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January 14 2013

Armenian Blogger on Trial for Satire Photo of Politician

The first hearing in a defamation lawsuit against blogger, Edgar Barseghyan, was held in Armenia on December 24, 2012.

Barseghyan, the creator of satire photo website, Demotivator.am is on trial for publishing a photo of a model's body with the superimposed face of Tigran Urikhanyan, an MP and spokesperson for Prosperous Armenia Party, with the caption “Stylish Politician of the Year”.

Demotivator - Stylish Politician of the Year

Demotivator - Tigran Urikhanyan as ‘Stylish Politician of the Year'

Urikhanian considered the image offensive and sued Barseghyan for “damaging the honor, dignity and business reputation of the plaintiff with the photo.”

According to a Facebook post by Barseghyan, the politician demands for Demotivator to be removed from the web, a public apology, and legal fees and damages of 1,000,000 AMD (about $2,500 USD).

Edgar Barsegyan

Edgar Barsegyan (used with permission)

According to blogger Edgar Barseghyan (also known under the Livejournal username “alkhimik” ), the Demotivator photo was created in response to the news that Tigran Urikhanian was recognized by an Armenian-Italian holding “Amore” as the most stylish Armenian political figure of the year.

Edgar Barseghyan wrote in his Livejournal blog:

“Կարդալով նյութը էլ ավելի զարմացա, որ լինելով քաղաքական գործիչ, պարոն Ուրիխանյանը ոչ միայն համաձայնվել է այդ կոչումը իրեն շնորհելու հետ, այլ նաև հպարտորեն կիսվել է այդ լուրով իր ֆեյսբուքյան էջում։…  Այո, ես կարծում եմ, որ լուրջ տղամարդու համար, որի մասնագիտական գործունեությունը կապված չէ իր մարմնական, ֆիզիկական տեսքի հետ (օրինակ՝ մոդելի, դերասանի) ընդհանրապես սազական չէ ի ցույց աշխարհի դնել սեփական «նվաճումները» այդ ոլորտում:”

“After reading the news, I was surprised that the politician not only agreed with this award but moreover proudly shared the news on his Facebook page… Yes, I believe that serious man shouldn't be proud of “achievements” in such a field, as long as his professional activity is not related to his physical appearance (such as models or actors).”

Flashmob Emoticon

Flashmob emoticon to protest threats against free speech

The trial in court later evolved into a battle on the Internet. Online activists, bloggers, and representatives of mass media showed their support for the blogger by changing their Facebook profile pictures to an icon (an emoticon), symbolizing the lack of freedom of speech.

Also to protest against the lawsuit, Facebook users organized a virtual flashmob “I am suing Edgar Barseghyan for …”, coming up with all sorts of absurd reasons for which a blogger “can be sued”.

Meanwhile, Edgar Barseghyan also received negative comments and threats from supporters of Tigran Urikhanyan.

RadioVan blog

“Этот случай уникальный. Здесь судят блоггера за демотиватор. У суда ноль практики …. “

“It is a unique case. Blogger sued for Demotivator. The court has zero experience in such cases …”

Mark Grigoryan

“Не знаю, кто посоветовал ему обратиться в суд, но совет этот был, как мне кажется, плохим. Причем не важно: дойдет ли дело до суда, и если да, то как закончится суд. Политик уже проиграл”.

“I don’t know who advised him to go to court, but, I think, it was the wrong advice. Whether the case goes to trial, and if so, how it will end up - it doesn’t matter. The politician has already lost”.

Hasmik Hambartsumyan

“Բլոգերների համար վատ նախադեպ ա առաջանում…”

“It sets a bad precedent for bloggers”.

Tehmina Harutyunyan

“Մեկ միլիոն դրամով դատել բլոգերին, նշանակում է բլոգային գրառումների 90 տոկոսը դնել վտանգի տակ”.

“To fine a blogger for 1 million means that 90% of blog posts will be under threat”

Marine Shahbazyan

«Շատ էլ ճիշտ ա արել, դատի ա տվել.. մի հատ էս նկարին յաեք էլի.. դուք լինեիք, դատի չէիք տա, տղաներ? սա ինչ ա նշանակում, վիրավորանք ուրիշ ոչ մի բան… ասլեիքը կարելի էր ավելի խոր ու հետքրքիր ձևով ասել, ոչ թե վիրավորելով.. 1 միլիոնը քիչ ա, 2 միլիոն պետք ա պահանջեր Ուրիխանյանը».

“It is very good that he was sent to court. Look at the picture, guys, would you not sue if this happened to you? What is it? Insulting and nothing more. It is possible to express the same message in another, more interesting manner, without resorting to insults. I think Urikhanian should demand even 2 million.”

Susanna Tumasyan

“ Էդգար Բարսեղյան,եթե քեզ թույլատրված է գրիչ վերցնել,դա դեռ չի նշանակում,որ դու այնքան իրավունք ունես քեզ թույլ տալ աջ ու ձախ շռայլել անմիտ ձեռագիրտ”:

“Edgar Barseghyan, just because you are permitted to write, it does not mean that you have the right to spread your foolish writing everywhere”.

According to a Facebook post by Tigran Urikhanian, the case has a political context. He considers the Demotivator image as a response to his “bold statements about the problems in the country and the need for system changes.”

Tigran Urikhanyan. Profile photo from Facebook.

Tigran Urikhanyan. Profile photo from Facebook.

In an interview on Aysor.am he said that the law on his side, and if the court will not follow the law, “the judge will be subjected to public opinion and evaluation of his work, after which it will be difficult for this judge to work in Armenia.”

