INFORMATION CENTRE AND ANALYSIS OF CHIAPAS (CIACH)

The magazine Palabra Created in the mid-eighties in the South East of Mexico, CIACH publishes a monthly magazine La Palabra broadcast in the indigenous rural communities, it organizes discussions in communities and also disseminates information on the Net. Ostensibly, even if no contact directly with the Zapatista rebellion, the CIACH supports its claims and participates in the process of asserting political, cultural and social Indians. He maintains regular contact and association with the”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. A commitment to it being now a target of the authorities in the tense situation in Chiapas.

  • The role of CIACH
  • Indian rights
  • Resumen Informativo
  • Palabra the Internet
  • With civil society
  • Funding and perspectives
  • Contact

The role of CIACH

Located almost at the end of the long narrow street Flavio Paniagua as far back from the main avenue that connects the Parque Central in San Cristobal de Las Casas in his local market of India, the current offices of CIACH are both close and back to the center of the city… Close enough not to feel too far away from the heart of the colonial city around key locations that ensures the future of the region, far enough away as to enjoy a certain peace of mind essential to the work.

In What made ​​these offices the monthly La Palabra (speech), distributed in thirty municipalities of the State of Chiapas in the central region of Altos around the colonial city and tourist center of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in La Selva and valleys where now lives a large part of the Mayan Indian population, and the north of the state.”In recent years, information has become a strategic area for the government and the army, says Elizabeth Polito Barrios, head of CIACH. More than ever, they intend to control it. As long as in the source distribution. They have their own version of the current state and they impose by whatever means. This ensures the”loyalty” of the major media – newspapers, radio and television – but also, and even worse, by intimidating the independent media that do not comply.” In short, the Centre has an independent certainly not the favor of the authorities, like many other actors of civil society Chiapas. The CIACH is defined as”a media open to the outside and serving the people and Indian and peasant organizations in the region”. It’s objectives? Informed of what’s really going on in Chiapas, “bringing in communities and grassroots elements that help in the analysis of reality” and “help raise people’s participation in making decisions that concern”. The government has the will to suppress the attempts to change data in the region. In particular, when they come from the Indian communities themselves. All independent organizations that want to give voice to the excluded are viewed by the government as obstacles to be swept or accused of all evils. Evidenced by the smear campaigns that the organizations most claims have been victims in the media when it is not harassment or even open repression…

Modestly but continuously, with ups and downs, the work of CIACH is therefore to cope. To participate, against all odds and from his work on information, self-organization of rural Indian communities and the articulation of popular movements independent. Meetings for analysis and discussion are organized in villages or with representatives of farmers’ organizations, or Indian human rights. From the themes developed in La Palabra – land distribution, marketing of coffee, elections, etc.. – And experience that each organization or individual can have, participants try to understand their social, political and economic and increase their ability to act on it.

Indian rights

The situation is not rosy every day for the campesinos (peasants) in Chiapas, especially for Mayan Indians, the majority in this part of the state where the work CIACH. Majority but obviously forgotten in the distribution of wealth in the region. And, for more than five hundred years! Very rich in natural resources (wood, oil, water, livestock, tourism…), the Chiapas only benefits a minority of Chiapas braced on their privileges. Today, however, following the Zapatista uprising of 1994 and despite the impasse in the peace process and the deterioration of the situation that tends to prevail, most of the Indians of this region of Mexico continue to brag their “Ya basta!” (that’s enough!).”Earth, education, food, health, shelter, freedom, democracy, justice… that’s what we were refused, that is what we demand.”

In 1985, when the center was established, its leaders had first intended to coordinate efforts in the field of information from many sectors of society in turmoil. Teachers, peasant movements, indigenous associations, students… each group at the time realized its own newsletter. All with the same goal: to circulate among the members an alternative to the official version information and prevent almost systematic repression suffered by independent organizations. These bulletins were still by force of circumstances sectoral and geographically limited. Students from San Cristobal had their own magazine and were the main players, the peasants of the northeast of the state not only by them spoke to the press releases sent, etc.. The CIACH was then formed with the idea to provide each organization a common space of expression and information, where one could find information on all the players and where the links between them would be favored…

The first steps were laborious. Without a lot of ways, the few volunteers began to buy, read, codify and classify systematically all the newspapers and news magazines sold in Chiapas. Besides the specific contribution of each of the independent organizations in the region, information was gathered and made available to all popular sectors of Chiapas, organized outside government institutions.

