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February 27 2014

Brazilian Activist's Video Satire Censored After Globo TV Claims Copyright

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“No censorship”: William Bonner and Patrícia “Correta” in “the video that Globo doesn't wan't you to see”.

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

A video posted on Facebook skewering TV giant Globo Television Network's nightly news program for inaccuracies has been removed from the social network after Globo claimed copyright infringement, according to the video's author, Brazilian activist and filmmaker Rafucko

The video montage, published online on February 18, 2014, took on an editorial from Globo's main TV newscast “Jornal Nacional” (National News) to expose their manipulation of information about protests that have rocked the country since June 2013. In the video, the activist posed as journalist Patricia Poeta (in his humorous version, Patricia “Correta”, meaning “correct”) and corrected the comments of her fellow journalist William Bonner. Both are news anchors for “Jornal Nacional”.

Among the corrections are the role of Globo's journalism in the coverage of the death of cameraman Santiago Andrade during a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro [en]; the false accusations made by newspaper O Globo against State Representative Marcelo Freixo alleging that he was involved with protesters who were accused of killing the cameraman; the network ‘s insistence on calling protesters ”thugs” or “vandals”; and its attempts to equate the defensive violence of the protesters with the violence of the military police, which is responsible for 75 percent of attacks against journalists, according to the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism.

In just eight hours, the satire had attracted more than 40,000 views, and many viewers republished it on other platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. However, many of these versions were also censored at the request of the Globo Network, the activist said:

Quem baixou, pode repostar! Em breve reposto, com o slogan: “o vídeo que a Globo não quer que você veja”. Vai ser sucesso. Já é.

Whoever downloaded it can repost it! Soon, I'll repost it with the slogan: “the video that Globo doesn't want you to see.” It will be a success. It is already.

On the same day, Rafucko protested on his blog against what he considered to be censorship:

Não é à toa que um dos gritos mais ouvidos nas manifestações diz “a verdade é dura, a Rede Globo apoiou a ditadura (e ainda apóia)!”

Na última semana vimos a emissora dedicar extensas reportagens e editorias para versar sobre a liberdade de expressão. Desde o início das manifestações, a Rede Globo utiliza sistematicamente imagens de coletivos de mídia independente sem dar créditos ou pedir prévia autorização.

Entretanto, meu vídeo satirizando o Jornal Nacional foi retirado do ar menos de 12h após sua publicação. O papo dos “direitos autorais” eu dispenso.

No wonder that one of the most heard chants in the demonstrations says “the truth is hard, Globo supported the dictatorship (and still supports it)!”

Last week, we saw the broadcaster devote extensive reports and editorials to the subject of freedom of expression. Since the protests began, Globo systematically uses pictures of independent media collectives without giving credit or asking permission.

However, my video satirizing “Jornal Nacional” was taken down less than 12 hours after its publication. All this chit chat about copyright, I dismiss it.

Activist Pedro Ekman criticized Globo Network and commented on the copyright issue: 

A Globo é a maior censora da internet brasileira. A retira conteúdos alegando ter direito autoral sobre eles. A Lei de Direito Autoral determina que é LIVRE o uso de pequenos trechos de obras protegidas por direito autoral para fins de crítica e sátira. Mas respeitar leis nunca foi muito a prática da Globo, vide 1964.

Globo is the largest Brazilian Internet censor. It removes content claiming to have copyright on them. The Copyright Act states that it is FREE to use a small snippets protected by copyright for the purposes of criticism and satire works. But respecting laws was never Globo's practice, see 1964 [the year the dictatorship began in Brazil, with the support of Globo].

Journalist Bruno Natal added on his blog:

Nos EUA, por exemplo, essa alegação mambembe de violação de direitos autorais não colaria, porque lá existe uma lei chamada Fair Use (Uso Justo), que permite a reprodução de qualquer material protegido desde que dentro de um contexto pertinente, o que claramente é o caso aqui. Afinal, como o Rafucko pode criticar o editorial sem mostrá-lo?

Isso pra não entrar no âmbito da liberdade artística, antes que alguém venha dizer que ele não precisava mostrar o vídeo, mas bastaria citá-lo (quem escolhe a forma é o artista).

Só tem um nome pra isso e vc sabe qual é.

In the US, for example, this shoddy claim of copyright infringement wouldn't stick because there exists a law called Fair Use, which allows for the reproduction of any copyrighted material within a relevant context, which is clearly the case here. After all, how can Rafucko criticize the editorial without showing it?

That, to not go into artistic freedom, before someone comes to say that he need not show the video, but suffice to quote him (who chooses the way is the artist).

There is only a name for this and you know what it is.

The next day on February 19, Rafucko thanked his followers for republishing the video. In the same post, he stated that before being censored the video had reached 500,000 views online, becoming the most watched of his filmography, and added:

Quando se fala pela liberdade, toda tentativa de repressão e censura amplifica nossa voz.

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Original video censored.

When speaking for freedom, every attempt of repression and censorship amplifies our voice.

Tatiane Rosset commented on Youpix blog:

Como a internet não é boba nem nada, existem outros meios para assistir o viral, onde Rafucko interpreta Patrícia Correta (piadinha) corrigindo o colega de bancada durante o editorial. Um deles são as várias repostagens feitas no próprio YouTube (uma já tinha mais de 400 mil views quando foi retirada, e outra está em 190 mil).

A outra, é claro, é através do Vimeo. Porque, por algum motivo, todos as pessoas com o ~~rabo preso~~ no país esquecem que o YouTube é o principal, mas não o único meio de veicular vídeos online

A censura, pedida pela Rede Globo por “infringir direitos autorais”, levanta o questionamento: Até onde a liberdade de expressão rola online? O universo digital é realmente livre?

As the Internet is not stupid or anything, there are other ways to watch the viral video in which Rafucko plays Patricia Correct (little joke) correcting her fello anchor during the editorial. One of them are several reposts on YouTube itself (one already had more than 400,000 views when it was withdrawn, and another is at 190,000).

The other, of course, is through Vimeo. Because for some reason, all the people who are ~~compromised~~ in the country forget that YouTube is the leading platform, but not the only means of publishing online videos.

The censorship requested by Globo for “copyright infringement” raises a question: How far does freedom of expression go online? Is the digital universe really free?

The video can still be watched at YouTube and Vimeo.

February 26 2014

Mozambican Tech Woman Talks Local Impact of Social Networks

This Portuguese-language interview was originally published by the Mozambican citizen media platform Olho do Cidadão (Eye of the Citizen) on July 10 2013. 

Ludmila Maguni (@_mwaa_ no Twitter e Instagram)

Ludmila Maguni (@_mwaa_ on Twitter and Instagram)

At a time when more and more Mozambicans are utilising the Internet as a way to show the world their local reality, as well as to share with their locality what is happening in the world, we spoke with Ludmila Maguni, an influential Mozambican on Twitter, who speaks about the impact that social networks are having on Mozambican society.

It is estimated that just 4.8 percent of the 25 million Mozambicans have Internet access, according to 2012 data. In Mozambique, the Internet and social networks provide a space for greater openness of expression. In terms of press freedom, the country was placed at number 73 in the report published by the Reporters Without Borders organisation in 2013 (the recently launched 2014′s report puts the country six places down, at 79).

Ludmila is the head of the Department of Information Systems of the Ministry of Science and Technology in Mozambique. But just like the majority of Mozambicans with access to the Internet, she uses the web for information, socialising and entertainment. On Twitter she is known as @_Mwaa_. She was born in Maputo, but identifies herself as cosmopolitan, or in other words, a citizen of the world. As described on her profile, she is “1st Mozambican, 2nd African, 3rd Citizen of the World”. She posts in both Portuguese and English. 

Ludmila argues that the reason social networks have found success in Mozambique is that the people feel free to interact with each other and to share information:

Quando falamos de redes sociais, a primeira coisa que nos vem a cabeça são as redes sociais que usamos no dia a dia pela internet, mas penso que não podemos nos esquecer que naturalmente os seres humanos sempre se organizaram em grupos, e as redes sociais sempre existiram. E penso que é por isso que as redes sociais eletrônicas tem tanto sucesso hoje em dia, porque naturalmente sentimos vontade de nos comunicar uns com os outros, de partilhar informação, etc.

When we talk about social networks, the first thing that comes to mind are the social networks we use every day on the Internet, but we should not forget that human beings always organise themselves naturally into groups, and that social networks have always existed. And I think that this is why the online social networks are so successful today, because we always feel a natural desire to communicate with each other, to share information, etc. 

And thanks to social networks, citizens have gained the courage to debate the country's affairs in an open and candid manner: 

Os Moçambicanos estão a usar esta plataforma para expressarem os seus sentimentos (bons ou maus) sobre o nosso pais, sobre o que está acontecendo na vida política do país e no dia-à-dia. Todos nós como cidadãos temos uma palavra a dizer sobre o que quer que seja, penso que com a capa das redes sociais muitos ganham coragem e conseguem realmente dizer o que lhes vai na alma.

Mozambicans are using this platform to express their feelings (good or bad) about our country and about what is happening in the political world and in everyday life. As citizens, we all have something to say, no matter the topic. I think that through social networks, they are able to find the courage to say what is really on their mind.

Ludmila believes that social networks can, in some way, serve as a bridge between citizens and the government:

Conheço alguns países em que através do Twitter, Facebook, blogs, os governos usam estes instrumentos para estarem mais próximos do cidadão, gostaria que em Moçambique também fosse assim.

I know that in some countries, politicians use Twitter, Facebook and blogs as tools to reach out to the citizens and I would like it to be like this in Mozambique too. 

During the month of December Ludmila was involved in organising the third edition of Hackathon, which took place in the city of Maputo and whose objective was to promote the development of smartphone apps to respond to the specific needs of the market. 

Lahore Brigade Working To Solve Civic Problems

The first meetup of the Lahore Brigade members took place on Sunday, 23 February, in Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The brigade consists of civic hackers – software developers, designers, urban mappers who will be working to solve civic problems in Pakistan. Code for Pakistan and Technology for People Initiative partnered to launch the Lahore Brigade.

