According to a report [hu] on Facebook page “The Constitution is Not a Toy,” some 100 protesters have occupied the Hungarian governing party's headquarters; a pro-government crowd, however, has also showed up at the scene. The protesters voiced their opposition to the planned new amendment of the Hungarian constitution, a basic law that was enacted in 2011, after Fidesz Party won with a two thirds majority in 2010, and has been at the center of heated debates in and outside the country ever since. The latest review of the amendment by the Princeton University professor Kim Lane Scheppele was published here.
Latest stories from Quick Reads + Eastern & Central Europe
Hungarian musicians signed an online petition [hu] against the restrictive definition of “Hungarian music” included in Hungary's media law, which considers only Hungarian-language productions as “Hungarian music.” The petitioners argued that the definition is not only excluding many artists from being part of the Hungarian music and culture, but is discriminatory when it comes to the application of language quotas in radio broadcasts. Radio stations have to apply a 35-percent quota of “Hungarian music” in their music shows. The regulation came into effect in July 2012 [hu].
It's not true that Vitaly Zelkovsky [ru], better known as “the world's grumpiest traveler,” never smiles. He does – virtually, at least. Reacting to the unexpected fame, Zelkovsky re-posted a Broken News Daily “report” about himself and exchanged a few words with two of his VKontakte friends. Both times, he used smilies:
There were provocations and police violence. Police beating everyone. They did not want to arrest provocateurs, and people shouting, “These are provocateurs,” but police beat anyone on the street. Attack of the police was surprising – my phone fell to the ground – after 1:59 recording is black because the camera is watching the asphalt. Many people were on the ground – even women.
THREE YEAR TAX LIFT FOR EMPLOYED YOUTH
In a significant boost to youth employment, the government will decide during the coming weeks about the lifting of taxes (social security, health and personal income tax) and expenses of new trainings of those employed in the private sector. We keep our promises!
Earlier today, the Russian Railways concluded its official investigation into the death of Elena Soboleva, who died on January 18 crossing the tracks at the Saltykovskaia train platform [ru], located just east of Moscow. The Railways (or RZhD, as it's known in Russian) determined [ru] that Ms. Soboleva was responsible for her own death, having elected to cross the tracks despite numerous signs and signals that a speeding train was approaching. More »
Matthew Pointon of Uncle Travelling Matt shares this detailed, six-part account and photos of his travel in Albania in 1996 and 1999:
[...] The Land of the Eagle is little known even in Europe and that’s a shame since it has some incredible scenery, friendly people and fascinating history. [...]
At BiggggIdea.com (uk; “Velyka Ideya” – “a platform where people present their projects, and the community funds them”), Oleksandr Telyuk draws attention [uk] to Wheelmap.org, a crowdmapping project that allows users to evaluate and mark wheelchair accessibility of various locations worldwide. Telyuk notes that 96 percent of public places in Ukraine's capital Kyiv still lack adequate wheelchair access, and, as for the Ukrainian segment of Wheelmap.org,
[...] Most objects on the Ukrainian map are now colored gray, which means that their wheelchair accessibility hasn't been determined by anyone yet. [...]
The Hungarian Student Network and the Hungarian High School Network posted a declaration [en] “about the rule of law” in Hungary – and are planning yet another protest rally [hu] in Budapest on Monday, Feb. 11:
Today’s proposal for a constitutional amendment has made it obvious – even for those who so far doubted it – that the government is openly dismantling the system of checks and balances. According to Article 12 of the proposal, the Constitutional Court will not be allowed to scrutinize the content of any further amendments, which in effect means that the government and its two-thirds parliamentary majority will be able to pass any amendments they want. [...]
Marija Janković's photo of her 3-month-old baby sleeping peacefully next to the 52 medical and administrative documents has received 942 ‘likes’ and 826 ‘shares’ on the Facebook page of Status Magazin [sr], a Belgrade monthly, and was awarded the first prize in a photo contest run by the publication. It took Janković one year to collect all this paperwork in order to be eligible for one-time financial aid from the Serbian state. Facebook user Tanja Plava commented [sr]:
And this is only the beginning :)
Deutsche Welle's 9th annual The Bobs online activism awards are now open for nominations of Ukrainian-language blogs [uk]. Ukrainian journalist Mustafa Nayyem, who is on this year's international jury panel, noted [ru, uk] on his Facebook page that in the previous years Ukrainian bloggers could only take part in The Bobs contest if their work was in Russian.