Resumen Informativo

Soon, however, was felt the need to publish this information in order to increase accessibility. Thus was born the first publication of CIACH the”Resumen Informativo” (Summary Information), a monthly manageable than fifty pages printed in a thousand copies, sold or distributed within a large network of grassroots organizations more or less Consolidated: peasant and indigenous organizations, such as the Central Independiente de Campesinos y Obreros Agricolas (CIOAC), the Union of Unions”are Pajala Kactic”, the Committee Defensa de la Libertad Indigena (CDLI), the Consejo of indigenous representatives in Los Altos de Chiapas (CRIACH )…, teacher union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación…), sector workers of hydroelectric power, student associations, promoters or” Pastoral” of the Catholic Church in the diocese of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, development NGOs or human rights organizations, research centers, etc..

The edition of Resumen Informativo was divided into eight parts, each them with a descriptive summary of the facts of the past month in one of eight areas of social life in Chiapas. The current agricultural union, urban, educational, political, economic and religious there was treated in detail in conjunction with events related to the Mexican border with Central America and the lives of Guatemalan refugees in Chiapas. The opportunity therefore for managers or members of many grassroots organizations to learn from information previously inaccessible due to cost, distance and lack of independence of the mainstream media…

Each new issue of Resumen Informativo was also an opportunity for readers to”take stock of the ins and outs of the news of the region and establish links between different issues”. And it is precisely to emphasize this aspect of his work, along with business writing and editing, CIACH organized from the beginning, periodic workshops and decentralized to”regional scan” for all the popular actors of social life in Chiapas. Workshops, to ensure the”memory”, also came out on a new quarterly publication:”The Review of Regional Workshops trends”.

In the early nineties, against a backdrop of economic crisis and a reflux movement social area facing repression, CIACH experienced a slump of three to four years and went to cease operations of writing and editing. Only continued to be provided by a team employee, but now reduced to a minimum, the job classification of information and maintaining the center.

Palabra the Internet

Today, CIACH found a high level of activity. The interest aroused by the news of Chiapas and the future of the Zapatista rebellion abroad brought him new ways. And, more than ever, information literacy is one of the central issues of the imbroglio Chiapas, both in rural than in urban India and the rest of Mexico. The monthly Resumen Informativo the eighties has been replaced by La Palabra, shorter, more illustrated than its predecessor and still pulled a few thousand copies. Next to this periodical, the CIACH publishes from time to time, on its own initiative or on a proposal from the outside, various documents: a detailed chronology of the conflict in 1998, full text of the agreements on indigenous rights signed by the government and the Zapatista rebellion in 1996, assessing the impact of Chiapas in the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), selection of news of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), etc..

Since 1996, the daily information, and analysis of cross CIACH is only intended only to residents of Chiapas. It is now the turn of Mexico or the world via the Internet.”It is also a way for us to qualify the idyllic image of the country that the government intends to promote outside our borders, confirms Elizabeth Polito Barrios. Many groups in Mexico and elsewhere are demanding of our synthesis and use it to weigh on some international decisions that affect the field. They also denounce their government to human rights violations which are daily victims in favor of the Indians Zapatista rebellion: intimidation, imprisonment, militarization, repression… These actions are very important to us.” They are about two thousand correspondents to receive direct or indirect in the world of synthesis CIACH – daily or weekly – via e-mail. In early 1999, a web page was opened on the Internet and allows permanent access to the information collected.

With civil society

The current activities of CIACH and its links with civil society in Chiapas vary the rhythm of the news. From early 1994, when the Zapatista Indian uprising in late 1996, when the suspension of negotiations between insurgents and authorities, the CIACH was an active member of the Coordination of civil associations in Chiapas for Peace (CONPAZ). Essentially representative of an urban population tends to favor the Chiapas indigenous rebellion and order to ensure a political solution to the conflict by peaceful means, the CONPAZ touched all areas dear to its members: humanitarian assistance to indigenous communities displaced by the conflict, community development projects in the rebel regions, organization of Indian women to voice their demands equality, etc…

Thanks to the means of international solidarity, important in the early years of the uprising, the CONPAZ also provides Much of the work of logistics related to different phases of the negotiation process between Zapatistas and government: accreditation of observers from civil society, protection of the delegation of the EZLN, oganisation of human chains (“cinturón los de la paz” ) as security cordons around the table of the negotiations…

Within the CONPAZ, staff CIACH specifically assumed responsibility for the work of information in pursuing its usual work of writing and editing, but also taking into support relations with the press. The CONPAZ but did not survive. Subject to internal wrangling over the distance to be against the leaders of the rebellion, a victim of its success, the news knocked and redoubled the curiosity of the authorities, the association, upon dissolution, gave way to to Other attempts at coordination point.

