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Open Letter to 60 Minutes Regarding Its Reporting on Africa

Scholars, writers, journalists and researchers write an open letter to 60 Minutes producer about the misrepresentation of Africa by the Tv program:

Dear Jeff Fager, Executive Producer of CBS 60 Minutes,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our grave concern about the frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent by 60 Minutes.

In a series of recent segments from the continent, 60 Minutes has managed, quite extraordinarily, to render people of black African ancestry voiceless and all but invisible.

Two of these segments were remarkably similar in their basic subject matter, featuring white people who have made it their mission to rescue African wildlife. In one case these were lions, and in another, apes. People of black African descent make no substantial appearance in either of these reports, and no sense whatsoever is given of the countries visited, South Africa and Gabon.

The third notable recent segment was a visit by your correspondent Lara Logan to Liberia to cover the Ebola epidemic in that country. In that broadcast, Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest. Liberians were shown within easy speaking range of Logan, including some Liberians whom she spoke about, and yet not a single Liberian was quoted in any capacity.

Eerie Similarities Between Germanwings Tragedy and Argentinian-Spanish Film ‘Wild Tales’

More than once, screenwriters have found inspiration in reality for their fiction. This time, it seems reality was inspired by fiction. The news that the co-pilot of German airline Germanwings‘ Flight 9525 is suspected of intentionally crashing the plane, taking the lives of 149 people with him, seems to be one of these cases.

The tragedy shares some similarities with Argentinean-Spanish film “Wild Tales“, directed by Damián Szifrón. The movie compiles six episodes connected by the topic of the relief of anger and the violence contained by different characters. The first of these stories is about a mentally disturbed pilot named Pasternak, who decides to commit suicide by crashing an airplane — which is filled with everyone who has harmed him since childhood — into his parents’ home:

On Twitter, several users from different countries could not help but notice the similarities between the air disaster and the movie:

For those who have watched the movie @rsalvajes_ok it is inevitable that they remember the first scene. Reality always exceeds fiction

The tragedy is more and more reminiscent one of the episodes in the movie Wild Tales #unconceivable #Germanwings

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.

Russian Journalist Crowdfunding New Media Project on Kickstarter

Screenshot from Yakovlev's Kickstarter project page.

Screenshot from Yakovlev's Kickstarter project page.

Vladimir Yakovlev, the founder of Kommersant newspaper and former editor of Snob website, is raising funds for a new Russian independent media project on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. The project's description on the Kickstarter page claims the goal is to create a media outlet that will counteract the Russian “state propaganda machine” and help “turn zombies back into people.”

Russia today is torn by hatred caused by a multimillion-dollar state propaganda machine. This is a real danger for an entire world as we know it.
People hate each other. They have a terrible delusion that Russia is surrounded by enemies. Recent murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov is just one of numerous casualties of state-funded hatred campaign.
Now, more than ever, we need a new independent media to unite the best journalists by common goal: to stop propaganda of hatred; to find a way to resist the madness that is tearing apart an entire country bringing it closer and closer to a horrible social disaster.
I want to start this new media project as soon as possible. It will be a powerful, formidable, effective multi-media platform free of political control and Kremlin power.
[...]
If Kremlin media is so good in turning people into zombies, why can’t we create a media to turn zombies back to people?

The Translation Detail Everyone Missed in the China Internet’s Incredibly Surreal Anthem

Below is an edited version of “The Translation Detail Everyone Missed in the China Internet's Incredibly Surreal Anthem“ by Jason Li, originally published on the blog 88 Bar and republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

In case you missed it, the New York Times, ProPublica, the Guardian and the Atlantic all wrote about this incredibly surreal but voted best of event anthem celebrating China’s glorious Internet. Thanks to ProPublica, we have a subtitled YouTube video above.

As James Fallows at the Atlantic pointed out, one of the most stirring phrases in the song that is repeated eight times during the chorus is 网络强国. The New York Times and ProPublica both translated this as “Internet power,” while Fallows points out that:

English speakers might think of “Internet power” as comparable to “soft power” or “girl power” or “people power.” But to my amateur eye there is a more explicit connotation of China’s becoming a national power in cyberspace. I’m sure Chinese speakers will tell me if I’m wrong to read 强国 as meaning a powerful country, as in “rise and fall of the great powers” etc. Thus the refrain would emphasize “a powerful Internet country.” The impression I got from this was of a strongly nationalistic message about a supposedly borderless medium.

I wanted to add to the translation and confirm Fallows’ viewpoint by examining one of the lines from the chorus:

网络强国 告诉世界中国梦在崛起大中华

Both the New York Times (Paul Mozur) and ProPublica (Sisi Wei and Yue Qiu) translate this to some variant of: “An Internet power: Tell the world that the Chinese Dream is uplifting China.” (Emphasis mine.)

Actually, the line in Chinese does not end with the phrase “China” (中国) but “the greater Chinese” (大中华). Not only does “the greater Chinese” sometimes mean Greater China, but it also hints at overseas Chinese people (华人 or 华侨) and, as Fallows put it, the “borderless” greater Chinese culture/civilization.

The Media's Role in Mexico's ‘Warped’ Democracy

Fotografía extraída del blog de Fernando Vazques Rigada, utilizada con autorización

Photo from Fernando Vazquez Rigada's blog, used with permission

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.

This post was part of the 44th #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on February 23, 2015.

