Global Voices: China arrests filmmaker for retweeting an image of a liquor bottle referencing Tiananmen Massacre

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Baijiu bottles commemorating the Tiananmen massacre.

The following post is originally written by Jennifer Creery and published by Hong Kong Free Press on May 24, 2019. The following edited version is republished on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

Chinese authorities have reportedly detained documentary filmmaker Deng Chuanbin after he tweeted an image of a liquor bottle labelled “64” – a reference to the date of the Tiananmen Square Massacre which occurred on June 4, 1989.

The massacre ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. The Chinese Red Cross estimated that 2,700 civilians were killed, but other sources point to a much higher toll. A confidential US government document unveiled in 2014 reported that a Chinese internal assessment estimated that at least 10,454 civilians were killed.

64 liquor bottle

The liquor bottle was designed in 2016 to commemorate the 27th anniversary of June 4. The liquor was called “8 wine 64″. The pronunciation of the word “wine” in Putonghua is the same with the word “9”. The bottle label carries the image of “Tank Man” with the description “Never forget, never give up”. It also specifies that the wine comes from Beijing, with 64% alcohol and has been stored for 27 years.

Four Chinese men, Fu Hailu, Zhang Jinyong, Luo Fuyu and Chen Bing, were arrested in 2016 for the liquor bottle incident charged with “inciting subversion of state power”.

Fu, Zhang and Luo’s trial took place at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court in April. They were respectively handed a three-year prison term with four to five years in suspension. Chen is still under arrest as he refused to plead guilty.

Despite the suspended sentence, the three are still under surveillance:

Arrest for a retweet

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of June 4, filmmaker Deng Chuabin has become the latest victim related to the 64 liquor bottle. Sichuan police arrested Deng at his home in Yibin last Friday, hours after he retweeted a Twitter photo of 64 liquor bottle, according to the NGO coalition, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

The filmmaker received a phone call from police 30 minutes after tweeting the image despite quickly deleting the post, said CHRD. Police seized three mobile phones, a computer, laptop, iPad, memory cards and compact camera while at his home. Deng is reportedly being held in Nanxi District Detention Centre for “picking quarrels” – a charge frequently leveled against critics of the government.

CHRD said police returned to raid Deng’s home for an hour, taking a range of electronic equipment:

Update on #Deng Chuabin: On May 20, 2019: Deng’s father was summoned to the police station at Peizhi town. A few men followed him back home and took video and photos in their house. They search Deng Chuabin’s room for more than an hour and took away 20 electronic items including battery chargers. They even took away the electronic wire of their rice cooker. On 21, the police station told Deng’s parent not to employ lawyer for Deng.

Deng, also known as Huang Huang, is an independent filmmaker who has collaborated with Beijing artist Ai Weiwei. He claims to have previously faced intimidation by authorities, including detention in 2015 to prevent him from attending a human rights seminar in Geneva.

Next month marks 30 years since the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Each year, Chinese authorities clamp down on references to the crackdown in the lead up to the anniversary, by placing outspoken dissidents on house arrest or in detention.

Global Voices


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Global Voices: Meeting a male carpet weaver from Armenia

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The single father-of-two says his former neighbour was his inspiration

A carpet. For illustration purposes only. Photo taken from Chai-Khana.org.

The following is a story by Chai-Khana.org and is republished by Global Voices under a partnership agreement. Text and video by Lilit Mkhitaryan.

As a boy Samvel Mikayelyan was mesmerized by his neighbour’s fingers as they flew over the large loom as she weaved threads and crossed knots. He decided then to become a rug weaver — no matter if tradition in Armenia has it set in stone as a woman’s job.

Mikayelyan remained loyal to his dream when he grew up and, now 53, as one of the very few male weavers in Armenia, he is adamant that carpets know no gender.

Three days a week he joins his two fellow villagers and work companions, Srbuhi Martirosyan and Marta Gasparyan, in the House of Culture in Sasunik, a village about 30 kilometers from the capital, Yerevan, where his family moved in the early 1970s from then-Soviet Azerbaijan. He was seven and has lived in Sasunik ever since. His grandmother, an Armenian from Turkey, was a carpet weaver too but none of her rugs made it to Armenia.

The rest of the week Mikayelyan multitasks: he bakes lavash, Armenia’s typical soft, thin unleavened bread baked in a tandoor-like oven, and does tailoring at home. A single father, he also raises his two sons.

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Global Voices: How Chinese tech workers are organizing the online #996 labor movement, despite risks of censorship

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Workers are promoting their rights with memes and code repositories.

Anonymous selfie of person giving Ant Financial/Alibaba a booklet of China’s labor laws. Source: 996action GitHub repo.

This story by Jason Li was originally published on the blog 88 Bar and is republished here with permission.

Among the millions of people employed in China’s booming technology industry, a growing number are expressing discontent with the long hours that major companies like Alibaba and Tencent require of their workers.

The issue recently made headlines around the world in April 2019 after a group of Chinese tech workers published 996.ICU: an online letter and GitHub repository decrying a practice known as “996”, a shorthand for having to work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Although it has grown in size recently, the #996 notion and associated memes have been making the rounds online since 2015 (TechNode published a mini-history of the term) and usually refers to the long working hours at tech companies in China.

The letter read: “If you continue to tolerate the ‘996’ work schedule, you will risk your own health and might need to stay in an Intensive Care Unit someday.”

In response to the letter, the CEOs of Alibaba, JD.com and Sogou all rose to publicly defend the practice, which only furthered its popularity worldwide.

Will the censors let it stand?

Internet memes about social issues have a spotty history on China’s internet, where they have often been subject to censorship. Netizens have become adept at evading, obfuscating and masking their posts in an evolving game of censorship cat-and-mouse. This was the case with the infamous grass mud horse meme of the late 2000s, as it was with last year’s much-reported #MeToo sexual harassment meme, which netizens temporarily evaded by re-naming it or rice bunny ( 🍚🐰), which sounds similar to “me too” when spoken in Chinese.

In contrast, 996 workplace protest memes have been given some room to run on the Chinese internet, unfettered by the powers that be, for the most part.

In contrast to other social movements and memes on the Chinese internet, #996 has taken shape largely on GitHub, the popular web-based hosting service where millions of web and software developers share code and exchange information and ideas about their work.

In May 2019, more than 242,000 users starred (favorited) the #996 GitHub repository where the letter, memes and other documentation about the movement are hosted, expressing solidarity with China’s tech workers

When the 996 meme first made headlines abroad, many worried that the Chinese government would step in and force Microsoft, owner of GitHub, to block access to 996.ICU within China. Western press outlets even began lionizing Microsoft employees as protectors of free speech after a group of them published an online letter asking their company not to censor itself. Luckily for the company’s executives, it never came to that.

The 996.ICU project on GitHub also has 500+ contributors and has been forked (remixed, loosely speaking) more than 20,000 times. These high figures indicate that the 996.ICU creators skillfully leveraged GitHub’s open collaboration features to attract people’s attention and to create a space for building an online movement and series of memes together.

Here are a few of the more popular memes tied to the movement:

一周文案 (“One Week Copywriter”) that was widely circulated on the social network:

Poster caption: “My dad’s dark eye bags/circles are this big.” “What a coincidence, same with my dad.” (Daily Life of a 996 Fighter)

Poster caption: Let uncle shave you bald. Besides, when you grow up and join 996 you will lose it all anyway.

While these posters were squarely anti-996, Sina Weibo user 少年不打太极 (“Teenager does no Tai Chi”) captured a wider spectrum of the debate in their post, which includes the following images:

Image caption: If you don’t do it, I’m sure someone else will.

Image caption: Not resentful about 996, but resentful about the profit

Image caption: Not defending 996, but respect to those in the struggle

Discussion about 996 was similarly vibrant on media social networking site Douban. One forum thread, 我们该如何对抗“996”?(How should we fight 996), was seen by over 2.5 million people and followed by 1500+ users.

Within that thread, one image set grew so popular that it spilled over onto Sina Weibo, where it appeared on many posts related to 996:

A partial excerpt of the image series. “Let’s not just talk about the post-90s generation. Even me, a post-60s generation wouldn’t accept it.”

The image set comprises TV screen captures of a speech given by Guoqing Li, the CEO of e-commerce giant Dangdang, in which he criticized 996 work culture. In it, he plays the kindly, wise patriarch, in stark contrast to his tech CEO peers at Alibaba, JD.com and Sogou who defended the practice.

The images and discussion above are still readily accessible a month after the 996 meme became an international news story. That they survived this long and are still easy to find suggests that the authorities in China decided to let the discussion play out rather than stifle it through censorship.

In fact, the government seems to be publicly denouncing 996 as well – major government-controlled newspapers China Daily and Xinhua News have both published editorials to that effect.

Tech companies push to tone it down

Though the government didn’t step in to interfere, China’s tech companies jumped in to defend their honor. To begin with, there are at least several instances where Sina Weibo stepped in to moderate the conversation – not to kill it, but just to tone it down a little. For example, the original post with the remixed PSA posters above was taken down, according to the creator, on grounds that it a) contained sensitive elements from its use of propaganda posters, and b) had become too popular and controversial. One screen capture of the post indicates that it had at least 3400 shares, 400 comments and 2300 likes.

Yet Weibo did not ban all instances of the image on its platform, and the images can still be found on many other, albeit less popular, posts. Outside of Weibo, the images have not provoked the ire of any larger powers that be and can be found on the websites of multiple online publications.

Chinese tech giants also fought back in one other obvious if perhaps half-hearted way. As Abacus and the Economist report, Alibaba, Tencent, Qihoo 360 and Xiaomi blocked access to 996.ICU on web browsers that they had control over. The block, however, seems to have been limited to the online letter and/or GitHub repository, and was not applied to the rest of GitHub.

Instead of stifling the movement altogether, China’s tech companies, government newspapers and kindly CEO patriarchs have instead worked together (wittingly or not) to limit the furor, steer the discussion, and create just enough room so that a workplace protest meme may survive on the Chinese internet of 2019.

Jason Li is a designer, illustrator and consultant currently based in Hong Kong. Once upon a time, he studied engineering and ran a news site about fan translations of video games.

 

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Global Voices: Bangladesh Fish Ban Hits Hard On The Fishermen Communities

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Most of the fishermen depend on fishing for short-term survivals

Traditional Fishing In Bangladesh. Image via Wikipedia by Michael Foley, World Bank. CC BY 3.0

The government of Bangladesh has imposed a ban on all types of fishing off its coastal region from May 20th to July 23rd this year for ensuring the safe and sustainable accumulation of fish reserves. The coast guards and navy will be patrolling the Bay of Bengal to enforce the ban. However, for the fishing communities, most of whom depend on fishing for short-term survival, the decision is a big blow. Although the government has promised to provide monthly ration to the fishing community, they are voicing their frustration and challenges.

In recent years fish stocks worldwide have started declining because of overfishing and due to the effects of climate change.

