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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 10 2013

Italian Newspapers Mistakenly Call Nelson Mandela ‘Father of Apartheid’

Mandela, called the

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Gionale's headline calling Nelson Mandela “the father of apartheid”.

As the news of beloved former South African President Nelson Mandela's death reached the far corners of the web on December 5, 2013, online publications of all kinds rushed to update their headlines, publish obituaries, and share images, stories and tributes to a man who indeed left the world a better place.

Some did better than others. In Italy, where newsrooms are facing cuts and the quality of journalism is often criticized, several national newspapers published on their websites headlines calling Mandela “the father of apartheid”. Mandela was, in fact, instrumental in the dismantling of apartheid, South Africa's system of racial discrimination.

The headlines appeared on the country's main right-wing newspaper Il Giornale as well as newspapers il Mattino and Il Messaggero, generating a wave of criticism online.

Italian newspaper Il Messaggero's headline calling Nelson Mandela

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Messaggero's headline calling Nelson Mandela “the father of apartheid”.

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Mattino's headline calling Nelson Mandela

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Mattino's headline calling Nelson Mandela “the father of apartheid”

Although the mistake was corrected shortly after its appearance, the headline was copied in a number of publications, such as news portal Il Post.

On Twitter, representatives of Il Giornale, including Andrea Cortellari, who wrote the headline, apologized profusely:

An unforgivable mistake. The intention, as you may imagine, was “the father of the fight against…” I can't apologize enough.”

Many attacked him and the newspaper—which is often criticized for its biased support of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Italy's left. Twitter user iceheartp, for example, replied to the apology:

@ACortellari No worries, there are more humiliating things in life. Like writing for Il Giornale.

Others appreciated the apology, deeming it an unusual gesture amongst Italian journalists. Meanwhile, referencing the paper's editor Alessandro Sallusti, prominent journalist Gad Lerner asked:

Sallusti's Il Giornale calls Mandela “the father of apartheid”, then apologizes. But is the ignorance of the well-off forgivable?

The accident also generated a broader conversation about the difficulty of maintaining the quality in journalism amidst a lack of resources—budget cuts and shrinking editorial staff make it harder to maintain high standards while publishing in real-time, some argued.

Italian journalist Gianni Riotta pointed to the headline error as evidence of the poor state of affairs for the Italian press:

Newspapers celebrating Nelson Mandela as “the father of apartheid” are the tragic proof of how bad things are going for the profession

November 21 2013

Taiwan: Virgin Mary With an Aboriginal Face Tattoo

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with golden facial tattoo based on the Atayal people's tradition. Photo taken by Octopus (章魚)

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with facial tattoo based on the Atayal people's tradition. Photo taken by Octopus (章魚). Non-commercial use.

An Atayal woman with the traditional facial tattoo held her granddaughter. Photo taken by atonny.

An Atayal woman with the traditional facial tattoo held her granddaughter. Photo taken by atonny.Non-commercial use.

When Italian Catholic Father Alberto Papa came to Taiwan in 1963, he learned that face tattoo is an important culture for many aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. For example, in Atayal culture, only respectable person would have face tattoo. To deliver the idea that Virgin Mary is a holy figure, the father decided to add a golden face tattoo on the statue of Virgin Mary in his church.

More photos showing Taiwan aboriginal women with face tattoo can be found here.

November 20 2013

Unemployment, Poverty and Brain Drain: Italy's Crisis Only Getting Worse

Italians’ ever-emptier shopping basket
Picture: Shutterstock

While repeated tragedies [en] in the so-called “Mare mortum” (literally “Dead sea”) off the coast of Lampedusa occupy the headlines of traditional media and social networks, Italians are still in the midst of an economic crisis that offers no sign of ending: the poverty rate continues to increase and so does the number of highly educated people leaving the country.

In the second half of October, a dossier entitled “New Poverty in Italy. Italians that Help“, presented by Coldiretti at the International Agriculture and Food Forum in Cernobbio, captured a worrying situation of hunger in Italy.

On the blog articolotre, Gea Ceccarelli revealed:

Secondo quanto rivelato dall'associazione, gli italiani indigenti che hanno ricevuto attraverso canali no-profit pacchi alimentari o pasti gratuiti sono stati quasi 4,1 mlioni. Circa 303.485 di questi nuovi poveri hanno potuto beneficiare dei servizi mensa, mentre 3.764.765 sono stati coloro che, vergognandosi, hanno preferito richiedere pacchi a casa.

As revealed by the association, there are more than 4.1 million poverty-stricken Italians that have received food through non-profit food parcels or free meals. Approximately 303,485 of these new poor people have benefited from canteen services, while 3,764,765, too ashamed, chose to take home food packs.

For its part, the website provided details of the most affected social class:

Insieme a 579mila anziani con oltre 65 anni di età (+14% rispetto al 2012), in Italia ci sono ben 428.587 bambini con meno di 5 anni di età che nel 2013 hanno avuto bisogno di aiuto per poter semplicemente bere il latte o mangiare, con un aumento record del 13 per cento rispetto allo scorso anno; ma ad aumentare con un tasso superiore alla media è stato anche il numero di anziani, ben 578.583 over 65 anni di età (+14% rispetto al 2012), che sono dovuti ricorrere ad aiuti alimentari.

Together with 579,000 over 65 year olds (+14 percent compared to 2012), in Italy there were 428,587 children under the age of 5 who in 2013 needed help just to be able to drink milk or eat; however, what increased at an above average rate was the number of elderly people, 578,583 over 65 year olds (+14 percent compared to 2012), who have had to resort to food aid.

Hit hard by the crisis, Italian families save on everything, or have to forgo the purchase of essential goods. The website reported:

Sei italiani su dieci, hanno tagliato le spese per l’alimentazione, che ha raggiunto il livello più basso degli ultimi venti anni. Nel 2013 il crollo è proseguito con le famiglie italiane che hanno tagliato gli acquisti per l’alimentazione, dall’olio di oliva extravergine (-9%) al pesce (-13%), dalla pasta (-9%) al latte (-8%), dall’ortofrutta (-3%) alla carne, sulla base delle elaborazioni su dati Ismea-Gfk Eurisko relativi ai primi otto mesi dell’anno che fanno registrare complessivamente un taglio del 4% nella spesa alimentare delle famiglie italiane. 

Six out of ten Italians have cut their food expenditure, which has now reached the lowest level of the last 20 years. In 2013 the collapse continued with Italian families cutting food purchases, from extra virgin olive oil (-9 percent) to fish (-13 percent), pasta (-9 percent), milk (-8 percent), fruit and vegetables (-3 percent) and meat, based on the Ismea-Gfk Eurisko data from the first eight months of the year which show an overall cut of 4 percent in the food expenditure of Italian households. 

Despite the fact some politicians continue to say that the end of the crisis is near, for the moment all there is to see is the deterioration of the situation. The website quoted alarming figures that illustrate the severity of the work situation: 

Gli occupati sono 22.349.000 circa, con una contrazione di 80.000 rispetto il mese precedente e di 490.000 in confronto l’anno passato, facendo così passare il tasso di occupazione al 55,4%. Gli obiettivi europei per il 2020 ci imporrebbero, invece, un tasso di occupazione pari al 67%. I disoccupati, sottolinea l’Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca sono arrivati a quota 3.194.00 circa. Di conseguenza il tasso di inattività (cioè coloro che rientrano nella fascia di attività 15-64) si posiziona al 36,4%, in aumento sia rispetto il mese che l’anno precedente.

There are approximately 22,349,000 employed people, a decrease of 80,000 compared to the previous month and of 490,000 compared to last year, thus causing the employment rate to fall to 55.4 percent. The European targets for 2020 would, however, require an employment rate of 67 percent. The unemployed, stresses the National Research Institute, have reached approximately 3,194,00. Consequently, the rate of inactivity (i.e. those who fall into the 15-64 age range) is 36.4 percent, increased compared to both last month and last year.

The website Consumerismo, an online newspaper similar to Codacons, or the Coordination of Associations for the Defense of the Environment and the Rights of Users and Consumers, wrote:

Il tasso di disoccupazione si attesta al 12,5%, in aumento di 0,1 punti percentuali rispetto al mese precedente e di 1,6 punti nei dodici mesi.

slogan di Codacons, tratto da

slogan di Codacons, tratto da

I disoccupati tra 15 e 24 anni sono 654 mila. L’incidenza dei disoccupati di 15-24 anni sulla popolazione in questa fascia di età è pari al 10,9%, in calo di 0,2 punti percentuali rispetto ad agosto ma in crescita di 0,6 punti su base annua. Il tasso di disoccupazione dei 15-24enni, ovvero la quota dei disoccupati sul totale di quelli occupati o in cerca,

è pari al 40,4%, in aumento di 0,2 punti percentuali rispetto al mese precedente e di 4,4 punti nel confronto tendenziale.

Il numero di individui inattivi tra 15 e 64 anni aumenta dello 0,5% rispetto al mese precedente (+71 mila unità) ma rimane sostanzialmente invariato rispetto a dodici mesi prima. Il tasso di inattività si attesta al 36,4%, in aumento di 0,2 punti percentuali in termini congiunturali e di 0,1 punti su base annua.

The unemployment rate stands at 12.5 percent, up 0.1 percent on the previous month and 1.6 percent on the previous 12 months.

Codacons' slogan, from

Codacons’ slogan “Don't swallow the toad!”, from

There are 654,000 unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 24. The percentage of unemployed 15-24 year olds in this age group is 10.9 percent, down 0.2 percent from August but up 0.6 percent from last year. The number of 15-24-year-old unemployed people, that is the percentage share of total of those employed or seeking employment,

is 40.4 percent, up 0.2 percent on last month and 4.4 percent in the trend comparison.

The number of inactive individuals between 15 and 64 years old increased by 0.5 percent compared to the previous month (+71,000 units) but remains essentially unchanged compared to 12 months earlier. The inactivity rate stands at 36.4 percent, up 0.2 percent in economic terms and 0.1 percent over the year. 

The gender differences are also remarkable, with women being disadvantaged. The website noted:

Se si considera la differenza di genere, il tasso di occupazione maschile, pari al 64,4%, diminuisce di 0,1 punti percentuali rispetto al mese precedente e di 1,7 punti su base annua. Quello femminile, pari al 46,5%, diminuisce di 0,3 punti in termini congiunturali e di 0,7 punti percentuali rispetto a dodici mesi prima. Il tasso di disoccupazione maschile, invece, rimane invariato al 12% rispetto al mese precedente e aumenta di 1,8 punti nei dodici mesi; quello femminile, al 13,2%, aumenta di 0,3 punti rispetto al mese precedente e di 1,3 punti su base annua.

