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August 06 2013

Do FEMEN's Topless Protests Advance Women's Rights or Jeopardize Them?

Whether the feminist movements in Europe and France rally behind them or not, the controversy surrounding feminist protest group FEMEN continues. Triggering a barrage of criticism and attacks on social media, in the press and within some political circles, the members of FEMEN–using their bare breasts as simple yet radical weapons–seem to serve as a symbol of protest for women facing difficulties all over the world.

When a man sets himself on fire in protest, no one thinks to accuse him of harming any social justice movements. So is FEMEN jeopardizing women's rights with the radical nature of their actions?

Following FEMEN's shows of support for Tunisian FEMEN activist Amina Tyler, who had been threatened by Tunisian leaders for posting topless political photos on her Facebook page and was arrested for painting the group's name on a cemetery wall in Kairouan in protest at a planned meeting of radical Sunni Muslim Salafists, Karima Brini [fr], founder of Tunisian association Femme et citoyenneté (Women and citizenship), wrote that such radicalization can be damaging [fr]. Three FEMEN activists were later arrested and imprisoned for protesting topless in front of the Justice Ministry in Tunis in support of Tyler:

Les raisons de leur combat contre l’exploitation des femmes sont respectables. Mais ce qu’elles ont fait ici en Tunisie va nous porter préjudice parce qu’on aura tendance à associer les organisations qui travaillent pour les droits des femmes à leur action.”

The reasons for their fight against the exploitation of women are honourable. But what they have done here in Tunisia will adversely affect us because people will be inclined to associate their actions with organizations working for women's rights.

FEMEN's trade secret

There are likely many circumstantial reasons that the FEMEN movement has been experiencing so much media success. With unceasingly white-hot Twitter [fr] accounts (nearly 7,000 followers for FEMEN France) and passionate Facebook [fr] pages for every country (nearly 40,000 likes on the FEMEN France page), as well as a content-filled website, it is clear that FEMEN activists know how to use all the means at their disposal to make some noise–and they do.

It seems their key to success lies simply in their radically innovative means of protest: a simple, powerful, effective, iconic, popular, universal, and age-old gesture, a huge kick in the hornet's nest. A gesture that Olivier Ciappa [fr] wanted to reflect in the new French stamp he designed, bearing an image of the country's national emblem Marianne inspired by prominent FEMEN activist Inna Shevchenko:

Elle incarne le mieux les valeurs de la République, liberté, égalité, fraternité. Le féminisme fait partie intégrante de ces valeurs. Et la Marianne, au temps de la Révolution était seins nus, alors pourquoi ne pas rendre hommage à cette fabuleuse Femen ? “

She best exemplifies the values of the French Republic: liberty, equality, fraternity. Feminism is an integral part of these values. And Marianne was topless during the Revolution, so why not pay tribute to this fabulous FEMENist?

It is also a gesture for which Tunisian FEMEN activist Amina Tyler has been both celebrated and condemned. Charged with “immoral conduct” (gestes immoraux [fr]) by the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, it is this very gesture that Sami Adleeb defended on his blog [fr]:

En aucun cas son geste est impudique ni symptomatique d’un quelconque trouble psychologique. C’est un cri d’indignation et de colère contre la bondieuserie [...]. Elle voulait attirer l’attention de l’opinion publique mondiale sur les atteintes au droit des femmes, sur la banalisation du viol et l’impunité dont bénéficient les violeurs en Tunisie post 14 janvier 2011. [...] En recourant à ce mode d’expression politique inédit en Tunisie, Amina n’a pas enfreint les tabous ou un quelconque ordre moral [...], elle n’a justement rien à dissimuler, c’est pourquoi elle revendique en toute dignité et liberté.”

In no way is her act indecent or symptomatic of any psychological disorder. It is a outcry of indignation and anger directed towards sanctimoniousness [...]. She wanted to draw global attention to the violations of women's rights, the trivialization of rape and the impunity being enjoyed by rapists in post-Revolution Tunisia. [...] By using this unprecedented method of political expression in Tunisia, Amina has not violated any taboos or moral order [...], she rightly has nothing to hide, that is why she makes her demands in complete dignity and freedom.

Soutien à Amina à Montréal posté sur la page facebook Femen France, reproduite avec autorisation de Femen France

“Free Amina” (Libérez Amina): Show of support for Amina in Montreal posted on FEMEN France's Facebook page, courtesy of FEMEN France

Nudity, particularly that of women, as a form of protest against societal violence in public space had been mentioned before by Rue 89 [fr] in 2011 in relation to the Tibet-China conflict:

En septembre, à Shanghaï, une autre femme âgée de 77 ans, médecin, avait eu recours à un autre mode de protestation : elle avait manifesté, nue et à genoux devant le siège du tribunal local.”

In September, in Shanghai, another woman–77 years old and a doctor–used another form of protest: she demonstrated, nude and on her knees, in front of the local court.

An unclear but “sextreme” message

If FEMEN's actions are clear, the message attached to them seems to be harder to understand. After posting a problematic tweet about Islam and Ramadan, Inna Shevchenko [fr] defended herself from the charges of islamophobia in the French daily newspaper Libération [fr] :

S’agissant des accusations d’islamophobie, Inna Shevchenko les balaie d’un revers de la main, préférant le terme « religiophobe » et insistant sur le fait que les Femen n’ont « pas peur de souligner les aspects liberticides de cette religion ou d’autres religions ».”

Inna Shevchenko brushes off accusations of Islamophobia, preferring the term “religiophobe” and insisting that FEMEN is “not afraid to point out draconian aspects of that religion or of other religions.”

FEMEN's website has recently evolved, it seems, to take a more radical turn, combining highly connotative symbols like the swastika with battle poses and anti-male sentiment:

FEMEN – is the new Amazons, capable to undermine the foundations of the patriarchal world by their intellect, sex, agility, make disorder, bring neurosis and panic to the men's world.

In India, other women have moved from an imagined battle of the sexes to a real one with the Pink Sari gang [fr - see also on English Wikipedia]:

Elles ont choisi le rose comme emblème de leur combat et peuvent compter dans leurs rangs, plusieurs centaines de militantes et de militants. Elles sont armées de lathi – les bâtons traditionnels – qui servent à battre les hommes qui ont abusé de leurs épouses ou les ont abandonnées, et aussi à “tabasser” les policiers qui ont refusé d’enregistrer des plaintes pour viol.”

They chose pink as the symbol of their struggle and count hundreds of activists among their ranks. They are armed with lathi–traditional sticks–used to beat men who have abused or abandoned their wives, and also to “beat” police officers who have refused to register rape complaints.

FEMEN seems much more moderate on their site's info page:

  • We unite young women based on the principles of social awareness and activism, intellectual and cultural development.
  • We recognise the European values of freedom, equality and comprehensive development of a person irrespective of the gender.
  • We build up a national image of femininity, maternity and beauty based on the Euro-Atlantic women’s movements experience.

The word “national” in the last sentence could raise some eyebrows, however.

Neither for or against

The FEMEN movement's identity is very much under construction, constantly evolving along with the news that it generates. It arouses hatred that seems to come from another era, but also a lot of misunderstandings, in particular from feminists. The site Egalité et réconcilitation [fr], for example, states:

« Ce n’est qu’une simulation de féminisme » [...]. Femen « nuit à l’image de l’Ukraine autant qu’au vrai mouvement féministe », renchérit Marianna Evsioukova, une responsable à Kiev de l’ONG internationale La Strada, qui défend les droits des femmes. D’autres assimilent les Femen à un projet commercial [...].”

