Stories from Quick Reads and Governance
The proposed Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PEC) Bill in Pakistan has raised concern among local and international human rights organisations as it could put at risk freedom expression and privacy in Pakistan.
Mariam at Catalyst Woman blog reports:
After the dedicated efforts of numerous advocacy groups, ngos and private citizens, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication has agreed to a public hearing of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PEC) Bill 2015 this Friday, 22 May in Islamabad.
Invitations to the “public” hearing have only been extended to six people to appear before a committee of 20 members. According to the Joint Action Committee on the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 (PECB) & Alliance For Access:
This is contrary to the spirit of a “public hearing.”
The Joint Action Committee members are definitely among the stakeholders, but we are not the only ones. Instead of hand-picking selected invitees, we call upon the NA Standing Committee on IT to conduct the public hearing in a proper manner, by opening it to all concerned members of the public and invite the entire print and electronic media too, in the spirit of transparency and openness.
The Catalyst woman blog proposed a #Tweetstorm to raise awareness of the public’s concerns about the Cyber Crime Bill in its current state. “There should be a public debate on all aspects of the bill,” the blog says.
Former French Defense Minister Finds Excuses for the Alleged Rape of Central African Children by French Soldiers
Afrique Info reports that JP Chevènement, a former defense minister of France, stated on public radio Europe 1 on May 3 that the challenging conditions that French soldiers face in the Central African Republic could explain “behavior of that kind” (see video above). Chevènement was referring to the allegation of child sexual abuse by French troops posted in the Central African Republic. The allegations surfaced after disciplinary proceedings were taken against a United Nations employee accused of leaking the allegations to the French authorities.
On April 17, the French government unveiled a national campaign to combat racism and anti-Semitism in France. The objective of the campaign is to fight all prejudices, raise awareness and get citizens engaged in the conversation.
One hundred euros will be allocated over three years to educate and promote cultural diversity. The hashtag #planantiracisme (the plan against racism) was the number one trending topic on Twitter on the day of the announcement.
According to the Report on Racism and Antisemitism by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme CNCDH (National Comission on Human Rights), there was a 30% increase in racist acts in 2014 (from 1,274 in 2013 to 1,662 in 2014). Anti-Semitic acts went from 423 in 2013 to 851 in 2014, including the attack on the kosher store after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
The local council of the Municipality of Centar, part of the Skopje downtown area, approved a proposal to hold a referendum to preserve the authentic look of the iconic Skopje Shopping Center. As Meta.mk reports, the referendum will take place on April 26. For the referendum to be successful, it needs a turnout of 50 percent plus one of the registered voters in the Municipality of Centar to vote in favor of preserving the original edifice.
The decision is the result of a two-year-long campaign to save the landmark from a faux-baroque reconstruction plan. The Skopje City Shopping Center is known by the local acronym GTC.
“GTC requires nurturing, renovation, reconstruction, while not losing the concept and function. Project for changing the look of GTC means distorting the essence of the object. The investor who will reconstruct the facility has to know the essence and what does GTC means to the citizens. We have nothing against the reconstruction of the GTC, its authenticity as a heritage must be kept,” said Danica Pavlovska from the Association of Architects.
She added that the referendum is the most democratic way to solve the problems of citizens and is something that allows the citizens to be aware of their power.
— Го сакам ГТЦ (@GoSakamGTC) March 30, 2015
Centar decided! On April 26, we go to referendum to save GTC.
The voice of the citizens will be heard. Municipality of Centar voted to allow a referendum on GTC.
A scientific publication in the Journal of Ecological Economics argues that “over-exploitation of either Labor or Nature will result in a societal collapse” if nothing is done to prevent it.
Based on a mathematical model, the study explains (via The Guardian) that the convergence of ” the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity” and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” will increase the likelihood of the fall of society as it was observed for previous human civilizations.
