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Spain’s hologram protest: Thousands join virtual march in Madrid against new gag law

15 Apr
Getty/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

‘You will only be allowed to express yourself if you become a hologram’

Late last year the Spanish government passed a law that set extreme fines for protesters convening outside of government buildings.

In response to the controversial Citizen Safety Law, which will take effect on July 1, Spanish activists have staged the world’s first ever virtual holographic political demonstration.

After months of massive flesh-and-blood protests against the so-called ‘gag law’, thousands of holograms last night marched in front of the Spanish parliament in Madrid.

Organised by the group Holograms for Freedom, ghost-like figures holding placards took aim at the imminent draconian measures, arguing that holographic people are now afforded greater freedoms than their real-life counterparts.

Getty/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

The ‘NoSomosDelito’ (meaning: ‘We are not crime’) movement – composed of more than 100 different organisations – called upon sympathisers around the world to participate in the landmark event by simply webcamming their face via the campaign website.

More than 2,000 virtual images were sent and used in the hour-long hologram demonstration, El Pais reported.

Under the Citizens Safety Law, it is illegal to gather in front of government buildings without permission from authorities; this includes everything from universities to hospitals.

Organisers of unauthorised demonstrations could be fined up to €600,000, with further €600 fines for disrespecting police officers, and €30,000 for filming or photographing them.

Getty/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

In a video promoting the protest, a spokeswoman said: “With the passing of the Gag Law, you won’t be allowed to assemble in public spaces without risking a fine.

“Ultimately, if you are a person, you won’t be allowed to express yourself freely. You will only be able to do it if you are a hologram.”

Spokesman Carlos Escano told Spanish newspaper El Mundo: “Our protest with holograms is ironic.

“With the restrictions we’re suffering on our freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, the last options that will be left to use in the end will be to protest through our holograms.”

via The Independent.

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Amnesty International UK Blogs: A Map of Non-Violent Activism in Syria

2 Jul
The interactive map shows the non-violence activities within the Syrian uprising © Omar al Assil

Non violent resistance in Syria? Don’t make me laugh. Those trying to topple Assad are all cannibals and head choppers….or so the likes of the academic “Angry Arab”, Asad Abu Khalil would, it would seem at times, try to convince you.

The reality is Syrians in their tens of thousands continue to resist the Assad regimes brutality (and sometimes resist certain armed opposition groups) through non-violent methods of staggering diversity and creativity. The extremely grim and brutal reality which regime apologists and quite often the mainstream media present is but one, extremely narrow perspective of what is going on in Syria. It is far from the whole truth.

A Syrian activist friend of mine, Omar al Assil, has recently produced a beautiful, interactive map of non-violent resistance in Syria. It was created with his colleagues in the Syrian Non Violence Movement including their members inside Syria.

I mention Abu Khalil as he was the first to respond to the map when the social commentator, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi posted it on his Facebook wall on June 21. Abu Khalil responded smugly: “Very convincing. Is there a special color for beheadings?”.

Pulse Media’s Muhammad Idrees Ahmad responded eloquently in the same thread to Abu Khalil’s customary inelegance: “He wants you to make blanket generalisations; to make no distinction between the Syrian majority who oppose the regime peacefully, the minority who defend themselves with arms, or the few who commit unpardonable crimes. They must all be judged by the standard of the lowest among them. Find the most criminal action, and extrapolate it onto the whole opposition.”

That extrapolation is a common reaction by many who only want to amplifythe negatives of those opposed to the Assad regime. Indeed it is the regimes strategy to not just amplify the negatives but exterminate the positives – quite literally when it comes to Syrian human rights defenders. The map and what it shows is a shining example of how many Syrians are peacefully resisting the regimes wide scale human rights violations and trying to build a brighter future. It’s a work in progress for sure and many more activities and initiatives will be added in the coming days and weeks.

I recently wrote about Omar and his colleagues in the SNVM and the campaigns training they have taken at Amnesty International. These activists, some inside Syria and some outside are despised by the regime and their apologists. Why? Because they are not committing human rights abuses – instead, they are campaigning against human rights violations and abuses. They are using methods which the regime and its apologists know are effective in the long term. They are genuinely fighting for a Syria for all – one which seeks to respect and protect the human rights of all Syrians. This confounds the regime narrative of blood thirsty jihadists rampaging and pillaging across Syria.

