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Quick Reads + Eastern & Central Europe

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Macedonia 2014 Elections Quick Reference Guide

April 2014 is election season in Macedonia. On Sunday, April 13, Macedonians began casting votes for a new president and a new parliament.

As is the case with the electoral process in many countries in the age of the Internet, much of the information related to these elections will be readily available online. Global Voices has collected a list of some of the resources Internet users can use to follow the elections in Macedonia, as well as a quick calendar of the voting dates.

Macedonia elections 2014. Photo by Global Voices. CC-BY.

Voter with a branded thumb holding election information leaflet issued by SEC. CC-BY.

Macedonia 2014 elections calendar:

Day Activity
April 12, Saturday Electoral silence begins
April 13, Sunday First Round of Presidential Elections
April 26, Saturday Electoral silence begins
April 27, Sunday Second Round of Presidential Elections
Early Parliamentary Elections

Key websites to follow:

Twitter hashtags:

Websites and Twitter accounts of the presidential candidates and their political parties (numbers reflect the order of candidates on the ballot):

  1. Gjorge Ivanov from VMRO-DPMNE (@timmakedonija, #Иванов – affirmative, and #Хорхе i.e. Jorge – critical).
    Slogan: “The State Above Everything Else.”
  2. Iljaz Halimi from DPA (@gurrapdsh).
    Slogan: “For an [ethnic] Albanian President.”
  3. Stevo Pendarovski from SDSM (@spendarovski, #Стево i.e. Stevo – affirmative, and #промени – changes).
    Slogan: “Macedonia Deserves a President. Stevo, my President.”
  4. Zoran Popovski from GROM (@PopovskiZ).
    Slogan: “Bravely for Macedonia. A brave man – a proud state.”

Komunikacii blog has published a concise and interesting analysis of the slogans [mk], while a Balkanist article “Elections in Macedonia: The Land of Promises” neatly sums up some of the major issues.

The early parliamentary elections in Macedonia have the same general cast as in 2011.

Censorship Forces Navalny to Abandon LiveJournal

Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Russia's most famous blogger (or as he describes himself: “corruption fighter, son, husband, father”) has been forced to move away from LiveJournal, the popular blogging platform that launched him to fame in the first place. As a result of government mandated censorship [Global Voices report], and notwithstanding attempts to counteract such censorship [Global Voices report], Alexey Navalny's team has started a new standalone blog, navalny.com [ru]. Because Navalny is still under house arrest, the blog is technically run by his wife. According to the first post [ru], this blog is an attempt to create a clean slate with Russia's Internet regulators, who claim that Navalny's old blog contains calls for unlawful rallies. At this point, Navalny's LiveJournal account [ru] has stopped updating with original content — it simply links to new posts on navalny.com.

Russia Intends to Clean Up “Internet Pollution”

The Russian government is drafting a new project that would redefine the “principles of state cultural policy.” In a concept paper shared with the press this week, a working group led by Sergei Ivanov, Putin's chief of staff, declared Russia's need to preserve its unique “state-civilization” and moral foundation in the face of globalization. Russia must “open up to the world” without “dissolving in it,” the paper argues.

The Ministry of Culture's plans could have a profound impact on Russia's regulation of the Internet, if future legislation adopts the language that now appears in the working group's recommendations, which likens “information quality controls” to environmental protection:

Сегодня в киберпространстве все, кто имеет доступ к компьютер и Интернету, что-то создают и распространяют вне зависимости от образования, кругозора, жизненного опыта, знания предмета, психического здоровья и их истинных намерений. В результате информационное пространство загрязнено, и воздействие на нас этих загрязнений пока еще плохо осознается, но их уже можно сравнивать с загрязнением воздуха, которым мы дышим и воды, которую мы пьем.

