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Serbian Government Agency Publishes Personal Data of Over 5 Million Citizens

Screenshot of part of the documents containing personal information of citizens that were available on the official site of the Privatization Agency of the Republic of Serbia. Image by SHARE Foundation, used with permission.

Screenshot of part of the documents containing personal information of citizens that were available on the official site of the Privatization Agency of the Republic of Serbia. Image by SHARE Foundation, used with permission.

A link from the official website of the Privatization Agency of the Republic of Serbia began circulating on social networks in early December 2014. The link led to 19 gigabytes of text files on the agency's site that revealed the personal information of over 5 million Serbian citizens who had registered for free stock of state-owned companies in 2008. The files included the full names of citizens who had registered, as well as their Unique Master Citizen Numbers (JMBG), a number given to each citizen from which a birth date, place of birth and other information can easily be deduced.

The link was caught on Twitter during the week of December 8, 2014, by the legal team of SHARE Defense, the think tank unit of local non-government organization SHARE Foundation that conducts research and offers legal aid in the realm of human and civic rights. The foundation's team analysed the documents and reported the issue to the office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection of the Republic of Serbia. The links were removed from the agency's website in the afternoon hours of Friday, December 12, but it is impossible to know who downloaded the information in the meantime.

Citizens have started reacting on social networks, many calling this an “unforgivable” offense by a government agency. Twitter user Vladan Joler tweeted a common sentiment:

The biggest security breach in the realm of information systems protection and citizens’ privacy to date in RS [Republic of Serbia] @ShareConference http://t.co/WO96P4IBTU

— Vladan Joler (@TheCreaturesLab) December 15, 2014

It remains unclear why the documents were published on the site, if by mistake or otherwise. The office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection took on the case immediately and it is expected that it will follow through with an investigation.

In the meantime, SHARE Foundation's legal think tank team has warned any and all who have downloaded the data that any use of part or all of the information in these files would represent a a criminal offense and has recommended that anyone who has retained a copy of any or all of the documents delete them permanently.

A March in Solidarity with Migrants Who Perished Trying to Reach Europe

Human Chain in Strasbourg (Photo Suzanne Lehn)

Signs at the March in defense of migrants in Strasbourg (Photo Suzanne Lehn)

“Europe is fighting its own make-believe enemy”: This is the message that a dozen of associations in defense of migrants wanted to convey when they organized a human chain between the tramway station “Droits de l'Homme (Human Rights)” and the EU Parliament station in Strasbourg on November 26. In order to put Human Rights back at the core of Europe” and oppose the policy adopted by the European Agency of Border Control Frontex, protesters held signs that narrate the tragic plight of migrants trying to reach Europe. For the past 20 years, more than 20,000 migrants have died or disappeared trying to make the journey from their hometowns into Europe.   

Here are a few photos of the event :

chaîne humaine migrants

The Human chain in front of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Les participants attendent leur tour de parole avant de se diriger vers le Parlement européen (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Protesters are taking turn speaking up as they move toward the parliament (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Dans le fond, la Cour Européenne des Droits de l'Homme (photo Suzanne Lehn)

In the background, the European Court of Human Rights (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Ex-President's Return Triggers Media Warning from Government in Madagascar

Marc Ravalomanana - Public domain

Marc Ravalomanana – Public domain

The political situation is tense again in Madagascar after ex-president in exile Marc Ravalomanana's return to the country. The conditions under which he came back and the subsequent house arrest and deportation to the North of the country are strongly debated on most malagasy media outlets. Heninkaja Rakotomanantsoa, managing editor of a TV channel in Antananarivo, posted in Malagasy on his facebook profile that all press editors received a warning memo from the government about fact-checking any news pertaining to the return of Marc Ravalomanana : 

 Nahazo fampîtandremana ny Onjam-peo sy ny Fahitalavitra rehetra, sao hono mitarika any amin'ny fanakorontanana saim-bahoaka ny fampahalalam-baovao diso, na tsy voamarina.

All media outlets in Madagascar (TV and radio) received a warning that they will be held responsible of threats to national security if they are caught spreading false information or rumors (since Ravalomananana's return). 

Macedonian Civic Sector Starts Fundraising to Aid Independent Fokus Magazine

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) appealed in October 2014 to all journalists and citizens to show solidarity with the journalists of Fokus magazine, who are subject to what has been deemed by many as harsh punishment due to a lost defamation law suit for some of the investigative pieces they published. A Fokus journalist and its editor-in-chief have to pay over 9,300 euros to the Director of the Macedonian Security and Counter-Intelligence Directorate Sasho Mijalkov, who brought the defamation law suit against them.

AJM believes that the verdict is unfair and directed against critical journalism, which is essential for the functioning of Macedonian democracy.