This statement was interpreted by many bloggers as indirect threat to the judge.

A second court hearing was scheduled for January 14, 2013, however it was postponed to March 5 because of Urikhanyan's absence from Armenia.

September 26 2012

Armenia: Reflections on Homosexuality and Fascism

Unzipped: Gay Armenia reflects on Brotherhood, a 2009 Danish film about homosexuality and fascism, in the context of the neo-Nazi firebombing of D.I.Y., a gay friendly bar in Yerevan, earlier this year.

June 21 2012

Armenia: Army Doctors Beaten In Oligarch's Restaurant

Unzipped comments on the severe beating of three army doctors dining out at a restaurant owned by notorious oligarch MP and Armenian Football Federation President Ruben Hayrapetyan. Better known by his ‘Nemetz Rubo' nickname, the blog notes that the violent assault, allegedly by his bodyguards or security guards, is not unexpected in a country where such figures forcibly command near total economic and political power.

May 22 2012

Armenia: Nationalists Disrupt Cultural Diversity March

As was the case in 2009 during a rally to mark International Women's Day, nationalists in Armenia infiltrated and disrupted a march in Yerevan on 21 May to commemorate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

The counter-action was also followed by reports of new attacks on D.I.Y., a gay friendly bar in Armenia's capital that was firebombed on 8 May. With some officials and politicians justifying the attack, liberal bloggers are concerned.

Unzipped: Gay Armenia likens the 21 May disruption to fascism.

To mark United Nation's World Day of Cultural Diversity, PINK Armenia and Women's Resource Centre announced a variety of events as part of the Diversity Week. The week should have kicked off with the Diversity march on 21 May to call for respect of… yes, diversity in Armenia.

But the notion of diversity was once again attacked in Armenia in an organised provocation by neo-nazi elements and their supporters. To gain a wider support among masses, they dubbed Diversity march a “gay pride” and fuelled aggression towards marchers by intentionally spreading misleading information.

[…]

Neo-nazi elements attacked marchers encouraged by endorsement of homophobic hysteria and anti-gay violence on a very high state level that followed firebombing of DIY bar. […]

Watch these reports. Look at these pictures. Faces of fascism in Armenia.

Diversity march in Yerevan © PanARMENIAN Photo / Tigran Mehrabyan

Global Chaos also posts an extensive account, drawing a comparison with recent clashes in neighboring Georgia. While also stressing the Yerevan march was not a gay parade, the blog notes the presence of Armenian priests.

[…] due to PINK Armenia's previous campaigns against homophobia, somehow the Diversity March was distorted in the public mind and presented as a “gay parade” by certain ultranationalist (for the sake of avoiding the “neo-Nazi” term) elements and groupings, who showed up to the event. Their numbers far exceeded those of the actual Diversity marchers and with their aggression and noise they did manage to hijack and distort not only the objective, but also the intended meaning of the event.

[…]

This event, along with all that's been going on with D.I.Y. is becoming a growing trend in Armenia. The blind worship of Garegin Nzhdeh (who, despite his patriotic work, was, let's not forget, a Nazi-cooperator and a supporter of “Aryanism”, having successfully established with Berlin that the Armenians were an “Aryan race”, too) and the increasing influence of the Armenian Apostolic [Echmiadzin] Church encouraged by Armenia's ruling Republican Party is not only worrisome but dangerous. Their ideology, as well as the activities undertaken by its various bodies and supporters, are too similar of Nazism; while their talk about the protection of Armenia's “genetic pool” is dangerously reminiscent of eugenics.

[…]

The fact that aggression against minorities, especially sexual minorities, is encouraged by a range of political forces within the country (including those that are in the supposed opposition), makes this state-supported neo-Nazism. Given Armenia's membership in the UN and the Council of Europe - and therefore, its commitment to such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and especially, the PACE's Resolution 1728 (on “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”) - the Armenian political leadership should be held accountable not only for allowing such developments in the country, but, especially, for actively supporting them.

One priest in particular made a point of referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as praising the “patriotic youth” who had gathered there to demonstrate their devotion to God and their nation […].

Another Armenian blog, Le Retour in 3 Parts, comments on the policing of the event.

[…] we were no longer in control. Because from this point on it was the cops telling us how to move, where to go, where to stand. We were being controlled by the state apparatus. I don’t believe for a minute that the police actually cared about our safety (in fact, a couple of marchers and supporters told me afterwards the remarks they heard by police officers — remarks that sanctioned the hate rhetoric chanted by protestors). Police follow orders from above — not from activists (and least of all not by activists they perceive as gay or gay allies).

[…]

[…] And yet I felt more like an animal lured into its cage. Because now we were barricaded in, while counter-demonstrators were outside, continuing to chant, sing and proclaim themselves as defenders of the nation and “national values”.

As has been customary for similar actions in Armenia, liberal values were condemned by the nationalists who infiltrated the march with chants such as “Gays go to Baku [Azerbaijan]” and “No to Perversion” reported.

May 02 2012

Armenia: Backhanded Victory for Environmental Activists

After almost three months of continuous protests and sit-ins staged by activists in a battle to save Mashtots Park, the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, ordered the removal of structures already constructed on the basis that they weren't aesthetically appealing, a reason that wasn't on the agenda of those fighting against illegal construction in one of Yerevan's last remaining green spaces.

In addition to their demands to preserve the park for health and environmental reasons, protesters objected to the 'boutique' kiosks because no public hearings were held on the matter and no environmental impact assessment was conducted on the area, both of which are required by law. Voice of the Nightingale voiced its concerns [AM] with the government's disregard for rule of law.