Fishing in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a small and developing country with an estimated 163 million population. Traditionally the country relies on fishing and more than 60 percent of the animal protein intake in the Bangladeshi diet comes from fish. The country has an exclusive economic zone of 41,000 square miles at the Bay of Bengal which is 73% of the country’s land area. There are approximately 475 species of fish, 36 species of shrimp, 15 species of crab, and 301 species of snail and oyster in the Bay of Bengal among others and around 100 species are fished commercially. There is an estimated 2 million fishermen across the country and around 18.2 million people are employed in fisheries and aquaculture industries across Bangladesh. Around half a million fishermen earn their livelihood from the coastal region.

The fish market in central Sylhet, Bangladesh. Image from Flickr by David Stanley. CC BY 2.0

Short-term bans on commercial fishing in limited areas had been enforced in the past few years, but this is the first time that all fishing boats, including local fishermen who work in the rivers and in the ocean, have been banned for a lengthy period. The authorities have also said that this ban will be enforced also in the following years during the breeding season to boost depleted fish stocks.

The State Minister For Fisheries and Livestock Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru told media:

These resources will deplete one day if we do not use them sustainably. We should let fish grow and breed. Otherwise, we will have to suffer in the future.

Netizens welcomed the move.

IT professional Asif Saif Uddin tweeted:

It’s a good move. But there should be efforts to create alternative job opportunities for the affected fishermen

Expat Bangladeshi Md Osman Ghani writes on Facebook:

সরকারের দাবী, এই সময় মাছ ধরা বন্ধ রাখলে মাছের সংখ্যা বাড়ে।

কিন্তু কথা হলো, যদি মাছের সংখ্যা না বাড়ে তখন কি হবে ?
তখন কি সরকার দরিদ্র জেলেদের এর জন্য ভতুর্কি দেবে ?
আপনি একটা গরিব মানুষের কাজ বন্ধ রাখলেন, বললেন- এর মাধ্যমে আপনার বাকি সময় আয় বাড়বে।
কিন্তু যদি না বাড়ে, তখন এর দায় কে নেবে ?

The government says that the fishing ban (during breeding season) increases fish stock.

But what if that does not turn out to be true?
Will the poor fishermen receive any compensation?
You enforce a ban on the work of poor people saying your future earnings will increase.
If that doesn’t happen who will take the responsibility?

Earlier this March, the government has imposed a 60-day ban on the fishing of all sorts of fish in Padma, Meghna and their tributary rivers adjacent to different areas of Chandpur, Bhola and Lakshmipur. Also from March 1, 2019 The government also banned fishing in the Kaptai lake, the largest man-made lake in Bangladesh for three months.

Last October, the government banned fishing of the national fish Hilsa (Ilish) for 22 days to allow the fish to lay their eggs and migrate from the Bay of Bengal to the Meghna and other river systems. Data collected by WorldFish from Hilsa sanctuaries shows that the total Hilsa catch increased by 28 percent, from 387,211 metric tons to 496,417 metric tons in the 2015 and 2016 harvest seasons due to similar bans.

The local fishing communities have long been protesting these bans. They also protested the current ban carrying out angry demonstrations and street protests in the coastal region. According to the fisherman’s association, many small-scale fishermen are day laborers, and they need to borrow money or their families will face starvation if no compensation is provided by the government.

The government has earmarked 36,000 metric tonnes of rice and announced that 40kg of rice per month for 414,784 fishers’ families of in 12 districts who are identified to who have left with no alternative means of income due to the fishing ban. However, the communities feel that only one type of food subsistence is not enough to sustain their families properly.

Anwar Hossain Sikder, member secretary of Bangladesh Fishing Boat Owners Association (BFBOA) claimed:

The ban on fishing in 200 nautical miles of the sea is only benefiting Indian and Myanmar traders and fishermen.

Conservation or saving the struggling fishermen this is the current debate on social media:

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Global Voices: This ‘cholita’ drag challenges gender and folklore stereotypes from the Argentine periphery

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With Bartolina Xixa, Maximiliano Mamaní challenges exclusion in drag culture

Screen capture from “Ramita Seca,” produced by Elisa Portela via YouTube, featuring choreography and interpretation of “Bartolina Xixa” a drag persona inspired by Andean indigenous aesthetics.

In the middle of a large garbage dump, surrounded by fog, a figure in a wide pastel pink skirt and long braids dances a vidala, a form of traditional poetry accompanied by music typical of Argentinian folklore.

It’s Bartolina Xixa, the Andean “drag folk” character created by Maximiliano Mamaní, who reassesses Argentinian northern folklore from a gender perspective and aims to decolonize it with a focus on indigenous peoples.

In their most recent work, “Dry Little Branch, the Permanent Coloniality,” the artist chose the open-air dump setting of Hornillos, located in the Quebrada of Humahuaca, a region declared as a cultural and natural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2003.

The vidala has plenty of symbolism. Composed by singer-songwriter Aldana Bello, the lyrics explore the topic of mining exploitation and atrocities perpetrated against Indigenous communities:

Esta vidala que canto / Sangra de pena y dolor / Las injusticias de siglos / Siguen en pie y con ardor […] En zona andina hay mineras / Contaminan la ilusión / El agua, la tierra y todo / Lo que anda a su alrededor

This vidala I’m singing / Is bleeding with grief and pain / The injustices of centuries / Still stand fierce […] In the Andean zone there are mining [companies] / They pollute dreams / Water, land, everything / [everything] that surrounds them.

Mamaní was born in Jujuy, located in far northwest Argentina, and grew up in the neighboring region of Salta. They study Anthropology at the National University of Salta and work as a professor of folk dance.

With Bartolina Xixa, Mamaní challenges stereotypes found in folk art, in which gender roles perpetuate binary structures that leave out a range of identities. As Mamaní points out in an interview with the Argentine site VOS:

Hago danzas folklóricas argentinas, peruanas y bolivianas. Me gusta la música popular, por eso me surgió la necesidad de reflexionar sobre el folklore y pensar que a mí, como marica, se me negaba la posibilidad de mostrarme a la hora de construir una coreografía y armar una pareja de baile…

I perform Argentine, Peruvian and Bolivian folk dances. I like folk music, which is why I had the need to reflect on it and on my position as a gay man in it, as I was being denied the opportunity to express myself when it came to build a choreography and make a partner dance…

And they add:

Me di cuenta de que a muchas personas les pasa lo mismo porque el folklore está pensado desde una lógica heterosexual. Se le dan ciertos atributos a los varones, a los gauchos, como la fuerza, la firmeza y el galanteo. Es el que dirige. Las mujeres, en tanto, son sumisas, complacientes.

I realized that the same thing was happening to many others, because folklore has been designed from a heterosexual point of view. Certain attributes are given to the male figure, to the gauchos [for example], such as strength, firmness, and courtship. He is the one who leads. Women, meanwhile, are submissive, complacent.

A tribute to an Aymara heroine

Mamaní’s social questionings are not limited to the world of folklore — they also address the tendencies that dominate global aesthetics with which “drag” is approached, an aesthetic that the artist says is linked to stereotypes of Western cultures’ notions of the feminine.

Their drag character is a departure from that tendency: Inspired by Bartolina Sisa Vargas, an Aymara leader who rebelled against the Spanish empire and subsequently captured, tortured and murdered in La Paz, Bolivia, in 1782, Mamaní pays tribute to this Andean woman, the “cholita” — “a hardworking woman, head of her household, who goes out to work every day, and who has ties to her family, her community, her ancestors, her traditions.”

Bartolina Xixa during a presentation in Buenos Aires, June 2018. Photo by Elisa Portela, used with permission.

In an episode of the podcast “Relatos Disidentes” or “Dissident Chronicles,” from the Salta-based portal, VóVè, Mamaní describes his character:

Suelo decir que le presto mi cuerpo a Bartolina Xixa. [Un personaje que] nace por la urgencia de poder pensar otras formas de hacer folclore, otra forma de entender identidades que me vienen atravesando y que vienen atravesando a un colectivo.

I usually say that I lend my body to Bartolina Xixa. [A character that] was born from the urgency of being able to think of other ways of doing folklore, another way of understanding identities that cross my own experience and that cross a whole group’s experience.

Challenging the construction of Argentine masculinity and the “LGBT-norm”

Mamaní’s activism and militancy appeal to social networks — especially Facebook and Instagram — through which to convey provocative messages. The best example is a Facebook post that became known as the “gay kiss,” which went viral on the platform in November 2018.

They shared the post during the pre-game soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate soccer clubs, featuring images of Mamaní kissing another man in front of the convent, San Bernardo, in Salta, while wearing the shirts of the rival teams. They declared it the “Super Classic Gay Kiss”:

An extract of the text in the post reads:

El super clásico beso Marica, Somos negros, somos villeros, somos del interior de Argentina, somos pobres, no somos el esteriotipo de cuerpo esbelto, somos los rostros negados por la colonialidad, SOMOS MARICAS, empoderadas y subalternas, alejadas del “clásico” gay estereotipado. […] Transitamos nuestra vida en los espacios y en la memoria que siempre son acallados por la heteronorma y la LGBTnorma. […] Un clásico argentino no es un BOCA Y RIVER, un clásico argentino es ver cómo nos estigmatizan, nos insultan, nos expulsan, nos odia, nos matan.

The super classic Gay Kiss. We’re black, we’re from the slums, we’re from the countryside, we’re poor. We don’t have the stereotypical slim body, we’re the face that coloniality refuses to acknowledge. We’re fags, empowered and subaltern, away from the steretypical “classic” gay [man] […] We live our lives in spaces and memories that are always silenced by the heteronorm and the LGBTnorm […] An Argentine clssic is not Boca vs River. An Argentinian classic is seeing we’re stigmatized, insulted, expelled (from our lands), hated, killed.

The post attracted all kinds of reactions and comments of support, rejection, ridicule, admiration, love, and hate from users. Global Voices spoke with Mamaní about the post via WhatsApp:

Una cosa interesante fue la de atacarnos diciendo que no éramos argentinos. […] Lo que querían decir era que el rostro de la argentinidad es blanco, es heterosexual, y no tiene atributos morenos, indígenas, ni de diversidades sexuales.

An interesting thing was seeing how they were attacking us by saying we were not Argentinian […] What they were trying to say is that the face of Argentina is white, is heterosexual, and has no brown or indigenous attributes, nor it has any sexual diversity.

Mamaní acknowledged that he is cautious when he publishes on social networks, aware of how it exposes them to attacks and intolerance. But they do not let attacks and negative criticism interfere with their main goal to disseminate artistic work through their drag persona, Bartolina, in the spirit of environmental, social, political and gender activism.

