The Blog — Human Rights
It's easier to congregate on Facebook than on the street in a country where it's illegal to gather in groups of more than five.
That's why activism in Egypt has been happening more online than off, on social networks rather than on the streets. Today, though, the Friday before Sunday's election, the tables briefly turned as activists carried out a flash demonstration dubbed Anger Friday.
Last week, 19-year-old Ahmed Shabaan was allegedly beaten to death by police at the Sidi Gaber police station in Alexandria, Egypt, the same station implicated in the death of Khaled Said last June. Shabaan and a friend were arrested on November 7 after an argument when he refused to be searched by police agents at a checkpoint. His body was found in the Mahmoudia Canal a few day later. Video interviews with Shabaan's family have been spreading around the internet, and new details about Shabaan's death has sparked outrage from Egyptians against police brutality.
When I spoke to Esra’a Al Shafei last summer about her efforts to generate international outcry for Kareem Amer, an Egyptian blogger and student who was imprisoned and sentenced to four years jail time for a blog post expressing criticism of Islam, one of the lessons she mentioned having learned was the importance of always coming up with new tactics to make an impact. This weekend, Esra’a is heeding her own advice by launching the “How Much for the Blogger” campaign, which asks campaigners to take on roles as negotiators in Kareem's release.
The number of internet users in Vietnam grows daily as more individuals gain access to the web. At the same time, the Communist Party of Vietnam has stepped up its efforts to squash online dissent and suppress the voices of citizens sharing their views on hot button issues like bauxite mining and territorial disputes with China. Dozens of activists and bloggers have been harassed and arrested. In this report, learn more about how the state is trying to control online content, how netizens are reacting, and what the future holds for digital activists in Vietnam.
From Free Mohamed Soudani Facebook Group One Year After His Arrest, Tunisian Activist Still in Legal Limbo
Exactly a year ago, on October 22nd, 2009, the Tunisian activist Mohamed Soudani disappeared after meeting with two French journalists. He spoke to them about getting expelled from Tunisian university and barred from continuing his studies at any of the country's public universities because of his involvement with an activist group. Unfortunately for Mohamed, these interviews coincided with the electoral campaign in Tunisia, which meant that the government was already harassing, arresting and jailing students, journalists and bloggers, human rights activists, and political dissidents. For about 20 days, no one knew Mohamed's location.
Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace prize, awarded one week ago, has stirred up a whirlwind of chatter in China and elsewhere around the world. Liu, the renowned literary critic, writer, and political activist, was detained in December of 2008 for coauthoring Charter 08, a manifesto that openly challenged the Communist regime and called for a new constitution. He was formally sentenced to prison in 2009, and remains there for “inciting subversion of state power.” Liu has served several previous terms in prison, including one for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Liu’s Nobel has heated up a long-standing debate about the future trajectory of political reform in China. With or without the prize, many in China recognize the need for reform; the question has been how that reform should take place. Reactions to the news reflect the ferocity of this debate.
This post is part of an ongoing series where we feature the work of activists in the AYM community—in their own words. Janessa Goldbeck has been a part of the AYM network since the beginning and is the field director for the Genocide Intervention Network.
A hundred rebuttals to Malcolm Gladwell's piece declaring social media a relatively useless mass of "weak ties" have already been written. But given his affection for anecdotal evidence, I thought I'd provide some of my own, based on events that unfolded this week. Yesterday evening, concerned about the upcoming referendum in Sudan and its potential to reignite a civil war there, our online networks came alive to flood a town hall meeting featuring President Barack Obama with questions about Sudan, via Twitter. Driven by students who are a part of STAND, the student-led division of Genocide Intervention Network, more than 250 people tweeted 770 Sudan questions at the President in less than 24 hours using the hashtag #askSudan.
From Flickr User k-ideas Chinese Dissident Wins the Nobel: What Does It Mean for the Political Reform Movement?
Early this morning news broke that Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace Prize for "his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." Xiaobo was initially arrested in 1989 after staging a hunger strike at the Tiananmen Square protests and was most recently put in jail for circulating an internet petition, known as Charter 08, which calls for democratic political reform in China. Because Xiaobo has no access to a telephone in his prison cell, it is likely that he has not yet heard the news.
"What does it say about a country if its greatest writer and thinker is in prison?” asked Nick Kristof on Facebook when the news broke. Another question might be, how does the hoisting into the spotlight of one of China's most well-known (and most punished) dissidents bode for the nation's political reform movement? So far, it seems as if the event is causing the government to crack down further on freedom of speech.
In Egypt, the strategic use of social media platforms has brought new life to campaigns bringing attention to social and political issues. How are platforms like Facebook and blogs amplifying activists' voices and mobilizing Egyptians to the streets? We've put together an update on protest campaigns in the country.
Iranian/Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, imprisoned since 2008, has been sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison. This is the harshest punishment that an Iranian blogger has ever received.