The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh examines the Bush administration’s desire to deal militarily with Iran.
That’s quite a “legacy” for George W. Bush.
Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help corporations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local community forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.
What emerges through Loewenstein’s reporting is a dark history of multinational corporations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valuable commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.
The Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information reports on yet another example of apartheid Israel:
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information “ANHRI.Net”condemns the detention of Palestinian Journalist Mohammad Omer Mughir by Israeli Occupation Forces. Muhammad was detained, assaulted and interrogated on June 27th upon his return to Gaza after receiving the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. The young journalist returned to Gaza from the London ceremony and was subsequently seized and detained by the Israeli Military for several hours. During his detention he was assaulted, stripped, beaten, and interrogated about his trip to London and about the press award, which he received.
The international prize was awarded to Muhammad Omer Mughir for a series of newspaper articles that have portrayed the suffering of Palestinians under the current Israeli economic blockade of Gaza and the ongoing military occupation. Muhammad also wrote about his past detention at “Jesser El-Nabi” and how he has been targeted daily by Israeli Occupation Forces because of his journalism. The Martha Gellhorn prize for Journalism was established in 1999 by the wife of the late writer Ernest Hemingway, and honors journalists who give “a view from the ground” of world issues and conflicts.
The joint winner of the prize was leading independent journalist Dahr Jamail.
I’ve met countless bloggers and writers from around the world at the Global Voices Citizen Summit 2008 in Budapest.
One, Kristen Taylor, works at the Miami-based Knight Foundation, a sponsor of the event. Her blog post, Rock and Roll Dreams Come True, features a beautiful photo essay about a particular American phenomenon.
Around 200 people from every corner of the globe have gathered here in Hungary. I’ll be writing much more over the coming days and weeks about the event, but it’s been fascinating to discuss online censorship issues with activists from Belarus, Kenya, Iran, Egypt and many others.
The sense of community is something to behold and despite our many differences there is a belief that overcoming filtering and human rights abuses is universal.
This is something to happen both online and in the real world.
Since it went into effect last week, at least eight violations of the new ceasefire agreement with Hamas and the Palestinian factions have been recorded, a UN source told Ynet on Thursday. According to the source, seven violations were committed by the IDF, while the Palestinians are responsible for just one.
I gave the following speech at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2008 in Budapest today:
NGO’s and on-the ground activists: Defending the Voices
How can NGOs seeking to advance freedom of expression most effectively work with on-the-ground free speech activists to combat censorship?
As a journalist, author and blogger living in Sydney, Australia, the opportunity to be involved in this Global Voices event is a privilege. I thank the organisers for the opportunity.
My country may be a democracy of sorts, but internet censorship is a creeping problem in every country of the globe, including my own. Late last year, with new Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd just elected after more than a decade of conservative rule under John Howard, the government announced measures to supposedly offer greater protection to children from online pornography and violent websites. Similar ideas have been implemented in France and proposed in Scandinavia.
Australia’s Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy said in December: “Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation of the internet is like going down the Chinese road. If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree.”
Conroy said that anybody wanting to opt of the system, to be implemented by ISPs, would have to notify authorities.
The system has not yet been imposed, but NGOs, web companies and free speech advocates have been loudly campaigning against the moves, arguing that the plan would cripple the already slow speed of broadband in Australia.
The high-profile NGO, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), issued a blistering press release in response to the proposal and motivated the local blogosphere to quickly mobilise its resources, namely online noise, writing letters to government ministers and the media. The statement read, in part:
“Australia is supposed to be a liberal democracy where adults have the freedom to say and read what they want, not just what the Government decides is ‘appropriate’ for them. These announcements smack of the condescending paternalism which contributed to the downfall of the Howard government. The proposals threaten the free speech rights of every Australian, and our concerns will not be silenced by Government sound bites equating free speech with access to child pornography.”