Mamaní also stressed how they are constantly challenged within the “drag queen scene” and LGBTQ communities of Argentina. Their way of expressing diversity from a “peripheral perspective” — away from the urban centers of power, Mamaní says, is questioned by choosing, instead, a drag character from the aesthetic of Bolivian indigenous culture:

No es lo mismo ser un gay blanco de una ciudad que un gay moreno, con un cuerpo no estandarizado [según los cánones de belleza dominantes], con rostro indígena, que vive en una comunidad alejada de toda la cultura capitalista. [Ser] gay, pobre, trabajador… todo eso va a diferenciar las construcciones.

It is not the same to be a white gay [man] from the city than a brown gay [man], with body that is not normative [according the dominant idea of beauty], with an indigenous face, who lives in a community far from all capitalist culture. [Being] gay, poor, from the working class… all of that defines and differentiates [our social] structures [and experiences].

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Bartolina Xixa 🏳️‍🌈 (@bartolinaxixa) on

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Global Voices: Papua New Guinea PM pushes proposal for social media regulation, citing need to stop ‘fake news’

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Students in IT class at the Hohola Youth Development Centre. Flickr photo by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (CC BY 2.0)

The Papua New Guinea government has set its sights on regulating social media in order to combat the spread of online hoaxes and fake news. Critics and journalists have warned that it could lead to the curtailment of free speech.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has instructed the Ministry for Communications and Information Technology to review how the government can regulate social media to protect citizens affected by the circulation of fake news.

“It is destroying our people and destroying our society. We’ve lived in peace and harmony for thousands of years without social media,” he said during a media briefing.

He cited a recent incident in which rumors spread on Facebook that multiple girls and women in the town of Port Moresby had been kidnapped, and that the perpetrators had been apprehended by police. In response, a large crowd of people gathered outside the local police station, clamoring for information and justice for the girls and women. The alleged kidnapping was later confirmed to be a fabrication.

Prime Minister O’Neill seemed particularly interested in finding ways to hold Facebook accountable for its role as a catalyst for the spread of false information. He added in a media interview:

They make revenue in countries like ours, but do not pay a cent in tax, and leave behind a lot of damage to communities.

Facebook does not even have a local office in Papua New Guinea, and that is an indication of how serious they are about making a contribution to our country, and to properly manage the sensitive issues that we are raising.

This is not the first time that the government has threatened to control social media. In 2018, there were reports about a government proposal to ban Facebook for a year because of issues related to fake news and privacy violations. It generated public backlash and authorities later backed away from plans to ban the popular social media platform.

O’Neill’s announcement also coincided with some members of parliament threatening to file a resolution of no-confidence against the prime minister, whom they have accused of exerting too much control over government departments. But a political crisis was averted after O’Neill secured the support of the majority and the parliament was adjourned until 28 May 2019.

The plan to regulate social media was also revealed to be more than just an anti-fake news measure after Minister for Communications and Information Technology Koni Iguan complained about the posting of “indecent graphics” of the prime minister and the attorney general. He said that his office is preparing a measure that will deal with Facebook posts like these.

Governor of Oro province Gary Juffa advised the government not to proceed with its plan:

We are all subject to abuse and gossip and rhetoric and though we maybe upset or hurt by it we need to ensure we protect the rights of our people to express themselves as that’s an essential aspect of democracy is about – freedom of speech. If we have issues we can report it to the Police or take civil legal action.

Blogger Sylvester Gawi reminded O’Neill that the violence at the Boroko police station should be attributed to the “undertrained and underresourced police force that continually discharged firearm without any accountability.” He also said that the planned social media regulation is “adopted from Communist China.”

The fact is you can’t control platforms were information is circulated, attempts to do such undermines the role of democracy and freedom that is enshrined under the constitution of our country.

Journalist Scott Waide rejected the proposal to restrict Facebook:

There is a general agreement that there are a lot of people who use Facebook to spread fake news. They should be investigated and prosecuted using the cybercrime act if law enforcement has the capacity to do it.

But to ban Facebook has wide-ranging implications including direct government interference on the freedom of speech of Papua New Guineans and their right to hold their leaders to account.

Whether or not these officials are driven by political motivations, the Papua New Guinea government will hardly be alone in its desire to rein in social media. From Germany to Egypt to Singapore and beyond, laws have been approved that seek to curb disinformation and hate speech online. While some of these laws implicate the speakers themselves, others place legal responsibility on social media companies.

Germany’s Network Enforcement Law, informally known as NetzDG, imposes a system through which large social platforms (mainly Facebook) are required to remove hateful content from their site within 24 hours of receiving notice, or face monetary fines. But the law has a critical flaw: it does not help companies determine what is — and what is not — actually hateful, often leaving companies to err on the side of censorship. In a similar vein, efforts to curb false information have not put forth systems for determining, by due process, what is and is not false.

Time will tell whether the Papua New Guinea’s communications and information technology ministry will devise a unique solution to what has thus far been an intractable problem for governments and societies worldwide.

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Global Voices: ‘We’re caught in mid-air’: Raising a child with autism in Georgia

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A watchdog is pressuring authorities to increase the budget for the autism programme

‘When people see my son, sometimes they’re still surprised: ‘Oh, but he’s normal!’, they say. I want this kind of reaction to go. We need acceptance’, says Keti Nebieridze. (Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media)

The following is a version of a partner post by Tamuna Chkareuli that first appeared on the website OC Media.

Keti Nebieridze is a single mother in Georgia. Her son Sandro, who turns 16 this year, was born at a time when there were no basic services for children with autism. Though the government now provides 20 hours of therapy a month, Nebieridze still struggles with the demands of being a single parent.

“My family sold everything they had to buy all the medicine [for Sandro].”

Nebieridze is a hotline operator, working day and night shifts in rotation, with every fifth day free. She does not use her work holidays or sick days.

“I can’t allow myself to do it. I’m constantly thinking about Sandro’s needs,” she says. “No one will give you sick leave just for being a mother, will they?”

‘I thought a lot about what to have [tattooed] and realised that the only thing I would never be bored of is my son’s name’, says Keti Nebieridze. (Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media)

Once he turns 16, Sandro will no longer receive free therapy.

“It’s going to hit him hard,” Nebieridze says. “I see how his skills have improved during the last few years and he really has started to communicate with people. We’re caught in mid-air.”

Sopo Kereselidze is the founder of the first autism support centre. The programmes that are provided by municipalities today are based on the research Sopo and her team have collected since 2010. (Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media)

‘If you don’t push, they will forget about our existence’

Ever since Mari Korkotadze’s son, Data, was diagnosed with autism, her life has been a constant battle.

In 2015, she founded Families against Discrimination, the only watchdog organisation run by parents of children with autism in Georgia. 

Mari Korkotadze with her son Data. When he started school four years ago, Korkotadze had to pressure the school to appoint an individual special education teacher. (Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media)

One of the biggest battles parents of children with autism have had to fight was for therapy vouchers.

Currently, autism support programmes are provided by each municipality separately. The first such programme was unveiled in 2015 by Tbilisi City Hall; similar programmes in Batumi, Zugdidi, and Kutaisi, and partially in Telavi, followed.

According to the programme in Tbilisi, children between the ages of two and fifteen are entitled to 20 hours a month of Applied Behaviour Analysis. Parents receive a monthly voucher worth 400 lari ($148) to spend on the service.

But those registered in a municipality that does not offer applied behaviour analysis do not receive vouchers, meaning parents must take their child to a neighbouring region and pay for both the therapy and any transportation costs that arise.

One year later, after a series of rallies, hunger strikes, and meetings with the head of the municipal department of Healthcare and Social Services, Gela Chiviashvili, the parents managed to change the requirements.

It was agreed that children who were not born and registered in Tbilisi before 2015 would have to wait one year to receive the benefits of the programme. However, the municipality later changed the period to three years without notifying the parents.

“At that point, some children had weeks left before the start of their therapy. And now they have to wait two more years and lose more precious time.”

Korkotadze has been pressuring the city hall to increase the budget for the autism programme.

“If you don’t push every year, they will forget about our existence,” she says.

Loopholes in the education system

Korkotadze says, that in kindergartens, the administrators prefer to redirect children instead of working with them.

“These children are entitled to a personal assistant, it’s the law. Sometimes it’s the directors not knowing about the laws; but more often, they’re probing parents, and if they see the parents are not aware of their child’s rights, directors do everything to expel these children,” Korkotadze says.

Personal assistants help children with special needs in the learning process, acting as mediators between the student and the academic environment. However, the salaries for personal assistants are not fixed, and it is schools that decide how to spend this money.

Apart from personal assistants, there are special education teachers, whose function is to adapt the learning programme for the student. Tamar Gagoshidze, a neuropsychologist and head of Tbilisi State University’s Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, says that while not every child requires a personal assistant, every special needs student needs a special education teacher.

Special education teachers, however, are more expensive.

An occupation therapy room. Both Tamar Gagoshidze and Sopo Kereselidze agree that the existing programme does not meet the needs of 12 to 15-year-olds. (Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media)

Lack of qualifications

According to Gagoshidze, the biggest issue with the programme is diversity.

“Not every child needs these 20 hours, and not every child needs so many hours of [Applied Behaviour Analysis] therapy. There’s a room for diversifying these services.”

The service should include psychological support for parents too, Gagoshidze says.

Natia Londaridze is an occupational therapist. ‘This is the most beloved room in our centre’, she says. (Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media)

“Even one hour a week as a part of a municipality programme would be enough to aid the stress, anxiety, depression, and above all, PTSD that parents face. The emotional state of a parent has a direct impact on the child — this is especially hard on children with disabilities, who have strong bonds with their parents.”

Both of these issues are connected to the lack of qualified specialists,” Gagoshidze says, which is a direct result of the absence of relevant academic programmes.

“When the programme was started, these children were little, and there was a high demand for preschool therapies. But teenagers and young adults have different needs, and there are no people to meet these demands. For teenagers that made progress, it would be harmful to drop therapy now.”

As statistics on the number of people with autism rise across the world, Georgia being no exception, Nebieridze stresses that new problems are around the corner: “What I need is support. I need the government to understand that today, my son is 15, and tomorrow it will be someone else’s [child]. They have to find a solution for these children.”

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Global Voices: Journalists, YouTubers, and politicians join forces in Colombia against the killings of social leaders

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Over 460 social leaders were murdered in Colombia since 2016.

Screenshot of the video that launched the campaign #ALeaderInMyPlace. Available on YouTube through Daniel Samper Ospina’s channel.

Youtubers, journalists, and politicians are joining forces against the extrajudicial killings of social leaders in Colombia with the campaign #ALeaderInMyPlace in which they open their media spaces for a leader under threat to write or speak up.

The campaign began on May 13 when journalist Daniel Samper Ospina posted on his YouTube channel a reggaeton music video featuring social leaders and famous YouTubers.

According to Colombia’s Ombudsman Office, over 460 social leaders were murdered since 2016, the year when the Colombia government and the FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla group, signed a landmark agreement that put an end to the five-decade conflict.

Many experts attribute the surge in violence to uneven and poor implementation of the agreements, leaving large swathes of former FARC territory vulnerable to paramilitaries and guerilla dissidents.

