Stories from Quick Reads and Digital Activism
Some renowned journalists in Mozambique have accounts on various social networks, but they do not believe in their potential to influence decision-making, government action or social participation among others. However, the government itself has recognised their utility by creating accounts on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. Here are three recent examples where social networks have knocked on the door of accountability and governance in Mozambique.
1. In November 2013, a letter by Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco circulated on Facebook criticising the method of government used by Armando Emílio Guebuza, President of the Republic of Mozambique. As a result, the author of the letter was summoned to testify before the Attorney General on May 26, 2014.
2. When the Confederation of Economic Associations (CTA) offered a Mercedes Benz S350 to the President of the Republic, José Jaime Macuane, a university lecturer at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, immediately wrote a post on Facebook explaining that the act violated the Public Probity Law. The issue made the headlines of various newspapers and was discussed all over the country for over a week, even once the Mercedes had been returned three days later.
3. To promote citizenship, transparency and active participation by citizens, Olho do Cidadão (Citizen's Eye), which is led by Fernanda Lobato and Tomás Queface, developed digital platform Txeka to allow citizens to participate directly in observing elections on October 15 via SMS, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and email. This culminated in the creation of a situation room, comprising various civil society institutions and academicians, as well as a partnership with STV – an independent television channel – which hosted the broadest real-time coverage of the event, using the information sent by citizens via the Txeka channels.
In spite of the fact that in Mozambique, just 4.3% of the population has access to the Internet, the citizen reporter's perspective is valid and useful. Debates on social networks can influence government actions to a certain extent.
The Two Project has just launched, a collaboration between Israeli Jews and Arabs to connect their cultures through the language of poetry. Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages of Israel. Six years in the making, the project is an offshoot of a recently published book, Two: A Bilingual Anthology (link is in Hebrew).
This site is a part of the Two Project: a bilingual cultural project focusing on the literature and poetry of youth. Its aim is to create a convergence of dialogue between the two vibrant cultures of Israel, in Arabic and Hebrew. [The project presents] a new generation of writers and readers, who because of language barriers, culture, politics, and physical boundaries are not familiar with what goes on in the modern literary scene of their neighbors.
Anat Niv, editor-in-chief of Keter Publishing, who is responsible for the anthology, remarks:
The very fact that you are holding a book and reading it in Hebrew, with a text in Arabic script on the facing page, or vice versa, is a very powerful experience. Even if you don’t read Arabic, when reading this book you can no longer remain oblivious to the fact that this is a place where people live and create in two languages.
The account set up on October 27 has attracted about 17,000 followers so far — and a confirmation from the man himself.
Yes it is me
— Walid Joumblatt (@walidjoumblatt) October 27, 2014
Lebanese blogger Mustapha Hamoui quips:
After a three day hiatus after starting the account, the man went on a Twitter storm. To date, he has amassed 666 tweets, all in English, discussing Lebanese and regional politics and other tidbits.
Hungarians have been rallying in masses against a proposed tax on Internet traffic that many in the country find to be outrageous.
The Hungarian government plans to introduce a tax of approximately 0.6 US dollars per gigabyte of Internet traffic. This proposal tipped the scales for many, and tens of thousands went to the streets of the capital Budapest on Sunday, October 26, 2014, and Tuesday, October 28. The protests in the capital were soon joined by protests in several other cities as well.
The Facebook page has been used to coordinate these events and has accumulated more than 200,000 likes so far. Protesters raised their mobile phones in the air as a symbolic demonstration to Hungary's prime minister that they do use the Internet and need it for learning about the world daily. Atlatszo.hu investigative site published videos with footage of drones flying over both protests in Budapest:
Global Editors Network intends to develop new technologies and social networks for covering and preventing the Ebola epidemic from spreading.
Watch the YouTube video below for more information about the project:
Political activism is not exclusively reserved for young people and adults. This was demonstrated by Sofia, an 11-year-old Mexican girl who decided to collect signatures calling for the resignation of the president of her country, Enrique Peña Nieto. These are her reasons.
Peña Nieto has not responded as he should have to the families of the missing students, he went to China and he has a house costing 80 million pesos (approximately 5.88 million dollars).