Let's consider the gender difference.  The male employment rate, 64.4 percent, is down 0.1 percent on last month and 1.7 percent on last year. The female employment rate, 46.5 percent, is down 0.3 percent over the short term and down 0.7 percent compared to last year. However, the male unemployment rate remains unchanged at 12 percent compared to last month, an increase of 1.8 percent over last year. The female unemployment rate, at 13.2 percent, is up 0.3 percent compared to last month and 1.3 percent since last year.

“This crisis will last years. Finally a bit of stability.” Satirical cartoon by the artist Altan [en]

By analyzing the Istat data released at the beginning of October, it can be seen that in the first six months of 2013, the purchasing power of households decreased by 1.7 percent compared to the same period in 2012. Based on this, the website concluded

Tradotto in cifre – calcola il Codacons – è come se una famiglia di 3 persone, in appena sei mesi, avesse avuto una perdita equivalente a 594 euro (489 una famiglia di 2 componenti, 654 una di 4), una stangata tanto invisibile quanto disastrosa.

Se si aggiunge il dato reso noto pochi giorni fa dall’Istat, relativo al 2012, con una perdita del potere d’acquisto del 4,7%, la stangata diventa impietosa e assume contorni drammatici. In un anno e mezzo è come se una famiglia di 3 persone avesse avuto una tassa invisibile pari a 2.236 euro!!!!

Expressed as figures – calculated the Codacons – it's as if a family of 3 people in just six months has lost the equivalent of 594 euros [about 800 US dollars] (489 for a family of two, 654 for one of 4), an invisible but disastrous blow.

If you add to this the data for 2012 released just a few days ago by Istat, with a loss of purchasing power of 4.7 percent, the blow becomes merciless and takes on dramatic profile. In a year and a half it's as if a family of 3 has been subjected to an invisible tax that amounts to 2,236 euros [about 3,020 US dollars]!!!!

With the increase of poverty, the number of solidarity initiatives also has increased. In fact, the website reported that:

…Si contano nel 2013 ben 15.067 strutture periferiche (mense e centri di distribuzione) promosse da 242 enti caritativi che fanno riferimento a 7 organizzazioni (Croce Rossa Italiana, Caritas Italiana, Fondazione Banco Alimentare, Banco delle Opere di Carità, Associazione “Sempre insieme per la Pace”, Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Associazione Banco Alimentare Roma) ufficialmente riconosciute dall'Agenzia per le Erogazioni in Agricoltura (Agea) che si occupa della distribuzione degli aiuti. Per quanto riguarda la tipologia di aiuto alimentare offerto – conclude la Coldiretti – i formaggi rappresentano circa il 28 per cento in valore, seguiti da pasta e pastina per bimbi e anziani, che assorbono il 18 per cento del costo, dal latte con il 14 per cento, dai biscotti (12 per cento), dal riso (8 per cento), dall’olio di girasole (6 per cento), dalla polpa di pomodoro (4 per cento) e, a seguire, legumi, confetture e farina.

….In 2013 there are 15,067 peripheral structures (canteens and distribution centres) maintained by 242 charitable organisations which refer to seven organisations (Italian Red Cross, Caritas Italia, Food Bank Foundation, Charitable Works Bank, “Together for peace” Association, the Sant'Egidio Community, Rome Food Bank Association) officially recognised by the Agency for Agricultural Payments (Agea) that deals with the distribution of aid. With regards to the type of food aid offered – concludes Coldiretti – the cheeses account for about 28 percent of the total value, followed by pasta and pastina for children and adults, who account for 18 percent of the costs, milk at 14 percent, biscuits (12 percent), rice (8 percent), sunflower oil (6 percent), tomato pulp (4 percent) and, finally, vegetables, jams and flour.

Commenting on the latest Istat figures on the employment situation, the website said:

Meno di due giovani su dieci lavorano, anche se bisogna contemplare all’interno di questo dato la presenza dei minorenni e quindi degli studenti. Di fatto il dato più preoccupante è la disoccupazione giovanile, ovvero la quota dei disoccupati sul totale di quelli occupati o in cerca, che a settembre è arrivata al 40,4%, in aumento dello 0,2% rispetto ad agosto e di 4,4% nel confronto annuo.

Less than two out of ten young people work, although we have to consider also minors and students. In fact, the most worrying figure is youth unemployment, more specifically the number of young unemployed people compared to the total of those employed or seeking employment, which in September came to 40.4 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent compared to August and 4.4 percent over the last year.

On Twitter, the problem was also deeply felt:

Six million without #work, half of them do not even seek it any more. And above all it is the #young who are disheartened. #crisis #unemployment

Young people have to hope for the future, but the strength to carry on, the 40/60 age group is paying for the crisis. #suicides #crisis

The immediate consequence of this dramatic situation, in addition to youth unemployment (which has arrived at the levels of 1977, over 40 percent) is the increase in emigration to other countries.

Cartoon strip: brains leaving Italy – Source Il nazionale

More than 400,000 Italian graduates and doctoral students have fled from Italy, and 59 percent of young people left behind would like to leave the country due to lack of employment prospects in Italy. 

Another complication in the future will be the Italian population: in 2030, or 16 years time, there will be more over 65-year-olds than active citizens. Not even the influx of foreign immigrants can compensate for the brain drain: the many recent arrivals are due to the situations in Africa and in the Arab countries, but the phenomenon was previously already decreasing; economically more dynamic countries are the new objective, not the Italy of unemployment and economic crisis.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

November 05 2013

‘Women Should Be Submissive', and Other Google Autocomplete Suggestions

A series of ads by UN Women, revealed in late October, used the Google Autocomplete feature to uncover widespread negative attitudes toward women. Global Voices followed reactions to the UN Women campaign and conducted its own experiment in different languages. The results of searches conducted both within the UN Women campaign and Global Voices revealed popular attitudes not only about women’s social and professional roles, but also about their sexuality, appearance and relationships with men.

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “women shouldn't”

The creators of the UN Women ads used search phrases like “women cannot”, “women shouldn’t”, “women should” and “women need to” completed by genuine Google search terms to highlight overwhelmingly negative stereotypes, sexist and highly discriminatory views held about women by society globally. The ads quickly went viral and sparked a heated discussion online. Last week, creators have announced that they are planning to expand the campaign in response to the mass online reaction.

The auto-complete function for searches, according to Google, predicts users’ queries based on the search activity of all users of the web as well as the content of indexed pages. The predictions may also be influenced by past searches of the particular user if they are signed into their Google account.

Global Voices asked its contributors from around the world to carry out Google searches using the same or similar phrases as those used in the UN Women campaign, in their own languages. The searches done between October 19 and October 25, 2013, revealed attitudes about the roles women are expected to take in society, often demonstrating the same global prejudices, but sometimes showing contradictions in different countries. Below are searches in 12 languages from different countries and continents:



“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Silvia Viñas. October 21, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not preach
Women should not work
Women should not talk in the congregation
Women should not drive


“Women cannot…” A screenshot by Juan Arellano. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot preach
Women cannot be pastors
Women cannot donate blood
Women cannot live without man

Puerto Rico

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be submissive
Women should use the veil
Women should preach
Women should work



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Suzanne Lehn. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
women should stay at home
women should work
should women preach
women should wear skirts
women should be submissive
women should know
women should vote
women should stay at home
should women work
women should do the cooking

“Women don't know…”. A screen shot by Rayna St. October 21, 2013.

Women don’t know…
women don't know how to drive
women don't know what they want
women don't know how to be in love
women don't know how to read cards


Egypt (similar results in Jordan)

“Woman cannot…”. A screenshot by Tarek Amr. October 21, 2013.

Woman cannot…
Woman cannot live without marriage
Woman cannot live without a man
Woman cannot keep a secret
Woman cannot interpret man's silence


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Gloria Wang. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot be too smart
Women can't drive
Women cannot give birth
10 topics women cannot discuss with their husbands


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Diana Lungu. October 21, 2013.

women should not…
women should be loved not understood
women should not be understood
women should not wear pants
what women should not do in bed



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should…
Women should stay at home
should play hard to get
should stay in the kitchen
should be subdued

“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be understood
should not work
should not be understood but loved
should not read



“Woman should not…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman should not…
Woman should not teach
My wife should not work

“Woman can…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman can….
Woman cannot come
Woman cannot get pregnant
Woman cannot cook
Woman cannot get a baby


“Women don't…”. A screenshot by
Gilad Lotan. October 21, 2013.

Women don't…
Women don't work
Women are not modest
Women don't know how to drive
Women don't want to have kids


“A woman should be…”. A screenshot by Marietta Le.
October 21, 2013.

A woman should be…
a woman should be a chef in the kitchen
a woman should be pretty and ruthless


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Solana Larsen. October 20, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot drive
Women cannot control vagina
Women cannot be color blind
Women cannot barbecue

In Danish, the searches for “women cannot” and “women can” yielded the same results.


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Veronica Khokhlova. October 19, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be believed
Women should not lift heavy things
Women should not drink
Women should not be trusted


The UK

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Annie Zaman. October 25, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be seen and not heard
Women should stay at home
Women should know their place

 Not all searches carried out by members of Global Voices community turned up negative terms. Nevertheless, the results of the experiment largely confirm UN Women’s worrying conclusion that a great deal of work still remains to be done in order to advance women’s rights and empowerment around the world.

November 04 2013

Italians Called to Film Their ‘Life in a Day’

Renowned Italian director Gabriele Salvatores is inviting Italians (and people living in Italy) to produce short videos about their daily life that will be edited together into a feature length film called “Italy in a Day” [it] to be released at the end of 2014. Videos can be submitted until November 17.

Salvatores is following the example of a similar, successful project from 2010 called “Life in a Day” produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald.

Here is the official trailer for Italy in a Day:

October 29 2013

TribeWanted: Sustainable Eco-Tourism Communities

A new model of self-sustainable eco-tourism is enjoying great success thanks to online supporters from around the world. From Sierra Leone to the heart of Italy, these are locally managed communities that welcome motivated visitors to take part in both the fun and the work at incredibly beautiful sites.

Tribewanted @ Monestevole, Italy

Welcome @ Monestevole

It all began in 2006 with an online community or “tribe” called TribeWanted started by social entrepreneurs Ben Keene and Filippo Bozotti. Their mission was to build a sustainable tourism community on the Fijian island, Vorovoro, in partnership with villagers.

The campaign caught fire and within a few weeks 1000 people from 21 countries had supported the project with an average of $250 each. Over the next four years, a rotating group of 15 tribe-members, built the cross-cultural island community together with the landowners and 25 Fijian employees.

This success story soon led to the creation of new eco-villages in John Obey Beach, Sierra Leone in 2010 (check their beautiful videos here) and Monestevole, Italy in 2013.

These communities are funded by worldwide members, starting at £10 ($12) per tribe member per month. Members can then vote on new locations and money surplus distribution, visit sustainability experts and content, top up their credit and stay at any location for less.

