, 2019

On August 13, 2018, the Dhaka High Court issued a directive to the government agency responsible for coordinating urban development in Dhaka to not approve or allow the demolition or modification of 2,200 archaeologically significant buildings around the capital city. Jahaj Bari is also part of a Waqf (mortmain) estate that, as part of a charitable donation, could not be sold. According to the administrator of Bangladesh's Waqf Administration, it is mandatory to have permission in order to hand over, sell or develop any Waqf property. Contrary to the claims of the AL activists, no such permission was requested for the sale or demolition of the building in question.

In March 2019, an attempt was made to demolish the building. Urban Study Group, a volunteer-run nonprofit group dedicated to protecting the historical urban fabric of Old Dhaka, filed a complaint to stop the demolition, citing the above mentioned High Court order.

However, according to newspaper reports, some locals are happy that the building was demolished. They felt that it was in a dilapidated state and feared that it would fall down on them—an indication of the lack of awareness of historical preservation and support for the restoration of heritage buildings in Bangladesh.

Heritage history—just empty words

Many expressed their anger on hearing about the destruction of the building. Shuvra Kar wrote on Facebook:

ঐতিহ্য, ইতিহাস, কৃষ্টি এসব এদেশে গাল ভরা কথা!!

Heritage, history, culture these are just empty words in this country!

Writer Tania Kamrun Nahar explained why this heritage building needed to be saved:

তিনতলা ‘জাহাজ বাড়ি’র দোতলায় ছিলো নকশা করা রেলিং, ছাদওয়ালা টানা বারান্দা। আর পুরো অবয়বজুড়ে নানা রকম কারুকাজ। কোণাকৃতির আর্চের সারি, কারুকাজ করা কার্নিশ। কলামে ব্যবহার করা হয়েছিল আয়নিক ও করিন্থিয়ান ক্যাপিটাল। পশ্চিম প্রান্তে আর্চ ও কলামের সাথেও নানারকম অলঙ্করণের ব্যবহার দেখা যায়। সব মিলিয়ে এই ভবনটিতে যে ধরনের অলঙ্করণের ব্যবহার, তা একে এক অনন্য মাত্রা দিয়েছিল। এ ধরনের অলঙ্করণ পুরান ঢাকায় আর কোনো ভবনে দেখা যায় না। সেদিক থেকে এর নান্দনিক গুরুত্বের জন্যই ভবনটি সংরক্ষণ করা প্রয়োজন।

The three-storied “Jahaj Bari” had beautiful motifs on the railings. The long verandah had designed roofs. The whole building had many beautiful designs — pointed arches, decorated cornices. The columns had ionic and Corinthian capital designs. The building had such remarkable designs which were rare to find in other buildings in the old parts of Dhaka. So the building needed to be saved.

Dhaka was established as the capital of Bengal in 1610, more than four centuries ago. During the years of Mughal rule and British colonial rule, many buildings were built that form part of the history and heritage of the city.

But most of these buildings are long gone. The ones that remain are in a dilapidated state and are destined to be grabbed by occupants claiming ownership of the buildings (often by forging documents). One example is Bara Katra, a historical and architectural monument built between 1644 and 1646 AD by Mir Abul Qasim, the Diwan (chief revenue official) of the Mughal prince Shah Shuja. The building is on the verge of collapsee due to the lack of maintenance, preservation efforts, and damage caused by illegal occupants.

Bara Katra. The structure was built according to the traditional pattern of Central Asian caravanserais and is embellished in the style of Mughal architecture. Image by Ragib Hassan via Wikipedia. CC BY 2.5

Muntasir Mamun has written many books on the history and heritage of Dhaka city. He wrote in a local newspaper Bhorer Kagoj:

গত চার দশক বড়কাটরা ছোটকাটরা সংরক্ষণ করার জন্য কতো আবেদন-নিবেদন করলাম, কেউ শুনল না। আজ সেগুলো ধ্বংস করে ফেলা হয়েছে। প্রতœতত্ত্ব দপ্তর যেখানে লালবাগ কেল্লার দেয়াল ভেঙে ফেলে গাড়ি পার্কিংয়ের জন্য তখন আর কী বলা যায়! মূর্খতার বিরুদ্ধে আর কতো লড়াই করা যায়?

I have pleaded to the authorities in the past four decades to save the heritage buildings like Bara Katra and Choto Katra. But nobody listened. When the philatelic department demolished part of the old walls of the famous Lalbagh Fort to make a car park, what can you say? How can you fight against stupidity?