Code For Pakistan blog reports:

All the attendees introduced themselves and also proposed potential solutions to civic problems, pertaining to the areas of health, transportation, education, and governance. Some of the participants expressed interest in some of the projects that had been created at the Lahore Civic Hackathon. The ideas were all captured, followed by a rigorous discussion of them. A couple of Brigade Project Mentors were also present and they, like everyone else, expressed their interest in certain ideas. 6 promising project ideas or areas were agreed upon by the group.

Here is a collection of Tweets on the first meetup. According to the Appjuice, the group will be meeting every two weeks.

February 25 2014

From Kiev to Moscow: Russia's Tired Protest Antics

Tires (for burning on barricades) in the shape of the Olympic symbol. Anonymous image found online.

Car tires (used for burning on barricades during Ukraine's Maidan protests) in the shape of the Olympic symbol. Anonymous image found online.

With the Sochi Olympics over, it is back to business as usual in Russia — futile protests for the opposition, reactionary repression for the government. On Monday, February 24, 2014 Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky Court sentenced eight political activists to several years in prison for participating in a May 6, 2012 riot near the centrally located Bolotnaya Square. The actual sentences in the “Bolotanaya Case” vary, from two years and seven months for Artem Savelov to four years for Sergey Krivov. Alexandra Duhanina, the only female defendant left after an earlier amnesty that freed Maria Baronova, received a suspended sentence of 3 years and 3 months.

An image showing the Bolotnaya prisoners and their sentences. Anonymous image found online.

An image showing the Bolotnaya prisoners and their sentences. Anonymous image found online.

The sentencing took place this Monday, rather than last Friday as was originally planned [ru], likely to keep from spoiling the Olympic closing ceremony with untoward headlines. Even though it was a week-day, hundreds of people showed up to the court building, and later to Manezhnaya Square, to protest against the court case, which many view as rigged and political in nature. Some of these protesters seemed to have been inspired by the revolution in neighboring Ukraine, where violent street action helped the opposition reach their political goals. Specifically, several people tweeted about the need to bring car tires to the protest — either a defiant gesture referring to the mounds of tires burned by protesters on Kiev barricades, or a call to build barricades of their own.

Ilya Azar, a reporter at Lenta.ru, was the first one to call for “tires at Manezhka,” tweeting:

не забудьте каждый взять с собой на Манежку хотя бы одну автомобильную покрышку

everyone, don't forget to take at least one car tire with you to Manezhka

He later deleted his tweet, perhaps rightly fearing that it could be construed as a call to violence by the humorless Kremlin, but not before people made screenshots [ru]. Others [ru] picked up on this call to action, one Twitter user also calling [ru] for empty bottles, gasoline and motor oil (Molotov cocktail ingredients), another using Aesopian language to avoid charges of extremism:

I need help! Around Manezhka I got a flat tire. Everyone who is coming, please bring a spare, it could be old or without the rim.

A few people heeded these calls, one of them Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot fame, who was apparently arrested while carrying one [ru]. Tolokonnikova later tweeted from a police van, describing [ru] her detention as “rough.”

A man getting arrested on Manezhnaya Square, holding a car tire. Grani.ru.

Indeed, the Moscow police reacted swiftly and ruthlessly, dispersing the protest and detaining several hundred people, among them putative opposition leader Alexey Navalny [ru], according [ru] to tweets [ru] by protesters. Some also described [ru] the police action as “unusually” brutal and impatient. Pro-Kremlin writer Eduard Bagirov tweeted [ru] that this was because of the Ukrainian angle; post-Maidan the riot police have a “moral right” to “execute” protesters, he maintains.

A burning Kiev barricade photoshopped to look like a Google

A burning Kiev barricade photoshopped to look like a Google “doodle.” The protesters are holding car tires. Anonymous image found online.

Yulia Arkhipova, an economics student who recently got into a Twitter flame war [Global Voices report] with radio talk-show host Vladimir Solovyev for being pro-Maidan, wrote [ru] a scathing criticism of the tire-debacle, arguing that the Russian opposition is adopting the trappings of Ukrainian protests without their spirit:

В России оппозиция насмотрелась на Майдан и теперь играет в ролевые игры. К Замоскворецкому суду приносят российский флаг, поют российский гимн. Протестующие кричат “Банду гэть!” и называют ОМОНовцев Беркутом.

In Russia the opposition has seen the Maidan and is now role-playing. They bring the Russian flag to the Zamoskvoretsky court, they sing the Russian anthem. The protesters yell “Down with the thieves” [in Ukrainian] and call the riot police “Berkut.”

Sure, that might look like the Maidan, she writes, but what these protesters lack is the willingness to quit their jobs and the commitment to stand in the cold for months at a time. Thus, what worked in Kiev, is unlikely to work in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the Bolotnaya Square prisoners will do hard time, although human rights defender Pavel Chikov hopes [ru] that the sentences are low enough that they might soon be released on parole, considering how much time they've already spent in jail. It remains to be seen if these eight men and women will become a mascot for the protest movement or a successful deterrent against it.

February 24 2014

10 Reasons Why I Do Not Want Shariah In Pakistan

One of the Taliban negotiators pulled out during a recent talk with the Pakistan government demanding that the agenda includes the strict imposition of Sharia law. Pakistani Blogger and Journalist Beena Sarwar highlights a protest note posted in Facebook titled '10 reasons why I do not want Shariah in Pakistan’ by communities The Traitors of Pakistan (Liberal/Secular Pakistanis against oppression, discrimination, extremism and intolerance) and Pakistan Votes (activist community). Here are some gems:

1. Religion and how I choose to practice it is my business and not that of the State.

2. Enforcing Shariah will not make me a better Muslim nor will it make Pakistan a welfare state. The world’s welfare states are all governed by secular governments.

3. I reject the idea that Shariah in any form can be enforced by those who have raped and plundered my country, blown up schools and mosques and beheaded soldiers. I will not give these criminals the right to dictate to me.

4. I will not give up my civil rights, including freedom of thought and expression, under the guise of Shariah.

A Day to Strengthen Portugal's Open Data Community

A typical rabelo boat from Porto carrying the open data flag for the #OpenDataDay. Banner by Transparência Hackday.

A typical rabelo boat from Porto carrying the open data flag for the #OpenDataDay. Banner by Ana Carvalho / Transparência Hackday.

[Disclosure: The author of this post was one of the organizers of the event.]

Pro-transparency and tech for citizenship enthusiasts from different cities in Portugal joined in the global Open Data Day celebration with a gathering in Porto hosted by the Transparência Hackday collective on February 22, 2014.

Designers, programmers, hackers, communicators and public servants dedicated a Saturday afternoon to sharing their experience with transparency issues as well as to opening some data to the public.

Hands-on tasks included the Local Open Data Census by Open Knowledge Foundation, which aimed at putting together data sets at the local level, from transport timetables to annual budgets and air quality:

We know there is huge variability in how much local data is available not just across countries but within countries, with some cities and municipalities making major open data efforts, while in others there’s little or no progress visible. If we can find out what open data is out there, we can encourage more cities to open up key information, helping businesses and citizens understand their cities and making life easier.

By the end of the day, the cities of Coimbra and Porto had quite a full range of information available in a collaborative document that will be used to update the Open Knowledge instance for Portugal once it has been setup by the international organization.

A different group took on the yogurt cataloging challenge launched by Open Food Facts, a free, open and crowdsourced food products database. The idea behind “What's in my yogurt?” project was to gather nutrition facts, ingredients and other dairy data from as many countries of the world as possible in just one day. So did the Portuguese

Data ‘visualinspiration’

The cherry on top for this fourth anniversary of the International Open Data Day was the presentation of the designer and researcher Pedro Cruz from the University of Coimbra of his work on data visualization.

The association for cultural intervention Maus Hábitos (Bad Habits) opened its door for the open data venue.

The association for cultural intervention Maus Hábitos (Bad Habits) in Porto opened its door for the venue of the #OpenDataDay in Portugal.

The journey started with Pedro's data visualization of the evolution of the decline of the maritime empires of the 19th and 20th centuries by land extension. In the timeline of events, British, Portuguese, French and Spanish empires dissolute in a fluid way as “some kind of soft bodies”. Other works by him include the traffic of Lisbon condensed in one day – or portrayed as a metaphor of living organisms with circulatory problems – as well as text analysis, public transport exploration, and much more.

“An ecosystem of corporate politicians“ - interactive visualization at pmcruz.com/eco.

“An ecosystem of corporate politicians“ – interactive visualization at pmcruz.com/eco.

But his most recent deed, the interactive visualization ”An ecosystem of corporate politicians” – on the relationships between members of Portuguese governments and companies for the period of 1975 to 2013 – was the one sparking more debate.

The powerful visualization shows the companies where ministers and secretaries of state have had positions and allows for the exploration of what appears to be a parasite ecosystem, given the form of the designed organisms:

Data is approached as an ecosystem, where each set of interdependent relations are regulated by physical conditions—each politician has a sequence of companies to visit, chasing them and jumping between them, in order to restart the sequence each time it is completed.

The data was collected from a study on politics and business carried out for the documentary “Donos de Por­tu­gal” (Owners of Portugal).

Getting to know the community

Improve Coimbra was another project from the third main city of Portugal that participants had the chance to meet on #OpenDataDay in Porto. Alike the organizer in Porto, Transparência Hackday, Improve Coimbra promotes monthly meetings that anyone can join to help solve the problems of the city. In little more than one year of activities, Improve has already created several websites and mobile apps for the citizens of Coimbra, such as a platform for crowdsourcing home rents, a map of cafes with available wifi, and Burocracia which makes the minutes of Coimbra's city government assembly available and easy to search. 

Also the northern municipality of Alfândega da Fé was represented in this #OpenDataDay. Ranked in second place in the Index of Municipal Transparency [pt] launched in October 2013 by the watchdog Transparência e Integrigade, Associação Cívica (TIAC), this small municipality of the region of Trás-os-Montes, with less than 6,000 inhabitants, has been showing positive signs of willingness to open local governmental data

That was the ultimate aim of the event, after all, to encourage governmental data openness, and thus the #OpenData in Portugal has grown a bit stronger with more grassroots organizations and individuals dialoguing with each other and the world.

You can check out the agenda of the #OpenDataDay in a pad available in Transparencia Hackday's blog, and read more about the global event in the official website [all links in Portuguese]. 

Ukrainian Revolution Rattles Russian Nationalists

Photoshopped image of politician Yulia Timoshenko, released from jail by the opposition controlled Ukrainian parliament. Many view her as a strong candidate in the coming presidential elections. Anonymous image found online.