Today, CIACH regular contact with the association”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. On the occasion of the various elections in Chiapas (July 1997 parliamentary, municipal, October 1998), the CIACH also serves as a relay to the association”Alianza Civica”, specializing in the observation of elections and the reporting of irregularities within communities. Past two years, the staff of the Information Centre has also participated in the Commission’s efforts for community reconciliation (CORECO) which includes, besides the Centre, an organization of human rights, NGO development and Alianza Civica. The goal is to resolve conflicts within and between communities that divide the natives. Work is being done by the verbal confrontation between opposing parties and a flat common causes of social and political divisions.

Funding and perspectives

The problem of the functioning of CIACH remains crucial. The team needs resources to ensure its daily editorial (salaries, office rent…), purchase and maintenance of equipment, but also for printing the numbers La Palabra, dissemination and their discussion within organizations and independent villages of Chiapas.”At the moment, even if our international correspondents and local associations who can pay us in exchange for the palabra or information that we provide, our aim in the short term can not be profitability, says one member. If at the beginning, we have benefited from the logistical support of any local organization, today we depend almost exclusively on subsidies from foreign NGOs, Canada and Belgium… The urgency for us is the strength, peace in Chiapas, the improvement of living conditions of Indians and their participation in democracy building. Otherwise, we will see. I do not know of any independent media that have reached break even…”

Financially, it is clear that the CIACH directly benefits from the attention generated beyond the borders of Mexico by the news of Chiapas. But it could also be the victim. While in the past, there was no plethora of initiatives in the field of activity covered by the CIACH, the current conflict between the federal army and the Zapatista rebellion has attracted a lot of people in the south- is Mexican, many journalists and social workers… with their own projects in information. The result is confusion among the initiatives in the presence and, consequently, the potential weakening of CIACH. Its members know and are aware of the benefit that could draw the authorities. Fragile and financially dependent on the outside, the Centre has however decided to continue its choice: retain its independence vis-à-vis government authorities but also vis-à-vis the EZLN, and continue its”information work in favor of popular demands for Chiapas Mexico and a fairer, freer and more democratic.”

Bernard Duterme

Journalist and sociologist, he is currently responsible for relations with Mexico and Latin America within the NGO and Brotherhood Mutual. Author of”Indians and Zapatista. Myths and Realities of a rebellion on borrowed time” (1998).

Contact

CIACH – Centro de Informacion y Analisis de Chiapas, AC
Calle Comitan 6-B, El Barrio Cerrill
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas – Mexico
Tel / fax (967) 813-64. ciach@laneta.apc.org

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Most where expecting this move, and many suggested the internet search giant had little option – however it will have long term impact on the future of the internet.

The reason Google is closing down it’s Spanish News site is a new law that is shortly to be introduced. The Spanish will implement the new intellectual property law in January of next year. It will allow anyone to charge services like Google News for using their content if it’s used on their site.

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This of course would be impossible for Google News to run in it’s current format. The search engine almost entirely consists of snippets taken from thousands of sites across the internet. The service searches Spanish publications in building it’s News result listings.

One of the problems is that Google News doesn’t actually make a profit. It’s one of the few services Google runs without covering in adverts so there’s no direct income generated to pay such potentially large costs.

Although few would argue with the ideals about the law, in practice it takes little account of how these sorts of services are run. Much of the internet consists of republished content, especially in the news sector also these sites generate huge amounts of content for the original publisher.

Some German sites tried to protect their original work by blocking Google from using their content, which is perfectly acceptable to do within the Google News Framework. However every site suffered huge traffic falls, which shows how dependent most sites are on the search engine giant. The reality is that most sites benefit from the huge exposure Google gives to these sites, with proper citations at least sites gain readers directly from the Google News service.

This is the fundamental problem about how this issue is being tackled. Google may be using other people’s content to populate it’s listings but the reality is most of these firms are completely dependent on the traffic they receive in turn. As one of the German publishers explained that it would have been commercial suicide for them to stop Google syndicating their content whatever the moral position.

The internet is going through a huge change and decisions like this will have a huge impact on the future. Already the biggest internet companies are effecting how we use the net, for example the practice of geo-location is becoming much more widespread. This is where a web site decides what you can see depending on your location. Which is why I can’t watch Coronation Street on the ITV player on my holiday, unless I use this. These are basically VPN services which allow you to bypass restrictions and search unfiltered, it’s something that Spanish users will now need to access the Google News service somewhere else.