An online news portal has published an in-depth report about government negligence of these heritage buildings and the influential people trying to demolish existing buildings:

ইতিমধ্যেই শাঁখারী বাজারের হেরিটেজভুক্ত ১৪ নম্বর বাড়িটি ভেঙ্গে ফেলা হয়েছে। সুত্রাপুরের বড় বাড়িটির সিংহভাগই ধ্বংস করা হয়েছে। মোগল আমলের স্মৃতিবাহী বংশাল মুকিম বাজার জামে মসজিদ, সিদ্দিক বাজার জামে মসজিদ সংস্কারের নামে ধ্বংস করা হয়েছে। [..] এসব স্থাপনা রক্ষায় সরকারের সুস্পষ্ট নির্দেশনা থাকলেও রাজউক ও ডিসিসির কর্মকর্তারা রহস্যজনক ভূমিকা পালন করেছে। অনেকক্ষেত্রে এদের নীরবতা ঐতিহ্য ধ্বংস সহায়ক শক্তি হিসাবে কাজ করছে।

The no. 14 house in the heritage list has already been taken down. Most parts of the famous big house in Sutrapur has been destroyed. The relics of the Mughal era in Bangshal Mukim Bazar Jam-e Mosque and Siddique Bazar Jam-e Mosque are gone with a new structure in place in the name of renovation. [..] Although there is a government directive to protect heritage buildings, the officials of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha and Dhaka City Corporation are not doing anything. Their inaction is encouraging greedy parties to grab the old properties and destroy them.

The Urban Study Group has organized rallies and human chains to protest these demolitions. They are also keen to create awareness to protect other endangered heritage buildings.

Here are some more images of Bangladeshi heritage buildings in peril:

An old Zamindar house in Nazira Bazar of Old Dhaka is being demolished. Image by Shakil Ahmed. Used with permission.

Nimtali Palace. It was the residence of the Deputy Governor of Dhaka during the Mughal rule. Only the west gate of the palace still survives. Image by Shakil Ahmed. Used with permission.

ShankhaNidhi House। This is another century-old building in Dhaka. Without preservation, this building is barely surviving. Image by Shakil Ahmed. Used with permission.

Northbrook Hall or Lal Kuthi – photographed in 1904 by Fritz Kapp. This building is barely surviving now. Image via Wikipedia. Public Domain

Written by পান্থ রহমান রেজা (Pantha) Translated by Rezwan · · View original post [bn] · comments (0)
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#JBF2019: Japan’s Lego Brick Festival 2019 takes to Twitter

Lego Figurines

Lego Figurines. Image by Nevin Thompson.

Billed as the country's largest international fan-led Lego event, Japan Brickfest 2019 was held in Kobe on June 8 and June 9. More than 270 Lego fans displayed their creations, and the thousands of people who attended Brickfest over the weekend shared photos on Twitter using the hashtag #JBF2019.

#JBF2019
行ってきたまとめです。 pic.twitter.com/14rF10h2zW

— kattho (@katthogunner) June 10, 2019

I went and took some photos.

名前分からなかったけどとても良かったもの。新幹線の奴発想が凄すぎる、、、 pic.twitter.com/h7XQV12UIg

— kattho (@katthogunner) June 10, 2019

I'm not sure who made this, but it's really cool. Using the bullet train Lego in this way is totally awesome.

JBF2019で展示したマイクロスケールの街です。

パリの衛星写真を参考にヨーロッパをイメージして、16×16ポッチを1区画として構成しました。

路面電車や架線、樹木がいいアクセントになったので、小さなスケールながら街の伊吹を感じてもらえたら嬉しいです。#jbf2019 pic.twitter.com/5bWkZ4tY73

— とにー@ (@tm96008) June 9, 2019

A micro-scale town on display at JBF 2019. Using satellite photos, everything has been recreated on a 16X16 Lego building sheet.

アタッシュケースは何かなぁと思ったら、開くとこうなる。持ち運び便利〜w #JBF2019 pic.twitter.com/gsPUHJeqra

— くぼっち (@tttkbk) June 9, 2019

I was wondering what was in the attache case. I opened it up, and this is what I saw. Very convenient for transporting Lego!

These lego figures are getting bigger and more realistic every year! #lego #kobe #JBF2019 #kansai #Japan pic.twitter.com/cXCX2MahKQ

— Being Kansai (@BeingKansai) June 9, 2019

Put on each year since 2016 by Canadian Academy, a private school in Kobe, and KLUG, (the Kansai Lego User Group), Japan Brickfest is a charity event, whereby a portion of the entry fee is donated to various worthy causes.

