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September 28 2014

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 20 2013

Unconditional Basic Income for All Europeans

A movement to give every citizen “unconditional basic income”—no work required—is gathering speed in Europe. 

For the last 11 months,  the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)  has been spearheading a one-year campaign to gather a million signatures that support “Unconditional Basic Income (UBI)” for all Europeans.

The ECI wants everyone to have a basic, guaranteed wage, which is enough to cover day-to-day expenses.

If they collect one million signatures reaching the minimum requirement from at least 7 European Union (EU) member countries by January 14 2014, the European Commission will have to examine their initiative and arrange for a public hearing at the European Parliament.

In the short term, they want to do some “pilot-studies” and examine different models of UBI. In the long run, their objective is to offer to each person in the EU the unconditional right as an individual, to have their material needs met to ensure a life of dignity by the introduction of the UBI.

The Basic Income proposal is being presented by citizens from 15 EU member states (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom).

This Friday on GV Face I speak to activists gathering signatures and raising awareness about the need for Basic Income. 

Stanislas Jourdan | Main coordinator for European Citizens’ Initiative for Unconditional Basic Income in France

Martin Jordö | Main coordinator forEuropean Citizens’ Initiative for Unconditional Basic Income in Sweden

Carlos Arias| Global Voices Contributor in Spain

Anne-Béatrice Duparc | Switzerland

Barb Jacobson | UK

I asked them about developments in the campaign so far, how UBI would tackle inequality and how much such a scheme might cost.

For more information check out the Basic Income EU website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Here's a link to our Google + event page for this episode of GV Face.  

October 09 2013

Underwear Bombardment on North Korea?

A Swedish underwear brand launched a ridiculous Ad campaign entitled ‘Weapons of the Mass Seduction’ that pledges to drop 450 pairs of free underwear to the country voted the most in the poll on Oct 31 by an airdrop. North Korea, so far, was placed on top by garnering over 5,500 votes and news has generated many comments in South Korean online venues.

Reposted byniklash niklash

January 24 2013

Parallels Between Religious and Copyright Wars

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

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

September 24 2012

Singapore: Charity Group Targets Poor Children in Laos and Vietnam

A group of seven professional Swedish women in Singapore have formed the charity organization Together for Charity. As expat wives, they realized that their life situation in affluent Singapore is extremely privileged compared to that of most people in the neighboring countries, and they want to make a difference where they can.

I got a chance to talk to two of the founders of Together for Charity, Stina Hotine and Elisabeth Lewenhaupt, and they told me, with great passion and energy, how their one-year old charity organization has already made a huge impact in the lives of others.

The group has a simple but noble objective:

We wanted to change the lives of children who are less fortunate, by changing our own behaviors in our daily lives. We also wanted to show others how fun and easy it can be to give a little or a lot to those with less. We wanted to find simple ways to contribute and then make them a part of our and many other people’s lives.

Gift card to present a donation to a party host or friend

Gift card to present a donation to a party host or friend


“People want to know what their donations do and how effective they are”, says Elisabeth, and shows me the printed gift card where the donor can specify what the amount they donate will achieve for the needy children.

At the moment the organization concentrates their aid to two different projects. One is Deak Kum Pa Orphanage in Luang Prabang, Laos, and the other is The English School of Mui Ne in Vietnam.

Children at the Deak Kum Pa Orphanage

Children at the Deak Kum Pa Orphanage

Deak Kum Pa Orphanage is run by the Lao government, and to a great extent managed by Australian Andrew Brown. Andrew relies on donations and makes singlehandedly sure that every penny that is directed towards the children is put to the best use.

Children are rescued from the streets and a life in severe poverty. They are given a chance to go to school and live their lives in a safe and relatively comfortable way. More information about the orphanage:

Deak Kum Pa is now home to over 500 children and this number is increasing.

The orphanage also operates as a school; positioned on the edge of the town, the very basic brick and concrete dormitories and school classrooms are set in grounds reached by dirt road and a wooden bridge.

With the inclusion of the very basic school services at Deak Kum Pa, these children can in some small way be considered fortunate; however the school is severely in need of additional staffing, resources and equipment.

Through the efforts of the charity group, the orphanage was able to enroll more children in the facility:

Nutrition was one of the first concerns for the orphanage, with only one meal a day with rice and soup the children had limited ability to grow and learn. Today the children enjoy meat, fruit, egg and bread on a regular basis.

Together for charity has through its generous donors raised enough money to provide for 30 additional children to come to the orphanage during 2012.

The English School of Mui Ne in Vietnam has come a step further in the development. They are inviting children among the poorest in the village to learn English in order to be able to make a living in the future in the growing tourism industry. As they expect these children to be able to support their poor families in the future, they carefully choose the neediest candidates to admit – and always just one sibling from each family.

At the school, which is in addition to the regular school during the weeks, the kids are not only taught English, but also valuable lessons of friendship and sharing as well as computer skills. Many students have through their interaction over the internet discovered possibilities for themselves for the future and have dreams that they could never have imagined before.

Five of the school’s students have posted a video on Youtube speaking in English about the opportunities that have opened up for them:

The English school reports important events and activities on their Facebook page. From the group's status page on September 4 this year:

…is proud to announce that we recently have taken a big step forward in our development, as we are now able to support our students through higher education. Thanks to our generous donors and hard work from everyone involved in the organization, English School of Mui Ne now has a second location, a student home in Phan Thiet (a city next to Mui Ne Village).