Dinner at TribeWanted in Monestevole, Italy (photo by Ariel Parrella, CC BY)

Dinner at TribeWanted in Monestevole, Italy (photo by Ariel Parrella, CC BY)

In the ‘Green Heart’ of Italy

Over a few, rainy days in early October I traveled with my daughter and a group of 15 other people (mostly Germans) to the new “eco-tribe” in Italy to experience this communal living experiment.

We helped with farming activities and hearty meal preparation, played music together and spent time wandering and marveling over the beautiful scenery.

It's a collaborative, social experiment based on a simple truth: another world is possible, here and now. When you build a sustainable business model around conviviality and sharing, people can actually put into practice a new lifestyle around this belief.

Here is a video introducing the TribeWanted Monestevole community, near Umbertide (Umbria, Italy). To learn more check their Facebook page.

“Where We Feel at Home”

Co-founder Ben Keene explains in his personal blog earlier this year how the overall structure of the community influences the experience of visitors:

Each project has had its successes and challenges. But what has connected them all is a sense that, together with our local partners and supportive members we’ve created places where we all feel at home. Like a part of us has always belonged there – even though the language, diet and culture may seem very different to the place we might normally call home. And because we feel ‘at home’ we’re open to engage with different ideas, foods, experiences, and people as well as rejuvenate and play. With the leadership of our local teams and communities we’ve been able to reinforce the importance of protecting cultural heritage as well as the natural environment and resources.

To underline their commitment to improving local quality of life in “tribe” locations, 30% of all membership fees go towards community projects for health, education, conservation, enterprise and clean energy. Members and visitors are also encourage to engage in these issues during their stay and when they return home.

The next step is to expand TribeWanted with 10 new locations, through partnerships with other eco-tourism projects and by scaling the innovative membership model.

A crowdfunding campaign for equity in Tribewanted Ltd is currently underway on a new platform, Crowdcube, and there is already planning underway for new communities in Mozambique, Laos, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom and Bali.

If successful, this crowd funding effort will help push forward a broader approach to eco-tourism and toward a more participatory culture across the globe, as Filippo Borzotti says in an update on the crowd-funding campaign:

We also think this goes beyond tourism, we are investing in a lifestyle. We like to think we are ahead of the curve: living sustainably and promoting green energy and green architecture, local food, public water, minimizing waste and minimizing our carbon footprint; we want to be an example for how hopefully we will all live in the next 50 years.

October 20 2013

363 Coffins Close, Reopening the Debate on Illegal Immigration in Europe

Coffins containing the remains of the drowned before their burial in various Italian cemeteries. Photo published on Twitter by Aleem Maqbool

Coffins containing the remains of the drowned in Lampedusa before their burial in various Italian cemeteries. Photo published on Twitter by Aleem Maqbool

A boat carrying almost 500 immigrants, many of them women and children, caught fire and sunk [es] off the coast of Lampedusa on October 3, leaving at least 363 dead.

Lampedusa is a small Italian island located between Sicily and the north of Africa, a little more than 100 km from Tunisia. Due to its proximity to the African coast, the island is one of the entry points used by refugees and undocumented migrants to reach the European Union. Citizens of Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea or Syria fall into the hands of mafias dealing in human trafficking, who use old fishing boats to carry them to the European coast.

These dangerous journeys, in old and overburdened boats, increase at the end of the summer in anticipation of the winter “break” during which such crossings are suspended due to poor sailing conditions.

Many of the survivors of this shipwreck are alive thanks to the help of fishermen who were in the area, although various witnesses state that at least three boats passed close to the site of the tragedy without stopping to help the victims [es].

This behaviour is due to the fear inspired in fishermen by the strict Bossi-Fini law against illegal immigration, supported by the far right and passed in 2002 during Berlusconi's mandate, which criminalises immigrants with an irregular status and those who assist them in any way.

According to the blog Kaos en la Red [es],

El otro horror de la ley Bossi-Fini reside en la condena por complicidad con el delito de clandestinidad a las personas que ayuden a un supuesto clandestino a poner el pie en “la tierra de Italia”. Así, los pescadores de Lampedusa que ayuden a una persona que esté ahogándose pueden ver su barco, su instrumento de trabajo, confiscado y ser condenados. Lo cual va completamente en contra de la Convención de las Naciones Unidas sobre los refugiados y del derecho internacional de navegación. Así, Giorgio Bisagna, experto en derecho a la inmigración, abogado en Palermo, afirma: “En el caso del naufragio de Lampedusa, el delito podría haber sido cometido por quienes no han intervenido para auxiliar a refugiados que se encuentran en la mar”.

The other horror of the Bossi-Fini law lies in the conviction on the basis of collusion with the crime of clandestinity of those persons who assist a presumed clandestine migrant to set foot on “Italian soil.” In this way, those fishermen in Lampedusa who assist a person who is drowning can see their boat, their working material, confiscated and may be sentenced to prison. This goes completely against both the United Nations Convention on Refugees and international maritime law. Thus, Giorgio Bisagna, expert in immigration law and a lawyer in Palermo, states: “In the case of the Lampedusa shipwreck, the crime could have been committed by those who did not intervene to assist the refugees who were in the sea”.

Map of African immigration routes to Europe. Image from Wikimedia Commons uploaded by the user historicair. With licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Map of African immigration routes to Europe. Image from Wikimedia Commons uploaded by the user historicair. With licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The case of Spain

Spain is another of the entry points to Europe used by African immigrants. The Strait of Gibraltar, just 14 km wide, is one of the routes preferred by mafias to move immigrants in pateras [es], small boats or inflatable dinghies which are too fragile to cross these dangerous waters. Shipwrecks are common and immigrants must often be rescued by fishermen and coastguards in the area.

But this could soon change, as the website [es] reports:

Según la reforma del Código Penal que el ministro de Justicia, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, tiene en cartera quienes faciliten la entrada, acojan, ayuden o alojen a inmigrantes indocumentados incurrirán en delito punible y podrán ser castigados con dos años de cárcel. Algunos colectivos de ayuda a los inmigrantes se movilizaron en abril pasado y han recogido más de 100.000 firmas con la campaña “salvemos la hospitalidad”.

According to the reform of the Penal Code which the Justice minister, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, is planning, those who facilitate the entry of undocumented migrants, and shelter, assist or lodge them, will commit a punishable crime and will be able to be punished with two years of prison. Some collectives assisting migrants mobilised in April and have collected more than 100,000 signatures with the “let's save hospitality” campaign [es].

Lack of will from European authorities

Besides the Strait of Gibraltar, other important entry routes to Spain for immigrants are the Canary Islands and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the north coast of Africa.

European Union (EU) policy leaves the rescue of undocumented immigrants in the hands of the member states in whose waters they are shipwrecked, and does not allocate special financial assistance to those most affected by this problem. The Mediterranean countries, which are suffering more severely from the economic crisis than those in the north, have been asking Europe for help for years without obtaining any response.

The rise of far-right parties with a pronounced xenophobic ideology which support the strengthening of fortress Europe against illegal immigration, is causing European governments to adopt a tougher position on the issue in an attempt to counteract the populist discourse of the far right.

On October 8th, 28 European interior ministers met in Luxembourg with the intention of tackling the issue of the rescue of immigrants on the EU's Mediterranean coast. Once again, the meeting was a disaster, as El País [es] describes:

Toda la reprobación y la vergüenza que han expresado los políticos europeos tras la tragedia de Lampedusa han quedado, de momento, en una mera declaración de intenciones. La Unión Europea se mostró ayer incapaz de concretar un proyecto para rescatar a inmigrantes que naufraguen en las costas del Mediterráneo. La Comisión Europea trasladó su propuesta a los Estados miembros, pero ninguno fue capaz de ofrecer ni calendarios concretos ni dotación económica para intentar paliar el drama de quienes se lanzan al mar para llegar a Europa. 

All of the condemnation and shame expressed by European politicians following the Lampedusa tragedy [es] has been, for the moment, no more than a mere declaration of intentions. The European Union demonstrated yesterday that it is incapable of settling upon a project to rescue immigrants who are shipwrecked on the Mediterranean coast. The European Commission transferred its proposal to member States, but none was able to offer a concrete timeframe or economic resources to try to alleviate the suffering of those who set out to sea to reach Europe.

Nacho Torreblanca sums it up in the following way on Twitter:

Lampedusa is not a tragedy. It is the consequence of a series of deliberate political decisions

— Nacho Torreblanca (@jitorreblanca) October 11, 2013

Tombs of unidentified immigrants in Tarifa's cemetery (Spain). Screen capture from a video by canalsuresposible on YouTube

Tombs of unidentified immigrants in Tarifa's cemetery (Spain). Screen capture from a video by canalsuresposible on YouTube

Manuel Zaguirre says on the website Rebanadas de realidad [Slices of Reality] [es]:

El Papa Francisco, cuyas declaraciones, decisiones, tomas de postura y testimonio de vida me merecen cada vez más interés, visitó en el mes de Julio la isla de Lampedusa. Pudimos conocer entonces que tiene apenas 5000 habitantes y que han sido casi el doble los inmigrantes que han muerto a orilla de su “mare nostrum” en los últimos 15 ó 20 años. Conocimos, también, de la solidaridad de sus habitantes y de la combatividad de sus autoridades locales, con la Alcaldesa al frente, denunciando la falta de apoyos e interés ante el desborde y la tragedia de los inmigrantes.

Pope Francisco, whose declarations, decisions, stances and life's testimony deserve more and more of my interest, visited the island of Lampedusa in July. We were thus able to learn that the island has just 5000 inhabitants and that the number of immigrants who have died on the shores of its “mare nostrum” in the last 15 or 20 years is almost double this figure. We also discovered the solidarity of the island's inhabitants and the fighting spirit of its local authorities, with the Mayoress at the helm, condemning the lack of support and interest in the face of the overflow and tragedy of the immigrants.

October 04 2013

What the Italian press said about Lampedusa

What the Italian press said about #Lampedusa

After the death of at least 130 Somalian and Eritrean #migrants off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Italian (and European) press is once again filled with words of pathos: the human tragedy, the pictures of lined body bags and the tears of Lampedusans for those who never reached them. There is the […]

#MEDIA #Italy #Mediterranean_Sea

September 18 2013

Italy: Seeking Press Officer. 300 Euros Per Month.

[All links lead to Italian-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

The district of Arconate in Italy's province of Milan published a job advertisement online for a press officer on August 12, 2013 expiring on September 2 (and now deleted from the district's site). By all accounts, the job appeared to be standard, requiring that applicants (via Ilcomizietto):

  • have at least two years of professional experience in journalism and/or communication
  • be a member of at least two years of the national order of professional or freelance journalists
  • not have ongoing working relationships and assignments with any publications
  • and not own any websites or blogs of a journalistic nature.

But for the position, which required the future employee to be “available via phone and willing to participate in events and activities in the evenings and during national holidays”, the district only offered a gross salary of 300 euros per month.