That collapse is already a reality in the south of Madagascar, a region that has suffered recurrent bout of famine over the past decade. 300,000 people are at risk of famine in the region because of a severe and prolonged drought since November 2014. 90% of the Malagasy population live with less than 2 USD/day, a stark reminder of the growing inequity on the African continent. John Strauss Kotovaoarivelo is an accountant manager from the region. He visited the city of Ambovombe and could not hold back his tears from what he saw. He hesitated but felt compelled to share the urgency of the situation by posting photos of children fighting for their lives because of lack of food. Kotovaoarivelo writes :
Je ne peux pas me taire et faire comme si de rien n’était devant la gravité de la situation vécue au quotidien par nos compatriotes dans le sud. Ces photos parlent d’elles même. Je ne vais pas vous prendre la tête pour ces photos, mais quand même en vous bousculant juste un peu pour réfléchir avec moi sur les pourquoi et les comment de toutes ces choses qui font chaque jour le calvaire de ces pauvres gens. Je vais vous révéler là des photos pour ne pas dire des informations qui passent presque inaperçues [..] Nos dirigeants sont occupés ou aveuglés par d’autres choses qu’ils ne pourront jamais déchiffrer le message sur les regards de ces pauvres enfants
I cannot keep quiet any longer and pretend as if nothing is happening in the face of the grave situation that our countrymen in the south face on daily basis. These photos speak for themselves. I will not bludgeon your head with these photos, but I hope they will jost your awareness a little and help you reflect with me about the plight of these people. I am merely sharing my pictures so that their suffering will not go unnoticed [..] Our political leaders are so busy or so blinded by other things that they cannot feel the message in the eyes of these children, seeking help.
Over 20 members of three Venezuelan media groups, El Nacional and Tal Cual, as well as news site La Patilla, are now prohibited from leaving the country. Caracas judge María Eugenia Núñez ordered the restriction on the opposition media figures, who are “accused of ‘continuing aggravated defamation'”, according to broadcaster NTN24.
Venezuela places travel ban on opposition media execs – VideoNewsUs http://t.co/ZAvKZNM7k9
— Democracy News Ven (@DemNewsVen) May 13, 2015
The court order was requested on April 28 by the National Assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, seen as one of president Nicolás Maduro’s closest allies in government and member of the ruling PSUV party. It was stated that these media organizations had affected the government's reputation by featuring “unscrupulous” publications from ABC, a Spanish daily newspaper.
The reports published in January alleged that Cabello was connected to drug trafficking in Venezuela.
As a result, Cabello sued for defamation everyone of importance at newspapers El Nacional, La Patilla and Tal Cual; as well as 22 members of the respective boards, including Miguel Henrique Otero, editor-in-chief of El Nacional, Teodoro Petkoff, from Tal Cual, and Alberto Ravell from La Patilla.
Alberto Ravell and Miguel Henrique Otero found out about the court rulling while travelling outside the country. They declared, respectively, that they will return to Venezuela in a few days to face the charges, and that their editorial lines will not change.
Despite what it seems like a violation of freedom of speech, even international treaties exempt such reproductions of news items from legal liability, except for the source.
Teodoro Petkoff, director of TalCual, and one of Venezuela’s most outspoken government critics, has already been banned from leaving the country because of another defamation lawsuit filed by Cabello last year. Petkoff recently received a prestigious journalism award in Spain, but was unable to collect it in person. The award was instead received on his behalf by former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez, who spoke about attacks to freedom against expression in Venezuela.
According to Venezuelan law, the Court needs to notify each of the defendants, something that has yet to be done. Also, under no circumstance can a judge rule this prohibition without having talked to them first.
This defamation case had a very timely consideration and resolution, something noticeable in a country where the average prisoner has not seen a Judge in the first few months after its detention, or has spent around two years in prison without sentence, something analyzed in the blog The Devil's Excrement.
Blogger Kureege Fuluheh is a Maldivian ex-police officer, who writes about issues in policing and the police service in Maldives. The blogger analyses how the Maldives Police Service (MPS) is perceived by people over the last seven years and discusses what is the way forward:
Worrying is police’ behaviour towards members of public whilst on duty and the alleged association with crime groups to create fear. [..] In reality, policing has failed to deliver to public satisfaction due to lack of effective strategy and intra-organizational arrangements to cut crime and proactively police.