“It is only a simulation of feminism” [...]. FEMEN “is as damaging to Ukraine's image as it is to the real feminist movement,” adds Marianna Evsioukova, an official in Kiev at international NGO La Strada, which defends women's rights. Others liken FEMEN to a commercial project [...].

But FEMEN does have its gesture, this gesture that connects it to the world, especially to women. A group of Greek women posted the following video on FEMEN France's Facebook page as a show of support to Amina and following the temporary censorship of their Facebook page.

If there is so much discussion about FEMEN, it is probably because, whatever is said, the issue of women's rights is far from being resolved both in France and abroad. Thus, it seems that the question is not about being for or against FEMEN, but rather about seeing the light shed on this archaic injustice as an opportunity for feminist movements in general to change and evolve. According to Femmes pour la paix's website [fr]:

Tout militantisme demande du courage car d’une certaine manière nous nous mettons à nu devant une masse uniforme. Il est plus facile de rester chez soi à regarder le monde évoluer sans nous que d’y participer.”

All activism requires courage because in some sense we are laying ourselves bare before an undifferentiated mass. It is easier to stay at home and watch the world go by without us than to get involved.

July 31 2013

Join La Quadrature du OHM!

Heerhugowaard, July 31st 2013 — La Quadrature du Net welcomes all hackers and activists to join its village1 at Observe, Hack, Make (OHM2013), the previsibly awesome Dutch hacker camp that will take place from the 31st of July to the 4th of August!

La Quadrature du OHM

"La Quadrature du Ohm" will host workshops about Net Neutrality, Copyright Reform, Cybersecurity, and many other issues related to La Quadrature's effort to defend fundamental freedoms. It will also offer an opportunity to gather cosily around a tea house serving the best variety of rare teas, in order to comfortably discuss, philosophise and strategise…

Friends of La Quadrature du Net will also have the rare occasion to enjoy massages by Emily King, our brilliant massagist friend, as a way to relieve the physical stress due to too much use of our communication tools.

Join us also for a permanent "Datalove party" where, along the use of our book scanner, we will share the music, movies & books we love!

The wiki page of La Quadrature du Ohm will be regularly updated with workshop schedules and various information...

La Quadrature du Ohm is made possible by a grant of 5.000$ by the Shuttleworth Foundation.Shuttleworth foundation

Tags: general news

July 29 2013

[Video] La Quadrature du Net is 5 years old!

5 years of defending freedoms on the Internet!

The video was produced on the initiative of friends of La Quadrature du Net, on a voluntary basis. Thanks you Baba and Nadia!

Support La Quadrature du Net!

Tags: general video
Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

[Vidéo] La Quadrature du Net a 5 ans

5 ans de défense des libertés sur Internet !

Cette vidéo a été réalisée bénévolement à l'initiative d'amis de La Quadrature du Net. Merci à Baba et Nadia !

Soutenons La Quadrature du Net !

Tags: general video
Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

July 22 2013

Chile: Firewood Prohibition Decree Freezes Temuco

Chanting slogans such as “Everybody or nobody,” “Wake Up Temuco!,”, “Minister, I'm cold”, among others, hundreds of residents of the west side of the city of Temuco took to the streets to protest a decree forbidding the use of wood-burning heating stoves in the city. The decree was issued by national and regional health and environmental authorities.

During the winter, wood is the main heating source because it is easily acquired and because of its low cost. Nonetheless, it is also the most polluting source. The high levels of pollution that existed in the city led authorities to restrict its use.

Temuco is the capital of the Cautin Province and is located 691 kms. from Santiago, in the Araucania Region. The region is one of poorest of the country, according to the CASEN 2011 national poverty survey [es]. Temuco is located in the mid-southern region of Chile, an area with changing weather patterns and temperatures ranging from -5°C (June) y 36°C (February).

Contaminación en Temuco. Foto de Carlos Riquelme en Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Pollution in Temuco. Photo by Carlos Riquelme in Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The so-called “black earthquake“[es] (word “earthquake” used to associate the disastrous consequences of the pollution with the consequences of the prevailing earthquakes in the country), a black layer of smog that covers Temuco, became a critical situation in June of this year and inspired diverse reactions from city residents.

From Temuco, Manuel Lazo (@mlazogutierrez) [es] referred to the air's poor quality, describing it as an unbreathable mixture of smog:

at this time in #Temuco, there's 10% fog and 90% pollution. the air is unbreathable again.

Constanza Manosalva (@ConiManosalva) [es], who also shared this opinion, used the hashtag #TemucoIrrespirable (#UnbreathableTemuco) to comment:

This graph says a lot. In #Temuco we are being poisoned. it is absolutely DISGUSTING. #UnbreathableTemuco

As days passed, the situation became even more critical. An environmental emergency was declared in the city. Luis Diaz Robles (@luisdiazrobles) [es], Director of the Environmental Engineering School at the Catholic University of Temuco (UCT, by its Spanish acronym), reported the following:

More than 2 days with #EmergenciaAmbiental (Environmental emergency) because of PM2.5 in Temuco #TerremotoNegro (Black earthquake)

On another end, Alberto Lagos (@RNE_20_TEMUCO) [es] described the effect that air's quality was having on the population's health:

Children coughing, wearing masks, suffocated. The elderly fairing badly in public health centers due to the bad quality of the air #NoMásHumo (No more smoke)

YouTube user clave9cl shared this video depicting a “cacerolazo” (form of protest popular during Chile's dictatorship, whereby protestors peacefully bang pots and pans) against the prohibition to use wood in Temuco:

Although the prohibition has contributed positively to improving the air's quality, there has been controversy about the centralism with which national authorities made their decision. According to citizens, they have ignored the local reality. This was the case with Nestor Contreras F (@Nestorbox) [es], who suggested:

The problem with centralism is political willingness. Those making the decisions are from Santiago and they think the country works the same everywhere

In her Facebook page, Bernardita Ruffinelli, journalist and blogger, posted [es]:

… ¿quién prohíbe ese uso sin considerar subvención de otros tipos de combustible en una ciudad donde hay invierno al menos 7 meses al año? se les olvida parece, que es la región más pobre del país, que la leña es la forma más económica de calentar sus hogares; pero les prohibimos comprarla y no les rebajamos los costos prohibitivos de los otros medios. Yo me sigo preguntando muy en serio, quién está tomando las decisiones políticas que atan de manos a los temuquenses?…

Who prohibits the use [of wood] without considering a subsidy for other types of fuels in a city where there is winter for at least 7 months of the year? They have forgotten that this is the poorest region in the country; that wood is the cheapest way to heat homes, but we prohibit its use without loweing the costs of other fuels. I keep wondering – very seriously- who is making these political decisions that tie the hands of Temuco residents?

This opinion is shared, in part, by the “No+Smoke” movement (#nomashumno) [es]. Although the movement is against the use of wood stoves as heaters, they suggest the use of sources of heating that pollute less. Furthermore, they suggest a government subsidy to purchase these fuels. The No+Humo movement introduced a petition [es] during a march through the streets of the city on June 8, 2013.