Պարզվեց, որ նախագահն օրենքի մասին պատրաստ է մոռանալ, երբ խնդրի օբյեկտն է դառնում… էսթետիկան: Նախագահը տեղում հայտարարեց, որ շինարարության առումով ամեն ինչ ճիշտ է, քաղաքապետն ամեն ինչ լավ է արել, բայց կրպակներն աչք չեն շոյում, ու լավ չի լինի, եթե երկու-երեք տարի աչք մազոլեն:

It was made clear that the President has forgotten about the law when the issue has to do with the aesthetics of objects. The president announced that the construction of the kiosks were perfectly legal, the mayor had done everything correctly, but the kiosks weren't so pleasing to look out and it wouldn't be a good idea to have them as eye sores for the next few years.

Protestors, Mashtots Park, Yerevan, Armenia © Hetq Online

The decision came just a few days after police used force against protesters, injuring a few and arresting others. Save Mashtots Park, a tumblr setup in support of the movement, named those detained while Civilnet, the news and analysis site of Yerevan-based think tank and development agency Civilitas Foundation captured footage of the scuffle.

The activists detained were later released and congratulatory messages left on the Facebook group of civic NGO Մե՛նք ենք այս քաղաքի տերը (This City Belongs to Us), who were instrumental in initiating the movement, highlighted frustration at how the Armenian president handled the situation. Group member Lena Nazaryan writes:

Սերժ Սարգսյանը ոչ մի կերպ չի անդրադարձելՀՀ քաղաքացիների իրավունքներին և ժողովրդի գերակա շահերի պաշտպանությանը, որոնք ըստ ՀՀ Սահմանադրության Հայաստանի Հանրապետության ինքնիշխանության հիմքն են և պետական պաշտոնյաների (նախագահ, քաղաքապետ և այլն) լեգիտիմության աղբյուրը:

Serge Sargysan hasn't realized one bit the rights of the residents of the Republic of Armenia and the priorities of the people who are the sovereign basis of the Republic of Armenia's Constitution and the legitimizing source of state officials (President, Mayor, etc.)

During his visit to Mashtots Park, Sargysan was also accompanied by Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan, who didn't meet with protesters despite repeated pleas. Some, like Anahit Markosian, called for his resignation on the Armenian Environmental Network Facebook group page:

I think the latest events at Mashtots park call for mayor Margarian's resignation. Not only has he shown his unwillingness and inability to solve the problem, but he also created a situation where the citizens and police are constantly being pitched against each other, thus putting both sides in the harms way. Such irresponsible and destructive behavior on behalf of the Mayor should not be tolerated.

Although the kiosks were ordered to be dismantled for all the reasons activists were not voicing, the longevity of the movement has been seen as a sort of awakening of Armenian civil society which has otherwise remained rather apathetic since the collapse of the Soviet Union some 20 years ago.

The Armenian Observer blog comments.

[…] the activists forced the country’s top official to carry out their demand and this is a remarkable achievement of civil activism in Armenia. These guys showed they’re real fighters, who stood there under snow and rain, fought back police and provocateurs and won their cause!

Writing on his organization's blog when the movement started in February, Kirk Wallace, Armenia Office Program Director at the Armenian Environmental Network, has also seen a change.

Mashtots Park is already a victory for justice and the rule of law.  Young people have sparked a renewed interest in social consciousness and have provided the first real glimmers of hope in decades.

While welcoming the development, however, some such as Unzipped noted the timing of the move, coming as it did just days before Armenia's crucial parliamentary election. “Ha! Reports: #Armenia president visited the site, hijacked #OccupyMashtotsPark & ordered dismantlement of kiosks.How sweet #armelection #PR,” the blogger commented on Twitter.

April 12 2012

Armenia: Nationalist threats against local activist

Just weeks after one example of censorship in Armenia comes another, but while Hovhannes Ishkhanyan spoke out against hazing and human rights abuses in the military, this time the target is local activist Georgi Vanyan. One of the few to openly call for peace and regional integration in the conflict-riven South Caucasus, Vanyan has been targeted before.

In 2007, for example, a small group of nationalist bloggers momentarily disrupted an event aimed at overcoming the image of the enemy among pupils at a local school, and in 2010 death threats were made against Vanyan alongside pressure applied on venue owners to prevent the screening of Azerbaijani films in Yerevan, the Armenian capital.

Plans to do the same this week appear to have met a similar fate.

@unzippedblog: After previous unsuccessful attempt, #Azerbaijan films festival planned in #Armenia second town #Gyumri 12 April

@unzippedblog: Let's hope we will not witness similar hysteria as was last time with attempt re #Azerbaijan films festival in #Armenia

A Facebook event ostensibly organized to protest the festival instead became a space through which to personally attack and vilify the activist as well as to promote hate-speech. Despite reporting the page to Facebook, however, it was not removed. Death threats have also reportedly been made against Vanyan by telephone.

@unzippedblog: …and he we are. Already anti- #Azerbaijan film festival FB page set up full of hatred & with open calls at life of organiser #Armenia

Yet, even with much of the local media also involved in the campaign against Vanyan, a demonstration held yesterday to prevent the festival from going ahead failed to attract a significant crowd. The media also reported that 50 people blockaded the premises of the Asparez Journalists Club where the event was due to be held.

However, as Unzipped implies, it wasn't the size that mattered.