Photoshopped image of politician Yulia Timoshenko, recently released from jail by the opposition controlled Ukrainian parliament. Many view her as a strong candidate in the coming presidential elections. Anonymous image found online.

Remarkably, it is now a fait accompli that the Ukrainian opposition has taken control of the country's political process. President Yanukovich's fall from power was in no small part due to the radical nationalists who made up the core of the street activists standing opposite Ukrainian riot police for the last three months. Nationalist parties like Svoboda, and radical organizations like the “Right Sector” (see this early YouTube video [ru] of Right Sector leader Yarosh talking about taking the fight to “Ukrainian” lands in Russia) contributed to the eventual victory of the Maidan movement, and now appear to be in a unique position to influence Ukrainian policy making.

At least this is what Russian nationalists fear — not only that the new Ukraine will look towards the West, rather than Russia, but that the Russian speaking population in Ukraine will come under attack from radicals who will attempt to “derussify” them. The prominence of Ukrainian nationalists in the opposition movement gives fodder to these fears. A Russian radio-host Ilias Mercury, for example, tweeted about statements previously made by leader of the Svoboda party Oleh Tyahnibok:

Tyahnibok declared that the Russian language in Ukraine will be made illegal. Clear?

and 

Tyahnibok declared that Russians living in Ukraine will be made “non-citizens of Ukraine.” Clear?

It doesn't matter if such policies will ever come to pass. The very thought of them scares nationalists who feel that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are also Russian.

Some Russians blame Yanukovich for this turn of events. Blogger and publicist Egor Holmogorov wrote [ru] recently that:

Судьба Януковича – великолепный урок всем мелким тиранам, предающим русских. Он мог бы сделать русский язык государственным и править опираясь на русскую половину, которая постепенно стала бы русским большинством. Он предпочел прямо противоположный путь.

Yanukovich's fate is a great lesson for petty tyrants who betray Russians. He could have made the Russian language an official state language and rule relying on the Russian half of the country, which over time would become a Russian majority. He chose an exactly opposite approach.

This language map by Kiev National Linguistic University shows the split between Russian speaking east and Ukrainian speaking west.

This language map by Kiev National Linguistic University shows the split between Russian speaking east and Ukrainian speaking west.

In general, language appears to be a major point of contention for nationalists on both sides. In the past couple of days the new opposition controlled Rada has passed several laws, one of which was to repeal of an older law that gave Russian the status of a secondary official language in Ukraine. This led nationalist philosopher and founder of the National Democratic party Konstantin Krylov to proclaim [ru] the new regime “anti-Russian.” Krylov claims that such laws diminish political freedoms and Ukraine, and calls for new policy that would allow Ukrainians to easily acquire Russian citizenship, if they so choose.

Nationalist publication Sputnik & Pogrom also commented on the law repeal, saying [ru] that it fits with their predictions of increased nationalism in Ukraine in the case of an opposition win. S&P also criticized Alexey Navalny for supporting the Ukrainian opposition movement, as it seems contrary to his claims of looking out for the interests of Russians. S&P also published an address to “all Ukrainian Russians,” [ru] in which they call on them to self-organize and create “Russian national organizations,” because, “that's the only way to create a European Ukraine.”

Conservative publicist and radio-show host Dmitry Olshansky, on the other hand, made a more emotional appeal [ru]:

Можно себе представить, что было бы, если бы не было 1941 года, и существовали бы те, кого убили, и их потомки, – а Рада отменила бы идиш в качестве регионального языка.

You can imagine what would happen, if there was no 1941, and all of those who had died and their descendants would now be alive – and the Rada took away the regional status of Yiddish.

Truly, Russian nationalists are vehemently against any kind of ethnic discrimination — unless, of course, they get to be in charge.

Reposted byepimetheus epimetheus

February 23 2014

Indian Blogger Exposes Fuel Pump Cheating With Viral Video

Screenshot from the video uploaded by Kiruba Shankar

Screenshot from the video uploaded by Kiruba Shankar

In India, where fraud at gas pumps is commonplace and many complaints remain unresolved, a blogger's viral Facebook video has helped shed light on the problem.

Kiruba Shankar, a digital entrepreneur, author, teacher, farmer and long-time blogger in Chennai, India, explained how he first discovered the fraudulent practice:

I just caught the staff red-handed at Bharath Petroleum fuel station on Mount Road. They tried stealing Rs.700 worth of petrol. I paid Rs.2000 for the fuel and as the meter reached Rs.1300, one of the guys tried distracting me by asking me for my car number. Immediately, his accomplice manning the fuel pump stopped the pump and quickly reset the meter. As soon as the guy asked me for the number, I smelled a rat and saw the pump just when the guy was resetting it.

This incident took place in the Bharath Petroleum's Mount Road outlet in Chennai. Kiruba uploaded the video to Facebook, and the one-minute, 44-second-long video went viral with more than 6,000 shares and 3,000 likes. Many people shared their similar experiences in the comments section and local media started reporting on it.

Rajesh Murugesan, a commenter on the video, said:

Hey guys why blame only Bharat Petroleum, it happens with all petrol bunks. our Indian officer's just need to fill their pockets and are not worried about others. These officer's to be punished or teased in public.

Yashwanth Vee, another commenter, wrote:

It is a good thing that you came out and posted this on a social network. Hope the responsible person sees this video and takes some kind of action.

Kiruba posted updates on how the authorities reacted:

The social media outrage coupled with the coverage in national dailies has brought this incident right up to the CMD and top management of Bharath Petroleum.

They requested Mr.Kshitij Midha, Area Sales Manager for South Chennai to meet me in person. He is incharge of overseeing 35 fuel stations, including the one where the incident took place. [...]

The BPCL official did an investigation with the owner and staff at Ashwini Automobiles (the franchisee who runs the fuel station). After cross examining, they did find the two men guilty and they have been fired from their jobs. [...]

BPCL has the official complaint numbers displayed in all petrol pumps but most of the customers don’t take the extra effort to lodge a complaint. He encouraged people to complain which will keep the staff grounded.

Blogger Shushant Kulkarni from Pune advised how not to get cheated in a petrol station:

You might be getting fooled if you are not paying close attention. [...] I have noticed this a lot many times, have gotten first hand experience getting cheated a couple of times :), but eventually learned the pattern. You have experienced these or may be you are not paying attention to these.

The Allrounder blog also has similar tips to share. Vinaya Naidu at Lighthouse Insights blog lauded the role of social media in exposing malpractice in the society:

A rampant malpractice at most fuel stations in the country, one that needs to be tackled in these times of high fuel prices. It is interesting to observe how social media can play an important role in eliminating this, if leveraged fruitfully as Kiruba did.

February 22 2014

Thoughts On India's Biggest Blogging Conference

#WIN14, India's biggest blogging conference and awards, hosted by BlogAdda, took place on February 9, 2014. Blogger Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan, who won the best creative writing blog in India, shares his thoughts and pictures.

February 21 2014

Social Media Rallies to Help Comatose Pakistani Student in US


Screenshot of Facebook page supporting Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa

Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa, a 21-year-old Pakistani exchange student in the US, has been in a coma since 13 November 2013 when a deer collided with the car he and his friends were riding in outside of the city of Minneapolis. At a local hospital after the accident, Bajwa went into cardiac arrest. Doctors were able to resuscitate him, but he suffered brain damage and has been comatose ever since. 

Just as Bajwa was fighting for his life, another battle was brewing. Bajwa's student visa was set to expire on 28 February, and Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, Minnesota, where he was transferred after the accident, was making plans to deport him to a Pakistani hospital, saying its hands were legally tied. His family feared Bajwa wouldn't survive the flight. 

A student of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Bajwa was also only insured for one semester for the student exchange program with a cap of 100,000 US dollars, not enough to cover the expensive costs of an extended stay in an American hospital.    

As the visa expiration date neared, support on social media for Bajwa began to pour in, and an online campaign to raise funds and to pressure the US to allow the student to stay for treatment quickly spread throughout the web. Finally, after Pakistan’s Ambassador in the US Jalil Abbas Jilani became involved, Bajwa's brother announced on 20 February that US authorities had agreed to extend the student's visa.  

Social media takes up the cause 

Bajwa's medical costs exceeded 350,000 dollars in mid-February and continued to climb. The hospital agreed to absorb the costs and not dip into the insurance money, but warned (before the visa was extended) that it would cease paying on 28 February. Essentia Health also said it would pay the medical evacuation costs, though it threatened to pull the coverage if the family didn't sign off on returning Bajwa to Pakistan, according to his brother Shahraiz Bajwa.  

With the family unable to fund Bajwa's extensive treatment once the hospital pulled its financial support, his brother launched an online fundraising campaign on website gofundme.com, which has collected to date more than 132,000 US dollars of its 300,000-dollar goal.

On Facebook, groups such as “Support For Shahzaib Bajwa“ helped to spread the word about the need for donations. “Inshallah God will help you guys more. People show that humanity still exists in its full context,” one user, Mubarik Hasan, wrote. Other users, A Facebook user like Mohammad Jibran Nasir published statuses urging friends to help.

The peace initiative of the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Times of India, Aman ki Asha, shared a plea on Facebook from someone who had met Bajwa:

From an Indian about a Pakistani: “I request you from the core of my heart if you could help this lovely guy. I met him on my last visit to Pakistan and I've great memories of the time spent with him. I request you to pl help him out of the situation in which he and his family is.”

Meanwhile, an online petition was created on change.org to demand the extension of Bajwa's visa; it has so far received more than 8,000 signatures. Bajwa's family was not hopeful about the quality of treatment he would receive in Pakistan, and his mother feared signing off on the medical flight would be sending her son to his death. 

On the petition, Ivy Vainio from Minnesota wrote:

Shahzaib needs the best medical care that he can receive right now and he will get it where he is at currently. He is one of the most wonderful young men that I have met. Caring and loving to all. Please renew his visa so that he can stay and get the best treatment available to him.

Richard Mienke argued: 

I would rather see such a brilliant student and decent human being be taken care of until full recovery is attained and then give him the means to continue his degree here in the United States. It is not a question of citizenship, it is a question of humanity and doing the right thing. Period.

