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Ostula and Mexican Army Hold to Clashing Versions of Recent Attack

In Mexico, the independent investigation agency SubVersiones has published a compilation video that chronologically shows what events that took place on July 19, 2015, in the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María de Ostula. That day ended with four wounded and a dead child, after Mexican soldiers allegedly opened fired on civilians during an operation designed to arrest a leader of a local self-defense group.

SubVersiones‘ video starts with footage of villagers armed with sticks, yelling at the soldiers to go look for the runaway drug lord Joaquín El Chapo Guzman, among other things. Soon, shots are fired from army vehicles, in a barrage that likely included the bullets that killed one and injured four.

Some villagers attacked the soldiers with rocks in an apparent attempt to halt their advance:

En varios momentos se puede observar que el ejército se parapeta en posición de tiro. En otras escenas se aprecian los gases lacrimógenos lanzados por la policía estatal. Estas imágenes contradicen la versión oficial que niega las agresiones del ejército que sostiene que los tiros fueron al aire. La magnitud del operativo es también una muestra de que esta acción estuvo dirigida no sólo a Semeí Verdía sino a desestructurar la organización comunitaria.

In various moments, one can observe that the army was standing in a shooting position. In other scenes, one can see tear gas thrown by the state police. These images contradict the official version that denies that the army committed any aggression or fired any shots, other than some into the air. The magnitude of the operation is also proof that this action was not only aimed at apprehending Semeí Verdía, but also had the objective of destroying the community's self-organization.

The description given by Subversiones supports Ostula citizens’ accusation that the military shot openly at civilians.

On the other hand, Michoacan's Coordination Group rejected the claim that soldiers fired at locals protesting that day in Aquila Municipality. General Felipe Gurrola, who is in charge of the Special Security Unit in Michoacan, said at a press conference:

El Grupo Antimotines respondió a la agresión con la activación de gases lacrimógenos y de humo, con el propósito de dispersar a los manifestantes; el caos fue aprovechado por civiles armados que se retiraron del lugar y se ocultaron entre la maleza.

The Antiriot Group responded to the attack with tear and smoke gas in an effort to scatter the demonstrators; civilian armed groups took advantage of the chaos and later retreated and hid in the bushes.

YouTube user Victor Americano uploaded a video showing, from the soldiers’ point of view, the aggression described by General Gurrola.

Civilians were the only ones to suffer on July 19, the military has pointed out. At least one soldier was allegely injured by a piece of shrapnel.

Con ello está claro que sí hubo disparos por parte de civiles armados el domingo anterior, en el puente de Ixtapilla, en contra de elementos del Ejército Mexicano

With this [evidence], it is clear that there were shots coming from armed civilians, last Sunday on the Ixtapilla bridge, against elements of the Mexican Army.

Pope Francis in Latin America: ‘Ideologies End Badly, They Serve No Purpose’

Pope Francis concluded his eight day tour of South America, where he held mass in the three countries he visited: Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. The pontiff's message centered on peace and the most needy.

He also advocated “playing cleanly and staying clear of corruption.”

But it was during the close of the tour in Asuncion on Saturday, July 11 where he gave one of the most political speeches of his trip stating:

Ideologies end badly; they serve no purpose. Ideologies have a relationship to the people that is absent, unhealthy or evil. Ideologies don't take into account the people. In the last century ideologies have ended in dictatorships. [Ideologies] think of the people, but don't let the people think.

Macedonian Activist Ends Hunger Strike for Migrant Rights

On Saturday, June 20, human rights expert and activist Suad Missini ended the hunger strike he started six days prior in protest of inhumane treatment of migrants passing through Macedonia. Mr. Missini issued the following statement [links added]:

While the effects of the changes of the Asylum Law are yet to be seen in practice, the conditions in the migrant center in Gazi Baba has not been improved. The refugees are still kept in the center which gains characteristics of a concentration camp, under impossible, inhuman and degrading conditions, out of the legal framework and international human rights standards which are part of the national legal system.

Authorities in Republic of Macedonia chose to remain deaf to the demands for solving of this problem by numerous international organizations and institutions. They act blind to the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture characterized the treatment of refugees in this center as torture and breach of the UN Convention Against Torture in its latest report. And all this while our country is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

On the other hand, I'd like to stress that Macedonia, as member of Council of Europe (CoE), received a visit by the CoE Committee for Prevention of Torture, which included a visit to Gazi Baba center. This summer, the president of this committee Mikola Gnatovskij visited Macedonia and also talked to the authorities about this center, among other things. I emphasize that Macedonian authorities have still not issued approval for the report of this visit to be published.

