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February 15 2014

February 13 2014

Two Million Mobile SIM Cards Deactivated in Zambia

Mobile phone shop in Lusaka. Photo by Curious Lee (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Mobile phone shop in Lusaka. Photo by Curious Lee (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The SIM cards of over two million Zambian mobile phone users were deactivated last week, according to the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority. After spending several months pushing subscribers to register their SIMs, the regulatory body now says that those who did not meet the January 31 deadline have had their SIMs deactivated.

Most people in Zambia, a country with a population of just over 13 million, own up to three SIM cards, one for each telecommunications service provider. Zambians also use them to access mobile Internet services.

In a statement released shortly after the close of registration ZICTA announced that out of a subscriber base of 9,462,504, “a total number of 8,235,991 SIM cards have been registered while 2,215,376 have been deactivated.”

Apart from cutting off services to subscribers who failed to register their cards, ZICTA also threatened to punish any of the three mobile phone service providers MTN, CellZ and Airtel in the same statement, stating:

As is the case in any process of this magnitude [SIM card registration], some level of margin of error is expected and accepted. Any Service provider found to have mistakes within the margin of error will be requested to re-run their system. However, for any Service Provider whose errors shall be above the accepted threshold will be punished by Law.

The SIM registration process did not go over without problems. Some people who had registered at the beginning of the exercise, four months prior to the deadline, discovered last month that they were not on the final list of registered subscribers. Others had their numbers under different names and even the wrong gender.

Former Vice President Brigadier-General Godfrey Miyanda, a leader of the now-opposition Heritage Party and a vocal critic of SIM registration policy, had one of his SIM cards registered without his knowledge. The phone company later apologised.

Gen. Miyanda is among some subscribers who have threatened to take ZICTA to court for allegedly threatening their rights and freedoms pertaining to privacy, property ownership and communication. On the last day of registration, Gen. Miyanda, in what he referred to as his last post, wrote:

Fellow internet partners and the Social Media family, I wish to inform you that the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) have reminded me that by midnight this day they will cut me off from civilisation by arbitrarily deactivating my SIM cards without just cause. I have NOT committed any crime, neither is there a credible record of the prevalence and/or abuse of these communications gadgets to justify any derogation from the said guaranteed rights.

Gen Miyanda, who had written several statements on this issue, continued:

By this single act ZICTA is attaching the condition that before I can enjoy my guaranteed freedom of expression I should first apply to the Authority or their agents to be registered. By the same token ZICTA are infringing my right to privacy and other proprietary [rights]. I contend that these freedoms and liberties cannot be taken away arbitrarily or traded for a few minutes of airtime. My communications to ZICTA and the Mobile Service Providers have remained unanswered. This means that by midnight I shall not be able to communicate or use my purchased implements for such communication. In short until this issue is resolved I shall be off air, including off the internet. This is my Last Post for now.

A journalist and mobile phone subscriber who has threatened class action against ZICTA complained that local media had not covered his anti-SIM card registration fight. Kasebamashila Kaseba alleged that the media was compromised by the regulatory body which sponsored various media activities including awards and working breakfasts. He stated:

As we close and review the public and media debates, to open the court process, in view of ZICTA deadline of Friday, 31st January, 2014 for SIM card deactivation, I wish to say and may elaborate later that we may not seek an “injunction” or “judicial review” as the matter is outside the law or SI 65 of 2011. Instead, the “class action” as already mentioned elsewhere may include action against some public media houses that benefited from the ZICTA SIM card registration […] campaign of deactivation and may include “citizen’s arrest.”

Ecuador to Implement Charges for Private Copying Levy

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: S_L

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: S_L

UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article in Spanish, there have been no significant changes to the information reported, except that the list of products to be taxed by the Levy was publicized on Facebook [es] by the association Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users). 

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, unless otherwise noted.]

A proposal put forward by the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI) would impose an additional tax of 4%-10% on the importation of all music and video players, such as cell phones, personal computers, and tablets, as well as storage devices (CDs, DVDs, etc).

Faced with rumors and varying opinions about the proposal, known as Compensated Remuneration for Private Copying (RCCP), or private copying levy, the IEPI released a statement on December 10th explaining that the proposed measure is not a tax and that it falls under the provision of the current Ecuadorian Intellectual Property Law. The statement emphasizes that the current law already establishes the RCCP in its articles 105 to 108, so the project they are working on has to do with the implementation of the RCCP, as well as the distribution of the compensation that is collected. The IEPI added:

Se desinforma cuando se afirma que existe un impuesto a descargas, o un cargo tributario dirigido al Servicio de Rentas Internas, al Servicio de Aduanas o directamente al IEPI por cada descarga que se realiza. Eso es falso y contiene una intencionalidad deliberada para confundir a los usuarios.

It is mistaken to claim that there exists a tax on downloads or a fiscal tax going to the Internal Revenue Service, Customs Service, or directly to the IEPI for each download that takes place. This is false and is intended to deliberately confuse users.

Roberto Aspiazu, executive director of the Ecuador Business Council and the Ecuadorian Telecommunications Association (ASETEL), is one of those who has made clear his rejection of the measure, saying that it is only a different name for a tax of 4% for cell phones and other devices.

In an interview with local media on the subject, Aspiazu criticized the contradictions of the Ecuadorian government: “We will end up with a 24% tax. Brazil, which produces electronics, has a 16% tax, but that is in order to protect its industry. We, who have no industry, are raising the tax to 24% and then claiming that we want public policy that facilitates access to mobile Internet.”

JJ Velasco, writing for ALT1040, compares this measure to similar laws in Mexico and Spain (the Sinde Law [en]), and explains that it is not a tool of dissuasion, but rather a collections process whose original model dates back to around 2007. This model assumes that everyone is pirating and therefore increases the cost of devices that can be used for such activity. Velasco continues:

En estos años el escenario ha cambiado mucho y la oferta de contenidos legales es enorme y sigue estando a buen precio. Spotify sigue su expansión por Latinoamérica (acaba de aterrizar en Chile y Colombia), Google ofrece música a través de Google Play, Apple también ofrece música a través de iTunes y, gracias a Netflix, también podemos encontrar películas y series en streaming legal; con tanta oferta multidispositivo ¿en serio van a imponer un canon a los dispositivos? El Gobierno defiende la medida porque supone una fuente de financiación para los artistas ecuatorianos pero, realmente, tiene un impacto directo sobre el usuario final.

