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Mapping Cambodia's Land Concessions

Land contracts awarded to foreign companies in Cambodia. Green represents Vietnamese companies, Red areas are Chinese-owned, and Yellow for Malaysian firms. Image from Licadho.

Land contracts awarded to foreign companies in Cambodia. Green represents Vietnamese companies, Red areas are Chinese-owned, and Yellow for Malaysian firms. Image from Licadho.

Licadho, a Cambodian human rights group, has released its dataset of land concessions approved by the government in the past years. The group is now urging the government to release all records related to the land contracts it awarded to domestic and foreign companies. According to activists, many of these concessions were given at the expense of small farmers who were subsequently evicted from their villages.

Defending Internet Free Speech and Anonymity in Ecuador

Organizaciones que del Ecuador, Internacionales y de distintos países que se adhirieron al Manifiesto.

Signatories to the Manifesto for the Freedom of Expression, Anonymity, and Online Privacy in Ecuador.

In the face of government condemnation of anonymity and satire on the Internet, several national and international organizations have signed the Manifesto for the Freedom of Expression, Anonymity, and Online Privacy in Ecuador.

Domestic signatories include Usuarios Digitales and Fundamedios, while some of the international and foreign groups to join the manifesto are AccessElectronic Frontier FoundationDerechos Digitales (Chile), Oficina Antivigilancia (Brazil), Fundación Karisma (Colombia), TEDIC (Paraguay), Acceso Libre (Venezuela), ContingenteMx (Mexico), and Enjambre Digital (Mexico).

The joint statement stresses that anonymity on the Internet is not a crime:

  • Reprobamos cualquier acto de violencia como consecuencia del ejercicio de la libertad de expresión o de cualquier otro derecho.
  • El anonimato es parte esencial de la estructura descentralizada de Internet. Esta es una característica intrínseca de su arquitectura y diseño, y forma parte de la esencia de la comunicación en línea.
  • El anonimato es una herramienta fundamental para ejercer plenamente el derecho a la libre expresión, ya sea en Internet o fuera de ella.
  • La difusión de datos personales de quienes usan legalmente el anonimato constituye una amenaza a la integridad de las personas, promueve la censura y afecta el control legítimo que la sociedad debe realizar de la actividad pública.
  • Mientras no se cometan delitos tipificados, el anonimato debe ser garantizado por el Estado y todos sus entes, de acuerdo a la Ley.
  • Intimidar o direccionar a grupos para el ataque virtual o físico a personas, independientemente de su posición política, puede derivar en polarización y violencia en la sociedad.
  • Consideramos que los recursos públicos deben brindar las garantías suficientes para promover el libre ejercicio de nuestros derechos también en plataformas digitales.
  • We condemn any act of violence as consequence of exercising the freedom of expression or any other right.
  • Anonymity is an essential part of the decentralized structure of internet. This is an intrinsic characteristic of its architecture and design and makes part of the essence of online communication.
  • Anonymity is a key tool to fully exercise the right to free expression, whether online or offline.
  • Sharing personal information from those who use anonymity legally is a threat to the integrity of individuals, promotes censorship and affects legitimate control society has to make of public activity.
  • As long as no categorized crime is committed, the State must be ensure anonymity, according to this law.
  • Intimidating or addressing groups for virtual or physical assault to individuals, regardless of their political position, may end in polarization and violence in society.
  • We consider that public resources must provide enough guarantees to promote free exercise of our rights also on digital platforms.

Check here to read the Manifesto for the Freedom of Expression, Anonymity, and Online Privacy in Ecuador.

#JesuisKenyan Trends in Francophone Social Media to Show Support for Garissa Victims

Twitter users show support for Garissa victims via Arnaud Seroy on twitter

Twitter users show support for Garissa victims via Arnaud Seroy on twitter

On April 2, 2015, at least 147 people were killed by gunmen on the campus of Garissa University in Kenya, according to Kenya's National Disaster Operation Centre (KRCS). The center also reports that 79 people were injured and 587 people were evacuated at this stage.