Additional : update here.

India Plans Internet Filtering

November 25th, 2014

At least in India there has been a debate, even though it looks like the Government is going to implement web filtering despite the objections. One of there main reasons is to block pornographic websites and those that carry – ‘objectionable content’. That’s usually a catch all for blocking whatever else they decide they don’t like – a typically vague and expansive term.

Of course there may be good reasons for trying to block web pornography in India. The country has seen huge problems with violent sexual attacks on women, there is definitely a problem. But is filtering the internet the way to address this? Most experts suspect not, but that’s without even considering the practical limitations of any possible filter.

The simple truth is that there’s no real, reliable way of censoring the internet fully bar North Korea’s approach which is to pull the plug. Sure you can block a small proportion of pornography, but you do it at the cost of slowing and crippling the speed of everything else. There’s little way of filtering everything, even the Chinese who throw billions at their firewall don’t achieve anything close to complete censorship.

Blocking access to something doesn’t solve any problems, especially when as with most filtering it only blocks access to those who weren’t trying to download it anyway. You also end up blocking legitimate sites accidentally, and of course you have to block sites like social networking or those that allow free expression. Of course anyone who wants can just set up a proxy or VPN to a country that doesn’t filter – so effectively if you can afford to buy a USA VPN subscription then you won’t get blocked at all.

So you have a web filter that doesn’t work properly and can be easily circumvented by those with a little disposable income. That’s when the boundaries slowly start changing, it inevitably starts with crime, terrorism or pornography – but normally soon sites which criticize government or a specific religion will be slowly added to the list. It simply becomes a method of control directed at the mass population, especially in a place like India with a huge disparity in wealth. The poor are filtered, the richer can carry on regardless and even spend their evenings accessing whatever they like perhaps just enjoying the BBC or a US TV stations – read this.

The web filters are always sold as a social good, but inevitably end up damaging free speech and increasing inequalities. The temptation for most governments is too much, to block access to sites or opinions which they find damaging.

A Quick Introduction to VPNs

November 25th, 2014

With an increasing number of individuals spending a big portion in their lives online secrecy has become a concern for a lot of users. Sadly, even public libraries, internet cafes and public WiFi hotspots are exposed to violations of larceny and security of your web traffic. As well as that distinct authorities all over the world frequently have laws which permit law enforcement agencies to track your entire web traffic that is transmitted.

A VPN
For privacy and the security conscious users out there, you do not need to stay in a cavern to prevent these surroundings that are potentially dangerous to be using the web. This VPN functions as a virtual tunnel for the data to independently pass encrypting byte and every bit over the way.

Using VPNs to obtain resources that are Geo-Blocked
Ie the Great Firewall of the authorities blocks access to popular US sites like YouTube and Facebook.

Occasionally it could not be a state, but maybe your university’s network is not going to let you get specific sites that are external. Provided that you can connect to your own VPN, you’ll find a way to circumvent such limitations. In a similar way, they can be used to anonymize both what you say and your identity, check this out.

Selecting a VPN supplier
The United have personal experience using StrongVPN HMA and Witopia. The United would also rate them for the reason that sequence of quality. If you’re trying to get the online services of a particular state, all the aforementioned sellers offer multiple VPN servers that are located for you yourself to connect to.

VPN speed problems
The United consider the issues when using a VPN are tremendously influenced by the VPN supplier you decide on. At least HMA in the flip side, promises to compress some packets of data for you personally, which may speed transmissions up in the event you are not using the VPN.

Geographically, you need to anticipate some slowdown that is increased in the event that you get your neighbor’s computer via rather than without. Though in the event you’re mainly getting sites in a place to another side of earth, going through a VPN server nearer to that place should speed up things for you in general. The reason behind this can be the information you receive and send is normally passed between a variety of servers to reach you. so if you need to access a UK resource you’ll need a British proxy like this. When using a VPN, on the other hand, there is a more direct path created.

Well here’s the story – the internet promised to open up global communication to anyone anywhere in the world. The BBC has been a pioneer of online publishing with perhaps one of the most popular and impressive media sites anywhere on the planet. You can easily spend many hours exploring the BBC website but what really sets it apart is the BBC Iplayer application which allows you access to the majority of their broadcasts.

Imagine wherever you are in the world being able to watch a documentary from David Attenborough, the news at 6pm from the BBC or an amazing costume drama. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work like that as I discovered when trying to watch the BBC from my temporary home in Jerusalem. You see the BBC like many of the world’s best media sites has blocked access to anyone who is not in the United Kingdom.