In these years, the situation has changed significantly: the availability of legal content is enormous and continues to be affordable. Spotify is continuing its expansion in Latin America (it just made its debut in Chile and Colombia), Google offers music via Google Play, Apple also offers music through iTunes, and, thanks to Netflix, we can also legally stream movies and TV shows. With so many multi-device options, are they really going to impose a levy on these devices? The government defends the measure because it would be a source of funding for Ecuadorian artists but, in reality, it has a direct impact on the end-user.

On the blog Derecho en Bicicleta, the anonymous author lists several reasons that s/he believes justify his/her opposition to this project: first, it is unconstitutional, and second, it contradicts the concept of the social knowledge economy, which was defended by the President of Ecuador himself. Regarding the unconstitutionality of the project, the blogger argues that it violates Article 287 of the Ecuadorian constitution, explaining:

La remuneración por copia privada es una tasa creada en una ley de 1998, que establece la obligación de que un particular (el importador o fabricante) pague a otro particular (la sociedad recaudadora creada por los artistas) por algo que no han acordado mutuamente: es una imposición. Puede comprenderse que el Estado imponga la obligación de pagar impuestos, pero es irracional que una ley obligue a un privado pagar un valor a otro privado, sin que haya mutuo consentimiento. Por esto es clave enfatizar que quien recibe el canon digital no es una entidad pública: no es el Estado, es un particular. Es esto lo que lo hace (a mi juicio) inconstitucional.

The private copying levy is a tax created in a law from 1998, which establishes the obligation of one party (the importer or manufacturer) to pay another party (the collections society created by the artists) for something that has not been mutually agreed upon: it is an imposition. It is feasible for the State to impose an obligation to pay taxes, but it is irrational for a law to require a private entity to pay a given amount to another private entity without mutual consent. For this reason, it is important to emphasize that the recipient of the private copying levy is not a public entity: it is not the State, but a private entity. This is what makes the levy, in my opinion, unconstitutional.

Various discussions on the topic can be found on Twitter under the tags: #Impuestospordescargas (Taxes on downloads), #pagoSINreproducir (I pay WITHOUT copying), and #noalcanon (no to the levy). Below are several highlights from the Twitter debate.

Efrén Guerrero speaks out against benefiting a dubious group of Ecuadorian artists: 

Everyone should earn their living through their work. Not by being compensated for not being able to compete in the market.

Diego Cevallos put together a Storify with tweets on the subject: 

Levy for “Compensated Remuneration for Private Copying”

Carlos Correa of Creative Commons Ecuador shares a video conference with Santiago Cevallos, the National Director of Copyright and Derivative Rights of the IEPI:

video conference with Santiago Cevallos of IEPI.

Mauricio Becerra argues that the anti-pirating measures should be focused elsewhere: 

They're inventing this to avoid dealing with who knows who… they're so afraid of going up against the real pirates.

Finally, Guillermex of the blog The Wild Children suggests that we should keep in mind the old saying “Innocent until proven guilty,” and then reflects:

Mientras el resto del mundo se vuelve loco por compartir y poner la música disponible y al alcance de todos; mientras en otras regiones, los computadores, laptops, tablets y todo aparato tecnológico se liberan de aranceles; mientras en todo el planeta tierra, los artistas suben a internet su material para que sea escuchado grateche; aquí, en el país de la revolución, hacemos todo mal y todo al revés.

While the rest of the world goes crazy sharing and making music available and accessible to everyone; while in other regions, computers, laptops, tablets, and all sorts of technology become free from taxes; while all over planet Earth artists are uploading their material to the internet to be listened to for free; here, in the country of the revolution, we are doing everything wrong and backwards.

For the time being, the result of this proposal is that internet users are putting forward a comprehensive discussion about the copyright model and casting doubt upon the government's proposal regarding digital media and the society of knowledge. Let's wait and see how the discussion develops.

February 12 2014

Drug Bust Holds Lessons for Caribbean Distribution Chains

Of the recent drug bust originating out of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados Underground says:

The fundamentals are clear. Supply chain security in the Caribbean is weak, and known local and regional solutions need to be applied and strengthened.

China: Cleaning Up The Yellow

In Chinese language, the color yellow also signifies sex and pornography. The crackdown of sex industry and pornographic materials is termed as “cleaning-up the yellow”. Political cartoonist @remonwangxt's latest work is about the “Cleaning-up yellow” campaign in China.

February 11 2014

February 11: Activists Say No to “Cyber Martial Law”, Digital Surveillance in Philippines

“Our fight against Cybercrime Law is not yet over. The Supreme Court still has not decided on its constitutionality or unconstitutionality and while we are waiting for a decision, we will continue fighting for our right to privacy and right to freedom of expression.”

Netizens and activist groups in the Philippines put out the statement of  on February 11 as part of the global action against mass surveillance. They added that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10175, whose constitutionality is being questioned in the Supreme Court, can be used as a tool to justify mass surveillance in society:

The Cybercrime Law, once declared to be implemented, will become a tool for the Philippine government’s mass surveillance. As defenders of Internet freedom, we will be one with the world in the global protest.

The law was questioned a month after its signing in 2012 by media groups and citizens alarmed by provisions in the bill that would seriously undermine human rights and media freedom in the country. They questioned the insertion of provisions on libel and the delegation of power to the government to take down websites and restrict access to computer data systems suspected of violating the law. The bill's restrictions on freedom of expression inspired netizens to give the bill the nickname “cyber martial law.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order which prevented the government from implementing the law. But the high court is expected to finally deliberate and decide on the petition before the end of February. This has emboldened netizen groups to launch a series of activities aimed at pressuring the court to junk the “draconian” law.

Below are some photos of the February 11 protest in front of the Supreme Court:

But supporters of the controversial law are urging the lifting of the restraining order so that it can be used to combat serious cybercrimes, especially child pornography.

A flurry of news stories about the proliferation of child pornography in the Philippines suddenly appeared in the face of the controversy. It is unclear whether or not this is by coincidence.

Police claimed that they can nab cyber child porn syndicates if the restraining order on the law is lifted. The president’s spokesman and some senators supported this position.

But the anti-cybercrime law is in fact not needed to arrest child pornography site operators — ample existing legislation can do the job. Authorities can invoke the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and most importantly the Anti-Child Pornography Act to swiftly act against suspected criminals.

Apart from reminding Philippine officials that they can maximize the provisions of the anti-child porn law to combat online sexual content involving children, journalist Raïssa Robles warned against the dangers of the anti-cybercrime law

I cannot stress enough the dangers of the Cybercrime Law. Its atrocious lack of safeguards can easily enable rogue cops and government officials to commit crimes of extortion and blackmail using the digital highway.