This initiative caused many positive reactions. For example, some decided to sign in order to demonstrate to Sofia and other Mexican children (as well as adults) that having a better country is possible, and to remind those who govern that people placed them there and that the people can remove them. Sofia's mother said:
Yo no tengo idea de cómo se destituye a un presidente. Pero ojalá pueda de verdad llevar esas hojas a alguna parte que ayude a Sofía a sentir que su esfuerzo vale la pena, que lo intentamos a toda costa. Fui incapaz de decirle que no lo hiciera, que era casi imposible. No puedo cortarle las alas. Esta generación viene con fuerza, con fe y determinación, y con un concepto de lo que es decente y justo que ya quisieran muchos para un fin de semana.
I don't know how to dismiss a president. But, hopefully one can take those papers somewhere so that Sofia can feel that her efforts were worth it, that we tried at all costs. I was unable to tell her not to do it because it was almost impossible. I couldn't cut her wings. This generation is full of strength with faith and determination, and with a concept of what is decent, something that many want for a weekend.
The petition was placed on the Change.org platform and already has 10,500 signatures at the time of this post.
Indian alternative news portal Beyond Headlines sheds light on the darker side of India's judiciary. In India, of all people detained in lockups and state prisons there are more people under trial than convicts.
Because of the slow process of the judiciary process, thousands of people suspected or accused of a crime end up waiting for trial for years in cramped prison cells which lack electricity, food and other necessities. About 250,000 men and women in India are currently in jail without having been proven guilty. Their fate or innocence is bound by the course of their trials.
And who and where are all these detainees? These tweets explain:
— Rukmini S (@rukmini_shrini) October 30, 2014
— Amnesty India (@AIIndia) September 23, 2014
Freeing the detainees awaiting trial is also not a good option, as Sudhir Krishnaswamy and Shishir Bail write in the Hindu: “Without substantive reforms to the investigation and trial process, early release of undertrials may further aggravate the pathologically low rates of conviction and incarceration in the Indian criminal justice system.”
Mujeres Construyendo (Women building) tries to raise awareness with a message mainly for women. Inequality between men and women is a fact, as confirmed by the Center of Economic Studies of Mexico, where we can see that, in terms of salaries, a woman earns 22% less, but this is just one of the problems they face.
In a short animated video they share on their Twitter account, we can see how two girls are talking, one trying to raise awareness to the other that her word is important and is as valid as anyone else's. At the end, the video gives a series of important messages:
Tu voz te da poder, te hace visible y presente. Tienes derecho a expresarte y a decir lo que piensas y sientes. El silencio es tu decisión, nadie te lo puede imponer.
Your voice gives you power, it makes you visible and present. You have the right to express yourself and to say what you think and feel. The silence is up to you, no one can impose it.
With this compelling message, the team of Mujeres Construyendo claims something that seems obvious in the 21st century, gender equality.
You can follow Mujeres Construyendo on Twitter.
The third edition of the Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy will kick off next week in Strasbourg, France.
The topic of the debates organized this year from Nov. 3 – 5 at the seat of Coucil of Europe will be: “From participation to influence: can youth revitalise democracy?”. The various labs will be live-tweeted under the hashtag #CoE_WFD. You can also follow the Council of Europe Twitter account @coe, and the dedicated blog. The debates will take various shapes. Various unconferences during the forum will report their findings on Nov. 4. The insights gathered during the World Forum meetings will be integrated in the future projects of the Council of Europe and its partners in the field of democracy and democratic governance. Furthermore, the Fringe Program will offer numerous events from conference and meetings to film festival and artistic performances, in various venues throughout the city from Nov. 1 to 9. Three Global Voices contributors will attend the forum.
Indian photoblogger Anirban Saha points to a growing problem in India — plagiarism of intellectual property online. A number of his photos were used in a poster for a theatre festival, on a cover of a book, in an advertisement by the state government, in political banners, in magazines in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and a school publication without his consent.
He writes that Indian copyright laws protect intellectual property, but there is not much awareness:
We can spread the awareness of intellectual property rights, share contact details of lawyers who have already fought similar cases. We should be more aware of safeguarding our creations and spreading the awareness to create a better world. Read about Indian Copyright Act 1957. More than the artists who still now are a minority, it is you readers who can make a difference. You need to be aware and spread the awareness.
Anirban Saha also publishes a number of graphics to make the Indian copyright laws easier to understand.