politics of cyberspace
Shelling in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk left two dead Sept. 17, despite a ceasefire and a law passed by Kiev's parliament a day earlier granting greater autonomy to the country's east. Fighting centered on the city's airport, which remains in government hands, with nearby neighborhoods caught in the crossfire. Civilian casualties have continued to rise since the supposed ceasefire, adding to the estimated 3,000 people killed in the conflict so far. (The Independent, Sept. 17) In an asburd irony little noted by the world media, as Vladiimir Putin backs the brutal "People's Republics" (sic) in eastern Ukraine, he has cracked down on a separatist movement that has emerged in Siberia. Last month, when the Ukraine crisis was at a peak, Russian authorities banned a Siberian independence march and took hrash measures to prevent the media from even reporting it—threatening to block the BBC Russian service over its coverage of the movement. BBC's offense was an interview with Artyom Loskutov, an organizer of the "March for Siberian Federalization," planned for Aug. 17 in Novosibirsk, The Guardian reported.
An Israeli court on Aug. 29 extended the detention of a Palestinian activist who was detained for political activities on Facebook for a week, a Ma'an News Agency reporter said. An Israeli court in Petah Tikva extended the detention of Suhaib Zahida, 31, until Sept. 4, after he was arrested on Aug. 28 for creating a page on Facebook called "Intifada of Hebron," in addition to leading a campaign for the boycott of Israeli products. Zahida had previously participated in several nonviolent campaigns opposing the Israeli occupation and was an active member of groups working to oppose the recruitment of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the Israeli military. Palestinians inside Israel have been previously detained for short periods of time and questioned regarding their political activities on Facebook, but such arrests rarely occur in the West Bank. In October, Israeli authorities arrested Palestinian citizen of Israel Razi al-Nabulsi, 23, for a week as a result of Facebook posts they argued constituted "incitement."
The lefty Common Dreams website claims to have conducted an investigation revealing that "more than a thousand" anti-Semitic comments posted to the site over the past two years "were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website's discussion of issues involving Israel." In an "intricate campaign"—which he supposedly admitted to Common Dreams, although his name was not revealed—the busy crypto-scribe posted comments under the screen name "JewishProgressive," whose purpose was to draw attention to the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under various other screen names. If it all really was one guy, he certainly has a sharp ear. In response to JewishProgressive's complaints, his alter-egos responded with such gems as: "Oy vey! Cry me a river, you Talmudic parasite. Direct your criticism at your sociopathic tribe of money-grubbers, warmongers, and land thieves." And: "There are reasons beyond mere 'anti-Semitism' why these people were kicked out of 109 countries. You don't elicit that degree of anger and hostility from host populations without significantly contributing to the problem through your antisocial, predatory behavior." And, apparently fearing that readers might be getting wise, he had one of his own characters speculate that the Jew-hating posts were an "elaborate Hasbara setup." The deceitful trolling is said to have cost Common Dreams much money in donations. The ruse was uncovered by comparing the IP addresses of posters.
From October 2009 to some time in 2011 the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored a program that paid almost a dozen youths from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela to travel to Cuba in order to obtain intelligence information and identify potential government opponents among students and other youths, according to an investigation that the Associated Press (AP) wire service published on Aug. 4. The revelation comes four months after AP reported on the agency's ZunZuneo "Cuban Twitter" program. Like ZunZuneo, the program employed the Washington, DC-based private contractor Creative Associates International for operations. Analysts said these revelations indicate that the US is losing interest in the older generation of Cuban dissidents and is trying to develop opposition among younger Cubans.
Kuwait's Supreme Court on July 12 upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a man accused of posting Tweets that insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Hamad al-Naqi, a 24-year-old member of Kuwait's Shiite minority, was also found guilty of spreading false news that undermined Kuwait's image abroad. The Supreme Court's decision is final and can only be commuted by the Kuwaiti Emir. An appeals court affirmed al-Naqi's sentence in October. The result drew criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which condemned the decision as a "violat[ion of] international standards on freedom of expression." He has been in prison since his arrest in March 2012, and was originally sentenced in June 2012. Al-Naqi has maintained his innocence, arguing that his Twitter account was hacked.
An Ethiopian court on July 18 charged nine journalists with terrorism and inciting violence under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law (PDF). The journalists, including six bloggers, were arrested in April and have been prevented from accessing their families or legal counsel since their arrests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since the implementation of the anti-terrorism law in 2009, Ethiopian authorities have used it as a tool to limit journalism critical of the government. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly called upon the Ethiopian government to repeal the law, alleging that the government stifles the establishment of new media publications.
A Buddhist mob attacked Muslims in Burma's second city of Mandalay July 2, damaging a mosque and Muslim-owned shops and leaving at least five injured. Police fired warning shots to disperse the mob of some 300 Buddhists, including a contingent of about 30 monks on motorbikes. The conflagration apparently began after rumors were aired on Facebook that a Buddhist domestic worker had been raped by her Muslim employers. More than a thousand police officers have been deployed in central Mandalay. (OnIslam, The Irrawady, Democratic Voice of Burma, July 2)
The ISIS militants that have seized Iraq's northern city of Mosul have, not surprisingly, been engaging in a campaign of cultural cleansing—targeting not only the city's inhabitants, but its artistic and historical treasures. Religious buildings, cemeteries and public art have been destroyed or defaced, witnesses say. Among the destroyed works are sculptures of 19th-century musician and composer Osman al-Muesli and Abbasid-era poet Abu Tammam. The grave of Ibn Athir, a philosopher and chronicler who travelled with Saladin during the 12th century, is also reported destroyed. ISIS consider visiting religious sites to be idol worship, and have also destroyed many shrines and other ancient buildings in Syria. A jizya tax has been imposed on the city's Christian population, but most of the area's Christians—some 160 families—fled before the ISIS advance. (Aydinlik, Turkey, June 21)