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October 26 2013

Hong Kong Activists Organize, Prepare for Online Attacks

By Haggen So and translated by Liu Heng. This article originally published on

Many civic groups and online media in Hong Kong have been attacked by hackers over past two years. The best known case took place in March last year with an attack on a platform hosted by Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme (HKU POP). This happened shortly after HK POP held mock elections for the office of the SAR Chief Executive (CE) or city mayor (in which CE Leung Chun-ying won only 17% of the vote.) Most recent hacking incidents have been political in nature.

As the government will soon present the draft of the political reform proposal on the arrangement of CE election in 2017, HKU POP will again conduct a public opinion survey which serves as a mock referendum on the political reform proposal.

Meanwhile, civil society groups are preparing to launch a collective civil disobedient action to Occupy Central in July 2014 , to advocate for a genuine universal suffrage and against the manipulation of candidate nomination. It is anticipated that malicious hacking of civic groups, activists communications and citizen media will surge approaching July.

Forum speakers: Ben Chang, Jazz Ma and Sang Young.

Forum speakers: Ben Chang, Jazz Ma and Sang Young.

To address the issue, Hong Kong In-Media, an independent and citizen media advocacy group, hosted a forum on October 4 featuring local IT experts who explained the nature of online attacks in Hong Kong and discussed the potential for building a tech activist team to support local civic groups and activists.

The hacking of HKU POP

What the public appears to be most concerned about is whether the HKU POP computer system will encounter another round of hacking in the 2014 civic referendum project. Jazz Ma, HKU POP IT manager, explained the situation of the hacking of mock universal suffrage in March 2012:

Several days before the voting, a number of e-mail accounts related to the civic referendum project had received messages with attachment that inflicted with Trojan Horse, a hacking program. Subsequently the password of some accounts was changed. On March 21st, we first tested the voting system in among local universities and the HKU Computer Centre informed us that there had been millions of network packets trying to access to HKU server. Fortunately the HKU firewall had blocked most of the malicious packets. On March 23rd, we found out that that some hackers had written programmes to log-in the voting system repeatedly and thus caused the server to overload.

The attack that HKU POP encountered is known as a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS). Sang Young, a senior information security expert, explained to the audience the nature of a DDoS attack: “DDoS attackers make use of a third party's personal computers and cloud servers as ‘zombies’ to attack the target server. The aim is to cripple the websites.” Apart from DDoS, falsification of data in sites to mislead users is also a common hacking activities in Hong Kong, Young said. Most of the hacking activities involve either commercial or political interests.

Concerns about privacy

HKU POP reported the hacking incident to the police and a suspect was quickly arrested on March 24. On the next day, the police returned HKU to collect the evidence by cloning all data in the server.

Salon host Michelle Fong immediately interrupted and asked: “Will cloning result in a leak such as the voters personal information and voting intentions? Will there be a risk of prosecution if the server contains a child pornography photograph?”

Sang Young, who has police training experiences explained that in general, when it comes to criminal investigation, the police copy all the contents on the server in question, but only for specific cases. It is impossible to use the contents for prosecution directly even if they involve child pornography. As for civil disputes and investigation, corporates will ask the third party to sign a confidential document that ensures all data will be destroyed after the investigation. However, as many online platforms now are using cloud servers, the police cannot clone the server and will only ask for a log sheet.

Building a local tech activist community

As social action depends more and more on online communication, strong support from technology community is necessary. Michelle Fong pointed out that there are various organizations abroad such as Tactical Technology Collective or civic web hosting services such as Nearly Free Speech to provide support for civic groups, while in Hong Kong, such a technical community has yet to emerge.

Ben Cheng believed that the civic sector has yet to recognize the important role of technology in social movements and few organizations are willing to pull together resources to support the work of tech activists. “If each individual is willing to donate $1 and the mass is big enough, we can develop new tools for social activism and security protection. But people do not find [this] kind of work important.”

However, and Global Voices Online editor Oiwan Lam believed that the technical community should take an active role in social incident like the upcoming Occupy Central campaign and demonstrate to the public that technology can make a difference to social mobilization.

We [have] yet to solve many communication problems. For example, every year during the June 4 candle light vigil, the mobile networks are jammed and people cannot upload information to social media. What if our telecommunication service collapses during the Occupy Central campaign? Ordinary people don't know how to deal with the problem, but the technical community can take initiative to draw up [a] strategic plan.

Soon after the above question was raised, the IT experts immediately came up with the idea of adopting the Serval Mesh App from Android platform to set up a communication network. Participants agreed that a common platform for dialogue and brainstorming among social activists and technical experts is crucial for building a local tech activist community.

October 21 2013

Ecuador's New Penal Code Would Violate Internet Privacy

National Assembly of Ecuador. Photo by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

National Assembly of Ecuador. Photo by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

All links lead to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.

The Ecuadorian National Assembly recently approved the Código Orgánico Integral Penal (Organic Penal Code, or COIP), which has raised concerns within civil society organizations. Certain articles of the COIP threaten “the inviolability, storage, and subsequent analysis of information that citizens generate on the Internet, and on any other telecommunications platforms like landline or cellular telephones.”

The new code combines various previous issues of concern, such as the proposal that slander on social media networks could be penalized in Ecuador [en], which—although it ultimately was not included in the COIP draft—and paints a generally bleak picture of the intentions and the future of the Internet in this South American country.

Organizations Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users), Apertura Radical (Radical Openness), and Asociación de Software Libre del Ecuador (Free Software Association of Ecuador) have explained that the way the law is proposed, all telecommunications services, “like ISP, Internet cafes, WiFi zones, businesses that rent phones or allow Internet access, study centers that offer Internet access, and even people who loan their telephone or Internet connection” will have to store the data and connection traffic of the users, despite the risks that this entails.

Unbelievable!!! RT @alfredovelazco @MauroAndinoR Article 474 #COIP: cybercafes must videorecord users and their navigation

— Rosa María Torres (@rosamariatorres) October 15, 2013

The issue is generating interest in the traditional media, due to its potential impact on the ways in which Ecuadorians use the Internet. And the public has also started to worry:

@gabrielaespais Presumption of suspicion as a premise, violation of the privacy of online communications #Ecuador #COIP

— Valeria Betancourt (@valeriabet) October 10, 2013

We Ecuadorians are criminals until proven otherwise #COIP. Are we making progress, Homeland?

— María Eugenia Garcés (@meugegarces) October 18, 2013

“I could not return to this country (Ecuador) because I would not be able to access the Internet” #Stallman [software freedom activist] on the Penal Code article:

— Radios Libres (@RadiosLibres) October 18, 2013

The aforementioned organizations are taking on the task of raising awareness about the issue, in order to try to put some pressure on the government so that it vetoes the Organic Penal Code's Article 474, which violates citizens’ right to privacy in their Internet communications.

The “Open Letter to President Rafael Correa and Assembly Members on Internet Privacy and the Draft of the Integral Organic Penal Code,” published on citizen media and various blogs, states, among other things, the following:

Instamos a la Asamblea Nacional y al Gobierno de Ecuador a compatibilizar la Ley propuesta con los estándares internacionales de derechos humanos a fin de precautelar con el mayor rigor la privacidad, la libertad de expresión y la libertad de asociación, en la perspectiva de fortalecer el sistema democrático acorde a los Principios Internacionales sobre la Aplicación de los Derechos Humanos a la Vigilancia de las Comunicaciones [1].

Solicitamos, por tanto, que no se aprueben artículos del Proyecto del Código Orgánico Integral Penal que vulneran los derechos ciudadanos y nos ponen en indefensión frente al almacenamiento indiscriminado y posterior análisis de nuestra información.

We urge the National Assembly and the Government of Ecuador to make the proposed law compatible with international human rights standards, in order to safeguard privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of association with the greatest rigor, in the context of strengthening the democratic system in accordance with the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance [1] [en].

Therefore, we request that the articles of the Draft of the Integral Organic Penal Code which violate citizens’ rights and leave us defenseless against indiscriminate storage and subsequent analysis of our data are not approved.

Given that President Correa threatened to resign when a group of ruling-party Assembly members promoted the decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape, in a proposal of the Integral Organic Penal Code debated in the Assembly, it seems unlikely that he will recant and veto Article 474 of COIP.

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September 25 2013

Queer Pakistan is Blocked: Double-Edged Sword of Media Coverage?

Queer Pakistan - Block page

Prohibited! Queer Pakistan – Block page on September 24, 2013

The newly launched Queer Pakistan website was blocked yesterday, coincidentally the same day that Global Voices published an article featuring the site. Homosexuality is legally and religiously condemned in Pakistan, and the goal of the site was to provide a safe space for young lesbian, gay and transsexual Pakistanis to discuss their sexuality anonymously.

In its brief two months of existence, the site attracted both cheers and jeers online for daring to discuss taboo subjects. News reports on Al-Jazeera and on Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) helped boost the site's traffic to 10,000 unique visitors in the past month, with an average visit time of 7 minutes. Both news articles emphasized that Pakistan's web censors are typically hostile to this kind of content, but the Pakistani journalist writing for DPA went as far as requesting a statement from Pakistan's Telecommunication Authority (PTA) about the site at the end of August.