@unzippedblog: At last, disgraced mayor of #Gyumri found his place, heading nationalist parade against #Azerbaijan film festival #bizarre #Armenia

@unzippedblog: Organiser of #Azerbaijan film fest. in #Armenia says “terror campaign” against him,blames police inaction,cancels fest. as safety at stake

A video report from Radio Free Europe's Yerevan Bureau shows the Mayor leading the demonstration against Vanyan. The signs taped on protestor's backs read “No Azerbaijani Film Festival.”

In an attempt to defuse tensions, Vanyan met with critics although video posted on YouTube seems to indicate there was little opportunity for discussion.

The nationalist E-media online site also uploaded a video of Vanyan being assaulted outside the venue for the festival and gleefully posts a screen grab on its Facebook page.

Publicly announcing the latest cancellation on his own page, Vanyan also specifically accused Gyumri's controversial and notorious Mayor of organizing the campaign against him.

[…]

Основываясь на видеоматериалах и репортажах армянских СМИ, освещающих митинг протеста против проведения Фестиваля азербайджанских фильмов, и принимая во внимание свидетельства очевидцев, заявляем, что за создание искусственной напряженности вокруг фестиваля, за возможные провокации и проявления насилия в отношении организаторов и участников фестиваля, намеченного на 12 апреля, ответственность несет лично мэр города Гюмри Вардан Гукасян, под руководством которого осуществляется кампания пропаганды террора.

[…]

After examining the video materials and footage by the Armenian media which covered the meeting protesting against the Azerbaijani film festival, and considering eye witness accounts, we state that Vardan Ghukasyan, the mayor of Gyumri, under whose auspices propaganda of terror is implemented, is personally responsible for the artificially created tension around the festival as well as possible provocations and violence against the organizers and participants of the festival scheduled for April 12.

Armenia and Azerbaijan remain locked in a bitter stalemate over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh and tensions remain high since a ceasefire agreement was signed in 1994. Over 25,000 people died and a million forced to flee their homes in the fighting that took place and the International Crisis Group early last year warned of the danger of a new ‘accidental war.'

Some Facebook users, including both Armenians and Azerbaijanis, considered the latest cancellation in that context.

International mediators as well as organizations involved in cross-border peacebuilding initiatives believe Track II diplomacy and cultural projects are sorely needed to bring the two sides closer together, but as this week demonstrated, as has food in the past, the task is an uphill struggle. In 2010, Unzipped commented on Vanyan's initiative in a post the blogger shared again recently.

I strongly believe that art, and culture, do not recognise borders. Even if countries are at the state of war. Art, and films, are the best way for ordinary people to get to know each other better, to break the ice, even or especially in case of closed borders. There is also internet, of course, and meetings outside the national borders.

I have no problem if there are people who protest the idea or the fact of the festival. It’s their right. But do it in a (at least remotely) civilised way, without engaging the lowest possible denominator of nationalist/racist crap, personal attacks and threats to individuals. There is a fine line when freedom of speech gets transformed into something that should be considered within the frames of legal/criminal code. Many have already crossed that line.

Georgi Vanyan at one of his cross-border peace building events © Onnik Krikorian 2011

April 06 2012

Armenia: Straight to the village

With a GDP per capita estimated at just $5,400 in 2011, Armenia is one of the poorest countries in the former Soviet Union. But although development in the center of the country's capital, Yerevan, might paint a different picture for some tourists, especially from its large Diaspora, the economic situation is most evident in the regions of the landlocked South Caucasus country.

With regional development increasingly a priority in Armenia, online site CivilNet has teamed up with Timothy Straight, one of Armenia's few non-Armenian foreigners who have made the country their home. Traveling to a different village each week, the former head of the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Honorary Consul for Norway and Finland, hopes to change all that.

“What we're trying to do is gather information and spread it, so that people can get correct understanding of what village life in Armenia is like,” explains the text accompanying a promotional video for Թիմը գնում է գյուղ (Tim goes to the village), otherwise known as Straight to the village.

In the latest installment uploaded to YouTube on 2 April, and subtitled in English and Armenian, Straight travels to the impoverished town of Vardenis close to Armenia's Lake Sevan. The purpose of the visit is to meet with a local NGO working with disabled children.

On 12 March, the program celebrated its 20th episode with an interview with Straight where he “talks about some of the highlights and explains the reason why he does the program and the potential long-term effect of the show.”

Knighted by the King of Norway in 2010, Straight's involvement in regional development in Armenia is not limited to the video reports. Homeland Handicrafts, for example, is a voluntary organization dedicated to creating a sustainable income for artisans in Armenia.

Particularly using online tools, a blog as well as Facebook and Pinterest pages are also used to promote the initiative. Timothy Straight can also be followed on Twitter at @timothystraight.

March 28 2012

Armenia: US Ambassador urges free, fair and credible elections

Ambassador Heffern's Video Blog's comments on the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia. Posted on the U.S. Embassy's YouTube Channel, the American diplomat stresses the need for free and fair elections, details some of the changes introduced in the electoral code, and urges the government, opposition and civil society to ensure the proper conduct of the May vote.

March 27 2012

Armenia: Ushahidi deployed for parliamentary elections

Georgia was the first country in the South Caucasus to deploy a bespoke crowd-sourcing and crisis mapping platform for its local elections in May 2010, but Armenia will be the first to use Ushahidi to monitor the conduct of national elections in the form of the upcoming May 2012 parliamentary vote. The site, iDitord (iObserver), uses the #iditord hashtag on Twitter.