On Twitter, users pushed the campaign even further with tweets and retweets. Professor of International Relations, Earth and Environment at Boston University Adil Najam wrote:   

Pakistani journalist, artist and documentary filmmaker Beena Sarwar also requested the US extend Bajwa's visa: 

Political analyst and senior TV anchor Nasim Zehra wanted people to show generosity: 

Slow recovery ahead

Bajwa, who suffered severe facial fractures, will eventually need reconstructive surgery. He remains comatose, but can open his eyes, squeeze his mother's hand, shrug his shoulders and has some movement in his legs.

Doctors at the Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center say that it will take at least a few years to determine his chances of complete recovery. With his visa renewed, officials are now making plans to move Bajwa to a long-term facility in the area. 

Thumbnail image: Screenshot of Facebook page praying for early recovery of Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa

There Will Be No Peace in Colombia Without Women

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where noted otherwise.]

The documentation centre No habrá paz sin las mujeres [There will be no peace without women] enables female leaders, professionals and survivors of the armed conflict in Colombia to express themselves and share their experiences so that, according to the website, “the lifework they have dedicated to peace is not forgotten.” Their testimony is offered through an online photography exhibition and video interviews.

Historiadora, documentalista e integrante del colectivo H.I.J.O.S. Afiche del proyecto No habrá paz sin las mujeres.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, historian and documentary filmmaker. Poster for the project “There will be no peace without women”. 

All peace processes should actively involve women.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, a historian and documentary filmmaker, also works for justice and memory as part of the H.I.J.O.S. cooperative. She is the orphaned daughter of Francisco Gaviria, a student leader murdered along with 4,000 militants and sympathizers of the Unión Patriótica by State agents and paramilitaries between 1985 and 1994 in a campaign of political genocide.

The project, created by the Asturian Cooperative Development Agency, gives voice to Colombian women so they can ”learn from each other's experiences and strategies, be empowered in the fight to build a more just society, and advance their own proposals for peace in the process of reconciliation, reconstruction, reparation and justice.

No habrá paz sin las mujeres began with the experiences of Colombian women during the armed conflict [en] that has endured for more than 50 years. The group maintains that, although there are signs of hope in ongoing peace talks [en] taking place in Havana, Cuba, between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) [en] and the Colombian government, “women are noticeably absent from the peace process: neither the issues crucial to them nor their claims or proposals for peace are being listened to.” 

The website goes on to explain that talks have not taken into account United Nations Resolution 1325 [en], which calls attention to the issue of gender in conflict resolution. 

Y precisamente son las mujeres las que más sufren las consecuencias de la guerra: la violencia sexual ha sido empleada por los tres actores de la guerra, los paramilitares, el Estado y la guerrilla; el reclutamiento de menores ha afectada a las niñas como combatientes pero también como esclavas sexuales; son el mayor porcentaje de población desplazada y la mayoría con cargas familiares…

It is women who suffer most from the consequences of war: sexual violence has been used by all three factions, the paramilitary, the State and the guerrillas; the recruiting of minors has damaged girls both as combatants and as sex slaves; displaced persons are disproportionately women, most of whom have families…

Efforts to help redress the situation are publicized on the website's home page through video interviews and testimonials.  

One of these videos is about the artist Patricia Ariza, who found a way to express the Colombian reality through her work. Patricia also uses artistic expression to exorcize the injustice she sees in her country and of which she herself is a victim, her family having been displaced because of the violence. 

</p> <p>Another video shows a campaign where Colombian women are committed to safekeeping their land and not allowing the multinational&nbsp;<a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/AngloGold_Ashanti">AngloGold Ashanti</a>&nbsp;to set up gold-mining operations. The<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2013/12/campesinas-contra-la-fiebre-del-oro/">&nbsp;following video</a>&nbsp;is an interview with a local woman, Judith P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez, who lives on a country road in the municipality of Cajamarca, Tolima; and it speaks to the dedication of women to protecting their surroundings.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, the interview reveals the fear and anxiety of P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez and her neighbours&#8212;the vulnerability and lack of support they feel at the hands of Colombian authorities, as evidenced by the&nbsp;<a href="http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article10730">serious confrontations they have had with security forces</a>:</p> <p></p> <p>Ester Carmen Mart&#237;nez, a teacher in <a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitalito">Pitalito</a>, Huila, [a major coffee-producing area] tells her personal story and that of her neighbours, who were murdered, evicted or displaced by paramilitary groups.&nbsp;</p> <p></p> <p>The project also publishes texts&nbsp;<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2014/01/mas-mujeres-en-riesgo-por-reclamar-derechos-de-ley-de-victimas/">such as this one</a>, which explains some of the dangers faced by women who choose activism:</p> <blockquote><p>En Bajo Cauca por lo menos otras cuatro l&#237;deres han sido amedrentadas y obligadas a abandonar la regi&#243;n en los &#250;ltimos cuatro a&#241;os. La restituci&#243;n no avanza, y el miedo hace que ni siquiera re&#250;nan las mesas de v&#237;ctimas.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;Las v&#237;ctimas estamos arrinconadas&#8221;, dijo el testigo consultado. &#8220;Hay muchas amenazas. La &#250;ltima fue contra una mujer que fue v&#237;ctima de desplazamiento forzado y se fue para el barrio Par&#237;s. All&#225; lider&#243; la junta de acci&#243;n comunal y los pillos la amenazaron nuevamente y hasta iban a atentar contra su vida y se tuvo que ir del municipio. Lo m&#225;s triste es que ni la Administraci&#243;n Municipal ni la Fuerza P&#250;blica atiende nuestras peticiones. &#191;Usted cree que alguna de nosotras, pese a las amenazas, tiene esquema de seguridad?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <blockquote class="translation"><p>In Bajo Cauca at least four other leaders have been intimidated and forced to abandon the region in the last four years. Restitution is no further ahead, and fear means the victims don't even dare meet together anymore.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;We victims are cornered,&#8221; said the witnessed we consulted. &#8220;There are many threats. The last was against a woman who was a victim of forced displacement and went to the Par&#237;s area. There she led the committee for communal action and the thugs threatened her again, they were even going to try to kill her, and she had to leave the town. The saddest part is that neither the municipal government nor public security paid attention to our petitions. Do you think that any of us, despite the threat, receives any protection?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <p><span>The project </span><a target="_blank" href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/descargate-las-postales-y-posters/">has several posters</a><span>&nbsp;depicting the reality of the many ways women suffer, in particular sexual violence.</span></p> <div id="attachment_226940" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Superviviente de la matanza de El Salado (Foto: Patricia Sim&#243;n)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/sexual-afiche.png" width="723" class="size-full wp-image-226940" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga, survivor of the massacre in El Salado (Photo: Patricia Sim&#243;n)</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>I suffered sexual violence but it did not defeat me.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga was raped by ten paramilitaries in front of her husband, who was later murdered, in a massacre that claimed the lives of 100 people in five days in the town of El Salado in 2000. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war by all three factions in the conflict: guerrillas, paramilitaries and the State.</p></blockquote> <p>The posters also highlight the work of women who have dedicated their lives to peace and activism.&nbsp;</p> <div id="attachment_227006" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="991" alt="Defensora de derechos humanos (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-22.38.57.png" width="710" class="size-full wp-image-227006" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Mari La Negra, defender of human rights (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Words motivate, examples convince.</strong></p> <p>Mari La Negra began her career as an activist for workers and human rights when she was 14 years old. Not long afterwards, she was raped by State agents and jailed for three months, where she was tortured because of her efforts on behalf of organized labour. At 40, she has survived many attempts on her life and continues to be threatened by paramilitaries because of her fight for the rights of those most marginalized in society.</p></blockquote> <div id="attachment_227008" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Feminista e investigadora integrante de Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-23.16.17.png" width="724" class="size-full wp-image-227008" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Marta Restrepo, feminist and community organizer (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Freedom for women means removing the right to take advantage of them.</strong></p> <p>Marta Restrepo, a member of&nbsp;Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Antimilitarist Feminist Women), has dedicated her life to exposing the murder of women, a plague that claims the lives of more than 1,100 victims a year in Colombia. She also militates against the use of women as sex slaves, which in many cases leads to them becoming prostitutes in Spain, and the exploitation of women as a form of currency in the war economy that rules her country.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>For more information, videos, and posters, visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nohabrapazsinlasmujeres">Facebook</a>&nbsp;and Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/Nopazsinmujeres">@nopazsinmujeres</a>.</p> <p class="gv-rss-footer"><span class="credit-text"><span class="contributor">Written by <a title="View all posts by Lully" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/author/lully-posada/">Lully</a></span> &middot; <span class="contributor">Translated by <a title="View all posts by Victoria Robertson" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/author/victoria-robertson/" class="url">Victoria Robertson</a></span></span> &middot; <span class="source-link"><a title="View original post [es]" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/18/no-habra-paz-sin-las-mujeres-en-colombia/">View original post [es]</a></span> &middot; <span class="commentcount"><a title="comments" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/21/there-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women/#comments">comments (0) </a></span><br /><a title="read Donate" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/donate/">Donate</a> &middot; <span class="share-links-text"><span class="share-links-label">Share: </span> <a target="new" title="facebook" id="gv-st_facebook" href="http://www.facebook.com/share.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">facebook</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="twitter" id="gv-st_twitter" href="http://twitter.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;text=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women&#038;via=globalvoices"><span class="share-icon-label">twitter</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="googleplus" id="gv-st_googleplus" href="https://plus.google.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">googleplus</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="reddit" id="gv-st_reddit" href="http://reddit.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">reddit</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="StumbleUpon" id="gv-st_stumbleupon" href="http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">StumbleUpon</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="delicious" id="gv-st_delicious" href="http://del.icio.us/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">delicious</span></a></span> </p>

Interview With Fula-Language Blogger Balde Mamadou Tafsir for Mother Language Day

Fula is the language of the Fula (Fulani) people. Few African ethnic groups exhibit such a wide range of political and economic integration in the West African region. Fula people number among Africa's greatest writers, professors, filmmakers, artists, politicians, and businessmen. Yet Fula nomads, representing the largest migratory ethnic group in the world, live in extremely precarious conditions as they travel with their livestock in the Sahel savannah. They are called Fulɓe (singular Pullo) in the Fula language, Fula or Fulani in English, and peul in French. The geographic distribution of the population extends from West Africa to Central and East Africa.

