Stories from Quick Reads and Freedom of Speech
Censorship of freedom of expression by Macedonian authorities is not a new appearance, but seems to be developing in the small southeast European country. Earlier in 2014, when the residents of a state-run student dormitory in Skopje began an online campaign to expose the horrific living conditions in the dorms, Global Voices reported about the campaign and how authorities had blocked access to several websites for the residents of the dorm. Only one media outlet from Macedonia investigated this further.
In March 2014, the students’ campaign to raise awareness about the incredibly unhealthy living conditions the state had provided for them went viral online and drew international interest in the matter. At the time, some media and Twitter users even went as far as to compare the living conditions to those in prisons:
A prison? No, a student dorm in Macedonia: Fed up with living in squalor, students in Macedonia have shared sh… http://t.co/1vTi1il5py
— Taylor (@spaceheaterdeal) March 27, 2014
Apparently, this drew much unwanted attention to the state-run facility. Prior to the scandal that broke after the students’ online campaign went viral on social networks throughout the region, the residents of the dorm had unrestricted access to Facebook and Twitter within and outside of exam seasons. During the break-out of bad publicity for Macedonian authorities, these and some other websites were suddenly off-limits to them [mk].
Albanian-language news portal Portalb.mk was the only media from Macedonia to publicly ask [sq] the Ministry of Education and Science for explanation. The Ministry claimed that never to have censored access to all of the Internet, but “only to social media in the dorms”:
About the student claims, regarding blocking the Internet, we have never done that and there have not been any problems with the Internet in the “Goce Delchev” dorm. On the other hand, those Internet pages and social networks [in question] have always been blocked, the same way they have been blocked in high schools and primary schools. We enable students to use the Internet for studying purposes only, and not to use pages which have no connection to education,” stated the Ministry representative.
The fact is that none of the student representatives or media ever claimed that access to all of the Internet was restricted. As a result of the internationalization of the scandal, the Macedonian government promised to repair that particular dormitory in Skopje and improve living conditions for students. Living conditions in other dorms remain substandard.
Two journalists from the daily paper Madagascar Matin were placed under arrest at Antanimora's jail, in the capital city of Madagascar, Antananarivo. Earlier this morning (July 23), both of them were summoned to the Brigade of Fiadanana for a hearing. Solo Rajaonson, another local journalist, posted the following update in Malagasy on Facebook :
About the latest news regarding freedom of press in Madagascar: our colleagues, the Publication Manager of the newspaper Madagascar Matin, Jean Luc Rahaga and his Editor-In-Chief, Didier Ramanoelina are placed under arrest at the penitentiary of Antanimora in Antananarivo, Madagascar. This is the result of a complaint of defamation from Rivo Rakotovao, the Minister of Transport and Industry. So much for breaking away from our recent dark past, I guess
Today's Zaman interviewed İştar Gözaydın, a professor of law and politics at Doğuş University in İstanbul, who has alslo done extensive academic research on Turkish law, society, politics, and is one of the founders of the human rights organization the Helsinki Citizens Association. In the interview, Gözaydın claims, among other things, that Turkish citizens have a lack of trust in the country's judicial system, that social norms and morality are based on personal connections and, hence, biased, but also that transparency is simply not a notion that fits or is accepted in Turkish politics. The experienced Turkish professor said:
It is true that the Turkish people have a sense of a mighty state. This applies to the legal domain as well as matters of political participation. For many years, reference has been made to the weakness of civil society. [...] In Turkey, civil society attempts to benefit from the state. There is a political culture that seeks the preservation of advantages rather than creating a structure separate from the state. This is also because of how we understand and define the state. There are two approaches to the problem of state in the literature: The European system referring to state power and public power and the Anglo-American structure in which a contract is made between the state and individuals. Moving away from the “mighty state” approach to the idea that “I pay tax, so the state has to be accountable for its acts” is not an easy process of change. It concerns a variety of different factors, including human psychology, mentality and morality.
Three weeks to the day since Global Voices author Alexander Sodiqov was arrested in Khorog, Tajikistan, his wife, Musharraf, has seen him only once. Although it has been presumed that Alex — conducting academic research at the time of his arrest — is being tried under article 306 (treason) there has been no public statement to this effect by the Tajik authorities. Alex is an academic, not a spy.