Carolina Aedo, an occupational health psychologist and a follower of the “No+Humo” movement, said [es] the following about the prohibitions in her Facebook wall:

Apagar las estufas en forma impositiva no es la respuesta a nuestros problemas de contaminación. No estoy de acuerdo con estas medidas autoritarias impositivas que una vez más quieren tapar el sol con un dedo, sin ni siquiera sentarse a dialogar soluciones que sí pueden ser plausibles Hay muchas otras medidas que tomar.

Turning off stoves in an imposing manner is not an answer to our pollution problems. I don't agree with these authoritative, imposing solutions that do not solve the problem, without even allowing for the discussion of solutions that are indeed plausible. There are many other measures that need to be taken.

Although in the past few weeks pollution levels in the city have dropped considerably (due to the combined effect of the prohibition to use wood stoves and intense rain and wind storms in the region), there is a citizen outcry demanding concrete solutions from authorities. Solutions seem to lie on the continuation and increase of subsidies for the purchase of certified wood heaters, as well as on innovative and alternative forms of heating and subsidies to fund them in the medium and long terms.

Aire Sur Chile (@Aire_Sur_Chile) [es], a Twitter user whose objective is to provide information about measures to reduce atmospheric pollution in the south of Chile, addressed the authorities to demand solutions beyond the immediate response to the current emergency:

@Aire_Sur_Chile: #Temuco a definitive solution to pollution from the authorities is of utmost importance, not only managing the emergency.

As an online debate unfolded about the increase in pollution after few rainy days, Danterana (@Danterana) [es] said is in favor of subsidies because finding a solution is a problem meant to be solved by the state:

…the State is the one who has to solve the problem. They ought to provide subsidies for hearting

A similar opinion was that shared by Marcela Farias (@lamarcefarias) [es], who expressed her disagreement with restrictions she thought were arbitrary:

Let’ find real solutions: subsidizing heating systems, educating, but not restricting in an arbitrary manner in #Temuco

In its official Twitter account, the Green Ecologist Party (@ecologistachile) [es] highlighted alternative forms of heating that are proven to be more efficient:

Geothermal energy wells in Chile can supply 280 thousand homes – something like [the cities of] Valdivia and Temuco together #NCRE [non-conventional renewable energy]

Journalist Mauricio Hoffman (@mauriciohoffman) [es] highlighted an alternative solution proposed by presidential pre-candidate and business manager Franco Paris:

From Temuco, Franco Parisi addresses the environmental emergency and measures taken. [He] proposes to bring natural gas to the area @OasisFMChile

On the other hand, Deputee Germán Becker (@gbeckera) [es], representative from the 50th district (including Temuco and Padre las Casas), said -without providing further details- that they are working on alternative and cheaper heating forms:

We are working to attain other forms of heating that are similar in value to firewood. Soon there will be news!!! #Temuco

July 09 2013

Anonymous Leaks the Accounts of Spain's Governing Party

Global hacktivist group Anonymous has leaked the 1990-2011 financial accounts of the governing Partido Popular (PP) [People's Party] to the Internet.

Recently, the judge overseeing the Gürtel case, an ongoing political corruption scandal in Spain that implicates PP members, asked for access to the documents dated since 1990 on the suspicion of illegal financing. The PP refused, claiming that they were only obligated turn in documents from the last five years.

On 8 July, 2013, Anonymous uploaded close to 5GB of data of the party's accounts, and at the same time made their financial data since 1990 public on portal The content rapidly spread via social networks, torrents, blogs and channels. Anonymous dubbed the leak:

Cables contables. PPgoteras. Lo que debería ser público, será público.

Accounting cables. PPleaks. What should be public, will be public.

This data, which was not public before, has now become available to the citizenry. Thousands of citizens through social networks have started to share and scrutinize the documents. You can follow the examination of these documents on Twitter under the hashtag #CuentasdelPP [es]:

@15MayoValencia: ¿Quieres echar una mano con la #AuditoriaCiudadanaAlPP? Descarga las #CuentasDelPP, analiza y comparte!
@15MayoValencia: Do you want to give us a hand with the #AuditoriaCiudadanaAlPP [es] [AIPP Citizen Audit]? Download the #CuentasDelPP[es] [PP Accounts], analyse and share! [es]
@LaliSandi: Lo nunca visto: las #cuentasdelpp explotan y se esparcen a pedacitos por la red.
@LaliSandi [es]: Never seen before: the #cuentasdelpp[es] [PPaccounts] explode and spread over the internet in little pieces.
‏@alvarinaitis: #CuentasDelPP Ya en serio ¿No va a dar nadie la cara durante el día de hoy? un comunicado? nadie del @PPopular ni empresarios donantes?
‏@alvarinaitis [es]: #CuentasDelPP[es] [PP accounts] But seriously, Is no one going to show their face today? a statement? nobody from the @PPopular [es] [People's Party] nor business sponsors?

The PP, which promised to submit a transparency law before the first 100 days of government but has still not formalised the legislation, has been exposed through the broadcasting of its financial management to the watchful eyes of hundreds of anonymous people. Public management is being examined.

July 08 2013

Trans-Atlantic Trade Talks Bound to Harm Freedoms Online

Paris, 8 July 2013 — Today begins in Washington DC the first round of negotiations of the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, TAFTA (also known as TTIP1), amid concerns about the legitimacy of negotiating such a text under espionage by the US government. La Quadrature du Net publishes a leaked document [pdf] [text] showing that the EU is already preparing to attack citizens' freedoms online, turning TAFTA into a “super-ACTA”. La Quadrature calls on citizens to mobilize and calls negotiators to communicate TAFTA texts to the public as soon as they enter in their possession.

Karel De Gucht
Karel De Gucht

From 8 to 11 July 2013 in Washington DC, negotiators from the US and the EU (represented by the European Commission) will negotiate the first round of TAFTA, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Their discussion will likely attempt to determine the scope of agreement. Among the numerous "non-tariff", "regulatory issues" that have already been announced as part of the negotiations, one can look at a great range of issues such as access to medication, food safety, investor-state litigation and finance, copyright, patents, etc. It is highly questionable that any of these issues, critical for structuring our societies and determining our everyday life, could be better addressed by closed-door negotiations of a trade agreement between unelected representatives rather than debated democratically in Parliament.

La Quadrature du Net publishes a document from the EU negotiators of TAFTA [pdf] [text], related to Internet. It shows alarmingly that they intend to negotiate rules that could potentially have a deep impact on the Internet, with among others:

  • liability of Internet service providers: the European legal framework guarantees that service providers have no obligation to police and censor their networks. Altering this regime is precisely what entertainment industry wants and almost got through ACTA.
  • electronic commerce: various provisions concerning consumers' protection, including the processing of their personal data for commercial purpose would be included in TAFTA.
  • cyber-security: in a context of massive, generalized surveillance of our data by US intelligence agencies, the EU negotiators seem ready to deal how information about "security" should be shared with the US.

These are only examples of how critical parts of legislation could be negotiated within TAFTA, all of them bearing huge potential risks for our freedoms online. Not only the EU negotiators could commit to weaken protections of citizens' freedoms or free competition, but they could also ensure that bad EU legislation could never be revoked, by turning them into "gold standards". The precedent of ACTA shows that industries can have tremendous (if not total) influence on the content of such an agreement, and that EU negotiators from the Commission can hardly be trusted to defend general interest, as demonstrated by their chief, Commissioner De Gucht's outright lies to EU citizens and Parliament.