As the result of rigorous work and many hours of preparation, the 31 students who took their entrance examination earlier this summer all got accepted and started their semester of High School a few weeks ago.

As a response to continued support from their sponsors, they write:

“A warm thank you to our sponsors for making it possible for us to start this new chapter in our development as an organization in order to help our students continue their education.”

The English School of Mui Ne sends a warm THANK YOU to Together for Charity for all the books they sent! All the students are busy reading and filling up the library with new literature on varies topics.

Elisabeth and Stina make sure to emphasize that Together for Charity is a lifelong project that they have taken on. They keep it very simple and personal, focusing on only two projects at the moment. They keep close contact with the two entities and target 100% of the funds they collect towards them.

August 23 2012

France: An Unexpected Parallel Between Assange and Strauss-Kahn

The blog de Casimira highlights some similarities [fr] between the timing of the charges and the ensuing judicial battles facing  J. Assange and D. Strauss-Kahn.  She also clarifies the peculiarities of the charge, ”sex by surprise” [fr], for which the founder of WikilLeaks is being sued. This charge, which applies when the person refuses to wear a condom, is allegedly specific to Sweden and is punishable by a fine.

August 08 2012

Palestine: Swedish Ship Attempting to Break the Blockade Sails to Gaza

Scandinavian ship SV Estella will attempt to sail to Gaza in an attempt to break the blockade on the Palestinian enclave. The ship sailed from Oslo on August 7, 2012, and is backed by mostly Swedish and Norwegian groups. Organizers hope that other ships will join them before they reach Gaza in October. for updates, follow the mission's Twitter account @ShiptoGazaSE.

April 17 2012

Swedish minister denies claims of racism over black woman cake stunt

Calls for Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth to resign over role in art event supposedly highlighting female genital mutilation and racism

Sweden's minister of culture has been accused of racism after cutting a cake depicting a naked black woman.

Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was taking part in an event at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the capital's museum of modern art and home to works by Picasso and Dalí. She was invited to cut the cake, an art installation meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation. She began, as instructed, by taking a chunk from the cake's "clitoris".

The artist, Makode Aj Linde, who created the installation for World Art Day on 15 April, took part in the cake-cutting, with his blackened face and head sticking up next to the cake's stomach and arms. The cakes "insides" were a gruesome red. A video shows him screaming loudly every time a visitor hacks off another slice of the cake.

Linde posted photos of the "genital mutilation cake" on his Facebook page. But the images provoked a furious response, with Sweden's African-Swedish Association describing it as "a racist spectacle".

A spokesman for the association, Kitimbwa Sabuni, told Sweden's The Local newspaper: "In our view, this simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden."

The association has demanded her resignation. In a statement, Sabuni said the association doubted a cake party meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation had achieved its aim. Instead, the cake was just "a racist caricature of a black woman". He said the minister's decision to take part in a dubious event with cannibalistic overtones showed her "incompetence and lack of judgment".

Sabuni told the newspaper: "Her participation, as she laughs, drinks and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision."

Adelsohn Liljeroth, however, said she sympathised with the association's criticisms but denied she had done anything wrong. Speaking to the TT news agency, she conceded the cake installation was provocative and rather bizarre, and said she had been invited to speak about artistic freedom and the right to offend.

She added: "They wanted me to cut the cake." Ultimately, the artist was to blame for any confusion, she said, arguing that the situation had been misinterpreted. "He claims that it challenges a romanticised and exoticised view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism," she said. "Art needs to be provocative."

Sabuni dismissed the remarks, according to Swedish media reports, and called the minister's comments "extremely insulting". He added: "Sweden thinks of itself as a place where racism is not a problem. That just provides cover for not discussing the issue, which leads to incidents like this.

"To participate in a racist manifestation masquerading as art is totally over the line and can only be interpreted as the culture minister supporting the Moderna Museet's racist prank," he said. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 15 2012

Sweden: Visiting Rinkeby, Stockholm's Immigrant Ghetto

The Rinkeby district of Stockholm, Sweden is famous for its high concentration of immigrants. Curious outsiders have documented their visits.

Yemeni journalist and blogger Afrah Nasser lives in Stockholm. She wrote about visiting Rinkeby for the first time in a blog post on April 6, 2012.

Afrah says:

I've always heard from people in Stockholm that there is an area called Rinkeby that is so full of immigrants and you can even hardly see Swedes there. So, I decided to go there, yesterday. I wanted to go and discover this mini-Non-Swedish area.


A street sign in Rinkeby. Photo by Afrah Nasser (used with permission)

Afrah noticed a difference upon arrival at the Rinkeby metro station which was shabbier than most central Stockholm metro stations like, T-Centralen. She compared photos of both stations:

My first impression when I arrived at the metro underground was, “OMG, Why the metro underground looks horrible! why there is no decoration at the metro !! Like how it is in , for example, Karlaplan (Where Swedes dress/walk like there is some kind of a fashion show)! No ads, no pretty pics on the walls like how it's the case at the average metro' walls in the city.

T-Centralen Station

T-Centralen Station. Photo by Afrah Nasser (used with permission)

Rinkeby Station

Rinkeby Station. Photo by Afrah Nasser (used with permission)

Many people living in Rinkeby can't find a good job outside the community because they don't have the minimum Swedish language skills. According to Tricia Wang, an American blogger and cultural sociologist who visited Rinkeby in 2008, the woman in the next photo fears her children won't have good work opportunities because of the level of English and Swedish spoken in their school.