Poverty eradication is the best solution to child pornography, according to the Manila Times:

…online child pornography is a byproduct of poverty. It is a problem that needs a total government approach. Our officials should find ways of helping the families that have been caught in the web of child pornography get out and rebuild their lives.

Instead of pushing for the implementation of a notorious law, the Philippine government should consider asking Congress to draft a new bill that would address growing cyber security threats without violating the human rights of individuals.

Iran on the Day to End Mass Surveillance

Iranian green movement protest, 2009. Photo by Waging Non-Violence (CC BY 4.0)

Iranian green movement protest, 2009. Photo by Waging Non-Violence (CC BY 4.0)

The revelations surrounding the surveillance practices of the NSA and other Western government intelligence agencies may have made 2013 the year the Internet lost its innocence within democratic states. But this state of perpetual, pervasive surveillance has long been part of everyday life within the Islamic Republic of Iran. While security and privacy concerns have recently become a mainstream concern in the Western world, Iranians have long known the risks of sharing information through communications technologies.

Shunood, the term most often used for surveillance in Farsi, comes from the word shenidan, which means to listen. Relatedly, surveillance within Iran is commonly associated with the wiretapping of phones — a common practice within Iran since the introduction of the technology to the country. In July 2013, the outspoken Parliamentarian Ali Motahari discovered his office had been bugged with recording devices — many suspected the devices were installed by Iran’s previous hard-line Minister of Intelligence. In recent years, advances in communication technologies have changed the state’s surveillance apparatus.  From data mining and eavesdropping through the ultra pervasive Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) method, to control over meta-data collected by telecommunication companies, and physical wiretapping (which is the most popular method inside Iran), researchers have identified various digital surveillance methods.

During and after the Green Movement of 2009, security researcher Chris Parsons found strong evidence suggesting that sophisticated surveillance technologies such as DPI were used by the government during this period. Tebyan Zanjan, an Iranian website covering ICT news, has reported on different methods of government data collection, from DPI to telephone wiretapping, further illustrating the government’s surveillance capabilities.

In sum, it is common knowledge among Iranians that if the state can, it will spy on its citizens.

Two important legal standards exist for surveillance practices. Both call for due process in instances when the state engages in surveillance. Article 25 of the Constitution indicates:

The inspection of letters and the failure to deliver them, the recording and disclosure of telephone conversations, the disclosure of telegraphic and telex communications, censorship, or the willful failure to transmit them, eavesdropping, and all forms of covert investigation are forbidden, except as provided by law.

At the same time, Article 104 of Iran’s Criminal Code of Procedure for Public and Revolutionary Courts states:

In cases where there is a need to inspect and detect mailing, telecom, audio and visual correspondences related to the accused, in connection with investigation of a crime, the judge will inform the respective officers to confiscate [these materials] and send them to him or her. Once they are received, they will be presented to the accused, noted in the minutes, and attached to the file after being signed by the accused. Refusal of the accused to sign will be noted in the minutes and in case the items are not of relative importance, and if the confiscation is not necessary, they will be returned to the owner obtaining an acknowledgment of receipt.

While laws exist to protect the privacy of individuals, there is a dissonance between the laws and practices of the state. These protections are often lost between the many different authorities who administer these practices within a complex, larger government apparatus, with various Ministries and organizations of different branches involved. The central entity involved in mass data collection from communications technology is the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI), or Mokhaberat in Farsi. This organization falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT), but maintains private shareholders. While there are conflicting reports concerning the precise nature of the influence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards over the TCI, it is widely known that they own the greatest shares of the TCI, placing this body in the hands of an entity accountable only to the Supreme Leader. Although often difficult to prove, many experts suspect these shareholders are associated with elements within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Basij (IGRC).

The Ministry of Intelligence, the IGRC, FETA (Iran’s Cyber Police), Ministry of Defense, Ministry ICT, the Passive Defense Organization (PDO), and the Supreme Council for Cyberspace (SCC) are all involved in the country’s surveillance regime, but they are often accountable to different authorities and represent different motivations and ideologies, ranging from hard-line elements in the opposition to reformist or moderate influences within the elite.

On February 11, when the world takes a stand for privacy rights in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, we should not forget the practices that have always existed, and continue to prosecute and imprison Iranians. While we stand up against countries like the United States, Canada, and the UK for their violations of our privacy rights, ASL19 urges the world not to forget the circumstances in a country that does not require revelations to reveal the unjust state of privacy and human rights.

 

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

February 10 2014

February 11: The Internet Says No to Mass Surveillance

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl via Flickr, Web We Want (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl via Flickr, Web We Want (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Nigeria's new cyber crime law may fight financial fraud — but it could also gag critics. Authorities in Argentina are collecting data that maps citizens' DNA, their iris information, and the way they walk. Activists in Tunisia fear that the country's new Technical Telecommunication Agency may ring in a new era of mass surveillance.

There's no question about it: Mass government surveillance is a global problem.

On February 11, individuals, civil society organizations, and thousands of websites will come together to take a stand against mass surveillance. Anyone, anywhere can participate — whether you're taking to the streets, or to the Web.

Mass surveillance programs violate our right to privacy and infringe on our rights to freedom of expression and association. They harm the freedom and openness of the global internet, and go against democratic values. The documents leaked by Edward Snowden last June exposed dozens of wide-ranging intelligence collection programs and sent shock waves around the globe. But while the Snowden leaks brought to light some of the most egregious violations of privacy by the US government, they also brought new energy to debates about surveillance and privacy happening all over the world, like the ones mentioned above.

Want to get involved? Here are some ways to do it:

JOIN THE ACTION

Groups in countries all over the world are staging protests, hosting hackathons, and pushing online campaigns. Find out what's happening near you:

Argentina • Australia • Austria • Brasil • Canada • Colombia • Deutschland • France

India • Mexico • Nederland • Peru • Polska • Србија • ประเทศไทย • Uganda

United Kingdom • United States

Don't see your country here? Use materials here and on partner sites to source your own campaign! Read Global Voices’ community posts about surveillance around the world on our surveillance page.

 

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT

Show solidarity with the February 11 campaign! Post a banner on your website. Share the message — or a super cool cartoon (like the ones seen here) — on social media.