La Quadrature du Net calls on all citizens to mobilize and ask for the publication of any text proposed or negotiated behind the closed doors of TAFTA. The citizen organization also launches a solemn call to all of the (about 80) officials involved in the negotiations: “Honour democratic values and justice by leaking documents from TAFTA and contribute to foster transparency and public debate on these crucial issues!”

  • 1. TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is an attempt to rename TAFTA in a positive-sounding manner, "partnership", while avoiding to be too pronounceable or to sound too similar in pronunciation as "ACTA"

July 04 2013

TAFTA: Illegitimate EU-US Agreement Will Begin Under Total US Surveillance

Paris, 4 July 2013 — Today, exactly one year after the final rejection of ACTA, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in strong reaction to the massive spying by the USA. Our representatives have failed to demand that the upcoming secret negotiations of trans-atlantic trade agreement be frozen. In a context where EU officials are being spied upon by US counterparts, this upcoming “super-ACTA” will be born with very little legitimacy.

It has been one year to the day since a massive, global and decentralized citizen movement helped defeat ACTA, (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), a historic victory against governments attempting to attack our fundamental rights online.


Today the European Parliament adopted a resolution about PRISM and the massive, generalized surveillance programs of the NSA, in the wake of the recent revelations about the spying of all EU officials by the USA.

The Parliament failed to adopt amendments calling for the postponing of the negotiations of the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement or TAFTA (also known as TTIP1). As the EU Commission – whose representative in charge of TAFTA, Karel De Gucht, openly lied to the EU people and to the Parliament – announced that negotiations should move on, the Parliament now gives it the green light. It is an alarming sign for EU democracy that should get citizens mobilized.

Karel De Gutch

As both parties have already made clear, the upcoming TAFTA will be used as a vector to alter EU “regulatory issues” ranging from access to medicine, food safety, or finance. Like ACTA, it will also include provisions on copyright enforcement, and may affect the whole Internet ecosystem. It is set, by design, to be another attempt to circumvent democracy and undermine our fundamental rights online.

“In a context where all communications between EU negotiators will potentially be available to their US counterpart, how could the EU Commission be in a strong position to negotiate and defend citizens' freedoms? How could the negotiation be balanced? Among others, the will of negotiators to discuss 'data flows' instead of enforcing EU citizens fundamental right to privacy shows how these negotiations could once again be used to bow to the pressure of the US and its industries. In a context of massive spying of EU citizens' communication by US institutions and corporations, TAFTA would turn into yet another illegitimate agreement betraying EU citizens.” declares Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen organisation La Quadrature du Net.

  • 1. TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is an attempt to rename TAFTA in a positive-sounding manner, "partnership", while avoiding to be too pronounceable or to sound too similar in pronunciation as "ACTA"
Reposted byschwa schwa

Obama in Africa: Catching Up with China

President Obama is currently touring Africa on a visit scheduled from June 26 to July 3, 2013. He was recently in South Africa after having visited Senegal and Tanzania. Many commentators see this trip as a catch-up mission, as an attempt by the United States to respond to the Chinese economic breakthrough [fr] in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2010, China has been the leading commercial partner in Africa [fr], although four years ago, at the time of Obama’s visit to Ghana, the US were in this position. Obama’s speech in Ghana four years ago left many Africans sceptical and there seemed to be little common ground.

In the video below, Global Voices contributor Abel Asrat for Global Voices in Ahmaric gave his point of view on Obama's policy in Africa as of today:

On Twitter, doubts over the reasons for Obama’s visit to Africa were reflected by use of hashtag Wolof  #ObamaTakh which translates just well as “Because of Obama” as “Thanks to Obama” – appeared several days before his arrival in Dakar.

Until his arrival on Senegalese soil this was the first acceptance of the word which took over the social networks. Then the mood changed, as @LebouPrincess, a Senegalese based in DC,  underlined on Twitter:

Plus impressionnant que l'arrivée du Air Force One c'est le revirement des #kebetu (Twittos en Wolof] lol guemoulene dara [vous êtes versatiles] #ObamaTakh

What was more striking than the arrival of Air Force One was the return of hashtags #kebtu, (Tweets in the Wolof language) lol guemoulene dara [you are versatile] #ObamaTakh.

The following day Obama managed to get the Senegalese somewhat on his side by mentioning the Senegalese Fight during his discussions with President Macky Sall and saying some words in the Wolof language: Nio Far (We are partners),Teranga (hospitality) and Jerejef (Thank you).

Central to discussions between the two presidents were the conflict in Mali, drug trafficking and economic issues [fr]:

Le président américain Barack Obama a annoncé, jeudi à Dakar, que son administration était en train de « chercher des modalités de reconduction » de l’AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act], la Loi américaine sur la croissance et les opportunités en Afrique.
S'exprimant au cours d'une conférence de presse conjointe avec son homologue sénégalais Macky Sall, au lendemain de son arrivée au Sénégal pour une visite officielle de trois jours, le chef de l'Etat américain a indiqué avoir demandé à son administration de travailler pour arriver à une reconduction de l'AGOA.
L'AGOA est un programme unilatéral de préférence commerciale signé par le Congrès des États-Unis et permettant l'exemption de taxes et l'accès à un quota libre pour plus de 6 400 produits provenant des pays éligibles de l'Afrique sub-saharienne.
Le président Obama a par ailleurs réaffirmé la volonté de son administration de travailler à développer les relations commerciales entre son pays et le Sénégal.

The American President, Barack Obama, announced on Thursday in Dakar that his administration was currently “researching ways to renew” from the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), the American law covering growth and opportunities in Africa.
During a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall, the day after his arrival for a three day visit to Senegal, the American head of state indicated that he had asked his administration to work on renewal of the AGOA. The AGOA is a unilateral programme covering commercial preference signed by the United States congress, allowing tax exemption and access to a free quota for more than 6,400 products coming from eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. What is more, President Obama restated the desire of his administration to work on developing commercial relations between his country and Senegal.

In Senegal and elsewhere, the most commented upon moment of the press conference given by the two presidents, was when Barack Obama, freely and almost certainly with the backing of his Senegalese counterpart, broached the topic of gay rights in Africa. Sabine Cessou on Rue89 explains how questions were selected [fr] during the press conference :

Les questions des quelques 300 journalistes présents ne pouvaient pas être posées librement, mais avaient été sélectionnées à l’avance. Ce processus a permis à seulement deux journalistes sénégalais et deux journalistes américains de poser quelques salves de questions chacun.

The questions from the 300 journalists were screened beforehand. The process allowed for two Senegalese journalists and two american ones to ask the tough questions.

Macky Sall’s response did not disappoint Senegalese traditionalists [fr]:

Fondamentalement, c’est une question de société. Il ne saurait y avoir un modèle fixe dans tous les pays. Les cultures sont différentes, tout comme les religions et les traditions.
Même dans les pays où il y a dépénalisation de l’homosexualité, les avis ne sont pas partagés. Le Sénégal est un pays tolérant : on ne dit pas à quelqu’un qu’il n’aura pas de travail parce qu’il est homosexuel. Mais on n’est pas prêt à dépénaliser l’homosexualité. C’est l’option pour le moment, tout en respectant les droits des homosexuels.
Nous ne sommes pas homophobes au Sénégal. La société doit prendre le temps de traiter ces questions sans pression.

At heart, this is a question of society. It would not be possible to have a fixed model in every country. Cultures are different, just as religions and traditions are.
Even in countries which have decriminalised homosexualisity, opinions are not shared. Senegal is a tolerant country: nobody is ever told that they will not work because they are homosexual. However, we are not ready to decriminalise homosexuality. That is our choice for the present, while at the same time we respect the rights of homosexuals.
We are not homophobes in Senegal. Society must take time to deal with these issues without pressure.