As the hashtag #ALeaderInMyPlace made the rounds on Twitter, a few journalists opened spaces in their columns in more traditional media outlets for social leaders. For example, Patricia Lara Salive from El Espectador published an article by Afro-Colombian economist and environmentalist Sofía Garzón, about the struggle to protect the Ovejas river from illegal mining.

In Semana, journalist Antonio Caballero gave his space to William Orozco, who works as a defender of peasant’s rights, and who has had to remain in hiding away from home for almost a year after he received threats in July 2018.

Journalist Vanessa De La Torre Sanclemente gave her column in the Cali newspaper El País to Diana Jembuel, a social leader from the indigenous Misak people, who works in a local community radio. Jembuel narrates a past confrontation she had seven years ago with FARC members after they kidnapped someone from her community.

Her story shows how the Colombian government for years has left social leaders and minority ethnic communities at the mercy of guerrilla groups:

Decidí pedir ayuda a la comunidad en mi idioma, a través de las emisoras locales. Me escucharon y entre todos, me ayudaron […] los guerrilleros habían amedrentado a nuestra comunidad y no podíamos permitirlo. Mi compañero estaba en poder de ellos. Le apuntaban con un arma y nos gritaban groserías. [Luego] Yo sola, con mi bastón de mando, exigiendo respeto, logré que lo soltaran […] Desde entonces transmito ese mensaje. Ya no somos unas pocas voces aisladas sino muchas unidas para decir: basta ya.

I decided to ask for help in my language, through local radio stations. I was heard and was helped by everyone […] the guerrilla fighters had intimidated our community and we couldn’t let them do that. They had my partner. They were pointing a gun at him and they were yelling swearwords to us. [Then] I, single handedly, with my command staff, demanded respect and made them let him go […] Ever since I have passed that message. We’re not just a few voices anymore. We’re many voices united to say “enough.”

The movement was picked up by officials as well, such as the Attorney General of the Nation who has granted his online space to Goldman Environment Prize Francia Márquez. The Ambassador for the European Union in Colombia did the same with Afro Colombian leader Marino Córdoba, and on May 21 a few senators gave their seats to social leaders in the Senate:

Today with the campaign #ALeaderInMyPlace, our seats in the Second Commission fo the Senate are taken by social leaders. The Commission is being presided by Mayerlis Robles, a leader in Montes de María, who suffered an attack recently.

Bogotá-based human rights organization Dejusticia told Latin America Reports that the campaign was important for the “protection and rejuvenation of the country’s social leaders”. The campaign has generated a lot of conversation and interest, in particular when government representatives responded to it. Some voices remain doubtful, however, as this is only a very small effort in comparison to what is really needed to end the threats to social leaders. Twitter user David Racero summarized it this way:

What if Congress and Councilpeople in Bogotá that are not particularly under threat give the armoured vans they use as a taxi to social leaders and human right defenders whose lives are in danger and only count on a cellphone and a bulletproof vest?

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Global Voices: Can’t wait to be married: hundreds of same-sex couples celebrate their wedding in Taiwan

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Same-sex couple waiting to go on stage to receive gifts and congratulations by government officials. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

May 24 is a day to remember for the LGBTQIA+ community in Taiwan:  it marks the date from which same-sex couples can get married legally. Following a historical vote at the national Legislature on May 17, Taiwan has indeed become the first country in Asia to recognize and implement marriage equality. Across the island, several hundred couples have wed their significant other, and posted pictures on social media with the hashtag #524 (In Chinese, months are named after numbers, thus 5 refers to May, and 24 to the day). In Taipei, a crowd of newlyweds and supporters gathered at the Xinyi district Household Registration Office, located at the foot of the iconic Taipei 101 tower, to celebrate this legal victory. Twenty couples representing different gender and age categories were congratulated by key figures of the LGBTQIA+ movement, government officials, and representatives of foreign countries. Chi Chia-wei, a veteran activist of the LGBTQIA+ movement, recalled on stage that thirty years ago, when he started advocating for same-sex marriage, people told him he was suffering from a ‘mental disorder’. He concluded emotionally that ‘it has been a very long wait’.

Bellow is a photo gallery showing the highlights of the day.

This couple just finished their paperwork and are now officially married. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

 

The couple can now pose for the mandatory wedding picture. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

 

Government officials  (on the left) congratulate on older gay couple. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

 

Veteran activist Chi Chia-wei in his colorful outfit. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

 

Government officials (on the left) congratulating a younger gay couple. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

One of the many signs and stickers distributed at the event. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Global Voices: 30 years after the Tiananmen Massacre: The troubled history of the Goddess of Democracy

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the statue was crushed by tanks, replicas appeared in Hong Kong

Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Photo: Chan Ching-wah/Citizen News.

The following post is originally written by Kris Cheng and published by Hong Kong Free Press on 19 May 2019. The edited version is republished on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

The Goddess of Democracy stood for five days in the Tiananmen Square in 1989 before the bloody massacre of June 4.

The ten-metre tall statue, facing the portrait of Mao Zedong hung at Tiananmen Gate, was made in only three days. It could not be attributed to one person; dozens of students from eight higher education institutions of art, music, and theatre participated.

When the statue was made, Beijing was almost ten days into martial law. Some students said at the time they wished to use the statue to energise and unite those in the square.

According to an account by Cao Xinyuan, one of the sculptors, the statue could only be completed in such a short time using a “thoroughly academic approach”:

They decided to adapt to their purpose a studio practice work that one of them had already made – a foot-and-a-half clay sculpture of a nude man grasping a pole with two raised hands and leaning his weight on it.

[…]It had been done originally as a demonstration of how the musculature and distribution of weight are affected when the centre of gravity is shifted outside of the body. This was the unlikely beginning from which the Goddess of Liberty and Democracy was to grow.

[…]The students cut off the lower part of the pole and added a flame at the top to turn it into a torch; they repositioned the body into a more upright position; they changed the man’s face to that of a woman, added breasts, and finally draped the whole figure in a robe.

The original model of the Goddess of Democracy on May 27, 1989. Photo: Tiananmen Duizhi.

On the night of May 29 that year, the statue was escorted into the square in four parts and assembled in 16 hours. Hundreds of thousands watched the process.

A simple flower offering and opening ceremony was held at noon on May 30. Those who were present chanted “Long live democracy” and other slogans, Cao said, and some began to sing ‘The Internationale’.

Students from the Central Academy of Music gave a performance of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, then another foreign song and a Chinese song, and ended with The Internationale once again.

In a statement declaring the inauguration of the statue, the creators said they wished to dedicate it to those on hunger strike, to those in the square, to more than a million university students in China, and to those supporting them worldwide:

Although the God of Democracy, sculpted in plaster, cannot be preserved forever – we believe the darkness will pass and the dawn will come…[The original text referred to a God of Democracy instead of a Goddess.]

We strongly believe that when true democracy comes, we will come back to the square to stand up a grand, huge and permanent God of Democracy. This day will come. The Chinese people will forever put the God of Democracy in our hearts.

The students were correct that its presence would be temporary, but may have been too optimistic about the future.

People Will Not Forget, a collection of reports by Hong Kong journalists who covered the democratic movement, recorded words from student creators of the statue.

A student majoring in sculpture told Hong Kong journalists that they made the statue because China needed a new innovative image, an image representing democracy, freedom, equality, and peace:

The Goddess of Democracy will represent the thoughts of the new generation of China. We need to get rid of old traditions, and get rid of the feudalistic parental system.

A student who was involved in making the statue said it took the Statue of Liberty in New York as a reference. The Statue of Liberty has a torch in her right hand and a book, with an engraving of the date of US independence. The Tiananmen Goddess of Democracy had both hands on the torch.

But students may not have anticipated the reaction from the Beijing government. A student said at the time:

If the government ignores public opinion and forcefully destroys the statue, it will only show the authorities’ pettiness and their anti-democratic faces.

Soon after the statue was erected, Beijing’s Tiananmen management committee said it was a violation of the rules, as well as “an insult to the national dignity and image.” People’s Daily also printed articles over three consecutive days criticising the statue.

When the People’s Liberation Army cleared the protest on June 4, the statue was quickly felled and crushed by tanks. But replicas soon appeared in Hong Kong and other places.

The “Goddess of Democracy”. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The first replica, according to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was made on June 18, 1989, by more than ten artists and 60 students of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. It was created so Hong Kong people could visit Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and mourn the dead.

The creators were unable to find a permanent home for this replica, and – by the end of 1989 – it had been dismantled.

Another replica was made with barbed wire in the early 1990s, which was used in commemorative events during Ching Ming Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, as well during the anniversary of the massacre.

But the most prominent replica may be the one created with fiberglass in 2004. At 2.4 metres tall, it has been used during candlelight vigils on the anniversary of the massacre.

The “Goddess of Democracy” at Victoria Park, Hong Kong. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

A smaller replica was made in 2009 – on the 20th anniversary – and was publicly displayed at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Similar statues were also displayed in cities in Taiwan, the US, Canada, and Australia.

Other than replicas, Hong Kong also hosts another Goddess of Democracy statue inspired by the one made in1980.

In 2010, Chen Weiming, a Chinese-born New Zealand artist, created a new Goddess of Democracy statue, which was shipped to Hong Kong.

Controversy ensued when the Alliance displayed it in a public area of the Times Square mall in Causeway Bay on May 29, as the authorities said the statue did not have an “entertainment” license to be displayed. The police arrived and took it away.

Following public pressure, the statue was returned to the Alliance and displayed in Victoria Park.

The student union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong planned to move the statue onto the campus, but it was not approved by the school administration. Nonetheless, hundreds escorted the statue into the campus after the annual candlelight vigil, and it has stayed there ever since.

The Goddess of Democracy statue entering the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2010. File Photo: Apple Daily.

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Global Voices: In the UK, Timorese celebrated 17 years since the restoration of Timor-Leste’s independence

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Timor-Leste

Timorese present their teams at the tournament 20 May Cup IV. Photo by Dalia Kiakilir, GV.

On 20 May, Timorese across the world celebrate the restoration of Timor-Leste’s independence, declared on 20 May 2002 after it was occupied by Indonesia in 1976.

The University of Oxford Brookes, in the city of Oxford, UK, hosted the event “20 May”, organized by Timorese resident in the country. The event had cultural and sporting elements, including the fourth football tournament “20 May Cup” organized in partnership with the Timorese Sports Association.

The author attended the event and spoke with Acácio Marques, one of its organizers. He said:

Acácio Marques, president of the organizing committee for the event 20 May, 2019. Photo by Dalia Kiakilir, used with permission.

Hau hanoin loron espesial ne’e furak tebe-tebes ba ita hotu, atu hametin liu-tan ita nia unidade. Atu hateten katak hau haksolok tebes ho ita hotu nia prezensa iha fatin ne’e hodi hahi’i, hanai ita nian loron Restaurasaun Independensia.

