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February 09 2014

Five of the Most Celebrated French-Language African Films

The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou or FESPACO) is the largest film festival in Africa, held every two years in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The festival usually takes place in March of every year it is held. Founded in 1969, it has honored a great number of movies whose impact is still felt today. In celebration of the upcoming film festival, below are five of the most celebrated French-language African films (award-winning or not) that have left their mark on an entire generation of movie-watchers.

Ivory Coast: ”Bal poussière” (Dancing in the Dust)

Poster du film BAL POUSSIERE - Domaine public

Poster for the film “Bal poussière” – Public domain

“Dancing in the Dust” is a 1988 Ivorian film directed by Henri Duparc. Seen by over 300,000 people in France, this satire of polygamy tells the story of Alcaly (a.k.a. “Demi-God”) who, despite already having five wives, becomes infatuated with Binta, a young woman who has returned home from the big city of Abidjan. See a French-language clip from the movie below:

Gapont [fr], contributor on Allociné in Paris, explains what he found striking about the movie:

Un petit bijou de fraîcheur et de spontanéité. Ce film a la candeur du cinéma de Renoir ou de Pagnol. Petit budget pourtant, acteur souvent amateurs, tourné en super 16mm et pourtant la magie est là, on se laisse porter par ces personnages incroyables. Du vrai cinéma.

A fresh and spontaneous little gem. This movie has the candour of a [Jean] Renoir or [Marcel] Pagnol work. Small budget, many amateur actors, shot in Super 16 mm, yet the magic is there, these incredible characters simply carrying us away. Authentic filmmaking.

Ethiopia: “Va, Vis et Deviens” (Live and Become)

Poster du film Va, Vis et Deviens - Public Domain

Poster for the film “Va, vis et deviens” – Public domain

“Live and Become” is a 2005 French-Israeli film by Radu Mihaileanu. In an Ethiopian refugee camp in Sudan, a Christian mother makes her son Shlomo pass as Jewish in order to survive and be included in Operation Moses, which brought many Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Declared an orphan, Shlomo is adopted by a Sephardic Jewish French family living in Tel Aviv. He grows up fearing that his secret past will be revealed. See the trailer below:

Janos451, an IMDB commenter from San Fransisco, loved the movie's dramatic intensity:

What makes the film extraordinary – what creates all the crying in the audience – is its honest and effective portrayal of the young refugee's isolation and loneliness, made worse by his belief that his escape is at the cost of his mother's life

The film is based on the history of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews) who, despite their efforts, have experienced a great deal of difficulty gaining acceptance after immigrating to Israel. The movie has seen renewed interest recently as many African immigrants in Israel have been demonstrating for their rights.

Chad: “Un homme qui crie” (A Screaming Man) 

“A Screaming Man”, originally titled “A Screaming Man is Not a Dancing Bear”, is a film by Chadian director Mahamat Saleh Haroun, released on September 29, 2010. It received the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize in 2010. The original title is a quote from “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land” by Martinican poet Aimé Césaire. The film tells the story of 55-year-old Adam, a former swimming champion turned hotel lifeguard in N'Djamena. When the hotel is taken over by Chinese investors, he is forced to surrender his job to his son Abdel.

The blogger at Words of Katarina explains what makes the movie so compelling:

A Screaming Man talks about loss of self, not as a consequence of happenings beyond our control, but of the choices we make when life throws us off guard. . . It is in fact up to ourselves to decide what kind of person we want to be and how to express and live up to the decision once it has been made.

Algeria/Morocco: “Indigènes” (Days of Glory) 

“Days of Glory” is a 2006 Algerian-Moroccan film directed by Rachid Bouchareb. The film tells the stories of one Moroccan and three Algerian soldiers serving in the French army during World War II: Abdelkader, Saïd, Mesaoud and Yassir. While they are disillusioned by the discrimination they experience during the war, the movie also illustrates their emerging sense of hope and political consciousness.

Sarah Elkaïm, french writer and african affairs expert at Critikat explains the film's historical significance [fr]:

Personne ne s’était encore attaché à relater le sort de dizaines de milliers d’Africains, du Maghreb et au-delà du Sahara, qui, au sein de l’armée française, ont participé à la libération du pays qu’ils n’ont jamais, pour la plupart, cessé de considérer comme leur patrie. [..] c’est ce qui fait la force et l’émotion du film : les personnages sont construits, et pas prétextes. Ils sont humains : parfois lâches, peureux, ils sont avant tout des hommes venus libérer leur pays du joug nazi.

No one had yet endeavored to tell the story of tens of thousands of Africans from North Africa and beyond the Sahara in the French army, who helped liberate the country they always considered their homeland. [...] That's what makes this movie so emotional and powerful: the characters are fleshed out, not clichéd. They are human, sometimes cowardly or scared. Above all else, they are men who have come to liberate their country from the Nazi yoke.

Madagascar: “Tabataba”

“Tabataba” (“rumblings” or “rumors” in Malagasy, but also the code name given to the events of the 1947 Malagasy Uprising in Madagascar) is a 1988 film by Raymond Rajaonarivelo. The film tells the story of a Malagasy village fighting to achieve independence from French colonial rule. For the villagers, rebellion takes different forms. Some believe in the power of democracy; others believe in the power of arms.

Director Raymond Rajaonarivelo describes how he wrote the screenplay for the film [fr]:

Tout le monde me racontait une histoire, jamais la même. Cela a donné lieu à une rumeur, Tabataba, qui me paraissait refléter ce que j’avais entendu là-bas. Ce sont toutes ces mémoires qui m’ont servi à écrire le scénario

Everyone was telling me stories, but never the same one. This resulted in a rumor, tabataba, that seemed to reflect what I had heard there. These are all memories that I used to write the script.

Valérie Andrianjafitrimo, the reporter of Rajaonarivelo's remarks, adds [fr]:

Car ce qui est crucial, dans ce jeu de balance auquel on assiste entre déni et commémoration, entre interprétation française renouvelée et pluralité des perceptions malgaches, ce n’est pas la vérité de l’historiographie, dont on voit bien qu’elle ne résoudra rien des ombres de la mémoire ni de la dimension symbolique de l’événement. C’est peut-être la voix alternative de la rumeur, ce « tabataba », ce bruit sourd, permanent, varié et variable, tantôt ténu, tantôt éclatant, tantôt victimaire, tantôt héroïque, qui est importante.

For as we try to balance denial and commemoration, the balance between France's reinterpretations of the events and the Malagasy people's various perceptions, what is crucial is not the truth in historiography. That clearly resolves nothing when it comes to the shadows of memory or the event's symbolism. Perhaps it is the rumor as an alternative voice, the “tabataba” – this muffled, continuous, multifaceted sound, ever-changing from restrained to deafening and from victimized to heroic – that is more important.

January 20 2014

European Citizens Call for the Protection of Media Pluralism

For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and 'like' the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

Website: For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and ‘like’ the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

“European institutions should safeguard the right to free, independent and pluralistic information”. The quote, from the Media Initiative website, summarizes the main idea behind a pan-European campaign that aims at urging the European Commission to draft a Directive to protect Media Pluralism and Press Freedom.

The Media Initiative is running a European Citizens’ Initiative - a tool of participatory democracy “which allows civil society coalitions to collect online and offline one million signatures in at least 7 EU member states to present directly to the European Commission a proposal forming the base of an EU Directive, initiating a legislative process”. The petition is available in 15 languages and can be signed online:

Protecting media pluralism through partial harmonization of national rules on media ownership and transparency, conflicts of interest with political office and independence of media supervisory bodies.

A short video presents the campaign:

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

December 21 2013

“Beyond Brazil”: European Journalists Wanted for Reporting Trips

Coolpolitics in Portugal announces [pt] an open call for European journalists who want to go on a reporting trip to Brazil in 2014. Twenty-one young reporters from Portugal, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom and Bulgaria will be selected to take part of three different groups that will cover events in Brazil, before and after the World Cup, while collaborating with Brazilian peers.

The Beyond Your World website explains the application process and the expected outcomes of this international reporting and training opportunity:

Ongoing demonstrations, the upcoming World Cup, preparations for the Olympic Games and approaching elections; 2014 is considered to be a very important year for Brazil. Consequently, many beautiful stories are out there and are waiting to be covered. Beyond Your World would likes to make a big contribution with this special project. We want to take this incredible opportunity to explore and tell stories in and from Brazil, not only by giving young journalists the chance to gain experience overseas, but also enabling them to work together with colleagues from different countries. 

