2011 has been another year in which bloggers and activists from a number of Portuguese-speaking countries have come together to report, translate and promote blogs and citizen media from all over the world. This article selects the highlights in the coverage of Lusophone countries on Global Voices over the last year.
Portuguese language and culture
In February we covered several blogs that gave voice to their love of the Portuguese language, paying tribute to the great variety of dialects spoken by more than 200 million people worldwide.
In May the newspaper @Verdade, our partner in Mozambique, described Portuguese as a language that is bound up in what it means to be Mozambican.
In its coverage of Timor Leste, Global Voices examined the role of languages in asserting the identity of a country which has 16 national languages and dozens of dialects. Some blogs on Cape Verde also suggested that there are “distinct social functions” for both the language spoken by the people, Crioulo, and the official language, Portuguese.
Online demonstrations brought a more political dimension to bear on this issue, with heated reactions to the proposal for Equatorial Guinea to become a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, despite having a poor track record on human rights.
Brazil: Paths towards Development
In spite of the current global crisis, Brazil is experiencing a period of economic optimism fuelled by domestic consumption. In order to maintain this growth, ongoing development policy in the country has been putting pressure on the environment and human rights.
The Amazon rainforest is seen as potential land for agriculture and as a source of raw materials and energy. Brazil's new forestry code, which regulates the use of the country's forests, has led to concerns and public demonstrations against the encouragement of farming and deforestation. “Green” agribusiness focused on biofuels and the replacement of felled trees with eucalyptus plantations have been shown to be unsustainable practices in both social and environmental terms. The dispute for land provoked by agribusiness led to the killing of activists and indigenous leaders during 2011. Yet Brazil is persisting in exporting its agribusiness model to other countries, such as Mozambique, regardless.
Coverage of events surrounding the Belo Monte Dam certainly caused the greatest outcry this year, uniting environmentalists, indigenous people and Brazilians living alongside the affected rivers. Protests in the immediate area of the dam and in major cities attracted international attention and challenged the human rights policy of Dilma Rousseff's government. This action did not wane after construction of the plant began, but rather took on different forms, including an Occupy protest by the Tupiniquim people and court cases.
Portugal: Crisis, Austerity and Protests
From the “Scraping-by Generation” protest in March to participation in the global protests on 15 October, Portugal has seen its political and economic crisis reach unprecedented proportions in 2011, with the fall of a government and the EU committee coming into the country to effect the financial “rescue” of public debt.
Netizens took to social networks to mobilise action against severe austerity measures and to speak out in opposition to the racket conducted by the rating agencies, but also to gain inspiration from other countries, such as Iceland, on other forms of public participation.
Having launched a page devoted to special coverage of the current situation, Europe in Crisis, in September, Global Voices has acted as a bridge between different languages and has facilitated greater dialogue between outraged citizens from European countries that are suffering similar problems.
Angola: 32 Years in Power sparks Protests
In Angola the sense of revolt against the 32-year government led by José Eduardo dos Santos is becoming increasingly palpable in the streets and on the internet. Protests would have begun in March had the government not been successful in pre-empting them.
In September the police used heavy force to break up a protest, resulting in at least 18 protesters receiving prison sentences. Against all expectations, the movement has regrouped, while the number of citizen reporters in the country is also on the increase.
Video uploaded to the post Angola: Videos of Repressed Youth Protest in Luanda
Internet and the digital culture in Brazil
The fruits of increasingly widespread access to the internet in Brazil were borne out in 2011 by many creative, collective and effective examples of action. One such case was the mobilisation of social networks to take down a paedophile blog, and the call put out on Facebook to join in the unique “Different People's Big Barbeque Protest” in an upscale São Paulo neighbourhood.
The online arena has also been the scene for a number of less auspicious episodes related to digital culture. In January the Ministry of Culture announced that it was abandoning Creative Commons licensing on its site, a blatant step backwards in public policy on the internet and copyright. Shortly afterwards, in March, the same ministry allowed the famous signer Maria Bethânia to raise 1.3 million reais tax-free for the creation of a poetry blog, thereby rousing the ire of bloggers, the twitterati and activists involved in the cultural sphere.
Cases of online censorship continue to crop up and, on occasion, overflow into the non-virtual world, with attacks on bloggers who are critical of the authorities.
In December we became aware of renewed death threats made against Ricardo Gama, who blogs against cases of the abuse of power and other irregularities by the Brazilian police. Gama had already been shot in an attack in Rio de Janeiro in March. Towards the end of this year, many were not convinced by the reason of “suicide by hanging” given for the death of Hamilton Alexandre, a controversial blogger from Santa Catarina, and social networks are being used to call for a thorough investigation of the case.
In 2012 we will continue to listen to the stories that are being told by the citizens of the world through the internet, and to amplify them so that they reach a global audience. Our doors are always open to anyone who wants to get involved in what Super magazine earlier this year dubbed “one of the 10 coolest projects on the internet”.