It continued: “EFA has previously raised concerns about Australia joining North Korea, China and Burma in the club of nations who censor their citizens’ access to the internet. While the Minister makes no apologies for this alarming development, he has given us little reason to put our faith in his bureaucrats to administer such a system competently, transparently and fairly. Who decides what is ‘appropriate’ for adult Australians to read on the internet, and according to what standards? What will happen if the Government decides that information about abortion or gay marriage is ‘inappropriate’ at the behest of [Christian conservative] Family First Senator Steve Fielding?”
Stephen Dalby, chief regulatory officer with Australian ISP company iiNet, said in mid-June: “This whole notion of taking a technological solution to what is otherwise a social issue really has some problems…Our only concern is that the government may push this through, raise their hands and say ‘right, we’ve done something about it.’ Let’s hope there’s some sincerity in looking at fixing the community problems associated with this more intently.”
That may be wishful thinking. Equally concerning is the lack of transparency about which websites will be blocked. I’m less concerned about filtering child pornography than websites that allegedly celebrate violence or terrorism. Does this mean, for example, that the website for the Palestinian group Hamas may be censored because the US and many Western countries regard them as terrorists? Likewise with Hizbollah or even al-Qaeda? Do we not have the right to view information that some people may find offensive but a free society should both tolerate and protect? Sadly, censorship is no longer just a problem in non-Western nations.
The “war on terror” has emboldened those in Western societies who cloak their censorship under the guise of “protecting” citizens from supposedly harmful online material. As we’ve seen during the Bush administration years, intrusive governments are increasingly willing to legislate what they deem we can and cannot see and watch. Free societies are never truly free and eternal vigilance is essential. A disturbing future is already being imagined for us.
The Former US House speaker, Newt Gingrich, said in 2006 that free speech may have to be curtailed in the fight against terrorism. “Either before we lose a city or, if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city”, he said, “we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the internet…” The authoritarian impulse is alive and well in the West.
Australia’s proposals are likely to be realised before the end of the year, but I suspect some ISPs, though unlikely to ignore the directives, may balk at rules and regulations that are likely to constantly change according to the whims of the day.
We often presume that people who live in a repressive regimes do not want Big Brother deciding their online habits, but a recent study by Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the vast majority of Chinese web-users supported their government controlling and managing the internet. “Our” values are clearly up for discussion and should never be imposed on others. It almost beggars belief that Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently told The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta that he never anticipated repressive regimes would begin imposing internet censorship at the router level. Perhaps he temporarily forgot his own company’s complicity in China’s extensive web filtering. Just who is imposing whose values on whom?
During my travels to various non-democratic countries over the last years, including Cuba, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Sri Lanka, I’ve met countless bloggers, dissidents and NGOs determined to circumvent government censorship, imprisonment or filtering. Most of them are under-funded, often scared of being caught and looking for international solidarity. Just being heard is half the battle. I was highly conscious in nations such as Iran, China and Cuba that talking to a Western journalist could endanger a blogger or activist.
My forthcoming book, The Blogging Revolution, gives voice to a world still largely ignored in the Western media. For me as a journalist, one of the key things we can do, with the assistance of like-minded NGOs, is allow bloggers to speak for themselves and not automatically classify them as suspect, non-English speakers. For example, in Australia, more than five years after the start of the Iraq war, Iraqi voices are still virtually ignored. It is as if only Westerners, usually middle-age men, have the right to speak for the occupied people.
NGOs should work with news organizations and reporters to educate a Western media that remains highly suspicious of bloggers and the apparent inability to check their credentials. I regularly encounter editors in Australia and overseas who question my use of blogger quotes but don’t look twice if a government official is cited. This is gradually changing but remains mired in conservative, so-called objective reporting rules. NGOs can help in this transition to a more responsive and worldly kind of networked journalism.
I’m currently working with Amnesty International Australia on its China campaign in this Olympic year. Its Uncensor website aims to highlight the extensive use of internet repression in China and hook into growing concerns in Australia and elsewhere over the country’s human rights abuses. Amnesty has hosted many “Tear Down the Great Firewall of China” events across the country, giving citizens the opportunity to learn the ways in which Western multinationals are assisting web repression.