See many more amazing Lego creations in Kobe at the Twitter hashtag #JBF2019.

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Indonesia’s post-election riots led to free speech violations

Riot police shields before the start of the election protest. Photo by Pio Kharisma Yongha. Used with permission.

Riots erupted in Jakarta on 22 May 2019 after the country’s election body announced the victory of incumbent President Joko Widodo. The protesters were supporters of defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto who claimed that there was systematic election rigging.

At least eight died during the scuffle with the police and more than 700 were injured.

Aside from these casualties involving protesters, several journalists were also attacked while covering the riots. The government also restricted access to social media for three days to stop the spread of disinformation.

Social media restricted to stop hoaxes

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security of Indonesia (Menpolhukam), retired General Wiranto announced on 22 May that social media and mobile messenger apps would be restricted via bandwidth throttling and selective shutdowns of social media accounts to curb the spread of hoaxes. For three days, Indonesian netizens were only able to send videos or images through Virtual Private Networks.

A coalition of human rights groups noted that both supporters of Subianto and Jokowi engaged in online taunting as well as spreading hate speech and misinformation.

Concurring with General Wiranto, the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kemenkominfo) asked netizens not to spread unverified content and fake news about the election protest. It shut down some 2,000 social media accounts and websites for spreading ‘negative content.’

Communication and technology minister Rudiantara defended the government's strategies:

2. Pembatasan akses merupakan salah satu dr alternatif2 terakhir yang ditempuh seiring dg tingkat kegentingan. Pemerintah negara2 lain di dunia telah membuktikan efektivitasnya untuk mencegah meluasnya kerusuhan.

— Rudiantara (@rudiantara_id) May 27, 2019

Limiting access is the last resort to take in an increasingly dire situation. Other nations have proven its efficiency to stop the spread of chaos.

The minister said the agency reached out to messaging platforms like WhatsApp:

5. Cara lain, dg bekerja sama dengan penyedia platform, juga ditempuh. Misalnya, sy telah berkomunikasi dg pimpinan WA, yg hanya dlm seminggu sebelum kerusuhan 22 Mei lalu telah menutup sekitar 61.000 akun aplikasi WA yg melanggar aturan.

— Rudiantara (@rudiantara_id) May 27, 2019

Another way is through a collaboration with platform provider. For example, I've spoken with the chiefs of WA which has closed down 61,000 accounts for conduct violations ahead of the May 22 riot.

But the country's human rights commission said that the government action was an exaggeration.

In its statement, Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) asserted that the Indonesian government “should not implement throttling without well-defined parameters of national emergency”.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) also doubted the effectivity of enforcing Internet restrictions during crisis situations:

While we understand the government’s intention to stop the distribution of false information and protect the public during violent protests, the decision has also inadvertently restricted public’s access to factual information.

Instead of resorting to social media throttling, AJI has a proposal:

We ask the government to engage with social media providers so they can be actively involved in stopping the spread of false information and hate speeches through transparent mechanism with a stronger legal basis.

Indonesia lifted these restrictions after three days.

The worst attack against journalists since the Suharto-era

AJI reported that an AP correspondent experienced online doxxing while dozens of journalists were physically harassed by protesters and the police. Some blamed Subianto for inciting hate when he called the media the ‘destroyer of democracy’ during his May Day speech. AJI condemned the violence against journalists and has called for a thorough investigation in what many have already described as the worst attack against journalists in the post-Suharto era. Suharto was a strongman who ruled the country for three decades before his fall from power in 1998.

AJI described the intimidation targeting journalists as a blatant act of censorship. Police were accused of using unnecessary force to stop journalists from recording the clashes between state forces and protesters. But there was also violence coming from the side of protesters:

The journalists were also assaulted by protesters. They persecuted the journalists and seized their equipment including their cameras, mobile phones, and recorders. The protesters forced the journalists to delete all photo and video documentation.

Various rights groups are calling the government to probe the attacks against the media by the police and some supporters of Subianto.

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Visas now required for Venezuelans as Trinidad and Tobago concludes migrant registration process

A group of protesters called for the government to step down over the migrant issue

The Guardian, one of Trinidad and Tobago's daily newspapers, launched a Spanish supplement this week targeted at the local Venezuelan community. Photo by Georgia Popplewell (CC BY SA)

Venezuelan migrants in Trinidad and Tobago had until 5pm today, June 14, to register to regularise their status in the country. The two-week exercise, which began on May 31, is the latest move by the Trinidad and Tobago government to manage the influx of people fleeing strife and hardship in Venezuela and settling in the small Caribbean nation.