Our colleagues are not able to pay the fee, therefore AJM appeals for mobilization and solidarity of the membership, the journalistic community and the public in Macedonia.

We believe that our support will be a contribution for the survival of free thought and criticism towards the ways the government is practicing power in the country.

Moreover, we believe that the support of the press and public will be a direct contribution to safeguarding the freedom of expression in Macedonia. Therefore we urge within your capabilities to donate to the following bank account:

AJM Solidarity Fund: 300000003296484
The Commercial Bank
Purpose of payment: Donation for the reporters from Focus

Mijalkov announced that, when Fokus staff paid the fine, he would donate the part of the money he receives to an orphanage. This, nevertheless, means endangering the survival of the magazine and the livelihood of its staff.

Other civic organizations also sounded alarms after hearing of the fine decided by a Skopje court. For instance, the National Network against Homophobia and Transphobia of Macedonia is organizing a fundraising event in Skopje Old Town on October 14, 2014, to aid Fokus in covering the defamation fine and cover court costs.

What If 75% of All Cities Were Deprived of Electricity by Design?

A Night in Madagascar when electricity is out  by Augustin- CC-BY-2.0

A Night in Madagascar without electricity by Augustin- CC-BY-2.0

There are about 105 cities listed in all of Madagascar. The Minister of Energy Fienena Richard recently announced that 80 cities of Madagascar are curently deprived of electricity because JIRAMA, the public company in charge of providing electricity across the territory is running short on fuel. As a result, JIRAMA has to pick and choose the cities that will receive electricity. That is close to 75% of all cities in the nation, a ratio that would be unfathomable in most countries of the world. The JIRAMA company is also plagued by the threat of a general strike from employees who demand more safety measures against angry customers.  One those unhappy customers was the Malagasy president himself who threatened to sue the company after an electrical malfunction at his home. Blogger Andriamihaja in Tulear (South East of Madagascar) wrote a humorous open letter to the company picturing life without power outage in his town. 

Tokyo Marches in Solidarity With US Protesters #TOKYO4FERGUSON

Two recent court decisions in the US exonerating police officers who killed two black men — 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and 43-year-old Eric Garner in New York — has sparked demonstrations across the country. The African American Youth Travel Program (AAYTP) organised a protest against police brutality, racism and injustice on December 6 in solidarity with the protests in the US and around the world. 

One protest occurred in Tokyo.

Updates on the 18th SAARC Summit On Social Media

The ongoing summit of the The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was covered by international media with different perspectives. However non-official initiatives such as 18th SAARC Summit blog, Facebook account, Twitter and Google+ account are aggregating updates on the summit for easy archiving.

Here are some examples:

Six Hong Kong Police Officers Kick and Punch a Handcuffed Protester in a Dark Corner

Last night at 9:30pm, around 300 hundred protesters attempted to set up new barricade in Long Wo Road, near the government headquarter at Admiralty. Riot police took action to disperse protesters and arrested 45 of them. The process was brutal. The TV news showed that one of the protesters, identified as Tsang kin-chiu, a member of Civic Party, was intentionally brought to a dark corner where he was punched and kicked by six police officers.

The protesters action last night was a reaction to the police clearance of the barricades in major sit-in sites in the past few days. The massive sit-in action, dubbed Occupy Central protests, is to impose pressure on the Hong Kong government demanding a revision of the political reform package by incorporating the idea of “citizen nomination” in the election of the city's top leader.

Security Risks Exposed at Amusement Park in Dhaka

During the Eid holidays, Carnival Park at Jamuna Future park welcomed a large number of visitors. On October 7, 2014, one of its attractions, the 360-degree shuffle ride, stopped in the middle of a ride. Everyone on-board was stuck in their seats for about an hour. The ride had no emergency backup system, preventing a normal shutdown, delaying the release of its riders. Rescue workers had to free every individual manually, in a rather painstaking process.

Facebook user Sultanul Nahian Hasnat was present at the mishap and later uploaded to Facebook two videos (click her to watch the 1st and the 2nd), which went viral. These are now available on YouTube, also.

There was no mention of this incident in the local mainstream news.

Pakistan's State Owned TV Under Siege By Protestors

Last update at 7:45PM GMT, September 1, 2014

Hundred of protestors of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have stormed into the Head Office of Pakistan's state-owned TV channel PTV. On 1st of September at around 11:20 am protesters broke open the main gate of Pakistan Television (PTV) Head Quarters in Islamabad and the station went off air soon.

Since August 14, 2014, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters have been camping out demanding that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should step down.

Journalist Omar Quraishi tweets:

Employees are trapped and harassed says Pakistani blogger Ghazala Khan.

DawnNews reports that the army was called in to handle the situation and they cleared the PTV office from protesters in 15 minutes. The TV broadcast has been restored.

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