The reason, I’m not sure, it’s surely not in the spirit of the BBC World service which broadcasts quality news and information to all areas of the planet.

The technical situation is that the BBC Iplayer application actually checks your IP address when you connect. In my situation, I obviously has an Israeli one assigned by my ISP based here in Jerusalem. So that’s it I am blocked, my favorite shows, the news are all inaccessible to me a UK license fee payer simply because I happen to be in a different country.

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Fortunately like many things on the internet, there is usually a way, a word around if you like. It is possible to change your IP address and it’s actually not that hard to do. I found the information I needed on this post here – 

, which explains what you need to do. In essence you use a server to connect through which as long as it’s based in the UK will give you the illusion of a British IP address. Check it out, it’s easy and it works.

Harold Freeman
Source on IP Stuff – http://www.changeipaddress.net/

Israeli’s Fight the Internet War

September 24th, 2014

Israel is one country that takes the concept of cyber war very seriously.  One of the main reasons is simply that Israel is so often the target of these cyber attacks from a wide variety of sources.  The latest one happened this month (April,2013) where hundreds of Israeli websites were attacked and about a dozen Government websites were offline for a few hours as a result.

The attacks were from a variety of sources, including allegedly from the hacking group ’Anonymous’, although that has been disputed.  It’s certainly unlikely that any group without serious funding would have the ability to ’erase Israel from cyber space’.  This is the threat that was apparently made by some pro-Palestinian groups in retaliation for the settlement policies of the Israel government.

Of course these threats are largely irrelevant, you can’t wipe anyone off the internet for very long.  Sure, you can bring down a server for a while with a simple DDOS (distributed denial of service attack), that’s very simple to achieve and involves a little effort/technical ability or just a bit of cash to pay someone.But it’s not that hard to stop and block after the intiial attack and also you can mirror any site across the world if you pay for it.

Even the attacks that modify web pages are of limited use. Sure a site can be defaced, altered to include some sort of protest.  But in reality it won’t last long, even the most incompetant administrator can restore a website from a back up in a few minutes.  This is why the cyber vandalism is relatively harmless – digital graffiti on a web site serves little purpose.

These groups in some sense would be better off creating specific web sites themselves and then promoting them using SEO techniques. A protest site will endure for much longer on a private domain supported by others than it will for the few hours it will hang on to a hacked website.  Although the problems are then compounded by companies panicking themselves.  A simple fix employed by the Israeli companies is to simply block access to all web sites from people accessing outside Israel. many companies already apply this method successfully – just like the BBC and Netflix do – (DNS Hack for Netflix here)

Which is when we do see some fallout for the cyber war Israel is under. Companies directing resources to online and cyber security.  The investment is normally worth while, but it does seem slightly negative for countries to be investing in internet filtering rather than growing jobs and employment.  My worry is that Israel becomes draconian with regards it’s internet access in light of the increased risks.  It’s rather too easy for a ruling party to curry favour by announcing ’tough measures’ regarding the internet and letting companies control both access and speeds, shame on you Verizon – read this.

I hope Israel maintains it’s public stance of keeping the internet open and accessible.  There are numerous signs that it will, in fact the Israel government  has often voted against motions encouraging filters, firewalls and censorship online.

It’s one of the most important privacy tools ever designed,  TOR the free application that allows you to hide your location.   It also acts as a gateway to the mysterious sounding Deep Web which offers a huge extra layer of anonymity particularly if you want to publish or distribute information anonymously.

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One of the issues with the Deep Web though is it’s technical nature, browsing is relatively simple using the TOR application but actually publishing content is actually rather difficult.   Stormy has been developed to try and solve this problem, it’s been one of the most asked for applications to the TOR Projects Development team

It is hoped that it will provide a real benefit to people like human rights activists who need to be especially careful in many countries when developing networks and communicating with each other.  There are of course lots of other people who will be awaiting Stormy with their own need which of course will not always be entirely legal.

Tor is already one of the most popular tools on the planet, with upwards of 120 million downloads in the last twelve months alone.   It’s not the perfect tool as there are certain issues with using the shared nodes that Tor relies on for hiding your data, but it’s pretty impressive especially if you’re not able to buy vpn or proxy services online.  Demand has been growing in countries like Turkey, Russia and Iraq as Government censorship grows.

Stormy promises to allow people to publish on the deep web with a simple button push, there’s virtually no technical knowledge required.   It could turn out to be one of the most important tools available in the battle against online surveillance and filtering.