The government said the registration exercise went smoothly, reporting that 13,993 migrants had been processed by the end the day on June 13, and issuing assurances that all who appeared at the centres by the deadline would be processed. One local TV station, however, reported that some migrants who attempted to register in Tobago on June 14 were not accommodated. As the registration period ended on June 14, Minister of National Security Stuart Young announced that from June 17, Venezuelans will require a visa to enter Trinidad and Tobago.

Young: I have signed an order that says we now require Visas for Venezuelans to enter Trinidad and Tobago from this coming Monday.

— CCN TV6 (@tv6tnt) June 14, 2019

For some citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, however, the spectacle of people from the beleaguered neighbouring country receiving what some perceive as special treatment has been too much to bear.

On the evening of June 13, protestors gathered in front of the registration centre at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Keith Rowley and the closure of the country’s borders. One of the protest organisers, a social media personality called Kia “Rankin Boss” Hosein, told the Trinidad Express that the protest was motivated not by anti-immigrant sentiment but by what she alleges are illegal actions on the part of both Venezuelan migrants and the government of Trinidad and Tobago. “Hosein said Venezuelans had broken the law by entering the country illegally,” the Express reported, “and the government has broken the law by allowing them to stay.”

I can't help but feel a deep sense of sadness tonight, as a group of our people stage a protest calling for government to close the borders between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. Where is your humanity?

— melissa mathura (@mellyMM) June 14, 2019

The Express reported that other protestors shouted anti-immigrant slurs and “motorists passing by honked their horns in support and shouted ‘send them back Venezuela’”. Riot police were called in to secure the area.

I live in a terminally ill country. Shameless and primitive. If you support tonight's taunting of refugee seekers at the anti-immigration protests, you are a sick fuck.

— Wesley Gibbings (@wgibbings) June 14, 2019

Hosein also told the Express that “. . . charity starts at home. We are already sinking in Trinidad and Tobago so how can you take in more people?”—a common theme among social media commentators on the Venezuela migrants issue.

Prime Minister Rowley expressed similar sentiments back in April 2018, after 82 Venezuelans were deported from the country. Responding to criticism of the deportation and of the country’s slowness to accord refugee status to Venezuelans, Rowley said that: “Bearing in mind we are not China, Russia or America, we are a little island. We have limited space. 1.3 million people. Therefore we cannot and will not allow UN spokespersons to convert us into a refugee camp.”

On the afternoon of June 14, members of the June 13 protest greeted opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she arrived at parliament with cries of “Rowley must go!” In an interview with media, Persad-Bissessar, who, along with other members of the opposition, has been critical of the Rowley administration's response to Venezuela, said that the government has “no fixed policy and seems to be taking it on the fly, one minute at a time. . . they seem to be very unaware of the anger and the pain and suffering in the country.”

A business opportunity

Local businesses have nevertheless been quick to seize the economic opportunities presented by the Venezuelan presence in the country.

One manufacturing company was reportedly handing out information on employment opportunities and job application forms to Venezuelans waiting in line at the registration centre in southern Trinidad, and some employers are said to be including Spanish text on employment forms. Over the last few years, Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago have increasingly been occupying minimum wage jobs that some business owners say locals are either reluctant to do or don't perform as reliably.

This week the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, one of the country’s three daily newspapers, began publishing a Spanish-language supplement targeted at the local Venezuelan community.

Written by Georgia Popplewell · comments (0)
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Indonesia’s post-election riots led to free speech violations

Riot police shields before the start of the election protest. Photo by Pio Kharisma Yongha. Used with permission.

Riots erupted in Jakarta on 22 May 2019 after the country’s election body announced the victory of incumbent President Joko Widodo. The protesters were supporters of defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto who claimed that there was systematic election rigging.

At least eight died during the scuffle with the police and more than 700 were injured.

Aside from these casualties involving protesters, several journalists were also attacked while covering the riots. The government also imposed social media restriction for three days to stop the spread of disinformation.

Social media restricted to stop hoaxes

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security of Indonesia (Menpolhukam), retired General Wiranto announced on 22 May that social media and mobile messenger apps would be restricted via bandwidth throttling and selective shutdowns of social media accounts to curb the spread of hoaxes. For three days, Indonesian netizens were only able to send videos or images through Virtual Private Networks.