Hatice Erkal working in the bread shop of her family in Rinkeby

Photo by Tricia Wang on flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Vegetable market in Rinkeby

Photo by Tricia Wang on flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


At the end of her visit, Afrah said:

I said goodbye to Rinkeby with a feeling that Stockholm is segregated. Sana'a, my hometown, has been always segregated as well. The rich lived at one side and the poor at the other side. The Yemenis lived in one side and the immigrants lived at the other side. So, I know what social segregation means. There is an area in Sana'a called Safia that's heavily inhibited by Somalis. We used to call is Maqadishu. I bet Rinkeby is Stockholm's Safia. This is not new for me but it was interesting to discover this side of Stockholm.

Poster in Rinkeby advertising international money transfers to Africa

1 Day in Rinkeby

March 14 2012

Europe: Will ACTA Treaty Pass After Protests?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 06 2012


Vous avez dit tz quoi ?

Stoppt ACTA!
Informationsveranstaltung am 9. Februar und Protestkundgebung am 11. Februar
Am Donnerstag, den 9. Februar 2012 findet um 20 Uhr im Bistro ›Das Sofa‹ [1] eine parteiübergreifende Informationsveranstaltung zu ACTA statt. Wir wollen mit möglichst vielen Leuten und Initiativen über ACTA sprechen und anschließend die gemeinsame Fahrt zur Protestkundgebung in Rostock [2] am Samstag 

nach Protesten nun auch #Tschechien: Regierung setzt #ACTA -Ratifizierung aus nach #Polen schon Nr.2 via #Diaspora

Telepolis: Internationaler Gerichtshof soll über Klimawandel verhandeln
Vom Untergang bedrohte Inselstaaten wollen die Verantwortlichen vor Gericht stellen
Die kleinen Inselstaaten haben die Schnauze voll. Nach mehr als 20 Jahren ziemlich unbefriedigender Verhandlungen über die Eindämmung des globalen Klimawandels planen einige von ihnen nun, die Sache vor den Internationalen Gerichtshof zu Mehr zeigen

einer von vielen gründen, nie wieder eine @faz oder @sz zu kaufen …

ALG II und #Datenschutz: Datenlöschung? Leider technisch unmöglich - offenbar gar nicht erst vorgesehen!?! #hartz4

On February 18, 2012, Axel Honneth speaks at the University of #Munich:
"Negativität in einer revidierten Psychoanalyse"
See the program here [pdf] [partly EN, DE, FR] -

YouTube: Die großen Vordenker des Grundeinkommens
Das Bedingunglose Grundeinkommen ist in meinen Augen das richtige Mittel um der Ungleichverteilung der Mittleln in unserer Gesellschaft zu begegnen und jeden ein lebenswürdiges Leben und ein Teilhabe an der Gesellschaft zu ermöglichen.
Tags: #German #Deutsch #Video #BGE #BedingungslosesGrundeinkommen #Grundeinkommen #Gesellschaft

  • Organizational Development 2012 - link
  • Co-Creating Open Source Ecology - link

  • Converting Urban and Suburban Lands for Growing Food - link
  • Something's fishy in urban backyards - link
  • The Lexicon of sustainability - link
  • Status quo bias and what to do about it - link
  • New site: - link
#sustainability #urbanfarming #permaculture #aquaponics

  • Revenu garanti pour tous : quand la réalité devance l’utopie - link
  • La bataille de l’emploi est perdue d’avance - link
  • En nous piquant nos boulots, les robots nous obligeront à changer de modèle économique - link

#Greece #Europe #EU #ECB - financial #crisis

To: Mr José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission 1049 Brussels, Belgium.
Mr President, I. It is hard to accept that Europe has established a usurious relationship Mehr zeigen

Goodbye democracy :( Journalists arrested at #fracking hearing, thanks to Andy Harris (R-Md) #environment #ows #occupy

OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) is a collaborative initiative to develop and implement a sustainable Open Access publication model for academic books in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
from Diaspora* via oAnth 2012-02-05&06

January 15 2012

Video Highlights: Activism, Freedom of Speech, Identity and Culture

This section aims to showcase interesting and recent posts in Global Voices that show the many ways in which videos are helping people tell stories all around the world. You can follow the activity by regions in our YouTube channel or by clicking on the regional header links.

Middle East North Africa:


Yemen: The Amazing Life March Arrives in Sanaa
From Yemen we have the amazing story of the historic 264km Life March, which is the longest since Mahatma Gandhi's 390km long  Salt March in 1930. During the Life March, villages and towns came together to give food and drink to the thousands of people who marched for four days straight through winding mountain passes protesting the immunity that outgoing President Saleh asked for himself and his aides and family for the killing of protesters in the Yemen uprisings.

However, the march didn't seem to sway the newly formed cabinet members who approved the bill: it will now go on to parliament for it to become a law.
Yemen: Saleh Gets Away With Murder…He Gets Immunity

It is those martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the rest of Yemen to live a life of freedom and democracy, whom Yemenis feel they must never be forgotten nor should their blood go in vain.

This next video is a silent remembrance for those who died during the peaceful uprising:

Some online activists are also promoting an online campaign against a stimulating herb chewed by many Yemeni men and women for hours on end, sometimes daily. The campaign is for a day without using the leafy green plant, Qat:
Yemen: January 12, a Day Without Qat

As blogger @Afrahnasser, proposed on Twitter:

An average citizen in Yemen wastes 8 hrs in searching money for qat, another 8 hrs in chewing qat & the rest 8 hrs in sleeping @NoonArabia

The idea of the campaign is to turn those hours spent on qat into active endeavors which build up Yemen.