In the US, Kimberly McCarthy had been executed the previous day in Texas, and her cutting remarks about the death penalty had created the same unanimity: the Senegalese president remarked to his interviewer that certain countries still applied the death penalty – without naming the United States – although it is abolished in Senegal (the last capital punishment was in 1967) which, on the other hand, is careful not to preach to others.

As @hpenot_lequipe, a journalist for the french newspaper l'Equipe, remarked on Twitter:

Très intéressant échange entre Obama et Macky Sall. Pour une fois, un président africain ne s'est pas écrasé devant E-U. Respect.

Very interesting exchange between Obama and Macky Sall. For once, an African president who doesn’t fall before the US. Respect.

And from @Toutankhaton, member of the african diaspora in Paris :

Bravo à @macky_sall pour sa réponse cash à @barackobama ! Peine de mort vs mariage gay! #obamatakh

Bravo @macky_sall for his kosher response to @barackobama! Death penalty vs gay marriage! #obamatakh

Below is the video of the press conference by Xalimasn from Senegal:

Photos from Obama’s visit can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Dakar Echo.

In South Africa, his welcome seemed a little less cordial, as the Washington Post's foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher points out:

For much of the 1980s, the United Kingdom and United States were perceived by some South Africans, not wholly without reason, as tolerating the apartheid government. That may help explain why some of Obama’s critics in South Africa criticize him for supporting the “apartheid state” of Israel. The groups also cite U.S. drone strikes and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


June 27 2013

Protect Our Freedoms with “Pi-xels”: Support La Quadrature du Net!

Paris 20 June 2013 — La Quadrature du Net launches a new call for support. After six months of structuring, La Quadrature du Net is now active on a wide number of subjects crucial for the future of online freedoms: Net neutrality, copyright reform, protection of privacy, opposing surveillance and censorship or discriminatory treatment of our communications. So many issues and actions that can be only move forward thanks to your support!

Support La Quadrature and get your own personalised “Pi-xel”!


In addition to its many volunteer contributors, La Quadrature is now operating with a five-member crew (and a trainee) structured around three types of activities: campaigning (Jerémie Zimmermann and Yoann Spicher), legal watch and analysis (Miriam Artino and Arthur Messaud) and development of citizen empowerment tools (Thomas Bouchet). Logistics and administrative support is provided by Marie Walrafen.

Since the epic citizen victory against ACTA in July 2012, and thanks to this structuring, La Quadrature de Net has been sustainably working, on both European and French levels, on the following dossiers:

Besides these daily actions and numerous contributions to the public debate, La Quadrature organises and takes part in many institutional and community events (such as workshops or a village at OHM20131) to help spread good practices in the digital space and help set up an infrastructure for debate and citizen empowerment.

These actions can only move forward with the support of thousands of individuals like you!

Support La Quadrature du Net and its actions through this new campaign, and get, amongst other presents, your own personalised “Pi-xel”!

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Tags: general news

June 14 2013

European Award for Helping Victims of the Spanish Mortgage Crisis

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where otherwise indicated.]

The European Parliament announced the winners of this year's European Citizen's prize. One of the awards went to the Mortgage Victims’ Platform (PAH in Spanish), a grassroots organization dedicated to alleviating the suffering of people in Spain who have been affected by the subprime crisis and evicted from their homes. According to the European Parliament's website [en], this award is given to individuals and organizations that

personas u organizaciones excepcionales que luchen por los valores europeos, promuevan la integración entre ciudadanos y los Estados miembros o faciliten la cooperación transnacional en el seno de la Unión, y a los que día a día tratan de promover los valores de la Carta de Derechos Fundamentales de la UE.

either facilitate cross-border cooperation within the EU or promote better mutual understanding and closer integration between citizens and member states. It can also be awarded for day-to-day activities reflecting the values enshrined in the EU's charter of fundamental rights.

Recogida de firmas para la ILP en Berriozar (Navarra). Imagen de la web de la PAH en Navarra

Collecting signatures for the ILP petition in Berriozar (Navarra). Photo from the PAH network in Navarra

One of PAH's important undertakings was the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP in Spanish), a petition that seeks to modify the current mortgage law to allow homeowners to transfer the title of their residence to their financial institution and thereby write off their debt, even in cases where the property is worth less than the loan.  According to polls, it has the support of close to 90% of Spaniards. Although the petition obtained almost 1.5 million signatures and was accepted for consideration by the Parliament, PAH decided to withdraw it when it was discovered that the Government intended to approve a law that elicited the following comment from PAH spokesperson Ada Colau:

nos parece inaceptable que el Gobierno pretenda utilizar su mayoría para aprobar una ley que nada tiene que ver con nuestra propuesta. No queremos que lo haga en nuestro nombre. Nosotros la seguiremos defendiendo a través de nuestras campañas de desobediencia, sin renunciar a seguir presionando al Gobierno

we consider it unacceptable that the government should use its majority status to pass a law that has nothing to do with our proposal.  We do not want them to do it in our name. We will continue to defend it through our campaign of civil disobedience, without relinquishing pressure on the government.

PAH has favoured controversial campaigns such as the escraches [en] [a form of targeted public demonstrations] against political figures in order to garner their support for the petition, which resulted in the Partido Popular leadership branding PAH activists “Nazis” and accusing them of supporting pro-ETA groups.

Críticas de internautas a las reacciones del PP. Imagen subida a Twitter por el usuario munozporque

Criticism by netizens of the PP's reaction. Image uploaded to  Twitter by user Rafael Muñoz

Politicians from the governing Partido Popular (PP) have reacted angrily to the awarding of the prize, announced on 6 June 2013. Spanish MEP Carlos Iturgaiz declared:

hoy ha sido Ada Colau, mañana nos pueden traer a Arnaldo Otegi y con el voto de la izquierda salir adelante y dar un premio a Otegi.

Today it was Ada Colau, tomorrow they can bring us Arnaldo Otegi and with the leftist vote go further and get a prize for Otegi.

[Arnaldo Otegi [en] is the historical leader of Herri Batasuna, the political arm of ETA].

Many netizens, criticized the MEP's comment. Cavendish and Tony S.A.G. replied on Twitter:

@lowcost12: -Quién ha dicho que después de Colau vendrá Otegui? -Iturgáiz -No, me refiero a si lo ha dicho alguien con cerebro

@lowcost12: – Who said that after Colau there would be Otegi? – Iturgáiz – I'm not asking whether it was said by someone with half a brain

@Tony_SaGPP”hoy ha sido Ada Colau,mañana nos pueden traer a Arnaldo Otegui” hoy es el PP, mañana nos pueden traer la vuelta del Generalisimo.

@Tony_SaG: PP “today it was Ada Colau, tomorrow they can bring us Arnaldo Otegui” today it's the PP, tomorrow they might bring back the Generalisimo.

Bosco Martín Algarra, on his blog treinta y muchos says:

Ningún político en su sano juicio, salvo Iturgáiz y algunos compañeros de su partido se atreve a comparar a la PAH con ETA y a Ada Colau con Otegi. Resulta tan desproporcionado que hasta muchos simpatizantes del PP evitan criticar en público a la PAH para no ser identificados con opiniones tan absurdas como las de Iturgáiz. Y lo peor de todo: es Iturgáiz, precisamente alguien que ha padecido el acoso etarra como él, quien utilice de manera tan irresponsable argumentos tan superficiales.