On DIS.AMB.IGUANDO, a popular blog on communication written by Giovanna Cosenza, professor of Semiotics in the Department of Philosophy and Communications of the University of Bologna, the peculiar job offer has provoked many comments. On the blog, readers agree with the professor when she says:

So bene che la pubblica amministrazione ha pochi soldi. Ma così si straccia e svende – ancor più di quanto non sia già stracciata e svenduta – la professione giornalistica. Povera Italia.

I know that the local government bodies haven't got much money. But this undervalues and undersells the journalistic profession – even more than it had already been undervalued and undersold. Poor Italy.

Among the comments is that of Amalia Temperini, from the blog Bricolage, who argues by accepting such low pay, journalists themselves support exploitation:

Di più me la prendo con quelle persone che accettano svilendo il loro percorso professionale. In molti, difatti, con la scusa della passione, accettano tali compromessi, non rendendosi conto che stanno recando un danno altissimo a tutti coloro che, giorno per giorno, sudano per migliorare il proprio status lavorativo, e rendere la propria vita (e quella degli altri) più civile.

More than anything, I blame those who accept these offers, debasing their careers. In fact, many people, with the excuse of passion for their work, accept these compromises without realising that they are damaging everyone who struggles on a daily basis to improve their employment status and make their lives (and that of others) more civilized.

There are some who point out that in Italy the situation is similar in other sectors, and others claim that the district's job offer is worth it in the long run compared to the insecurity of working as a freelance journalist, often for free or for very little. And others still, such as the user Pier Dario Forni, express irony:

[...] se nell’edificio del comune c’é un balcone, per comunicare con i pochi cittadini del paese sarebbe sufficiente affacciarsi e parlare con un megafono.

[...] if there is a balcony in the building, all they need to do to communicate with the few citizens that live there is lean over and talk to them with a megaphone.

The news, which fits in perfectly with current debates about youth unemployment or underemployment, was also mentioned in the national newspapers. Twitter user @mauretta replied to a tweet by newspaper La Repubblica, with a link to the news, underlining the fact that newspapers were jointly responsible for the exploitation of young journalists:

A press officer to earn €300 gross per month indignant, but no article on your interns who earn €0?

- maura de gaetano (@ Mauretta) August 29, 2013

On the other hand, in response to the article that appeared in newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, user roby64 suggested that the job offer may be fake:

Un bando del genere serve solo come “copertura” per dare una mancia a qualche parente. Si tratta, molto probabilmente, di poche ore settimanali, quindi 300 euro sono giustificati.

Such job offers are simply a front to give some relative extra cash. Most likely they will only work a few hours a week in which case the €300 are justified.

The district, who originally tried to justify the content of the job offer, eventually defended itself by saying that there had been a mistake in the description of the position, reiterating that it does not have funds available to raise the pay. Someone has, however, pointed out that the Mayor of Arconate, Mario Mantovani, holds several public offices (Mayor of Arconate, Councillor for Health, Deputy Governor of the Lombardy Region and Senator) receiving proportionately lavish salaries. A reader, who calls himself Il Conte, in a letter sent to the Legnano 24 newsroom entitled “Mantovani's sense of the ridiculous”, wrote:

Lo avevamo lasciato alle prese con due poltrone. Gestire il gigante multimiliardario della sanità lombarda, restando saldamente ancorato alla cadrega del feudo, è un esercizio di valore non trascurabile. Aggiungerci uno sberleffo alla categoria dei giornalisti, per mezzo di un bando per addetto stampa, è un virtuosismo degno di un circo.

We left him to struggle with two roles. Managing the multi-billion euro giant of the Lombardy health sector while remaining firmly anchored to the feudal throne, is a mighty feat. To add a sneer at the professional journalists, by means of a job offer for a press officer, is a virtuosity worthy of a circus.

Consequently, the contrast between the mayor of this small town and the offer that is being made to the potential press officer cannot help but raise the issue of the costs of Italian politics and the so-called “caste” [en] (a term commonly used in Italy in reference to politicians and their unjustified privileges).

This theme, that of the gap between the caste and the real world, unites in discontent both the young, who have ever less job security, and the old, who have difficulty getting back into the job market. While on one hand the dejection is caused by job offers such as the one published by the district of Arconate that, given that it was offered by a governmental body, should have been more respectable, on the other hand there are groups of citizens who refuse to give up.

Among these initiatives is “Voglio Restare” (I Want To Stay) which, by opposing the growing problem of the “brain drain” from Italy, has given itself the objective of “changing the country, so as to not have to change country”. An appeal from the group:

Politici, editorialisti, imprenditori ci dicono che precarietà e disoccupazione giovanile sono un dramma, quasi non fossero le conseguenze di scelte politiche condivise [...] abbiamo bisogno di un cambiamento qui e ora, che ci permetta di restare: non vogliamo il posto di qualcun altro, vogliamo costruire il nostro. Non chiediamo privilegi, ma semplicemente le condizioni di dignità e agibilità necessarie a prendere in mano il nostro futuro e quello dell’Italia [...]

Politicians, editors and business men tell us that youth unemployment and instability are a tragedy, almost as if they were not the consequences of political choices [...] we need a change here and now, that will allow us to stay: we do not want someone else's job, we want to create our own. We do not ask for privileges, but simply the necessary conditions to be able to take hold of our future and that of Italy with dignity and equal rights [...]

Post written in collaboration with Gaia Resta.

September 02 2013

When Reality TV Meets Humanitarian Action in Italy

RAI 1, the flagship television channel of the national public service broadcaster and the most watched channel in Italy, is developing a humanitarian aid show in reality form. The first episode is planned to be broadcast next 4 December 2013.

“The Mission”, which is presented as a social experience, will show eight celebrities over two weeks working for the Italian NGO Intersos in refugee camps in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. All of this will take place under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On the blog African Voices, Carlo Catteneo explained more about the premise of the show in a post entitled  “Mission” by RAI 1. A time bomb?:

The goal of RAI would be to propose, through this social experiment, as a means of advertising the cause of the most excluded and the engagement of humanitarian workers in order to create greater awareness in the audience. From the rumors collected production will not be focused on the suffering and desperation of refugees but rather on the positive and concrete commitment of humanitarian workers on the stories of refugees and the reasons for fleeing from their native countries. Each episode of The Mission will be introduced by an accurate explanation of the social, historical, political and cultural development of each country visited in order to offer the public with adequate information and to avoid the spectacularization of refugees. Laura Lucci, head of UNHCR Italy ensures that they are focusing on a program of information. The presence of UNHCR will ensure that they are only collected the stories of refugees volunteers standing up supervisor of the right of privacy and personal freedom of each individual. The increase of awareness and private story telling by refugees will help, according intentions of the promoters, to make public opinion more open and sensible on issues such as illegal immigration and the reasons that lead to the desperate search of a better life through the Mediterranean.

Cattaneo also published a copy of the official authorisation to shoot the programme from the DRC



Many Italians – whether humanitarian or not – have already begun to criticise the programme several months before it is to be broadcast. There is intense debate on the Internet. An online petition [it] asking for the programme not be be broadcast has already been signed by more than 91,000 people. They agree that the show plays with the lives of the refugees, and downplays the consequences of conflicts.

The site Afriqinfos [fr] argued that the world of reality TV is about to cross another line by going to refugee camps in Africa [fr]: et ont lancé chacun une pétition visant à annuler la mise en place de The Mission : « ça vous dirait de voir votre mère, qui a survécu à des violences inimaginables, être tournée en ridicule comme comparse d’un reality show ? » argumente la première organisation. and have each launched a petition to cancel the broadcasting of The Mission: “How would you like to see your mother, who has survived unimaginable violence, becoming an object of ridicule as an extra on a reality TV show?” argues the first of these organisations.

In addition to the recurrent criticisms, notably relating to the celebrities’ wages for the show [it], another argument against this show is that the celebrities chosen are second-class, B-listers [it] or attempting a comeback.

As zaccunu09 writes in the article Sfiga Africa: ci mancava Albano [it] (Poor Africa: Albano on top of everything else) of l'Espresso magazine [editor's note: Albano is an Italian singer who was popular in the 1970s and 80s]:

Che bella idea questa di Leone,figlio dell'ex Presidente della Repubblica,ed è superfluo dire perché oggi si trova a quel posto !, forte di un'autorità che non sappiamo bene da dove venga ,ha organizzato questa ridicola messinscena con personaggi che hanno un seguito da ridere se non fosse per la Rai che continua a farli apparire sulla scena televisiva,il più delle volte a sproposito. Albano, ci basta la presunzione e l'atteggiamento malandrino;il rampollo ruspante di casa Savoia,che non si sa a che titolo calca la scena Rai e con quali meriti se non una eredità che più scalcinata ed inquietante non poteva essere; Barale, ma esiste veramente? ,Cocuzza per più cocuzza non poteva essere,forse ho dimenticato qualcuno ma sicuramente sarà all'altezza degli altri. VIVA LA RAI ………

What a great idea from Leone – son of the ex-President of the Republic [Giovanni Leone] – and we don't need to ask how he's got that job today [director of RAI 1][it]! Relying on his authority from no one knows where, he has organised this farce with personalities who would no longer exist in the public sphere if RAI didn't take care of their media appearances by exhibiting them inappropriately as often as possible. We've had enough of Al Bano‘s complacency and mischief, and as for the direct descendant of the House of Savoy, we don't know how or why he is shown on RAI if not solely because of a legacy which could not be more pathetic and disturbing. Barale, does she even really exist? Cocuzza [the name of a RAI personality which also means thoughtless], you can't get any more thoughtless, I might have forgotten someone [it], but no doubt they will be at the same level as the others. LONG LIVE RAI……..

At, Albano addressed some of these criticisms:

Io difendo questo programma, e non capisco davvero cosa ci vediate di male: ce l'avete con me? Non capisco perché si parli di reality quando si tratta di realtà. Non sarebbe stato uno spettacolo, ma un'indagine, un'occasione per accendere i riflettori sulla gente che soffre. A me piaceva proprio l'idea di andare in un luogo in cui le persone sono abbandonate. Io voglio accendere qual faro, far vedere cosa succede. Continuano a morire dappertutto, ma se non proviamo ad accendere le luci che succederà?

I defend this programme, and I don't really understand what you see as negative: do you have a problem with me? I don't understand why we are talking about reality TV when this is about reality. It won't be a spectacle, but an investigation, an opportunity to highlight the issue of these people who are suffering. Personally, I really liked the idea of going to a place where people have been abandoned. I want to shine a light on the problem, to see what is happening. People are continuing to die everywhere, but if we don't highlight the problems, what will happen?

While with Invisible Children's Stop Kony 2012 campaign, a great majority of African comments were negative, this time they seem to give a more nuanced view, particularly on Facebook [fr]:

Aragone Diger : Sortir les réfugiés de l'ombre, c'est aussi montrer les tares de la guerre et ainsi conscientiser les populations de pays impliqués dans les guerres surtout en Afrique.