Sub-Saharan Africa:

Ethiopia: Swedish Journalists Found Guilty of Terrorism Charges
Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson crossed from Somalia to Ethiopia illegally which caused the Ethiopian authorities to detain and put them on trial for supporting terrorist activities and crossing illegally into the territory, although the defense claims that they were performing their duty as journalists to report both sides of the conflict. This next video was used as evidence during the trial, where the journalists are seen planning their journey as journalists


Western Europe:

Spain: Fighting for the Right to a Home

Families who got into debt to buy a home and ended without jobs or income to pay for them are being helped by an organization aiming to stop families from being evicted and to give them temporary homes in foreclosed and empty houses when they aren't able to stop the banks.  The video on this post shows their success in avoiding an eviction and keeping a man and his 13 year old son off the streets.

Eastern and Central Europe:

Hungary: Memories of Barvalipe Roma Pride Summer Camp

Growing up Roma in Europe can make children feel stigmatized and rejected by their peers, causing them to hide their origins and feel ashamed of their heritage. The Barvalipe Roma Pride Summer Camp aimed to give Roma youth a chance to discover their roots by learning the language, history and cuisine of the Roma people.

East Asia:

Hong Kong: Protest Against Luxury Brand to Defend Local Identity

A luxury brand which doesn't allow for photographs to be taken of its store is not news, but when they stated that the rule only applied for local residents of Hong Kong and not tourists from Mainland China, the people of Hong Kong made their anger known through a flashmob outside the store.

Latin America:

Chile: Wildfire in Torres del Paine Shocks Netizens

The wildfire in one of Chile's top touristic spots, National Park Torres del Paine had netizens blogging and tweeting about the fire, both as experienced by those inside the park at the time of the evacuation and recorded it on video as well as from concerned people following the news and updates.

Central America: LibreBus Project Presents its Documentary
The documentary follows the activists who climbed on board a bus driving through 5 different Central American countries to spread the message of free software, the defense of freedom of speech and content sharing.

Colombia: Salsa Song Criticizes Bus Rapid Transport System
Public transportation makes it easier for people to get from one location to another without having to use their own vehicle, however, when that public transportation system is overcrowded, it can become a torture instead of a relief. The salsa song (with translated captions) shows what it is like for people to use the popular Transmilenio System in the capital city of Bogota.

December 28 2011

Ethiopia: Swedish Journalists Handed 11-Year Prison Sentence

An Ethiopian court handed prison sentences of 11 years on Tuesday 27 December, 2011 to Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, two Swedish journalists on trial for supporting rebel forces in the country. The sentences are shorter than the minimum of 15 years the judge Shemsu Sirgaga had previously called for on 21 December.

No relatives were present in the courtroom when the sentences were handed down. The announcement caused a small crowd of protesters to gather outside the Ethiopian embassy in Stockholm [sv].

Neither the Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, nor the foreign minister, Carl Bildt, commented the sentence on Tuesday, but many others spoke out on Twitter.

Johan Persson (left) and Martin Schibbye. Images © Kontinent Agency AB, used with permission.

Johan Persson (left) and Martin Schibbye. Images © Kontinent Agency AB, used with permission.

Jonas Nordling, chair of the Swedish Union of Journalists, commented:

@jonasnordling: The Swedish government now has something to prove. Will they stand up for journalism today? #EthiopiaSwedes

Josefin Hammarstedt demanded a ministerial statement:

@Klockarbarbro: Sorry. But are the prime minister and the foreign minister are declining to comment the sentence? DECLINING? Why? #EthiopiaSwedes

Anders Jorle, spokesman for the Swedish foreign ministry, commented:

[The sentence] is regrettable in light of their journalistic assignment. The Swedish government's view is known, among other things through the prime minister's statement last week.

Schibbye and Persson's defence team, which consists of one Swedish and two Ethiopian lawyers, now has until 10 January to appeal the decision. An alternate route is to plead for clemency with the Ethiopian state.

Kjetil Tronvoll, a professor at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights who specializes in Ethiopia, told [sv] Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter about the journalists' chances of pleading for clemency:

A clemency process is an informal political negotiation once the verdict has been handed down. That would be the easy way out.

It is relatively unthinkable that the Supreme Court, which is even closer to the government and more political in its judgements, would acquit Schibbye and Persson.

A plea for clemency would mean Schibbye and Persson recognize their guilt in supporting terrorism, a charge they denied during the trial.

Schibbye and Persson were found guilty of entering Ethiopia illegally and of supporting terrorism in the country. The pair had entered Ethiopia from Somalia embedded with Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) forces on 1 July. The Ogaden province has long been the scene of a bloody conflict between the ONLF and the Ethiopian government.

The Ethiopian government, headed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has been criticized for of its recently-adopted “deeply flawed anti-terorrism act”. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have claimed the law is used for “stifling peaceful dissent”.

Over 100 journalists and opposition leaders are currently awaiting trial under the new law. Among them are Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye, who were detained six months ago.

Karin Schibbye, the mother of Martin, told Swedish public television SVT [sv] that it is now down to the Swedish and Ethiopian governments to find common ground in the case of Schibbye and Persson:

The government has the solution. A negotiation process has to start. I think that the issue Johan and Martin have been caught in is much larger than just them, that it's a game being played by our two governments. How the government acts going forward will be decisive in the outcome of this issue.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ethiopia trails only Eritrea among Africa's worst jailers of journalists.