Slovak NGO/think-tank Conservative Institute [en] blogged [sk] about the results of a study of 270 second-level EU regions (NUTS 2). Comparing changes in unemployment, they found that during 1990-2011, despite the growing amount of Euro-funds, the differences between the regions grew by about 4 percentage points. In more than 50 years of European integration, the EU institutions have created 112,140 regulations. Conservative Institute claims [sk] that the actual EU strategy is causing loss of competitiveness, higher debts, taxes and a lower level of employment:
[...] I believe that we, decent and honest Serbs, should be ashamed of what was done in the name of Serbdom during the '90s and condemn it all unequivocally! And I also agree that it's wrong that most Serb war crimes suspects have yet to be apprehended; it should not stay like that any longer. However, it's one thing to seek justice for serious offences that were committed in wartime, and a completely different thing to deny every sign of another culture and language in peace time, just because some dispicable members of that community did something horrible to you or a loved one. [...]
On February 1, the Russian human rights group Agora released a report [ru] on RuNet censorship in 2012, titled “Russia As a Global Threat to a Free Internet,” documenting various limitations on Internet usage in Russia, including violence, administrative pressure, and other forms of intimidation and punishment used against netizens by state authorities. Agora has also created [ru] a “map of free Internet violations” for 2012, showing which areas of Russia are least friendly to bloggers and netizen journalists.
GV Author Filip Stojanovski, on his blog Razvigor, has translated into English a mock story [sr] by Njuz.net, “the Serbian equivalent to The Onion,” about the UK striving to join “the Un-European Union”:
The Council of Ministers of the countries of the Un-European Union stated today in Skopje that a long road lies ahead of United Kingdom in order for it to join this international organisation. [...]
The Macedonian translation of the story is here.
Just been through a 12-hour kidnapping ordeal in Aleppo. Yesterday morning me, a Mexican and a Basque journalist were abducted by unknown gunmen near the Ezzaa frontline in eastern Aleppo. We were handcuffed, blindfolded and held in a cell for the rest of the day. Eventually we were stripped of all our possessions and left by the roadside in an abandoned area of the city. We then made our way to the headquarters of the Al Tawheed brigade, one of the main armed opposition groups in Aleppo. We are now well and unharmed and out of Syria. [...]
Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:
The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.
More » A prominent Macedonian sports journalist
Lucia Kureková, in her blog analysis [sk], shows that in Slovakia the majority of those who receive the Benefit in Material Need (BMN) are not the “typical” Roma families with many children, but are single, of any ethnicity, and childless (62%), often young and unemployed. About two-thirds of the Slovak Roma households receive child support and other family benefits; about half of them receive BMN, but here they make up about one-third of all benefit-receiving families (while officially there are just about 2% of the Roma population in Slovakia).
An online initiative against media manipulations [mk] perpetrated by the state-owned Macedonian Information Agency (MIA) asks citizens to express their dissatisfaction by sending e-mails to the agency. The action was spurred by the latest example of blatant spin, when a MIA correspondent distorted U.S. diplomat Philip Reeker‘s statement about the disappointment with the Balkan leaders, making it appear as if he referred to the Macedonian opposition. Reeker repudiated this in a statement [mk] for the critical portal Libertas, clarifying that he alluded to leaders who are actually in power and are backsliding from democracy. Libertas also claims the government and MIA declined to comment afterwards.
European Information Society Institute, a Slovak NGO, reports [sk] that the Slovak Antimonopoly Office (AMO) does not see it as a problem that the country's Financial Directorate is forcing taxpayers to use Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer, arguing that there is just about 10 percent of 44,000 subjects who have to use eTax and eDane applications, which are not compatible with Microsoft Windows. Netizen jaaaaaaaaaaj notes [sk] that, using AMO's logic, murder also affects just a negligible number of the population.
Activists of the civic initiative AMAN [mk] continue to fight for a better energy legislation [mg, fr, mk, es], despite pressure and infiltrations. In November, “unknown persons” prevented them from talking to PM Gruevski [mk] at an “open meeting with citizens.” Currently, there's an ongoing signature-gathering campaign for the change of the law (the deadline is January 31, 2013), and AMAN has posted this announcement [mk]:
Inspired by sf.citi (San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology & Innovation), Jakub Ptačin [sk] and Peter Fabor [sk] have launched It's Not Possible (“To Sa Nedá”; sk; on Facebook – here), an initiative whose goal is to redesign websites of selected state institutions – for free and without political ambitions. In the initial phase, they created a public text file for citizens to report problems of the Slovak land register portal. They have also already met with a member of the Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted [Persons'] Union.
Blogger Robert Huran reports [sk] on the initial success of his online form [sk] for entrepreneurs, which was created two months ago in response to the news [sk] of the €200 million governmental support for ten selected companies. The reasons these companies were chosen included promises of investment and creation of 2,400 new jobs, as well as preservation of about 1,500 jobs. Now, thanks to Huran, over 200 companies are going to ask for €33 million in state support for providing over 3,200 new and existing jobs. Huran's goal is to push for clear rules that will be the same for everyone – or to discourage stimulus at all, to prevent deformation of entrepreneurial environment.