When questioned, a PTA spokesman said the government was “already examining the content of the website” and would block it if they found blasphemous or pornographic content. Alongside quotes from supporters of Queer Pakistan, the journalist also interviewed a religious leader who said, “These practices are completely against Islam. It is the government's duty to control them.” Could this naive search for journalistic balance have sounded the death knell for an otherwise brave initiative?

Gay Pride

Gay pride celebration. Photo by lewishamdreamer, via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

It's common for “keyboard warriors” in Pakistan to alert authorities when they see content they find morally or religiously objectionable so it's likely the site would have been blocked eventually. But alerting the authorities directly for public comment cannot have helped.

When it comes to communicating with the media, digital activists should remember that journalists are not always to be trusted with sensitive information. Too much press coverage can have a negative effect, especially when articles do not highlight the angles that are most beneficial to a cause. Journalists should be free to cover stories as they wish — but activists need to be conscious of the risks that this can bring.

More than once in the past, I've also seen reporters carelessly use real names instead of pseudonyms, which is why I often advise anonymous activists to maintain two fake names instead of one (the second can be offered as a “real” name to anyone who asks, but doesn't really need to know).

For Queer Pakistan, a blocked website is most likely only a bump in the road — the group obviously understands they are pushing the boundaries for what is normally considered permissible in Pakistan. The site's anonymous young founder is mirroring the website at a different domain and claims to be undeterred, saying “We won’t let PTA get away with this without a fight!”

September 20 2013

The End of Silence in Syria: Interview with Syria Untold

Art is Peace, collective art project in Aleppo, Syria. Photo by Art Camping.

Syria Untold is a new online storytelling project dedicated to the non-violent Syrian uprising. Project participants, both in and outside of Syria, are working to collect, curate and provide context for content related to civil disobedience, nonviolent movements, and creative resistance to the Assad regime. In their words, “Syria Untold wants to give visibility to the extraordinary work that other websites, social networks and groups of activists are producing within the Syrian uprising. It aims to explain who is producing them, how, and why.” Advox editor Ellery Roberts Biddle interviewed Leila Nachawati Rego, a co-founder of the project who is an active Global Voices contributor. Nachawati is a Spanish-Syrian activist, writer, and communications studies scholar at Carlos III University in Madrid.

How has your relationship with Syria evolved over time? How did the uprisings in 2011 affect this relationship? And how has the conflict affected this relationship?

Even though I grew up in Spain, I used to speak about Syria in whispers. The terror imposed by the regime that Syrians have endured for decades was so deeply rooted that even people living outside would be scared to speak up for fear of the repercussions on their relatives inside the country. After 2011, that wall of fear and silence was broken, and this is probably the one victory of the uprisings, the one thing that gives me hope. No more silence, everything is out in the open now.

How has the conflict impacted creative and journalistic communities in Syria? It would be interesting to hear both the literal/physical components of this, as well as the psychological ones.

Imagine a society where kids are brainwashed into believing that the ruler of their country is an unquestionable godly-like figure, where parents don´t speak in front of their children for fear that they may accuse them of being traitors against the State. This brainwashing has of course had an impact on art and creativity, with everything being produced to idolize the Leader and his family for decades. The true artists, poets, writers, singers were killed or rotting in Assad´s jails.

After 2011, all the creativity repressed for so long gave way to endless forms of expression, from the very witty banners and messages chanted at demonstrations to the songs and poems written to celebrate freedom and to drawings, cartoons and the graffitti movement in Syrian cities and villages. It is art in the non-academic sense of the term, art “out of the salons,” like the group “The Syrian People Know their Way” calls it. Art that emerges from grassroots movements and from the popular need for self-expression after decades of fear, repression and self-censorship.

“Exchange” by Comic4Syria. Comic depicting real events that have taken place in Syrian prisons.

Syria Untold seems very much like a project of translation — translation of local issues for a global audience. Does this seem like an apt interpretation?

Yes, it is. On the one hand, if you take a look at the Arabic and English versions, they are quite different, the translations are non-literal because we believe the context needed to reach out to English-speaking and Arabic-speaking audiences is different. On the other hand, there is the curation aspect, that has a lot to do with translation too. The process of choosing, framing and putting the huge amount of contents produced by Syrians into context is in itself a translation of the Syrian civic movement of the ground amid all the deafening geopolitical conversations that tend to ignore Syrians.

What has it felt like to review materials from project participants? Are there particular pieces that have struck you emotionally, intellectually?

There are so many… All of the Syrian creators, the campaigns, the groups working on the ground to maintain the spirit of the uprising, that is increasingly kidnapped by extremists forces trying to impose their own political and religious agendas. The way young artists in Aleppo and other places have been using art to bring hope to people under shelling is probably one of the most inspiring ones. Also, the work that people on the ground are doing in self-management and self-government with very little resources, in places like Kafranbel, Raqqa…

There are so many that it is hard to choose. I think the best contribution of the site is to provide a space where all Syrian artists, campaigns and initiatives on the ground can be easily found and understood in context.

It seems especially important for the project to be online, so that people in different physical places can participate. Do you see Syria Untold as a place where people are connecting with one another, forming new relationships?

Our aim is to become a bridge between media, human rights organizations, and anyone who wants to know about Syrian grassroots initiatives and creative resistance, and those who are working on those initiatives. The fact that those voices on the ground are not visible in the international conversations that are taking place tends to alienate people trying to make a difference in an increasingly militarized context. So we hope this project can help make the so-called non-violent movement more visible, promote interaction between different groups and help them reach out to media and other organizations.

This project cuts against mainstream media narratives of yes-no/black-and-white that have dominated coverage of the conflict. If you were to re-frame the narrative in a few sentences, what would you say?

I would like to quote my friend Amjad Taleb here, who wrote this on his facebook page a few days ago and I think summarizes how many Syrians feel at this false dichotomies posed by media and the “international community.”

If you would ask Syrians to choose between dying by gas while sleeping or dying under torture, I think you could expect the answer. If you asked them to choose between Assad and AlQaeda I think you should expect the answer too.

But if you stop being an asshole and ask them what they want and dream of, then the answers would be more amazing than anything you might have read or heard of… Only if you stop being an asshole.

Obama's red line, by Comic4Syria.

Obama's red line, by Comic4Syria.

September 09 2013

How the NSA is Tampering with Encrypted Communications (and how to fight back)

National Security Agency Headquarters. This photo has been released to the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

National Security Agency Headquarters. This photo has been released to the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This post was co-authored by Dan Auerbach, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In one of the most significant leaks of information about US National Security Agency (NSA) spying, the New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica reported last week that the NSA has gone to extraordinary lengths to secretly undermine secure communications infrastructure online, collaborating with GCHQ (Britain's NSA equivalent) and a select few intelligence organizations worldwide.

These revelations imply that the NSA has pursued an aggressive program of obtaining private encryption keys for commercial products—allowing the agency to decrypt vast amounts of Internet traffic sent by users of these products. They also suggest that the agency has attempted to put backdoors (well-hidden ways to access data) into cryptographic standards designed to secure users’ communications. Additionally, the leaked documents make clear that companies that manufacture these products have been complicit in allowing this unprecedented spying to take place, though the identities of cooperating companies remain unknown.

Many important details about this program, codenamed Bullrun, are still unclear. What communications are targeted? What service providers or software developers are cooperating with the NSA? What percentage of private encryption keys of targeted commercial products are successfully obtained? Does this store of private encryption keys (presumably procured through theft or company cooperation) contain those of popular web-based communication providers like Facebook and Google?

What is clear is that these NSA programs are an egregious violation of user privacy. Under international human rights doctrine, users have a right to speak privately with fellow citizens and to freely associate and engage in political activism. If the NSA is allowed to continue building backdoors into our communications infrastructure, as law enforcement agencies have lobbied for, then the communications of billions of people risk being perpetually insecure against a variety of adversaries, ranging from governments to criminals to domestic spy agencies.

Faced with so much bad news, it's easy to give in to privacy nihilism and despair. After all, if the NSA has found ways to decrypt a significant portion of encrypted online communications, why should we bother using encryption at all? But this massive disruption of communications infrastructure need not be tolerated. Here are some of the steps you can take to fight back:

  • Use secure communications tools (read some useful tips by security expert Bruce Schneier). Your communications are still significantly more protected if you are using encrypted communications tools such as messaging over OTR or browsing the web using HTTPS Everywhere than if you are sending your communications without taking such precautions.
  • Finally, the engineers responsible for building our infrastructure can fight back by building and deploying better and more usable cryptosystems.

The NSA is attacking secure communications on many fronts; advocates must oppose them using every method they can. Engineers, policy makers, and netizens all have key roles to play in standing up to the unchecked surveillance state. The more we learn about the extent of the NSA's abuses, the more important it is for us to take steps to take back our privacy. Don't let the NSA's attack on secure communications be the end game.

The original version of this post appeared on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deeplinks blog.

August 31 2013

Safeguard Your Videos with a New Guide from WITNESS

In addition to reporting on Internet rights challenges around the world, Global Voices Advocacy provides a platform for partner NGOs to discuss Internet and human rights-related projects with goals similar to ours. This article was written by Yvonne Ng, Archivist at WITNESS.

A Syrian group has over 160,000 videos of human rights abuses, collected over more than two years. The group wants to ensure that these videos can be used in the future to prosecute crimes and build a better political situation. But how do they find footage of a specific massacre or war crime from this collection? How much of it could be lost if their storage system fails?