For me, this is a very special and beautiful day for Timorese, it is a way of strengthening our unity. I want only to say that I am very happy with the attendance of everybody in this place to honour our day of restoring independence.

Joaquim da Fonseca, the current ambassador of Timor-Leste in the UK, attended the event. At the opening ceremony, Fonseca and Marques called on youths to always remember the values of the celebrated date.

Ambassador Joaquim da Fonseca speaks with Dália Kiakilir, the author of this story. Photo by Arlindo Fernandes, used with permission.

In an interview, Fonseca highlighted:

Iha ita nia istoria iha loron barak ma’ak marcante, importante, maibe dia 20 de maio ita hili hanesan loron ida, de facto, ohin, ita restaura ita nia independensia. Entaun, tinan-tinan, ita komemora no hanoin katak 20 de Maio relembra buat hotu-hotu nebe’e akontese durante tinan barak, desde estranjeiru sira tama iha ita nia rain, hanesan seculos barak portugues sira iha timor, iha indonesia nia tempu to’o ita ukun-a’an. Komesa husi buat sira nebe’e halo ema triste, halo ema haksolok, sakrifisiu, esforsu, avansu, retrosesu, ne’e ma’ak ita hanoin, entaun, ohin ita halo reflexaun oinsa Timor ne’e konsegue rekonquista nia liberdade?

The history of Timor-Leste has many important dates, but the day of 20 May, [for] us, the Timorese, we mark out as a day, in fact, today, [in which] we restored our independence. So, annually, we commemorate and reflect that the 20 May recalls everything that happened, since the entry of foreigners in our country, for example, centuries of imperialism by the Portuguese in Timor, the invasion of Indonesia until independence. Happiness, sadness, sacrifices, struggles, advances, setbacks. That’s how we think, then, today we reflect on how Timor managed to regain freedom.

Cultural Group Wehali, from Northford. Photo by Ike de Castro, used with permission

Several British cities joined the football tournament 20 May Cup IV, among them: FC Académica, FC Tazlekar, FC Timor Peterborough, FC Cultura Peterborough, FC Unidus A Yarmouth, FC Unidus B Yarmouth, FC Santa Cruz, FC Timorese, AC Mayluan, AS Makara, FC Souro, FC Fortuna, FC Brigwater, FC Ox-Til and two teams from Northern Ireland, namely FC Foin Sae Timor and FC Assuwain NI.

The winning team FC FoinSa’e, group 8. Photo by Ike de Castro, used with permission.

The Northern Irish team, FC Foin Sa’e Timor (in English, “Timorese Youth Football Club”) won the championship for the third time consecutively. The coach Hélio Alin said:

Ami mai iha ne’e hodi defende ami nia titulo no lori piala ba ami nia uma dala ida tan.

We are here to defend our title and to take home the cup once again.

Alin was awarded the title of best coach for this tournament.

The event then continued with a show of dance by the performance group Wehali from the city of Northford, and finished with the dancefloor opening to everybody present.

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Global Voices: Russian website attempts to impersonate established news outlet covering the Balkans

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Balkanist.ru vs. Balkanist.net, a collage of front page screenshots. Image by Meta.mk News Agency, CC-BY.

This story originally appeared on Meta.mk News Agency, a project of Metamorphosis Foundation. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement.

The newsroom of Balkanist.net, a media outlet based in Serbia covering the Balkans, was surprised to find out that they have a Russian-language doppelganger (Balkanist.ru) with an opposite editorial policy.

Balkanist.net is an English-language outlet which since 2013 publishes news and analyses about the Balkans and Eastern Europe written by international contributors. Their website says they are “entirely independent, self- and reader-funded, and are not affiliated with any organization, company, or government institution.”

In turn, Balkanist.ru was founded in September 2018 and publishes analyses by “authoritative Balkanists from Russia” with the stated objective of “influencing Moscow’s policies in this troubled region” — according to its “about the project” page. The website’s logo features a cormorant, which is called baklan in Russian. There isn’t any info about the website’s funding sources.

Lily Lunch, editor of Balkanist.net. Photo used with permission.

Balkanist.net’s editor-in-chief Lily Lunch has told Meta.mk that “the Russian-language site has nothing to do with our publication.”

On social networks in Serbia, the appearance of a Russian version of the Balkanist was seen as another attempt to peddle propaganda for the Serbian government Aleksandar Vučić, this time aiming at the Russian public.

For instance, the analyst Miloš Popović commented on Twitter:

In an official statement, Balkanist.net alleged that their Russian namesake is a pro-Vučić propaganda site:

It’s not surprising to us that a pro-Vučić propaganda site would use our name and brand to publish well-constructed lies in Russian. For years, the regime has sought to eliminate each and every independent voice the country has left. It has a variety of tools at its disposal to accomplish this. One of its most well-worn tactics is spreading confusion and lies about critics. The purpose of publishing under the name Balkanist in Russian is to confuse readers at home, in Russia and elsewhere into questioning our sincerity, what and who we support, and what and who we believe. In this way, they hope to, at a minimum, diminish the impact of any future criticism (and there will be future criticism – a lot of it). They also know that we are critics not only of the Vučić regime, but of the European Union and NATO. Unlike Vučić’s ministerial choices and economic policy, our editorial line is not dictated by the US embassy. This makes the name Balkanist a logical vehicle for the dissemination of Vucic’s lies in Russia.

Also according to the “about” page of the Russian website, its manager Oleg Bondarenko has served as adviser to several top Serbian politicians in previous years: former president of Serbia Tomislav Nikolić, his former protegé and current president Aleksandar Vučić, and Milorad Dodik, the pro-Kremlin strongman of Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bondarenko is also a prolific commentator on pro-Kremlin media. In early 2018, he was barred from entering the EU and turned away at Berlin’s Tegel airport at Poland’s request.

Other names on Balkanist.ru’s editorial line-up include academics and political scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences specializing in the Balkans and even one rock musician whose band, BalkanMusicLab, plays covers of Yugoslavian rock hits in Moscow clubs.

Global Voices attempted to contact the Balkanist.ru team for comment but received no response.

Website impersonation, an old trick of North Macedonia’s right-wing

Similar impersonation tactics were common in neighboring North Macedonia during the government of the VMRO-DPMNE, a conservative party that presided over 12 years of democratic decline before it was ousted in the 2016 elections.

The website Kurir.mk, for example, founded in 2010 and to this day a leading VMRO-DPMNE mouthpiece, shares its name with the Serbian site Kurir.rs, a very popular tabloid at that time.

In 2016, the Serbian publisher Adria Media Group penned a statement titled “Fake Kurir deceiving readers in Macedonia” in which it threatened to sue the Macedonian site for stealing its brand.

AGM noted that the owner of the copycat site was the firm EM medija d.o.o. based in Skopje. The statement alleges that the firm has ties with Saša Mijalkov, the former chief of the Macedonian secret service, and a first-cousin of then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

In May 2018, the investigative media outlet Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Network revealed that EM medija d.o.o. had been partly purchased by Hungarian companies with close ties to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán along with several other outlets in North Macedonia. In June 2018, the Hungarians became the sole owners of EM medija d.o.o.

Similarly, when pro-government television station TV Nova (tvnova.mk) was founded in 2015, it was given the same name as the independent outlet Nova TV (novatv.mk), founded in 2011. Nova TV’s journalists have faced constant attacks by government supporters during that time, and in 2015 its editor received a death threat.

The owner of the now-defunct TV Nova is currently under investigation on various charges of corruption and organized crime in cooperation with the former government.

A third example happened in 2016 when individuals with ties with VMRO-DPMNE officials opened dubious news websites in Croatia (alo.com.hr) and Serbia (saznajemo.rs) with names similar to established cross-border online publications. Ahead of the November 2016 elections, they published articles with baseless treason accusations against the then-opposition leader Zoran Zaev. Mainstream, party-controlled media then disseminated these false allegations as relevant news from supposedly reputable foreign outlets.

A recent investigation by Macedonian online outlet SDK revealed that the administrator of those websites started a job in the state-owned company ESM — Power Plants of North Macedonia around that time. He holds the same position to this day.

Smaller, local media sympathetic to the government at that time used the same tactics. A local TV station in the southern city of Strumica was named Telekanal A1 when it was created in 2014, the same name of the national TV station A1 TV which in 2011 was shut down by Gruevski’s regime.

In August 2017, the new government of North Macedonia cut funding to private media, and many of such pro-VMRO-DPMNE outlets have been gradually closing down since. According to information by the broadcasting regulator, TV Nova and Telekanal A1 folded in August and March of 2018, respectively.

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Global Voices: North Macedonia vows to remedy injustices against NGOs, closes legal loopholes abused by former government

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NGOs endured months of Kremlin-style administrative harassment under former leaders.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Republic of North Macedonia Radmila Šekerinska at a press conference on May 11, 2019. Photo by Government of RNM, Public Domain.

This story originally appeared on Portalb.mk and was translated by Meta.mk News Agency, a project of Metamorphosis Foundation. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement.

During its final months in power in 2016-17, the former ruling party of North Macedonia imposed a Kremlin-style administrative siege against non-government organizations (NGOs) that leaders called the “de-Sorosization” of the country.

After nearly two years, the government of North Macedonia has issued an official call for remedy of the damages incurred by NGOs during this period and reform of policies that allowed for the abuses to take place.

For seven months beginning in December 2016, state institutions conducted coordinated, large-scale investigations of 21 NGOs across the country, combing through their accounting and other documentation and seizing every opportunity to punish and fine NGOs for administrative errors and other alleged misdeeds. This period ended after the new government came into power in June 2017; in November 2018, the Financial Police announced that their investigations concluded that there were no grounds for the investigations of the NGOs.

At a press conference on May 11, Deputy Prime Minister Radmilla Šekerinska emphatically exonerated NGOs and vowed to remedy the damages done.

“NGOs were penalized and unjustly fined for mistakes they had not made,” she said.

Civil society groups, whose reputations and work had been badly shaken by these institutional abuses of power, have eagerly anticipated closure and justice.

The de-Sorosization of Macedonia

In December 2016, chief of then-ruling party VMRO-DPMNE Nikola Gruevski announced declared a “final showdown” with his sworn “enemies”, civil society groups. The right-wing populist party had ruled the country since 2006 and had already invested millions in taxpayer revenue in media campaigns smearing critical voices. The so-called showdown or “de-Sorosization” of the country — a reference to grants awarded to local NGOs by the philanthropic network of George Soros — came just after parliamentary elections in which his party failed to win a majority. This loss preceded the end to Gruevski’s rule in 2017.

Working in lockstep, state institutions including the Public Revenue Office, the Financial Police and the Public Prosecutor for Organized Crime laid virtual siege on 21 NGOs across the country. In addition to fines levied under a loophole in the Personal Income Tax law, 13 NGOs had to undergo controls by the Financial Police lasting several months, whose aim was to find out or fabricate misuse of the funds received from USAID during the implementation of their activities. The initiative drained NGO resources and upended the activities of many organizations, forcing them to focus their labor on complying with government demands, rather than doing their actual work.