Omar got the idea to create this wonderful map when he was preparing a presentation for a peace group in Somerset, England. He wanted to list all the alternative newspapers and radio stations that started during the revolution and wanted to visualise it properly.

He told me he found an algorithm to visualise networks which was perfect to visualise the non-violence activities of the uprising. From there he formed a team consisting of SNVM members who started to collect the vast amounts of data about the grassroots activism in Syria.

Maimouna Alammar, who was arrested with her husband when she was pregnant with her daughter in the first days of the revolution, worked on this from inside Syria. She was key to this mammoth data collection operation and another SNVM member, Nisreen Alzaraee , translated the information into English. The project was in development for 3 months as there was so much activism and campaigning to document.

Omar said to me “It was very difficult and challenging to collect this amount of activities. We decided also to include some overview about each item in the map and a link to its website/Facebook page. Maimouna was working from inside Syria and most of the time she worked offline and without electricity to finish the project because of the difficulties to access the internet due to constant power outages”.

For Omar, the main objective of creating this map is to show the Syrian people and the rest of the world how powerful and widespread non-violence is within the Syrian uprising. He wanted to document the hundreds of activities involving tens of thousands of people to show a wider perspective of the revolutionary mosaic. This in turn would help challenge the narrative that all those opposed to the regime are “terrorists”.

Omar said “In the SNVM we believe that there is still a room for peaceful struggle and creativity amid all this chaos. Many people thought that the non-violence came to an end and this is a small step to show them that it is still there and they are using it or working with it on daily basis. So mainly it was to motivate people and the other aim is to document all these activities so interested people can have access to it easily.”

Omar and the SNVM plan to keep updating the map every fortnight. It is an excellent work in progress – regime apologists or indeed anybody that justifies human rights abuses, hate this sort of thing which makes the experience of navigating this map so much sweeter.

So check it out, especially those who think those opposed to the regime’s crimes against humanity are medieval barbarians only looking to munch your heart out.

PS for the techy minded, Omar says “the diagram is based on the Force-Directed Graph algorithm which automatically place nodes depending on their relations. Some of the tools used to generate the diagram are: Gephi, Sigma,InteractiveVis project by JISC and Oxford institute of technology. I did some coding using HTML and Javascript. The add/modify form is based on Form+ powered by Google Apps Script”

 

via Amnesty International UK.

Mayhem and murder usher in Italy’s new government

29 Apr

Italy finally has a new government, more than two months after the general election. It represents a balance of power between the center-left and center-right, includes a record seven women including a black minister, and is significantly younger than previous Italian cabinets

5New Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) faces severe political and economic pressures and will have to score quick successes in the coming months. He needs to satisfy voters who are sick of economic stagnation and cutbacks while meeting the demands of investors for painful structural reforms — and keeping the rival parties in his coalition happy.

Meanwhile, party grandees like Silvio Berlusconi of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party will continue to pull strings in the background.

The swearing in of the cabinet on Sunday was overshadowed by a gun attack in which an unemployed man shot and injured two police officers and a passerby outside the prime minister’s office in Rome. Officials said the shooting was an isolated incident, but it highlighted the tensions Letta faces.

6

“This is another sign of despair,” said lower house speaker Laura Boldrini. “Politicians have to come back to providing concrete answers to people’s needs.”

Letta is due to speak in parliament ahead of the confidence vote on Monday afternoon.

The election in February, in which the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by comic Beppe Grillo became the strongest political force, amounted to a massive protest vote against Italy’s political elites and made the formation of a government a difficult, drawn-out process. Grillo’s 5-Star Movement is not represented in the government.

Given those challenges, the fact that Italy now has any kind of government at all is good news, write German media commentators. Whether it will last its full five-year term is quite another question though, they add.

Conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“The fact that Italy finally has a government again is good news in itself. The fact that it doesn’t consist of ‘technocrats,’ and that politicians are the ones taking political responsibility again, is equally positive. The wrangling during the second half of Mario Monti’s term showed that people without party affiliation can’t perform miracles either.”