Does this scenario sound familiar? In today’s digital environment, it is easier than ever to capture video, building a large archive quickly. However, just as quickly the files can be lost, corrupted, or rendered unusable.

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it, and our new Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video can help!

The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video breaks down the process into eight stages.

Developed for human rights activists, small NGOs, media collectives, and citizen activists, this guide provides practical steps for managing, storing, sharing, and preserving your videos.  If you are creating, collecting, or curating videos, this guide will walk you through how to maintain your videos so that they stay intact, authentic, and accessible. It is currently available in Arabic, English and Spanish.

We created this guide because we frequently hear from activists and other organizations that managing their videos are among their most difficult challenges. While many of us take great care to capture important events as they unfold, or to interview survivors of human rights abuses, we often have no plan for making sure the recordings remain safe and usable over even a short period of time.

Unfortunately, we hear stories about videos that are accidentally deleted, that cannot be retrieved from hard drives, that cannot be found in a collection, or that are unidentifiable and unverifiable due to lack of documentation.

The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video is an easy-to-understand resource that demystifies and clearly explains archiving concepts and practices. The guide breaks archiving down into eight stages, and shows how to incorporate it into your work.

While archiving is part of making your videos accessible and usable in the present, we also must bear in mind their long-term purpose. By protecting and preserving videos, we enable them to be used as human rights evidence (article in English only) and for the historical record.  Our archives ensure that underrepresented voices endure and act as a bulwark against impunity and forgetting.

Take a look at the Guide and share it with your colleagues! Tell us what you think – we’d love to know how you use it.


The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video is now available in Arabic, English and Spanish. We look forward to adding more languages in the near future. It is licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

A version of this post appeared on WITNESS’ blog.

August 23 2013

Russia's Political Firebrand: What Makes Navalny Tick?

Until a few years ago, Alexey Navalny was all but unknown outside Moscow’s small political intelligentsia. But today he may be the most prominent independent critic of the Russian government. In Russia, a nation where Internet use is rapidly rising, Navalny has demonstrated that blogging and social media are powerful political tools. Not surprisingly, Russia’s political establishment has taken note of the upstart blogger. Navalny could well lose his freedom before the summer ends.

In June 2013, Navalny was convicted on embezzling timber from a state-run company while working as an advisor to the Governor of the Kirov oblast. But critics argue that his heavy sentence is the work of Kremlin-orchestrated political repression. Building support through his blog’s large audience, Navalny has defended his innocence online, urging readers to download the full archive of his case’s materials (contained in a 1.7GB downloadable file), which he argues exonerate him. Navalny is also facing public criticism — many of his detractors have mobilized blogs and websites of their own (sometimes designed to mimic the aesthetic of Navalny’s work) to propagate his guilt.

Alexey Navalny at a campaign rally. Photo by Alexey Ruban (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Alexey Navalny at a campaign rally. Photo by Alexey Ruban (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

After a brief incarceration following his sentencing (punctuated by a massive street protest in downtown Moscow), the Kirov authorities released Navalny, pending his appeal. If his sentence is upheld, he’ll face five years’ jail time, and the prospect of becoming Russia’s most famous political prisoner. In the meantime, Navalny is a candidate in the Moscow mayoral election, running on a platform of anti-corruption and economic liberalization. (The mysterious conditions under which Navalny was released from jail led many to believe that officials intervened on his behalf, to ensure that he could participate and thus “legitimize” the competition.) Recent polls show Navalny gaining support, though still trailing incumbent mayor Sergei Sobyanin by at least 40 points.

Navalny the Entrepreneur

Alexey Navalny was born in 1976 in Butyn, a town just outside of Moscow. His parents have owned and operated a small furniture factory since the 1990s, an atypical situation in Russia, where entrepreneurship is incredibly low—a result of 70-years-long central planning, Soviet bureaucracy, and rampant corruption. As business owners and members of the middle class, the Navalnys have arguably suffered a great deal from corruption in Russian law and order. Understandably, Navalny’s advocacy as a blogger—and now as a political candidate—has focused on fighting corruption and promoting transparency and economic liberalism.

Navalny, who has a law degree, is a part-owner in his parents’ company, and has helped establish several foundations and institutions since the late 1990s. Since 2011, some of Navalny’s critics have explored whether or not he became certified as a lawyer by hiring himself to fulfill Bar-mandated work experience requirements.

Political Activism and Party Politicking

Although Navalny is now known as a blogger-turned-politician, he was involved with politics long before becoming a LiveJournal sensation. In 2000, he joined the liberal opposition party Yabloko. During the early 2000s, he worked with a similar party, The Union of Right Forces (SPS). Navalny says he joined these groups as a way to push back against Russia’s new electoral laws, which he believed were designed to prevent opposition groups from winning seats in parliament.

Navalny was expelled from Yabloko in December 2007, officially on the grounds that his nationalist views clashed with the party’s values. Navalny, for his part, maintains that he was voted out due to his criticism of Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinksy, following the party's disastrous performance in the 2007 Duma elections. In a 2011 interview [ru] with Russian GQ magazine, Navalny defended himself and explained that liberals risk permanent irrelevancy in Russia if they make any issue “taboo”:

The failure of our national democratic movement is tied up in the fact that they consider some topics of conversation dangerous to discuss in principle, including the topic of internethnic conflict. At the same time its a major issue of today. We have to admit that migrants, including those from the north Caucasus, often come to Russia with their own set of values.

Despite national indications that Russians widely share his contempt for low-wage-earning migrant workers, Navalny’s nationalist views have been a major liability for the aspiring politician, whose Moscow intelligentsia base is wary of engaging social tensions that often provoke dangerously racist energies.

Blogging for Corporate Accountability

Navalny is a minority-shareholder in several major Russian companies, including oil and gas companies like Rosneft and commercial banks like Sberbank and VTB Bank. He says he first purchased these shares as an investment, but soon became irritated by the low dividends they paid—a fact he ascribed to corruption within the companies. Taking advantage of his shareholder status, Navalny scoured corporate records for evidence of corruption and shared the information on his blog, revealing what he said were clear examples of misappropriation of funds and other forms of corruption. In a 2010 interview with Global Voices, Navalny explained how he used his blog to help coordinate a campaign against corruption at VTB Bank involving the procurement of drilling rigs.

I announced that there were some disturbing facts that I had been investigating. With the help of the blog, I put together other shareholders of VTB Bank who wrote the complaint with me. With its help, I found leasing specialists, experts in drilling rigs, etc. Via the blog, I found other insiders who told me about what is happening now with these drilling rigs. In other words, I fully coordinated the campaign via my blog.

Navalny initiated similar campaigns with Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz, and Gazprom. Inspired by the idea of using the Internet to coordinate an anti-corruption campaign, Navalny then created an organization dedicated to uncovering corruption in state procurements: RosPil [ru].

By law, all state procurements must be posted online [ru]. At Rospil, volunteers search these records for suspicious tenders involving overpriced and/or unnecessary purchases. They then refer a team of professional experts to the most dubious cases, for additional analysis. If the experts consider the tenders to be likely corrupt, RosPil’s legal team issues a complaint to Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service. According to Navalny, salaries for RosPil's expert team are funded entirely by donations collected online. RosPil claims [ru] that, over two years, its appeals have been responsible for the investigation and/or cancellation of approximately 1.8 billion USD in questionable procurements.

Fighting the “Party of Crooks and Thieves”

Navalny's anti-corruption activities have won him accolades at home. (Russian newspaper Vedomosti listed him as its “Man of the Year” in 2009.) By coining the meme “A Party of Crooks and Thieves” to describe Vladimir Putin’s dominant political party, United Russia, and through his memorable speeches during the 2011-2012 winter protests, Navalny has become the de facto leader of the country’s protest movement. For all his success as an activist and a netizen, however, federal investigators did more than anyone to cement Navalny’s status as a freedom fighter and a household name.

Alexey Navalny at a Moscow rally in March 2012. Photo by Bogomolov.PL. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Alexey Navalny at a Moscow rally in March 2012. Photo by Bogomolov.PL. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This fame has not brought him universal acclaim. Polling suggests Russians are deeply ambivalent [ru] about Navalny, even if they think [ru] his court case was politically motivated. While his mayoral campaign (which features daily stump speeches throughout Moscow) has demonstrated the disappearing barrier between Russia’s online and offline worlds, Navalny’s odds of winning the election are slim, and a five-year prison sentence looms in the autumn. Despite this, he has drawn together a broad coalition of supporters and mounted a serious run for political office. (Even the Kremlin-friendly think tank, the Civil Society Development Foundation, recently complimented [ru] Navalny for his “very active” effort.) This is an accomplishment in itself and may signal a slowly growing competitiveness in Russia’s public life.


August 14 2013

Why was Facebook Blocked in Cambodia?

On August 7, Facebook was inaccessible in Cambodia for several hours, leaving media freedom groups suspicious of a ploy to restrict social media sites in the country. But Metfone, Cambodia’s most popular Internet service provider, claimed that a service upgrade operation caused the blockage.

Civil society groups reacted swiftly to the news, issuing a joint statement titled ‘Keep Media Free: Unrestricted Access to Social Media’ urging Metfone to explain the sudden blocking of Facebook. The statement read:

With traditional media being mostly, and in the case of television exclusively, controlled by the government, an increasing number of Cambodians rely on websites such as Facebook to access independent information.