Evidence indicates that the former ruling party was attempting to implicate donors from NATO countries in alleged “subversion.” Domestic propaganda at the time labeled Soros and USAID as the Western enemies of Macedonians. VMRO-DPMNE and its populist allies also carried out intensive lobbying in Washington and Brussels during that time, in an effort to block foreign aid invested in civil society and democratization.

Since it came to power in June 2017, the new government has worked with NGOs on the implementation of the “3-6-9” plan for comprehensive reforms that to restore democracy in North Macedonia and promote its accession to European Union. It has also finally heeded calls from EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who urged changes in the government’s attitude towards NGOs.

Gruevski was convicted of corruption soon after his time in office, and became a fugitive from the law in November 2018. He is currently hiding in Hungary, a country whose government attacks NGOs in similar manner.

At the May press conference, Šekerinska described how the former government had misinterpreted parts of the law and abused regulations that were overly broad in an attempt to financially ruin NGOs, in order to silence them.

In her remarks, she lauded the work of NGOs:

Невладините организации и граѓанските активисти кои што беа цел на оваа хајка немаат сега ниту од што да се плашат, ниту од што да се срамат. Практично, тие го направија она што и беше потребно на државата. Излегоа, ја говореа вистината, се бореа за слобода, за човекови права, се бореа за демократски вредности.

NGOs and activists who were target of this witch hunt now have nothing to be afraid of, or to be ashamed of. Practically they did what was needed for the good of the state. They went out, spoke the truth, fought for freedom and democratic values.

After consultations with several government institutions and parliament, Šekerinska also announced that the parliament has adopted an “authentic interpretation” of the Law on Personal Tax that eliminates the loophole that the previous government had abused and used to demand higher tax payments from NGO workers.

Šekerinska said:

With this authentic interpretation, along with previous changes to the law, this Government has shown that it does not want to leave any grey zones that would allow blackmail, intimidation or manipulation in the future. This way, the solution will guarantee that all state institutions will not be able to intimidate or exert pressure on those who do not share the same political convictions.

Critically-minded NGOs that were targeted by the former VMRO-DPMNE regime have welcomed the move, saying that it brings an end to the injustice inflicted on them.

Bardhyl Jashari, Exective Director of Metamorphosis Foundation, which was a prime target of the “de-Sorosization” explained:

Ky është lajm i mirë që shlyen një padrejtësi që ju bë disa organizatave joqeveritare gjatë regjimit të Gruevskit dhe u jep edhe një goditje shpifjeve tendencioze ndaj nesh por njëkohësisht edhe një here nxjerr në pah punën tonë profesionale. Edhe pse është vështirë të harrohet presioni institucional që na bëheshte nëpërmjet policisë financiare dhe drejtorisë për të hyra publike, si dhe presioni nëpërmjet mediave të kontrolluara nga qeveria e atëhershme, megjithatë është mirë që edhe formalisht mbyllet ky proces i padrejtë i cili i bëri dëm jo vetëm sektorit jo qeveritar por çoi prapa edhe demokracinë në shtet.

This is good news, it puts an end to the injustices carried out against several non-governmental organizations during Gruevski’s regime and it’s another blow to the tendentious defamation directed at us and at the same time it once again highlights our professional work. While it is difficult to forget the institutional pressure exerted on us through the Financial Police and the Public Revenue Office, as well as pressure through the media controlled by the then government, it is nevertheless good to formally shut down this unfair process that damages not only the non-governmental sector but which has also weakened democracy in the country.

Fani Karanfilova-Panovska, the director of the Foundation Open Society Macedonia, stated for Portalb.mk that the government would need to find a formal way to bring an end to all the activities carried out by representatives of the former government.

Civil society representatives hold a press conference in Skopje, February 2017. The sign behind them reads, “We Must Protect Civil Society.” Photo by Vančo Džambaski via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Besides the representatives of the targeted NGOs, social media users also expressed positive reactions to the government’s announcement. When referring to the ‘de-Sorosoization,’ one independent Twitter user noted:

This was possibly the most shameful act in the modern history of the Macedonian people.
– Wrapped inside their own impulse for witch-hunt, the [rulers] institutionally incited, enabled and rewarded the cleaving of the Macedonian tissue and state.

In her closing statement, Šekerinska congratulated the NGOs for scrutinizing the work of all administrations, and expressed support for their right to assemble, speak freely, and criticize the former and current governments.

 

Global Voices is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations, which are funded by George Soros.

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Global Voices: Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, who taught the world ‘how to write about Africa,’ dies at 48

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Creative genius. Slayer of convention. A son of the soil. An exceptional mind.

Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina at the Brooklyn Book Fest, 2009. Wainaina, 48, passed away on Tuesday, May 22, in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo via Nightscream, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s been a little over 24 hours since Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has left this world, but his presence and impact continues to reverberate around the globe.

The outspoken, openly gay writer rebuked convention and challenged the status quo, triggering a literary revolution that would open the door to thousands of aspiring writers ready to change the narratives in and about Africa.

The writer, educator and LGBTQ activist, Binyavanga Wainaina, 48, passed on Tuesday, May 22, in Nairobi, Kenya, after a brief illness.

Within minutes, Wainaina’s friends, followers and admirers flooded social media to swap tributes and memories while arguing which of his prolific writings had the most influence.

Wainaina is best known for his provocative essay, “How to Write About Africa,” published in Granta magazine in 2006, his memoir, “One Day I’ll Write About This Place,” and the “lost chapter” to his memoir, the essay “I am a homosexual, mum,” published simultaneously in Chimurenga and Africa is a Country in 2014 — which caused a powerful stir on Twitter as people tried to parse to fact from fiction. Subsequently, Time magazine named him one of the top 100 most influential people in the world.

In “How to Write About Africa,” Wainaina called out Western media and the aid industry — both particularly present in Nairobi — for perpetuating negative stereotypes about the continent of Africa, through scathing satire.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

“His sarcasm was dripping — a stellar scalpel,” writes Nigerian writer Nwachukwu Egbunike.

Widely cited by academics, non-governmental organizations and aid workers, the essay —  also published by Kwani? as a small booklet — has had a profound impact on perceptions of Africa and continues to circulate, surprise and provoke.

On its impact, journalist Pernille Bærendtsen writes:

For me, this essay has followed me since I received it as a gift in 2008 by a Kenyan friend. I clearly belonged to the group of people Binyavanga addressed: A development worker employed by a Danish NGO in Tanzania writing about its ‘impact’. This was at a point when the development and aid industry sharpened its rhetoric in favor of fundraising at the cost of unfolding the contrasting diversity on the ground. I had plenty of reason to feel embarrassed, but I also had the time to plan how to change.

Binyavanga later explained in the journal Bidoun how this essay randomly came to life with double-effect: By exposing and describing the insecurity of “novelists, NGO workers, rock musicians, conservationists, students, and travel writers,” who read these “guidelines” on how — or maybe rather how not to — write about Africa, they then began to ask for his approval.

Wainaina, a son of a Kenyan father and Ugandan mother, continued to challenge stereotypes about Africa with his groundbreaking 2012 memoir, “One Day I’ll Write About This Place.” Through rich, searing detail, he transported readers from his childhood in the ‘70s in Kenya to his student days in South Africa, where he spent many years in exile.

Critics hailed the book as raw and honest, but Wainaina later admitted that he’d left out an important chapter — his love life.

With “I am a homosexual, mum,” Wainaina became the first high-profile Kenyan to come out as openly gay on social media, triggering an avalanche of social opinion. His essay was timely as a wave of anti-gay crusades and legislation were being proposed in  Uganda and later Tanzania where homosexual acts remain criminalized.

However, unlike other writers who went into exile, Wainaina returned home, and as Nanjala Nyabola points out for BBC on Twitter, “that was major”:

‘We must free our imaginations’

While Binyavanga ironically attracted admiration from the diverse international crowd he criticized, at home he felt the pressure of not fitting the set frames. Binyavanga demanded free space and imagination. Courageously — within a growing community supportive of LGBTQ — he insisted on bending those frames.

In response to all the noise and pushback, that same year Wainaina produced “We Must Free Our Imaginations,” a six-part Youtube series detailing his ideas on freedom and the imagination. “I want to live a life of a free imagination,” he declared in Part 1.

I want to this generation of young parents to have their kids see Africans writing their own stories — that simple act is the most political act one can have. I want to see a continent where every kind of person’s imagination does not have to look for … being allowed. I am a pan-Africanist, I want to see this continent change.

Wainaina often channeled his desire for change through his literary activism education and leadership. In 2002, after winning the prestigious Caine Prize for his essay, “Discovering Home,” he used the award money to co-found Kwani? a literary magazine promoting new voices and new ideas emerging from across the continent.

Kwani? evolved over time into a publishing house and literary network that connected emerging and established writers from Lagos to Nairobi, Mogadishu to Accra.

While he unapologetically shook Kenyan social convention — coming out as gay, and later revealing his HIV+ status on Twitter on World AIDS Day in 2016 — it often came with backlash, struggle and pain.

Wainaina was a controversial person who struggled with depression and often wrestled with his complicated role as a public figure. He had his fans but he also faced critics like prominent Kenyan writer Shaija Patel, who accused Wainaina of “toxic lesbophobia.”

Twitter user Néo Músangi grapples with the fallibility of Wainaina’s character in this tweet:

Writer Bwesigye Mwsigire, director of the Writivism Festival in Uganda, also addressed these contradictions in a Facebook tribute:

His style was a transgression. Beautiful and freeing transgression. … [T]he people we obsess over because of their work and ideas are people after all. They are human. Are we ever ready to love them in their complexity?

By now, a lot has been said about him. There’s no need to repeat what has been said. Reminders of harm that he supported have been sounded. … This doesn’t take away the pain one feels about his death.

There is only one Binyavanga Wainaina. He is an ancestor now. Let us celebrate his life.

A ‘creative genius’

A queer icon, Binya — as he is fondly called —  often received torrents of vitriolic anti-gay rhetoric that only spiked online as the news of his death spread across various channels.

Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi wrote on Twitter that after writing a Facebook tribute to Wainaina, hateful, homophobic comments derailed his message:  Wainaina was a creative genius who must be remembered:

Ugandan feminist and writer Rosebell Kagumire distills the lessons she learned from Wainaina’s courage to speak out:

Through his life and letters, he gave himself and countless others the permission to imagine life as it could be otherwise, and his passing inspired poetic musings about the future of African imaginations and letters:

Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, author of “Dust,” and literary friend to Wainaina, calls out with a final lament:

“Who told you you could leave? Sneak out of your body at night without leaving a new address?”

Now that he’s among the stars, you can join “Planet Binya” with a full archive of his work.