A coalition of human rights groups noted that both supporters of Subianto and Jokowi engaged in online taunting as well as spreading hate speech and misinformation.

Concurring with General Wiranto, the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kemenkominfo) asked netizens not to spread unverified content and fake news about the election protest. It shut down some 2,000 social media accounts and websites for spreading ‘negative content.’

Communication and technology minister Rudiantara defended the government's strategies:

2. Pembatasan akses merupakan salah satu dr alternatif2 terakhir yang ditempuh seiring dg tingkat kegentingan. Pemerintah negara2 lain di dunia telah membuktikan efektivitasnya untuk mencegah meluasnya kerusuhan.

— Rudiantara (@rudiantara_id) May 27, 2019

Limiting access is the last resort to take in an increasingly dire situation. Other nations have proven its efficiency to stop the spread of chaos.

The minister said the agency reached out to messaging platforms like WhatsApp:

5. Cara lain, dg bekerja sama dengan penyedia platform, juga ditempuh. Misalnya, sy telah berkomunikasi dg pimpinan WA, yg hanya dlm seminggu sebelum kerusuhan 22 Mei lalu telah menutup sekitar 61.000 akun aplikasi WA yg melanggar aturan.

— Rudiantara (@rudiantara_id) May 27, 2019

Another way is through a collaboration with platform provider. For example, I've spoken with the chiefs of WA which has closed down 61,000 accounts for conduct violations ahead of the May 22 riot.

But the country's human rights commission said that the government action was an exaggeration.

In its statement, Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) asserted that the Indonesian government “should not implement throttling without well-defined parameters of national emergency”.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) also doubted the effectivity of enforcing Internet restrictions during crisis situations:

While we understand the government’s intention to stop the distribution of false information and protect the public during violent protests, the decision has also inadvertently restricted public’s access to factual information.

Instead of resorting to social media throttling, AJI has a proposal:

We ask the government to engage with social media providers so they can be actively involved in stopping the spread of false information and hate speeches through transparent mechanism with a stronger legal basis.

Indonesia lifted social media restrictions after three days.

The worst attack against journalists since the Suharto-era

AJI reported that an AP correspondent experienced online doxxing while dozens of journalists were physically harassed by protesters and the police. Some blamed Subianto for inciting hate when he called the media the ‘destroyer of democracy’ during his May Day speech. AJI condemned the violence against journalists and has called for a thorough investigation in what many have already described as the worst attack against journalists in the post-Suharto era. Suharto was a strongman who ruled the country for three decades before his fall from power in 1998.

AJI described the intimidation targeting journalists as a blatant act of censorship. Police were accused of using unnecessary force to stop journalists from recording the clashes between state forces and protesters. But there was also violence coming from the side of protesters:

The journalists were also assaulted by protesters. They persecuted the journalists and seized their equipment including their camera, mobile phone, and recorder. The protesters forced the journalists to delete all photo and video documentation.

Various rights groups are calling the government to probe the attacks against the media by the police and some supporters of Subianto.

Written by Juke Carolina · comments (0)
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Netizen Report: Amid demonstrations for democracy, Sudanese civilians face military violence — and internet shutdowns

Liberia, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan also faced internet shutdowns this week.

A protest in Khartoum, April 2019. Photo by M. Saleh via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in technology and human rights around the world. This report covers news and events from June 1-13, 2019.

Uncertainty has dominated Sudan since the military ouster of long-standing president Omar Al-Bashir in April. Although pro-democracy protesters were initially in talks with the Transitional Military Council, negotiations have faltered and protesters have returned to the streets.

Tensions between protesters and authorities have escalated and the Rapid Support Forces, whose members are veterans of the militias responsible for Darfur’s worst massacres, have killed more than 100 protesters and there have been numerous reports of rape and robberies of civilians stopped at military checkpoints. Nevertheless, Sudanese citizens have continued to push for a transition to a civilian government, and launched a mass general strike on June 9.

Since June 3, technical testing by NetBlocks has confirmed that mobile internet connectivity has been shut off, drastically reducing people’s abilities to communicate, share or access information. The shutdown strongly affected Facebook users who were relying on the platform to organize demonstrations and the strike.

While most civilians (who rely on mobile internet connections)  are now cut off from the platform, the Rapid Support Forces are still actively using Facebook, likely through a fixed connection, to promote their own narrative about what is happening in the country. Sudanese activists have organized a petition campaign, demanding Facebook remove these pages in recognition that they promote violence against peaceful protesters in Sudan.