Aragone Diger: Bringing refugees out of the shadows also means showing the destruction of war, and making people living in the countries affected, especially in Africa, more aware.

Renaud-Désiré Essoh Lath: Moi j'aime ça montre que dans la vie y'a pas que Kardashians et y'a des problèmes plus sérieux !!

Renaud-Désiré Essoh Lath: Personally, I like that it shows that there is more to life than the Kardashians and that there are more serious issues!!

Following rumours that the show would be cancelled, RAI published an official denial. Thanks to the debate it has started, “The Mission” has benefited from publicity that just can't be bought.

Abdoulaye Bah and Antonella Sinopoli contributed to this article

July 13 2013

How Europe's Solution for Economic Crisis is Actually the Problem

Europe's current crisis is more than economic. Between the German government advocating a dangerous austerity policy and European authorities lacking any other suggestions, it is clear that the 2008 financial crisis is no longer solely responsible for the downward spiral of Europe.

The GDP for countries in Europe has fallen by a considerable amount: 5.3 percent for Greece, 3.9 percent for Portugal, 4.1 percent for Cyprus, 2.3 percent for Italy, and two percent for Spain. This is without even mentioning the recession into which France is entering. In the first quarter of this year, the European Union economy contracted by 0.7 percent, or one percent when only taking into consideration the eurozone.

If it was only the 2008 economic crisis that was responsible for all this, Europe would not be one of the only one to suffer so much. For example, the United States, the birthplace of this crisis, registered a 1.9 percent increase in their economy in 2013 [fr] while their unemployment rate was at its lowest in four years.

Europe, which for a long time has aimed to maintain growth that compares favorably with  United States, now finds itself completely lost among incoherent policies and disputes between countries [fr].

One of the main reasons for this current instability in Europe is the evident failure of the European policy authorities when their proposals seem more than enigmatic. Restricting interchange fees as proposed by Michel Barnier, the European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, is a perfect example of is a perfect example of  the Commission taking measures that will not have any concrete impact.

Capping interchange fees, bank charges paid by retailers when they make a card payment, would not only increase personal bank charges [fr], as the banks would want to recuperate the money lost by this cap, but the retailers profit margin will also increase, as they rarely lower their prices just because their costs have decreased.

The other significant issue which has notably accelerated the decline of Europe is the restricted austerity policy which the majority of EU countries have undertaken. It would be more logical for Europe to take inspiration from the countries that have pulled through, i.e. the United States, in order to stimulate the market rather than only focusing on reducing the deficit.

Le taux de chômage des jeunes en Europe de 2005-13 via Les crises, domaine public

Youth unemployment rate in Europe between 2005-2013 via Les Crises – public domain

The most frustrating aspect about this issue is that the majority of the European leaders agree on this point, but no one dares to confront the life-long defenders of austerity, also know as « Sparkurs » [de] in Germany and its strict chancellor, Angela Merkel [fr]. But there are also critics of austerity on the German side. Last week, Gilles Moëc, head economist at Deutsche Bank, admitted to the news outlet Agence France-Presse that “there were some errors” [fr] in the selected strategy.

However, it's not as if the Merkel method was fully tried and tested, in fact, it was far from it. Portugal, for example, had never been in such a terrible state until it was subjected to the European austerity policy. In two years, its unemployment rate increased by 5.3 percent, its budget deficit by 1.1 percent. As for its public debt, it's now 123 percent higher than its GDP.

Julio Salazar Moreno, Secretary-General of Spanish worker's trade union USO, believes that the countries within the European Union need to stop with the austerity policy [pt], according to online newspaper Público:

Os países da União Europeia (UE) têm de parar “de uma vez por todas” com a aplicação de medidas recessivas, porque os cidadãos, alerta, estão a viver no limite dos sacrifícios

The countries within the European Union (EU) must refrain from enforcing austerity policies “once and for all” because the alert citizens are living at the very limits of their possible sacrifices.

The sledgehammer approach is just as inefficient for Greece, claims Gregor Gyzi, a president from a left-wing parliamentary group in Germany Bundestag by addressing the Greek readers [el] of news247:

οι επιβληθείσες, κυρίως από την γερμανική κυβέρνηση, περικοπές σε μισθούς και συντάξεις, οι απολύσεις και οι ιδιωτικοποιήσεις, όχι μόνο ώθησαν την Ελλάδα σε βαθιά ύφεση και κοινωνικά προβλήματα, αλλά κατέστησαν και αδύνατη την επιστροφή των δανείων στο εγγύς μέλλον

Imposed primarily by the German government, salary and retirement cuts, redundancies and privatisations, are not only going to push Greece into a major recession and cause social problems, but its also going to make loan repayments equally impossible.

Emigration figures for Europe are also far from surprising. In two years, 2.5 percent of the Portuguese population left the country. Who would have said ten years ago that today many Europeans would leave the continent to work in countries like Angola or Brazil?

Facing this alarming development, it is even more depressing to hear the responses of others, like that of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, also the former minister of the Eurogroup, who recently gave his thoughts on the European crisis [fr] and concluded that what Europe needs is some “TLC”: a statement which speaks for itself.

May 31 2013

Guinea: Special Guest at the 2013 Turin International Book Fair

The 26th International Book Fair took place in Turin, capital of the Italian Piedmont region, between May 16 and May 20, 2013. The Francophone West African country of Guinea was the sole representative of the African continent to be invited as a special guest country. This news did not pass unnoticed in Conakry and on the Guinean blogosphere – both at home and abroad.

Maria from Babia gave her opinion of the Guinea exhibition stand on blog [fr]:

Pour marquer sa participation à ce Salon International du Livre de Turin, les Guinéens ont tablé sur l’organisation de conférences-débats avec les auteurs invités, l’exposition-ventes d’objets d’art  et les rencontres informelles avec les enfants, les jeunes et les personnes âgées. Par exemple, le caricaturiste Oscar Ben Barry  a pu croquer quelques invités en compagnie de petits italiens ; tandis que Tierno Monemebo et Salif Keïta, Justin Morel Junior et Cheick Oumar Kanté débattaient de l’avenir de la littérature guinéenne.

To mark its participation in the Turin International Book Fair, Guineans took part in the organisation of debates and conferences with guest authors, an art exhibition and sale, as well as informal meet-ups with children, young people and the eldery. For example, cartoonist Oscar Ben Barry sketched several guests together with Italian youngsters while Tierno Monemebo, Salif Keita, Justin Morel Junior and Cheick Oumar Kanté were debating the future of Guinean literature.

Amadou Tham Camara wrote on website [fr]:

Le stand exotique guinéen, très achalandé, a suscité beaucoup de curiosités. En marge des visites du stand, les auteurs Thierno Monenembo, Cheick Oumar Kanté et le sénégalais Pap Khouma ont animé dans l’après-midi une conférence sur la problématique de la culture orale et de la culture écrite en Afrique occidentale….

A la faveur de la crise économique et de son corollaire de délocalisation, la ville de Turin est en train de remplacer son industrie automobile par une industrie culturelle. A la Guinée, unique pays africain présent à ce salon du livre, de s’en inspirer pour mettre son industrie culturelle à la place de… rien.

The exotic Guinean exhibition stand was very busy and generated a lot of interest. As well as visiting the stand, Guinean authors Thierno Monenembo, Cheick Oumar Kanté and Pap Khouma from Senegal participated in an afternoon conference on the problems with oral and written culture in Western Africa [...]Due to the economic crisis and associated delocalisation, the city of Turin is in the process of replacing its car industry with cultural industries. Guinea, sole African nation present at this book fair, has been inspired by this to use its cultural industry to replace … nothing.

Here is a video showing Guinean Culture on display in Turin

Website covered [it] the presence of Guinea at the book fair and the hope that it would encourage the country to become next year’s ‘guest of honour.’:

La Guinea è ospite speciale del Salone 2013 e presenta la propria candidatura quale Ospite d’onore per il 2014.
Il progetto OnGuinea è curato dall’Associazione italo-guineana [Nakiri] in collaborazione con il Ministero della cultura e del patrimonio storico della Guinea, il Ministero degli affari esteri e dei Guineani all’estero e il Ministero del Turismo della Guinea.
Numerosi gli incontri con personalità guineane fra cui l’ex ministro dell’informazione e comunicazione Justin Morel Junior, scrittori, giornalisti, antropologi.
Fra i temi affrontati: la cultura orale, le guerre, la cultura come motore di sviluppo per l’Africa.
Letture, poesia e musica e sabato 18 alle 21, per il Salone Off, al Jazz Club di via Giolitti 30 concerto dei Ba Cissoko, uno dei gruppi musicali guineani più famosi nel mondo.

Guinea is the special guest of the 2013 Book Fair, and is applying to be 2014’s guest of honour.
The project On Guinea was started by the Italian-Guinean association together with the Ministry of Culture and Historical Patrimony of Guinea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Overseas and the Guinean Tourism Ministry.
There were many meetings with Guineans including the ex-Minster of Information and Communication, Justin Morel Junior, writers, journalists and anthropologists.
Among the topics covered: Oral culture, wars, culture as a driver of development for Africa.
There were lectures, poetry and music from Saturday 18th until the 21st, by Salone Off at the Jazz Club at Via Giolitti 30, a concert by group Ba Cissoko, one of the most famous Guinean groups in the world.

zeinabKoumanthio Zeinab Diallo Kazédi, Guinean post, photo used with her permission

Among people who came from Guinea to take part in the Book Fair were poet Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo Kazédi who website introduced as follows [fr]:

Elle est l'héritière d'une tradition poétique peulhe extrêmement riche. Son premier ouvrage est dédié à ses enfants, Dalanda (Lynda), Ousmane (Mawdo), Mamadou (Vieux) et Tiguidanké (Nene). Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo est fondatrice de la section guinéenne du PEN Club International, membre du Comité International des Femmes Ecrivains et de plusieurs autres associations littéraires. Elle a obtenu un premier prix de poésie pular en 1990 et Les rires du silence a reçu le prix du président de la République de Guinée au concours littéraire organisé par la Pan Africaine des Ecrivains en 2005.

She follows an extremely rich poetic tradition. Her first work was dedicated to her children, Dalanda (Lynda), Ousmane (Mawdo), Mamadou (Vieux) and Tiguidanké (Nene). Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo founded the Guinean branch of the International PEN Club, is a member of the International Committee of Women Writers and of several other literary associations. She won her first poetry prize in 1990 and Les rires du silence (The Laughs of Silence) received the Guinean President’s Prize at a literary competition organised by the Pan African Writers’ Assocation in 2005.