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Global Voices: Inflatable Tank Man sculpture appears in Taiwan ahead of Tiananmen Massacre anniversary

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Photo taken by Filip Noubel. Used with permission.

The following post is originally written by Tom Grundy on Hong Kong Free Press in May 22, 2019. It is republished on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

A giant inflatable “Tank Man” sculpture has appeared in the Taiwanese capital, almost 30 years after the Tiananmen Massacre.

Situated outside the landmark Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, the balloons were installed by a local artist named Shake. She told Reuters that she hoped China would become democratic one day:

So I think it is important to the Taiwanese people to continue discussing this topic – preventing people from forgetting this event and reminding the Taiwanese people that the regime in China is dangerous… This thing has already been washed away by [China’s] authoritarian political view.

Photo taken by Filip Noubel. Used with permission.

The appearance of the inflatable sculpture coincided with the 2019 June 4 International Symposium, which was held over the weekend alongside a series of commemorative events in Taiwan. A candlelight vigil, lectures, and seminars will also be held to mark the 30th anniversary.

Free speech is protected in democratic Taiwan, though Beijing considers the island to be part of its territory.

In 2016, the artist and cartoonist Badiucao conducted a performance in Adelaide, Australia to pay tribute to “Tank Man.” He later launched a campaign to encourage other people around the world to pose as the lone protester.

The Tank Man performance in Adelaide in 2016. Photo: Badiucao.

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Global Voices: Taiwan’s same-sex marriage bill is a half-victory for rainbow families

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LGBT families were present as Taiwan’s legislature enshrined same-sex marriage on May 17th. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

Taiwan made history on May 17 as its legislature voted on the implementation of same-sex marriage, thus becoming the first country in Asia to do so. Yet the new law only extends limited adoption rights to same-sex couples. Is this then a bittersweet victory for rainbow families and future same-sex parents?

Rainbow families are slowly emerging from the underground and becoming more diverse

The term LGBTQIA+ is an umbrella concept that brings together a number of groups with different identities and interests, and with varying visibility within the larger queer community. One such group is often called rainbow families and refers to same-sex couples who have, or plan to have and raise children together. In many countries, opposition to same-sex marriage laws largely originates in religious views on marriage, claiming that a child needs a mother and a father to be raised.

Regardless of existing laws, religious practice, or mainstream social mores, rainbow families exist in a number of ways across the globe. Figures are difficult to obtain given the lack of legal protection in most cases, and the desire to be protected from homophobia. But for example in the UK, there are over 10,000 such families, and in the US the figure is over 200,000. Global Voices interviewed Cindy Su, the CEO for the Lobby Alliance for LGBT rights in Taiwan, who explains that:

“We have a community of gay families, I myself have two kids, and we know a few hundred such families”.

In Taiwan, as in other countries, there are three main ways for same-sex couples to have children: custody of biological children from a previous heterosexual relationship, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and increasingly, surrogacy.

While initially, almost all same-sex parents were women, a new group of gay dads is emerging. Andrew (who asked to use a pseudonym), is from Taiwan, identifies as gay, and is currently in the process of having a child with this husband via a surrogacy. He recently joined the Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy ( 台灣同志家庭權益促進會 ), which was established in 2005, and operates as a support group for current and future same-sex parents. He explains why gay men are increasingly considering parenthood:

“Globalization makes the international surrogacy process easier day by day. Some US-based agencies are developing ad campaigns targeting international potential LGBT parents. In Taiwan they even offer packages in Chinese. Besides, there is still a strong and undeniable expectation from within the Chinese culture, and from society to have children, especially for men.”  

Until 2015, most surrogate mothers came from Southeast Asia, but a number of countries have since banned the practice.

Visibility and (self-)acceptance

But despite encouraging signs of the growing tolerance of queer parenting, every step on the road towards full acceptance requires courage, and not all are ready to come out publicly.

According to Cindy Su:

“A majority of Taiwanese don’t know that LGBT families exist, but when they see us on the street, when we introduce our family structure, most people are accepting. They see us as real people and understand that we want to give our kids the best.”

Andrew believes some men still shy away from public recognition:

” The real question is whether men start their own families while being out or while remaining in the closet. Paradoxically in some cases, men become dads without coming out, or without being in a couple”.

He himself asks to remain anonymous because of his overall low online profile, while he has come out at work, to his family and friends. He explains that:

“Every LGBT household faces different levels of risk of being out, and has different concerns for being more visible in society today. This can be related to a partial coming-out, or a familial acceptance depending on a tacit agreement of discreteness”.

I asked both Cindy, who has children, and Andrew, who is expecting one, about their concerns for a child with two same-sex parents growing up in a society where heterosexual families remain the norm. In 2004, the Taiwanese government introduced the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等敎育法) which over the years extended its content to include information about LGBTQIA+ identity, sex education and rights. In November 2018, a referendum asked Taiwanese citizens their opinions about ten issues, one of them being the implementation of the homosexual aspect of Gender Equality Education in elementary and middle schools. Two-thirds of the voters voted against.

For Cindy, the situation will require a long fight:

“At school, the curriculum has introduced different sexualities and gender identities without emphasizing rainbow families. Besides, the opposition wants to remove this kind of education from schools. We are very concerned  and know this is a challenge we will have to face.”

Andrew believes strong support outside of school can protect their future child:

“We do realize our child is going to grow as a “minority”. Therefore we will do our utmost to be fully open about his origins, our homosexuality, and the impact it can have on his life. Our close circle is totally supportive and made of people with different outlooks on society. This will create a bubble for the kid, and allow him to question and refute comments he could face outside”

Legal battle not over for rainbow families

The May 17 vote on same-sex marriage included a particular point on adoption which is granted as a right but only if the adopted child is biologically related to one of the parents. This means that not all children growing up in same-sex households will benefit from full legal parental protection on both sides.

Bullying of LGBTQIA+ children is a serious issue. The death of 11-year-old Yeh Yung-Chih in 2000 led to the introduction of the Gender Equity Education Act four years later, as can be seen in this video.

Regarding same-sex sex education in schools, I also talked to Jay Lin, a founding member of the Taiwan Marriage Equality Coalition and father of two 3-year old children. He agrees more efforts are needed:

“The results of the referendum deny children same sex education in elementary and secondary school. There is no constitutional protection for this kind of education, so we will need to lobby and communicate more with the general population, including many concerned and misinformed parents, on why this type of education is necessary. We can also do this on a micro level by talking to parents and teachers and by persuading the rest of the population that this is good for all children to be more aware about themselves and their peers”.

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Global Voices: Afghanistan’s ‘Art Lords’ on painting change at street level

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The collective’s uncompromising social message attracts both friends and threats

Omid Sharifi at work. Photo provided by Art Lords.

It started with a dream of two Kabuli boys, Omid Sharifi and Kabir Mokamil, who wanted to reclaim Afghanistan, “from thieves and the corrupt.” The embattled urban spaces of the capital Kabul were a waiting canvas.

This is how the Art Lords, Afghan Art and Cultural Association, was born in 2015.

“We wanted to start a grassroots movement for changing public perceptions — a movement that can result in transparency and accountability,” Sharifi told Global Voices during an interview in the group’s office.

Street art helps people to question, the 31-year-old artist explained.

“At the end of the day only people can hold the corrupt ones accountable!”

Blast walls and beyond

Kabul, a once beautiful city wracked by decades of war, had to become beautiful again, Sharifi and Mokamil decided.

Their first targets for street art were the blast walls that had crept up all across the capital to secure infrastructure hit by explosions.

But to make their message a national one, the collective had to expand out of the city. Over time they extended their activities to 17 of 34 provinces in Afghanistan, including several that were still very insecure.

To date they have created nearly 600 murals, whilst last year alone they put on more than 50 street theatre performances.

Sharifi sees the Art Lords as “soldiers on the front lines of the battle against injustice.” Among the group’s favourite themes are gender equality, children’s rights and the battle against graft.

Finance for the Art Lords project has come from private sources, international organisations and foreign governments, but finding money has always been a challenge for an organisation that has grown to include 17 permanent and 41 part-time staff.

Some of the income to fund the project comes from a coffee shop underneath the Art Lords’ office that serves as a location for popular cultural events.

‘There have been threats’

The ambivalence of authorities towards the project, especially at lower level, has sometimes created difficulties for the Art Lords.

But the group also has supportive contacts working in government, and has enjoyed partnering with schools and universities.

Sharifi has called the group’s work “a protest against (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar, Corruption, and drugs”.

This clear civic position has contributed to the Art Lords receiving direct threats on at least eight occasions, he says.

But Sharifi also argues that in some ways, their lives are no different from any other citizen in a country where “security challenges are a fact of life like eating, drinking and sleeping.”

“There are threats, real fears and we all have serious psychological problems, but what choice do we have?” he asks.

“What can we do except for this?”

Art Lords without borders?

Art Lords work has been recognised internationally and was most recently nominated for the 2019 Freedom of Expression Awards in the ‘art’ category, where the group lost out to Kurdish political painter and journalist Zehra Doğan.

Currently the collective is seeking to evolve into an international organisation working on freedom of press in South Asia and the countries of the Middle East.

Plans to open an Art Lords branch of their office in United States of America and an Afghan Art Gallery in Dubai are tied to a vision to be financially sustainable.

Earlier this month, the Lords worked their magic during an exhibition in the Swiss town of Lugano.

But the group’s primary audience will always be the people of Afghanistan, for whom Sharifi’s deep compassion was clear during the interview he gave GV:

The common people like this work. The art is for them. They have never had a painting on their walls. They have never held a paintbrush in their hands. Art has alway been reserved for the 5% of upper class residents in Afghanistan — the (former) royal family and the notables. But our work is for the common people. We want them to engage in the process.

Global Voices


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Global Voices: “If big tech companies won’t solve the problem for us. We can do it ourselves.”

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How Nigerians are building a Do-It-Yourself approach to inclusion in language technology

Photo by Kevin Harber and used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Editor’s note: The following essay was written as part of a social media campaign promoting linguistic diversity online co-organized by Rising Voices. This essay was constructed from a series of tweets compiled using the Thread Reader app and organized and edited for publication.

I often speak about my grandfather (now about 92) who can read and write in Yorùbá but not in English. He lived a successful life as a goldsmith, and lived in many parts of Nigeria.

I think of him often when I think of the issues of inclusion in today’s language technology. There are many times I go to his house and I have to help him operate his mobile phone, retrieve old messages, or respond to some phone commands.

In his house and in my father’s office, in the early nineties, is where I first saw rotary phones — so the problem isn’t that he hasn’t seen phones before, or used them to communicate. But mobile phones and their technical features pose new problems.

As with most people who have the privilege of being savvy in both web knowledge and English language, it’s easy for me to dismiss all adult consternation with new technology. “Why can’t they just figure it out?” But stepping back a bit, one sees the problem—and the opportunities.