The Day We Fight Back banner, by Alec Perkins via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-4.0)

The Day We Fight Back banner, by Alec Perkins via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-4.0)

Screen shot 2014-02-09 at 10.05.22 PM

Cartoon by Xpectro & Web We Want via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Xpectro via Flickr, Web We Want (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl & Web We Want via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl & Web We Want via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

SAY “YES” TO THE GLOBAL PRINCIPLES ON COMMUNICATIONS SURVEILLANCE

Sign on to the Thirteen Principles on International Communications Surveillance, developed by human rights experts from around the world. These Principles are the backbone of global civil society efforts to protect privacy rights for the digital citizen: A clear set of guidelines that establish the human rights obligations of governments when it comes to surveillance.

Read and sign the principles in any of the following languages:

Русский • Español • Hrvatski • Македонски • Shqip • Polski • Čeština • Svenska • Nederlands

Français • हिन्दी •  العربية • Italiano • Ελληνικά • Română • Slovenčina • Eesti • Slovenščina • Dansk

Magyar • Suomi • Deutsch • فارسی • Български • Latviešu • Lietuvių • Português • Quechua

繁體中文 • Tiếng Việt • 한국어 • Українська • ภาษาไทย • اردو

Show your support for the principles with a banner or badge.

February 09 2014

Campaign to Demand Saudi Nationality Gender Equality

A campaign aimed at enabling the children of Saudi women to be granted the Saudi nationality is currently underway.

The Campaign to Amend Article 7 of the Nationality Act demands granting Saudi nationality to children whose mother is Saudi and whose father is not. Currently, only children whose father is Saudi are granted the nationality. This means that the children of Saudi mothers, whose fathers are of another nationality, cannot benefit from public education and health coverage, among other perks.

The campaign website shares this example [ar]:

سيف بن يزن، كغيره الكثير، ابن مواطنة سعودية من أب غير سعودي. لا يعرف وطناً غير المملكة العربية السعودية. حصل على الثانوية العامة بمعدل 98٪. بعد ذلك حاول ان يدرس الطب ولكن مُنع من تحقيق هذا الحلم بحجة أنه “أجنبي” لذلك اضطُر إلى أن يكمل تعليمه في احدى التخصصات الأخرى المتاحة للأجانب “في نظر النظام” في ذلك الوقت. فالتحق بكلية الحقوق “القانون” بجامعة الملك عبدالعزيز. وفي عام 2010 تخرج من جامعة الملك عبدالعزيز مع مرتبة الشرف بمعدل 4.69 من 5. ثم قرر مواصلة تعليمه في الخارج. لكن مرة أخرى، برنامج الابتعاث لم يقبل ضمه نظراً لأنه من “الأجانب”. إيماناً بأهمية العلم، قرر والده أن يرسله على حسابه الخاص للدراسة، وبذلك اقتطع والده من دخل العائلة وتحملت العائلة مشقة مالية مُرهِقة. حصل على ماجستير القانون التجاري الدولي من جامعة بوسطن ثم حصل على قبول بجامعة هارفرد وألتحق بها. الآن يعيش الحلم واقعاً بدراسة ماجستير القانون في جامعة هارفرد.

Saif bin Yazen is, like many others, the son of a Saudi mother and a non-Saudi father. He does not know any home but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He graduated from high school with an overall 98 percentage. He tried to study medicine but he was prohibited from that dream for being a “foreigner” and because of that, he had to join a different field to complete his education in one of the specialties that are open to foreigners (according to the law then). He joined the Rights College at King Abdulaziz University and in 2010 he graduated with an honours degree with a 4.69 out of 5 GPA. He decided to complete his education abroad, but, again, the Scholarship Program did not accept him because he was a “foreigner”. Since his father believed in the importance of education, he decided to pay his son's expenses, which the family had to bear with very expensive costs. He got the Masters degree in International Commercial Law from Boston University and he was accepted to and joined Harvard.

Article 7 states the following:

يكون سعوديا من ولد داخل المملكة العربية السعودية أو خارجها لأب سعودي، أو لأم سعودية وأب مجهول الجنسية أو لا جنسية له أو ولد داخل المملكة لأبوين مجهولين، ويعتبر اللقيط في المملكة مولودا فيها ما لم يثبت العكس.

Those who were born inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or outside it are considered Saudis if their father is Saudi or their mother is Saudi and their father is of an unknown nationality or with no nationality or was born for unknown parents. Illegitimate children are considered born in the Kingdom unless proven otherwise.

The campaign has launched a petition and called people to sign it.

Twitter user @Delilah_SD commented:

We grant [the Saudi] nationality to football players and singers, and those who do not belong and who have never done anything for the nation, and the children of a Saudi mother are not grated the nationality!

Abdull Yazan adds:

Women are half of society. They are the ones who give birth to and bring up the other half.

And Jameel concludes:

Isn't it a shame when a Saudi woman has to go to the Immigration department to get a visit permit for her own son?

February 08 2014

Station's Rights to Sochi Games Leaves Caribbean Viewers in the Dark

Six Caribbean teams are competing in this year's winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia: Bermudathe Cayman Islands, Dominica, Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands. Naturally, sports fans throughout the region want to watch – but there's a problem. SportsMax, a premium subscription-based television station, has been awarded exclusive rights to the 2014 Sochi games in the Caribbean. “Inside The Games” reported on the details:

The deal, announced between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and  International Media Content Ltd (IMC), the parent company of SportsMax, is applicable for 21 nations and territories ranging from Anguilla to Trinidad and Tobago.

It consists of exclusive English language broadcast rights on all media platforms, with live coverage to be provided on both SportsMax and SportsMax2 for the duration of the Games when they get underway in Sochi.

Columbus Communications, owners of the Flow cable network which operates in several Caribbean territories, took to its social media outlets to address the issue:

Flow Fans, please be advised that SportsMax holds the exclusive broadcast rights to the '2014 Winter Olympics’ in the Caribbean for the period February 7th to 23rd 2014. Olympic programming will be broadcast mainly on Sportsmax 1 with some content on Sportsmax 2. Consequently, we are legally required to blackout the coverage of the games on all channels including but not limited to NBC & CBC who will be carrying portions of the SOCHI games. During the blackout periods the affected channels will carry a notice to our customers advising of the blackout requirement and directing you to SportsMax. 

We understand the inconvenience that this issue poses and are aware and acknowledge that blocked content is disruptive for our viewers, however we MUST comply. Once the broadcast rights to air a program is (sic) purchased we are obligated to block out that program (when requested) as both a legal and regulatory (TATT) obligation. Failing to comply could lead to legal actions against Columbus Communications Trinidad Limited. This arrangement is not unique to Trinidad, all video service providers worldwide will be required to take similar action based on the Network which has purchased the rights in that country. 