The suspected mastermind of the massacre is the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militant group, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

The tragic accounts of the shooting by survivors triggered a show of solidarity worldwide. The francophone world, still weary after the Charlie Hebdo attack, responded by showing solidarity with the Garissa victims on social networks with the hashtag #JesuisKenyan (to mirror the hashtag #JesuisCharlie). It was the second most trending topics on Twitter in France on April 3.

Here are a few of those posts:

147 died in the horrific #terrorist attack against education and our future. Let's show solidarity #JesuisKenyan

Not enough talk in the media about the terrorist attack at the university in Kenya, are 147 dead not enough ?! HORRIBLE #JesuisKenyan

Iran Releases British-Iranian Goncheh Ghavami After Arrested for Attending a Volleyball Match

26 year old British-Iranian Goncheh Ghavami was arrested in Iran on June 2014 for protesting for equal access for women during sporting events. She was arrested after she attempted to attend a men-only volleyball match at Azadi Indoor Stadium in Tehran. International petitions have been ongoing for her release, until her release on March 31, 2015. Her brother Iman Ghavami posted on petition.org, where many had signed for her release of the news:

Mar 31, 2015 — I have big news for you.

Today I can tell you that Ghoncheh is free! As we were celebrating Iranian New year, Iranian Government wiped out the rest of my sister's sentence. Ghoncheh will not have to spend another day, another hour in prison.

This is amazing news and I wanted you to hear from me directly. You stood by us during those difficult months. You gave my family courage and hope. The uncertainty of autumn and the dark clouds of winter have gone. And the sun once again is shining for my family. Spring is here.

My mum has finally become her old happy self and has found peace again. My mum and I will not forget your generous support and thank you sincerely. Together we brought Ghoncheh home. Ghoncheh also asked me to thank you all for your support. 

This has been the best spring for my family. Hopefully this spring brings happiness and peace to all Iranians and all of you. 

Iman

 

 

Documenting the Systematic Decline of Women's Rights in Macedonia

Although southeast European countries are progressive in many other ways, the decline of women's reproductive rights in some Western Balkan countries has been a worrying trend. In Macedonia, several small protests have been held in recent years to demonstrate people's opposition to government involvement in determining public sentiment on issues like abortion and family planning, after the government implemented a national anti-abortion campaign that began in 2011.  

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“My body – my decision” sigh at a protest against new abortion law. Photo by Vanco Dzhambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Recently, Macedonian equal rights activist Ana Vasileva, known as @Amateuress on Twitter, provided a lengthy overview of the systematic decline of women's rights in Macedonia on her blog:

In recent years Macedonia has undergone a very subtle, yet dreadfully pervasive deterioration of the situation with women's rights. Mainly unnoticed or overlooked, the government latched on the popular, deeply misogynist sentiment of the suffering mother (a metaphor often used for the country itself) and after the initial surge of promise with the introduction of the gender quotas in 2006 and the adoption of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which paired with the history of equal treatment from the previous system led to even higher percentages in female representation in certain areas compared to the EU average[1], things started moving downwards steadily, without sufficient public resistance.

It can arguably be claimed that the ploy began with the anti-abortion posters and newspaper ads which started littering the public space out of nowhere circa 2006-2007 without anyone claiming responsibility for them…

Ugandan Peace Advocate Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

This is Uganda (ThisIs256) is a platform of talented writers from Uganda who are determined to write positive stories about their country, banishing stories about poverty porn, hunger, Ebola, and tribalism, among others. They seek to represent an authentic, reflective, honest, and objectively balanced study about Uganda that you will never find anywhere else in mainstream western media.

Their latest story is about Victor Ochen, a former internally displaced person who was nominated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker social justice organisation, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the past, AFSC nominated Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr., and US President Jimmy Carter, who all became winners. The organisation unsuccessfully nominated Mahatma Gandhi, who never won the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948.