March 06 2012

Armenia: Eurovision propaganda fiasco

Unzipped comments on a call by Armenian singers to boycott this year's annual Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan remain deadlocked in a conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh and the call to boycott was ostensibly made in protest at the killing of an Armenian serviceman reportedly by an Azerbaijani sniper. However, the blog notes, not only was the statement written and published before any singers signed up to it, but it eventually became clear that the soldier in question was actually killed by one of his own comrades. The blog calls the fiasco “one of the most spectacular yet tragic PR disasters” made by Armenian Public TV apparently in order to justify a boycott of the international music competition. It also wonders whether those singers that did eventually sign will now be so outspoken as to decry hazing and deaths in the military at home.

February 18 2012

Armenia: Homophobia as PR for the Yerevan Municipality

Unzipped: Gay Armenia comments on homophobic comments left on the Facebook page of the new Mayor of Yerevan, Taron Margaryan, in response to recent environmental protests in the city. Noting that the discriminatory remarks were made by municipal employees, including the person responsible for public relations, the blog says that such comments are unacceptable and those responsible should be dismissed from their positions.

December 07 2011

Video Highlights: Identity, Refugees, Conflict and Open Technology

This section aims to showcase interesting and recent posts in Global Voices that show the many ways in which videos are helping people tell stories all around the world. You can follow the activity by regions in our YouTube channel or by clicking on the regional header links.

East Asia

For our Special Coverage page on Languages and the Internet comes an article about the different languages of East Timor. This next short film shows us the importance of receiving education in the mother tongue and the innovative Education Policy for Multilingual Education that East Timor is adopting.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In the post ‘Mali, Niger: Tuareg Voices Barely Heard Over the Sounds of War ‘, a video amplifies the voices of the Tuareg:

In Kidal, a town in north-eastern Mali, an unofficial number of Tuareg people marched to claim the autonomy of the Azawad region on November 1.

In ‘Kenya: Life in Dadaab, the World's Largest Refugee Camp‘ we look through the eyes of different aid organizations the complexities of life in Dadaab, a refugee camp receiving more than 1,400 people every day:

Central Asia and Caucasus

In Armenia and Azerbaijan, video is being used to improve understanding of the complex issues dividing the people of both nations. We linked to this insightful blog post on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as seen through YouTube videos. It included this next video, which shows an interesting experiment on both sides of the border. In the video, a taxi with a camera records passengers reactions to the taxi driver's musical selection: he plays Azeri music in Armenia and Armenian music in Azerbaijan. The passenger's comments have been captioned in English.

You can visit our Special Coverage page on Caucasus Conflict Voices to learn more about the region's situation. To read more about the role of video in the conflict, visit ‘Armenia-Azerbaijan Dialogue Through Film‘ and its second part, ‘More Armenia-Azerbaijan Dialogue Through Film‘ will provide extra information.

Latin America

Global Voices Author and Lingua Editor in Spanish Juan Arellano has been interviewing different Latin American experts. In this one he spoke with Santiago Hoerth of the Codigo Sur project about open technology and Open Software:

In another interview, he spoke with attorney and Creative Commons regional representative Carolina Botero and asked her to give her opinion on piracy.

July 01 2011

June 28 2011

Armenia: Animal Activists Demand End to Stray Dog Killings

In the last few days animal activists are making unprecedented use of social media in the South Caucasus by demanding that the inhumane killing of stray dogs end by flooding Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan's Facebook page with requests and appeals.

Activists have even created an event entitled “Complaint to the Mayor About Dog Killings,” which more than 800 people are virtually attending, continuously leaving messages on Karapetyan's wall in the hope that their cyberactivism will bring about change.

“On the recommendation of the Mayor, the slaughter of dogs has begun in the city,” the event says. “There hasn't been a slaughter this big before. They have developed new technology to capture dogs.”

Having been in office only since December 2010, Karapetyan's popularity is declining among animal lovers as one commenter notes.

Some comments suggest activists are ready and willing to help the city alleviate the problem in a humane way.

A photo of the killing and collecting of street dogs posted on mayor Karen Karapetyan's wall

The activity on the mayor's page isn't just limited to Armenia's residents.

With no shelter system or citywide spay and neuter initiatives, street dogs in Yerevan roam the small city in search of food and shelter, eventually procreating. “Save the Animals,” an independent shelter started by musician and activist Nune Mehrabyan after the killings began in 1999, holds around 200 dogs and operates on donations, which are scant.

We desire to live in a civilized country, where even vulnerable, helpless animals shall not be exposed to murder. We appeal to you to support our organization for the sake of helping our little friends

The government contracts out a company called “Unigraph X” to deal with street dogs, notes their website.

Since 2006 the company has been declared as the winner of competitions announced by the State Procurement Agency and has implemented the sterilization of wandering animals in the administrative territory of Yerevan

However, activists claim the company kills dogs instead, as Traces of Life [AM]  notes.

Նկատե՞լ եք արդյոք,որ փողոցում շների քանակը չի պակասում,իսկ պետական բյուջեից “Յունիգրաֆ-X” կազմակերպությանը տրամադրվող գումարը կորում է անհետ

[…]

Այնտեղ դրված են հատուկ հոսանքալարեր`շներին վնասազերծելու,կարճ ասած էլեկտրաշոկի ենթարկելու համարլ։Նույն մեթոդներով Յունիգրաֆ կազմակերպությունը որսում է շներին։

Մենք ջունգլիներում ենք երևի ապրում,որ այսքան շուն քնեցվել,սատկացվել ու ստերջացվել է,բայց երկրում դեռ այսքան թափառող շուն կա։Չե՞ք հասկանում այդ գումարները կրկին ու կրկին ուր են գնում։Բավ է թու՛յլ տանք,որ մեզ հիմարացնեն,ես հոգնել եմ դրանից։

Մարդի՛կ,շներն էլ են ապրել ուզում։Պե՞տք է անպայման ձեր և ձեր երեխաների հետ էլ այդպես վարվեն

Have you noticed that the number of street dogs isn't decreasing, yet the money from the state budget that's provided for the organization “Unigraph-X” goes missing.