The Fula language varies significantly between countries:

Le peul, ou peulh ou fulfulde, ou pularpulaar, est une langue parlée dans une vingtaine d’États d’Afrique occidentale et centrale, des rives du Sénégal à celles du Nil. C'est la langue maternelle des ethnies peules, et aussi une langue seconde employée régionalement comme langue véhiculaire, par d'autres ethnies.

Fula (also known as peulh, fulfulde, pular, or pulaar) is a language spoken in some twenty West and Central African countries, from the banks of the Senegal to those of the Nile. It is the native language of ethnic Fulas and is also spoken as a second language and lingua franca by members of other ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, this language, despite being taught in several universities outside of Africa, is rarely taught in school systems on the continent.

African culture and languages researcher Balde Mamadou Tafsir writes two blogs in Fula, his native language. For the first, Misiide [ful], he uses the Latin alphabet, and for the second, tafsirexpress.blogspot.com [ful], he posts using the Arabic alphabet. His goal is to promote all facets of Fula language and culture. For International Mother Language Day, a UNESCO initiative celebrated every February 21st since 2000, he agreed to answer a few questions for Global Voices.

Balde Tasfir facebook photo profile with his permission

Balde Tasfir facebook photo profile with his permission

What do you think of International Mother Language Day?

Balde Mamadou Tafsir (BMT): C’est un moment de partage de joie, de satisfaction, de se sentir intégré dans la diversité culturelle. En ma qualité de développeur web de langues et cultures africaines je considère la Journée Internationale de la Langue Maternelle comme une merveilleuse occasion de maintenir ce noble objectif.

Je pense qu’il faut soutenir la résolution de L’UNESCO [ résolution 37 adoptée en 1999 par  la Conférence générale de cette institution du système des Nations Unies basée à Paris] qui affirme cette reconnaissance de la diversité culturelle de par le monde, cette journée nous encourage à multiplier nos efforts dans le développement de nos langues nationales.

Balde Mamadou Tafsir (BMT): It's an occasion to share joy and satisfaction, to feel integrated in cultural diversity. As a web developer working on African languages and cultures, I consider International Mother Language Day to be a wonderful occasion to further this important objective.
I think we need to support the UNESCO resolution [resolution 37 adopted in 1999 by UNESCO's General Conference of the United Nations System in Paris], which reaffirms recognition of cultural diversity throughout the world. This day encourages us to redouble our efforts in the development of our national languages.

What do you blog about?

BMT: Je blog le plus souvent sur la culture, les langues africaines, tout comme sur les activités socioculturelles.

I blog mainly about African culture and languages, as well as social and cultural activities. 

What do you find gratifying about blogging?

BMT: Tout d’abord, ça me rassure que bon nombre de mes lecteurs apprécient mes billets, mais aussi les questions/thèmes que j’aborde sur mes blogs. Ça m’encourage à plus écrire dans ces domaines.

First of all, it's reassuring that a good number of readers appreciate my posts, as well as the questions and themes that I bring up on my blogs. That encourages me to write more on these subjects.

What have you been working on since starting the blog Misiide?

BMT: Quelque mois après sa création, Misiide a lancé une version en arabe du blog pour ses lecteurs utilisant les caractères arabes. Tout récemment,  j’ai enregistré un album de poèmes poular (ou peul) qui sortira bientôt. Actuellement, je travaille sur la traduction des logiciels en peul. J’ai aussi traduit pas mal de livres en poular comme j’ai réalisé un petit lexique (poular-français, français-poular, et poular-arabe). D’autres projets sont en route.

A few months after its creation, Misiide launched an Arabic version for its readers who use the Arabic alphabet. Just recently, I recorded an album of Fula language poems, which will be released soon. I'm currently working on translating software into Fula. I've translated quite a few books into Fula and have also created a little glossary (Fula-French, French-Fula, and Fula-Arabic.) Other projects are on their way.

What kinds of difficulties do you come across?

BMT: Ce sont entre autres les mêmes difficultés que rencontrent nombre de bloggeurs à savoir : Problèmes financiers et techniques, l’entretien du blog… Sauf que nous avons plus de difficultés que celui qui blogue dans une des langues les plus utilisées, qui ont facilement accès au web. En outre quant à nous bloggeurs en langues africaines, le nombre de nos lecteurs est rès limités par rapport aux bloggeurs dans les langues les plus courantes. 

For the most part, I encounter the same difficulties as other bloggers, such as financial and technical problems and blog maintenance issues. However, we face more difficulties than bloggers who write in more widely spoken languages and who have easy access to the internet. Plus, African language bloggers have a very limited number of readers compared to bloggers in more common languages.

What do you think about teaching native languages in the school system?

BMT: L’enseignement des langues nationales dans le système scolaire mérite d’être encourager comme stratégie pour une amélioration de la réussite des élèves. Car elle joue un grand rôle dans la formation et l’affirmation de l’identité culturelle des individus, par conséquent leur valeur comme instruments de communication.

D’après les études, notamment celles menées conjointement par l’UNESCO et l’UNICEF, les élèves des pays où la langue maternelle est aussi la langue d’enseignement, surpassent les autres dans la plupart des secteurs d’étude.

Teaching national languages in the school system should be encouraged as a strategy for improving students’ success. It plays an important role in the formation and affirmation of individuals’ cultural identity, and, therefore, has value as a means of communication.
According to research studies, especially those conducted jointly by UNESCO and UNICEF, students who are taught in their native language outperform other students in a majority of subjects.

What are the results of mother tongue education in schools in Guinea?

BMT: La Guinée a mené une expérience originale dans l’enseignement des langues nationales a l’école ; comparativement aux autres pays de la sous région, mais elle a obtenu des résultats critiques et peu déterminants, dont le plus important a été la baisse du niveau des élèves dans les langues d'importance mondiale (arabe, français, anglais).

Compared to other countries in the subregion, Guinea has led an original experiment in teaching national languages at school. But Guinea has seen disappointing and inconclusive results, most importantly a decline in students’ performance in major world languages (Arabic, French, and English).

What caused this failure?

BMT: A mon avis, cet échec est dû au manque de préparation de l’opération, mais aussi au fait que les langues nationales étudiées à l’école étaient trop nombreuses par rapport à un petit pays comme la Guinée. Sans oublier le manque de motivation de parts et d'autres (enseignants, élève et parents d’élèves).

In my opinion, this failure is due to a lack of preparation for the undertaking, but also to the fact that the national languages studied in schools are too numerous for a small country like Guinea. Not to mention the lack of motivation of the various parties (teachers, students, and parents).

At what age do you think mother tongue education should begin?

BMT: Les études nous ont toujours démontré que l’introduction des langues nationales dans l’enseignement permet incontestablement d’obtenir une plus grande scolarisation des enfants de bons résultats scolaires. Cependant, la scolarisation en langues nationales doit absolument commencée dès les premières années de l’école.

Studies have always shown that the introduction of national languages in education unquestionably allows children to perform better in school. However, mother tongue education absolutely must begin in the first years of school.

Do you use your native language every day? In what context?

BMT: Oui ! Cela dépend de mes activités journalières, mais étant un étranger dans le pays ou je vie, l’utilisation de ma langue se focalise le plus souvent sur les moyens de communications (téléphone, internet…).

Yes! That depends on my daily activities, but as a foreigner in the country I live in, the use of my native language mainly revolves around means of communication (telephone, internet…).

What do you predict for the future of your language?

BMT: En se basant sur les différents travaux réalisés pour cette langue afin qu’elle soit plus intégrée dans la vie publique en général me rassure que celle-ci sera un jour l’une des langues de science et de technique.

Judging from the various projects undertaken to better integrate this language in public life, I generally feel reassured that one day it will become one of the languages of science and technology.

Anything else you would like to add?

BMT: Je profite de cette occasion pour saluer la résolution de l’UNESCO qui affirme que la reconnaissance et le respect pour la diversité culturelle dans le domaine du langage inspirent une solidarité basée sur la compréhension, la tolérance et le dialogue, et que toute action qui favorise l’utilisation des langues maternelles sert non seulement à encourager la diversité linguistique et l’éducation multilingue. Cette résolution, vise aussi à sensibiliser davantage à la multiplicité des traditions linguistiques et culturelles dans le monde.

Je lance un appel a tous mes amis bloggeurs à travers le monde, à s’associer à cette Journée pour prendre part à cette journée pour bloguer dans les langues nationales parce que nos langues sont  menacées d’extinction.

I'll take this opportunity to acknowledge the UNESCO resolution, which affirms that recognition and respect for cultural diversity in language inspire solidarity based on comprehension, tolerance, and dialogue. This resolution advocates that any action promoting the use of native languages should serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also to increase sensitivity to the multiplicity of linguistic and cultural traditions in the world.
I urge all my blogger friends across the world to take part in this day by blogging in their native languages, because our languages are at risk of extinction.

 

February 20 2014

#Euromaidan Protests Spread Throughout Ukraine After Explosion of Violence

This post is part of our Special Coverage Ukraine's #Euromaidan Protests.

Euromaidan protests in Ukraine took a turn for the worse on February 18, 2014, as special Berkut police forces began their most violent crackdown yet on citizens and political opposition supporters in Kyiv. Instead of quelling protesters, the protests quickly strengthened and even spread to new towns and regions in the country. The government announced de facto martial law, with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claiming that the military now had the right to search, detain and even fire on civilians.

Earlier in the day, opposition representatives attempted to deliver a request to Parliament that would limit presidential power and were denied access to the building to do so. Soon after hearing this news, protesters moved in on the Parliament building. The situation then gravely escalated when police forces violently cracked down on protesters around 8 pm, with devastating results. The following morning, several independent and international news outlets reported that the several-hour-long aggressive police action resulted in 25 deaths and at least 1,000 people injured, but casualties are still being counted. One journalist reported that at least 40 people had been burned alive in the Trade Union building in Kyiv alone.