Ochen, 33, founded the African Youth Initiative Network, based in Lira, Uganda, in 2005, which works in medical rehabilitation of victims of burnings, mutilations of all kinds, rape, and psychological torture as well as promotes youth leadership. It has grown to become an international network of medical professionals who help victims rebuild their homes and livelihoods. According to This is Uganda:

What Victor did out of sheer compassion added him to this prestigious list. As a teenager in Abia camp that was home of over 40,000 people, he formed a peace club with his peers in the camp. This initiative angered the elders “Why are you talking about peace that you have never seen?” He was enterprising; he risked his life to burn charcoal to raise his school fees. Then later he joined secondary school and could barely afford time to do his charcoal business so he became a cobbler, he used to repair shoes of kids at school. One day he landed a big job of mending the shoes of the school football team, unfortunately that money was stolen. His hard work and favor from the teachers saw him through high school

Victor’s heart was home even when he worked with straight talk foundation in Kampala, interacting with the people in the field made him realize that the people of northern Uganda wanted more than hand outs but wanted and deserved more. That is when he left his job and started the African youth initiative Network. This initiative mobilizes communities especially the youth to pursue peace and human rights, reconciliation. They offer psychosocial support to the former victims of conflict, most of who suffer severe emotional pain and struggle with forgiveness, they have also supported over 5000 people with reconstructive surgeries especially the women whose lips were cut off, the initiative also supports income generating activities, have formed 100 peace clubs in schools and universities in northern Uganda and over 6000 young people have gone through the peace building and transitional justice programme.

Peruvian Web Users Take the #LanguageChallenge

International Mother Language Day was celebrated on February 21, as a commemoration of the right every nation has to keep its own language, a key element of cultural identification. In Peru, there are 47 native languages, spoken by about 4 million people.

To mark the occasion, the Office of Indigenous Language of the Vice Ministry of Interculturality of the Ministry of Culture invited Peruvians to participate in the #LanguageChallenge:

It's very easy to participate in the #LanguageChallenge!!We show you how.

The blog La Mula reported what the second edition of the Challenge of Languages was about:

Este sábado 21 de febrero se celebra el Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna y la Dirección de Lenguas Indígenas del Viceministerio de Interculturalidad ha lanzado la campaña Reto de las Lenguas (#RetoDeLasLenguas). En realidad, es un desafío creado el año pasado en las redes sociales de diversos países. Quien lo acepta debe grabar un video en una lengua indígena y retar a otra persona a que haga lo mismo. A la fecha han participado hablantes de lenguas indígenas norteamericanas y europeas, pero aún es poca la participación de lenguas sudamericanas.

On Saturday, February 21, we celebrate International Mother Language Day and the Office of Indigenous Language of the Vice Ministry of Interculturality [of the Ministry of Culture] has launched the campaign the Language Challenge. It's really a challenge created last year on social networks from various countries. If you accept it, you have to record a video in an indigenous language and challenge another person to do the same thing. Until now, indigenous speakers from many North American and European communities have taken part, but we still have a small participation of South American languages.

On Twitter, various users rose to the challenge, such as Quechua speakers Qorich'aska Qespi Puma and Jorge Alejandro Vargas:

Excellent video from #Retodelaslenguas by Qorich'aska Qespi Puma and Jorge Alejandro Vargas. Now, let's hope that…

This video shows Culina, spoken in Peru and Brazil Amazon regions:

Another Language Challenge from Peru! The so-sexy Nehemías Pino speaking Culina! We have 47 languages!

There is even a video with sign language:

Message in Peruvian sign language for the Language Challenge, I challenge linguistic models from C. Beethoven.

Another video from Cusco:

A video from abroad by a speaker and academic of Shawi, an Amazonian language:

To follow the challenge, which is still going on, follow the hashtag #Retodelaslenguas on Twitter.