Irate Jamaicans posted on Flow Jamaica's Facebook page about having to pay to watch their team parading in the opening ceremony and competing in the games. Diego Armando Thomas had this to say

So because i don't have the #SportsMax package on #Flow I am not allowed to watch the #Olympics? This is BULL. You block the channels am paying for? Really!!!

Another viewer, David Valentine, urged Jamaicans to take action by writing to the Jamaican Broadcast Commission:

This is a sheg up situation, taking advantage of the people who no have no options. The blasted Olympics should not be held ransom, by forcing people to pay for some purely subscriber based channel. Imagine if Showtime did have the exclusive rights to the Olympics? Something wrong with this blow wow picture man. Them really corrupted. PEOPLE WRITE TO THE BROADCAST COMMISION!!

Others expressed their disgust on Twitter:

One viewer who subscribed to the SportsMax service was dissatisfied with the coverage of the opening ceremony:

Competitor cable provider Lime has been offering viewers in some of the countries in which it operates, a free trial of SportsMax for the duration of the games:

The issue of broadcast rights for local television stations versus those of the cable company was discussed in this post:

Television programmes generate advertising revenue for broadcasters such as TV6 and CNC3. While customers pay cable providers for premium channels, it should be noted that  the programmes which occupy the schedules on these channels are governed by separate contracts.

While SportsMax is indigenous to the region, it is a pay-per-view service, and some netizens have complained about the failure of free-to-air broadcasters to obtain rights to the games. Yvon Tripper commented on an article in the Bermuda Royal Gazette:

IOC simply gives rights to the highest bidder. Nothing is stopping a Bermuda-based broadcaster from asking the IOC for Bermuda-only rights, and then just using the American and Canadian feeds. If no one in Bermuda pays for broadcast rights for the island's Olympic coverage rights, then there's no point in complaining when someone else does. The IOC would be happy to exclude Bermuda from the Caribbean region if it mean that they got more money — it's all about the Redbirds, baby.

While Trinidad and Tobago is not competing in the games, none of the terrestrial broadcasters have purchased rights to the games, forcing interested viewers to subscribe to SportsMax for live coverage. Annoyed cable subscribers vented their feelings on Twitter:

The Sochi Games run until February 23, 2014.

Some Kazakh Bloggers Dine With Mayor, Some Get Jail Terms

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Almaty Mayor and selected Kazakh bloggers, February 5, 2014. Image by @evlaman, used with permission.

A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced three bloggers to 10 days in jail on “minor hooliganism” charges. Nurali Aitelenov, Rinat Kibraev, and Dmitry Shchyolokov were detained by police outside a restaurant in Almaty, where the city's mayor, Akhmetzhan Esimov, was meeting with selected bloggers on February 5. The three young men were prevented from entering the restaurant because they had not been invited to the meeting. They were also not allowed to film the restaurant. Police detained the three bloggers after they unfolded posters saying ”Esimov Talks To Tamed Bloggers Only” and “Esimov! Come Out”.

‘Corrupt bloggers’

The meeting with the mayor has split the Kazakh blogger community. Those who had not received an invitation to the event accused the invited bloggers of being “venal” or “corrupt”. One of the detained individuals, Aitelenov, tweeted one day before the meeting:

Tomorrow at #Esimov's lunch… [Text under Esimov's photo reads, "Dear corrupt bloggers"].

Shortly before his detention, Aitelenov tweeted this image:

Rally against corrupt bloggers

Several social media users found it strange that the bloggers who had frequently criticized the Almaty mayor were dining with him at one of the city's most expensive restaurants, apparently at his expense.

I hope at least some of the bloggers attending a lunch meeting with Esimov have taken out their wallets and paid for their food?

Some netizens interpreted the meeting as a deliberate tactic by the mayor to divide the blogger community and improve his own image.

Brilliant move by the [mayor]: If bloggers don't come to the meeting, they don't want to hold a conversation. If they do come, they are corrupt.

Blogger Ernar Prediktor suggests [ru] that the Kazakh public views bloggers as “just and independent”. He argues that the meeting with “not the most prominent or popular” bloggers was part of the Almaty mayor's public relations campaign:

[P]ебята, вас просто поюзали. Использовали имидж блогера для достижения своих целей. Теперь на каждом углу будут говорить (писать), что аким такой распрекрасный и демократичный, без проблем встречается с представителями алматинцев, решает совместно проблемы и пр..

You have been used, guys. They have used the blogger's public image for their own benefit. Now they will claim everywhere that the mayor is good and democratic, that he easily meets with the representatives of the residents of Almaty and solves problems jointly with them, etc.

‘Useful’ meeting

But those who attended the meeting and some of their followers on social media sites thought the event was useful.

Judging by the bloggers’ meeting with Esimov, he has made a good impression and evoked their empathy.

Following the meeting, bloggers have also responded to criticisms.

If someone thinks that an opportunity to have at least some kind of a civilized conversation and discuss problems is a matter of who pays the bill at the restaurant, unfollow [me].

Only recently they all complained that they could not get hold of #Esimov; now those who are not at a meeting with him curse those who are there. Typical #Kazakhs.

Bloggers Samson keeps a record of online discussion related to the Almaty mayor's meeting with bloggers here [ru].

February 07 2014

Caribbean Numbers Involved in Telephone Phishing Scam

If you see a missed call originating in the Caribbean from someone you don't know, it is likely that you have been targeted by perpetrators of the ‘one-ring phone scam’. While the numbers used in these phishing activities can originate anywhere in the world, Slate reports that Caribbean numbers have been noticed with alarming frequency over the past few weeks:

The Better Business Bureau lists calls from Antigua and Barbuda (268), the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), the British Virgin Islands (284), and Grenada (473) as potential scam threats. People who do call back could be charged something like $30 for the international call, depending on the carrier, and see fraudulent service fees showing up on their phone bills. This process of ‘cramming,’ when third-party scammers sneak bogus charges onto legitimate phone bills, is ever on the rise, according to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

Affected persons around the world took to Twitter to report the issue:

Occurrences of these calls have also been reported in Trinidad and Tobago on Facebook. Shelley-anne L Thompson weighed in on the discussion:

I get that like once a month and have never called. come on, people you know this scam! dont let your curiosity trap you.

Maisha Hyman had this to say:

I'm glad to see this! I've recently had hang up calls from Antigua and Grenada! Like wtf?!