[…]

Special electrical chords are used in one part of the city, Unigraph uses the same methods to hunt dogs.

Maybe we live in the jungle, that we're killing so many dogs, but there are still so many that remain on the streets.  We still don't understand again and again where that money goes. But we let them make us look like fools, and I'm tired of it.

People, dogs want to live. They should act this way with yours and your children too.

The activists are in the process of collecting signatures against the killing of street dogs, but are also facing some opposition on Karapetyan's page with comments that reflect the cultural stigma still attached to street animals in Armenia.

 

April 02 2011

Côte d'Ivoire: Who is in control of RTI state television?

Written by Julie Owono

This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

Confusion surrounds the question of who is currently in control of the Radio Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI), the Ivorian national television station.

On March 31, the Republican Forces (FRCI) rebels loyal to Internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara entered Abidjan, the main city of Côte d'Ivoire. When they reached the RTI's headquarters they were faced with resistance from Gagbo's Defense and Security Forces (FDS). The national television station is mockingly referred to as “Propaganda TV” or “LMP TV” because of the preconception that it favors President Laurent Gbagbo, who denies he lost an election in December 2010 and refuses to step down. RTI has become the stage for a war of control.

The signal was first cut for 24 hours, and on April 1, 2011 Directscoop, a citizen information blog focused on Africa, announced [fr] that the signal of the channel was back:

La Radiodiffusion télévision ivoirienne ( Rti) a recommencé à diffuser son signal vendredi peu après 19 heures

RTI started broadcasting again on Friday shortly past 7pm

Wanyu, a reader, commented:

Un long metrage de Damon : « LA VENGEANCE DANS LA PEAU » est diffusé en ce moment sur la RTI.

A feature film with Matt Damon: “The Bourne Ultimatum” is currently showing on RTI.

Infodabidjan.net [fr], a pro-Gbagbo news website, posted on its YouTube profile this citizen video shot on April 1,2011:

The Caption under the video explains:

Premieres images de la RTI après sa liberation

First images of the RTI after its liberation

A large Facebook group called “The Comittee for the struggle against French interference in Côte d'Ivoire” (Comité de lutte contre l'ingérance Française en Côte d'Ivoire) [fr] gathers roughly 6720 pro-Gbagbo members, shared the video of the RTI's April 2, TV News edition: Militants of the FDS are shown reading a press release, explaining that they were attacked by Ouattara's forces, backed by the United Nations Office in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI). They also said the situation at the RTI - as well as in Abidjan - is now under control, and that people should go about their lives as usual.

On Twitter, citizens reacted to this intervention immediately:

@Gare_au_gorille was outraged:

@Gare_au_gorille: la RTI veut 1 bouclier humain en ne relayant pas couvre feu #civ2010 > RESTEZ CHEZ VOUS et faites passer le mot !!!

RTI wants to build a human shield by not passing the word on the curfew #civ2010. STAY HOME and spread the word!!!

@JusticeJFK also:

@JusticeJFK: Intervenant FDS sur la RTI: “nous appelons les populations à vaquer normalement à leurs occupations”. Quelle irresponsabilité!!!

FDS speaker on the RTI: “We call the population to go about their business as usually” This is Irresponsible!!!!

“The committee for the struggle against French interference in Côte d'Ivoire” shared another video, shot the morning of April 2 in the RTI's offices, and as a proof that the state television was now controlled by the pro-Gbagbo FDS. It was re-posted on Youtube by AfricaWeWish:

Stéphane Kassi, an RTI employee explains what happened on Thursday March 31, 2011:

Le jeudi (…) Suite à l'alerte de l'attaque de la rébellion, nous avons essayés de faire un repli, au niveau de la cité qui est en face se trouve à côté (…) Nous ne somme pas agents de la régie, mais nous avons fait de notre mieux. (…) Les combats ont eu lieu , et nous avons réussi à nous terrer quelque part jusqu'à on ait pu nous exfiltrer. Ce matin nous sommes là, comme le pays nous le demande, Nous sommes là pour défendre notre patrie.”

After the alert on the attack by the rebellion was given, we tried to withdraw to the nearest area. We are not agents of the regime, but we tried our best. (…) Fighting took place, and we managed to hide somewhere until we were ex-filtrated. This morning we are here, as the country demands; we are here to defend our patrimony.

This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

January 21 2011

Azerbaijan: Bloggers remember Hrant Dink four years on

Written by Aygun Janmammadova

Wednesday 19 January 2011 marked the fourth anniversary of the murder in Istanbul of Hrant Dink, the renowned Turkish-Armenian journalist, editor of the Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper, and human rights activist who consistently advocated for reconciliation and friendship between nations, and especially estranged neighbors Armenia and Turkey. This year, however, and quite unexpectedly, the anniversary was also marked by many bloggers from Azerbaijan.

Despite a still unresolved conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, quite a few Azerbaijani Facebook users updated their status lines while Twitter updates were dedicated to the memory of the slain ethnic Armenian journalist. On Facebook, an entry posted on the Önər Blog [AZ] was shared extensively.