Tierno Monénembo, author of around ten novels, also took part. Website introduced him [fr]:

Guinea's Exhibition Stand at the Turin Book Fair. Photo from Facebook page On Guinea

Guinea's Exhibition Stand at the Turin Book Fair. Photo from Facebook page On Guinea with their permission

Après l’étape de Casablanca, Monénembo est attendu successivement à Paris et à Genève pour la réception de différents prix remportés par son tout dernier roman « Le terroriste noir ».
Le 15 mai prochain, il est attendu à Turin en Italie, pour animer des conférences, tout en prenant part au Salon International du livre de Turin où seront notamment exposées ses œuvres traduites en Italien.

Monénembo a écrit les Crapauds-brousse (1979), Les Ecailles du Ciel (1986), Un rêve utile (1991), Un attiéké pour Elgass (1993), Pelourinho (1995), Cinéma (1997), L’Ainé des orphelins (2000), Peuls (2004), la Tribu des gonzesses (2006), le Roi de Kahel (2008) et le Terroriste noir (2012).

After the Casablanca stage, Monénembo went to Paris then Geneva to collect an assortment of prizes won for his latest novel, ‘The Black Terrorist.’
He was expected at Turin in Italy from May 15 to participate in conferences while taking part in the International Book Fair where his books were to be displayed translated into Italian.
Monénembo wrote ‘les Crapauds-brousse’ (1979), Scales of the Sky (1986), A Useful Dream (1991), Un attiéké pour Elgass (1993), Pelourinho (1995), Cinema (1997), The Eldest of the Orphans (2000), Peuls (2004), la Tribu des gonzesses (2006), The King of Kahel (2008) and The Black Terrorist (2012).

Guinea’s preparations for participation in the fair started several months ago. In January 2013 Mame Diallo wrote on website [fr]:

Parlant de la participation de la Guinée au Salon du Livre à Turin (ex-capitale italienne), M. Adramet Barry, président de l’Association Nakiri dira que « la Guinée après sa phase d’essai va bénéficier cette fois-ci en tant qu’invitée spéciale d’un espace plus large de 90 mètres carré ». Pour ce dernier, cet espace qui aura l’occasion d’être visité du 16 au 21 mai 2013 par une moyenne de 360 000 personnes permettra à la Guinée de mettre en valeur son patrimoine culturel.

Dans l’espoir d’être les invités d’honneur en 2014 avec un stand de 300 mètres carré, les représentants guinéens entendent gagner le pari cette année et sollicitent pour ce faire, l’appui financier, technique et moral du gouvernement guinéen et de tout le peuple de Guinée.

While talking about Guinea’s participation in the Book Fair of Turin (once capital of Italy), Mr Adramet Barry, president of the Nakiri Association said that ‘Guinea after its trial phase will benefit this time as a special guest with a space of more than 90 square metres.’
For Guinea, this platform which will be visited by an average of 360,000 people from the 16th to the 21st of May will allow the country to highlight its cultural heritage.
Hoping to be the 2014 guests of honour with an exhibition stand of 300 square metres, the Guinean representatives intend to win their gamble this year and to do this are requesting financial, technical and moral support from the government and the people of Guinea.

Naby Soumah recalled [fr] on website that the invitation had been confirmed in Conakry during the celebration ‘des 72 heures du livre’ organised each year to commemorate World Book and Copyright Day [fr]:

L’information a été donnée ce matin au cours d’une conférence à la maison de la presse par le Président de l’association ‘’Nakiri’’, Adramet Barry en provenance de l’Italie. Pour cette association composée de guinéens vivant à l’étranger, la Guinée est invitée spéciale cette année en Italie au salon de livre de Turin.

Ainsi, la Guinée va être représentée par le comité des 72 heures libres, qui aura à présenter les œuvres guinéennes sur cette place. Pour l’association, à l’Edition prochaine, la Guinée aura le titre d’invité d’honneur à cette grande Edition. Ensuite, elle pourra être présente au salon international du livre qui se tiendra en Italie en 2014. Une véritable aubaine pour la promotion de la culture guinéenne. 

This news was given this morning during a press conference by the President of the Nakiri Assocation, Adramet Barry, who is Italian. For this association of Guineans who live abroad, Guinea was definitely the special guest this year at the Turin Book Fair.
Therefore, Guinea will be represented by the 72 heures libres committee, who will have to present Guinean works. According to the association, Guinea will be the Guest of Honour at the next event. After which, the country could be present at the next International Book Fair which will take place in Italy in 2014. A real dawn for the promotion of Guinean culture.

The capacity of the Italian-Guinean Nakiri Association [fr] to organize this participation is proof that when Guineans forget political tension they can give the country a more positive image.


May 28 2013

Human Rights Activists Hone Digital Skills in 2013 Empowerment Lab

Eleven international human rights activists learned new digital skills and shared experiences in this year's Empowerment Lab in Florence, Italy.

The week-long training program organized by The Robert F. Kennedy Training Institute seeks to empower digital activists who face growing threats of freedom of expression.

Nilantha Ilangamuwa, an exiled journalist from Sri Lanka, wrote about his experience in the “The Sri Lanka Guardian,” an online newspaper he founded.

Human Rights Defenders at a workshop. Picture taken by the author of this post.

Human rights defenders at a workshop. Picture by Andrea Arzaba.

Nil, as his friends call him, described how he felt when he attended the screening of the documentary “Call me kuchu”, which shows the life-threatening situations that sexual minorities in Uganda experience on a daily basis:

I felt like screaming when I was returning to the place where I was staying, after spending hours watching a documentary on homophobia in Uganda. Uganda is one of the countries in the world, which continuously contributes to nightmares of human in the pages of world’s history.

LGBT activist Frank Mugisha, one of the Lab's participants, appears in the documentary.

Nilantha also shared some of the compelling conversations he had with fellow human rights defenders on issues like social change and censorship in developing nations:

What we are seeing in many countries categorized as “developing nations”, is the common reality of suffering! Institutional collapse! Loss of hope of life while accepting that “social change” is impossible. This is the most common tragedy that we can observer [sic] in our motherlands. In our society, desire to fight against absolute power has been opposed by the culture of silence.

Renowned Italian journalist Luca de Biase wrote a short post for Medium where he expresses how important it is to not take democracy for granted in the western world:

In Florence, at the RKF Training Institute, activists teach us to love our democracy

Luca de Biase also reflected on what he learned from meeting and talking to the international digital activists at the RFK Training Institute:

But as activists learn what can help them in their non-violent fight, we the people living in the “democratic West” are going to learn as much from them. Democracy is not a given, it is a process: and we need to maintain it, we need to care about it. Activists from all over the world help their people. But they also help us.

Digital activism workshops for human rights defenders, held in Florence. Picture taken by the author of this post

Digital activism workshops for human rights defenders, held in Florence. Picture by Andrea Arzaba.

Nilantha finished his blog post with a quote that expresses the way he felt when he left the workshop:

Let us unite, as Gloria Reuben, a well-known Hollywood actress pointed out; to make the world for the people who have no space to raise their voice, whose rights have been buried in the slum of absolute power and injustice. Let us sing our song of rights among the communities where people can come up with fresh ideas to change the society currently controlled by the tyrant. It will wipe out our sorrows, and tears of sadness while generating a hope in hapless souls.

You can read the Lab's official blog posts at

May 27 2013

From Guinea to Italy to France and Back: An Interview with Blogger Abdoulaye Bah

Global Voices author and translator Abdoulaye Bah, originally from Guinea, is a retired Italian citizen who has worked for the United Nations. He splits his time between Rome and Nice and has collaborated [fr] with GV since December 2008, having contributed to thousands of written posts and translation in French as well as a considerable number of posts [it] for the Italian group and some more in English.

Bah also runs his own blog, the Konakry Express, where he writes about Italian and African politics. His latest post unfortunately details [fr] his recent encounter with racism in an Italian restaurant in Nice in which a man roughly shoved him out the door of a restaurant, an incident he is speaking to anti-racist NGO SOS Racisme for help.

Before that terrible incident, we had the opportunity to speak with Bah about his life, from his experience hiding in a bathroom to enter Italy without the proper papers, to his marriage in the Vatican, from his foray into cinema to his multi-belief family.

Global Voices (GV): You are originally from Guinea Conakry. When did you arrive in Italy? How would you describe your experience of arriving clandestinely in the country?

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): Precisely last April it was 50 years since I first arrived in Italy, in Florence, to study. However, it wasn't then that I arrived clandestinely in the country. Nevertheless, shortly after my arrival, my documents expired and I was faced with the experience of being “sans-papier”. The life of a student without a scholarship is difficult, however the Italian police didn't employ all the xenophobic measures that they use today.

Despite the help I received from many friends, I experienced hunger to the point where I sat my first university exam in a state of dizziness. Luckily, the Archbishop of Florence, H.E. Ermenegildo Florit, under the recommendation of Mayor Giorgio La Pira, offered me the possibility to eat at the charity Caritas’ canteen and sleep at the homeless shelter [it].

GV: So when did you illegally enter Italy?

AB: It happened after the end of my studies in Florence, in 1967, just after obtaining my diploma in statistics. I continued with a specialisation course, then I went to Paris where I wanted to work and save up to buy a ticket to return to my country. When my father found out, he came to find me and advise me against returning to Guinea because the dictatorship had become more merciless, with tens of thousands of arrests and massacres of innocent people, particularly among the academics of our ethnicity.

Not having any documents, it was not easy to obtain a visa to return to Italy. I took the train from Paris to Rome the day after Che Guevara's death, 9 October, 1967. Arriving on the border at Ventimiglia, I instantly felt the police controls, I went into the bathroom leaving the door open and clung to the partition above the toilet cubicle. When the police agents entered they looked around without noticing me and closed the door. And that's how I managed to re-enter Italy.

A priest who had just founded UCSEI [it, Ufficio centrale studenti esteri Central Office for Foreign Students] took me on as a writer for 20,000 lire a month, with which I could pay the rent. I also managed to find extra activities to earn a little more. I summarised and translated scientists’ biographies, in particular for the Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze [Papal Academy of Science], and later I worked for the IRI [Institute for Industrial Reconstruction] as a public relations consultant in their office for international co-operation.

I clandestini di oggi,

Today's clandestines, “I'm in Italy, I'll become rich!!”, by Gianluca Costantini (2005) under licence CC 3.0

GV: Your nation is, from a religious point of view, predominately Muslim. What can you tell us about marrying in the Vatican and can you explain how it came about?

ABIn Guinea, religion is practised in a tolerant manner. From a young age I experienced a lot through contact with my grandfather, who was an important religious leader and died at Mecca. I followed many of his sermons, full of compassion. After secondary school my father paid for my studies at a school run by priests, the best in Guinea. Given the environment in which my personality developed, different religions have never been a problem for me.