Prisoner of Conscience Pedro Canché's Letter to Journalist Carmen Aristegui

From jail, Pedro Canché wrote a letter to fellow journalist Carmen Aristegui after her recent and controversial exit from media group MVS. This letter was published on his Tumblr blog “Diary of a prisoner of conscience“.

15 de marzo de 2015 Carta a Carmen AristeguiA propósito del consumado golpe al equipo de investigación de MVS, en específico a tu equipo de noticias, Carmen Aristegui, ¿cuándo tendremos en México un canal de televisión o cadena de radio nacional exclusivo de periodistas?
¿Qué necesitas?
Si don Julio Scherer demostró con la revista Proceso la independencia del poder plutocrático y oligárquico del periodismo auténtico ahora le toca a una mujer aterrizar un proyecto nacional al estilo Aristegui. Todo nuestro apoyo. Es hora y tiempo de que los nuevos vientos soplen en favor del viejo arte del periodismo honesto.
Toda mi solidaridad con Daniel Lizarraga e Irving Huerta. Pero no basta con ser solidarios y pronunciarse cómodos desde el celular o la computadora ¿Qué necesitas Carmen Aristegui?
Basta con apelar a la buena voluntad de todos los mexicanos, esa minoría. Pero de férrea voluntad que lee y a la que Televisa y Tv Azteca no le han logrado chupar el cerebro y convertirlos en zombies, todo un manjar para la clase política, en especial al PRI. El PRI maldito.Todos le entramos a la cooperación Carmen Aristegui. Es muy incómodo hacer periodismo desde la palestra de la oligarquía. Bastante incómodo. Como mexicana, y sobretodo como periodista, considéralo.
Aterriza el proyecto ¿dinero? todos le entramos. Todos. Todos los que no queremos ver arder a nuestro México.

March 15, 2015. Letter to Carmen Aristegui. On behalf of the coup done to the MVS research team, specifically to your news team, Carmen Aristegui, when will we have a TV or radio channel just for journalists in Mexico?

What do you need?

If Mr. Julio Scherer while at Proceso magazine showed independence from plutocratic and oligarchic power for authentic journalism, now is the time for a woman to land a national project, Aristegui style. You have all our support. It is time for new winds to blow in favor of the old, honest art of journalism.

All my support to Daniel Lizarraga and Irving Huerta. But supporting is not enough, nor is taking a stance comfortably from your cell phone or your computer. What do you need, Carmen Aristegui?

It should be enough appealing to the good will of all Mexicans, that minority with iron will who reads and to whom Televisa and Tv Azteca have not yet brain washed and turned into zombies, into a nice feast for the political class, PRI especially. That dreadful PRI. We all cooperate, Carmen Aristegui. It is very uncomfortable to make journalism from the arena of oligarchy. Quite uncomfortable. As a Mexican woman, and above all a journalist, think about it.

Start the project, money? We all will help out. Everybody. Everybody who doesn't want to see our Mexico burn.

Pedro Canché was detained on August 30, 2014, accused of sabotage, after covering a protest against the rise in water service fees at Felipe Carrillo Puerto city hall in Quintana Roo, Mexico. As he awaits sentencing, he regularly publishes on his blog images, videos, phrases and thoughts about freedom of expression with the help of organizacion Article19.

Firing of Mexican Journalist Carmen Aristegui Unleashes Heated Comments on Twitter

At the launching of MéxicoLeaks, a platform that collects leaked information about possible corruption, journalist Carmen Aristegui and her research team declared that they would back the project. This lead MVS Radio, their employer, to fire Aristegui's collaborators, Daniel Lizarraga and Iriving Huerta, for supposedly compromising the company name. In response, Aristegui demanded that the radio station rehire Lizarraga and Huerta, after which the company let her go as well.

This led to an outcry of support from followers on Twitter, who openly displayed their indignation for MVS News with the hashtags #EnDefensaDeAristegui (Defending Aristegui), #EnDefenesaDeAristegui2, and #AristeguiSeQueda (Aristegui stays). Users also discussed the state of freedom of expression in Mexico.  

MVS is accused of being linked to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI in Spanish).

On the flip side, the hashtag #LárgateAristegui (Get out Aristegui) spewed criticism and verbal attacks at the Mexican journalist: 

The governing party, PRI, is accused of creating this hashtag: 

Peñabots are presumed to be fake accounts set up by President Peña Nieto's administration in order to counteract any opposition towards the government.

You Will Never Find Stories About Famine, Idi Amin or Joseph Kony on This Site

Talented Ugandan writers take to the Internet to tell positive stories about the country:

We will be honest with you. Stories about poverty porn, hunger, Ebola, tribalism and all negative stories about Uganda, you will never find them here. This is a site to celebrate the positive stories about The Pearl of Africa through poetry, stories, profiles, opinions, music, dance and drama.

This is Uganda (ThisIs256), is a platform of talented writers from Uganda who are determined to tell stories about Uganda and for Ugandans aimed at demystifying stereotypes from people who do not know the real story of Uganda all over the world. The platform is loosely composed of diverse array of Ugandan writers who desire and seek to represent and reclaim an authentic, reflective, honest, and objectively balanced study about Uganda you will never find anywhere else in the mainstream western media.

Two Latin Americans Nominated for Index Freedom of Expression Awards

Afiche de los premios Index a la libertad de expresión

Index's poster for the Freedom of Expression Awards

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. 

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