‘Western Women Don't Care If They Are Raped on the Roadside,’ Says Saudi Historian

A screenshot of Youtube video. Used under CC BY 2.0

A screenshot of a video on YouTube showing Saudi historian Dr Saleh Al-Saadoon making his infamous claim

Saudi historian Dr Saleh Al-Saadoon says women in the West drive because they “don't care if they get raped on the roadside.” He made the remarks in an interview with Rotana Khalijia, a Saudi-owned television channel aimed at Gulf countries, in his defense of a Saudi prohibition that bans women from driving. The video, which created an outcry online, was shared far and wide on YouTube. 

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving cars. There have been many efforts to break the ban, most recently on October 26, 2013, when dozens of women shared videos driving cars in the day they plan on defying the ban.

The Saudi “historian” notes that:

Unlike riding a camel, driving a car places a woman in danger of being raped, which for Saudi women is a much worse experience than for any women in the western world where women “don't care” if they are raped.

To make his interview worse, he suggested a solution to import “foreign female drivers” to drive Saudi women to prevent a potential rape by contracted male drivers.

Civil War Separates Peuhl Children from their Parents in Yaloke, Central African Republic

aloke Boys Reunited with Their Family via UNICEF_CAR twitter account - Public Domain

Yaloke Boys Reunited with Their Family via UNICEF_CAR twitter account – Public Domain

Peuhl minorities of Islamic confession have been trying to escape anti-balaka militia since the beginning of the civil war in in the Central African Republic.  One of the camps where displaced Peuhl can find protection is the Yaloke camp by the Cameroonian border in the western region. The health situation in the Yaloke camp is critical where death rates is three times higher than other cities in the region. The refugees are not allowed to move out of the Yaloke Camp which has made it difficult for families to reunite.  The Reseau Des Journalistes pour les droits de l'homme EN RCA (The Journalist Network for Human Rights in CAR) reports on the situation:

Pour Moussa Saidou, deux de ses enfants l’ont quitté et se retrouvent aujourd’hui à Gamba. « Ils sont partis le jour de l’attaque qui a conduit à la perte de nos bétails. Ils ont fui dans la brousse pour se retrouver à Gamba avant de rejoindre Goré au Tchad, où ils séjournent pour le moment»

Moussa Saidou explains that two of her children have escaped and now find themselves in Gamba. “They left the day of the attack that led to the loss of our livestock. They fled into the forest to find themselves in Gamba before joining Gore in Chad, where they stay for now”.

Macedonian Journalist Describes How it Feels to be Subject of State Surveillance

Prominent investigative journalist Meri Jordanovska wrote a testimony about her experience on receiving evidence that she was one of allegedly twenty thousand individuals who have been subjected to state surveillance in Macedonia. In an op-ed on Balkan Insight, Jordanovska explains: 

Meri Jordanovska. Photo: Prizma Project. Used with permission.

Meri Jordanovska. Photo: BIRN Prizma Project. Used with permission.

Each report on one of my wiretapped conversations was true: the date, the story I was working on and the sources I was getting briefed by. Everything was correct. I am not sure I will get another “diploma”. This folder was more than enough for me to clearly see what is happening in my country.I can clearly see that someone knew in advance what story I was working on. Enough for me to conclude that my sources of information were endangered. Enough for the centers of power to be able to react preventively before the story was published. Enough to become aware, even though I had always suspected this, that some people know the problems of those closest to me – people who had shared personal matters with me over the phone.

Jordanovska received a file containing surveillance of her communications during a press conference by the opposition party SDSM, at which representatives of the party also revealed that journalists had been wiretapped en masse in Macedonia. Besides publishing several conversation as proof, twenty journalists were given folders with CDs containing their own files, leaked by sources from within the Ministry of Interior. Her text is also available in Macedonian and has been republished by several independent portals in her home country, including Mojot grad.

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev claims that National Security Services illegally targeted over twenty thousand people with the surveillance, which involved illegally recording and storing phone conversations of these individuals over at least four years. His party has not yet published a list of all the alleged victims, nor a list of the wiretapped phone numbers. According to SDSM representatives, these included both citizens of Macedonia and foreigners using local telecom services, including several diplomats.

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