We, the undersigned civil society groups, call upon Metfone to fully explain the purported technical issues that forced Facebook to become unavailable, to take the appropriate measures to ensure that such outages do not occur in the future, and to clarify why they continue to block other sites such as KI Media.

KI Media is a website known for its criticism of Hun Sen, who has been Cambodia’s Prime Minister for the past 28 years. The site is blocked by various ISPs in Cambodia.

Keep Media Free. Image from Licadho

Keep Media Free. Image from Licadho

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith denied that the government ordered the blocking of Facebook, stating that it would be “completely crazy” for the government to try to control the Internet. “We have nothing to gain by closing Facebook, and we have no criminal law regarding the internet,” he said.

Although many were quick to point fingers at regulators, the blockage may have been the result of a technical problem. Traceroute testing indicates that much of the Internet traffic Metfone users view is routed from Vietnam. If censors in Vietnam were to misconfigure their firewall, sites censored in Vietnam could easily become blocked in Cambodia too.

The incident nevertheless sparked a flurry of commentary from public figures and on social media. Popular Cambodian blogger and Global Voices author Kounila Keo noted how young Cambodian voters actively shared information on Facebook in the recent election:

Facebook was earlier a place where a lot of young Cambodians went to seek entertainment. But Cambodian Facebook users, mostly young people from 18 to 35 years old, have gradually embraced this social network to share and receive information not usually seen in the mainstream media which is considered censored.

Since 2010 when Facebook became popular in Cambodia, videos and pictures of protests, crimes, and violence have been widely shared and circulated to broaden people's political horizons. By 2013, Facebook has become a level playing field for political debates from all sides.

Even United States Ambassador William Todd recognized Facebook as a site where alternative information about Cambodia’s situation are freely discussed:

…social media played a crucial role in disseminating a broad range of opinions and information to the electorate. With access to the Internet, people were able to access a variety of news sources and information. So even when traditional media outlets in Cambodia failed to cover major events or issues, Cambodians were able to learn about them through social media.

Cambodia’s ruling party managed to win again in the recent National Assembly elections but it lost a significant number of seats to the Opposition. It has been accused of committing widespread fraud which undermined the voting process.

Although the blocking may have resulted from technical issues, suspicions of foul play on the government's part were grounded in recent experience. In 2011, Internet Service Providers restricted access to social media sites and platforms including Blogspot in response to requests from government authorities.


Collin Anderson provided research and analysis on technical aspects of this post.

Taiwanese Government Alters Search Results to Favor Nuclear Energy Policy

Taiwanese protest against fourth nuclear power plant. Photo by Nisa Yeh. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Taiwanese protest against fourth nuclear power plant. Photo by Nisa Yeh. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

For several months, activists in Taiwan fighting to prevent the launch of operations at a nuclear plant they argue would be hazardous for public health and the natural environment. Alongside mobilizing public support and lobbying government officials, they are now facing a new challenge: search engine censorship. Over the last few days, searches run on Yahoo! Kimo for the names of various anti-nuclear activists have yielded links to Nuclear Safety, Taiwan Energy [zh], a website run by the Bureau of Energy and Ministry of Economic Affairs, as their top result.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs admitted to Taiwan Apple Daily [zh] that the government had spent 100,000 Taiwanese Yuan (equivalent to USD3500) to alter the search results for 92 keywords on Google and Yahoo! Kimo, the country's most popular search engine. Among the 92 keywords, 63 are related to nuclear energy and 29 are the names of individuals, many of whom are anti-nuclear activists.

The website Nuclear Safety, Taiwan Energy presents scientific evidence aimed at convincing the public that nuclear energy is safe and the island's fourth nuclear plant meets international safety standards.

Since early this year, activists have been ramping up their demonstrations in an effort to halt operations at the plant. Many Taiwanese are worried about the safety implications of the plant, particularly in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, in which a 9.0 magnitude earthquake resulted in a massive radioactive water leak, causing untold damage to the surrounding area. As Taiwan lies in a seismically active zone, earthquakes are common, and nuclear safety has become a priority concern ever since.

With ample public support, environmental groups and anti-nuclear activists have been pressing the government to shut down the fourth nuclear plant which is scheduled to begin operating in 2015. The government wants to resolve the controversy with a referendum, but this is a somewhat empty promise: Taiwan's Referendum Act, which was was passed [zh] in November 2003, requires 50 percent of voters to participate in the referendum, or else the referendum proposal will be rejected. In the last ten years, six national referendums have been proposed, but none were passed.

Government interference with Internet search results will likely have an impact on the upcoming referendum. Liu Li'er (劉黎兒), one of the anti-nuclear activists who was affected by the government's political advertisement issued a public statement [zh] on August 13 via Facebook condemning the Ministry of Economic Affairs for using “brainwashing” tactics and demanding the Legislative body investigate the use of taxpayers’ money to generate political propaganda. She also urged portal websites to uphold their corporate social responsibility and reject government-sponsored ads promoting the benefits of nuclear energy.

anti nuclear search

Screen capture of the top search result of “anti-nuclear”(反核)

Soon after the news was exposed, Yahoo! Kimo ceased tampering with the search results of individuals’ names as it may infringe on the rights and interests of those involved. However, when people search the term “anti-nuclear”, the top search is still linked to the same government-run pro-nuclear energy development site.

Fifty Bloggers Demand the Release of Bahrain's Mohammed Hassan

“Tell them about how you're never really a whole person if you remain silent.” – Audre Lorde

On 31 July, our friend Mohammed Hassan (also known as Safy in the blogging sphere and social media) was arrested from his parents’ house in the Bahraini town of Sitra without an arrest warrant. According to Amnesty International, the twenty-six-year-old blogger is still at the Criminal Investigation Directorate in al-'Adliya located in the capital city of Manama.

Friends of Hassan and his lawyer stated that the blogger has been tortured by security officers. Hassan's lawyer Abdulaziz Mousa was also arrested on 7 August for disclosing names of detainees and details of the investigation without permission. Hassan is accused of “promoting a forced change of the  regime.” It is believed that the arrest of Hassan (and others) in the past few weeks is part of the regime's crackdown against the upcoming protests that are planned on 14 August to call for freedom, justice, and change.

As bloggers from all around the world, we issue this statement in solidarity with our friend Mohammed Hassan. Bahrain continues to expand its record of crimes against bloggers, journalists, and social media users, among others. As the country's press fails to escape state-censorship, the internet has become a powerful tool for oppressed Bahrainis to expose the crimes practiced against them on a daily basis. Collective efforts such as this have caused great embarrassment for the Bahraini regime, which subsequently hired public relations companies to troll activists and spread propaganda. The regime does not shy away from spying on internet users and hacking their accounts in order to find cause to arrest them. The regime's electronic war on Bahrainis is only a fraction of the widespread persecution they face.

We call on the international community and all organizations and bodies dedicated to defending freedoms to pressure the Bahraini regime and demand the release of Mohammed Hassan. We ask all journalists, bloggers, and activists to stand in solidarity with Mohammed Hassan and to highlight his case. Our blogging community cannot rest until our fellow blogger Mohammed Hassan, and others like him who have been arbitrarily jailed, are back with their family and friends.


1- Mona Kareem – Kuwait
2- Mahmoud Omar – Palestine
3- Joey Ayoub – Lebanon
4- Leila Nachawati – Spain
5- Mosa’ab Elshamy – Egypt
6- Imad Stitou- Morocco
7- Hayder Hamzoz – Iraq
8- Ali Abdulemam – Bahrain
9- Ali Alsaffar – Saudi Arabia
10- Ebaa Rezeq – Palestine
11- Youssef Cherif – Tunisia
12- Lilian Wagdy- Egypt
13- Sarah Naguib – Egypt
14- Mohammad Almutawa – Kuwait
15- Wael Abbas – Egypt
16- Mohamed ElGohary – Egypt
17- David Ferreira – United States
18- Ziad Dallal – Lebanon
19- Yusur Al Bahrani- Canada
20- Sara Salem – Egypt
21- Mehreen Kasana – Pakistan
22- Nasser Weddady – Mauritania
23- Tarek Amr – Egypt
24- Mohamed Ali Chebaane – Tunisia
25- Zeinab Mohamed -Egypt
26- Ellery Roberts Biddle – United States
27- Nada Akl – Lebanon
28- Sarah Carr – Egypt
29- Solana Larsen – United States
30- Elizabeth Rivera – Chile
31- Marc Owen Jones – United Kingdom
32- Dima Khatib – Palestine
33- Fazel Hawramy – Kurdistan
34- Samia Errazzouki – Morocco/D.C
35- Raafat Rahim – Egypt
36- Ahmed Mansoor – UAE
37- Anas Qtiesh – Syria
38- Ruslan Trad – Bulgaria/Syria
39- Nora Abdulkarim – Saudi Arabia
40- Afrah Nasser – Yemen
41- Salam (Pax) Abdulmunem – Iraq
42- Ahmed Awadalla – Egypt
43- Budour Hassan – Palestine
44- Yasser Al-Zaiat – Syria
45- Mohamed Mesrati – Libya
46- Hasna Ankal – Belgium/Morocco
47- Ghazi Gheblawi – Libya
48- Rebecca MacKinnon – United States
49 – Marcia Lynx Qualey – United States/Egypt
50 – Jillian C. York – United States


Read more about Mohammed Hassan's case:

#FreeSafy – Bahrain Arrests Blogger in Dawn Raid, Global Voices Online

Bahrain: Arrest of Lawyer after Tweeting about Torture of Detained Blogger, Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain: Urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and detention of Mr Mohammed Hassan, Mr Hussain Hubail and Mr Qassim Zain Aldeen, Article 19


August 12 2013

Government Critic Arrested on Drug Charges in Mexico

Twitter user Gustavo Maldonado was arrested and charged with minor drug-related offenses in Chiapas, Mexico on August 9. Apart from possessing and having sold small amounts of cocaine, not unusual for the area, Maldonado is a vociferous critic of local government.