The Uncensor website highlights the cases of well-known imprisoned Chinese activists and displays real-time examples of what internet searches, such as Tiananmen Square and 1989 Democratic Movement, look like inside China. The campaign has generated solid media coverage. Chinese activists in Australia, with many contacts back home, also write regularly about the mood on the streets in Beijing, Shanghai and beyond.
After Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd admirably told students in Mandarin at Peking University in April that, “we…believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problem in Tibet”, public opinion firmly swung behind strong pressure being placed on Beijing and Olympic sponsors. A majority of Australians polled in April favoured the country’s Games’ sponsors speaking out strongly against China’s abuses with four out of ten saying they would be more likely to purchase a product from an outspoken sponsor. Sympathy for the Tibetan cause was paramount and NGOs such as Amnesty are central to keeping the stories of human rights infractions in the media.
One of the central myths that NGOs should counter is the idea that citizens in non-democratic nations are craving American-style democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of the press are central to any modern, democratic state, but embracing unregulated capitalism is not largely welcomed. As John Lee, a fellow at an Australian think-tank, recently wrote about China:
“The rise of an alternative to the Western liberal model of development – the so-called Beijing consensus – has been the unexpected consequence of China’s rise and is proving a difficult ideational challenge for the West. Where once we placed our hopes on the me generation to push for political change, we must now confront the fact that China’s young elites believe working within a one-party state is the better bet for their and the country’s future.”
These realities are arguably more attractive for Western multinationals to enter China and navigate the relatively open regulatory system. A recent report in Business Week magazine highlighted the role of Chinese firms assisting some of these foreign multinationals with the confusing Chinese blogosphere and netizens criticising firms for alleged slights against Chinese culture. The founder of one of these companies, CIC’s Sam Flemming, explained it well: “If it touches on nationalism, or if the client clearly made a mistake and disrespected a customer, that’s dangerous.”
The role of Western NGOs is essential in providing a bridge between on-the-ground activists and a sceptical media back home. Convincing the masses that censorship in, say, Iran, is relevant to the outer suburbs of Sydney, can only be achieved through the internet. The ease with which a web user anywhere in the world can campaign for campaigners in repressive regimes creates both a sense of community and protection, however slight. Online campaigning has exploded around the globe.
I’ve long believed that activism must be mainstreamed to be truly effective, rather than just the concern of a minority. Our job as journalists, activists, NGOs, bloggers or concerned citizens is to bring the stories of the world to a media that welcomes localism and shuns complexity. These rules of the game are ripe for change.
The internet today changed forever:
The Internet’s key oversight agency relaxed rules Thursday to permit the introduction of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new Internet domain names to join “.com,” making the first sweeping changes in the network’s 25-year-old addressing system.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers unanimously approved the new guidelines on the final day of weeklong meetings in Paris. ICANN also was considering a separate proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.
But issues were raised:
Some ICANN board members expressed concerns that the guidelines could turn the organization into a censorship regime, deciding what could be objectionable to someone, somewhere in the world.
“If this is broadly implemented, this recommendation would allow for any government to effectively veto a string that makes it uncomfortable,” said Susan Crawford, a Yale law professor on the board. She voted in favor of the rule changes, but called for more clarity later.
The role of governments in censoring the internet is a problem that’s growing by the day. Frankly, trusting any of them is probably unwise, especially the ones that speak of “democracy” and “rule of law” and preach to others while supporting the most despotic regimes on the planet (hello the US and Britain.)
One blogger loudly dissents today’s ICANN ruling.
Zionist activists beware: Google Earth is a “new platform for anti-Israel propaganda and replacement geography” (if you believe this hardline Jewish group.)
And the reason? “Virtual Israel, as represented by Google Earth, is littered with orange dots, many of which claim to represent ‘Palestinian localities evacuated and destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.’ Thus, Israel is depicted as a state born out of colonial conquest rather than the return of a people from exile.”
Anything to deny the uncontroversial fact that Israel committed ethnic cleansing in 1948.