Hrant Dink həm Ermənistan üçün, həm Türkiyə üçün mühüm tarixi əhəmiyyəti olan jurnalist idi. Onun ölümünü bütün dünyada azad jurnalistikanin aldığı ən ağır zərbələrdən hesab edirəm.

[…]

Mən bir bloq yazarı kimi, Hrant Dinkin ölümünü Türkiyə dövlətinin azad sözə qarşı cinayəti hesab edir və şiddətlə qınayıram. Həmçinin “hepimiz Hrant Dinkiz, hepimiz ermeniyiz” də demirəm, “hepimiz özgürüz” deyirəm.

Hrant Dink was a historically important journalist for both Armenia and Turkey. I consider his death to be one of the biggest blows to free press in the world.

[…]

Speaking as a blogger, I find that the murder of Hrant Dink is a crime that the Turkish government has committed against free speech in Turkey, and strongly condemn it.

And I don’t say, “We are all Hrant Dink, we are all Armenians” [the chant used by protesters at Hrant Dink’s funeral]. I say, “We are all free.”

When translated into Armenian, Unzipped re-posted it. The Armenian blog noted that it was this post that caught his eye more than any other and agreed with the sentiments expressed. Meanwhile, another Azerbaijani blog, Viva El Revolucion! Viva El Libertat! [AZ], remarked that politics should not get in the way of remembrance.

Azərbaycanlılardan kim nə deyir desin, amma millətçilik etməyin mənası yoxdur. Hansısa Robertlərə və Serjlərə görə bu insanı sırf erməni olduğuna görə təqsirkar bilib, onu hər addımda alçaltmaq və onu öldürənləri qəhrəman kimi qələmə vermələri həqiqətəndə ifrat millətçilikdən o tərəfə deyil […]. Hrant Dink heç kəsin tərəfin tutmurdu. Onun peşəsi jurnalistika idi […]. Ən sonda isə yaxşı bir erməni, həmdə yaxşı bir solçu idi. […]

Whoever says whatever in Azerbaijan, there is no point in being nationalist. Because of the Roberts and Serjs [former and current presidents in Armenia] accusing this person of being an Armenian, belittling him, and considering his murderers to be heroes is nothing but extreme nationalism […]. Hrant Dink did not take the side of anyone. His profession was journalism […]. In the end, he was a good Armenian, and a good leftist. […]

Four years without Hrant

SIMASIZ QULDURLAR BLOGU… [AZ] also contemplated the issue of nationality, concluding that speaking the truth is all that matters.

Hrant Dink milliyətcə erməni ola bilər. Həqiqətin isə heç bir milliyəti yoxdur. Həqiqətin milliyəti həqiqətdir. Həqiqəti erməni də, əfqan da, türk də dilə gətirə bilər! Buna görə də insanı öldürməzlər. Hrant Dink də həqiqət axtarışında idi… Amma öldürüldü.

Hrant Dink may be Armenian by ethnicity, but the truth has no nationality. The nationality of truth is truth itself. The truth can be brought to life by an Armenian, an Afghan, or a Turk! For this reason, a person must not be killed. Hrant Dink was in search of the truth… But he was murdered.

1+1=3 [AZ] agreed.

BəLi , o erməni idi …
BəLi , o bunu etiraf edir, təkzib etmir, hər zamanda fəxrlə bunu deyərdi….
O juranlist idi …
O insan idi…

Yes, he was an Armenian…
Yes, he admitted it, never denied it, and always said it proudly…
He was a journalist…
He was human…

Other Azerbaijani bloggers writing in English also commented on the anniversary, with Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines shares not only its thoughts, but also a link to a video. Its writer and director, Ümit Kıvanç, has since given Global Voices the necessary permissions to enable embedding for this post.

[…] He was a man with ideas and dreams. He was a fighter. But what happened to things that Hrant Dink was fighting for so passionately- looking at relations between Armenia and Turkey, the two are more distant than ever and prospects for reconciliation are stuck somewhere between Turkey's and Armenia's weak foreign policy, Nagorno Karabakh and the rest of the world that talks so much […] but does too little to have any effect if any on the process.

From 19 January to 19 January from ümit kıvanç on Vimeo.

Another Azerbaijani also writing in English, simply posted lyrics from a traditional folk song with a brief commentary.

Hrant Dink wasn’t Caucasian, he was truly and utterly Anatolian, but he is relevant to the ongoing conflicts in the Caucasus in terms of what he put forward during his life and what came out of his death. […] Hatred is taught everywhere, it makes people blind, and in their blindness people shed their reason and their conscience, their humanity. I want to think that hatred can be unlearned, not as easily but just as well.

Allah rəhmət eləsin. May he rest in peace.

Although there were likely many more posts from Turkish bloggers, what was interesting about this year's remembrance was that it was Azerbaijani blog posts, and specifically in Azerbaijani with the exception of the Armenian translation on the Önər Blog, that were shared more widely than in English, Armenian or Russian.

Meanwhile, in Turkey itself, thousands of people gathered in front of the Agos newspaper demanding justice for Hrant Dink and exclaiming “Hepimiz Hrantiniz, Hepimiz Ermeniyiz” (All of us are Hrants, All of us are Armenians).

January 19 2011

Azerbaijan: Remembering Hrant Dink

Written by Onnik Krikorian

The Önər Blog [AZ] remembers Hrant Dink, the slain Turkish-Armenian journalist, editor and human rights activist who was murdered in Istanbul four years ago today. The post is also available in Armenian. 1+1=3 [AZ], another Azerbaijani blog, also posts an entry in memory of a figure who stood for reconciliation and friendship between nations.