Maldonado's Twitter handle @gumalo3105 and his profiles on Youtube and Facebook are highly critical of governor of Chiapas Manuel Vasco Coello. His arrest took place just hours after he shared a video on YouTube, exposing a corruption scandal related to local water supply services and other social problems. Maldonado was the administrator of the Anonymous Legion Chiapas YouTube channel, where he posted the video.

Local Mexican Twitter users launched a campaign #TodosSomosLegionChiapas (“We are all the Chiapas legion”) arguing that the arrest was a retaliation for Maldonado's opinions and online activities.

While his alias made him easily identifiable, Twitter users [es] and Información de lo nuevo [es], a blog based in the Yucatan peninsula, suggested that law enforcement officials had been monitoring Maldonado's activities using an online surveillance tool called “Black Eyed Hosting.” Police say they received an anonymous tip alerting them to Maldonado's whereabouts.

Authorities in the state of Chiapas have a long history of corruption and abuse of power. The state is known for the Zapatista rebel organization, which has since the 1990s advocated for better public services and stronger political representation for residents of the state, many of whom are indigenous. Although these efforts have garnered international attention for years, corruption and social inequality persist in the area.

August 09 2013

Minister Ridiculed Over Website Closure Statement

Readers of citizen news website the Zambian Watchdog, in a cat-and-mouse game with government authorities who seem eager to close it down, are laughing at a minister who recently claimed that the popular website can no longer be accessed in the country.

Deputy Minister Ronald Chitotela happy with

Deputy Minister Ronald Chitotela happy with “blockage” of Zambian Watchdog. Image from Zambian Watchdog

Deputy Labor Minister Ronald Chitotela, at a function of a parastatal company under his ministry, told attendees:

[W]e are glad that the Zambian Watchdog is no longer accessible in Zambia and this has forced them to use an Australian company host to anchor their evil articles. That website used to bring confusion in this country because of its writings. I only hope that there is no one here from that website.

Observers widely suspect that the Zambian government has been trying to shut down critical news websites such as the Zambian Watchdog and Zambia Reports for over a year. This isn't the first time government officials have spoken dismissively of the Watchdog — in July, Vice President Guy Scott said he would “celebrate” if the Watchdog were shut down. In separate statements, the government has also threatened to close down social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Readers reacted to the minister’s statement with malice and even contempt at his apparent ignorance of how the Internet works, and the particular situation of the Watchdog. While the website does not show where readers post their comments from, many openly indicate that they are accessing it from within Zambia.

BWANA (Barrister with a nil achievement) wrote [individual comments on Zambian Watchdog do not have permalinks]:

I think this issue of blocking the ZWD [Zambian Watchdog] is a misnomer. Lately the site has been freely accessible; moreover people can use circumventing tools such as Ultrasoft to log in.

A reader, MK gave out instructions of how to access the website:

All those struggling to access zambianwatchdog, please download Opera on your devices and you will be smiling.

Another reader, Oldmadala had this to say:

Do these pf [Patriotic Front, the ruling party] goons know that ZWD is very much accessible within Zambia? Am not even using proxy myself and am accessing the site without any problems. From the look of things, Chitotela thinks one has to go to ‘Australia’ to access the site, what weird thinking! In this era of ICT a Minister still thinking the stone-age way?

On Facebook, the Zambian Watchdog has attracted over 40,000 “likes” since earlier this year, when it resorted to using the social networking site attacks on the site went full throttle. On the ZWD Facebook page, the minister’s story attracted even more comments.

Facebook user Alick Gwanu wrote:

To think you can completely block an un disputably NEEDED and POPULAR social media as the Zambian Watch(The Dog) is illiteracy and warped thinking of the worst order. It is showing on FB. What a collection of leaders.

Nicholas ShiKaunda Shiliya stated:

I guess my Hon d[eputy]/minister has not heard of facebook! To me I have not noticed the difference- the ZWD is still there and though am not on its side, I get another perspective of things.

However, not everyone shared these views — some took the opportunity to be critical of the Watchdog's work. Ephraim Mwepya had no kind words:

Quite frankly, the Zambiwatchdog, whether blocked or accessible represents the worst of gutter journalism

It thrives on half truths, concocted lies, character assassination and slander without its victims having recourse to justice, that's gutter journalism! !!

While readers may disagree on the quality of the Watchdog's reporting, it seems that attempts by the government to shut down alternative news websites, combined with the curious migration of previously critical newspapers such as The Post to the government propaganda bandwagon, have only served to increase the popularity and reach of the ZWD and other similar sites.

The Religious Right Rises! Advocates Face High Stakes in Pakistan

In recent years, Pakistani lawmakers’ long-standing tradition of suppressing political dissent has trickled into the digital world. The state now actively censors online content with the support of a military that refuses to accept criticism and a religious right that can’t tolerate any political narrative apart from its own.

Over time, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has blocked thousands of URLs. It has taken down numerous Facebook pages, banned Rolling Stone’s website over an article that criticized the army, filtered a range of Baloch web pages due to ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unpatriotic’ content, and much more. PTA has become the tool through which the religious right, the politically intolerant powers that be, the military and other major players suppress freedom of expression in Pakistan.

Legally, it is an Inter-Ministerial Committee of elected representatives, members of the religious fraternity, and intelligence agencies that makes censorship recommendations. These move through the IT Ministry and then on to PTA for enforcement. But despite these procedural details, most critics agree that the state uses Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law to block whatever it chooses. This has put the country on a slippery slope that will inevitably end in a dark pit where the state controls what people hear, speak, write and how they act, all on the pretext that it wants to ‘save’ them from inappropriate content. We learned the harms of this model all too well in the days of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the state refuses to acknowledge this argument and continues to censor and filter the web.

Yet there are some individuals launching legal challenges against the state, striving to put an end to this relentless censorship of cyberspace, despite the risks involved. Such efforts are few and far between, but as the only stumbling block in government's path to full-blown Internet censorship, they are invaluable.

Infographic by Byes4All.

Infographic by Byes4All.

One of the better-known fruits of the current censorship regime is the ban on YouTube. Rights advocates have launched a petition challenging the ban before the Lahore High Court, but the case has seen little progress thus far. The Court has summoned the Minister of IT twice this month, but she failed to appear on both occasions. IT Minister Anusha Rehman is known among activists for having hinted that blanket-blocking Google would be a viable option for protecting citizens from “objectionable” videos on YouTube. When her ridiculous ‘plan’ was met by a social media backlash, she closed her Twitter account altogether.

In the meantime, several pseudo-intellectuals and state-anointed experts have taken it upon themselves to discredit individuals who are fighting against censorship. They have called the YouTube Ban a “divine calling” and have described those striving against it as anti-Islam, anti-Pakistan, pro-porn, Ahmadis, atheists, Zionists and so on, employing the popular propaganda tactics of the religious right.

Apart from painting a heavily skewed picture of the situation, this kind of reporting puts the lives of anti-censorship activists in danger. Taliban sympathizers in our midst are much too easily ‘provoked’ to the divine mission of attaining heaven by killing others. In the past, such allegations have led to incidents of violence against activists, some even resulting in their deaths.

Typically, this kind of propaganda is spread by several religious social media hubs and then reinforced by TV shows and newspapers. Allegations are little more than a veiled threat to activists, telling them to back off or face dire consequences. Once a person is deemed anti-Islamic by any of the major religious organizations, it means only one thing: The person in question is now on the hit-list of religiously motivated militants. He or she may also face mob justice motivated by religious right.

This sudden surge of pro-censorship publicity is happening at a time when PTA is out of valid arguments in the case. In fact, the court has criticized the regulatory authority and decried the IT Ministry's utter inability to devise a sensible policy regarding online content. The government will play the central role in resolving the questions around the YouTube case, if it so wishes. But what many choose not to see is that the government is far from willing to even come to the negotiating table. Instead, state institutions are creating new lists of URLs each day and blocking them routinely, even when the issue of online filtering is being contested in the courts.

In US, the recent revelations about government surveillance programs sent tremors through the White House and have resulted in a very public debate over the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics and a Congressional motion that proposed to scale back its operations. Although the motion was narrowly defeated, it shows that speaking out against censorship and surveillance in US is not life-threatening.

In Pakistan, on the other hand, even the discovery of the mass-surveillance software, Netsweeper and its admission by PTA hasn't stirred anyone or anything. Clearly, the majority of the population has accepted the utter lack of personal freedoms as fate. Those who are fighting against censorship are trying to create awareness among the masses so that more people will speak out against government efforts to monitor users and content online. But in this milieu, it is the actions of those who are trying to sabotage the efforts of anti-censorship activists that are most harmful and unfortunate. One can only hope that when the history of individual liberty in Pakistan is written, theirs will be the names penned down as traitors of our society.