Deadline for applications is on January 10, 2014. This project - a cooperation between Lokaalmondiaal and the Brazilian media organisation Canal Futura - is part of the training program Beyond Your World which “seeks to inspire and enable the next generation of journalists to cover international development issues”.

November 22 2013

Racism, the United Nations, and the Dutch Saint Nicholas Tradition

Dibujo infantil que representa a San Nicolás y Zwarte Pete. Imagen de Vera de Kok en Wikimedia Commons con licencia CC by SA 3.0

A child's painting representing Saint Nicholas and Black Pete. Image by Vera de Kok on Wikimedia Commons with license CC by SA 3.0 

The children of Belgium, The Netherlands, and other European countries wait with impatience for the arrival of Saint Nicholas on December 6 because in those countries he is responsible – like Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men – for bringing them gifts if they have behaved well. But this year, the shadow of racism hangs over this beautiful tradition.

Saint Nicholas, according to an old song, arrives from Spain in a boat, and during the entire night he runs from one house to another on his donkey accompanied by his helper, Zwarter Piet (Black Pete, in Dutch) or Père Fouettard (Father lasher, in French). This character is a young black man, represented by white people with painted black faces, wigs, and clothing like the ones used in the 16th century. Zwarte Piet is the “bad guy” that hands out coal to the children who haven't been good. However, as Alix Guillard says on her blog Me in Amsterdam [FR],

Aux Pays-Bas, alors que la sévérité envers les enfants n'est plus de mise, on n'a pas abandonné ce personnage. Mais il s'est transformé en joyeux drille sympatique qui amuse les enfants, beaucoup plus que ce vieil évèque un peu trop rigide.

In The Netherlands, although severity with children is no longer admissible, they have not abandoned the character. But he has transformed into a nice, good natured urchin who amuses the children much more than that old Bishop that is perhaps too rigid.

Diverse groups have protested for years against the way in which the tradition treats Zwarte Piet, calling it racist. The black face of Zwarte Piet, doesn't have a clear origin: there are those who say he is a Moor that arrived from Spain with Saint Nicholas, others maintain that the black face is because he enters houses through the chimney, or that it also could be a reminder of slavery in the colonies, or even the Devil himself.

This year the Dutch government received a letter from the United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent. In the letter, the group requested that the Dutch government respond to accusations of racism.

A member of the group, Verene Shepherd, a Jamaican, actually suggested in a radio interview a radical change for Saint Nicholas, as stated in Le Monde [FR]:

Verene Shepherd, componente del grupo que inició la polémica. Foto del blog de Arjen Wilbers

Verene Shepherd, member of the group that started the polemic. Photo from the blog of Arjen Wilbers. 

si j'habitais aux Pays-Bas, je m'opposerais à la Saint-Nicolas (…) Cela ne devrait pas exister au 21e siècle. C'est offensant et scandaleux. Après tout, quel est le problème avec le père Noël ? Pourquoi devriez-vous avoir deux ‘Santa Claus’ ?”

If I lived in The Netherlands, I would oppose the Saint Nicholas celebration. It should not exist in the 21st century. It is offensive and scandalous. After all, what is the problem with Father Christmas? Why do they have to have two “Santa Claus”?

In Belgium and Holland, these comments were interpreted as an illustration of complete ignorance of the Saint Nicholas tradition, considered the precursor to Santa Claus and a severe lack of respect to a very beloved tradition in those countries. Shepherd's weds provoked an authentic alluvium of reactions across the internet with messages like that of jicé on [FR]:

Bravo Madame Verene Shepherd !!! . . Grace à une idiote comme vous, Marine Le Pen vient encore de prende 10 pts dans les sondages !!!

Bravo, Ms. Verene Shepherd! Thanks to an idiot like yourself, Marine Le Pen ends up winning 10 more points in the polls!

[Marine Le Pen is the french candidate of the Front National political part of the extreme right]

On Facebook, the page Pietitie [Dutch], launched on October 22, 2013 to defend the Zwarte Piet tradition, has about 2,200,000 “likes.” Peter Udo left the following comment [Dutch] on the page:

Berichtje voor de VN: Is er niet ergens een oorlog, hongersnood of genocide gaande waar jullie je beter druk om kunnen maken??

Note to the UN: Isn't there a war, famine, or genocide anywhere where your work is needed more?

San Nicolás, rodeado de sus ayudantes Zwarte Piet, saluda desde el barco que lo trae de España. Foto de 12Danny12 en Wikimedia Commons con licencia copyleft.

Saint Nicholas, surrounded by his helpers Zwarte Piete, waves from the boat that brought him from Spain. Photo by 12Danny12 on Wikimedia Commons with copyleft license. 

The debate runs the risk of dividing society and accuses the groups on the extreme left of taking political advantage. However, others have preferred to downplay the issue, and look for judicious reasons to maintain the tradition without offending anyone. The actor Erik van Muiswinkel, who has played the character for years, wrote in [Dutch]:

Zwarte Piet is een vrolijk relikwie uit racistische tijden, dat staat wel vast. (…)Ik vond het altijd wel mooi dat zo’n apert politiek incorrecte traditie, witte mensen die zich zwart schminken (…), in Nederland juist wel kon. (…) hij hoort bij Sint als Sancho Panza bij Don Quichot.

Zwarte Piete is a happy relic of racist times, certainly. (…) I always thought that it was fine that a tradition that is so politically incorrect as a white person with a face painted black (…) was possible in The Netherlands. (…) [Zwarte Piet] is with Saint Nicholas as Sancho Panza was with Don Quijote.

Barbara Woestenburg-Buijnsters left this comment [Dutch] on the Pietitie on Facebook:

Zwarte Piet is een schoorsteenveger en Sinterklaas is een Turk en ze wonen in Spanje en dat vieren wij in Nederland – het is gewoon het beste integratie feestje aller tijden!

Zwarte Piet is a chimney sweeper and San Nicolas is a Turk, living together in Spain, and that is what we celebrate in the Netherlands: The best celebration of integration that exists!

Meanwhile, the UN has settled the debate firmly disavowing the working group that created the controversy. Thus the Belgian representative to UNESCO, Marc Jacobs, expressed:

[Verene Shepherd] is nothing more than a consultant who has abused the UN name for her personal objectives in the media (…). The four signatories of the letter do not belong to a competent body of the UNESCO, they only used the letterhead, namely the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

October 05 2013

Interview with Guinea Boxing Champ Turned Belgian Politician

Six time intercontinental International Boxing Federation middleweight boxing champion, Lansana Bea Diallo, better known as Bea Diallo [fr], born in Liberia and of Guinean stock, is also a Belgian politician.

Béa Diallo, boxeur. Photo extraite de sa page Facebook

Bea Diallo, Last Fight as boxer. Photo taken from his Facebook page (with permission) 


Elected to the Brussels regional parliament and to the parliament of the French community, Bea Diallo is alderman for Youth, Employment, Family, Inter-generational relations and Equal Opportunity in Ixelles, one of the nineteen municipalities of the Brussels-Capital region.

Global Voices put some questions to him.

Global Voices (GV): We know you as a boxing champion, but you are also a local representative in Belgium?  What a career!

Bea Diallo (BD): Yes, well, Guineans knew me as a boxer, but most of all as a man who tried to promote the image of Guinea and today. Not only have I been a member of the Belgian parliament for nearly ten years, but soon I will have been a local representative for almost seven years. I became a man of experience and recognised by the political world which was not a given.

GV: It is often difficult to combine high level sport with studying, you have a degree in Economics.

BD: Yes, high level sport is often incompatible with university studies, but, as I often say, with determination you can achieve many things and my dream was to succeed at both to be able to serve my country of origin one day. To help Guinea become a truly independent country and most of all to benefit the people with this blessing.

GV: How did you enter into politics?

BD: I really managed it by chance, I had never wanted to work in politics, but being a fighting man, committed to lots of causes, one day it was proposed that I supported a party as consensus candidate without even being in a position eligible for office as I occupied 69th place on the list. I found myself fifth out of twenty-five representatives.

GV: You fought in a boxing match in Guinea, what memory do you have of this?

BD: I think that it was the best moment of my sporting career. That is an unforgettable time, to box in front of 60,000 people and to have over 300,000 in the streets. It was quite simply magic.

GV:   You have tried to help inhabitants of Conakry [capital of Guinea], notably in the sphere of transport. What lessons do you take from this, and how?

BD: You know I have no regrets, I imagined that it was necessary to do it at that very moment; if I lost a lot of money with the bad faith of our politicians who were, besides, continuing to kill the people while living in opulence without any projects for Guineans.

GV: Do you have other ambitions for your country of origin, Guinea?

