politics of cyberspace

WikiLeaks abetting worldwide fascist take-over

We know we're going to be accused of alarmism, but please follow the logic. First, however self-serving it may be, the accusation of a Russian intelligence hand in the WikiLeaks dump of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee is plausible. Famously, the e-mails reveal DNC staffers pulling for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, prompting the resignation of the supposedly neutral body's chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The DNC had apparently been hit by Russian hackers, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook is now openly charging that Moscow is trying to boost Donald Trump.

China: victory for anti-pollution protesters

The mayor of Xiantao in central China's Hubei province announced suspension of a waste incinerator project after a wave of protests—but residents continue to take to the streets in defiance of authorities. Mayor Zhou Wenxia in a rare public address announcing the suspension June 26 urged residents not to attend "illegal gatherings" or engage in "irrational actions." Some 10,000 people nonetheless filled the streets. Protests have conintued since then, with several injured in clashes with riot police. Authorities have flooded Xiantao with riot troops and placed restrictions on use of instant messaging and the Internet to organize "illegal gatherings" and demonstrations.

Hong Kong: 'localists' boycott Tiananmen vigil

The annual Hong Kong vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre took place June 4 amid a split, with the city's biggest student union boycotting. The Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) broke from the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, to emphasize a "localist" position. An estimated 125,000 attended the vigil in Victoria Park, compared to 135,000 last year. Disturbingly, a localist protester even rushed the stage at the event, seizing a microphone to exhort: "We don't want a democratic China, we want Hong Kong independence!"

Egypt: journalists' union head on trial

An Egyptian court on June 4 began the trial of a journalist union leader as well as two board members who were charged with spreading false news and harboring wanted reporters. About a month prior, union leader Yahya Qalash denounced authorities for the arrest of two protesting journalists who sought refuge in the headquarters of the union, known as the Press Syndicate. (The two were wanted for online comments opposing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and allegedly calling for a "coup.") Though Qalash initially called for the interior minister's resignation and a presidential apology, he withdrew his comments later to defuse tensions. Amnesty International has publicly opposed the trial, accusing the government of cracking down on the freedom of expression and creating a "state of fear." The defendants have requested postponement and will continue the hearing later this month.

China: lawyer detained for post mocking president

Ge Yongxi, a civil rights defense lawyer, was detained and released April 15 by Chinese authorities for posts on social media that "poked fun" at President Xi Jinping in relation to the Panama Papers. The president's brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, was named—along with a handful of elite Chinese citizens—in the data leak from a Panamanian law firm that exposed offshore accounts held by prominent politicians and others across the globe. Information about the Panama Papers has been censored across China with websites in that country "forbidden" from publishing material about the subject. Ge was also detained 10 months ago and questioned by authorities for being involved in a lawyers' rights movement.

Saudi Arabia: five years for tweeting

Amnesty International on March 25 expressed concern over the conviction of journalist Alaa Brinji by the Saudi Arabian Specialized Criminal Court. Alaa Brinji has been in detention since May 2014 and has not been allowed access to a lawyer. He was convicted this week on charges of insulting the rulers of the country, inciting public opinion, accusing security officers of killing protestors, ridiculing Islamic religious figures and violating the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. All of the charges are based on tweets by Alaa Brinji expressing oppositional views. Some of of the tweets expressed support for women's rights, human rights defenders, and prisoners of conscience. The sentence includes five years in prison, an eight-year travel ban, and a heavy fine. The court also ordered that his Twitter account be closed. In its press release, Amnesty called Alaa Brinji "a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully expressing his views." AI has called for his release, and urged Saudi Arabia to take accountability for "its gross and systematic violations of human rights."

Is Obama really helping Cuban dissidents?

Just hours before Obama arrived in Cuba March 20 for the historic first visit by a US president since the 1959 revolution, a pro-democracy march was broken up in Havana, with over 50 detained. (Havana Times) Among those arrested was the famous activist graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, nicknamed "El Sexto," who according to the New York Times had increased pressure on the regime to open democratic space in the preceding days by streaming live broadcasts from the newly unveiled wifi spots around Havana. Activists whose hopes had been raised both by reconciliation with the US and the regime's recent moves to allow greater Internet access were disappointed by the repression. "We thought there would be a truce, but it wasn't to be," Elizardo Sánchez, who heads the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, told the NY Times.

Erdogan exploits terror wave —of course

The mounting terror campaign in Turkey just scored its latest entry with a suicide attack in a busy shopping area of Istanbul that killed at least four and injured some 35. It was probably just a happy coincidence for the perpetrators that the dead include two Israelis with dual US nationality and an Iranian. (BBC News, March 19) This comes five days after a deadly terror blast in Ankara—that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed on Kurdish militants, despite no claim of responsibility and a modus operandi that points instead to the jihadists that he is conniving with in Syria. Just a day before the new Istanbul blast, Erdogan raised the stakes by warning that Europe could be targeted next...

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