Others were more concerned about the impact of the scam on the region. Michael Nahous of Trinidad and Tobago was not amused:

How can they charge you $30.00 without some contract arrangement with the telephone carrier….its only digicel, cable wireless and the local telephone companies in these islands…if they know its a scam why cant they just disconnect the number.

People affected by the scam are being urged to alert their service providers if they spot any unusual charges on their phone bills.

Indonesia: Twitter Defamation Case Casts Shadow on Media Landscape

Screenshot of @benhan Twitter page

Screenshot of @benhan Twitter page

Popular Indonesian Twitter user Benny Handoko, @benhan on Twitter, was sentenced to one year of probation last week, after being found guilty of defaming a former politician.

Benny tweeted on December 7, 2012 that former Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) member Mukhamad Misbakhun (@misbakhun) was a crook who had stolen from Century Bank, the embattled financial institution at the center of a 2008 scandal in which lawmakers pushed excessive bailout funds to certain banks as part of a larger money-making scheme. Benny rose to Twitter fame because of his sharp commentary on the scandal.

In 2010, Misbakhun was sentenced to two years in jail for forging documents to acquire a loan from the bank. Misbakhun soon after resigned from his party and eventually lost his seat in Congress. But in July 2012, the Supreme Court overturned the 2010 conviction.

Misbakhun threatened that if Benny did not apologize for his tweets calling the Misbakhun a crook, he would sue Benny for libel. But the Twitter celeb refused to apologize, arguing that he based his comments on news reports.

Misbakhun later filed a police complaint against Benny, which ultimately led to the case brought against Benny. In assessing charges, the prosecutor cited controversial Law No. 11/2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE).

Many Indonesians, especially avid social media users, are voicing support for Benny. Supporters see his case as a sign of rising Internet regulation and censorship in the country.

Media freedom advocates have long lobbied for the review and even repeal of the ITE, as it is often used by politicians to silence critics. They specifically highlight Article 27, Paragraph 3 of the law which gives a person or authority the right to file slander charges against a person or entity if he or she feels insulted or degraded by a particular publication under that entity's control.

After Benny’s verdict was announced, concerned Indonesians immediately expressed fear that it would have a negative impact on freedom of expression in the country. They added that it might discourage whistleblowers from coming out to expose corrupt practices in the government and society.

For his part, Misbakhun advised netizens to learn from the trial of Benny by being more careful and responsible before posting messages online. He reiterated that free expression must not be abused by hurling unfair and malicious accusations against other persons.

Benny has yet to decide whether he will file an appeal.

Beyond the legal fight between Benny and Misbakhun, the case could mark a turning point in the future of Indonesia’s free media. As long as the draconian ITE law exists, it will remain a pernicious threat to Indonesian democracy. It is time for Indonesia to seriously consider proposals to discard the law and embrace Internet legislation that upholds international human rights doctrine.

February 06 2014

Kazakh Bloggers: Some Dine With Mayor, Some Get Jail Terms

alm

Almaty Mayor and selected Kazakh bloggers, February 5, 2014. Image by @evlaman, used with permission.

A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced three bloggers to 10 days in jail on “minor hooliganism” charges. Nurali Aitelenov, Rinat Kibraev, and Dmitry Shchyolokov were detained by police outside a restaurant in Almaty, where the city's mayor, Akhmetzhan Esimov, was meeting with selected bloggers on February 5. The three young men were prevented from entering the restaurant because they had not been invited to the meeting. They were also not allowed to film the restaurant. Police detained the three bloggers after they unfolded posters saying ”Esimov Talks To Tamed Bloggers Only” and “Esimov! Come Out”.

‘Corrupt bloggers’

The meeting with the mayor has split the Kazakh blogger community. Those who had not received an invitation to the event accused the invited bloggers of being “venal” or “corrupt”. One of the detained individuals, Aitelenov, tweeted one day before the meeting:

Tomorrow at #Esimov's lunch… [Text under Esimov's photo reads, "Dear corrupt bloggers"].

Shortly before his detention, Aitelenov tweeted this image:

Rally against corrupt bloggers

Several social media users found it strange that the bloggers who had frequently criticized the Almaty mayor were dining with him at one of the city's most expensive restaurants, apparently at his expense.

I hope at least some of the bloggers attending a lunch meeting with Esimov have taken out their wallets and paid for their food?

Some netizens interpreted the meeting as a deliberate tactic by the mayor to divide the blogger community and improve his own image.

Brilliant move by the [mayor]: If bloggers don't come to the meeting, they don't want to hold a conversation. If they do come, they are corrupt.

Blogger Ernar Prediktor suggests [ru] that the Kazakh public views bloggers as “just and independent”. He argues that the meeting with “not the most prominent or popular” bloggers was part of the Almaty mayor's public relations campaign:

[P]ебята, вас просто поюзали. Использовали имидж блогера для достижения своих целей. Теперь на каждом углу будут говорить (писать), что аким такой распрекрасный и демократичный, без проблем встречается с представителями алматинцев, решает совместно проблемы и пр..

You have been used, guys. They have used the blogger's public image for their own benefit. Now they will claim everywhere that the mayor is good and democratic, that he easily meets with the representatives of the residents of Almaty and solves problems jointly with them, etc.

‘Useful’ meeting

But those who attended the meeting and some of their followers on social media sites thought the event was useful.

Judging by the bloggers’ meeting with Esimov, he has made a good impression and evoked their empathy.

Following the meeting, bloggers have also responded to criticisms.

If someone thinks that an opportunity to have at least some kind of a civilized conversation and discuss problems is a matter of who pays the bill at the restaurant, unfollow [me].

Only recently they all complained that they could not get hold of #Esimov; now those who are not at a meeting with him curse those who are there. Typical #Kazakhs.

Bloggers Samson keeps a record of online discussion related to the Almaty mayor's meeting with bloggers here [ru].

A Call for More Religious Tolerance in Mauritania

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, a 28 year old blacksmith in Nouadhibou (a town 465 km north of Nouakchott, Mauritania), was charged with  apostasy by the penal court for questionning on online forum some of the decisions of the Prophet Muhammad regarding Djihad. Following the charges, Professor Mustapha Ely, author of a dozen books and an international consultant, came to the defense of the blacksmith on the blog kassataya [fr]:

Jusqu’où ira-t-on pour brandir l’Islam en toute occasion et détruire des vies. Sommes-nous devenus moins clément que le prophète Mohamed lui-même ? Pourquoi cet acharnement contre un individu qui veut dénoncer sa vile condition sociale ?
Une société qui entretient des castes et considère une partie de ses enfants comme des sous-hommes, a-t-elle d’ailleurs le droit de s’en offusquer ? Et si cela était ne devrait-elle pas prendre exemple sur son Prophète pour pardonner et conseiller pour remettre celui qui faute dans le droit chemin ?