Béa Diallo en homme politique. Photo extraite de sa page Facebook, oeuvre de Francine Verstraeten

Bea Diallo in political mode. Photo taken from his Facebook page, taken by Francine Verstraeten



BD: The sole ambition that I have for Guinea is still the same – to help this wonderful country to free itself from the shackles imposed by our own Guinean brothers: the politicians, mostly in the opposition.

GV: Facebook, twitter and a blog! Should we conclude from this that Bea Diallo is like Barack Obama with social media, using it regularly, or do you just use it occasionally?

BD: No, unfortunately not enough, I still have to optimise and most of all be more professional in my use of these networks which are a real communication force.

GV: There are more and more young Africans who try to come to Europe, despite the serious risks to which they are exposed. What would you advise them?

BD:  It is difficult to give advice to these young people who are trying to improve their living conditions as well as those of their families with all the risks this brings. At the same time, no policy exists to encourage these young people to stay in their home country or continent.

But, in Europe today it is difficult to find work and to sort yourself out when you come from Africa so the fight must continue in the continent [of Africa] with a new generation taking power to give it to the people.

GV: Do you have a thought to leave us with?

BD: My conclusion is my dream! I would like Africans to come to Europe just as Europeans can go to Africa, in other words, on holiday and to go home because they have work and a family waiting for them.

GV: Thank you for answering our questions and good luck with your projects.

September 11 2013

Belgium FEMEN Leaves The International Movement

“We are announcing the closure of the branch FEMEN Belgium. We took this decision unanimously because of different views upon the internal organization of the international movement FEMEN. We have no regrets, we conducted our actions with sincerity. We will continue the fight, there is no question about that, but we will do it in a different way. Vive la Révolution !”


Femen Protests in Moscow by Sergey Kukota on FlickR CC-license-BY-2.0

This is the message the Belgian Femen group left on their facebook page on September 9th in English and French, and on the 10th in Flemish. For now the reasons of these “different views” seem unclear. What will be the next episode in the Femen quest to get a unified voice accross the globe?

September 07 2013

“I Know A Rapist”: The Blog that Won't Stay Silent

A Tumblr blog collects testimonies [fr] of people who know a sexual predator. The “About” page of the site states that the goal is to show that rapists are not just psychopaths who are statistical outliers but people we know (80% of rape victims knew their aggressors). One contributor recalls one such tragic story [fr]:

He was 38 when he left for a village in Africa on a missionary journey. Everyone [back home] admired his work for the population. He came back 3 years later and no one know why. [..] I learned a year ago he reason he returned: He raped children there. He confessed to his crime but he is still free. [..] I hate how my parents and their friends try to find excuses for the horrors he committed.

September 04 2013

Croatia's EU Membership Off to Rocky Start Over Extradition Law

New European Union member Croatia backtracked somewhat in its first row with the bloc's executive arm on 28 August, 2013, agreeing to fully apply the EU extradition law but only after Brussels raised the prospect of sanctions.

Croatia had previously angered the European Commission over its resistance to implementing the EU law, with Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding warning that it could even face consequences after the Croatian government changed its extradition laws just a few days before acceding to the bloc on July 1. In Croatia, the amended extradition law has been dubbed the “Perković Law” because it prevents authorities from extraditing alleged former spy, Josip Perković, for the 1983 assassination of a Croatian dissident in Germany.

There are speculations that the Croatian government amended the country's extradition law just ahead of accession for the purpose of preventing Germany from extraditing Perković. As Global Voices reported on the eve of Croatia's accession to the EU, when Angela Merkel canceled an official visit to Croatia:

The current Croatian opposition, however, sees other reasons for Merkel cancelling her trip [hr], citing the Croatian government's recent legislative amendments that aim to put a time limit on European arrest warrants, in which case Germany would not be able to extradite former Yugoslavia State Security Administration agent Josip Perković, who is wanted for murder and lives in Croatia.

The European Commission could still put Croatia under monitoring and suspending the new member's access to EU funds, and the case could slow down Croatia's Schengen accession.

 Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner, Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission, Brussels; photo courtesy of World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2013, used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Viviane Reding, Vice President and Commissioner, Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission, Brussels; photo courtesy of World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2013, used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Croatia failed to meet the deadline to abolish the law by 23 August. Soon, the spokeswoman for the Justice Commissioner Reding expressed the “deep regret” of the European Commission regarding Croatia's decision.

Those interested in geopolitics, history and current events in Europe quickly took notice on social networks and expressed their opinions, mostly dismay. John Schindler, a professor at the Naval War College and Senior Fellow at Boston University, said:

Following angry statements from the Commission, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic published a letter that he sent to Brussels. In this letter to Commission President Manuel Barroso, published on the government website, he stated:

On behalf of my government, the justice minister said that Croatia will take necessary measures to bring the law on judicial cooperation in line with the European legislation it had accepted in accession talks.[...] Croatia has always fulfilled its obligations and will continue to do so.

Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenić confirmed to the media that his Ministry had addressed a letter to European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding concerning the application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

The government of the Republic of Croatia published the letter on it's official Twitter account:

The letter from President of #VladaRH to the President of@EU_Commission @BarrosoEU #EU #croatiaEU

— Vlada R. Hrvatske (@VladaRH) August 28, 2013

Mina Andreeva, a spokeswoman for EU Justice Commissioner Reding, confirmed Croatia had responded to a letter Reding sent in July outlining EU concerns.

The letter, sent by Croatia's justice ministry, “appears to indicate a constructive approach on this matter,” Andreeva said at a press briefing.

She said Croatian authorities had indicated that they would bring their legislation implementing the EU arrest warrant “in line with” EU law. Andreeva said that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had received “similar assurances” from Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.

“The commission welcomes this constructive approach,” she said. The EU's executive is “in contact with the Croatian authorities to clarify their intention.”

July 08 2013

Netherlands, Belgium, ¿Will the King of Spain Be the Next to Abdicate?

«I'd be failing to my duties and my own conception of the royal function if I'd wish to keep on exercising whatever the cost, without being completely fit to assume my role.»

Those were the words [fr] used by Albert II, King of the Belgians, to announce on Tuesday July 3, 2013 his intention to abdicate-as Queen Beatrix of Netherlands did last April-in favour of his 53-year old son Philippe, due to his age and delicate health. In fact, King Albert will be 80 years old in 2014, as he said in his speech [fr], an age «never reached by my predecessors on the exercise of their function,» and has undergone multiple surgical procedures [fr], among them, a quadruple coronary bypass on April 2000.

Alberto y Paola de Bélgica durante unas vacaciones. Foto del foro Cotilleando

King Albert and Paola of Belgium, during vacations. Photo by forum Cotilleando.

The background well-known to everybody, however, is a monarchy punised by scandals and very much needed of an urgent renovation. Delphine Boël, King Albert's illegitimate daughter, filed last June 17 before a Brussels court a paternity test [es], bringing to bear once again a case where the Belgian Royal House has shown an attitude seen by much as anachronisitic [fr]. Belgian people haven't forgotten that in 2007, Prince Lorenz, the king's youngest child, was involved in a embezzlement case of Navy funds [es], part of which were used to furnish his new house, or his non-authorized trip to Republic of the Congo [es], that almost caused him to lose his official assignement.

But what seemed to be the last straw has been the last tax scandal, taken on by his sister in law Fabiola. Fabiola, of Spanish origin, is the widow of King Baudouin I, Albert's brother and his predecessor in the throne, who died suddenly in 1993. Widow Queen Fabiola set up a private foundation [es] aiming that, upon her death, her heirs coud elude 70% of succession taxes. Apparently, the official amount perceived from public funds was included in this foundation, thus leading the Belgian government to reduce that amount.

A la izquierda, el príncipe Lorenzo de Bélgica con su hijo. A la derecha, la reina viuda Fabiola.

Left, Prince Lorenz of Belgium with his son. Right, widow Queen Fabiola. Photos from the blog The Royalty Chronicles and the forum Noblesse et Royautés.

The Belgian monarchy is one of the few unifying issues in a relatively new country (less than 200 years) where the communities of majority, Flemish and Walloon, grow apart day by day due to Flanders independence aspirations [es]. Under these circumstances, doubts about Prince Philippe's leadership skills intensify. On September 28, 2012, Belgian paper Le Soir published an interview with Martin Buxant [fr], journalist and author of the book «Belgium, a King Without a Country.» When asked if Prince Philippe is ready to become king, he answered:

(…) la quarantaine de responsables politiques, économiques, culturels, diplomatiques que nous avions rencontrés  [ont] énormément de doutes quant à la capacité de Philippe à prendre la succession à court terme d’Albert. (…) Il faut être clair : non, il n’est pas prêt !