From crime recording, public engagement, enforcement to investigation, it is evident that policing is ineffective in these areas. [..]
Right now the policing landscape in Maldives fails to perform and deliver through arrangements akin to democratic principles. It is of utmost importance that a police reform bill paves way to create a policing architecture that holds police accountable to its public and public say is counted in how they are policed.
Blogger Fernando Vázquez Rigada reflects on the role of the media in Mexico, a country where he says democracy is “warped” because it only works on a formal level, and society isn't adequately represented by the political institutions.
He adds that Mexican media bear a huge responsibility in this issue. There are a variety of media in Mexico, however, quantity does not always goes hand in hand with quality, especially considering that the political power is closely linked to the media system:
El estado mexicano gasta una cantidad descomunal de recursos anualmente en pago a medios de comunicación. Sabemos que el poder ejecutivo federal invierte alrededor de 6 mil millones de pesos al año. Esa cifra, sin embargo, excluye a los otros poderes, a los 31 estados, al DF y a los 2,457 municipios y a las 16 delegaciones del DF. Tampoco incluye al gasto de los partidos políticos. La cifra debe multiplicarse al menos por diez.
Así, los medios en México deben recibir de dinero público algo así como 70 mil millones de pesos anuales. 191 millones de pesos cada día. Casi 8 millones de pesos cada hora.
Eso explica la enorme laguna informativa que ahoga a México.
The Mexican state spends an enormous amount of money in payments to media outlets. We know that the federal executive branch invests about six billion Mexican pesos a year. That figure, however, excludes other powers, the 31 Mexican states, Mexico DF, 2,457 municipalities and 16 delegations in Mexico City. Nor does it include the expenditure of political parties. So, that figure should be multiplied at least, tenfold.
Thus, the media in Mexico should receive annually from public money around 70 billion Mexican pesos. 191 million pesos every day. Nearly 8 million pesos per hour.
That explains the huge information gap in Mexico.
Vázquez Rigada concludes that its links with political power and its economic dependence prevent the media from reporting freely and fulfilling its role of monitoring those in power, pointing out flaws and opening political debate.
You can follow Fernando Vázquez Rigada on Twitter.
As part of the Second International Conference on Democracy and Digital Government 2015 (ICEDEG 2015), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is hosting Hack Ecuador Challenge 2015 (HEC'15). The event welcomes Ecuadorians with open-data apps that promise to deliver needed services in local communities, improving the nation's online ecosystem, especially in the public sector.
— Open Hack IEEE (@OpenHackIEEE) January 7, 2015
Why join Ecuadorian IEEE? 3) IEEE Hack Ecuador 2015. Best App Awards.
Iria Puyosa, a representative of one of the contest's organizers, told Global Voices about her expectations:
De acuerdo con los indicadores del Open Data Barometer, la política de datos abiertos de Ecuador se orienta hacia la innovación y el bienestar social. En Ecuador se dispone de datos abiertos sobre variables demográficas, educación, salud, producción agrícola, importaciones/exportaciones, transporte y telecomunicaciones. Este es el tipo de datos que pondremos a disposición de los participantes en el hackathon. Esperamos una gran participación de los estudiantes afiliados a la Sección Ecuador de IEEE. Y lanzamos el reto a los empresarios y emprendedores tecnológicos ecuatorianos para que también se sumen a procesos de innovación, usando datos abiertos.
According to indicators of Open Data Barometer, Ecuadorian open-data policy is oriented towards innovation and social welfare. In Ecuador, open data is available about demographic variables, education, health, agricultural production, import/export, transport, and telecommunications. This is the kind of data that we will make available to the participants in the hackathon. We expect that a large number of students affiliated with Ecuadorian IEEE, will attend the event. We also challenged Ecuadorian technology entrepreneurs to join the innovation process using open data.
Who is participating?
The contest will be divided into two categories: students and professionals.
What are the prizes?
Winner of first prize gets $800 in cash and a winner's certificate. The second-place winner gets a certificate, too. Winners will be announced on April 8.
— Open Hack IEEE (@OpenHackIEEE) February 19, 2015
March 4 Informational Webinar -> Sign up free and learn more about the #HackEC15