As this was happening, news of the crackdown traveled quickly through social media and other channels, with people following the events live throughout Ukraine and the world through several live streams. Newly angered protesters marched once again on what has been the main protest site since November 2013, Independence Square, but also took to the streets in several other cities and towns in Ukraine's 24 administrative regions. The images and information users on Twitter and other social networks were sharing, like the one below from @slava_slav, angered citizens throughout the country and incited more protests:

Trade Union Building on Independence Square [in Kyiv]

Ukraine's most popular online community of IT developers joined other Ukrainians in presenting their position on the February 18 events. The founder of the community, Max Ischenko, wrote:

Вчера украинская власть наконец-то приняла решение. Обьявила открытую войну гражданам Украины. Рубикон пройден.
Всего два выхода для честных ребят: перестать быть гражданами Украины, променяв кафкианскую реальность на нормальный мир или же остаться гражданами, приняв навязанную войну. Третий, трусливый вариант, не рассматриваем — это default route.
Голыми руками на БТР идти не надо, это не наши методы. Программисты лучше действуют головой. Я за ненасильственное сопротивление.

Yesterday, Ukrainian authorities finally made a decision. Open war against Ukrainian citizens was announced. The Rubicon has been crossed.

Honest men have only two solutions: stop being a citizen of Ukraine, changing the Kafka-esque reality to a normal world or to remain a citizen and accept the imposed war. The third one, a cowardly choice, is not considered – this is a default route.

There is no need to go against armoured personnel empty-handed, it is not our way. Developers work better by using their heads. I am for non-violent resistance.

After receiving information of the murders in Kyiv, many protests throughout other regions have been refueled, and some have now newly joined the protests. The most radical demonstrations of civil resistance, other than in Kyiv, now come from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, which was active in the Euromaidan movement from its inception. During the night between February 18 and February 19, several government organizations fell into the control of protesters, such as the local Security Service of Ukraine in Lvyv and the Regional State Administration.

In Lviv, there is no possibility to telephone the police, as they have simply stopped responding. The majority of police stations in the region have been defeated and taken over by protesters. Information has also been circulating both on and offline that police stations in the city had been looted and fire arms stolen. Ukrainian news agency ZIK reported in a tweet:

In Lviv all weapons missing from police stations: In Lviv from the police offices some number of weapons were stolen

In the morning of February 19, Ivan Franko Lviv National University students and professors announced that they would go on strike indefinitely and asked other universities to do the same. In the meantime, students have been doing their best to organize self-defense units to protect citizens and museums from looting and violence. Young Twitter user @yostap from Lvyv said:

The creation of the student self-defense unit and strike committee has been announced.

In Uzhorod, the Regional State Administration is now occupied by the protesters, with many citizens expressing relief that their town has awoken to join what many are calling a revolution. Twitter user @mikekomar tweeted a photo of the building when it had just been occupied by the protesters:

@ukrpravda_news Zakarpatska RSA [Regional State Administration] was taking by storm, and it is now in the nation's hands! Finally, Uzhgorod has awoken! Photo [taken at] 12:35

The same has happened in a few other regional capitals. In Lutsk, a city in another western Ukrainian region, for example, the Regional State Administration is now also in the hands of Euromaidan protesters. Local users on Twitter, like @deep_monday, tweeted images and updates as they happened:

MIA [Ministry of Internal Affairs] and RSA [Regional State Administration] are defeated, everything is in flames, Bashkalenko [Volyn Region Governor Alexander Bashkalenko] was beat. We have the feeling this is not happening to us

What many feel is the cruelest news over these two days has come from Khmelnytskyi. At the Security Service of Ukraine building in this city, an elderly woman was killed and two others were injured. They were a part of the protest group that had come to that building after hearing what happened in Kyiv. Someone opened fire from the Security Service of Ukraine building. According to witnesses, the woman was unarmed and was kneeling in front of the building. The terrible image of this killing was shared by many online, including the official Twitter feed of one of the Maidan movement organizations, Will of the Nation:

Khmenytskyi. SSU is killing theirs nation.

The Ukrainian Democratic Alliance added:

Our activists have said that the shooting came from the building of the Khmelnytskyi SSU [Security Service of Ukraine]. A woman was killed. There are a few injured.

Eastern parts of Ukraine also are no longer peaceful. In Poltava, a protest was held in the city center. A Twitter account represented as Poltava Svoboda (Poltava Freedom) tweeted this image of the protests there:

Poltava. The amount of people [joining the protest] is rising.

People are once again joining forces to try to help the Euromaidan movement in any way they can. Some are collecting and bringing warm clothes and medication, while others are buying and preparing food for their fellow protesters. Food has now become more important than ever at the protest sites in Kyiv, as the Trade Union Building, where most of the food collected for the protesters had been stored over the past weeks, was burned during the February 18 police attacks, leaving protesters with no food at all.

In Kyiv and Lviv, people have also been donating blood and more donors are needed. Information about this is also being spread through social networks and a new hashtag #ядонор (#Iamadonor) can be seen along with the now standard #Euromaidan. Twitter user Ana Toliivna from Lvyv was among those who donated and called for others to do the same:

#Iamadonor RT @euromaidanlviv: On Pekarska street 65 it is possible to donate blood for those affected [at] #Euromaidan #Lvyv

People are also collecting money for those affected by the latest escalation of events. Even those with very little to give are offering what they can in support of the protests. Ukrainian author and journalist Dmitry Gordon shared this image of an elderly woman showing undeniable support of the protests in her country:

This old woman brought half of her monthly pension for those affected at Euromaidan.

Recap of the Blog Carnival ‘Do You Love the Internet?’

logofest2

[All links lead to Spanish language pages.]

As we announced a few days ago, the moment has arrived to present the results of our Blog Carnival, this time a whirlwind event of only five days. The theme was I Love the Internet, and how to express this idea was left up to the imagination and creativity of the participating bloggers. The idea emerged in support of the online campaign #YoAmoInternet (I love the Internet).

So let's see what our blogger friends had to say. We'll start with Milton Ramirez, an Ecuadorian living in New York, who posted on Geek's Room that “at first it seems like a grammatical mistake” to talk about loving the Internet, since love is normally something that occurs only between people. But he later explains that “the point is to value the uses of the Web. Express your gratitude in the context of Valentine's Day for the benefits that the Internet offers you.” Finally, he concludes:

Amo el internet porque sin él no estuvieran leyendo estas líneas y porque nos ha servido para conocer millones de personas en miles de áreas. No más expertos y no más restricciones sobre la información.

I love the Internet because without it, you wouldn't be reading these lines, and because it has enabled us to meet millions of people in thousands of places. No more experts and no more restrictions on information.

Ángeles Estrada of Nicaragua, posting from France on her Blog de Ángeles, begins her post with the comment: “It seemed funny to think of the Internet fondly. Like that… with affection everywhere for the day of love and friendship.” After telling us about her journey on the internet, she confesses why she loves it:

Internet me ha dado otra vida. Una vida virtual que se adiciona a mi vida real y suma, llena y complementa. Abre puertas a mi curiosidad y apacigua la inquietud de mi espíritu inquieto, explorador, aventurero, quizás vagabundo. Mi vida hoy es una fusión entre lo real y lo virtual, intima y durable. Una simbiosis perfecta, hongo y árbol.

The Internet has given me another life. A virtual life in addition to my real life, which adds to it, fills it, and complements it. It opens doors to my curiosity and calms the restlessness of my inquisitive, exploring, adventurous, and sometimes vagabond spirit. My life today is a fusion of the real and the virtual, intimate and durable. A perfect symbiosis, like a fungus living on a tree.

Nscap, ciudadana del mundo (2.0) is the blog of Isabel Garnica of Spain, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She gets straight to the point, stating:

Yo Amo Internet porque: aprendo, enseño, trabajo, comparto mi trabajo, viajo, blogueo, juego, hago amigos, conozco personas, porque #InternetCambiaTodo, porque me siendo una ciudadana global, reivindico derechos, difunde proyectos sociales, nos empodera como ciudadanos, ayuda a caer dictadores, por muchas muchas muchas más razones… y sobretodo porque me permite soñar un mundo mejor.

I Love the Internet because: I learn, teach, work, share my work, travel, blog, play, make friends, meet people, because #InternetCambiaTodo [the Internet Changes Everything], because it makes me feel like a citizen of the world, because it enables us to defend rights and share social projects, because it empowers us as citizens, helps bring down dictators, and for many, many, many more reasons… and above all, because it allows me to dream of a better world.

Gabriela García Calderón writes her blog Seis de enero from Lima, Peru. She reminds us of what it was like when communication took place via letters written on paper, and how things have evolved thanks to the Internet:

¿Por qué amo internet? Porque nos comunica, nos conecta, nos contacta, nos acerca y más con apenas un clic. Y porque además permite que la magia del correo real siga existiendo, espero que por mucho tiempo.

Why do I love the Internet? Because it links us, connects us, puts us in contact, brings us together, and more, with just a click. And because, for that matter, it allows the magic of regular mail to continue existing, hopefully for a long time.

On the blog Creatividad Rezumante, Alicia Cortés of Extremadura, Spain describes her love for the Internet in an inspired poem:

Internet, te amo
por tí navegaría
toda la noche y el día
prendida a tu mano…

Volaría sin tiempo
en tus redes de viento

Internet, I love you
I'd surf with you
All night and all day
Hand in hand
I'd fly, timeless
On the winds of your networks

On her blog Veo y escribo, Daniela Gallardo, of Loja, Ecuador, tells us about her typical day on the internet and her favorite sites to visit, but first gets honest:

Debo amarlo demasiado para dedicarle un post (algo que ni siquiera lo he hecho con mi novio) por San Valentin. La verdad es que #YoAmoInternet porque, básica y sencillamente, me tiene conectada al mundo. Es fascinante si no lo llevamos al extremo, claro.

I must love it too much, if I'm dedicating a Valentine's Day post to it (which I haven't even done for my boyfriend). The truth is that I love the internet because, plain and simple, it keeps me connected with the world. It's fascinating, if we don't take it to the extreme, of course.

Gina Yauri, also of Loja, tells us about her relationship with the Internet in her blog Ximealito, concluding:

Internet es un mundo de información abierto que tiene varias puertas, solo debes saber cómo utilizarlas y bajo tu responsabilidad sabrás llevar una vida plena con una pasión por el internet.

The Internet is an open world of information that has various doors. You just need to know how to use them responsibly, and you'll be able to live a full life with a passion for the Internet.

Iván Mejía, blogger of Tantas Cosas, writes a letter recounting his history with the Internet and reflects:

A veces de tan cotidiano parece difícil procurarle amor al internet, como la electricidad el internet ( o será la internet?) pareciera algo que solo se aprecia cuando se va.