(…) the almost forty political, economic, cultural and diplomatic responsibles I've talked to [have] great doubts about Philippe's leadership skills to assume Albert's succession in the short term. (…) We have to be clear: no, he is not ready!

Or as Everett Rummage said on Twitter:

Felipe y Matilde, futuros reyes de Bélgica, con su hija mayor Isabel. Foto del blog Royalty Online

Philippe and Mathilde, future kings of Belgium, with their eldest daughter Elisabeth. Photo by blog Royalty Online

@EverettRummage: no one I knew in Belgium thought much of the King, but consensus was his son is an even bigger idiot.

From France, Marjorie [fr] shared her revolutionary ideas:


je comprends pas la Belgique, moi mon Roi on le décapite !

@MarjorieMarje: [fr]: I don't understand Belgium, I'd behead my king!

In Spain, the abdication by two European kings within few months have unleashed speculations about a possible stepping down by king Juan Carlos in favour of his son Felipe.

Adrián Vidales and Otis B. Driftwood pointed the evident similarities:

@AdriVidales: Parece que el rey de Bélgica va a abdicar por delitos fiscales de parientes y líos de faldas. Se me hace difícil no hacer comparaciones…

@AdriVidales [es]: It seems that King of Belgium will abdicate due to tax offenses by relatives and “women troubles.” It's kind of hard to me not to make comparisons…

@obdriftwood: El rey abdica por un escándalo financiero y otro de adulterio. El de Bélgica, no salten antes de tiempo.

@obdriftwood [es]: The king abdicates because of a financial scandal, and another adultery one. The King of Belgium, just don't jump beforehand.

Gerard Sygranyes imagined a conversation in the Palace of Zarzuela:

@GSugranyes:-Papá, papá, el rey de Bél…

“El rei de Bèlgica abdicarà el 21 juliol”: [cat]

@GSugranyes [es]: -Dad, dad, the King of Bel…

“The king of Belgium will abdicate on July 21l”: [cat]

Other Twitter users, as Morenatti, implied some irritation:

@MiguelMorenatti: El rey de Bélgica abdicará hoy, mientras el rey de España sigue pensando que abdicar es una empresa de alquiler de coches.

@MiguelMorenatti [es]: The king of Belgium will abdicate today, while the king of Spain keeps on thinking that abdicate means an auto rental firm [note: abdicate in Spanish is abdicar].

And on Albert Cuesta‘s tweet we can see some impacience shared by many Spaniards:

@albertcuesta: – El rey abdica en favor de su hijo Felipe
- ¡Ya era hora!
- No, el de aquí no. El de Bélgica
- Ah

@albertcuesta[es]: – The king abdicates in favor of his son Philippe
- About time!
- No, not the one from here. The one from Belgium
- Ah

Others think the change should be deeper, as the comment made by trilobites [es] in an article appeared on El País [es]:

Las monarquías Europeas deben darse cuenta que tienen que dejar de parasitar de sus Estados. Abdicar y marcharse a esos paraísos fiscales que tanto visitan. Y no volver.

European monarchies should be aware they have to stop being a parasite of their states. To abdicate and leave for those tax havens they so often visit. And don't come back.

Whatever the case may be, the Belgian people will have to adjust to their new Chief of State, even though in the worst case scenario, the Belgians have shown to be perfectly able to keep on going [es] in worse situations, as it became obvious when, between 2010 and 2011, the country spent 589 days [es] without a government, the longest period known in world history.

January 24 2013

Parallels Between Religious and Copyright Wars

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:

The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.

September 05 2012

Bulgaria: Independent Journalists Demand EU Intervention

A group of Bulgarian NGOs and individual journalists issued an open letter [bg, en] to Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, asking for a public meeting because “the situation of the media in Bulgaria is a threat not only for the Bulgarian society, but for the EU as a whole.”

August 28 2012

Ukraine: Striving for Unguarded EU Borders

“We are Europeans” grassroots initiative (whose launch GV covered in Oct. 2011) re-posted on its Facebook page a photo collage [en] comparing the Iraq-Syria and the Netherlands-Belgium borders: the former is heavily guarded, the latter is just a line outside a street café.

Eugen Theise commented [en]:

Why Iraq and Syria? EU and Ukraine - same shit, but in Europe :(

Karina Babenko added [ru]:

I want Ukraine to have the same border with the European Union as the one between Holland and Belgium!

August 25 2012

Belgium: Cops' Violence

Here is a video film showing cops in Brussels arrested a drunk man who was beating a woman and then they started to beat him. A person in neighborhood filmed it.Local authorities promised to investigate this case.

Reposted bysinkingshits sinkingshits

August 19 2012

Martine Franck obituary

Photographer whose work ranged from portraits of the famous to pictures of the poor

Martine Franck, who has died aged 74, was a photographer of great contrasts. She started out by taking pictures in Asia, a continent she revisited for weeks at a time, but she also devoted herself to documenting daily life close to her homes in Paris and the Luberon, Provence. Her work is characterised by a fascination with the little intimacies and interactions in the lives of anonymous poor, marginalised and elderly people, yet she also assembled a matchless portfolio of portraits of famous authors and artists, including Seamus Heaney, Marc Chagall and Diego Giacometti.

Franck never adhered to the opinion professed by her fellow Magnum agency photographer Eve Arnold that all photographers are obliged to be intrusive. Ever modest, she said: "I think I was shy as a young woman and realised that photography was an ideal way of expressing myself, of telling people what was going on without having to talk." In 1970, she married the celebrated French photographer and co-founder of the Magnum agency, Henri Cartier-Bresson. The couple collaborated on a series of portraits of the artist Balthus, as retiring by temperament as Franck herself.

She was born to a Belgian banker, Louis Franck, and his British wife, Evelyn, in Antwerp. With the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, her father, who made his career in London, joined the British army. The rest of the family was evacuated to the US and spent the war on Long Island and in Arizona. She was educated in Europe, and studied history of art at Madrid University and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris.

Writing her thesis (on Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and the influence of cubism on sculpture) convinced Franck that she did not wish to be an academic or a curator, but a photographer. Her father had moved in artistic circles and one of her first portraits was of the sculptor Etienne Martin emerging from a cave smeared with clay. In 1963, she went to China, taking her cousin's Leica camera with her, and discovered the joys of documenting other cultures. Returning home via Hong Kong, Cambodia, India, Afghanistan and Turkey, she paused to visit the theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine and bought her first camera in Japan. She kept to a Leica, and predominantly used black-and-white film, throughout her career.

Returning to France, she worked as a photographic assistant at Time-Life while developing her own technique. Her early mentors were Eliot Elisofon and Gjon Mili, yet she also cited dramatically different female photographers as influences: Julia Margaret Cameron, for her portraits, and Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White. Lange's social conscience was reflected in Franck's project on old people's homes for the Petits Frères des Pauvres association. Bourke-White's love for play of light and geometric shapes is embedded in arguably Franck's single most perfect image, that of the bathers at the poolside at Le Brusc (Provence), taken in 1976. She described her experience of capturing it: "I remember running to get the image while changing the film, quickly closing down the lens as the sunlight was so intense. That's what makes photography so exciting." A moment later the positions of all five figures and their shadows on the white tiles would have irrevocably altered. The image has stood the test of time and was used as the cover shot for her book in the series I Grandi Fotografi in 2003.

Franck's work was used in Life, Fortune and Vogue, for which she shot portraits of women in public life, including her fellow photographer Sarah Moon and Mnouchkine, who made Franck the official photographer to her Théâtre du Soleil. Franck's fascination with masks and disguises found an outlet in Mnouchkine's ambitious deployment of kathakali, kabuki and commedia dell'arte. Their collaboration led to Franck experimenting with colour photography, which she used to capture theatrical productions such as Robert Wilson's ethereal version of Fables de la Fontaine at the Comédie Française in 2004. Franck's love of the theatrical could transform her quiet unobtrusiveness.

In 1966, Franck met Cartier-Bresson, who epitomised Magnum's tradition of humanitarian photography. Franck was adamant that she would neither bask in his reflection nor disappear in his shadow and she joined the Vu agency in 1970. Her first solo exhibition was planned for the ICA in London that year; when she saw that the invitations were embossed with the information that her husband would be present at the launch, she cancelled the show.

