politics of cyberspace
India's government has flooded the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir with troops and cut off internet access upon announcing Aug. 5 the revocation of its constitutionally protected autonomy, and plans to divide the disputed territory into two new political entities with reduced power. Section 144 of India's criminal code, imposing emergency measures, has been instated in the capital Srinagar, and two leading opposition politicians in the territory's legislature, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party, have been placed under house arrest.
Huang Qi, a Chinese journalist and "cyber-dissident," was sentenced July 29 to 12 years in prison for illegally disclosing state secrets abroad. Huang Qi is founder of 64 Tianwang, a Chinese news site that has reported frequently on protests and human rights abuses in the People's Republic. His site has run articles on the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. He supported families in Sichuan in their case against the government for children who died in schoolhouses during the 2008 earthquake there. He reported on Tiananmen Square again in 2013 when a rare demonstration was held there, and in 2014 when a woman tried to self-immolate there to protest the opening of the National People’s Congress. Each of these reports led to prison time for Huang Qi.
Sudan's opposition coalition, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), has renewed its call for the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to hand power to a civilian-led authority, and announced a general strike to press this demand starting July 14. The call was issued a day after the "Millions March" demonstrations of June 30—which again saw security forces firing on protesters, leaving seven dead and more than 180 wounded. The TMC has formed an investigative commission into the June 3 attack on a pro-democracy sit-in outside the army headquarters, in which over a hundred were killed. (Sudan Tribune, Al Jazeera)
The European Council announced June 19 that it has approved the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA), both to be formally signed this week in Hanoi. EVFTA and EVIPA are hailed as the most ambitious agreements concluded between the EU and a developing country. Under EVFTA, upwards of 99% of tariffs on goods from both sides will be lifted. (Asia News Network, June 26) The deals were approved just two weeks after a Vietnamese environmental activist was sentenced to six years in prison for "anti-state" Facebook posts. Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a shrimp farming engineer, is accused of writing posts that urged people to take part in peaceful protests in June over corporate pollution. The posts especially noted the Formosa Plastics disaster in 2016, in which a Taiwanese-owned steel plant dumped toxic waste into the ocean off the coast of central Vietnam, killing millions of fish. Vietnam's government has accused Facebook of violating a draconian new cybersecurity law that came into effect in January by allowing the posts. (The Guardian, June 7)
Yevhen Karakashev, a 41-year-old left-wing activist from Yevpatoria in Russian-annexed Crimea, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian court on April 19, with the charges based solely on years-old private messages on the social-media network VKontakte. Russia's FSB security agency claimed that the posts fell under Article 205.2 of the Russian criminal code, which imposes penalties for "public calls to carry out terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism." The sentence was three years less than that demanded by the prosecutor, and also includes limits on Karakashev's online activities for two years after his release. Russia's independent Memorial Human Rights Center stated that there is a strong likelihood "the criminal proceedings against Yevhen Karakashev were initiated in the context of his opposition civic and political activities as a frequent participant in protests in Crimea." They view this as part of a mounting attack on left-wing activists and anti-fascists in Russia since January 2018.
After claiming responsibility for the Easter Sunday bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed over 320 people, ISIS has released a photo and video of the supposed mastermind of the attack and other of the alleged suicide bombers. The video and the photo released through the terrorist network's Amaq News Agency purport to show the Sri Lankan militants pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his presence. (Colombo Page) Sri Lankan authorities had named a little-known militant group called National Thowheeth Jama'ath as behind the attacks—a name roughly translated as "group in the name of the oneness of God." Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that his security services had been tipped off that the group was planning attacks, admitting that the "information was there." (Al Jazeera, Gulf News, Time)
In Episode 31 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg documents the ugly far-right politics of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and how the 2010 document dump risked the lives of dissidents under authoritarian regimes in places like Zimbabwe—and may have constituted outright collaboration with the repressive dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. An objective reading of the circumstances around the 2016 Wikileaks dump of Democratic Party e-mails reveals Assange as a Kremlin asset and Trump collaborator, an active agent in a Russian-lubricated effort to throw the US elections—part of Putin's grander design to impose a fascist world order. Weinberg also notes that the ACLU and Committee to Protect Journalists have issued statements warning that the charges against Assange may pose a threat to press freedom. But he argues that even if we must protest his prosecution, we should do so while refraining from glorifying Assange—and, indeed, while forthrightly repudiating him as a dangerous political enemy of all progressive values. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
In Episode 30 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg decries the unseemly gloating from the (totally predictable) Glen Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and their ilk over the Mueller Report's supposed (not actual) exoneration of Donald Trump. The report actually backs up the 2016 findings of the intelligence community that there was Russian meddling in the eleciton. There have been over 100 indictments issued by Mueller's team, including for lying to Congress about meetings between Trump representatives and Russians. Meanwhile, the results of several other invesitgations and legal cases against Trump and his team remain pending. Yet paradoxical pro-Trump "leftists" ignore all this and echo the intepretation of the Mueller Report put forth by Attorney General William Barr—who was appointed by Trump precisely to protect his ass. Repudiating this Red-Brown pseudo-left jive that abets Trump's lies, Weinberg joins with the ACLU and Robert Reich in calling for the complete and unredacted release of the Mueller Report. And hopefully using its contents to build a mass militant movement such as was seen in South Korea in 2016, to demand the impeachment of the president—or even nullification of the tainted election that brought him to power. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.