July 18 2013

Another Journalist Arrested in Zambia

Wilson Pondamali, the third journalist to be arrested in government agents' pursuit of people suspected to be linked to the Zambian Watchdog.

Wilson Pondamali. Image from Zambia Reports.

Zambian journalist Wilson Pondamali was arrested on July 17 and accused of possessing “restricted information.” According to AFP, police searched Pondamali's home and found documents suggesting that Zambian President Michael Sata is “not fit to govern.” Police also claim to have found evidence linking Pondamali to popular citizen news website the Zambian Watchdog.

Pondamali is the third journalist to be detained by police after media scholar Clayson Hamasaka and Thomas Zgambo, a former Zambia Daily Mail reporter, were picked up last week. Zgambo has since been charged with sedition. Hamasaka has not been formally charged, but is required to report to the police on a regular basis.

On the day of Pondamali's arrest, access to the Zambian Watchdog appeared to be severely restricted for users worldwide. The Watchdog reported that the website was being blocked on all mobile networks in Zambia. The site has undergone a series of technical challenges and indirect threats from government officials in recent months.

Readers outside Zambia could not access the websites on various browsers. One reader, Ku Masangalatoni commented:

Safari cannot open the page because too many redirects occurred!

The Zambian Watchdog reported:

 […] [T]he Zambian government on Tuesday blocked the Zambian Watchdog on all [national ISP] networks including MTN that had earlier rejected the suppression of the most popular news website in Zambia.

Earlier this month, users reported that the site appeared to be blocked on all but one of the nation's ISPs, MTN. The Watchdog responded by moving to a new domain. The site has since moved yet again, to Site administrators encouraged readers to visit the site at its new domain, or at its Facebook page.

A sympathizer calling himself blacknigga advised:

[…] My advice to ZWD is to stop migrating the site every time red brick [the Intelligence Service, named after the color of the bricks of its headquarters] has a squeeze on you. It is going to be costly that way and that is exactly what the red brick want you to do. You will lose your readers.

I am in Zambia and I can still access the ZWD behind a proxy server. The technology that red brick is using, deep packet inspection, dpi, to block not only ZWD but the other online publications has its own limitations.

It is time that ZWD capitalised on these limitations of dpis and exploit them to your advantage. My advice is for ZWD to invest in educating its readership on how to use free proxy servers. How many of these free online proxy servers is red brick going to close? There are numerous out there.


Don’t sweat and run. Where there is a will, a way will always be found. Free Online Access will prevail.

Indeed, moving to a new domain each time the site is blocked could lead to a never ending cat-and-mouse game. Yesterday, the site published an article, “How to access Watchdog in Zambia using proxies,” promoting proxy servers and anonymous browsing tools such as the Tor Project. The site has also recommended that readers copy and send Watchdog articles to friends via email. Reporters Without Borders responded to the situation by creating a mirror site for the Watchdog.

On Brutal Journal, blogger Nyalubinge Ngwende wrote about government’s tampering with the Zambian Watchdog:

The online publication has been stoic even to a point of calling President Sata an ailing dictator—a deliberate choice of the words to provoke the Zambian leader who has chosen to become a recluse, hardly seen and heard in public on many issues affecting the nation and showing high levels of intolerance to the opposition.

It is for the first time since Zambia returned to multiparty politics 22 years ago that a publication has faced incessant government attack to the point of complete closure and random detention of all journalists suspected to be associated with it.

Indeed, Michael Sata has sought to “regulate” online news sites from his first days in office in 2011 when he ordered newly appointed Attorney General Mumba Malila to draft a law that would do so. From this, to the Watchdog's persisting problems, to the arrests of Pondamali, Hamasaka, and Zgambo, it appears that the Zambian government is growing increasingly intolerant of independent, critical media in the country.

July 11 2013

Zambian Watchdog Journalist Charged With Sedition

Clayson Hamasaka. Photo courstesy of Zambian Watchdog

Clayson Hamasaka. Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

Zambian journalist and media studies scholar Clayson Hamasaka was arrested by government security forces and charged with sedition on July 9. Thomas Zgambo, formerly a reporter for the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail, was arrested on the same day but later released.

Advocates suspect that both events were triggered by the journalists’ association with the Zambian Watchdog, an independent citizen media outlet that has withstood multiple threats from government actors since September 2011.

Hamasaka and Zgambo were each arrested at their respective homes in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. Security officers raided their homes carrying search warrants and claiming they were investigating both men for drug-related crimes.

Officials from the municipal police department, Drug Enforcement Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Zambia Security and Intelligence Services (part of Zambia's executive branch), seized computers, memory sticks, mobile phones and documents at both of the men's homes before taking them into custody.

Hamasaka and Zgambo were interrogated for over 40 hours. Zgambo was then released. Hamasaka, a former media studies professor at state-run Evelyn Hone College, was charged with sedition after authorities allegedly found handwritten notes concerning President Michael Sata in his home. He has since been released, but authorities say they will continue to investigate his case. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

Whether or not the two journalists are connected to the Zambian Watchdog is unknown. But their detention did not affect the publication of the popular citizen news site — the Watchdog continued to publish stories during their detention, including one covering the arrests. Apart from editor Lloyd Himambo, who lives in exile, contributors to the website are deliberately kept anonymous in order to protect their safety.

Hamasaka was fired from his teaching job at Evelyn Hone last year when, as the College’s radio station manager, he allowed an opposition leader to appear on it. His wife was fired for unknown reasons from a state-run water utility company a few weeks later.

Several netizens and organisations such as the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) reacted to the duo’s detention. Laura Miti, a human rights and civic activist wrote:

Quite obviously, I have no idea what the officers were looking for in their early morning search of Mr. Hamasaka’s home. What I do know is that dawn raids on private citizens who have not been charged with any offence should raise eyebrows in a democracy (or had Mr Hamasaka been charged and I missed it??) Seeing as I have no facts, I will not make any presumptions about what law Mr Hamasaka may have broken which then led to his family’s trauma.

I will say though that I hope the nation will be informed as to how decisions are made to carry out searches against citizens especially such traumatic ones. Was Mr Hamasaka believed to be dangerous, or a flight risk?


I ask these questions in order to express my deep alarm at what seems to my, quite possibly untrained, eye to be the long strides backwards Zambia is taking as regards rule of law, respect for human rights and governance under the PF government.

Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) expressed serious concern for attacks against online journalists:

The attacks on journalists have created unnecessary fear and anxiety among media practitioners, especially those working for online publications, thus limiting the ability of the media to serve the society better. This is a major affront to democracy and freedom of expression in the country.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia saw the raids as evidence of diminishing protections for human rights in the country:

We consider the raid on the two journalists’ homes and their subsequent confinement at Zambia Police Headquarters as illegal and an indication that Zambia’s human right[s] record is deteriorating. It is worrying that the two who are not criminals were subject [to] an early morning Police Raid although there is no state of emergency in the country where people’s human rights can be suspended.

Earlier this year, Hamasaka threatened to sue Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, who is also the ruling party’s secretary general. Following Hamasaka's arrest, Kabimba described reasons for his dismissal that Hamasaka himself was never given by authorities. Kabimba was quoted saying:

It is not true that Mr. Clayson Hamasaka was dismissed from employment on account of featuring an opposition party leader on a Hone FM radio programme. He was dismissed after complaints of victimisation from members of staff who did not belong to his political party, UPND.


Online and Off, Information Control Persists in Turkey

Demonstrators at Gezi Park. Photo by Nevit Dilmen. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Demonstrators at Gezi Park. Photo by Nevit Dilmen. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Demonstrators in Turkey have occupied Istanbul’s Taksim Square since last May, in a movement that began as an effort to protect a city park, but has evolved into a larger mobilization against the ruling party’s increasingly autocratic stance.

Prime Minister Erdogan and the ruling AKP party have used many tools to silence voices of the opposition. On June 15, police began using tear gas and water cannons to clear out the large encampment in the park. But this effort also has stretched beyond episodes of physical violence and police brutality into the digital world, where information control and media intimidation are on the rise.

Since the protests began, dozens of Turkish social media users have been detained on charges ranging from inciting demonstrations, to spreading propaganda and false information, to insulting government officials. Dozens more Twitter users were reportedly arrested for posting images of police brutality, though the legal pretense for these arrests is unclear. A recent ruling in an Ankara court ordered 22 demonstrators detained on terrorism-related charges.

Prime Minister Erdogan made his view of social media known when he described social media as “the worst menace to society” at a June press conference. It is worth noting that Erdogan himself is said to maintain a Twitter account with over 3 million followers and 2,000 tweets (some Turks question whether the unverified account is really him, or an unofficial supporter.) While the Turkish government has had limited, if any, involvement in tampering with social media access thus far, government officials appear eager to take further action.

Roots in traditional media

Although current circumstances appear to be testing the limits of Turkey’s information policy framework, the country has a long history of restrictive media policy and practice. In 2013, Turkey ranked 154 out of 166 on the Reporters Without Borders’ Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index, due in part to the fact that since 1992 18 journalists have been murdered there, 14 with impunity. In responding to protest coverage, authorities have fined, detained and even beaten members of the press. Institutional censorship has also been prevalent: When clashes between protesters and police escalated, activists noted that CNN Turk aired a documentary on penguins while CNN International ran live coverage of the events in Taksim Square.