With Vu's demise, Franck co-founded the Viva agency in 1972. It also collapsed and it was not until 1980 that Franck joined Magnum, becoming a full member in 1983. She was one of the few women to be accepted into the agency and served as vice-president from 1998 to 2000. Eschewing the war/human tragedy reportage that characterised Magnum's reputation, Franck continued her projects on marginal or isolated lives. When I first met her, in the 1990s, she had just completed her book on Tory Island, a "small rock" off the northern Irish coast with a population of around 130 Gaelic-speakers, where she lived in order to document their way of life.

Always a feminist, Franck was not above picking a grandiose book title – such as Des Femmes et la Création. It is typical that one of her final projects involved three weeks spent visiting small villages in Gujerat, western India, documenting young girls embroidering their own dowries.

As well as their homage to Balthus, Franck and Cartier-Bresson undertook a joint project in the Soviet Union. Franck also created a small book of portraits of her husband. Among the most memorable of this similarly shy and elusive character is that taken from behind, showing the back of his head. His reflection in the square mirror before him is repeated in the self-portrait he is sketching: a reflection on a reflection. Franck never used him as mentor or protector but warmly concluded: "Henri was both critical and inspirational as well as warmly supportive of me as a photographer". They had one daughter, Melanie, another reason for Franck to operate close to home when possible.

Franck's brother, the photographic curator and collector Eric Franck, affirms: "Henri was always very generous in encouraging her work, something she respected greatly." Franck's sister-in-law, Louise Baring, adds: "What was so extraordinary about Martine was that with subtlety and grace she could both be a great photographer herself and at the same time honour her husband's tradition."

She worked hard to launch the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in 2002. In 2005, she was made a chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur. After her diagnosis with bone marrow cancer in 2010, she continued showing her work, and had exhibitions earlier this year at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York and at the Claude Bernard Gallery in Paris.

She is survived by Melanie, three grandchildren and her brother, Eric.

• Martine Franck, photographer, born 3 April 1928; died 16 August 2012 © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

August 15 2012

France: Stories of Everyday Sexism

[All links in French unless otherwise stated]

After being harassed and insulted by men in the streets of Brussels, Belgian student Sofie Peeters made a hidden-camera film [nl] to denounce the male chauvinism experienced every day by unaccompanied women in the streets.

Her film and its subject have caused controversy in Belgium and France. Under the hashtag #harcelementderue (street harassment), French women testify to the verbal abuse and sexual harassment that they have been subjected to in the street.

"<em>Délivrez-moi du mâle</em>" (Deliver me from man), wall stencil by French artist MissTic, photo by xtof on Flickr, used under Creative Common license

Délivrez-moi du mâle” (Deliver me from man), wall stencil by French artist MissTic, photo by xtof on Flickr, used under Creative Common license

In her article ‘Machisme ordinaire : non messieurs, dire “t'es bonne” n'est pas un compliment‘ (Everyday Machismo: no, gentlemen, ‘you're hot' is not a compliment), Dom B. thanks Sofie Peeters for the debate she has sparked:

Le documentaire d'une étudiante belge, intitulé “Femme de la rue“, expose via une caméra cachée, le harcèlement sexuel dont elle est victime chaque jour. C'est grâce à elle que le débat a été relancé.

A Belgian student's documentary, titled ‘Femme de la rue‘ [street woman], exposes via hidden camera the sexual harassment she suffers every day. It is thanks to her that the debate has been reopened.

This video by RTBF (Radio Télévision Belge Francophone, the public broadcasting organization of the French Community of Belgium) includes some excerpts from the film [Dutch and French with English subtitles]:

Blogger Sandrine notes that in France too:

Le harcèlement de rue est une réalité quotidienne pour quasiment toutes les femmes.

Street harassment is a daily reality for practically all women.

As evidence, one woman's account posted on the webzine madmoizelle, in which she lists examples of crude comments, propositions, and insults she has received in the streets, has more than 10,000 ‘likes' on Facebook:

Le harcèlement de rue, ou le fait de se faire aborder, voire verbalement agresser par des inconnus, sort enfin de l’ombre.

Street harassment - being approached or even verbally assaulted by strangers - is finally coming out of the shadows.

Men do not understand, or misunderstand. In fact, the hashtag #harcelementderue was created because of this tweet by French Twitter user @mathieuge who, like many men, was skeptical towards the controversy:

A noter sur la fille belge insultée dans la rue que je n'ai vu aucune fille se plaindre d'avoir eu à subir le même traitement en France…… Ce qui me laisse à croire que ça demeure un cas extrême relativement isolé.

A note about the Belgian girl insulted in the streets, I've never seen a girl complain about the same treatment in France…… Which leads me to believe that this is a relatively isolated, extreme case.

@valerieCG reacted by sending out a call for personal accounts:

@valerieCG : Si vous avez été victime de harcèlement dans la rue merci de le dire via #harcelementderue pour montrer à @mathieuge l'importance du truc.

@valerieCG: If you have been a victim of street harassment, please say so via #harcelementderue to show @mathieuge how prevalent it is.

@Agnesleglise quipped:

@Agnesleglise : @valerieCG @mathieuge que celles qui n'en ont jamais été victime se signalent, ça ira plus vite (si il y en a) #harcelementderue

@Agnesleglise : @valerieCG @mathieuge those who have never been victims of it should declare themselves, it will go faster (if there are any) #harcelementderue

Two hours after its introduction, the hashtag was the fourth most trending topic in the French Twitter community, and one week later, an avalanche of testimonies continue to pour in, along with many articles reflecting on the issue. Note that in France, ever since the DSK Affair [en], women have been speaking out and campaigning, using Twitter hashtags as a driving force, with the press then taking up the story.

Reactions from men make it clear that they are not aware of the problem, as @cha_matou points out:

@cha_matou: Ne vous étonnez pas qu'on ne parle jamais du #harcèlementderue [quand on lit sur Twitter] :

- @El_Mehdiiii: C'est quoi ce hashtag #HarcelementDeRue, certains voit une belle femme, ils tentent leur chance. C'est naturel et propre à chaque espèce. ET

- @LuneHolmes: y a agression et agression. Un gars qui passe à coté de toi et qui lâche un “salope”, c'est pas une agression, désolée.

@cha_matou: Don't be surprised that #harcelementderue is never talked about [when you see tweets like these]:

- @El_Mehdiiii:  What's this #HarcelementDeRue hashtag, some guys see a beautiful woman, they try their luck. It's natural and specific to each species. AND

- @LuneHolmes: Assault is assault. A guy walking by you and letting out a “slut” is not an attack, sorry.

Sexist commentators or those downplaying the issue have been put in their place, for example by @Mel036:

@Mel036: Le débile qui comprend rien au #HarcelementDeRue et croit qu'on est scandalisée par la drague. Non, par les insultes et agressions verbales …Et les mecs, on a le droit de penser que la rue n'est pas un terrain de chasse, fait pour draguer la 1ère nana qui passe?

Wall stencil "<em>Dans la rue"</em> (in the street) - Photo by Yann Seitek on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

Wall stencil “Dans la rue” (in the street) - Photo by Yann Seitek on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

@Mel036: The moron who understands nothing about #HarcelementDeRue and thinks we're outraged by flirting. No, it's the insults and verbal attacks. …And guys, aren't we allowed to think that the street isn't a hunting ground, made for hitting on the first chick who walks by?

After the personal experiences, Twitter became a forum for reflection. Why are women always verbally abused and insulted in the streets? One of many responses from @SexismAndTheCT:

@SexismAndTheCT: Le #harcelementderue sert à rappeler aux femmes “seules” qu'elles sont des objets et que leur sécurité est un privilège, non un droit.

#Harcelementderue is used to remind 'single' women that they are objects and their safety is a privilege, not a right.

Bonnequestion suggests:

Mais ce n’est pas de la drague. Les hommes en question n’ont probablement même pas une vraie intention d’avoir une relation (sexuelle ou pas) avec cette jeune femme. C’est de la domination pure, l’idée que les femmes sont disponibles et qu’il n’y a aucun problème à les insulter.

But this is not flirting. The men in question probably do not even have any real intention of having a relationship (sexual or not) with this young woman. It is pure domination, the idea that women are available and there is no problem with insulting them.

To counter remarks blaming immigrants for the majority of insults in the streets, @elodieesc gives a reminder that harassment is as rampant on popular streets as it is in nice neighbourhoods and on public transit:

@elodieesc:”#harcelementderue entre le gars qui te susurre des insanités en plein Neuilly, le tripoteur de genoux du RER et d'autres à oublier …

#harcelementderue between the guy whispering insanities to you right in the middle of Neuilly[-sur-Seine, an upscale suburb of Paris], the knee-groper on the RER [public transit in Paris] and others to forget …

@Oniromanie adds:

@Oniromanie: “Un élément tout bête : ceux qui trainent dans la rue, ce sont les pauvres. Les riches harcèlent dans les salons ou à l'Assemblée [nationale].