How far do are we willing to go to wield Islam on any occasions and hence destroy lives of the common men. Have we become less tolerant than Prophet Muhammad himself? Why all this rage against an individual who just wants to denounce his harsh social condition ?
Can a society that maintains the cast system and considers some of its children as sub-human even take offense at such words? And if this society were indeed rightful offended, should it not follow the example of the Prophet and forgive the man, and guide him in order to not stray anymore ?

Singapore's Public Order Bill Threatens Human Rights

Teo Soh Lung from Singapore, writing for The Online Citizen, warns against the dangers of the proposed Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill 2014:

Civil rights proponents should be wary of the unfettered rights of police officers to subject them to security searches and banning orders. Those who intend to organise protests, whether it be just one person or more, may find themselves arrested or issued with banning notices! By the time they file an appeal, the police would have thwarted their intent!

The bill was drafted after a riot erupted in the ‘Little India’ part of Singapore last December 2013. It was the first riot in 40 years.

February 05 2014

Four Months in Jail and Counting for Algerian Blogger Who Criticized President

Algerian blogger Abdelghani Aloui has been in jail since September 25, 2013. His crime? Sharing images on Facebook that are caricatures of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

Since his arrest, the 24-year-old has been detained in Serkadji prison of Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, a prison known for hosting terrorists and criminals. A trial has yet to take place for Abdelghani Aloui.

caricature aloui boutef

“Blogs: No Mocking Allowed” says this poster. The poster shows Aloui on the right and one of the photo he posted on the left. The poster was originally published on the weekly online El Watan Weekend following the activist arrest then republished by the blog “Chouf el Djazair”- Posted with the permission of Chouf el Djazair's author.

Like many other young people who make up the the majority of the Algerian society, Aloui believed or was made to believe that his country was different from Syria, Libya or other authoritarian countries. But after he exercised his right to express himself on social networks, he was arrested by Algerian police and was placed under custody warrant, a type of preventive detention that appears to have become indefinite in Aloui's case. Demands for his provisional release have been refused several times by the district attorney of Sidi M'hamed in Algiers, the latest being on October 9, 2013.

Aloui was first charged with insulting the president, a charge of glorifying terrorism was added later on. In this French-language video, one the Aloui's lawyers explains that he believes his client is innocent of the charges against him. The lawyer states that he took his case because he believes Aloui is being harassed because of a political agenda and not because he broke any laws:

Many people, from activists to netizens, embraced Aloui's case and asked for his release. An online petition [fr] condemning the abuse of authority regarding his arrest was even created. The text of the petition read:

Ces graves dérives autoritaires qui portent atteinte aux acquis démocratiques des Algériens doivent sans cesse être dénoncées et combattues, afin que les citoyens algériens accèdent à une Algérie de droit, dans laquelle les libertés individuelles et collectives sont respectées

These dangerous authoritarian abuses that violate the democratic gains of all Algerians should always be denounced and fought so that Algerian citizens can fully live in an Algerian state where individual and collective freedoms are respected.

Philip Luther, the Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, links this case to the upcoming elections in Algeria:

The Algerian authorities appear to be trying to stifle criticism at a time of uncertainty ahead of presidential elections due next year.

Unfortunately, public mobilization around the case seems to be faltering. Many human rights activists in Algeria are afraid that Aloui's case will fade into oblivion. Indeed, the Algerian regime is orchestrating a campaign calling Aloui a dangerous terrorist supporting jihad, or the holy struggle against the enemies of Islam. To support this idea and assert Aloui's guilt, a video of him praising jihad was posted on YouTube:

Amine Sidhoum, Aloui's laywer, immediately slammed the video as a fake and denounced it as an alleged manipulation. The objective of the video, he said, is to discredit Aloui by portraying him as an Islamist. Sidhoum also raised doubts about the true identity of the user, who posted the video on Facebook under the name “Malik Liberter“, Aloui's nickname on YouTube. Sidhoum argues that someone used Aloui's YouTube nickname on Facebook to post videos that would implicate Aloui. Interviewed by Algerie Focus, Sidhoum noted:

On entend trois voix différentes sur cette vidéo et le décalage entre les lèvres d’Abdelghani et le son est flagrant. De plus, mon client a arrêté sa scolarité à la 9ème, à 15 ans, il ne maîtrise donc pas assez l’arabe classique pour tenir un tel discours sans note

We hear three different voices in this video and the mismatch between Abedelghani's lips and the actual sound is blatant. Moreover, my client stopped schooling at the age of 15. His command of classical Arabic is not good enough for him to hold such a speech without cue cards.

Algerian authorities are doing their best to make the public forget that Aloui was originally arrested for “insults against the President of the Republic,” which is far removed from conducting a terrorist act. To put things into historical perspective, in the 1990s Algeria suffered a violent civil war between Islamists and the state. Anyone contesting the legitimacy of the regime back then would automatically be labelled a terrorist.

After four months in jail, Aloui's future is gloomier than ever, especially if one considers that Article 87-bis of the Penal Code that deals with “the proponents of terrorism” remains vague and can often lead to dangerous interpretations. From Facebook to prison, the tragic fate of this Algerian cyber-activist proves that the so-called promise of ”democracy and freedom” waved by the Algerian regime might just be a front.

Surname Change As “National Duty” in Tajikistan

Following a controversial assertion by Tajikistan's Prosecutor General, senior officials in the country continue claiming that citizens whose surnames end in “-ov” or “-ev” are not patriots. Speaking to journalists today, Gavhar Sharofzoda, the head of the Tajikistan Language and Terminology Committee, said [ru], “Getting rid of Russian endings in surnames is a national duty of every citizen of Tajikistan”.

Kharsavor responded [ru] in his blog:

“National duty”? What kind of “national” duty? When will our ignorant officials finally realize that only the constitution can define what a “national” duty is? Serving in the army is, for example, a duty for guys. While a decision regarding how to write one's surname is something private.

When will they finally understand that Tajikistan is home to people from different [ethnic backgrounds]? I am an Uzbek, for example, and every fifth person here is an Uzbek. There are also Pamiris, Russians, Kyrgyz. Why in the world do officials define for us which surnames are “national” or “patriotic”? They have already renamed all villages and streets. Do they now want to do the same to people?

As with previous similar statements, Sharofzoda's comments have also triggered a wave of angry reactions on Facebook.