No politician in his right mind, except for Iturgáiz and a few of his fellow party members would dare to compare the PAH to ETA and Ada Colau to Otegi. It is such a disproportionate reaction that many PP sympathizers avoid publicly criticizing PAH so as not to be identified with opinions as absurd as those of Iturgáiz. And worst of all is the fact that someone like Iturgáiz, who has actually suffered harassment by ETA, is using such superficial arguments so irresponsibly.

The Partido Popular's MEPs have indicated they will request the prize be revoked although the European People's Party, to which they belong, supported the prize being awarded to PAH. The Socialist

Captura de pantalla de Le Monde. Tuit de Carmela Ríos

“In Spain, the prize awarded to anti-eviction militants infuriates the right.” Screen shot of the French daily Le Monde. Tweet by Carmela Ríos

Enrique Barón, former president of the European Parliament and the only Spaniard on the jury commented in an interview with

Se aprobó todo por unanimidad y en el caso del premio a la PAH no hubo ningún tipo de debate. Los populares europeos estaban de acuerdo.

Everything was unanimously approved, and in the case of the PAH prize there was no debate of any kind. The European People's Party agreed.

Meanwhile Rafael Hernando, a PP legislator, tweeted:

@Rafa_Hernando Baron PSOE hace trampas para quitarle el Premio del Parlamento Europeo a una discapacitada medallista olímpica y darselo a Colau vaya jeta!

@Rafa_Hernando Baron PSOE is conniving to revoke the European Parliament prize given to a Paralympic medallist and award it to Colau some nerve!

Hernando is referring to Teresa Perales [en], a Spanish Paralympic swimmer and winner of 22 medals—as many as Michael Phelps—who was also nominated. The jury justified its decision arguing that

Los deportistas no reúnen los requisitos de este galardón porque ya tienen su propio reconocimiento en su actividad.

Athletes do not meet the criteria for this prize as they have already received recognition for their endeavours.

The sports spokesperson for the PP , Miriam Blasco, expressed her opinion:

Se quiere castigar al Gobierno pero se le da una patada al deporte paralímpico

They want to punish the Government but Paralympic sports is taking the hit.

To which netizen JAVI responded:

Ya está el PP en pleno en el papel de víctima (el que más les gusta despues del de embusteros) y manipulando a los minusválidos para intentar crear en la opinión pública la sensación de injusticia. Se puede caer más bajo?

The PP is already playing the role of victim (their second favourite after liar) and manipulating the disabled in order to foster a sense of public injustice. Can you get any lower?

Spain's Minister of External Affairs, José Manuel García Margallo, has said he considers that it was an “error on the part of Parliament” to award the prize to PAH alleging that “it has encouraged so-called escraches.”

Imagen de la PAH de Sant Boi en Facebook

Image on Facebook from the PAH webpage in the Sant Boi municipality

Although the ruling party is concentrating on the escraches organized by PAH as part of its campaign in favour of the ILP, their platform is above all that of an interest group trying to defend a constitutional right to housing and alleviate the tragedy of foreclosure and eviction—which in 2012 alone left more than 30 000 families homeless (data from the Colegio de Registradores)—by offering legal aid and psychological support to the victims of the housing crisis. Even the European Central Bank, in a report published on May 26 recommended the following to the Spanish government:

«debería adoptarse un conjunto de medidas más amplio que aborde las causas subyacentes de las dificultades relacionadas con las hipotecas y que trate de evitar, en la medida de lo posible, las ejecuciones hipotecarias»

a series of broader measures should be adopted to address the underlying causes of the problems related to mortgages and that try, insofar as possible, to avoid foreclosure.”

June 11 2013

Senegal's Democratic Tradition Takes Worrisome Turn

[All links forward to French-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

Senegal has a solid tradition of democracy and protection of freedom of expression and human rights. But recent months have seen the West African nation's reputation as a stronghold for democracy in Africa seriously damaged with the evictions of a Chadian journalist and Gambian dissident, both opponents of the governments in their home countries.

Chadian [en] blogger and journalist Makaila Nguebla [en], an opponent of his country's President Idriss Déby [en] who has ruled Chad for more than two decades, was deported on May 8, 2013 to neighboring Guinea. Nguebala runs a highly critical blog about his country's regime.

Well-known Gambian [en] opponent Kukoi Samba Sanyang [en], who led the 1981 rebellion against the regime of former President Dawda Kaïraba Diawara, was expelled April 17, 2013 to Mali.

Mamadou Oumar Ndiaye, author for the Senegalese weekly Le Témoin, detailed Senegal's democratic character, giving credit to the country's first President Leopold Sedar Senghor, a poet and intellectual who served from 1960 to 1980, in his post titled “Senegal, your excellent traditions are falling apart!“:

Le Sénégal n’a ni or (ou alors très peu, dans la région de Kédougou), ni diamants, encore moins du pétrole, du gaz ou de l’uranium … De plus, la pluviométrie n’y est pas abondante et la plupart de nos paysans ne travaillent que trois mois dans l’année … Malgré tout, notre pays tient une place honorable dans le concert des nations africaines. Et, à franchement parler, il a un niveau de développement que beaucoup de pays incroyablement gâtés par la nature nous envient. Cela est dû, bien sûr, à la qualité des ressources humaines du Sénégal produites par un système éducatif de qualité mis en place par le premier président de la République, le poète, agrégé de grammaire et académicien Léopold Sédar Senghor. Un système public d’éducation dont l’actuel Président est un pur produit, soit dit en passant. … Ce niveau de développement enviable, notre pays le doit aussi à sa stabilité politique légendaire qui a fait que, depuis l’indépendance en 1960, il n’a jamais connu de coup d’Etat militaire. En Afrique, notre pays est l’un des rares à avoir toujours été gouverné par un pouvoir civil. Et au moment où partout ailleurs, les pouvoirs militaires étaient la règle, le Sénégal a constitué une joyeuse exception, un îlot de démocratie dans un océan de dictatures … Bref, de quelque côté qu’on le prenne, le Sénégal a toujours fait figure d’exception en Afrique.

Senegal has neither gold (or very little, in the Kedougou region) nor diamonds, let alone oil, gas or uranium … In addition, rainfall is not abundant and most of our farmers only work three months per year … However, our country holds an honorable place among the African nations. And frankly speaking, Senegal has a level of development that many other countries with more natural blessings would envy. This is, of course, due to the quality of human resources in Senegal which is itself, a byproduct of the quality of the educational system established by the first President of the Republic of Senegal Leopold Sedar Senghor. Senghor was also a poet, a grammar scholar and the first African elected as a member of the Académie françaiseBy the way the current president is a pure product of this same public educational system. … This enviable standard of development, our country also owes it to its legendary political stability; since its independence in 1960, it has never experienced a military coup. In Africa, our country is one of the few to have only been governed by civil authorities. And when everywhere else, military authorities were the rule, Senegal was a happy exception; an island of democracy in a sea of dictatorships … Anyway, whichever way you see, Senegal has always been an exception in Africa.

But some consider that Senegal has moved away from that legacy left by Sedar Senghor. Last year, former President Abdoulaye Wade [en], who was accused during his tenure corruption, nepotism and curtailing freedom of the press, was defeated in his highly criticized bid for a third term [en] in office.