“But doubts remain whether the new and younger cabinet will really be able to bring about the turnaround Italy needs. It’s just a detail, but it fans such doubts, that Letta wasn’t able to push through his plan to drastically cut the size of the cabinet. It has 21 instead of 12 portfolios because the Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s PdL refused to abandon ther ‘combinazioni.’ The reform of electoral law, one of the most important points in the task list formulated by (Italian President Girogio) Napolitano, will remain a stumbling block because it is so closely intertwined with the distribution of power. The failed attempts to elect a new president showed how riven the PD is by power disputes. Berlusconi’s people are subject to the mood swings of the capricious party patriarch who also finances them — and are likely to engage in power struggles and position-jockeying over who will take over from the ageing ‘Il Cavaliere.'”

“Prime Minister Letta had already made his European policy clear before his government was formed: He regards a policy focused on austerity as a dead end and will therefore reinforce the Southern European nations including France who are becoming increasingly open in their resistance to Germany’s recipe for saving the euro zone. That said, the reins have long since been loosened: first by the European Central Bank and its monetary policy, and now also by the European Commission which is allowing the debtor nations more time to implement their restructuring plans.”

Conservative Die Welt writes:

“Italy’s government doubtless represents a first. Prime Minister Enrico Letta, chosen by the elederly president, is very young by Italian standards, as is his cabinet. Even though, as was to be expected, there wasn’t a real reduction in the number of ministerial posts, it has some noteworthy features, such as the number of women and experts in the cabinet. Emma Bonino of the libertarian Radical Party has been made foreign minister — she is known for her unflinching stance on human rights and she’s likely to be a red rag to the obediently pious brand of Vatican Catholicism. Everything is balanced. The PD is represented, but not too massively. The cabinet contains a number of experts and in that sense follows in the footsteps of the technocrat government of Mario Monti, but without the authoritarian tone of the specialists.”

“Yes, this cabinet could turn into something. One should stress the word ‘could,’ however: Because there’s still not much to suggest that it will. The old godfathers stand behind the parties carrying this government. One finds it hard to seriously believe all of them that they are ready to step back and give the national interest priority over their own party political games. Let us be skeptically hopeful, though.”

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Letta’s PD and Silvio Berlusconi with his PdL refrained from dispatching their hardliners into the cabinet. That permitted the creation of a government that combines the old and the new and could therefore get the transformation going somewhat smoothly. It’s important that the new ministers embody the urgently required generational change, and that this cabinet has more women than ever (before seen in an Italian government), including a minister of African descent. Newcomers from the parties, a few established politicians, specialists with no party affiliation — with this cabinet, Letta is fulfilling the wishes of his voters and demands of the 5-Star protest movement of Beppe Grillo.”
“Letta could bridge the gap between the opposing camps of the center-right and center-left — that hasn’t been possible for the last 20 years. If Letta’s government can contribute to a reconciliation of the political camps, and to a more balanced tone of political discourse, the benefit would be enormous.”

“Given the unpredictability of Italian politics, it’s impossible to forecast how long Letta’s government will last. It could be anything from a few months to a few years. It won’t be an easy time, the PdL is likely to make blackmail attempts and complicate policymaking especially in areas affecting Silvio berlusconi’s interests — in particular regarding the introduction of a wealth tax or a new anti-corruption law. Besides, Letta isn’t safe from traitors in his own party. His political life will depend on how quickly and constructively this experimental cabinet can deliver results.

 

Spiegel

China – Report on artistic expression in China submitted to UNESCO

23 Oct

ARTICLE 19 urges UNESCO to accept our shadow report on the state of artistic expression in China, which finds that the country has failed to create an environment conducive for diverse cultural expressions.

The shadow report is published today to mark the seven year anniversary of the adoption of the UNESCO convention on cultural expressions. The convention requires states to submit a report every four years on how they are implementing provisions to protect and promote cultural expression in their national laws and policies. 2012 is the first year that countries have been asked to present these national reports to the UN body.

While the convention on cultural expression encourages states to include the opinions of civil society in their quadrennial reports, ARTICLE 19 is concerned that few states will actually do so.

“ARTICLE 19 has produced this shadow-report on China to ensure that the review process of the implementation of the UNESCO convention does not amount to a bureaucratic, box-ticking exercise. For the Convention to be a meaningful instrument, the review of its implementation must be open and transparent and it must allow for a range of voices and perspectives to be shared, including those dissenting from official state reports.”