Something stupid: the poor are the ones who hang out in the streets. The wealthy harass in lounges or in the [National - en] Assembly.

To which Dom B.  responds:

Aux sociologues, philosophes, politiques, spécialistes d'analyser et expliquer quelle part tient la religion, par le poids des frustrations sexuelles qu'elle impose dans ses interdits, par rapport à un déficit d'éducation, de vivre-ensemble ou de différences culturelles.

It's up to sociologists, philosophers, politicians, and specialists to analyze and explain how much of it has to do with religion [en] - because of the burden of sexual frustration imposed by its taboos - compared with a lack of education, social cohesion or cultural differences.

As for @Hans_Bod, he finally understands why women in France do not like to be approached in the streets:

@Hans_Bod: Merci à #harcelementderue maintenant je sais pourquoi quand je dis bonjour à une inconnue en France j'ai l'impression de la violer.

@Hans_Bod: Thanks to #harcelementderue now I know why when I say hello to a stranger in France I feel like I am violating her.

The controversy comes as the president of the French Republic has ratified a new sexual harassment law [en - full text of law in French here]. On August 3, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of Women's Rights and Government spokesperson, posted this tweet:

@najatvb#harcèlementderue: la nouvelle loi s’appliquera partout. La libération de la parole des femmes est importante. Restons mobilisé(e)s !

@najatvb#harcèlementderue: the new law will be applied everywhere. Freedom of speech for women is important. Let's stay mobilized!

Mobilized, French women will have to stay: the blog Les Martiennes teaches us that sexists do not take vacations, Crêpe Georgette wonders if antisexist education courses should be taught starting in nursery school, and the site Génération Réactive tries to go further in asking this question:

… et si finalement, les femmes étaient « responsables » de la transmission des inégalités homme-femme par l’éducation différenciée qu’elles donnent  à leurs enfants ? On ne serait plus seulement dans la victimisation et les hommes ne seraient pas entièrement responsables de tous les maux …

… what if, in the end, women were “responsible” for the transmission of gender inequalities through the differentiated instruction they give to their children? We would not just be victims anymore and men would not be entirely responsible for all evil…

April 26 2012

France: The Presidential Election Through Foreign Eyes

While the French are preparing to choose a president in the upcoming weeks, French voters overseas and the foreign online media reacted to the poll as the first round poll came to an end. Some peculiarities of the French electoral process, such as the ban on posting polling estimations in the media before 8 pm on election day, were intensely debated.

Drawing of Petar Pismestrovic in Austria shared by @alissabernathy on Twitter

Ban on tweeting election results before 8pm, even Abroad?

In France, the Law No. 77-808 of July 17, 1977 on the publication and dissemination of opinion polls [fr] prohibits the broadcast of the first estimates, before 8pm. With the ubiquitous rise of publications online, this ruling quickly became problematic to implement. Tefy Andriamanana, from Madagascar, summarizes the complexity and challenges of applying this law [fr]. As lawyer and famed French blogger Master Eolas explains on his blog, this method should also apply to the publication by French surveys in the foreign media [fr]:

Notons qu’ainsi rédigée, la loi interdit de faire un rappel de l’évolution des intentions de vote des candidats après vingt heures mais avant minuit le jour du scrutin, même une fois les bureaux de vote fermés et les estimations proclamées. C’est une pure maladresse de rédaction, mais la loi est la loi, je fais confiance au parquet pour être ferme (..) Les article 113 du Code pénal posent les règles d’application de la loi pénale française dans l’espace (pas au sens de “Des cochons dans l’espace”, mais dans le sens de sa territorialité). Ces règles sont les suivantes : la loi pénale française s’applique à toute personne se trouvant sur le territoire français, quelle que soit sa nationalité. Une infraction est réputée commise en France dès lors qu’un de ses éléments constitutifs est commis en France. On assimile au territoire française les bateaux battant pavillon français et les aéronefs immatriculés en France (article 113-4). Quand les faits sont commis à l’étranger, la loi française peut leur être applicable, à certaines conditions. Sans rentrer dans les détails, qui feront les tortures des étudiants de L2 de droit, la loi pénale française s’applique à l’étranger quand l’auteur est français, ET, condition cumulative, que les faits constituent un crime…

Note that written as it is, the law prohibits an overview of the evolution of the candidates' voting intentions after 8pm, but before midnight on polling day, even after the polls are closed and the estimates are proclaimed. This is pure awkwardness of writing, but the law is the law, and I trust the prosecutor to be firm (..)Article 113 of the Penal Code [fr] sets forth the implementing rules of French criminal law in the area (not in the sense of “Pigs in Space” [fr], but in the sense of its territoriality). These rules are: French criminal law applies to any person on French territory, whatever their nationality. An offense is considered to be committed in France as long as one of its constituent elements is committed in France (Article 113-4 [fr]).  When the acts are committed abroad, French law can be applicable to them, under certain conditions. Without going into details, which will torture L2 law students, French criminal law applies abroad when the author is French, AND, cumulative condition, when the acts constitute a crime…

Many French abroad are surprised at this law and ask what would constitute a violation of this law. Paul asks [fr]:

créer un compte twitter qui vous envoie automatiquement les résultats (en avant-première) en DM n’est donc pas délictueux, puisqu’on reste dans la communication privée ?

Should the creation of a Twitter account, that automatically sends you the results (advance access) in DM, constitute a crime since it remains in private communication?

Joe poses the following hypothesis [fr]:

..Un agent provocateur Bordure, depuis son ordinateur de Szohôd (donc en Bordurie) décide de poster à 18h30 les premières estimations qu’il aura entendues à la radio Syldave sur un forum public, par exemple dans les réactions du blog d’un célèbre avocat blogueur Français…

L’agent Bordure ne risque rien (si j’ai bien compris la démonstration du Maître), mais est-ce que le responsable Français du forum peut être inquiété ?

An agent provocateur from Borduria (ed's note: made up country), since his Szohôd computer (thus in Borduria) decides to post, at 6:30pm, the first estimates that he will have heard on the Syldave radio on a public forum, for example in the reactions of the blog of a famous French lawyer blogger…The Bordurian agent does not risk anything (if I fully-understood the Master's demonstration), but is it the head of the French forum who may be worried?

Campaign Poster by JC Benoist on Wikimedia CC License -3.0-BY

Foreign internet users find that French law is rigid and outdated. Trésor Kibungala, a native of DR Congo blogs on North Africa [fr]:

Seulement voilà, depuis 1977, les choses ont changé. Les nouveaux médias sont arrivés et cette loi paraît inadaptée à la nouvelle donne. Déjà, les pays voisins de l’Hexagone ne se priveront pas de rendre public les résultats de la présidentielle française avant la messe de 20 heures. RTBF par exemple a déjà annoncé qu’elle dévoilera les résultats du scrutin à 18 heures 30 (..) Sur les réseaux sociaux, pas sûr non plus que les twittos obtempèrent. Certains ont commencé à mettre en place le dispositif Radio Londres. Une chose est sûre : on va bien rigoler ce dimanche sur twitter, facebook et autres. Mais, chut !@Tresor_k ne tweetera pas non plus les résultats avant 20 heures ! Rendez-vous sur les ondes de #RadioLondres.

The only problem is that, since 1977, things have changed. The new media have arrived and this law seems inadequate to the new circumstances. Already, the neighbouring countries of the Hexagon do not shy away from publicizing the French presidential elections results before the 8 o'clock mass. RTBF, for example, has already announced it will disclose the poll results at 6:30pm (..) On social networks, it is uncertain whether the Twittos will obey. Some have begun to set up the Radio Londres system [fr]. One thing is certain: we will have a good laugh this Sunday on Twitter, Facebook, and other websites. But, hush! @Tresor_k [fr] will not tweet the results before 8pm! Visit #RadioLondres.

Thus, Radio Londres, is the common thread on Twitter to comment on the elections in coded language without the risk of breaking the law. Radio Londres refers to a few minutes of daily program broadcast [fr] on British radio, BBC, to the first resistance fighters who had fled the German occupation entitled “The French Speaking to the French” [fr]. The meanings of the coded messages used during the resistance [fr] can be found on, including the famous “Wound my heart with a monotonous languor,” which announced the landing.