January 09 2011

Christmas in Armenia and Georgia… and on Twitter

By Onnik Krikorian

While Christmas was observed in the West on 25 December, other countries instead celebrated it earlier this week. In Armenia, however, it even became a trending topic on Twitter thanks to American-Armenian socialite Kim Kardashian tweeting the news to her 5,796,422 followers.

It's Armenian Christmas Eve tonight! Merry Christmas!

Thanks to other tweets from Kardashian's siblings, as well as numerous re-tweets, word of Christmas being celebrated in Armenia on 6 January went viral.

so armenian christmas eve is trending coz of these kardashian broads?these chicks have influence.tomorrow armenian xmas will trend

WOW! AMAZE! RT @RobKardashian - Armenian Christmas Eve is a trending topic! #Respect

Nevertheless, American comedian Dave Chappelle wasn't quite sure if the holiday was real, leading to some angry responses.

Happy Armenian Christmas Eve! Ok…your turn to make up a holiday.

@davechappelle fuck u, this is the day that Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates their Christmas, it's been like this for 1700years,

Of course, it wasn't just the Kardashians that were tweeting. Other users were too, sending out messages and pictures or updating their statuses on Facebook.

January 6th is the day that Christmas is celebrated in Armenia…soooo Շնորհավոր Սուրբ Ծնունդ..”Shnorhavor Surb Tsnund” (Merry Christmas in Armenian) ! =)

Happy Armenian Christmas everyone!

Merry (Armenian) Christmas from Yerevan (Armenia)!

In neighboring Georgia, along with some other countries, Christmas was instead celebrated the following day on 7 January.

People of SERBIA, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and people of Jerusalem : HRISTOS SE RODI , MERRY CHRISTMAS !

HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL PEOPLE IN GEORGIA!

My friends from Georgia (the country, not the US state) celebrate Christmas today. Merry Christmas to them! #itsasmallinteterestingworld

Today, Georgia, according to the Julian Calendar is celebrating Christmas. Merry Christmas!!! May the majority of your dreams come true.

In my own case, and even though I was in Armenia, I managed to spend it in a somewhat less than traditional way.

Well, last night was unexpected. Bumping into a Georgian metal band in the Rock Bar Yerevan. Georgian Xmas & music supplied by Slayer…:)

September 24 2010

Armenia: Army forced to act after hazing video circulates online

By Onnik Krikorian

A video depicting what appears to be evidence of bullying in the military stationed in Nagorno Karabakh, a disputed breakaway territory situated within Azerbaijan predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians, continues to circulate online. The footage on YouTube was later taken down before it was uploaded again as well as to other video sharing sites such as Daily Motion.

Although hazing and non-combat related deaths in the army are nothing new in Armenia, the video came at a particularly sensitive time given a spate of deaths earlier this summer. Unzipped commented on its appearance online, raising concerns and calling for an urgent and immediate investigation.

This video was put on YouTube today and started circulating on Facebook. It titled (AM) Բանակի իրական դեմքը (‘The real face of the army’) and allegedly shows bullying and physical violence in the Armenian army. No description for the video is provided, and it’s not known when and where this video was taken. I can only assume it was taken via mobile phone.

At first, Armenia's Ministry of Defense tried to downplay the video, even suggesting that it had been fabricated. Moreover, there were some, especially among ethnic Armenians living abroad, who instead declared the video to be against the country's national interests. Martuni or Bust, however, not only uploaded copies of the video, but also strongly disagreed.

Do people and organizations in the Diaspora care enough to raise the issue of abuse and mismanagement in the army with the representatives of the regime in Yerevan? Would they demand the sadistic officer shown in the video to be court marshaled for humiliating those young… Armenian soldiers? After all, considering that this is happening on a very wide scale across country, this is as close to jeopardizing national security as you are ever going to get. Wake up, people! Tomorrow it might be too late.

However, on Unzipped, Ara Manoogian, the blogger behind Martuni or Bust, reported that rather than be commended for the move, threats against his life had been made instead. He did, however, also say that the Armenian Ministry of Defense promised to find those responsible for the incident. Nevertheless, as Unzipped implies in a second post, genuine concern was arguably not shown until spread of the video proved impossible to stop.

When we first exposed the video, they said it was ‘fabricated’ without even preliminary investigation. In an initial statement by MoD there were even threats to those who made and disseminate the video with partly successful but inevitably unsuccessful attempts to erase the video from the Internet.

Speaking before the parliament, Minister of Defence Seyran Ohanyan called the video a “disinformation”. “It’s a disinformation about our army, and I do not believe what was captured on that video has really taken place”, he said. Some pseudo-patriotic circles immediately pointed fingers towards the ‘enemy side’.

However… Only hours after the Minister’s statement, sadistic officer was identified and detained, and we received an official confirmation of the authenticity of the video.

As Unzipped updated its readers, an officer has now been arrested and is under investigation.

While current developments may be considered as a victory for online activists who exposed and distributed the video in the first place, this will only become a real victory for all of us, including MoD, if Armenian officials face up the widespread problems of corruption and abuse in the army and initiate radical reforms to ensure that similar displays of sadism as well as “suicides” and non combat deaths are prevented and dealt with. In the world of Internet, cover up is an outdated concept.

Martuni or Bust continues updating its readers on developments at http://aramanoogian.blogspot.com.

Photo: Graffiti in Yerevan, Armenia, protesting suicides, non-combat deaths and hazing in the army via Unzipped.

September 13 2010

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