Global Voices has been covering, where possible, the academic meetings held in support of Alex Sodiqov. They are here, here, here and here. Overall there were twelve meetings held for Alex. On June 27 there was a meeting held at the University of Toronto in Canada, where Alex is a PhD student and Teaching Assistant. At the beginning of the meeting — now in an embeddable format — Igor Shoikhedbrod, a fellow PhD student at the University of Toronto, issued a moving tribute to Alex, not just as his colleague, but as a friend of the Sodiqov family:
Alex knows so much about Tajikistan’s history its culture and its institutions. And he knows these things not as someone looking from the outside in, but as someone that has experienced those institutions, that history and that culture. Aside from being a rising star in academia Alex is first and foremost a family man. I remember one time asking him how he was on a morning when we had to hand in assignments and he said that he hadn’t slept because he had had to take his wife and his baby daughter Erica to the hospital because she was teething. Alex did not spend that much time in the department because he wanted to spend all the time available with his wife and daughter. One of the reasons Alexander was in Tajikistan [when he was arrested] aside from his scholarly interest in the region, was because like all TAs [Teaching Assistants] his contract ran out in April and he had to provide income for his family over the summer. Last time I spoke with Alex and his family he cooked me authentic Tajik plov and promised to bring me a kazan (cooking pot) as a souvenir from Tajikistan. It is my sincere hope that he can be released without delay and that he can be reunited with his family. We need more scholars on Tajikistan like Alex.
The rest of the meeting can be watched here:
Messages of support continue to pour in for Alexander Sodiqov, the Global Voices community member wrongfully detained by local authorities in Khorog, Tajikistan on June 16, while carrying out academic research. Global Voices is grateful to Dr. Marc Herzog and the Ankara Segmenler Forumu who contacted us via email today with the following message of support:
Attached are solidarity pictures for the release of Alexander Sodiqov from the Ankara Segmenler Forumu (a local neighborhood assembly in Ankara which meets every week). I talked about Alexander Sodiqov's detention and we took a group foto with ‘#FreeAlexSodiqov’ poster and I also encouraged people to sign the online petition and gave out print-offs from AI's information. I hope it helps perhaps to indicate the global nature of solidarity with Alexander's case and [pressure] for his immediate release.
Best from Ankara,
On a judicial ruling that sets a dangerous precedent in Colombia, the Supreme Court of Justice refused to reconsider an appeal taken on the verdict that orders 18 months of imprisonment and a 9,5 milon pesos fine (about US$5,1000) for netizen Gonzalo López for comments published on El País newspaper website, in the Colombian city of Cali.
On 2008, López called Gloria Lucía Escalante, former officer at a public utilities company, a “rat”.
Newspaper El Espectador wonders if this is not a threat against the freedom of expression and shares opinions by lawyers who consider there is a confunsion between information and opinion.
— Nosepasedelaraya (@Nosepasedelar) July 22, 2014
One and a half years without cassation by Gonzalo López to dismiss verdict for slander.
Y Su derecho a expresarse libremente? Corte Suprema de J. condena a Gonzalo Hernán López por un decirle a Gloria Escalante lo q piensa, mal!
— Juan Becerra (@Dipolitician) July 21, 2014
What abot his right of free expression? Supreme Court condemns Gonzalo Hernán López for telling Gloria Escalante what he thinks. Wrong!
Some netizens have sarcastic opinions that the decision should be for former president Alvaro Uribe:
Uribe acusaba a Santos sin aportar pruebas, está libre. Gonzalo Lopez acusa a Gloria Escalante en internet y paga 18 meses. Igualdad?
— Hugo Gómez (@hugo_gomez87) July 22, 2014
(Former president Alvaro) Uribe accused (former president Juan Manuel) Santos without producing evidence, he is free. Gonzalo Lopez accuses Gloria Escalante on the internet and he serves 18 months. Equality?
A not-for-profit, self-financed group of artists calling themselves Kooperacija (“Cooperation”, Macedonian slang for a general store in small villages) hosted an exhibition titled “Melting Point: Art as Anti-Hegemonic Propaganda” [en, mk, with photos] in Skopje recently.
As reported [mk] by several news outlets that cover culture [mk], including Belgrade-based SEE Cult [sr], the event presented works by several individuals and groups of world renowned artists. Among them were pieces by Vitaly Komar, IRWIN, Santiago Sierra, DETEXT, as well as by some of the most vibrant artists from the region, like Nemanja Cvijanović, Ibro Hasanović, Igor Toševski, Kristina Gorovska & Jure Lavrin, Ines Efremova, Filip Jovanovski, O-P-A, and others.