Finally, two days before the start of the hunger strike, the Ombudsman of Republic of Macedonia presented the catastrophic situation and lawlessness that rule in this center.

Today, we can acknowledge that the public in Republic of Macedonia, as well as the international public and foreign media and organizations, are fully aware and informed about the problem with this center. These days, Gazi Baba center is an international topic. If the government decided that this catastrophic problem should not be a subject of immediate reaction and subsequent solution, then this definitely puts our country among those which openly and unscrupulously conduct torture, while the authorities are legitimized as institutions lead by persons which have no respect for human lives. The lives of hundreds of people detained within this center. And finally, about my life.

Therefore, on this day I end the hunger strike. Because the limits of health risks are already surpassed, and because the potentials of this strike are fulfilled.

My demands, which are demands by an enormous part of the public in Republic of Macedonia, are partially fulfilled.

My civic act was a drop which made waves, which, I sincerely hope, together with all the other efforts, will lead to solving of this problem which turns our country into an uncivilized space.

I am immensely grateful to the thousands who sincerely and unambiguously expressed their support, making this civil act as much theirs, as it was mine.

Meanwhile, Twitter users continue sharing leaked photos showing the conditions of detained refugees.

Iran Increases Internet Surveillance Ahead of Parliamentary Elections

Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari announced that a "Security Committee" to monitor election-related activities would be created earlier than expected. Photo by IRNA, and published with permission to reuse.

Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari announced that a “Security Committee” to monitor election-related activities would be created earlier than expected. Photo by IRNA, and published with permission to reuse.

This post first appeared on Arseh Sevom's Dar Sahn page.

Iran’s deputy interior minister announced that the police and the intelligence ministry would be monitoring the internet and social media for activity regarding the upcoming elections in the country.

In a press conference in Tehran during the week of June 1, 2015, Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari announced that a “Security Committee” to monitor election-related activities would be created earlier than expected. “The security committee will be made up of representatives from the police, Revolutionary Guards, army, and state radio and television.” Zolfaghari also added that similar committees would be created throughout Iran.

In view of the sensitive situation on Iran’s western borders and the movements of terrorist groups such as IS in the area, the upcoming Iranian elections will take place in an atmosphere of security.

The deputy interior minister has informed the Persian-language media that 60,000 polling stations would be set up for the elections of members of parliament and members of the Assembly of Experts and 300,000 people will be working with the government in this process.

A growing number of social media users in Iran combined with speedy information circulation have Iranian authorities seriously concerned. In addition to monitoring online sources, the security committee will create a “security map” to identify sensitive areas for upcoming elections.

These Maps Show Where Cambodian Journalists Have Been Killed and Harassed

harassment_of_media_cambodiaThe Cambodian Center for Human Rights has launched a portal documenting the human rights violations experienced by Cambodian journalists. Cambodia's constitution guarantees freedom of speech but journalists are still harassed and killed, especially those who report about the abuses committed by local officials and business interests with ties to powerful leaders.

journalists_killed_in_cambodia

Scroll Through Madagascar History Via Vintage Photographs

Online Photo Museum of Madagascar with their Permission

Online Photo Museum of Madagascar with their Permission

Access to the visual history of most former colonial countries in Africa is usually a challenging proposition because former colonial powers restrict access to historical archives. Helihanta RAJAONARISON and Tsiry Fy-Tia SOLOFOMIHANTA in Madagascar sought to solve this issue and make the history of Madagascar more palatable to the general public by creating an online Museum of Madagascar through a collection of vintage photographs.

The website went live on July 27, 2015, and offers a glimpse of everyday lives in Madagascar from 1850 to 1960. The collections is organized in four major periods: Pre-colonial Period, Colonial Period, Major Constructions, Everyday Life and Independence.

Serbian Authorities Take Control of A Man's Facebook Account Following Alleged Threats Against PM Vucic

Screenshot of the Facebook status in question, in which Milivojevic allegedly threatens Serbian Prime Minister Vucic.

Screenshot of the Facebook status in question, in which Milivojevic allegedly threatens Serbian Prime Minister Vucic.

In Serbia, the detainment of individuals for personal social media postings has become almost commonplace over the last year. During the mass floods in May 2014, police arrested over a dozen individuals for allegedly “inciting panic” on social media when the country was indeed in a national state of emergency. Some were detained for several days.

In early July 2015, in the Serbian town of Aleksinac, police detained Dejan Milojevic for allegedly threatening the life of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on his personal Facebook account. They seized his computer and other communications devices, and also took charge of his Facebook account, changing his password and locking Milivojevic out of his own account.