December 23 2011

Ethiopia: Swedish Journalists Found Guilty of Terrorism Charges

Two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, were found guilty on Wednesday 21 December, 2011, of supporting terrorism in Ethiopia and entering the country illegally.

The pair entered Ethiopia embedded with forces of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) on 1 July this year and were detained by the Ethiopian military shortly afterwards. Schibbye and Persson had traveled as freelance journalists aiming to report from the Ogaden province, the scene of a brutal conflict between Ethiopian armed forces and the ONLF.

Jesper Bengtsson, chair of the Swedish section of Reporters Without Borders, commented on the verdict on Swedish Public Radio:

I had hoped, and I think everyone had hoped, that the Ethiopian authorities had already made an example of Persson and Schibbye by starting the trial process and jailing them for six months. Obviously that wasn't enough of an example.

Journalist Martin Schibbye (right) ©Kontinent Agency AB, used with permission.

Journalist Martin Schibbye (right) ©Kontinent Agency AB, used with permission.

Early on Wednesday morning, Judge Shemsu Sirgaga denied the defense's main argument, which held that Schibbye and Persson travelled professionally and had a journalistic duty to report on the conflict from the side of the rebel forces as well as that of Ethiopia's military, and sided with the prosecution.

Sirgaga commented that the Swedes had “used their profession as a cover for terrorist activities” and called for an 18-year prison sentence to be handed down on 27 December, despite Schibbye and Persson's background in reporting from dangerous parts of the world and the testimony by two of Schibbye's and Persson's colleagues, freelance journalists Adrian Blomfield and Phillip Ittner, who had been flown into the capital Addis Ababa to take part in the court proceedings.

The video below shows Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, filmed by Ethiopian authorities after being detained, uploaded to YouTube by user rug571 on December 16.

During the trial, Schibbye and Persson admitted to entering Ethiopia illegally embedded with the rebels, but denied any charges of supporting terrorism. In November, the pair were acquitted of the third charge against them, of being “members of a terrorist group”.

“Political prisoners”

Mattias Göransson, the editor-in-chief of Filter magazine - the only client of Schibbye and Persson's to publicly acknowledge it had been in touch with the pair before their African trip - was called as a witness during the trial, and expressed disappointment with the verdict when interviewed by Reuters in Sweden:

When the judge read out the grounds it sounded positive, he had virtually nothing against them. Everything he said was speaking for an acquittal, and then he found them guilty anyway. This indicates they are political prisoners and nothing else.

The case against Schibbye and Persson has brought further attention to Ethiopia's vague anti-terrorist legislation, under which over 100 opposition leaders and journalists have been jailed up to 20 years. Three Ethiopian journalists are currently on trial for terrorism charges.

The Swedish section of Amnesty International said it is critical of Ethiopia's arbitrary interpretation of the anti-terror legislation. Lise Bergh, the General Secretary, said she is convinced of Schibbye and Persson's innocence [sv]:

Amnesty International does not believe there is any evidence of the men supporting the ONLF or its operations, nor that they are guilty of any criminal act. We regard Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye as prisoners of conscience, as they have been prosecuted due to their legitimate work as journalists.

Until the day of the verdict's announcement, the Swedish government had been fairly silent on the case. Carl Bildt, the foreign minister, had referred to methods of quiet diplomacy when asked about how the Swedish Foreign Ministry were working for the release of the journalists.

The situation has been further complicated by Bildt's personal history. Until 2006, when Bildt was appointed foreign minister, he served as a board member of Lundin Petroleum, the Swedish oil company whose activities Schibbye and Persson were intending to investigate in the Ogaden province.

Johan Persson prior to his and Martin Schibbye's detainment ©Kontinent Agency AB, used with permission.

Johan Persson prior to his and Martin Schibbye's detainment ©Kontinent Agency AB, used with permission.


After the verdict was announced, Bildt commented on the case on Twitter:

@carlbildt: Sweden expresses grave concern over hard sentence against Swedish journalists in Ethiopia. We will continue to work to set them free.

Bildt's comment was followed by a statement from Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister:

Our position is and continues to be that they were in the country on a journalistic assignment. They must be released as soon as possible in order to be reunited with their families in Sweden.

At an afternoon press conference [sv], Bildt stated that high-level diplomacy was now the prioritized course of action:

We are now making sure that the prime minister's strong message gets through to the Ethiopian government. We will then reason with the parties involved over the formal steps to be taken in this process.

A mellow reception awaited the official statements in social media. Under the hashtag #EthiopiaSwedes, tweets were sent out blaming the Swedish authorities for what is perceived as several months of perceived inertia regarding the case. Twitter user @tommyskot asked:

@tommyskot: When will @sweden and @carlbildt do something to get our journalists home? #EthiopiaSwedes

Below is a sample of reactions from Twitter:

@annalindberg: Now we begin to understand what conditions African journalists are working under. #ethiopiaswedes

@sweden: I'm shocked and appalled by the verdict against #ethiopiaswedes

@hurriya: spread this initiative to build solidarity for #ethiopiaswedes #svpol

Seleshi Ketsela, one of Schibbye and Persson's lawyers, said that his clients would now consider whether to appeal. An alternative route may be to seek a pardon from the Ethiopian state.