With Wade’s regime at an end, some expected a return to those democratic roots. But these recent measures taken by the current government raise questions about its commitment to do so.

Even Wade, who was much criticized [en] during his regime, was always respectful of Senegal's tradition as a host country for freedom of speech activists. The failure of Wade's government was not about free speech activists, but was not regularizing the situation of refugees.

As deported Chadian blogger Nguebala told Global Voices in an email exchange:

“Under Abdoulaye Wade's regime, I was never arrested once by the police”

A coalition called “Right of Asylum and Freedom of Expression” was created to demand Nguebla’s return. In the following video, the coalition unpacks the context of the evicitions and the risks that the bloggers are facing:

Boly BAH, journalist for La Gazette (a Senegalese website) called for the sliding of Senegal's democracy to be stopped in his post “The Deviant Turn of a Democracy“:

Une dérive à stopper. Qui est le prochain sur la liste ? En moins de deux mois, le Sénégal a chassé deux opposants africains de Dakar. … C’est une concession grave à des régimes anti-démocratiques … Cette expulsion d’un défenseur des droits humains et leader d’opinion vers la Guinée, un pays « non sûr » et en proie à des tensions politiques, laisse apparaître un deal entre les autorités politiques sénégalaises et tchadiennes, en vue d’extrader Makaila Nguebla au Tchad où sa vie est menacée.
Le combat sera mené jusqu’au retour de Makaila et de Kukoi Samba Sanyang. …

Les pays n’ont pas d’ami mais des intérêts. En procédant aux expulsions de Kukoi Samba Sanyang, le Sénégal défend peut-être les relations de bon voisinage avec la Gambie. Et fait un clin d’œil à Yaya Jammeh, président gambien au cœur du règlement du conflit de la Casamance. La Gambie avait même facilité la libération des otages sénégalais, il y a quelques mois. C’est peut-être compréhensible de lui renvoyer la monnaie en expulsant son opposant-rebelle, Kukoi Samba Sanyang. Avec le Tchad, certes, il n’y a pas cette grande amitié, mais la nouvelle posture africaine de Idrisss Deby Itno vaut peut-être cette largesse.

Deby a le vent en poupe et avec sa forte colonie militaire dans le désert malien, le président tchadien est en pleine puissance sous-régionale. Le Tchad contribue aussi au financement du procès d’Habré. Maintenant, si le jugement d’Habré participe au renforcement de l’indépendance judiciaire africaine, l’expulsion de Makaïla reste plutôt suspecte. Le blogueur était un combattant de la démocratie. Un relais entre son peuple et l’extérieur. Il était la voix des sans voix tchadiennes, il informait des dérives de Deby parce que bénéficiant de cette liberté d’expression qui fait défaut à ses confrères restés au pays.

This drifting away from our legacy has to be stopped. Who is next on the list? In less than two months, Senegal deported two African political activists. … This is a serious concession to all anti-democratic regimes… This deportation of a human rights activist and opinion leader to Guinea, an “unsafe” country plagued by political tensions suggests a deal between Senegalese and Chadian political authorities. Next might be the extradition of Makaila Nguebla back to Chad where his life is under threat.

This struggle will continue until both Makaila and Kukoi Samba Sanyang return. …

Countries do not have friends, they have interests. In carrying out the evictions of Kukoi Samba Sanyang, Senegal may be maintaining good relations with the Gambia. He might also reach out to Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian President who is at the heart of the conflict in Casamance. Gambia has even facilitated the release of some Senegalese hostages in Gambia a few months ago. It is perhaps understandable to pay him back by expelling his rebellious opponent, Kukoi Samba Sanyang. With Chad, of course, there is no such great friendship, but Idriss Deby’s new african posture (his involvment in Mali) might be worth it.

Deby is on the rise and with his strong military forces in the desert of Mali, Chad's president is showing his full might in the region. Chad also contributes to the financing of [former leader of Chad Hissène] Habré’s trial. Now the Habré trial may help strengthen African judicial independence but on the other hand, Makaila’s deportation is rather dubious. The blogger was an advocate of democracy, a bridge between his people and the outside world. He was the voice of those Chadians without a voice; he informed the world about Deby’s excess because he enjoyed freedom of expression that his colleagues back home could not have.

Another recent issue is also symptomatic of the worrisome turn taken by Senegal on the protection of human rights.

Taking advantage of the media circus in Senegal caused by these two cases, a member of parliament of the presidential majority wants to file a bill for the return of death penalty.  Senegal abolished the death penalty in 2004 and the last execution was held in 1967.

Even Fekke Maci Bolle, a political movement led Youssou N'Dour, the current Minister of Culture and Tourism, has come out against this bill. The movement published its stance on its Facebook page:

Celui ou celle qui affirme que l'on vit confortablement dans le couloir de la mort n'y a de toute évidence jamais mis les pieds … On voit rarement une personne riche ou aisée monter à la potence … La peine de mort est la négation absolue des droits humains. Il s’agit d'un meurtre commis par l'État, avec préméditation et de sang-froid. Ce châtiment cruel, inhumain et dégradant est infligé au nom de la justice.
Cette peine viole le droit à la vie inscrit dans la Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme.
Amnesty International s'oppose à la peine de mort en toutes circonstances, quels que soient la nature du crime commis, les caractéristiques de son auteur ou la méthode utilisée par l'État pour l'exécuter.

Whoever says that one lives comfortably on death row has obviously never been there … You rarely see a rich or wealthy person being executed … Death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is a planned and cold-blooded murder committed by the State. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is inflicted in the name of justice.
It violates the right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or how he committed the crime.

May 23 2013

The ‘News in Rap', an Unconventional News Broadcast from Senegal

TV audiences in Senegal have witnessed the rise of a new genre of broadcast journalism, presented by two local rap stars Xuman (39) and Keyti (40), leading figures in the the movement opposing Abdoulaye Wade's failed re-election bid last year. Like all Senegalese television news, ‘Le Journal Rappé’ is presented both in Wolof, a local language, and in French. On it the show Xuman and Keyti tackle current events – political, social and international.

The interview was conducted in French by Global Voices author Anna Gueye and all links forward to articles in French.

The two artists discuss their show below.

Global Voices : Wo are you ?

- Mon vrai nom est Cheikh Séne plus connu sous Keyti.

- Makhtar Fall AKA Xuman.

- My real name is Cheikh Séne, better known as Keyti.

- Makhtar Fall AKA Xuman.

GV : Where are you from?

Keyti : Je suis né à Saint-Louis au nord du Sénégal mais j’ai grandi entre Dakar et Thiès.

Xuman: de Dakar

Keyti : I was born in Saint-Louis in the north of Senegal but  I grew up between Dakar and Thiès.

Xuman: From Dakar.

GV : What is your educational background?

Keyti : J’ai eu le parcours classique de l’enfant sénégalais moyen : élémentaire, lycée puis après le bac 3 ans d’études de langues à l’université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis que j’ai finalement quittée pour me consacrer entièrement à la musique.

Xuman : J’étais lycéen.

Keyti : I had the typical education of the average Senegalese child: elementary school, secondary school, the BAC, then three years studying languages at L’Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis which I ended up leaving to dedicate myself 100% to music.

Xuman : I went to secondary school.

GV : How did you end up here?

Keyti : D’abord, la passion de l’écriture et de la musique puis le rap est arrivé.