One of the important things to remember about the Tor programs is that they are completely free.   Often people suggest that they’d get more security from  specialised commercial software but often these are out of reach for ordinary people in many countries – who simply don’t have the funds to buy  the best VPN software which is available.

 

Sometimes a story makes you sick to your stomach and despair against basic humanity. This week Farzana Parveen Iqbal, a 25 year old pregnant girl was stoned to death outside the Lahore High Court in Pakistan. If it could become any worse, the stoning was carried out by the girl’s own family including her father and two of her brothers.

The pathetic, backward justification produced by this miserable bunch was that Farzana had chosen her own partner to married instead of the family’s choice. The couple went into hiding and the father had then filed a made up complaint of abduction against the husband in order to draw them out into the open. The whole incident was completely pre-meditated in order to kill the poor girl and her husband although he managed to escape.

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The whole incident is shameful on so many different levels. There are strong suspicions that the police were part of this conspiracy as there is a requirement to investigate these abduction charges before they are filed. If the Pakistani police had done this, then they would have found poor Farzana to be hiding from a family and she would be alive today. The Pakistani legal system was used to lure Farzana to her death.

There are still worse allegations against the police than incompetence though, as it is alleged that they were present at the murder itself and did nothing to intervene. The husband stated that they simply watched as his wife was murdered in the street outside the place were Pakistani’s come for justice and protection. Nobody was arrested, no investigation commenced, and in fact the father had simply handed himself in and confessed.

These so called ‘honour killings’ are commonplace in Pakistan fueled by religious fundamentalism, bigotry and an attitude towards women that defied belief in any civilized society. The police have a lot to blame for the huge number of these needless deaths. There is widespread corruption, incompetence and in many senses the police simply turn a blind eye to these shocking events.

It is important that these events are brought to the attention to the world’s media, then perhaps the Pakistani Government will be shamed into action. Farzana’s death has been widely reported in international media, there’s a compelling report on the BBC News online, you can access it through the world service site or by using an application like this outside the UK – http://iplayerusa.org/

Without pressure from the international communities including organisations like the UN then these killings will continue as they have for many years. It needs pressure from every level including directly from Governments in order to shame the Pakistan Government to seriously tackling this issue. If their reputation and standing is affected then hopefully they will do more than the usual ritual condemnation followed by complete inaction. It is a shameful, backward and morally repugnant crime that is widespread across the country and it must be eradicated.

Joe Simpson
TV and Media Writer

Of course, any regime who wants to control their society hates the internet.  A dictator is pretty much powerless to control any social media site and how it’s citizens behave and express themselves.  However most dictators have pretty much accepted that the internet is in their eyes a necessary evil and have in some particular way accepted it.

There are probably only two authoritarian states which have had trouble even accepting the existence of the internet – Burma and Cuba – I would also include North Korea but they have a whole league to themselves.  Instead of following the slightly more relaxed method adopted by most regimes of filtering the content they don’t like – these two have just blocked access completely.  It’s of course a much more effective method, there are loads of problems with filtering the internet and lots of web sites which demonstrate how to bypass filters like this one  centered around anonymous surfing and changing your IP address – here.

If you restrict access completely you have much more control but it of course comes at a price .  The most evident one is that of economic development, the internet is a huge global market full of opportunities which Cuba is simply missing out on.  It seems that slowly Cuba is beginning to realize it’s mistake.
It is still incredibly hard and expensive to get access to the internet in Cuba.  You still need a permit, yes you read that right you need a permit to access the world wide web in Cuba.  It’s also rather expensive as you need to access through specific controlled points.

But it is now possible for an ordinary Cuban to sit down online and surf the web – something that most of us have taken for granted for many years.  It’s still slow as well and the Cuban Government have now adopted something similar to the Chinese model which in theory allows full access but in reality starts blocking and restricting access to sites and services they don’t like. But of course, the Cuban’s aren’t nearly as experienced in this digital censorship so it’s a trivial exercise to use proxies to bypass, you can even watch the BBC here on your PC – check this.

Recently the access to Skype was blocked, your average dictators never likes communication methods that work internationally and they can’t monitor so it was hardly a surprise.  It will be interesting to see if countries like Cuba who are so far behind in internet usage will go the full mile and start investing in better infrastructure as well.  At the moment it seems little more than a token gesture and don’t expect the new breed of internet entrepreneurs to come out of Havana just yet!