October 22 2011

Ethiopia: Netizens Shine Spotlight on Trial of Swedish Journalists

The trial of two Swedish journalists accused of terrorism in Ethiopia after being detained during a battle between government troops and rebels started on Tuesday 18 October, 2011. The story has become a hot topic of discussion in both traditional media and online communities worldwide.

According to the ‘Free the Swedish Journalists Johan Persson & Martin Schibbye' Facebook page:

The two Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were arrested by Ethiopian forces on July 1, 2011 when entering the Ogaden region in Ethiopia as embedded journalists with the ONLF guerrilla. This region is closed for journalists and aid organizations, but Johan and Martin wanted access in order to interview the local population about alleged violation of human rights in the area on a… daily basis. Travelling with the guerrilla was the only way to enter.

In his weekly Amharic feature article titled “Ethiopia – a country that permits public demonstration for animal rights but not for human rights”, Dawit Kebede, managing editor of Awramba Times (one of the few remaining private Amharic weeklies) satirizes the latest interview of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with Aftenposten as a buy and sell business, since Awramba Times imported the interview and translated it for Amharic readers like an Ethiopian import of a foreign currency.

The two Swedish journalists who are facing terrorism charges in Ethiopia.

With this claim he showed how journalists from the private press have been methodically barred from meeting or interviewing Prime Minster Meles Zenawi for his entire time in power.

In its weekend editorial, Awramba Times appealed for comparable opportunity with state media journalists regarding access to information of government activities. Along with Prime Minster Meles Zenawi’s interview with Aftenposten, Awramba Times has translated an article written by Caelainn Barr and tried to draw attention to current status of journalists and press freedom in Ethiopia with specific reference to the Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye case.

More than 100 opposition activists, journalists and others have been detained under Ethiopia’s broad anti-terror law that can punish someone up to 20 years in prison for simply publishing statements that could indirectly encourage terrorism. The Columbia Journalism Review has reviewed the coverage of Swedish media:

The Swedish press later revealed that Persson and Schibbye were specifically reporting on potential human rights violations committed by Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish-owned energy company with natural-gas operations in Ogaden

BAOBAB has highlighted the status of press freedom in Ethiopia by epitomizing the case of Eskinder Nega, another prominent Ethiopian journalist who has been imprisoned on similar accusations for his criticism of the government following the Arab uprisings.

But this did not go down well with Ethiopian blogger Daniel Berhane:

Criticizing Press Freedom in Ethiopia is a good thing. Promoting Eskinder Nega is a disgrace on the Economist. Let quote from my recent article: ‘Terrifying the Press signals Defeatism' reported that Ethiopia does not want the Swedish journalists involved in a sensitive trial and pointed out that Swedish journalists were denied visas to Ethiopia to cover the trial of imprisoned colleagues.

Lawyers representing the Swedish journalists outside the court in Addis Ababa. Photo taken by Endalk.

Mohammed Keita of The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that several members of the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns about Ethiopia's detention of journalists:

The government's high-profile imprisonment of Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, two Swedish journalists arrested in eastern Ethiopia while covering the activities of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front, which the government designated as a terrorist group, drew a lot of questions, particularly from committee member Krister Thelin. After being repeatedly pressed about the fate of the journalists and details of the legal procedures following their arrests, a flustered Ambassador Fisseha Yimer Aboye, head of the Ethiopian delegation, told the committee that no further information would be provided. Rodley pressed the delegation to explain the legal procedures surrounding the arrests of two other journalists, Woubshet Taye and Reeyot Alemu, on suspicions of terrorism.

A Facebook page dedicated to raising awareness and funds for legal support has received more than 2,775 likes. Many participants of the page are focusing on their solidarity with Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson as the government attempts influence the trail process.

On a Facebook page created by Swedish European Member of Parliament, Cecilia Wikström, she has voiced concern that:

Cecilia Wikstrom asked yesterday two written questions to the EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton on how the EU can ensure that John and Martin's trial is true, and follows international standards and what it does to protect journalists from being accused of crimes while carrying out their job. We hope that this can be of any help and send our thoughts to John and Martin families.

An online petition has also been created with over 2,741 signatures. Most people on the page demanded the government of Ethiopia to release the journalists quickly. Lotta Westerberg, a supporter of the cause, is more vocal of all. She urged the online community to sign on the page:

Please sign the petition. Part of the story is that the journalists were investigating Lundin Petroleum, charged with being involved with war crimes in Sudan. Mr. Carl Bildt, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is a former board member

Endalk looked at how the local press in Ethiopia has been covering the issues just before the beginning of the trial:

A week before the commencement of the trial of the two Swedish journalists- Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye- charged with terrorism much of the global press was already reporting the case following Prime Minster Meles Zenawi’s interview with the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. Now, primer’s public allegations against two imprisoned journalists have become a dominant theme on pro-government media of Ethiopia. Interestingly enough, Walta Information Center, a pro-government private news and information service, that had been reporting about the Swedish-Eritrean journalist, Dawit Isaak and its subsequent concern of the Swedish authorities as Dawit remains jailed in the neighboring, Eretria kept shtoom about Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye

The trial of Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye will continue on November 1, 2011.

September 13 2011


Swedes oppose profits in free schools | - Fredrik Jansson - 2011-09-13

According to a report by The National Union of Teachers in Sweden (Lärarnas riksförbund), there is  solid opposition among Swedes regarding profits being taken out of the private so-called free schools. Eight out of ten Swedes want to see this limited. Even among centre-right voters 73 percent want to see such restrictions. Among centre-left voters 88 percent oppose profits.