 Sometimes it seems difficult to feel love for the Internet, since it's an everyday thing. Like electricity, the Internet seems like something that only gets appreciated once it's gone.

Israel Rosas of Mexico also writes a letter to the Internet on his self-titled blog:

Dicen que ya no eres aquella a quien solíamos conocer, que los ataques te han hecho cambiar y que las cosas ya no serán como antes. Hoy te escribo convencido de que mantienes esa naturaleza abierta e innovadora con la cual te conocí y que tanto me gusta.

They say that you're no longer who I used to know, that people's attacks have made you change, and that things can't go back to the way they were before. Today I'm writing to you convinced that you still have that open and innovative nature that you had when I met you and that I like so much.

Writing her blog Cosas del Alma from her native Medellín, Colombia, Catalina Restrepo lists the reasons why she likes the Internet, from access to information to sharing with others, and then declares:

a usar internet. A usarlo bien. El problema no es la herramienta, si no su uso. Y es uno el que decide lo que hace con lo que le dan. Creo que yo lo usé para encontrarme con el mundo.

Use the Internet. Use it well. The problem is not the tool, but the way it is used. And it's the individual who decides what to do with what they are given. I think that I used it to meet up with the world.

Madame Web, from the Colombian city of Pasto, writes the blog La lógica de mi Papá. She tells us that this isn't the first time that she's going public about her love for the Internet, but adds:

Debo decir que este amor ya no es el mismo que al principio, ha ido cambiando a medida que la red ha crecido y como en toda relación ahora hay cosas que, pequeños detalles, me molestan…como la propagación de virus, spam y troyanos…pero es algo inevitable, aunque tomando las medidas correctas se pueden prevenir estos males y otros relacionados con la seguridad online. [...] Ahí les dejo esa inquietud, ¿Qué tan buenos usuarios somos?

I have to say that this love isn't the same as it was at the beginning. It has changed as the Internet has grown, and like in any relationship, there are now things, little details, that bother me… like the spread of viruses, spam, and Trojans… but it's inevitable, though you can prevent these and other problems by taking appropriate measures with online security. [...] So I'll leave you with this concern: As users, how good are we?

The people of the Mexican collective blog Sursiendo explain the Internet and why we should love it:

Internet es lo que queramos que sea, por eso lo amamos, porque en nuestras manos  (mentes, corazones…) está darle forma y comprometerse con él/ella(ello), para que no desaparezca, no lo mutilen, no lo neutralicen, no lo desvirtúen o no lo controlen. No lo dejemos en otras manos. Amemos Internet.

The Internet is what we want it to be. That's why we love it. Because in our hands (minds, hearts) lies the responsibility to give it form and commit to it, so that it doesn't disappear or get mutilated, neutralized, distorted, or controlled. Let's not leave it in the wrong hands. Let's love the Internet.

José del Sol writes Buscando el optimismo from Irún, Spain. He recounts how at first it was love at first sight, but now:

De vez en cuando reflexionamos sobre cómo hemos evolucionado. Mis kilos siguen ahí, no como mi pelo, y ella ya no es aquel mundo inocente e ilusionado de cuando nos conocimos. A veces fría y comercial -hay que vivir-, otras enfrascada en luchas políticas, los dos tememos qué le pueda llegar a pasar. Últimamente ha crecido el peligro de que de artesana autónoma pase a ser funcionaria sin identidad de un estado policial o empresaria libertaria sin respeto por la privacidad de nadie. No sabemos qué camino seguirá, pero como con una persona, creo que no podré abandonarla a su suerte.

From time to time we reflect on how we have changed. My extra pounds are still here, unlike my hair, and she [the Internet] is no longer the innocent and hopeful world that she was when we met. Sometimes she's cold and commercial – one must survive – and other times she's caught up in political fights. We both fear what might happen. Lately the fear is growing that she might transform from an independent artist into a faceless servant of a political state or a libertarian business with no respect for anyone's privacy. We don't know which path she will follow, but like with a person, I don't think I could abandon her to her fate.

Mexican activist Jesús Robles Maloof explains his position in a post on his blog:

Defenderé un internet libre porque me ha permitido conectarme con otros y luchar por la libertad de las personas. [...] No me imagino su libertad sin internet y en este sentido amo a internet. La vigilancia masiva de la red amenaza esta capacidad de movilización al dar a los gobiernos la posibilidad de anticiparse.

I will defend a free Internet because it has allowed me to connect with others and fight for people's liberty. [...] I can't imagine their liberty without the Internet, and in this sense, I love the Internet. The massive network surveillance threatens this capacity for mobilization by giving governments the opportunity to forestall action.

Bolívar Loján Fierro writes the blog Ni lo uno ni lo otro, más bien todo lo contrario from Loja, Ecuador. He tells us about the procedure that was necessary to make a phone call 40 years ago and compares it with the immediacy of modern tools like Skype. In a science fiction plot twist, his last paragraph is written from the year 2020:

Estoy a mis 72 años liderando en el mundo una campaña de “Derecho a la privacidad”, mi compañera llamada “Internet”, en una pequeña pelea que tuvimos colocó mis datos a disposición del mundo. Me birlaron lo poco de mis ahorros y de privacidad. Me fui a vivir en la montaña, donde queda un poco de agua, elemento vital que perdimos mientras todos estábamos sentados asumiendo que el mundo se podía construir desde un teclado, cosas táctiles y realidades aumentadas. “Amo a internet”, era mi grito de guerra, ahora es “Amo a mi privacidad”, mientras los analfabetas digitales que viven en el campo felices con sus sementeras y ancestros en la ciudad andan como locos buscando algo que llaman comida virtual. Ya la privacidad poco importa.

I'm 72 years old, leading a campaign called “The Right to Privacy.” During a fight we had, my companion, named “Internet,” posted all my information for the world to see. My meager savings and privacy were stolen. I went to live in the mountains where there was a little water left, a vital element that we had lost while we were all sitting around assuming that the world could be constructed via keyboards, touch screens, and augmented realities. “I love the Internet” was my war cry. Now it's “I love my privacy,” like the digital illiterates who live in the countryside happy with their crop fields, while their ancestors in the city run around like crazy people looking for something that they call virtual food. And privacy matters little.

So, although the Carnical was only 5 days in length, we were pleased to see that various bloggers participated. We recommend following the links in each participating post so that you can read the bloggers’ full opinions. I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude (and that of Global Voices en Español) to all the bloggers for their effort and dedication in contributing their valuable time to this initiative.

And, of course, Happy Valentine's Day!

February 19 2014

Amendments to Brazil's Bill of Rights for Internet Users Jeopardizes Privacy

Recent amendments to Brazil's pioneer bill of rights for Internet users, the “Marco Civil da Internet” (Internet Civil Rights Framework), put net neutrality and users’ privacy at stake. The bill is expected to be voted on by Congress during the last week of February 2014.

“Marco Civil with article 16: Brazilian government becomes NSA”. Banner from the #16igualNSA campaign (

“Marco Civil with Article 16: Brazilian government becomes NSA”. Banner from the #16igualNSA campaign.

Activists have launched an online campaign asking for the removal of one of the new provisions, Article 16, that mandates service providers to store personal data of their users. The hashtag in use is #16igualNSA (“Article 16 leans towards NSA surveillance”).

Joana Varon, a Brazilian researcher from the Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, points to an article on the PrivacyLatam blog as the “most accurate post in English regarding changes on #privacy protection at #marcocivil“: 

This measure not only contradicts all previous versions of the Bill (which is a work in progress started by a draft generated by a public consultation in 2010). It establishes an unprecedented  duty to all “for profit” Brazilian Internet players who run a site or service to keep private information of their users for 6 months, regardless of any consideration about their users’ consent.

Even if the Bill mention protection measures for the data owners, it is clear that the simple fact of the existence of the mandatory personal data register is, ‘per se’, a danger that users cannot avoid since their free consent would be not taken into account. Moreover, the lack of a general framework for personal data protection makes the whole environment at least very prone to the misuse of personal information.

The Brazilian Institute for Consumer Rights (Idec) created an online petition [pt] asking for “neutrality, privacy and freedom of expression in Marco Civil”. The platform allows sending letters to the Members of Parliament.

Follow the Escalation of Ukraine's #Euromaidan Protests Live

This post is part of our Special Coverage Ukraine's #Euromaidan Protests.

Protests in Ukraine escalated to a deadly stand-off between hundreds of thousands of citizens and government forces in the evening of February 18. Roads to the city were blocked by authorities, and the metro in Kyiv were stopped. The main opposition TV channel reported being taken off air. Fierce clashes between police and protesters around the main square continued through the night. On February 19, the Kyiv Post reported that at least 25 people are dead and more than 1,000 are injured.

In the morning of February 18, 2014, Ukraine's opposition tried to register a bill in Parliament to bring back the old version of the country's Constitution, one that significantly limits presidential powers. The move was backed by the nearly three-months-old Euromaidan movement, which has been protesting daily in several cities throughout Ukraine demanding that the government of President Viktor Yanukovych step down. 

Ahead of the session, the protesters marched to the Parliament building. When the speaker of the parliament refused to register the bill, clashes broke out between the people and the police. MPs who support President Yanukovych had left the building, while the president himself was nowhere to be found. Police and special forces then stormed Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independance Square), the protesters’ stronghold.