February 04 2014

Tweeting the Vybz Kartel Trial & Telling Jamaican Stories

The Vybz Kartel murder trial continues to capture the attention of Jamaican netizens. Annie Paul of Active Voice “finally made it” to the trial last week, and provided some valuable context:

Jamaican DJ Kartel and his four co-accused are charged with the murder of Clive Williams aka Lizard, an associate who apparently borrowed two guns from the DJ and was subsequently unable to return them. It is alleged that in retaliation he was murdered by the DJ and his accomplices. In an unprecedented move Kartel and company have been held without bail for two and a half years, while rumours have swirled that the Police had incontrovertible evidence of Lizard’s murder at the hands of Kartel and his friends. The evidence was said to be in the form of text messages, voice messages and videos found on cell phones belonging to the DJ that were taken into custody by the Police when he was arrested on 29 September 2011. There was also a series of text messages sent by Lizard Williams to his girlfriend saying that he feared for his life and begging her to inform the police.

She admitted that some observers are sceptical of such evidence. On Twitter, for instance, Peter Dean Rickards suggested:

However, Paul also said:

Quite a few people have made up their minds that the entertainer is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of. So much for the accused being considered innocent until proven guilty.

Which is exactly why she wanted to attend the trial “live and direct” herself. She described her experience in compelling detail:

I thoroughly enjoyed being in court [last Wednesday] to witness Pierre Rodgers (co-accused Sean Storm’s attorney) systematically pick apart Detective Sergeant Patrick Linton’s testimony. Linton is the former head of the Cybercrimes Unit who downloaded and presented the evidence collected from Kartel’s phones. While waiting for a legal friend to arrive to take me into Courtroom 2 where the Kartel trial was scheduled, I bucked up Supreme Court Judge Bryan Sykes who assured me that I needed no such escort, having a right as a member of the public to attend the trial. That may be true in theory, but in reality entry wasn’t easy.

Had I not been escorted by a legal heavyweight the four heavy set plainclothes policemen outside the courtroom who interrogated us while barring entry would have intimidated me enough to make me leave. Having finally breached the hallowed theatre of justice I was surprised at how small the courtroom was, and intimate; i found myself seated about six feet away from Kartel and within spitting distance of the jury. The DJ wore a shocking pink shirt and orange tie and held a matching orange handkerchief that he occasionally squeezed or twisted in his hands.

I don’t know if there were any other members of the public there, the seats were mostly taken up by plain clothes policeman nattily dressed in suits with different coloured ties and lawyers in their John Crow like robes.

The rest of Paul's post compiles a selection of tweets “from the account of the person tweeting on behalf of Vybz Kartel, followed by some of @Emilynationwide and Legatus Maximus’s tweets capturing some of the action”:

Legatus A. Maximus’ tweets dealt primarily with the debate over the digital evidence:

Cucumber Juice, meanwhile, was still ruminating on the lessons inherent in the trial:

Remember Tivoli, May 2010? That story, a defining moment in Jamaican history, was and still is being told by Mattathias Schwartz. We don’t even have a barrage of songs about Tivoli. It’s like we’ve locked the events of May 2010 away in some deep dark recess of our collective consciousness, fearful of really looking at what happened and what it may say about us.

Remember the first Jamaican Bobsleigh team? That story was ultimately told by Disney. Right now there is a lot of goodwill and focus on the 2014 two-man Bobsleigh team from Jamaica and much of it is framed around Cool Runnings.

Then, only last week someone wondered out loud on Twitter whether and when there’d be a movie about Adidja Palmer’s current trial. I hope that there is! To repeat: There is so much rich detail in the charges that were brought against Mr. Palmer. The ins and outs of this trial would make any screenwriter happy, and somehow I think that Mr. Palmer would be a willing collaborator.

I raise this issue of telling our stories within the context of the Kartel trial because I expect that many Jamaicans simply want Mr. Palmer to disappear from the Jamaican news cycle. He should be banished to furtive verandah and cocktail party chatter, nothing more. They’d probably hope for less. That strikes me as hopelessly superficial (that is, of course, unless you’re the victim’s family and friends). It also raises the question I think of what or who is respectable enough to be claimed as Jamaican.

To her, the good, the bad and the ugly are inextricably interwoven into the concept of Jamaican identity:

Our history and current happenings are not always palatable but they are ours, and, together, they weave together the tapestry of our society and influence our collective consciousness. Face it, talk about it, deal with it. These things are all Jamaican and a part of Jamaica. I wonder if it is that given all the pressures of a still young independent nation whether it is that we’ve implicitly decided that we cannot afford the luxury of fully exploring our experiences and history. There is no time and no space. Life is so challenging for many and surviving is the ongoing concern. Somehow that strikes me as unhealthy at worst and a missed opportunity at best. We’re neglecting our chances to identify, define, celebrate, explore, and examine the themes that comprise Jamaican identity and what it means to be Jamaican.

Why aren’t we telling our stories?

Saudi King Outlaws Religious Groups

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree which imposes prison sentences on Saudis who fight outside the country and on those who are “members of religious and extremist groups.” The decree incited different reactions on social media networks.

Thousands of Saudis have joined the civil war in Syria, including young fighters, and the Saudi media has been debating who to blame. The decree also comes after Egypt has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.

The official Saudi News Agency reported:

Whoever participates or is involved in hostilities outside the Kingdom or joins radical religious and intellectual groups or currents, will be sentenced by no less than three years and not more than twenty years in prison. However, the punishment will be increased to no less than five years and no more than thirty years in prison for armed forces servicemen, a royal order stated here today.

The Arabic decree, however, did not mention “radical religious group,” but rather “religious and extreme,” which induced criticism for the vague language that it uses. Some Twitter users even started a hashtag: “King Abdullah outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood group.”

Political science academic Khalid al-Dekhayel stated that the decree does actually outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood:

The specification of “religious groups or those that are declared terrorist nationally, regionally or internationally” includes the Muslim Brotherhood after it was declared so by Egypt.

Saudi Twitter user Sultan al-Fifi noted the paradox in citing Sharia law to outlaw religious groups:

Based on the purposes of the Islamic Sharia, we will criminalize those who join the Muslim Brotherhood which trades religion for political gain.

Twitter user Abdullah al-Awlah posted a newspaper headline from the 1960s when Saudi Arabia supported the Muslim Brotherhood against the nationalist regime in Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser. The headline reads: “Prince Faisal: The Muslim Brotherhood struggled for the sake of Allah by their souls and their money.”

It means that anyone who says this will be punished:

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