Moreover, every other Swede does not think that there is equivalence in the schools in their own municipality.

The President of The National Union of Teachers in Sweden, Metta Fjelkner comments:

“The National Union of Teachers in Sweden wants all surplus reinvested in the school, into everything that improve the quality of teaching, as smaller classes, better facilities and equipment, qualified and well-paid teachers. There is something wrong with the school if it is on its knees with a lack of equivalence and declining academic achievement, while private owners can bring home millions in profits.”

July 07 2011

China: Swedish student's passport confiscated for flash mob call

A Swedish student, Sven Englund studying in Shanghai Fudan University was summoned by Shanghai police for writing a letter to the Chinese President Hu Jintao in his blog. His passport has been confiscated after the interrogation.

Below is the summon document issued by the Shanghai police:

It stated that Sven Englund is suspected of “being harmful to social management” and has violated article 55 of the “PRC social security management law”. The interrogation was set on July 1, 2011 at the school general office.

According to Sven Englund's tweet[zh], he was planning to return to Sweden on July 26, but now the Shanghai police has confiscated his passport. The police promised to return the passport to him on July 7, 2011 (Today). He has contacted the Swedish embassy[zh] but the ambassador is helpless.

During the interrogation, the police officers asked him to disclose the login password[zh] of his blog, but he refused, saying that their demand has violated his rights.

Below is a translation of his blog post[zh] published on June 27, 2011:

Dear President Hu:


You haven't replied to my first two letters. Probably you are too busy with your preparation of July 1 celebration. Actually, I have my own planning and preparation. Today, I took some photos in the Shanghai Putong district. The idea comes from Ai Weiwei. Do you know Ai Weiwei? He had an Art exhibition called “Fuck art”. I usually do not use that term, but freedom of information is very important. In my opinion, China do not have such freedom. Hence I have this plan for my “July 1″: a flash mob action at 6pm at Pudong district. I cannot just go there alone, I need a “flash mob”, that's why I wish you can join me and forward this message to all your friends who love freedom. If you do not have time to come to Shanghai, you can organize a “flash mob” in any of your city. Okay?

The plan of this flash mob action is like this: come to Pudong or other suitable spot in your city at 5:50pm. Then freeze your action at 6pm. It would be great if you wear the word “freedom” in your body, so that more people would understand the meaning of our action. You can resume your move at 6:05pm. Just go wherever your like, I would go home to prepare for my examination. Do you understand? You can take reference from Youtube:

Maybe you can't access the website because in China you don't have information freedom. In that case you can go here:

Below are some photos for your reference:

Ai Wei Wei's photo

my photo, I like hug better

Ai Weiwei's finger

My finger! Meaning: be a flash mob on July 1

Time: July 1 (Friday), 15:55-18:05 (18:00 “freeze”)
Place: Shanghai Pudong or a suitable spot in your own city. (if you want to organize the action, please let me know).

If you want to join, please leave a message in the comment section. Forward this to your friends who are freedom lovers. If you are organizing your own action in your city, please remember to upload photos and videos of the action.

Wish you happy everyday.
Friend, Sven.
June 27, 2011.

April 29 2011


April 24 2011

Nuclear waste: Keep out – for 100,000 years

Few architects have to design anything to last more than 100 years, so how do you build a nuclear waste facility to last for millennia? And what sign do you put on the door?

Ceremonies will be held around the worldon Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster but, in truth, Chernobyl is one event we're in no danger of forgetting. For one thing, the earthquake in Japan has given the world a second Level Seven incident on the International Nuclear Event Scale, refreshing public fears with almost cosmic timing. For another, the legacy of Chernobyl will be remembered for much, much longer than anyone would wish. According to estimates, this area of northern Ukraine will be uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries.

We like to think of our architectural treasures as milestones of human progress. The Egyptian pyramids, say, or the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps we imagine a Planet of the Apes-like scenario where our ruined monuments will stand as testament to our civilisation long after we're gone. But what will most probably outlive anything else we have ever built will be our nuclear legacy. Whatever its pros and cons as an energy source, one thing that's non-negotiable about nuclear power is the construction it necessitates. Less than a century after we first split the atom, we're now coming to appreciate the vast technological, engineering, financial and political resources nuclear technology demands. In terms of scale, complexity and longevity, much of this stuff makes Dubai's Burj Khalifa look like a sandcastle.

It is too early to know what will be done about Fukushima. A 20km exclusion zone has been imposed and radiation levels will not be brought down to safe levels for at least another six months. Even at Chernobyl, the 1986 accident is by no means dealt with. Immediately afterwards, the Soviets hastily cobbled together the most effective structure they could to contain further radioactive contamination. Unromantically named the Object Shelter, it was a concrete and steel sarcophagus resting on the remains of the ruined reactor. Owing to the high levels of radioactivity, it had been impossible to bolt or weld the Object Shelter together, so within a decade it was on the verge of collapse. Given that 95% of reactor four's nuclear materials are still inside, another nuclear disaster remains a possibility. Hence the current longer-term plan, called the New Safe Confinement. This €1.6bn (£1.4bn) project calls for the erection of an arch-shaped hangar, bigger than a football pitch and high enough to fit the Statue of Liberty inside. Because of the radiation levels, it must be built 500 metres away then slid over the top of the reactor and the Object Shelter. At 32,000 tonnes, it is just about the heaviest object ever moved.