The group of artists who put together the exhibition described it on their pages as:
Kooperacija is an initiative whose purpose is artistic activity outside the inert institutional frameworks, thus suggesting an exceptional approach to the creation and experience of contemporary art [...]
[Its] basic strategy is the occupation of temporarily free space dispersed throughout the urban landscape and exhibiting through a chain of blitzkrieg events. The desired effect is a constructive dialogue regarding the re-questioning of the critical positions in art and producing a favorable environment for a free exchange of ideas, experience and freedom of expression.
Nivedita N Kumar, a journalist, posts an emotional Facebook note which has gone viral. Here is an excerpt from the powerful essay that lashes at the notion of the Indian patriarchal society that clothes provoke rapists:
Why? Why do you do that? Stare at my breasts like they are cute babies calling out to be cuddled. Strip me naked, slowly, every time I enter the bus? Try to glimpse into my cleavage when I am sitting and reading in the metro.
Who gives you the right? To grope me in the crowded bus? To fall on me “innocently” when I buy popcorn in the theater. When I sit cross legged in the auto and you stop your bike and look hungrily at my legs.
A piece of meat, am I?
How do you think I feel? When I have to continuously watch over my shoulder, because it is 10 pm and there is nobody at the bus stop, except you. Staring at my neck.
Detained Brazilian Activist Says, “I'm a Target of a Large and Dirty Political Persecution Campaign”
This letter, published by Mídia Ninja collective, was written by Fábio student Hideki Harano, one of the two activists arrested in São Paulo after taking part of a demonstration against the World Cup in Brazil on June 26. The Freedom for Hideki campaign ensures popular pressure for his release.
03/07/2014 Fábio Hideki Haramo
Escrevendo de maneira leve e solta, sem pensar elaboradamente digo que não fiz nada de errado pois participar de manifestações de rua, usar equipamentos de proteção e resistir na defensiva, para fazer valer o direito de expressão pública, não é nem um pouco crime.
Estou sendo alvo de uma grande e suja perseguição política. Não neguei revista pois não tinha nada a esconder. Implantaram uma suposta bomba, que só fui ver no DEIC, horas depois de minha detenção.
Sou trabalhador, funcionário público e estudante da USP, gosto de ler, de mangá, de Tokusatsu (seriados japoneses de super-herois), de heavy metal, artes marciais, luta política por um mundo melhor, justo e sem desumanindade.
Sei da importância de lutar. Pratico kentô e sei que só viver de maneira individualista não leva a um mundo melhor. Assim, participo sim de sindicato, apoio determinados movimentos sociais como MTST e o MPL. Sei que lutar, sem briga, nas ruas é importante. Participo de manifestações sem partir para agressões.
Tanto é que meus pais e meus avós sabem com tranquilidade que não faço lutas erradas.
Writing freely, without too much thinking, I can say that I have done nothing wrong, considering that joining the street demonstrations, wearing protective gear and resisting defensively to assert the right of public expression is not the slightest crime.
I am target of a large and dirty political persecution. I did not avoid being searched because I had nothing to hide. They planted a supposed bomb, which I only saw at the [estate police station] DEIC hours after my arrest.
I'm a worker, a public servant and a University of São Paulo student, I like reading, manga, tokusatsu [Japanese superhero series], heavy metal, martial arts, and a political fight for a better, fair world without inhumanity.
I know the importance of fighting. I practice Kento and know that just living in an individualistic way will not lead to a better world. So, yes, I participate in the workers’ union, I support certain social movements such as the Homeless Workers Movement and the Free Fare Movement. I know that fighting in the streets, without aggression, is important. I take part in demonstrations but do not take part in violence.
So much so that my parents and grandparents know with confidence that I do not fight wrong causes.
Justice matters is a blog that reports on the trial of detained Zone9 bloggers and journalists in Ethiopia for expressing their opinions:
This blog contains the most current information about advocacy efforts, press coverage, and the legal status of the Zone9 bloggers in Ethiopia. It is dedicated to report on the trial of innocent bloggers and journalists. We believe in the power of accurate and factual reporting of the bloggers situation from the ground.