International issues in the French elections

Foreign media watch the the elections in France with great interest and respond to the 1977 Act. Jean-François Munster in Belgium does not understand [fr] why we still have this measure, he says:

Une loi complètement obsolète à l’heure d’internet et des réseaux sociaux et qui profite aux médias étrangers, dont Le Soir, qui diffusent les premières estimations sur leur site internet dès qu’elles sont disponibles – à partir de 18h45 – alors que les médias français doivent rester muets. (..) Les médias (français) respecteront la loi. Cela ne les empêche pas de dire tout le mal qu’ils en pensent. « Cette loi est ubuesque sur le fond, dénonce Thierry Thuillier. Aujourd’hui, une information produite est une information diffusée. Il faudra impérativement la dépoussiérer ».

A completely archaic law in today's internet and social network era, and benefits foreign media, including Le Soir, which broadcasts the first estimates on their website as soon as they become available - from 6:45pm - while the French media must remain silent. (..) The (French) media will obey the law. This does not prevent them from saying all the bad things that they associate with it. “This legislation is ludicrous on its merits, denounces Thierry Thuillier. Today, generated information is disseminated information. It will be essential to bring it up to date.”

However, it could be that foreign media are prosecuted for any distribution that violates French law. Boris Mahenti reports that [fr]:

La Commission de contrôle va plus loin et menace de poursuivre les médias belges et suisses qui diffuseront les résultats de la présidentielle dès 18 heures. “Si une information est diffusée sur le territoire français, alors le média tombe sous le coup de la loi française. Les médias belges et suisses sont susceptibles de poursuites.”

The Audit Board goes further and threatens to sue the Belgian and Swiss media that will disseminate the presidential elections results as early as 6pm. “If information is circulated in French territory, then the media is punishable under French law. Belgian and Swiss media are subject to prosecution.”

Presidential campaign in Antananarivo by the French Legislative from Abroad on Facebook

The African continent did not dwell on the controversy of the dissemination of poll results  prior to 8pm, rather, it focuses on the election results' long term consequences for the continent. In Kenya, Global Voices translator [fr] Laila, is excited to be able to vote in Nairobi, Kenya:

 ”@hardcorekancil: Bureau de vote de Nairobi: A 10h30, plus de 100 électeurs avaient déjà voté. Le bureau est ouvert de 8h à 18h. #présidentielle2012

@hardcorekancil [fr]: Nairobi's polling station: At 10:30, more than 100 voters had already voted. The office is open from 8AM to 6pm. #présidentielle2012” [fr]

In Madagascar, the candidates' campaigns were going door to door. Legislative French from Abroad's Facebook profile says [fr]:

La démarche du porte à porte est inédite à Madagascar. Nous avons suivi une équipe en campagne vers Ivato puis à Tsaralalana. L’accueil est réceptif. Les franco-malgaches sont d’abord surpris puis ravis que l’on s’intéresse à eux et que l’on prenne le soin de venir chez eux pour leur parler et les inviter à une réunion de quartier..

The door to door approach is unheard of in Madagascar. We followed a campaign team to Ivato, then to Tsaralalana. The host is responsive. The Franco-Malagasy are surprised at first, then delighted that we are interested in them and that we take the time to come to their homes to talk to them and to invite them to a neighborhood meeting..

In Ivory Coast, Théodore Kouadio takes the pulse of Franco-Ivorian voters. He reports some voters' voting intentions [fr]:

« Moi, j’ai l’habitude de voter socialiste, car ce sont eux qui sont sensible à la cause des minorités en France. Mais surtout à la situation des noirs. Mais je vais voter Sarkozy », explique Cissé Mamadou, un sexagénaire. Pour lui, c’est sa manière à lui de merci à Nicolas Sarkozy pour son implication dans la résolution dans la crise post-électorale en Côte d’Ivoire, qui a fait 3000 morts officiellement. Noel Koffi, installé dans la zone depuis 2 ans, mais de nationalité française est du même avis. Pour lui, ce serait une bonne chose que le Nicolas puisse rester au pouvoir pour accompagner les autorités ivoiriennes dans la reconstruction et dans le processus de réconciliation nationale.Dan Emmanuel, lui est alarmiste. Il pense qu’une défaite de Nicolas Sarkozy au soir du 7 Mai va être catastrophique pour le gouvernement ivoirien en place.

“I'm used to voting socialist because they are sensitive to the cause of the minorities in France. But especially to the situation of the black community. But I am going to vote for Sarkozy,” said Cissé Mamadou, a man in his sixties. For him, it is his way of saying thank you to Nicolas Sarkozy for his involvement in the resolution in the post-election violence in Ivory Coast, which resulted in an official death toll of 3,000. Noel Koffi, who has been living in the area for two years, but of French nationality, agrees. For him, it would be good if Nicolas could remain in power to accompany the Ivorian authorities in the reconstruction and process of national reconciliation. Dan Emmanuel is fearmongering. He thinks that a defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy on the evening of May 7th is going to be catastrophic for the Ivorian government in place.

Geostratégie publishes an interview with Charlotte Sawyer [fr] entitled “From France-Africa to France without Africa” and conversely she affirms:

L’Afrique a, surtout, appris une chose : qu’on ne pouvait plus faire confiance aux Français, devenus détrousseurs de grands chemins et grande compagnie. Enfin, à peu près tout ce qu’on voudra, sauf l’ami et le protecteur dont rêvaient encore certaines capitales africaines.(..) Demandez donc aux Maliens ce que vaut l’égide française ? Quant aux Ivoiriens, beaucoup se demandent ce que vous avez fichu dans leur capitale..

Africa has, above all, learned one thing: that we could no longer trust the French, who became highway robbers for large companies. Finally, they became almost anything you want, except the friend and protector that some African nations were hoping for (..) So ask Malians what's the use of being under the good grace of France ? As for the Ivorians, many wonder what were your mandate for intervention in their capital city..

Finally in Germany, Daniel Dagan gathers some funny German cartoons [de] on the French presidential elections.

March 16 2012

France: The Human Rights Film Festival Awards

Youphil [fr] published the full list of the recent 2012 Human Rights Film Festival awards in France [fr]. This year, the jury award went  to an investigation documentary, Affaire Chebeya: un meurtre d'Etat? [fr] (The Chebeya case: murdered by the State?) by Belgium director Thierry Michel on the murder of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in 2010, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

March 14 2012

Europe: Will ACTA Treaty Pass After Protests?

[All links forward to French articles unless stated otherwise.]

As of the end of the month of February 2012, the mobilization efforts of Internet users against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [en] were still going strong. In fact, they may have begun to bear fruit.

By including infringements against the author's rights in its scope, this international treaty, which addresses intellectual property rights, also affects Internet content.

The ratification debates which were placed on the European Parliament's agenda on February 29, were put on hold in expectation of the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The issue of the treaty's conformity with European Community law was brought before the court on 22 February by the European Commission.

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Taurillon, the “magazine of young Europeans -France” describes “Europe's about-face on ACTA“:

Si l’avis est négatif, l’ACTA n’a plus aucune chance en Europe. Mais en cas d’avis positif, le recours à la CJUE représente le double avantage de redonner au traité une certaine crédibilité, et de repousser son adoption à une époque suffisamment lointaine pour que la polémique se soit tassée et que l’opinion publique regarde ailleurs.

If the opinion is negative, ACTA no longer stands a chance in Europe. However, if there is a positive opinion, appealing to the ECJ would mean a double advantage by giving the treaty a certain credibility, and also pushing back implementation to a time that is far enough away when public debate has settled down and the public's attention is focused elsewhere.

Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson for la Quadrature du Net urges on the European deputies:

Les eurodéputés doivent résister à la stratégie de la Commission européenne, qui cherche à gagner du temps et à transformer le débat en une simple discussion juridique, et pour cela continuer à travailler au rejet d’ACTA. ACTA vise à imposer une tendance pour une politique globale du droit d’auteur qui est toxique pour l’Internet libre et pour les libertés. Le Parlement européen est le dernier rempart : il doit agir et adopter une position claire et forte, faute de quoi il laissera le champ libre à la Commission pour imposer une répression inacceptable.

The Eurodeputies must resist the European Commission's strategy of attempting to gain time and turning the debate into a simple legal discussion, thereby continuing to work towards ACTA's rejection. ACTA aims to impose a tendency for a global policy of author's rights that is toxic for the free Internet and for freedom. The European Parliament is the last line of defense: it must act and adopt a firm and clear position, otherwise it will leave the field wide open for the commission to impose an unacceptable repression.

For trucbuntu, there is no question of remaining passive while waiting for the Court to adjudicate:

Les citoyens de toute l’Europe peuvent contacter leurs représentants dans les commissions Commerce International (INTA) et Industrie (ITRE), qui se réunissent cette semaine pour discuter d’ACTA, et leur demander de continuer à travailler au sein de leur commission pour le rejet d’ACTA.