With Thanks to http://www.anonymous-proxies.org

It’s supposedly completely unrelated, but surely the Turkish Government can appreciate how it seems. A couple of days after blocking the social media site Twitter, for gossiping about corruption online. In much the same way that the majority of the Turkish people are chatting about anyway – now we see YouTube is in the firing line.

In a nonsensical statement, Erdogan pronounced that –

“I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”

It’s madness, almost as if the Turkish PM thinks that the content which is all created by hundreds of millions of people across the world, is actually generated by a specific entity. The ‘lies’ he speaks about are not coming from some corporate giant in America, they’re merely relayed using these sites. The words that he hates come from his own people, and what you hear on Twitter and YouTube you’ll find spoken in coffee shops, bars and shops across Turkey too.

However the whole, sorry episodes are made even more pathetic by the impotency in actually delivering any sort of control on these sites. Strong words from a leader are followed by a pathetic DNS hack to block access to Twitter, a 20 second google search will show you the fix, you can either go simple with swift change to another DNS server or perhaps something more sophisticated which shows you how to hide ip address. Which you decide is really personal preference, but the Turkish blocks are so hopeless I wouldn’t worry too much.

The talks are taking place about lifting the bans, but the simple reality is that they don;t really exist. During the time Twitter has been blocked over the last few days the level of Tweets from Turkey has barely moved. It has made the country a laughing stock, powerful misguided speeches backed up by technical ineptitude. Loads of people in Turkey have been tweeting pictures of the YouTube ban being implemented – which I hope you can recognize the irony.

Further information on bypassing stupid blocks available here.

It’s always a very reliable sign for a dodgy leader, regime or government – I refer to the inept blocking of social media sites like Twitter.   Turkey is continuing it’s very poor reputation by attempting to block the largely inoffensive site – Twitter.

Here’s a video report about the block and how you can bypass it.

Apparently I hear from my Turkish friends, that it is a hopeless attempt and trying to staunch the flow of corruption allegations regarding the Prime Minister – Erdogan. The ban seems to have failed in this extent, especially when the vice leader has found a way to bypass the block – a simple DNS change which can easily be sidestepped. The number of Tweets sent from within Turkey has stayed fairly level even despite the ban which is good news for free speech, but not so good for allegedly corrupt leaders keen on taking back handers.

We would hope that Erdogan would receive his reward at the ballot box, but leaders like this rarely rely on democracy for maintaining power.

Information on Methods of Bypassing Blocks can be found here.

 

It’s a dilemma for many despotic regimes, what do you do about your citizens posting videos of torture, oppression and corruption across the internet.  Iran has put in stage one of it’s plan some time ago, anywhere you can share or discuss issues freely then they are likely to ban them.  For instance without using some sort of proxy like these – http://www.theninjaproxy.org/ then you won’t be able to access Facebook, Twitter or Youtube in Iran for instance.  

Now Stage 2 has been put into operation and it’s called ’Mehr’ which is Farsi for ’affection’.   Although I suggest that if you upload a video questioning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s last election win then you’ll probably receive very little affection in return.  Mehr is in fact an Iranian version of YouTube were you can upload videos.  

I suspect it will not be a runaway success with almost certainly every video being vetted and approved by some Government internet stooges.   I feel that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting department will probably have a different sense of humour and interests than the normal young Iranian,

There are extensive rumours that Iran is developing it’s own version of the internet.  As many countries who wish to prevent free speech online have found it is virtually impossible with the circumvention technoplogy available to all to block everything.  Proxies and VPNs are widely available for small subscriptions and for those unable to afford then their are technologies like TOR which are free.  The worry is that they have discovered the only effective censorship online is to block all access to the internet and produce some government controlled intranet within the country – sounds fun doesn’t it!!!

If it doesn’t go that way then there is some hope -

But if you do end up needing to be on a whitelist for a website to be displayed in Iran then even this IP address changer method will not work there.

In North Korea the internet is virtually non existent, unless you are part of the ruling few it’s something that you’ve no prospect of accessing either.  Some might wonder if it matters, after all if you live in North Korea there are probably lots of physical problems you have to deal with first like lack of food for example.  However as Google’s founder recently stated that in an increasingly connected world, soon North Koreas digital isolation will start to impact on many other levels.

It might appear to be an isolated and extreme example, not all countries censor to the level of North Korea of course.  But every country with a less than popular ruler knows that their demise could begin with a message typed into an Iphone.  Potentially it’s all that’s needed to sow the seeds of a successful revolution. Words are power and they can travel far and wide in a digitally connected society very quickly indeed.