Dubbed the “the world’s biggest prison for journalists” by Reporters Without Borders, Turkey has been particularly aggressive in arresting Kurdish journalists under Turkey’s anti-terrorism law known as Terörle Mücadele Yasası.

Controlling digital expression

As of 2012, 45% of Turkey’s population had regular access to the Internet. The country’s leading ISP, Türk Telekom (TT), formerly a government-controlled monopoly, was privatized in 2005 but retained a 95% percent market share in 2007. Türk Telekom also controls the country’s only commercial backbone.

Internet Law No. 5651, passed in 2007, prohibits online content in eight categories including prostituion, sexual abuse of children, facilitation of the abuse of drugs, and crimes against (or insults to) Atatürk. The law authorizes the Turkish Supreme Council for Telecommunications and IT (TIB) to block a website when it has “adequate suspicion” that the site hosts illegal content. In 2011, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights reported that 80% of online content blocked in Turkey was due to decisions made by the TIB, with the remaining 20% being blocked as the result of orders by Turkey’s traditional court system. In 2009 alone, nearly 200 court decisions found TIB decisions to block websites unjustifiable because they fell outside the scope of Law 5651. The law also has been criticized for authorizing takedowns of entire sites when only a small portion of their content stands in violation of the law.

Between 2008 and 2010, YouTube was blocked in its entirety under Law 5651 because of specific videos that fell into the category of “crimes against Atatürk”. During this period, YouTube continued to be the 10th most visited site in Turkey, with users accessing the site through proxies. The ban was eventually lifted when YouTube removed the videos in question and came under compliance with Turkish law. Sites likes Blogspot, Metacafe, Wix and others have gone through similar ordeals in Turkey in recent years. An estimated 31,000 websites are blocked in the country.

In December 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that Turkey had violated their citizen’s right to free expression by blocking Google Sites. While Turkey justified the ban based on Sites’ hosting of websites that violated Law 5651, the ECHR found that Turkish law did not allow for “wholesale blocking of access” to a hosting provider like Google Sites. Furthermore, Google Sites had not been informed that it was hosting “illegal” content.

In 2011, Turkey proposed a mandatory online filtering system described as an effort to protect minors and families. This new system, dubbed Güvenli İnternet, or Secure Internet, would block any website that contained keywords from a list of 138 terms deemed inappropriate by telecom authority BTK. The plan was met with public backlash and protests causing the government to re-evaluate the system and eventually offer it as an opt-in service. While only 22,000 of Turkey’s 11 million Internet users have so far opted for the system, opponents of Güvenli İnternet decry it as a form of censorship, disguised as an effort to protect children and families from “objectionable content”.

New policies could further restrict social networks

As the protests continue, the Turkish government is working to use legal tools already at its disposal to increase control over social network activity. Transportation and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim has called on Twitter to establish a representative office within the country. Legally, this could give the Turkish government greater ability to obtain user data from the company. But these requests have not received a warm response from Twitter, which has developed a reputation for protecting user data in the face of government requests. While Twitter has “turned down” requests from the Turkish government for user data and general cooperation, Minister Yildirim stated that Facebook had responded “positively”. Shortly thereafter, Facebook published a “Fact Check” post that denied cooperation with Turkish officials.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Muammer Güler told journalists that “the issue [of social media] needs a separate regulation” and Deputy Prime Minister Bozdag stated that the government had no intention of placing an outright ban on social media, but indicated a desire to outlaw “fake” social media accounts. Sources have confirmed that the Justice Ministry is conducting research and drafting legislation on the issue.

New media expert Ozgur Uckan of Istanbul’s Bilgi University noted that “censoring social media sites presents a technical challenge, and that may be why officials are talking about criminalizing certain content, in an effort to intimidate users and encourage self-censorship.”

While the details of these new laws remain to be seen, it is likely that they will have some impact on journalistic and activist activities in the country, especially in times of rising public protest and dissent.

Greg Epstein is an intern for Global Voices Advocacy and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This post is also available on EFF's website.

July 09 2013

Advocates Keep Spotlight on Le Quoc Quan

On July 9, 2013, the trial of Le Quoc Quan, one of Vietnam’s most active human rights defenders and an outspoken blogger, was supposed to take place in Hanoi. But Vietnamese authorities at the last minute decided to postpone his trial until further notice. This is the latest in a string of fair trial violations that have been committed towards the activist since his arrest last year.

Quan exposed human rights abuses commonly ignored by Vietnamese state media on his blog. Prior to being disbarred from practising law in 2007, he defended human rights cases in court. Because of his work, Quan has been repeatedly harassed by State authorities. He was detained for 100 days in 2007, kept under State surveillance and attacked by men near his home in August 2012, when he was beaten with a steel baton. His family members have been targeted with legal action as well.

Photo by ASM (thảo luận). (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Photo by ASM (thảo luận). (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Quan was arrested on 27 December 2012 and charged with “tax evasion”, a fabricated charge sometimes used by the Vietnamese government to clamp down on those who oppose them. After his arrest, now more than five months ago, Quan has largely been held incommunicado. He has been denied access to his family and was allowed to see his lawyer only once, briefly, during a police interrogation. During the first 15 days of his detention, Quan was on hunger strike. Quan’s detention was extended without the notification required under Vietnamese law when the initial four-month period allowed for investigation had concluded. While Quan has been allowed the occasional visit from his lawyer since last month, he is still denied visits from family members.

The prosecution of Quan fits into a wider pattern of oppression of free speech in Vietnam. The World Press Freedom Index 2013 ranks Vietnam among the ten worst countries when it comes to respect for press freedom: At least 31 citizen journalists and 2 journalists working for traditional media organizations are currently jailed in the country. Among those imprisoned are bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (popularly known by his pen name “Dieu Cay”), Tạ Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai, whose appeal against their conviction for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” was rejected in December last year. Eight of the fourteen young bloggers convicted in January for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” appealed their sentences – their convictions were upheld on 23 May, though Paulus Le Son’s sentence was reduced from 13 to four years in prison.

If Quan’s eventual trial follows the pattern of prosecutions brought against these bloggers and other dissenting voices over the past few years, will last for no more than a day. The court will need very little time to come to its “decision”, on which it is likely to have received instructions beforehand. No independent trial observers will be allowed in the court room and those wanting to show support outside the court house will be kept at a safe distance by the police. Family members and human rights activists will be arrested before they can come near the location of the trial.

Keeping a spotlight on cases such as Quan’s is crucial. In March this year, the Media Legal Defence Initiative led a coalition of human rights NGOs in an appeal to various UN watchdogs to secure the release of Le Quoc Quan. Similar action has been taken by Stanford Law School’s Allan Weiner on behalf of the fourteen bloggers. Formal action is still pending, but in the meantime it is important that a watchful eye is kept on developments on these legal processes as they unfold. Along with civil society, Vietnam's donors should continue holding the government to account for these prosecutions, which are in flagrant violation of Vietnam's obligations under international human rights law.


Nani Jansen is Senior Legal Counsel at the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). 

July 04 2013

Zambia: ISP Faces Backlash Over Blocked News Site

Zambian telecommunications company Airtel may be facing unintended consequences for allegedly having blocked access to popular citizen news website the Zambian Watchdog. For over a week, many people in the country have been unable to access the site.

Maiko Zulu, one of the nation’s popular musicians and a human rights advocate, wrote a letter to the Watchdog saying that he was dumping Airtel for blocking the citizen news website and would switch to rival telco MTN, where the website was still accessible.

Zulu, whose portfolio of songs includes Mad President and Gun Culture, wrote:

Dear Editor,
As a regular reader of ZWD online publication, I wish to register my concern over continued difficulties I and many other Zambians are experiencing in accessing ZWD [Zambian Watchdog] via the Airtel network. It is now certain, as alleged, that there is a deliberate plot to deny readers access to the site.

As a defender of press freedom and freedom of expression, it is my duty to raise concern over such a development […] As insignificant and negligible as it may seem, I personally have resorted to putting away my [Airtel] sim card and will for now use only MTN for cellular communication.

In response to Zulu’s letter, the Editor wrote in a footnote:

We thank you Mr Zulu. We have no conclusive evidence that Airtel is colluding with the PF regime to block the Watchdog from inside Zambia. But we do know that the blocking is taking place on Airtel and Zamtel and other Internet Service Providers in Zambia. We are getting to the bottom of this and very soon we shall publish the whole truth…

The footnote further explained that the site has moved from its original domain,, to a secure domain, While its original domain remains blocked on Airtel, Zamtel and other networks, the Watchdog reports that its new domain is not.  “We do realise that many people in Zambia still do not know this change,” the letter said. “That is why we endorse Mr Zulu’s move of dumping Airtel and migrating to MTN.”

Many readers agreed with Zulu, including Kameya Robert Manjomba, who wrote [comments on the Zambian Watchdog do not have unique links]:

As ZCTU [Zambia Congress of Trade Unions] Provincial Cordinator for NWP, I wish to express my concern over the reported blocking of the ZWD. I love the site though I do not support the insults. I want to put it across to Airtel that I will cease to be their subscriber if I establish that they want to fight media freedom in Zambia. My…active airtel line is [number withheld] for your verification. I will switch to MTN soon after that together with many other friends.

One reader who calls himself the Czar was happy with the service, saying:

I am on Airtel and I don’t intend to change because I haven’t [had] such problems! Everyone has a right to choose which network carrier to subscribe to.