Today in cyberspace, everyone who has access to a computer and the Internet is creating and distributing something, regardless of their education, worldview, life experience, expertise, mental health, or true intentions. As a result, the information space is polluted. It is still early and we cannot say what impact this has on us, but we can already compare this to pollution of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Equating “Internet pollution” with carbon emissions and water contamination would vastly expand the state's ability to regulate online activity. Lawmakers discussed the working paper in the Duma today, but no one addressed its potential application to Internet policy. Before the plan emerges as legislation, state officials have several wrinkles to iron out—particularly those concerning funding.

France, the Czech Republic and Greece Under Scrutiny for Their Treatment of Roma Community

 
On International Romani Day (April 8) the French branch of Amnesty International wrote a statement entitled “Facing a spiral of violence, the Roma of Europe are demanding justice and protection”. The statement is especially critical of the treatment of the Roma community in France, the Czech Republic and Greece [fr]:
Les gouvernements, dans toute l’Europe, manquent à leur devoir envers les Roms de multiples façons. Les discriminations, les expulsions forcées et l'accès à une éducation de moindre qualité sont la norme dans de nombreux pays.

Governments across Europe are failing in their duties towards the Roma community in many ways. Discrimination, forced evictions and limited access to quality education are the norm in many countries. 

An exhibition called Dignity in Strasbourg [fr] can be found on Facebook that displays photos of the community that links dignity, human rights and poverty.

 

Should Africa Learn From the Crimea Referendum?

“Is Crimea referendum a good model for Africa?” asks Richard Dowden:

Africa’s arbitrary borders, mostly drawn by people who had never set foot in the continent, have always been an obvious target for renegotiation. But Africa’s first rulers, who foresaw chaos and disintegration if the nation states were reconfigured, ruled it out. “Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each State” was one of the founding principles of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of the African Union. Despite all the wars, internal and external, this principle has been pretty much adhered to by both presidents and people.

Loyalty to an African state is not always related to the ability of that state to make the lives of its people better. Patriotism, an emotional thing, does not take these benefits into account, even in countries where the majority of citizens are marginalised or oppressed by the government. Even in the catastrophic recent meltdown of South Sudan after just two years of independence, no one is advocating return to rule from Khartoum. In the dying days of Mobutu’s Zaire (now the DRC) I was astonished to find that people felt it to be a great country. I asked why Katanga, the rich south east province, didn’t secede – as it had in 1960. My suggestion was greeted with shocked surprise.

The “Happy Voting” Project Encourages Young Europeans to Vote

Drawing on the Pharrell Williams worldwide hit “Happy” and the associated equally renown music video (over 143 million views on YouTube), the Brussels-based film company Full Tunes Production has recently launched on facebook an enthusiastic project  called “Happy Voting“ that strives to encourage voting for the next European elections.

The project can also be found on their website and on twitter (@HappyVoting).

Because of  the economic and financial crisis that undermines consumer confidence since 2007 in Europe and the political struggle that the European Union experiences to assert its political relevance on international issues such as the crises in Syria and in Crimea, many observers fear that voters’ participation will reach new low in the next European elections. Raphael Da Silva for Rue89 Strasbourg blog notes [fr] that in the 2009 European elections, 59.5% of French voters did not vote. The Happy Voting Project claims to be an independent initiative that only aims to promote voting, specifically amongst the european youth. Over 12.9 thousand people have already been invited to participate via facebook. The idea is to collaboratively produce a remake of the original “Happy” clip and help buzz the release of the video. Here is the teaser of the Happy Voting video: 

Creator of Quirky Movement Defends Kremlin Propagandist

A “Monstration” demonstrator in Novosibirsk, in 2011.

Artyom Loskutov, creator of the popular counter-culture art movement “Monstration” [see Global Voices report], made waves on RuNet by signing a letter in support of Dmitry Kiselyov, a journalist who many consider to be Putin's chief propagandist. Loskutov was one of several dozen Russian journalists who signed the letter [ru], which asks pointed questions about recent EU sanctions imposed against Kiselyov, and whether such sanctions constitute an attack on free speech.