Xuman : J'écrivais des poèmes et j’aimais la break dance. La combinaison des deux m’a mené au rap.

Keyti : First of all, out of passion for writing and for music, and then rap came into my life.

Xuman : I used to write poems and I loved breakdancing. The combination of the two is what led me to rap.

GV : What did you do prior to this project ?

Keyti : J’ai sorti 2 albums (en 1998 et 2001) avec mon ancien groupe le Rapadio avant d’en sortir un en solo en 2003. Puis j’ai fait un autre album avec les Dakar All Stars, un collectif avec 3 autres artistes. J’ai aussi participé à un album (Histoires Extraordinaires des Enfants du Poto-Poto) avec 16 artistes d’Afrique de l’ouest (dont Xuman) pour la promotion des droits de l’enfant en Afrique.

Xuman J’ai participé à 7 albums dont 5 avec mon groupe Pee Froiss.

Keyti : I did two albums (in 1998 and 2001) with my former group the Rapadio before I launched my solo career in 2003. Then, I made another album with the Dakar All Stars, a collective with 3 other artists. I also took part in an album  (Histoires Extraordinaires des Enfants du Poto-Poto) with 16 artists from West Africa (which Xuman was also a part of) to promote the rights of the child in Africa.

Xuman I made 7 albums, including 5 with my group Pee Froiss.

GV : What do you do outside of rap music?

Keyti : Mes autres activités tournent essentiellement autour du rap, de la musique. En 2010 par exemple j’ai réalisé un documentaire de 26mn sur le rap sénégalais nommé 100% hip-hop. Hormis cela je participe à des projets sociaux comme des ateliers d’écriture et de musique assistée par ordinateur dans les prisons de Dakar.

Xuman : je fais de la radio, de la télé et je suis DJ.

Keyti : My other activities basically revolve around rap, around music. In 2010, for example, I produced a 26 min documentary on Senegalese hip hop called 100% hip-hop. Outside of that I take part in social projects like online writing workshops and music workshops in Dakar prisons.

Xuman : I do radio, television and I'm a  DJ.

GV : Why this project?

Keyti : Moi je le fais pour d’abord m’amuser et prouver que le rap peut aussi transporter de l’humour d’autant plus que j’ai cette image du rappeur sérieux au Sénégal. Il faut aussi dire que je suis un news addict et du coup c’est une façon pour moi de régurgiter toutes les infos que je croise, à ma façon, avec beaucoup de liberté dans le langage et les analyses.

Xuman : Pour donner notre version de l’actualité différente de celle imposée par certains medias.

Keyti : I do this first and foremost for my own enjoyment and to prove that rap can also bring humour, since I have this image of a serious rapper in Senegal. I also have to say that I’ m a  news addict and it's also a way for me to regurgitate all the news I come across, in my own way, with a whole lot of freedom in the language I use and the analysis.

Xuman : To give our version of events, different than the one that is imposed by certain parts of the media.

GV : What inspired you? Where did you get the idea from?

Keyti : Xuman a eu l’idée à la base. Il m’en a parlé, c’était intéressant pour moi et j’ai eu envie de relever le challenge.

Xuman : Le fait d’avoir fait de la radio pendant un temps et aussi de relever le défi de coller à l’actualité et de le faire en musique … l’idée était là depuis un moment, il fallait juste avoir les moyens techniques pour la réaliser.

Keyti : Xuman came up with the idea. He spoke to me about it, I found it interesting and I felt like taking up the challenge.

Xuman : The fact of having done radio for a while and also taking up the challenge of sticking to reality, and doing that in music… I actually had the idea for a minute, it was just a question of having the technical means to make it happen.

GV : How much time was there between the idea and the first show?

Il y a eu 4 mois avant que nous n’ayons le pilote puis 4 autres mois avant qu’une chaîne télé ne soit intéressée par le projet.

It took about 4 months to get the pilot done and then another 4 before a TV station got interested in the project.

What station are you on?

La 2STV (chaîne de télévision privée. chaque vendredi soir après le journal traditionnel puis disponible dès le lendemain sur YouTube).

La 2STV (a private television channel. Every Friday night after the traditional news, and then available the next day on YouTube).

GV : How did you make the first episode happen ?

C’est notre partenaire Level Studio qui a proposé le pilote au directeur des programmes qui a tout de suite aimé le concept.

Our partner Level Studio proposed the pilot episode to the director of programming. He liked the concept right away.

GV : What problems did you encounter?

Avoir l’équipe adéquate pour que l’idée de base soit traduite en images. Il était important pour nous que le produit soit crédible, surtout au niveau de la réalisation graphique et vidéo. Il a donc fallu un peu de temps avant de trouver Level Studio qui a bien voulu nous suivre dans l’aventure.

Getting the right team together so that the original idea could come across visually. It was important to us for the end product to be credible, especially on the visual production and video level. Because of that, it took some time before we found Level Studio who wanted to ride with us on this adventure.

GV : Who is your audience?

Keyti : Les plus jeunes en premiers parce que le journal est fait en rap qui est une musique de leur temps mais au-delà tous ceux qui veulent de l’impertinence, une actualité passée en revue sans langue de bois.

Xuman : Et enfin tous ceux qui ne suivent pas l’actualité mais préfèrent écouter de la musique.

Keyti : The younger viewers first and foremost because the news is done in rap, which is a musical style of their times, but above all, all those who want to see some impertinence, to see current issues get covered without ‘news speak'.

Xuman : And finally, all the people who don't pay attention to the news but who prefer to listen to music.

GV : What is your goal?

Divertir d’abord mais aussi faire sauter plus de barrières et libérer beaucoup plus le discours des artistes au Sénégal quel que soit leur domaine. Qu’on puisse s’affranchir de la politique, des pesanteurs sociales et religieuses petit à petit et dire les choses comme nous les pensons.

To have fun first of all, but also to overcome barriers and liberate the discourse of artists in Senegal, in every domain. So that we can free ourselves of politics, social and religious pressure, bit by bit, and say what we really think.

GV : How was it received? Did you have a good audience?

Keyti : Globalement je crois qu’il y a eu un bon accueil. Il reste toujours des choses à parfaire et nous avons bien sûr reçu des critiques par rapport à ces choses-là.

Xuman : Très bien car nous avons un vécu et sommes crédibles. Nous avons pu toucher au delà du milieu hip-hop. ( note de l'auteur: Ce que je confirme, je n’écoute jamais de rap mais je suis restée littéralement scotchée devant ce journal d’ailleurs le nombre de vues  en quelques jours démontrent que je ne suis pas la seule).

Keyti : Overall, I think that there's been a good reception. There's always things which could be improved and of course we have had some criticism in relation to those things.

Xuman : Really good because we have a story and we're credible. We've been able to touch people beyond hip hop. (author's note: this I can confirm, I never listen to rap but I have been virtually glued to this news broadcast and judging from the number of views in just a few days, I'm not the only one).

GV : Who produces the show?

Ce projet est auto-produit de bout en bout. Cependant les premiers numéros ont suscité l’intérêt de certains investisseurs et nous étudions toutes les propositions afin de garder aussi notre liberté de ton sur les prochaines éditions.

This project is 100% self-produced. However, the first episodes caught the interest of certain investors and we look at all the propositions carefully to safeguard our freedom of expression in future editions.

See also the report on the ‘News in Rap'.

May 17 2013

May 14 2013

May 10 2013

April 25 2013

April 24 2013

March 15 2013

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