Following Zulu’s letter, the Watchdog published a letter from an anonymous contributor alleging that government intelligence officers were sent to the MTN offices to ensure that the Watchdog was blocked there:

Today (Wednesday) after you published MAIKO ZULU’s endorsement of MTN, Dictator Michael Sata was very angry. He dispatched OP [Office of the President, another name for the Intelligence Service] to MTN to make sure Zambian Watchdog is blocked even on MTN at all costs.

OP went in full force intimidating the MTN management and issuing all sorts of threats. They made the management sign a confidentiality document and made them to swear never to disclose their operations.

They are still at MTN trying to block the internet service as I’m writing this article right now. However, they are still failing because the MTN system is more sophisticated for the OP and the Chinese they are using.

However, a response from Airtel left many with more questions than the answers:

Airtel wishes to advise its customers and the public at large that every Airtel customer has the opportunity and ability to access websites of their choice and as regards accessing the Zambian Watchdog, customers can access the website by using https instead of http.

The letter, signed by the Corporate Services & Government Relations head Chabuka J. Kawesha, further stated:

Kindly note that Airtel prides itself in being a strong corporate citizen and has committed to full compliance with regulatory guidelines. Therefore it would be contrary to company policy and the regulatory guidelines of the Republic of Zambia to block our Airtel customers from accessing any wide and varied products and services. In this competitive industry it would not bode well to engage in such discriminatory conduct.

Readers’ reactions mostly condemned  the company’s statement but some, like Musoke, had a different view:

Any right thinking Zambian would not miss WD [Watchdog] and its devious, malicious and speculative reporting if it was taken out or just imploded on its own….

June 14 2013

Everyone's Rights are at Stake: Global Reach of US Surveillance Programs

Last week's revelations about phone and Internet surveillance programs of the US government's National Security Agency (NSA) sent shock waves throughout the United States and the western media, but also around the globe. While in the US, many privacy-minded lawmakers and even digital rights advocates used the news as an opportunity to demand better protections for Americans’ online privacy, Internet users worldwide were left wondering how to protect their own data, short of closing their Google accounts, packing up their Facebook profiles and heading for the woods.

Documents leaked by Booze Allen employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden have now confirmed that customer call data from telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T was being passed to the NSA through a system where accountability was scarce and secrecy ruled. Reports indicate that the agency applies a vague standard of “foreignness” when determining whether or not a person's communications would be subject to surveillance under the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — users who spoke with individuals in other countries, for any reason from hatching terrorist plots to catching up with relatives — could come under watch.

Image by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (CC BY-2.0)

Image by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (CC BY-2.0)

The documents also revealed details about an Internet surveillance program known as PRISM, which allows the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to obtain copious amounts of user and communication data from major Internet companies including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. While many details of the program remain murky, the news has left international digital rights advocates reeling. Advocacy groups in the UK wrote an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, condemning US government surveillance of British citizens and demanding strong protections for digital privacy in the UK. An international coalition of advocates meanwhile is pushing the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session to discuss the matter and develop recommendations for member states.

While some see the revelations as an opportunity to push for stronger laws at home, others fear that the US, ever-committed to “leading by example,” has set a new, very low standard for online privacy protections worldwide.

“The leaks reveal an abuse of any citizen's basic rights, no matter which country the citizen is in,” Wafa Ben Hassine, a Tunisian human rights advocate and ACLU member told Global Voices Advocacy. Ben Hassine pointed out that Tunisians are familiar with pervasive surveillance. “The Tunisian government in Ben Ali's era indulged in spying on the average citizen's digital communications for decades,” she said, arguing that this moment should be seen as an opportunity for policymakers to develop laws that would “enshrine the values of digital rights.”

Alberto Cerda, a human rights lawyer and international program director of Chilean digital rights group Derechos Digitales described how in Chile, the government has “done its homework” in this area. He explained that human rights, including the right to privacy, are well protected under Chilean law. But this, Cerda pointed out, doesn't even begin to solve the problem:

This proves that a local solution won't do, as the violation of fundamental rights has a global character. What good is it for me to be protected in Chile if it's actually the US government that's violating my rights?

His question has likely loomed large for many users since the news hit. Kasia Szymielewicz, director of Polish digital rights group Panoptykon, argued that the NSA's actions would violate the EU's data protection policies, which aim to provide stronger protections against private or corporate data collection than are afforded in the US. She told GVA:

Nobody expected that NSA and FBI have direct access to companies’ servers, which in practice means that data of Polish and European citizens can be used and abused without any legal safeguards. In the light of European data protection standards, even in the scope of law enforcement, this practice simply cannot be accepted.

Some advocates see the particulars of the PRISM program as a reason to promote Internet business at the national level. Anja Kovacs, director of the Internet Democracy project in Delhi, India, said that India's ISP association sees this as an opportunity to push for requiring multinational companies to establish servers in-country, a move that would give the Indian government greater jurisdiction and control over local users’ data and US government efforts to obtain it.

Kovacs said that the Association has correctly pointed to the “duplicity of US-based companies in denying access to information to the Indian government while making it freely available to the US government,” but cautioned that “the latter point is sometimes framed in highly nationalist terms [as] urging for solutions that would perhaps benefit the Indian state but not necessarily Indian users.” Many advocates in India argue that efforts establish servers in-country are mainly driven by government desires to achieve greater control over online speech.

Ben Hassine also commented on the need for establishing more companies outside the US.

The NSA leak should provide every country a lesson – including Tunisia – that the key to ensuring online privacy and digital rights is through the development of local platforms and content and making such tools available globally. Our reliance on US-based ‘big tech’ is an elemental part of the problem.

Advocates also speculated on how the NSA revelations might influence national-level policymaking on the issue of privacy itself. Carlos Afonso, an Internet governance expert and director of Brazilian Internet rights group Instituto Nupef, pointed to Brazil's Data Protection Law, which will be brought before Congress in the near future. Afonso urged that future debates on privacy be transparent and open to all parties affected:

[The data protection debate] needs to bring guarantees that data protection will be a policy/regulatory field where all the sectors of society are fully engaged, with spaces for the full participation of civil society.

Szymielewicz hoped that the news would trigger greater efforts to ensure data privacy within the European Union, and noted that the “PRISM affair” had already triggered a “serious debate” within EU institutions. But she also cautioned that the news could have precisely the opposite effect in many countries, including her native Poland:

There is a risk that Polish authorities and security agencies may want to follow the NSA and FBI and demand even broader access to our data for public security purposes, therefore lowering our standard of legal protection.

As new information continues to emerge around this story, lawmakers and digital rights advocates should consider the global implications of these programs and other pervasive digital surveillance efforts by governments around the world. In a digital era, where it is impossible to draw a line separating the communications of “citizens” or “residents” of a particular country and “foreigners”, governments must strive to develop policies that will not only fit this new paradigm, but truly protect the privacy and freedoms of users worldwide.

June 10 2013

VIDEO: Turkish Protests Filmed by the People, for the People

This post was written by Michelle McCloskey for WITNESS

As the #OccupyGezi protests have surged, Turkish mainstream media has foundered, failing to cover the anti-government demonstrations for fear of retribution. Citizen journalists–”sivil gazeteci,” in Turkish–have stepped up to fill the role so that the Turkish people and the world can see what's happening in the country.

Though a successful democracy by many standards, Turkey has more journalists in jail than any other country. Through financial penalties and legal intimidation, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have ensured that Turkish news networks either have a pro-AKP slant or censure themselves entirely. On the evening of June 1, 2013, while CNN Turk was showing a documentary on penguins, protesters gathered momentum throughout the country, even in pro-AKP Konya.





Turkey's English-language newspapers reflected a very different report than the Turkish versions. The Turkish people’s loss of faith in accurate reporting in Turkish media was bolstered by the reports shared on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Reddit, showing in real-time that people from all facets of Turkish society were taking a stand against the deterioration of their civil rights at the expense of increasingly pro-Islamist or neoliberal policies.

"Call for Citizen journalists" No media (like mainstream) We are all correspondents Save-Publish-Verify-Share

Call for Citizen journalists
No mainstream media
We are all correspondents
Save >> Publish
Verify >> Share
Let's make historical evidence
Knowledge is Power

By the fifth day of protests, Erdoğan went on national television, calling the protesters “arm-in-arm with terrorists” and telling the protesters, “If you bring 100,000, I’ll bring out a million”. In response, “Street Reports”, which appears to be a media/activist collective that interviews people on the street for their opinions on subjects from politics to culture, spoke with the protesters themselves, showing students, mothers, civil servants, the elderly, women in headscarves as well as women without, and even members from varying political parties and soccer clubs, all joined together in the protests.

Livestreams of the protests were made available online so that people could witness the brutality of the police shooting tear gas directly at protesters, into homes, as well as firing water cannons at close-range (Warning: Graphic video).

Citizen journalists are sharing these videos and photos in both English and Turkish in an effort to provide a more in-depth understanding of what is happening in Turkey right now, but more importantly, to allow citizens in Turkey to see what is occurring in their own country.

Here are some resources you can use to follow the movement:

Twitter Accounts

Facebook Groups


WITNESS Guide to Filming Protests [English]

Michelle McCloskey spent her formative childhood years in Istanbul and majored in Turkish Language and Literature; she is deeply committed to to the future and the culture of the country. She recently created Linguaphile, a nonprofit devoted to critical, endangered, dying, and diaspora languages [website under development].

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