Stories from Quick Reads and Freedom of Speech
Macedonian Metamorphosis Foundation has developed a first among mobile applications – an app against hate speech, aiming to bring information from this area to the fingertips of mobile phone users and help them battle this odious occurrence on the Internet.
The app, available for free download both Android and iOS users, was developed in order to more effectively combat hate speech online, enabling access to the latest news in this area, access to educational and expert resources, such as a library with e-books on the matter, interactive tutorials about the various opportunities for reporting hate speech, as well as participation in events related to the fight against hate speech through an integrated calendar.
The application, dubbed simply “Don't Hate”, is the first mobile app of this kind in the world and is currently only available in Macedonian and Albanian, while its creators do plan on developing it further for other languages and markets in the near future.
The communication platform, Courage for Tamaulipas, and Ecuadorian sketch artist, Xavier “Bonil” Bonilla, were the only Latin Americans nominated at the Index Freedom of Expression Awards, which recognizes organizations and individuals in the fight against censorship.
The awards were created by Index on Censorship, an international organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression. Awards are given out in four categories: journalism, art, campaigns, and digital activism. Out of a total of 2,000 nominations, only 17 advanced to the final round.
Bonilla, who's nominated in the art category, has been the target of fines and various legal battles in Ecuador. In 2013 President Rafael Correa passed a law allowing the government to control certain content by journalists. Among the first victims were the newspaper El Universo as well as Bonilla himself. Both had to retract a drawing and pay a fine.
Meanwhile, Courage for Tamaulipas is competing in the digital activism category, and here the public can vote by clicking on the following link. The Mexican site was created in one of the most dangerous areas for journalism. Since 2010, six journalists have been killed, and violence by drug cartels in the region has resulted in a media blackout. Now drug-related violence is reported anonymously by the citizens.
As the world watches Russian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists occupy Ukrainian administration buildings, cities, and even an entire peninsula, a group of Ukrainian hackers is fighting back by launching an invasion of their own.
Since this summer, Ukrainian hacker Yevgeniy Dokukin and his group of fellow computer pros calling themselves Ukrainian Cyber Forces have carried out “Operation Bond, James Bond,” in which they leaked web camera and security footage from Crimea, separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine, and even government offices in Russia. Dokukin and the Ukrainian Cyber Forces have been leaking videos from cameras for months now, including a video supposedly from a separatist base in Donetsk.
A few weeks ago, Dokukin and his allies took up new weapons in their cyberwar: printers. In a series of Facebook posts, Dokukin has explained how, after accessing private WiFi networks, the Ukrainian Cyber Forces were able to print documents on vulnerable networked printers in various offices in Crimea and separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine, and were now trying to do the same in Russian networks.
— MustLive (@MustLiveUA) December 8, 2014
#UkrainianCyberForces have begun occupying networked printers in Donbas and in Crimea.
As Dokukin told RuNet Echo, he sees the wasted ink and paper in Russia as a variant on Ukraine’s own “economic sanctions” aimed at its neighbor. The messages appearing on these printers vary, but they share a common theme:
Якщо ваш мережевий принтер передасть “вітання Путіну” чи надрукує “Слава Україні!” та інші цікаві надписи, то знайте, що він під нашим контролем.
If your network printer passes along “greetings to Putin” or prints “Glory to Ukraine!” or other interesting messages, then you know that it is under our control.
Not all of Dokukin’s printer messages were meant to be confrontational. Recently, the Ukrainian Cyber Forces accessed an open network printer in Canada—an especially strong ally of Ukraine throughout the ongoing crisis—and printed the message “Thanks for supporting Ukraine!” in English.
As Russia increases its support of information warfare, including slick redesigns of its news agencies and propping up fake Ukrainian news sites, Ukrainian Cyber Forces are taking the trolling and information war to their opponents—and their offices—more directly.
#swazijustice is a campaign calling for the release of Bheki Makhubu, editor of the Nation magazine and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer, who were jailed in Swaziland for two years for writing an article critical of the judiciary in the country. The two were arrested on 17 March, 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison on July 25, 2014.
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.
The Convention was originally scheduled to pass in January 2014, but was delayed for modifications after protests by the private sector, civil society organizations, and privacy experts—all of whom had very little involvement in the drafting process. But a number of countries promulgated harmful new cybersecurity legislation after it was improved in June.
As Access noted in analyzing both versions of the Convention, the Convention has some positive provisions but still needs strengthening. It requires states to consider human rights in implementing cyber security legislation, but it also supports greater government control of private user data. For example, the Convention permits governments to process private data when “in the public interest,” a confusingly vague standard.
Max Chalmers, from Australian independent online media site New Matilda, welcomes the release of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste after 400 days in Egyptian prison. He also calls for “the speedy release of Greste’s colleagues who remain behind Egyptian bars”. However, he questions Prime Minister Tony Abbott's support for media freedom in a speech following the news.
[Abbott's] own government has been responsible for a crackdown on press freedoms more generally, and as he moved on to warnings about a new age of terror he laid the groundwork for yet more intrusive and draconian legislation.
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.
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).
This image, posted in the online magazine Shan Herald, describes the state of the press in Myanmar. Despite the abolition of the censorship board a few years ago, journalists still face a lot of challenges. This year, reporters have been detained for reporting and asking about some government-initiated projects.