Stories from Quick Reads and Freedom of Speech
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.
Iranian judiciary has set a one-month deadline for Hassan Rohani's government to block or to control messaging applications Viber, WhatsApp and TangoMe.
— Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) September 20, 2014
Hu Yong, associate professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication, explained the issue at stake regarding China's latest regulations on instant messaging tools on Chinafile. The regulations forbidden public account holders, except from registered media organizations accounts, to republish articles on current events. The result is a highly selective enforcement of law as any comment can fall under the category of “news commentary”.
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.
The Press Union of Liberia is concerned about the threat to freedom of information as a result of the actions taken by the government to limit the expansion of the Ebola virus. The union wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice to draw his attention to the challenges media workers are currently facing. Here is an excerpt of the letter:
The Press Union of Liberia’s attention is specifically drawn to several circumstances that do not only restrain journalists in their obligation to seek out and share useful news and information with the public, but significantly threaten even media participation in the global fight against Ebola. By all accounts, the media space in Liberia has been a significant partner in the fight to strengthen awareness in our society about the impact and challenges of the epidemic. Notwithstanding the loss of revenue due to the emergency nature of the epidemic and the effect on general life, the media has remained committed to this fight. Unfortunately, several actions against media by government actors, especially during these times, have simply given room to growing skepticism about the disease, and further exacerbating the denials within the community. We think this is unfair and improper.
Melody Sundberg analyses freedom of expression in Ethiopia after detained Ethiopian bloggers spent 100 days in prison:
Ethiopia is with its almost 94 million population the second most populated country in Africa. Nevertheless, it does not according to an interview with Endalkhachew Chala by Global Voices, have an independent daily newspaper or independent media. There was a need of an alternative voice and the Zone 9:ers therefore began blogging and using social media to write on subjects related to human rights. The name of the group, Zone 9, refers to the zones of the notorious Ethiopian Kality prison, where political prisoners and journalists are being held. The prison has eight zones, but the ninth “zone” refers to the rest of Ethiopia. Even if being outside of the prison walls – you are never truly free; any freethinking individual may be arrested. The bloggers wanted to be the voice of this ninth zone.
In the interview, Endalkachew says that the group had campaigns about respecting the constitution, stopping censorship and respecting the right to demonstrate. The group also visited political prisoners, such as journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu. They wanted to bring the publics’ attention to them by using social media.