"In some ways, this is how the engineers of the pyramids must have felt," says Eric Schmieman, chief technical adviser on the New Safe Confinement. "The steel structure has a design life of 100 years, so there are very rigorous requirements to demonstrate all the materials will last that long. The Eiffel Tower has been around that long but it's been protected from corrosion by painting. You can't repaint this because of the radiation."

The structure of the New Safe Confinement is carbon steel, protected by inner and outer layers of stainless steel cladding. Its purpose is not to shield radioactive emissions but to prevent the release of radioactive dust and other materials, and to keep out rainwater, which could carry contaminants into the water table. Work is currently proceeding on the foundations, and the arch will be assembled and slid into place by 2015. Then huge, remote-controlled cranes inside will dismantle the Object Shelter and begin retrieving the hazardous materials inside.

The structure will be visible from space, a hulking shell of steel in the midst of a landscape of industrial devastation. By the time it reaches the end of its 100-year life span, it is hoped that all the radioactive material will have been removed, but then comes the problem of where to put it. At the beginning of the nuclear era, the emphasis was very much on the power stations, including Basil Spence's heroic 1950s design for Trawsfynydd, in Snowdonia. But very little consideration was given to what came after. Those early power stations became obsolete: Trawsfynydd was decommissioned in 1991. What's more, the industry has so far generated nearly 300,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste, and counting. To be safe, it must be isolated from all living organisms for at least 100,000 years.

Current opinion is that the best thing to do with nuclear waste is put it underground in what is known as a "deep geological repository". At present, there are no such repositories in operation anywhere. In Britain, all the nuclear waste produced since the 1940s is stored above ground in Sellafield. Preliminary moves have been made towards finding a site in Cumbria but there's a powerful local resistance to such schemes, and no long-term solution is expected before 2040. In the US, a site was earmarked decades ago at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, 100 miles from Las Vegas, but the Obama administration finally abandoned the scheme last year.

Some countries are further ahead, though. Sweden's nuclear operation presents itself as a model for the rest of the world, and shows how much effort a fully joined-up operation requires. After cooling on site for a year, spent fuel from Sweden's three coastal nuclear sites is transported in purpose-built casks, on a specially designed ship, to a central interim storage facility. There, robotic arms transfer the fuel into storage cassettes underwater. These cassettes are then sent to another storage pool 25 metres beneath the facility to cool for at least another 30 years. Then the waste is moved to another plant to seal in copper canisters before it arrives at its final resting place in the geological repository.

Sweden has numerous other nuclear facilities, including the Äspö hard rock laboratory, an underground research laboratory open to visitors. Bizarrely, Äspö's surface buildings could be mistaken for a traditional farmstead: a collection of buildings in red and white timber. The folksy tweeness only points up how alien the rest of the nuclear landscape is. This is the heaviest of heavy industries, and it is often the least visible: a hidden parallel realm of anonymous industrial facilities, restricted zones, clinical chambers and subterranean vaults.

Sweden has identified a site for its deep geological repository, in Forsmark, but the Finns have been building theirs since 2004. Situated on the northwest coast, a few miles from its Olkiluoto nuclear power stations, it consists of a 5km-long tunnel spiralling 400m down to the bedrock, where a honeycomb of storage vaults fans out. Named Onkalo, whose literal translation is "cavity", it was the subject of a documentary last year, Into Eternity. Retitled Nuclear Eternity and broadcast on More4 tomorrow, the film fully appreciates the Kubrickian visual aspects of the nuclear landscape and the staggering challenges the project presents to our notions of permanence, history – even time itself. Onkalo will be ready to take waste in 2020, and then will be finally sealed in 2120, after which it will not be opened for 100,000 years. By that time, Finland will probably have been through another ice age. Little trace of our current civilisation will remain. The prospect of designing anything to last even 200 years is unlikely for most architects; the Egyptian pyramids are "only" about 5,000 years old.

Plan like an Egyptian

This longevity poses Onkalo's custodians, and others in their position, with another unprecedented design issue: what sign should you put on the door? As one expert says in Into Eternity, the message is simple: "This is not an important place; it is a place of danger. Stay away from the site. Do not disturb the site." But how to communicate with people so far in the future? Put up a sign in a language they don't understand and they are sure to open it just to see what's inside. Ancient Egyptians on the pyramid planning committee probably grappled with the same issues. One of the Finns suggests using an image of Munch's The Scream; another suggests a series of monoliths with pictographs and an underground library explaining the tunnel; another wonders if it is better not to tell anyone Onkalo is there at all. When a team pondered the same issue in the US in the 1990s, they came up with proposals for environments that communicated threat and hostility. They imagined landscapes of giant, spiky, black thorns or menacing, jagged earthworks, or vast concrete blocks creating narrow streets that lead nowhere.

If architecture is about designing spaces for human habitation, this is practically its opposite. These subterranean cities are places no human will ever inhabit or see, places designed to repel life and light. They are a mirror image to our towering achievements above ground and, like the pyramids, they are both monument and tomb. Every nuclear nation is compelled to build them, at great effort and expense, and to continue building them until we find a better way to deal with nuclear waste or a better alternative to nuclear power. Until then, we must live with the thought that in some unimaginable future aeons hence, this could be all that remains to prove our species was ever here.

• This article was amended on 25 April 2011, to clarify the literal translation of the word onkalo. The original article gave its meaning as "hiding place".

True Stories: Nuclear Eternity, a documentary about Onkalo, is on More4 tomorrow at 10pm. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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