Internet shutdowns in Liberia, Ethiopia

Sudan is not the only African country grappling with internet cuts this June. In Liberia, on June 7, media groups reported that many people were struggling to access major social media services during an anti-government protest in Monrovia, the capital. Technical testing by NetBlocks indicated that major social media and communication services including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram became inaccessible on the country’s two major telcom networks, owned by Orange and Long Star. Civil society groups are calling on the two telcos to make a public statement explaining what caused the outages.

In Ethiopia, where internet shutdowns are not unusual, NetBlocks observed a total internet shutdown on June 11, believed to have been triggered by education officials seeking to prevent students from cheating on national secondary school exams.

Amid mass protests in Hong Kong, Telegram has become a target

A proposed extradition law in Hong Kong has triggered the largest protests seen since the 2014 Umbrella Movement, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the streets. As demonstrations continued this week and turned dangerous, with police arresting at least a dozen protesters, the secure mobile messaging service, Telegram, came under attack. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted on June 12 that the company’s servers had been temporarily compromised by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, the result of thousands of requests sent to Telegram’s servers, in an effort to overwhelm the system. Durov said the requests came mostly from mainland China.

Meanwhile, the administrator of a massive Telegram messaging group called “International Waters” (公海總谷) was arrested by Hong Kong police for “conspiring to commit a public nuisance.” The group had become an organizing platform for protesters. The police asked the administrator to unlock his cellphone and export the list of the group members, who number in the tens of thousands. The administrator has since been released on bail.

Chinese censors (and Twitter) stifle commemoration of Tiananmen Square massacre

June 4 marked the 30th anniversary of the 1989 massacre of student protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square by the Chinese military. The massacre, which resulted in a still-untold number of deaths of peaceful protesters (evidence-based estimates range between 2,700 and 10,454), has never been publicly acknowledged by the Chinese government.

Terms and images associated with the event have long been closely monitored online — research by the University of Hong Kong and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab indicates that it is the most censored topic on the Chinese internet.

While plenty of online content linked to the event was censored by Chinese websites and services this year, US-based Twitter also suspended hundreds of accounts critical of the Chinese Communist Party, according to Hong Kong Free Press. Twitter later apologized and reinstated the accounts, saying that they were mistakenly blocked as part of the company’s effort to remove accounts that are promoting spam or engaging in “inauthentic” behavior.

Kazakhstan blocks internet amid post-election protests

Kazakhstan held snap presidential elections on June 9, a date also marred with a widespread internet shutdown, which was confirmed by technical tests and reported by pro-government news agency Tengri news.

The elections follow the historic resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who maintained an undisputed rule of the autocratic Central Asian state from the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union until March 2019, when he announced his resignation. In accordance with the Kazakhstani constitution, Senate speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a Nazarbayev loyalist, officially took power on March 20 and was then elected president on June 9.

In rarely seen street demonstrations, activists and citizens have been demanding free elections and pointing to evidence of rigged voting. At least 500 people have been detained, including journalists, and mobile internet is still blocked in the center of Almaty, the country’s former capital.

Russian journalist arrested on dubious charges

Ivan Golunov, a leading investigative journalist, was detained on June 6 in Moscow on what appear to be trumped-up charges of drug dealing and possession. A judge initially released Golunov to house arrest, and then dismissed charges against him, following widespread public condemnation of the case.

Golunov works for Meduza, one of the few remaining independent Russian-language online media platforms. He has led and published several investigations pointing at cases of corruption involving high-ranking officials. In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Golunov’s editor, Alexey Kovalev, also an editor at Global Voices, described the systemic nature of media repression in Russia:

“I’m sure Putin would have stopped it if he could, but you can’t arbitrarily free one victim of this system without admitting that many top-ranking officials were involved in a plan to frame an innocent man for his pursuit of truth.”

Iran launches ‘moral crimes’ reporting app

Iran’s judiciary branch announced its plan to launch a mobile phone app that will enable Iranians to report violations of “crimes against morality and public chastity” that could cover things like women removing their headscarves or anyone posting “immoral” messages on social media. Speaking with The Independent, Iran technology expert Mahsa Alimardani, who is also a Global Voices contributor, said the app “signals a fear that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ‘morality’ norms have indeed failed to entrench themselves in society.” She also noted that the app would likely violate constitutional privacy protections.

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Written by Netizen Report Team · · View original post [en] · comments (0)
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