Loskutov works for TV Rain, an opposition TV station currently facing financial difficulties because of censorship, and so seems like an odd candidate to voice support for Kiselyov. Popular photo-blogger Rustem Adagamov even tweeted [ru] that he wants to cancel his subscription to TV Rain and get his money back because of Loskutov's position. Loskutov defended himself in a Facebook post [ru], saying that his signature was not in support of Kiselyov, but rather in support of the principle of free speech and the rights of journalists. Many of his readers argued that free speech should not apply to “propagandists” like Kiselyov, launching personal attacks against Loskutov and continuing a long tradition of Russian liberal intelligentsia seeking out fifth columnists in their own ranks.

Ukrainians Desperate to Flip the Script on Fascism

On March 25, 2014 designer and one of the most popular RuNet bloggers, Tema Lebedev, announced on his blog that his design studio, ArtLevedev created the logo for the “2014, a Year of Culture” project, commissioned by the Russian government:

ArtLebedev's constructivist logo. Screenshot.

ArtLebedev's constructivist logo. Screenshot.

Shortly after, one of his readers posted a comment [ru] to his blog, with the logo jokingly photoshoped to look like a swastika:

Screenshot.

Screenshot.

This image was in picked up by Ukrainian Twitter user Katya Avramchuk, who posted it saying that this was the actual logo designed by Lebedev's studio:

Artemiy Lebedev's studio (Erken Kagarov) designed the logo for Russia's year of culture.

From here, the Tweet was re-posted [ru] by popular Russian-language Ukrainian Twitter @euromaidan, which tweeted it without attribution. This post has been re-tweeted 389 times. No trace of the original (funny or not) joke remains, just another entry into a name-calling “Who is the bigger Nazi” contest between Russians and Ukrainians.

Ukrainian Paramilitary Leader Assassinated, Moscow to Blame?

Over the past several hours rumors [uk] have spread [ru] through [ru] the Russian Internet claiming that Alexander Muzychko, second-in-command to Ukraine's ultra-nationalist “Right Sector” leader Dmytro Yarosh, was gunned down near the Western Ukrainian city of Rivno. Muzychko had earlier posted a YouTube video [ru] claiming he had information that he was going to be eliminated by Ukrainian security forces. If his death, yet unconfirmed, is true, it will be unclear who to blame — too many people have reasons to take him out of the picture. A Chechen blogger, Zulikhan Magomadova [ru], writing in Russian, blamed the Kremlin for the assassination, with the motive of fomenting civil war in Ukraine. Muzychko fought along side Chechen separatists during the first Chechen war. Magomadova ended with “Sleep well, our dear brother-in-arms. We will avenge you.”

A Telethon to Save Russia's Independent TV

TV Rain's official logo.

Russia’s only independent television station, TV Rain, is on its last leg. Following what appears to have been an orchestrated campaign to rob the channel of its cable and satellite distributors, advertisers have run for the hills and the station is being evicted from its Moscow studio at Red October later this year. There’s even a rumor that Lifenews.ru—a Kremlin-friendly outfit that often miraculously reports news before it’s happened—will take over TV Rain’s office space.

As funds dwindle, staff are reduced, and time runs out, many have been asking what TV Rain can do to avoid ruin. We now know what the station will try to do to save itself: a weeklong telethon. “Tomorrow there might not be a TV Rain,” reads the telethon's manifest, “and this week will decide everything.” The station says it will seek viewer funding to continue operating, following the model of public television, which Dmitri Medvedev famously promoted (without great success).

Beginning tomorrow, March 24, 2014, TV Rain will display onscreen a crawling fundraising total. The ticker will convert the money collected into the amount of time the donations can keep TV Rain operating.

Может быть, хватит всего на один день. А может быть, на неделю. Но кто знает — может быть, и на месяцы — всё зависит от вас.

Maybe there will only be enough for another day. Maybe for a week. But who knows—maybe it will be enough for several months. Everything depends on you.

The remaining staff at TV Rain.

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