In 1969, when I met my soulmate and we decided to marry, I couldn't obtain any documentation from my country. I was living illegally in Italy. I couldn't supply complete documentation to ask for a civil marriage. Father Remigio Musaragno [it], the director of UCSEI, made the proposal of marrying in the Vatican. The instruction on mixed marriages issued on the 18th March 1966 [it] solicited a few guarantees from me – relevant also in my country -, the respect of my wife's religion, the commitment to not obstruct the religious education of our children, and the understanding of the indissoluble nature of marriage contracted in church.

By and large I've kept to my commitments, we are still married and I have not obstructed the Catholic education of our children. Our eldest has even become a Franciscan Tertiary, on this past 7 April, while our second-born is agnostic. I've become a member of the Radical Party.

GV: Would you like to tell us something about your son's experience who became a Franciscan Tertiary?

AB: In all the countries I have visited, my wife and my three children have always practised the Catholic religion. Furthermore, in our house we have always received priests as much as in Addis Abeba, my first place of work for the United Nations, and in Vienna, where we lived for a longer time.

In Vienna we tried to teach our children about the Muslim religion as well, in order to allow them to choose between Islam and Catholicism. However, teaching Islam is difficult in a European environment because one should learn to read and write Arabic. So we asked some North African students who studied in Vienna to explain the foundations to them.

When our children decided to be baptised, Ahmed, the eldest, didn't want to do it and leave me being the only Muslim follower in the family. We had already explained to him that it wasn't the case because I didn't practise any religion. Only then did he too get baptised. Returning to Rome, to carry out work, he started to attend a Franciscan community and work voluntarily for Caritas, discovering his vocation.

GV: Your relationship with the Catholic Church also includes a small role in Nanni Moretti's film “Habemus Papam“: How did that come about and what role did you have?

AB: That participation was pure coincidence. When the director set about making the film, he needed immigrants of a certain age from all over the world. Unfortunately when filming started I was ill and I only took part in a few scenes. I was close to Michel Piccoli, to his left. I was the Cardinal of Zambia. I've never dreamed of working in film even though I had the fortune of participating in films by famous directors such as Federico Fellini and Gillo Pontecorvo in the 1960′s in the Cinecittà and De Laurentiis studios.

Abdoulaye Bah

Abdoulaye Bah

GV: How did you get involved with Global Voices? And the blog Konakry Express [fr]?

AB: One evening in December 2008, by then I had retired, to avoid arguing with my wife about what to watch on TV, I started to search on the Internet for a voluntary activity I could undertake. Among the sites I came across was Global Voices. I read a few posts and liked them. Immediately, I contacted Claire Ulrich, the person in charge of the French group and I started to partake.

I didn't have any blogging experience beforehand. I didn't even know what Facebook, Twitter, netizen, citizen media, blogs or posts were. My only previous activity had been the creation of a forum for the victims of the dictatorship in my country. I became a blogger thanks to the patience of Claire Ulrich, who helped me create Konakry Express [fr], a blog designed to broadcast information of the grave violations of human rights that occurred in Guinea on the 28th September 2009.

GV: What relationship is there between your activity as a blogger and your involvement in politics with the Radical Party?

AB: I experienced the 1968 protests in Italy, I followed or took part in many of the youth protests for the decolonisation in Africa, the fight against Apartheid, condemnation of the Vietnam War, the fight against segregation in the USA. The topics which were at the forefront for the Radical Party in Italy could not but engage me: the fight for the rights for abortion and divorce and against world hunger. It is also thanks to the radical initiatives which arose in the 1990′s with the creation of the International Criminal Court, with the discussions about suspension of capitol punishment worldwide or the successes against female genital mutilation.

My sensitivity towards human rights is the fruit of the experience faced in my country and during the peace missions in which I participated, in places where these rights were being violated, such as Cambodia, Haiti and Rwanda. In my blogs, I try to write or translate posts on these topics which are in my heart.

GV: Speaking of which, what is your opinion of the situation in Guinea Conakry today?

AB: In 2010, Alpha Condé, a former academic professor of rights at Sorbona, was elected as president. Many citizens expected improvements but, unfortunately, he is the worst president the country could have had so far due to the rifts his politics are creating among ethnic groups. In his government, there are people accused of crimes against humanity, not only by international NGO's or the UN, but also by Guinean justice, and yet they maintain the same positions of responsibility which they occupied when they committed these acts or they have even been promoted. They should have been able to have elections a few months after the presidential elections but there is no common ground of understanding between the government and the opposition. The future doesn't look promising. [Read this previous interview [it] with Abdoulaye for more on this topic.]


May 07 2013

Congolese-Italian Woman Joins Italy's Cabinet

[All quotations are translated from the original French articles, except the Twitter quotes, which were originally Italian]

Two months after the February 2013 Italian general election, Prime Minister Enrico Letta, selected by the President Giorgio Napolitano to create a consensus government, revealed the members of his team. Among the surprises was the nomination of Doctor Cecile Kyenge, specialist in Opthamology, as Minister of Integration. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she is the first immigrant ever to accede to a ministerial position in Italy.

News website described her [fr] as follows:

Cecile Kyenge, member of the Democratic Party, was born on August 28, 1964 in Kambove in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
She arrived in Italy in 1983 and is now an Italian citizen. She obtained her degree in medicine and surgery at the Catholic University of Rome, before specialising in opthamology at the University of Modena.

Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Dr Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Although elected into the left wing Democratic Party during the recent elections, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, she had already become the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament, when she was elected provincial councillor in Modena for the Democratic Party. In an article published on [fr], Rene Kouame wrote:

The honorable Cecile Kyenge is not taking her first steps in the political life of Italy. She has been a councillor since the last legislature of the Emilia Romagna regional council. At the heart of the Italian Democratic Party she occupied the role of responsibility for the immigration forum for several years. As a human rights supporter, Cecile Kyenge has fought for several years to gain respect for the rights of immigrants in Italy. She is spokesperson of the national movement March First (a national organisation fighting against any kind of discrimination and for respect for the rights of immigrants).

The following video [it] shows Cecile Kyenge swearing in before President G. Napolitano at the Quirinal Palace in Rome:

She has fought for many years for better immigration laws, notably for repeal of the crime of illegal immigration which has filled Italian prisons with people whose only crime, for the most part, is to not have identity papers. News website covered her journey [fr]:

Minister of the Democratic Party, the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament was in the middle of preparing a file on ‘institutional racism’ in Italy. She was also fighting for repealing the crime of illegal immigration and wants to make the job market more accessible to foreigners.
According to Cecile Kyenge, it is also necessary to ‘fight against violence of a sexist, racist, homophobic, or any other, nature.’ Mr Letta, who also belongs to the Democratic Party, exulted in this choice which ‘clearly demonstrates belief in a more integrated, truly multicultural Italy.’

Blog said this [fr] about her:

She owes her position as a M.P. to her engagement at the heart of the Democratic Party in the Emilia-Romagna region. In particular, she looked after immigration questions – the portfolio that she will be in charge of at the heart of the new government.
At the heart of her political, associative and militant combat lies the free circulation of people and the desire for a new citizenship law. What is more, in September 2010, she became national spokesperson for the March First movement where she promoted human rights, including those for migrants.

Before the elections Cecile Kyenge defined her combat objectives [fr] in an article published on blog

My candidacy represents and gives a voice to the ‘New Italians’ (term designating foreigners who become Italian), these foreigners who only ask to become a citizen. As a minister of the republic, my voice must also defend the community of Italian citizens, because I believe intermixing can and must be an added value in our culture and not an obstacle like some would have us believe for so long.

Of course, as soon as the composition of the government was published, right wing extremists and xenophobes unleashed themselves to denounce her presence among the other ministers. @adilmauro cited Roberto Maroni, ex-Minister of the Interior and leader of the Northern League, on Twitter:

@adilmauro: Cecile Kyenge is not Italian, say those who want to make Italy change. Here we have the League who ‘march on racism’ (said Maroni)

Journalist Enrico Grazioli (@engraz), also on Twitter, commented on the racist reactions :

@engraz: Cecile #kyenge has ‘already been welcomed by the worst of Italy as we should have expected. But she will not be afraid #governoletta

April 08 2013

Tactical Tech's Info-Activism Camp: Apply!

Tactical Tech Info-Activism Camp

Tactical Tech's 2013 Info Activism Camp in northern Italy (23-30 June) will explore how digital technologies, data and visuals can be used to influence society. Only 80 spots available, apply before April 15.

April 02 2013

‘Tribewanted’ Creates, Connects Eco-Villages

Renewable energy, permaculture and green building, along with local traditions and eco-tourism: welcome to Tribewanted – an online community launched in 2006 based on the idea of “global citizenship” and harnessing the energy of social media to meaningfully connect and practice positive behavior change. Thanks to crowdfunding strategies, the project plans to build 10 eco-villages around the world: after Vorovoro (Fiji Islands) and John Obey (Sierra Leone), a new village just launched in Monestevole [it], in Umbria, the heart of Italy. Connect with Tribewanted people via web, Facebook or Vimeo.

March 20 2013

Italy: Grillo's Party Takes the Lead in Political Stalemate

[All links point to Italian reources unless otherwise indicated]

At the general elections on 24-25 February, the MoVimento 5 Stelle (M5S), founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009 in Florence, won 109 seats out of 630 in the Parliament in their first electoral campaign, making them the party with the most seats. In addition they won 54 seats out of 315 in the Senate. It was a surprise as, barely a month earlier, polls were predicting that M5S would win 18% of parliament seats and 12.1% of the seats in the Senate. As has by now been noted, social media has played an influential role in the success of M5S, leading to the election of many young parliamentarians, making for one of the youngest parliaments in Europe.

Beppe Grillo, the comedian who's blocking Italian politics. Photo on Flickr by Jagen, via

Beppe Grillo, the comedian who's causing a stalemate in Italian politics. Photo from Flickr  by Jaqen, via

Who voted M5S?

Drawing on a recently published collection of perspectives (Il Partito di Grillo, Il Mulino), Gabriele Ainis explained on his blog:

 ….M5S nasce come espressione di una sinistra ecologista e libertaria, che si aggregano movimenti vari e variegati – prima di tutto nell’area dell’ambientalismo, ma anche legati a istanze puramente locali, sussecutivamente [successivamente?] integrate e ampliate dal gruppo. Finché diventa un attrattore valido anche per la destra una volta che venga cavalcata l’istanza “antisistema” (se ci si intende sul termine, naturalmente, tanto per esser chiari il “mandiamoli tutti a casa”.

…M5S was the fruit of an environmentalist and libertarian left-wing movement, which then combined with various and varied movements – mainly concentrated on environmental cause but also those linked to very local causes – and which were successively integrated into, and expanded upon by, the group.  It became attractive to those on the right as well once it came out of its “anti-system” phase (just so we're all in agreement on the terms, naturally this refers to “mandiamoli tutti a casa”)[Transl. note: mandiamoli tutti a casa [send them all home] was M5S electoral slogan].

Who did they vote for before?