A screencap from Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independance Square] in central Kyiv, Ukraine. Feb. 19, 2014

A screenshot from Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independance Square] in central Kyiv, Ukraine. Feb. 19, 2014

President Yanukovych has made a statement blaming the opposition for the violence and police crackdown. Overnight negotiations between the protesters and the government failed and protesters once again reclaimed Independence Square in Kyiv on February 19.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso released a video statement regarding the latest developments in Ukraine and also tweeted:

Citizens and independent media still turning to Internet tools to cover what is happening on the ground and get the news of the atrocities happening in Ukraine to the rest of the world. Live streams of the clashes and protests from Kyiv are available on several online channels:

RFE/RL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObBHW8XQvUQ
Espreso-TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Y_LFrMcoEm4
SpilnoTV: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/16555296
HromadskeTV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dh3_1L9XO60
UkrStreamTV: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/16573315, http://www.ustream.tv/channel/17251372

Twitter is also a popular online venue for following updates directly from Kyiv. Global Voices has compiled a list of some of the Twitter accounts with English-language coverage of current events in Ukraine:

https://twitter.com/zeitonline/lists/ukraine
https://twitter.com/ckaratnytsky/lists/ukraine
https://twitter.com/juliacreinhart/lists/ukraine-russia
https://twitter.com/zeynep/lists/ukraine
https://twitter.com/rm867/lists/ukraine-euromaidan

Euromaidan volunteer translators are busier than ever, translating as many updates from the scene of the protests. The most popular blog and Facebook page is that of Maidan Translations:

http://maidantranslations.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/EuroMaydanTranslations

Updates from the organizers of the protests, dubbed Euromaidan headquarters, can be followed on their Facebook account in English:

https://www.facebook.com/euromaidanpr

February 18 2014

“Bring All the Culprits of Ethnic Cleansing to Justice” Says a CAR Citizen of Muslim and Christian Descent

Here is Moussa Tanko–Tchaibou's take on the ethnic cleansing that is underway in his country, the Central African Republic and what should be done to stop it [fr]:

Je suis centrafricain de confession musulmane avec cette particularité illustrative de la cohésion sociale, celle d’avoir un père de confession musulmane et une mère d’origine chrétienne [..]  Alors que la maison commune est en train de bruler qu’apportent-ils comme contribution afin de mettre fin à cette situation? Rien à part se préparer pour les prochaines échéances électorales, à attiser à distance cette haine contre une certaine catégorie de population [..]  il faudrait que les choses avancent vite, car ne pas traduire les coupables de ces crimes horribles devant la cour pénale internationale laisse la porte ouverte à d’autres massacres.

I am a Central African Republic citizen who happens to be muslim. In what used to be an illustration of the social cohesion of the past in my country, my father is Muslim and my mother is Christian. [..] While the house of Central Africa is now burning, what did that they (political leaders) do to put an end to this situation? Nothing but prepare for the next elections and stir up hatred against a certain group of people [..] The world needs to move quickly (in identifying the culprits), because if we doe not bring the perpetrators of these horrible crimes to the International Criminal Court rapidly, we will leave the door open for other massacres to occur.

Hayes Brown unpacks why it is important to better understand the two-way atrocities in the region and whether the use of the term genocide in the media is appropriate. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch states that without prompt action, the country will be emptied of its Muslim population [fr]. 

SmartNomination, a Counter to the Binge Drinking Game Neknomination

The online drinking game Neknomination that promotes binge drinking for teenagers has outraged many people around the world. Neknomination asks participants to film themselves drinking an alcoholic beverage in one gulp, upload the footage to the web and nominate others to do the same. Julien Voinson, a young frenchman from Bordeaux, decided to counter the drinking game with a more positive initiative called SmartNomination [fr]. The idea is to film oneself doing charity work and then nominate a friend to do the same. Created on February 12, the facebook page has already close to 9,000 likes. In the following video,  Voinson explains the details of his project  [fr]:

February 17 2014

Trinidad Lecture Ignites Fiery Discussion on Gay Rights & Religious Freedom

The Faculty of Law at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies recently hosted a public lecture on the topic “Lesbian and gay human rights in the Caribbean: Would decriminalization restrict religious freedom?”

The lecture was coincidentally held a few days after Roman Catholic priest Fr. Stephen Geofroy made a controversial contribution to the national debate on constitutional reform, by suggesting that LGBT rights should be included in the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution. The statement generated discussion throughout the country, including social media:

On the Trinidad Express Facebook page, a bevy of comments were posted on the issue.

Dale Orsoco registered his opinion about the lack of morality in the society: 

All these things would come to pass, Just as in the days of Noah and the days of Lot immorality will reign and mankind will reap the results of such practice those who are proud of this despicable practice of Homosexuality continue on defending that abomination you will be rewarded for your support of it just as those of us will be rewarded for our stance against it, you can brag on how backward we are but the Old way is the Moral way….

Ria Ragoonanan quoted scripture in her comments on the issue:

All this does not surprise me. It is the times, read the book of Revelation. Jesus spoke everything in that book for the CHURCHES and how people will be blinded by the unholy trinity (the Devil, the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet). He warns us of what is to come and asks us to repent. Do some research into who today is the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet in Revelation 16:13. I am not surprised at all. All I will say is God loves each and everyone of us but not the sin. Repent before it is too late. God bless you all.

Others supported Fr. Geofroy's statements. Gerard Pinard had this to say:

Equal rights ought to be afforded to ALL citizens of our country, full stop. And, for all those quoting the Bible, remember that it also says ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged'.

Meanwhile, Dwane Salandy was more forceful in his comments:

I am appalled however not remotely surprised by the insanely ignorant, closeminded and uneducated comments on here. All of you preaching and quoting the bible… what about all the other ‘teachings’ in there? If one were to live by the literal example of the bible none of us would have tongues, hands or feet (and that's just one example). So many hypocrites on here. Smh

With a high level of public interest in the issue of LGBT rights and its impact on the society, the lecture at the Faculty of Law attracted a full house. Dean of the Faculty, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine spoke of the role of the law as a tool to shape society, and the commitment of international law to protect against discrimination in all societies:

The feature address was delivered by Professor Robert Wintemute of King's College. The lecture focused on the human, legal and religious aspects of the debate on LGBT rights and religious freedom:

Attendees to the lecture were given an opportunity to ask questions and ventilate their concerns on the topic. The comments were fiery, with both sides of the debate well represented:

Professor Wintemute earlier presented the same topic at the Cave Hill (Barbados) and Mona (Jamaica) campuses of the University of the West Indies. Some netizens who attended the lecture posted their thoughts on Twitter:

Others posted their views on Facebook. Mike Eskada pointed out:

Religious freedom? They mean oppression ? Discrimination ..funny how these godly people act more like the devil.

The debate on equality and discrimination will no doubt continue to engage the attention of the region.

Sudan: Blogger Remains in Detention for Criticizing Presidents

Sudanese blogger and activist Tajeldin Arja has been in detention since his arrest on December 24, 2013 at a joint press conference of the Sudanese and Chadian Presidents in Khartoum, Sudan's capital. Arja, a political activist from North Darfur, interrupted the speaker at the opening session and criticized the two leaders, in what Amnesty International described as an effort to “[hold] them responsible for the atrocities committed in Darfur.”

He was then arrested by security guards, as the video below clearly shows. Local and international human rights organization stated that the 26-year-old blogger is at serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Activists in Sudan have called for a solidarity sit-in before the governmental human rights commission to demand his immediate release. The sit-in will take place on Tuesday, February 18.

Chadian president Idris Deby was on an official two-day visit to Khartoum to discuss peace, security and border issues in the Darfur region with Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir. On the day before his arrest, Arja, who hails from North Darfur, announced on his Facebook account his intention to attend the presidential press conference and confront the audience whom he described as “opportunist leaders.” He called on other activists to do the same and express their “impressions” about the event and its attendees.

Arja's arrest was widely reported on after video footage of the incident — apparently taken by an anonymous attendee from a mobile phone — was uploaded on YouTube. The video shows Arja standing in the front row and shouting criticism at the two presidents. “You want to fool and deceive public opinion!”, he was heard saying to Al-Bashir and Diby. Security guards immediately seized him and can be seen escorting him outside the conference hall. “You can kill us, torture us…” were his last spoken words on the short video. News sources have reported that members of the security service at the conference confiscated the equipment of international journalists and TV channel crewmen at the event and conducted on-site search of their content in anticipation that the arrest might have been caught on camera.

Amnesty International has issued an urgent action appeal calling on Sudanese authorities to charge Arja with a recognizable criminal offense or to release him without delay, warning that he remains under serious risk of torture and other forms of mistreatment. The organization emphasized that Arja was one of the victims of their ill-fated policies surrounding the conflict in Darfur:

Tajeldin Ahmed Arja is from North Darfur. He was displaced with his family during the early years of the Darfur conflict. Since then, he has reportedly become critical of the Sudanese government and has written and blogged about the situation in Darfur.

Independent online newspaper Al-Taghyeer [ar] reported that a close relative of Arja, who was able to visit him in prison, said that the blogger was held in solitary confinement and was subjected to systematic and continuous beating and torture:

وقال المصدر للـ (التغيير الالكترونية) إن علامات الاعياء والتعذيب ظهرت بوضوح علي المعتقل الذي قال انه ظل يتعرض منذ اعتقاله “لعمليات تعذيب متواصلة توقفت قبل الزيارة بيومين”. وقال عرجة، انه وضع طوال مدة اعتقاله في “حبس إنفرادي وتم تحويله قبل ايام لسجن كوبر في معتقل جماعي”.

وابلغت السلطات اسرة عرجه انها لن تتمكن من مقابلته إلا بعد مرور خمسة عشر يوما علي مدة الزيارة الاولي.

The source has told Al-Taghyeer Online that signs of fatigue and exhaustion were visible on [Tajeldهn] Arja, who said that he has been subjected to “continuous torture since his arrest that only stopped two days before the visit”. Arja said that he was put under solitary confinement during all his detention, and was only transferred days ago to Kober Prison.

A Blow to Government Rhetoric

Blogger and activist leader Amjed Farid wrote a blog post putting Arja's arrest in the context of that state of freedom of expression in Sudan and the upcoming 2015 presidential elections:

It is not only the case of Tajeldin Arja although it is enough to make the point. Sudan government keeps a very harsh censorship on daily newspapers with three of them (Almidan, Rai Alsha’ab and Altayar) prohibited from printing for almost three years now without any official reasons (the first two are official publications of legally registered parties). Moreover, during September and October last year, the regime detained hundreds of politicians and activists from their homes and the reason was their political views and stands. The detention was the easy part of that, others hundreds were killed in the streets in cold blood for demonstrating against price raise and economic measures in September 2013.

The youth movement Sudan Change Now has called on its Facebook page [ar] for the activism community in Sudan to hold a peaceful sit-in on February 18, 2014, in front of the government-run Human Rights Commission (HRC) to demand the immediate release of Arja.

Observers have argued that Al-Bashir's failure to issue an executive order to release all political detainees renders the government's new language of open dialogue, reform and reconciliation “empty rhetoric”, as Tajeldin Arja and many other activists languish in prisons while the perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations enjoy impunity.

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