It’s hardly surprising then that the majority of internet policies implemented tend to restrict, monitor or block.  Even in the more democratic nations like the USA we see huge fights over restrictive policies like SOPA and PIPA. There are people dying in these countries too trying to keep information and the internet open and transparent for all – I speak of course of the sad death of Aaron Swartz.

There are many, many policies and agendas being implemented across the world from the restrictions of North Korea and China across to the European nations almost all are eroding the freedom of the internet to some extent.  In China using proxies and VPNs is almost essential to surf online properly – technologies like in the http://thenewproxies.com/ still work in most of the world though despite the authorities attempt to block them.  A war has broken out online with the prize nothing less than free speech and liberty – why should people from all sorts of backgrounds feel the need to hide their identity? 

The video is also available directly on YouTube here if you need to watch it again.

It looks like such tools will become part and parcel of being online.  No government anywhere in the world looks like it wants to keep the internet genuinely free and open even if they implement the restrictions under the guise of protecting us from terrorism.  Our level of connectivity is only going to increase, I read an article the other day saying that 70% of our cars will be connected in ten years!

There are few organisations in the free speech arena that take as active a role than the NGO – Reporters Without Borders. There latest effort needs to be applauded and replicated where ever possible.  They have offered the facility for several organisations in Zambia to have their web sites mirrored in order to bypass government blocks and filters.

The first site to be mirrored was the Zambia Repports website, which gave many Zambians their first glimpse of independent news for some time. The other site that was also mirrored was that of the Zambian Watchdog, another organisation who are often (rightly) critical of the current Government.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time before these mirrors get blocked as well, so you may as well ask what is the point.  Well the main effort is that most organisations seeking to censor or filter the internet soon discover they are fighting a losing battle. Mirrors can be set up easily, in fact if  you use relays then IP filtering is also very difficult and time consuming.  Once data and information is out it can also be circulated throughout a variety of other sources – personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook and a host of others.

Simply speaking although  the Zambian Government may have the desire to filter the internet for opinions they dislike, they do not have the resources to accomplish this.  They may believe that having a small team ready to block and ban IP addresses will work but this is simply not viable.  Infomration can be copied and duplicated easily – you can change the IP address on any device quite simply if you know what you are doing. 

Here’s a short video if you prefer to watch and listen rather than read – 

It doesn’t work in China, although they come a great deal closer by throwing huge resources and commercial pressure at their censorship efforts – so frankly Zambia had better face reality.  Instead of being hostile to independent journalists, the Patriotic Front Government should perhaps remember who they are supposed to be serving – the Zambian people.

Media Commodifying your Home

September 1st, 2013

One of the most curious ways in which the media can interfere in your life is about its portrayal of your home town, your country and your ethnicity. It is a subtle form of media prejudice that can easily go unheeded but that has a huge impact on people’s lives; the way they are perceived, and how they relate to the notion of their homeland.

Such types of media distortion works primarily through images in movies, adverts and non-fiction. It is never directly stated, only implied. The message is below the surface, but it is still clearly there, even if it is not overtly stated. People such as Malcolm X in the 1960s were among the vanguard of cultural critics to see how this media distortion worked. So in the case of black Americans they are often shown on the media eating corn, playing music, dancing, playing basketball, speaking street patois, and being pressed against the hood of a car by the police as they are arrested. They are not shown as lawyers, doctors and dentists. If they are then the cultural clash is often registered by an audience that often prefers streotypes.

Another type of streotyping is done with places. They are presented as holiday destinations at the expense of revealing the lives of the people that live in these places and have normal jobs not connected to the tourist industry. Rather than a beach where people live and work and eek out an existence from the sea and land, beaches in the Caribbean, South Pacific and South East East Asia become dreamy paradise locations with hotels, swimming pools; all the locals wear uniforms and serve guests. The truth of poverty and lack of employment and education opportunities are hidden behind the exotic paradise facade. Beaches are turned into commodities to be sold and for developers and hotel owners to be rewarded by.

What we don’t see on the media is the plight of Fiji farmers, the labor of coconut plantation workers, the dwindling supplies of fish that local fishermen bring in to port and market. The notion is that the commodity is timeless and perfect. It is unchanging and the ideal place to escape the concerns of the ’civilised’ and ’rich’ world.

It would be a hard thing to boycott places because they are being commidified; but, it would be a good idea to try and correct people’s assumptions when you return from holiday. It might be a good idea to swim in the sea rather than some environmentally unfriendly swimming pool.