Citizens of all of Europe were able to contact their representatives in the International Trade (INTA) and Industry (ITRE) Committees, who met on February 29 to discuss ACTA. Many citizens requested their representatives to reject the proposal.

The website of the European Parliament explains the procedure and the issues of the treaty [en] that are under scrutiny, and has published ‘What you should know about ACTA‘ [en], a page of questions and answers. The ACTA workshop of the European Parliament has been the object of a storify [en] made by the Parliamentary services (link via Global Voices contributor Asteris Masouras [en]).

The organization AVAAZ submitted a petition to the European Parliament on 29 February with 2.4 million signatures against ACTA. The petition is still open:

Nous sommes vraiment proches de la victoire — notre pétition forte de 2,4 millions de signatures a ébranlé les responsables politiques partout en Europe et stoppé les censeurs. La Commission européenne est à présent en position de faiblesse et espère que la Cour de justice donnera son feu vert au traité ACTA en lui soumettant une question juridique très limitée qui recevra certainement une réponse positive.Mais si nous faisons résonner nos voix aujourd'hui, nous pouvons faire en sorte que la Cour examine tous les impacts légaux du traité ACTA et publie un avis qui fera toute la lumière sur cette attaque contre nos droits qu'est ACTA.

We are really close to victory — our petition, with 2.4 million signatures has shaken up those politicians in charge throughout Europe and stopped their censors. The European Commission is currently in a position of weakness and is hoping the Court of justice will green light the ACTA treaty by bringing before the court a very limited legal question, that will without doubt receive a positive response. But if we make our voices heard today, we will be able to get the court to examine all the legal implications of ACTA and publish an opinion that will bring to light the real attack against our rights that is ACTA.
No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Anti-ACTA parties continue to  strengthen their resources. New protests were set for 10 March, and torrentnews gives a list, with this appeal:

La liste n’est pas exhaustive, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter pour la compléter ;)

si certains se sentent l’âme d’un reporter- photographe en herbe, nous recherchons également des personnes pour faire un petit article photo du déroulement de la manif, rien de bien compliqué, comme fait ici pour Nice, Marseille,Bordeaux et Strasbourg.

The list is not exhaustive, do not hesitate to contact us to complete it ;)

If any individuals see themselves as budding photojournalists we are also looking for people to do a small photo story on how the protest unfolds, nothing too complicated, as it happens in Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg.

For details on the elements of the debate, see also these linked articles from the Tribune on February 29, and Myeurop, on March 3. On Global Voices, see the laws SOPA/PIPA that set a precedent in the USA, here [en] and here [en]. Since the beginning of the protests, ACTA seems to have lost a lot of political momentum.

The title of this post is inspired by the end of the article “La liberté sur Internet : le filtrage de la discorde” which was published by the Institute of Research and Legal and Information studies and Communication (I.R.E.D.I.C.). It puts into perspective Internet blocking and debates the adoption of ACTA.

The original article in French was published on March 4. For background on the ACTA proposal, more articles can be found here [en].

January 17 2012

Belgium, D. R. of Congo: Miss Belgium 2012 on Gay Marriage

The website Congo LOL reports that “On twitter, the hastag #plusoumoins (#moreorless in english) has created quite a buzz (in DR of Congo). The reason ? The answer given by Miss Laura Beyne (Miss Belgium 2012) on a question on gay marriage. “I think they [homosexuals] are human beings (…) they can do “more or less” whatever they want. I am “more or less” in favor of gay marriage. ”

November 15 2011

Eurozone Crisis: Where Will the Economy Go?

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Economists would be hard pressed to forecast the future of Europe's bailouts and the consequences of the current financial crisis. While opinions differ, reactions abound online to try to make sense of what future awaits for the Eurozone.

Where is the economy going? That question was put to Maria Karchilaki, a Greek  journalist and the Foreign Desk Anchor/Correspondent for MEGA TV. She replied:

@karhilam: @efleischer I don't know, really. I'm not optimistic, though. This is an economic Katrina and we are still in the middle of it.

Euro coin. Image by Civitas (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

None of the region’s biggest banks pass a stress test. BNP Palibras has slashed its exposure to Italy and Greece, as has RBS, even though it is apparently awash with liquidity. Dexia, Commerzbank, Credit Agricole, and HSBC are seeking to cut their exposure.

France is planning to cut 20% of its budget deficit, Ireland is planning 12.4 billion in budget cuts and ECB (European Central Bank) interest rates are being kept at 1.25%.

On the micro level, people are not in a charitable mood, one retired truck driver in Greece went so far as to tell The New York Times:

[I am] impressed that the people have not yet stormed into Parliament and burned the politicians alive — like a souvlaki [type of kebab].

The question, “Where will the economy go over the next two months?” was put to the following reporters and Twitter users before the resignation of former Greek Prime Minister Papandreou and former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi.

Efthimia Efthimiou, a Greek journalist, writes:

@EfiEfthimiou: @efleischer … difficult to say right now. Things r changing from hour to hour …

Yannis Koutsomitis, another journalist, replied:

@YanniKouts @efleischer There is a strong possibility that political logic will prevail in Italy and Greece in the next few days. That could calm markets for a while. If political turmoil in these countries continues there's a real chance the euro zone crisis will climax with unpredictable outcomes.

Right now the outcomes are pointing in this direction: John Reed of The Financial Times writes that Italian tyre producer Pirelli has “drafted a contingency plan that factors in a 10 per cent drop in car sales and 20 per cent fall in truck sales globally. That would be a drop as big as that seen after Lehman Brothers’ collapse.” (Though that's emphasized as a worst-case scenario.)

Meanwhile, a WikiLeaks cable written in 2010 began to get to work on (if it's necessary) how one might go about declaring a ‘Eurozone Chapter 11‘.

Douglas Fraser at the BBC discusses what would happen if multiple defaults were in the cards:

If Greece, Portugal and Ireland hit that level of default, half of German banks' capital buffers are gone, a third of Belgium's and a quarter in France and the UK.

But there are indirect effects as inter-bank insurance and lending unravels, and that wipes out 100% of German banks' core tier 1 capital.

Belgium's left with only 7%, France with 25% and the UK with 50%. Britain would take a hit from Ireland in particular, but RBS and Lloyds Banking Group have already written down a lot of their exposure.

And what about adding Italy and Spain? The figures are eye-watering.

The direct effects would require governments to recapitalise German and French banks with 125% of their current core capital, meaning nationalisation.

But add in the indirect effects, and you find it would require 275% of German banks' core capital, 270% in Belgium, 225% in France and 130% in the UK.

At that point, Germany is only able (it would hope) to meet the bailout requirements of its own banks, while it is every other eurozone country for itself.

On another FT blog, Alan Beattie writes that:

[…] if the ECB can’t bring itself to bail out Italy direct (sovereign credit risk, no expertise in setting lending conditions) it could in theory, according to Article 23 of its protocol, lend vast amounts to the IMF

The IMF would then set about bailing out Italy (which Megan Greene sees as on the cards ('bail-in'), as does The Economist to a degree), which at the end of it all - amongst all this information - is better than nothing.

Reached by email, RTE's Paul Cunningham said, in answer to the question “Do you have any hope that the ECB might use its position as a central bank to encourage growth instead of austerity?”, that (posted with permission from the sender):

The new ECB President, with the interest rate cut, has illustrated that he's prepared to be pragmatic. There was a question if Mr Draghi might have felt the need
to prove his Germanic credentials by holding off a rate cut until December, on the basis that inflation was above 2%. . The fact that the cut happened at his first meeting
would suggest he is his own man. The debate as to whether or not there ever should have been a rate increase will rumble on for years.

On the wider issue of the ECB's role, it would appear that the President will continue to follow JCT in buying-up bonds in the secondary market, but not in the volume to
alleviate the crisis. There is nothing to suggest that Draghi is prepared to allow the institution become the Lender of Last Resort. In my view, this can only change when
Germany changes ie when the crisis develops to such an extent that the German taxpayer is faced with the ultimate crisis - if we stick to our principles on fiscal control,
the euro collapses.

It's often argued that when Europe is faced with a crisis, it needs to stand at the brink before the deal is done. This time it seems to need Germany to stand at the cliff edge
- if the euro goes, the DM will return, and - immediately - it's export led economy will be in danger. Who will buy their goods when the price has ballooned due to the DM?
Sooner rather than later, deeply-held principle is about to crash against the reality posed by the volatile bond markets.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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