According to several sources, the former political allegiances of those who voted for the “grillini” seem to be fairly varied. Commenting on a post by Elisa Gianni suggesting a shift from the Partito Democratico (PD) [en, Lega Nord [en] and the IDV (Italia Dei Valori) [en], reader Gianni Armani, writes that:

Il boom della lista ispirata da Beppe Grillo è stato alimentato per il 30% da elettori che alle europee del 2009 avevano scelto il centrosinistra (Pd, Idv e altri) e per il 27% da elettori che avevano scelto il centrodestra (Pdl, Lega e altri). Per Grillo il bacino più grande resta comunque quello dell’astensione, pari al 37% dei suoi consensi, cioè un esercito di oltre tre milioni di persone. Gli altri partiti al di fuori delle coalizioni principali contano soltanto per il 6%. In dettaglio, il Movimento 5 Stelle ha preso l’11% dal Pd, il 12% dall’Idv, 7% da altri. Dal blocco di centrodestra, il 18% dei consensi grillini è arrivato dal Pdl, l’8% dalla Lega, l’1% da altri.”
A chi credere?

Of the voters who fueled the election success inspired by Beppe Grillo, 30% voted for centre-left candidates (PD, IDV and others) and 27% voted centre-right (PDL, Lega Nord and others) at the 2009 European elections. For Grillo it was non-voters who made the greatest difference, making up 37% of his supporters, an army more than 3 million strong. The other parties outside of the main blocks only accounted for 6%. To break it down, the Movimento 5 Stelle, took 11% of their votes from the PD, 12% from the IDV, 12% from other [left-wing] parties. From the centre-right block, 18% of support for Grillo came from PDL voters, 8% from Lega [Nord], 1% from others. Who to believe?

Where did M5S have the greatest success?

The party's success was spread evenly throughout Italy, with a peak of 53.17% of the votes cast in the district of Exilles in Alta Val di Susa, where “No TAV” protests rumble on. On a regional level, M5S registered percentages close to or exceeding 33% in Liguria (32.1%), in Sardinia (33.7%), in Marche (32.1%) and in Sicily (32.7%).

Why did people vote for M5S?

The reasons behind the surge of support for M5S seem to be similar to those behind the support of thousands of young people for the Occupy movement – with the addition, of course, of a little something typically Italian. A few examples follow.

Lack of faith in institutions

On the blog the damning judgement is that:

Nessuno si salva: le istituzioni italiane non convincono più; neanche il Quirinale che da sempre ha rappresentato assieme al suo esponente Giorgio Napolitano, un modello esemplare di costante garanzia per gli italiani. Nelle anticipazioni del “Rapporto Italia” che l’Eurispes presenterà il prossimo 31 di gennaio, il dato che emerge è chiaro: rispetto alle percentuali registrate lo scorso anno, il calo è brusco sia per il Capo dello stato che per il Vaticano.

Nobody is immune: Italian institutions are not fooling anyone any more; not even the Quirinale [Presidential Palace] which, along with the current occupant, Giorgio Napolitano, has always represented a model example of constant reassurance for Italians. The data which emerges ahead of the “Rapporto Italia” [Italy Report] that [the political institute] Eurispes will release on the 31st of January next year, is clear: with respect to the percentages registered last year, the fall from grace has been as severe for the Head of State as for the Vatican.

Parachuting in candidates.

In the comments on the site, Luciano writes:

Giusto l’analisi fatta , e come accennai ad un Amico del PD di Settimo ante votazione; la perdita era prevista in quanto il Bersani ha paracadutato gente che non ha niente a che fare con la realta’ locale ed ha immesso in lista presone come la Bindi con gia’ troppi mandati alle spalle ! Per cui la colpa non puo’ e non deve andare alle sezioni LOCALI !

The analysis that has been made is correct, and, as a friend of the PD from Settimo alluded to before the election took place, the loss could have be predicted in light of the fact that Bersani parachuted in people who have nothing to do with the local reality and included people like Bindi [Rosy Bindi [en], first elected in 1989] in the list, who already have way too many election campaigns behind them! For which the LOCAL branches of the parties cannot and should not be blamed!

An establishment which is eating itself.

In October 2012, on the blog, Marianna De Palma calls to mind the sad Italian reality that:

A deliberare sulla legge anticorruzione – pare in arrivo – anche 100 parlamentari imputati, condannati o prescritti. E’ normale per gli Italiani avere parlamentari del genere?

Among those debating the anti-corruption law – which appears to be on its way in – are 100 parliamentarians who have been indicted, convicted or have been acquitted due to the statute of limitations running out on their cases. Is it normal for Italians to have this kind of parliamentarians?

As Carmine Gazzanni notes on the blog

Figli, mogli, mariti, nipoti. Scorrendo i nomi dei candidati (alcuni ufficiali, altri ufficiosi) per le politiche, si rimane increduli vista la mole di parenti di ex deputati presenti. Spesso c’è proprio una sostituzione: esce padre, entra figlio.

Children, wives, husbands, grandchildren. Looking through the names of the candidates (some official, some off-the-record) for the elections, the number of relatives of ex-deputies included is unbelievable. Often it's a direct substitution: the father leaves and the son enters.

An armchair gerontocracy.

In September 2012, luna_rossa commented on the site

Nel Parlamento ad esempio l'età media dei deputati è 54 anni e quella dei senatori e 57, e anche nelle università, dove si suppone dovrebbero avere più spazio i giovani, l'età media dei professori viaggia intorno ai 63 anni.

The average age of deputies in the Parliament, for example, is 54 and that of senators is 57, and, even in universities, where you would imagine there would be more space for young people, the average age of professors is around 63.

An analysis by the IDV Senator, Stefano Pedica, only serves to reinforce this:

Ci sono persone – fa notare Pedica – che siedono in Parlamento da decenni. Un lungo elenco di persone che vantano da un minimo di 16 anni a un massimo di quasi 40 anni di presenze alla Camera e al Senato.

There are those, as Pedica points out, who have been sitting in Parliament for decades. A long list of individuals who boast from a minimum of 16 years up to a maximum of almost forty years’ presence in the Parliament and Senate.

Logo del Movimento 5 Stelle

Logo del Movimento 5 Stelle

It is, however, true that Grillo's troops have brought a massive infusion of youthful blood to the Parliament, as is stressed on their Facebook page:

 Lo Tsunami che ha travolto la politica italiana ha spazzato via uno tra i Parlamenti più vecchi d'Europa (55 anni di media) restituendo i parlimentari più giovani di tutto il mondo occidentale e dell'intera storia della Repubblica. L'età media, tra Camera e Senato, è di 48 anni, più bassa rispetto non solo a quella dei paesi dell'UE, ma anche a quella degli Stati Uniti, tutti con un'età media di oltre 50 anni. …Quello del MoVimento 5 Stelle è anche il gruppo con la maggiore percentuale di laureati: l'88%, in coda alla classifica il pd con il 67% e la lega con il 40%.

The tsunami which has swept over Italian politics has swept away one of the oldest Parliaments in Europe (average age 55) and resulted in the youngest parliament in the Western world, and in all of Italian history. The combined average age of Parliament and Senate is 48, not only lower than that of [other] European Union countries, but also lower than that of the US, all of whom have an average age is over 50… The deputies from the MoVimento 5 Stelle are also the group with the highest percentage of graduates, 88% compared to the PDs with 67% and Lega (Nord) with 40%.

The political ethics of M5S and the institutional stalemate

The elected representatives of M5S must, however, conform to the Code of Conduct they each signed up to with Grillo, which sets out, among other things:

La costituzione di due “gruppi di comunicazione”, uno per la Camera e uno per il Senato, sarà definita da Beppe Grillo in termini di organizzazione, strumenti e di scelta dei membri, al duplice fine di garantire una gestione professionale e coordinata di detta attività di comunicazione, nonchè di evitare una dispersione delle risorse per ciò disponibili. Ogni gruppo avrà un coordinatore con il compito di relazionarsi con il sito nazionale del M5S e con il blog di Beppe Grillo.

The constitution of two “communication groups”, one for Parliament and one for the Senate, to be defined by Beppe Grillo in terms of organisation, tools and choice of members, in order to guarantee professional and coordinated management of the said communication activity, and to avoid thining out the resources available for this end. Each group will have a coordinator whose job will be to keep M5S's national site and Beppe Grillo's blog up to date.

M5S deputies must also obey external orders: Beppe Grillo was not formally present on any ballot paper and, therefore, finds himself outside of the institutional structures. Even worse, he refuses to respond to the questions that so many Italians (and foreign observers) are asking, refuses any collaboration with the other political powers and insists on the fact that thoughts of the elections “should not leave anyone indifferent”. In fact, the candidate declared in ’an interview with Lucio Cristino on YouTube that:

Puntiamo al 100 per cento – dice – poi sciogliamo il movimento. E si autoaccusa: “terrorista, populista” per dire che noi “non siamo come loro, noi non facciamo politica”…

We're aiming at 100% – he says – then we will dissolve the movement. And he accuses himself of being: a “terrorist, populist” for saying that “we are not like them, we don't do politics”…

This explains why Grillo wants to abolish Article 167 of the Constitution which declares that every member of the Parliament represents the Nation and exercises the two functions without being bound by any mandate. Justifiably, many people are asking what role Gianroberto Casaleggio, the “guru” who seems to be behind the entire MoVimento, has played. In a video investigation on Youtube, Antonio Amorosi notes that:

Potere, soldi e tecniche di manipolazione aziendale dentro il MoVimento 5 Stelle

. E’ Casaleggio che comanda, sostengono tutti gli attivisti espulsi. Ma del passato del “guru” di Grillo si sa ben poco.

Power, money and business manipulation techniques in the MoVimento 5 Stelle. Casaleggio is the one in charge, say all the expelled activists. But very little is known about the past of Grillo's “guru”…

Given the current political and institutional stalemate, in addition to the “”usual” social and economic chaos, we finally have to ask ourselves: just when will Italians (and outside observers) get clear answers to the many questions that the successes of Grillo & Co. raise?

March 15 2013

Global Voices Podcast Special: Habemus Podcast!

Global Voices Podcast HomepageSubscribe in iTunes

Hello, World – welcome to a special edition of the Global Voices Podcast.

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013 the college of cardinals assembled at the Vatican to elect the new head of the Roman Catholic church, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 28. On Wednesday evening the Cardinal Protodeacon emerged onto the central balcony as St. Peter's Basilica and uttered the words “Habemus Papam!” (“We Have a Pope!”), and presented Pope Francis.

With two African cardinals considered at one point to be potential successors to Pope Benedict XVI, we spoke with Steve Sharra and Abdoulaye Bah from our Africa team about the possibility of an African pope, the continent's expectations of the next pope, and why cardinals at this week's papal conclave might have played games like volleyball.

Did you like the public domain Gregorian chants featured in the podcast? Get yours from Partners in Rhyme.

Thanks to Laura Morris for her support in producing this show!

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