Serbian NGO Share Defense called the account takeover a “very intrusive measure under questionable legal basis, in particular from the aspect of international protection of privacy and freedom of expression standards.” The Share Defense team of legal experts explained the legal issues in this matter on their website:

Ovakav opis postupanja policije izdvaja aleksinački slučaj od sličnih istraga pokrenutih zbog komentara na društvenim mrežama, i otvara problem nejasnih ovlašćenja policije u digitalnom okruženju. Naime, pristup policije privatnom fejsbuk profilu nedvosmisleno predstavlja povredu tajnosti sredstava komuniciranja koja je zagarantovana članom 41 Ustava Republike Srbije. Odstupanja su moguća isključivo uz odluku suda koja bi se konkretno odnosila na sporni fejsbuk profil, o čemu za sada nema pouzdanih informacija. Dejanu Milojeviću je onemogućen pristup privatnom fejsbuk nalogu, čime mu je ograničena sloboda izražavanja i informisanja.

Policija je prilikom pretresa oduzela Milojevićev kompjuter i telefone (u skladu sa članom 147 Zakonika o krivičnom postupku), na šta ima pravo i bez posebne sudske odluke. Međutim, pretraživanje podataka o komunikaciji koji se čuvaju na tim uređajima nije moguće bez sudskog naloga.

This description of the actions of police separates the Aleksinac case from similar investigations started due to comments on social networks and opens the issue of unclear rights that police have in the digital realm. Specifically, police access to a private Facebook profile undoubtedly represents an injury to the privacy of communication, which is guaranteed under Section 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. An exception to this can only be awarded by a court, that would have to reference the Facebook profile in question…Dejan Milivojevic's access to his private Facebook account has been breached, thus his freedom of expression and right to access to information has been limited.

Police seized Milivojevic's computer and telephones during the raid (in accordance with Article 147 of the Law on Criminal Proceedings), which they are authorized to do without exceptional court order. However, search and seizure of communication information that are stored on those devices* is not allowed without a court order. [*editor's emphasis]

While Milivojevic no longer has access to his Facebook account, the status update that had police raiding his home and led to accusations that he was threatening the Prime Minister is still publicly visible on his profile:

Браћо и сестре, враг је однео шалу!!! Дајте да се организујемо да неко убије говнара и да ослободимо земљу. Доста је било, стварно!!!

Brothers and sisters, the joke has gone too far!!! Let's organize and have someone kill the shithead and liberate the country. Enough is enough, really!!!

The Prime Minister's name was not mentioned in the status update or in the comments of the post, although one commenter does ask whom Milivojevic is referencing as “the shithead”. Milivojevic also calls for a “lynching” in his responses to comments, but then later adds in a comment that “of course, I was kidding about the killing; I abhore violence, even towards such a worm and bum.”

Infographic Shows Thailand Junta Arrested Hundreds in the Past Year for Criticizing the Government

junta prosecutionThe free speech advocate iLaw uploaded an infographic which showed that 166 people have been arrested in the past year in Thailand for expressing an opinion against the military-backed government.

The army grabbed power in May 2014 but it vowed to restore civilian rule and conduct free elections next year. Protests and public gathering of five or more people are currently prohibited in Thailand.

The infographic also revealed that there are 68 political prisoners in the country.

Meanwhile, another infographic by iLaw showed that lese majeste (anti-royal insult law) cases have risen in the past year. Some scholars are petitioning the review of the law which they described as harsh and repressive.

lese majeste cases

After Citizen Uprising in Burkina Faso and Burundi, Are Niger and Togo Next?

Protests in Niamey, Niger via Abdoulaye Hamidou on twitter (with his permission)

Protests in Niamey, Niger via Abdoulaye Hamidou on twitter (with his permission)

20,000 Nigeriens took to the streets in Niamey, Niger on June, 6. There are multiple causes for the protests: endemic poverty, mediocre governance and restricted free speech are among the main grievances from Nigerien civil society.   These protests come on the hill of similar uprisings in Burkina Faso, Burundi and Togo. The government resigned in Burkina Faso while elections are postponed in Burundi. In May, citizens in Lome protested presidential election results  that saw Togolese president Faure Gnassingbe won a third term.

FIFA Elections Are in Progress

Despite the recent arrests of FIFA officials due to indictments laid by the US Department of Justice, the world football governing body has said that its elections, which it calls the 65th FIFA Congress, will continue as scheduled today. Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who headed the organisation while the two-decade siege of corruption, bribery and money laundering was allegedly taking place, is seeking a fifth term at today's congress. Blatter has refused to resign amidst the scandal, despite several calls for him to step down.

You can watch the live feed of the FIFA elections here.

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