“Such a process is the norm with UN-based review processes, such as the Universal Periodic Review and the Human Rights Committee. We urge the UNESCO convention committee to accept ARTICLE 19’s shadow report and to truly recognise the importance of the voice of civil society.”

“By accepting the report, they will be laying a precedent that this convention will ultimately defend the diverse cultural environment that we all want,” Callamard added.

ARTICLE 19’s shadow report argues that China has failed to create an environment conducive for diverse cultural expressions. The constitutional and legal framework , including legislation, contain a number of provisions that undermine the state’s obligations relating to the protection and promotion of diverse cultural expressions, and the right to freedom of artistic expression more broadly.

China does not protect cultural expressions at risk in its territory. It actually further endangers them by implementing a policy of cultural homogeneity.

The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted on 20 October 2005 and has been ratified by 124 states and encourages states to include civil society when writing the national report.

Read the full submission:
China_A19_artisticexpression_report.pdf (396 KB)

via IFEX

Democratic Republic of Congo – Free expression groups ask Congolese rebel leader to protect journalists

22 Oct

22 October 2012

(RSF/JED/IFEX) – 19 October 2012 – Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its partner organization in Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote today to Jean-Marie Runiga, the political coordinator of the M23 rebel movement, voicing concern about the dangers for journalists working in M23-controlled territory, especially Rutshuru, in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu, and asking him to take action to stop the threats and guarantee their safety.

Here is the text of the joint letter:

Mr. Jean-Marie Runiga M23 Political Coordinator Democratic Republic of Congo
Paris and Kinshasa, 19 October 2012
Re: Climate of danger and threats to journalists

Dear Mr. Runiga,

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) and Journalist in Danger (JED), two organizations that defend freedom of information, are writing to you as head of the armed movement called M23 to express their concern about the climate of danger for journalists working in the territories under your control, especially Rutshuru, in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu.

Our two organizations would like to draw your attention to your responsibility to guarantee the safety of journalists as they go about their work and to ensure that media freedom and the right to information are respected in the areas where you operate.

RWB and JED condemn and reject the threats that representatives of your movement have been making in recent days against local journalists and reporters working for the foreign media.

According to our information, Jean-Baptiste Kambale, the manager of Radio Communautaire Ushirika (RACOU), a community radio station based in Rutshuru, in territory controlled by M23 and located 75 kms from Goma (the capital of Nord-Kivu), was harassed following a series of reports on the French television station TV5 Monde showing mistreatment of the civilian population and other human rights violations by your troops.

He was threatened on 25 September by this territory’s administrator, Benjamin Sibomango, who accused him of facilitating the TV5 Monde crew’s work.

He also received a call from the administrator of the Rutshuru territory, who expressed the following death threat: “You led the Whites to Rutshuru for them to criticize us. You know we are rebels. For us, killing someone is not a big deal.”

The next day, it was M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama who openly expressed his discontent with the journalist over the French TV channel’s reports, calling him an “enemy” paid by the government in Kinshasa to sully M23’s image. He was back on the offensive against the journalist on 15 October, accusing him of having trapped him and abused his good faith.

As a result of all these direct threats, Mr. Kambale is now in hiding and fears for his life and that of his family.

In view of the above, RWB and JED urge you to clearly disown the threats that have been made against journalists and to use all your prerogatives in order to guarantee Mr. Kambale’s physical safety. We further ask you to put a stop to all the acts of intimidation and harassment against RACOU’s journalists.

Our two organizations will in any case hold the M23 armed movement, which you lead, responsible for anything unfortunate that may befall this journalist and his family.

We thank you in advance for taking account of our request.

Sincerely,

Christophe Deloire
Director-General
Reporters Without Borders

Tshivis Tshivuadi
Secretary-General
Journalist in Danger

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
France
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51
@rsf_rwb

Journaliste en danger
B.P. 633 – Kinshasa 1
374, av. Col. Mondjiba
Complexe Utexafrica, Galerie St Pierre, 1er niveau, Local 18 Kinshasa/Ngaliema
République Démocratique du Congo
direction (@) jed-afcentre.org
Phone: +243 81 99 29 323
Fax: +44 20 7900 3413

via IFEX

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