Tools like text-to-speech and speech recognition were created to solve problems like this: empower people to use their devices in as much an intuitive way as possible, using human-natural actions like speaking and listening. But what if the user does not speak/understand English? It’s not a question that many technology companies focusing on Africa have enjoyed confronting, perhaps also because there are many loud middle-class voices telling them that ‘we all speak English anyway. Why bother?’

My impression is that in spite of decades of the use of English as the medium of instruction, the harsh reality is that millions still do not speak English or not with the competence required to use most modern technological tools.

I recounted an incident once, at an ATM in the city of Lekki, where a young man of around 30 didn’t understand what the machine meant by not being able to dispense money “to the multiples of 500″ or so.

He would have been easily better served in Igbo.

But today, there’s no ATM you can use successfully in a Nigerian language. And none you can use by speaking to it, though this latter might not be a Nigerian problem alone. Still, we can expect that big tech companies won’t solve the problem for us. We can do it ourselves.

Imagine if you could use your phone/ATM/etc in a Nigerian language. My grandfather and millions more would be empowered to participate in modern life. Think about the possibilities for financial inclusion. Who would put their money in a bank if they can’t get it out easily?

There are tools for disabled people that can benefit from local language infusion. A phone that can read your text to you can benefit a blind person who speaks no English. etc. In short, plenty of opportunities. Most local startups aren’t convinced of the profitability of these ventures, hence the absence of many organisations trying to solve the problems. Don’t ask me why the government isn’t sponsoring research in these directions. I don’t know either.

So, we do what we can, when we can.

Global Voices


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Global Voices: India’s Lok Sabha 2019: Results of a weeks-long election process

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Photo Credits: Pallavi Bhadkamkar. Used with permission.

Looking back at the most important election of India, the Lok Sabha 2019 election (Indian general election) was nothing less than that of a typical political soap opera — complete with name-calling and an eventual hashtag batter between parties. As this weeks-long voting period draws to a close today, voters wait with bated breath for the results.

Three political parties came together to try and get into a coalition before the elections. This was called the ‘Gathbandhan’ (Alliance) that was comprised of Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Bahujan Samaj Dal. These parties are local parties of the state of Uttar Pradesh, a state that has been crucial for the current prime minister’s  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win in order to gain a majority in the Lok Sabha in 2019. The opposition called for a meeting in order to discuss the possible outcomes of the election.

Aside from the voting itself, the most important part of this election was the use of social media in election campaigns. Hashtags played a crucial part in social media campaigns. According to searches tracked on Google, the hashtags for BJP started off to be more popular than that for Congress Party, however, the two parties mostly played with the hashtags “Main Bhi Chowkidaar” (Even I am a guard), “Chowkidaar Chor Hai” (The guard is, in fact, the thief) and “Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar” (Modi government once again).

&&

As the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections draw to a close on 23 May, the political parties have started to ready themselves up for the possible outcomes of the elections. The Lok Sabha needs a majority for a political party to have their candidate in the Prime Minister seat.

According to the exit polls, Narendra Modi is expected to win a landslide of the votes, gaining a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha. Out of the total 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, many news outlets reported that the BJP is projected to win a majority of seats — enough for the BJP to have Narendra Modi as Prime Minister without any backing from other parties or coalition. With the impending election results, people have taken to Twitter to vent out their anticipation. Many have taken the exit poll results to be completely reflective of the actual results and have started congratulating Narendra Modi for his win.

Various news channels and websites have arranged for live update and analyses of the Election results through the course of the 23 of May 2019.

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Global Voices: Kami Rita Sherpa breaks record as he climbs Mount Everest for the 24th time

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Broke his own record for most summits on Mt. Everest

Kami Rita Sherpa holds the record of climbing Everest 24 times, the most by any individual. Image from the Facebook page of Seven Summit Treks Pvt. Ltd. Used with permission.

Climbing Mount Everest is on every adrenaline junkie’s wishlist, but Everest summiteer Kami Rita Sherpa has checked this off his list a record amount of times. Defying all odds, he climbed the world’s highest peak twice in a week this year – earlier on 15 May and again on 21 May 2019 – making his number of Everest ascents 24.

Seven Summit Treks, the company he works with, announced on Facebook:

21 May 2019 !

24th Ascents of Mt Everest 8848m by Kami Rita Sherpa, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR SENIOR GUIDE.

This morning 6:30 AM Kami Rita climbed the Mt Everest for 24 times (2nd Ascents of this season) and broke his own record of 23rd Ascents! […]

According to the Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, MD at Seven Summit Treks, this morning at 6:30 AM Kami Rita climbed the highest peak via South Side with A TEAM OF INDIAN POLICE. “Guiding a team of Indian Police Mt Everest Expedition 2019 this morning Kami Rita Sherpa climbed Mt Everest for 24 times; he made the entire country proud, this is a golden mark in the history of mountaineering🇳🇵 ” Sherpa added.

Kami Rita belongs to the Sherpa ethnic group native to the most mountainous regions of Nepal and the Himalayas. Many Sherpas are good mountaineers and experts in their local area and they have long been serving as professional guides to foreign mountaineers who want to brave the extreme altitudes.

Kami Rita hails from Thame village in Nepal’s Solukhumbu District, known for its famous climbers. Thame has produced famous climbers including Apa Sherpa (aka Super Sherpa) who held the previous record of most Mount Everest summits and Ang Rita Sherpa who has climbed Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen that has earned him the sobriquet ‘The Snow Leopard’.

Kami Rita climbed Everest on 13 May 1994 for the first time and has also climbed K2 and Lhotse one time each, Manaslu twice and Cho Oyu eight times, totalling 36 ascents of peaks over 8,000m according to  Seven Summit Treks.

Read: Nepal’s Kami Rita climbs Mount Everest for a record 22nd time

After climbing Everest so many times, Kami Rita has seen the visible effects of climate change on Everest. Speaking to BBC Nepali earlier this year, Kami Rita said:

पहिले १२/१३ वटा भर्याङ चढ्नुपर्थ्यो भने अहिले तीन-चारवटाले पुग्छ। […]

पहिले क्याम्प टूमै कति धेरै हिउँ हुन्थ्यो। अहिले हिमनदी मात्र छ। […] बाल्कोनीभन्दा माथि कम्मरसम्म हिउँ हुन्थ्यो अहिले ढुङ्गामात्र देखिन्छ।

Earlier we had to climb 12-13 ladders [at Kumbu Icefall] but we can do with 3-4 these days. […]

In earlier days Camp 2 used to see a lot of snow. Now there’s only a glacier. […] Above Balcony there used to be snow up to hips, now you see only rocks.

Around 300 climbers have died on Everest and only few dead bodies have been brought down. Now, the melting of ice in Everest is exposing the dead bodies buried in the snow.

A recent report by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development states that the Himalayas will lose more than one-third of their ice by the end of the century. In addition, many climbers leave tents, climbing equipment, gas canisters and human poop, making Everest a literal dumping site. However, climbing Everest is a big business with hundreds of aspirants seeking the help of Sherpa guides to reach the summit.

Like every other year, new records have already been made with South Africa’s Saray N’ Kusi Khumalo becoming the first black African woman to successfully climb Everest. And some climbers have died and have gone missing on Mount Everest this year too. But the craze of climbing Everest, it seems, will never subside.

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Global Voices: Afghanistan’s Mina Mangal: ‘A strong, self-made woman’ gunned down in broad daylight

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The murder dealt another blow to women and media workers.

Mina Mangal. Screengrab from a video published on the Suhrab Samadi YouTube channel on May 11.

As conflict and insecurity layers doubt over Afghanistan’s recent achievements, the figure of Mina Mangal stood tall as a marker of progress — until she was killed, on May 11.

At the time of her death, 30-year-old Mangal was serving as an advisor to Afghanistan’s lower parliamentary chamber, and had ambitions for a career in politics.

But she was better known to Afghans as a television presenter for three private channels — Lemar TV, Shamshad TV and Ariana TV — where she presented a number of culture programmes, and, for Ariana, a programme on women’s rights.

Independent channels like these have helped to reshape the country’s media landscape following the information vacuum during Taliban rule.

While is still not clear who gunned Mangal down in an eastern neighbourhood of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul at around 7.30 that morning, Mangal’s father, Taleb Jan, told the BBC he believed the murder was the result of a “family dispute issue” after her separation from her former husband.

The Nai Media Institute demanded that Afghanistan’s government clarify whether or not Mina’s murder was connected to her professional activities.

But regardless of the motive, Taleb’s call for authorities to “protect my other daughters and women like them who come out of the home and serve our society” cuts to the heart of public uproar over the murder.

A face on television

Mangal was already a prominent media personality prior to her appointment as a cultural advisor to the Wolesi Jirga, Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, in 2017.

Born in Paktia province in 1989, she spent nearly ten years working for media after training as a midwife.

She had recently enrolled in university again to achieve another bachelor’s degree, this time in law and political science.

Mangal had written on Facebook as recently as May 2 that she had received threats, but did not indicate the source.

A stupid man let me know that (my life) is under threat. I told him that I’m in love with my country and that the most important thing is that we come from God and will return to Him, and that with God’s greatness no-one can harm me and my great nation. Death to those men who are threatening women. These morons know who they are and if they threaten me again I will introduce you to them.

Mangal’s family members said she married two years ago, but quickly separated from her husband, who physically abused her. According to Mina’s family members, she endured a barrage of threats from his family members in the months leading up to her death.

Her father has publicly alleged that her former in-laws kidnapped her on one occasion.

Afghanistan’s Minster of Mining and Petroleum Nargis Nahan tweeted that she was working with other top officials on policy measures to protect threatened women:

 Hassina Safi, Minster of Culture and Information, Shahzad Akbar, Deputy Head of Security Council and I are working on a measure to ensure security for women faced with threats.

Rights on paper, chronic insecurity in practice

The tragic death of a public figure who was both a woman and a journalist has ignited debate about protections afforded to both groups.

Private media in Afghanistan has played a key role in highlighting gender-based violence, turning individual cases of domestic violence, gang-led sexual violence and mob violence against women into national talking points.

In May 2019, leading private news agency Tolo News reported on the case of a pregnant woman, Parisa, who was allegedly thrown out of the sixth floor apartment window by her husband and his family. According to the report Parisa had been kept by her in-laws in slave-like conditions prior to her death and was unable to visit her own family.

Such stories resonate strongly in a society where media consumption is growing rapidly.

But while the influence of online and television media in Afghanistan is indisputable, so are the daily security nightmares which journalists face day in day out.

Earlier this year, two unidentified gunmen entered a local radio station in Takhar province and proceeded to open fire on the two journalists in the building.

Acting news editor Shafiq Arya, 28, and programme presenter Rahimullah Rahmani, 26, died instantly. Several men were arrested by the police, who have not clarified the motive for the attack.

A report by Reporters Without Borders released in April indicated that 2018 was the deadliest year for journalists working in the country since the fall of the Taliban, with 15 journalists losing their lives to bombings and targeted killings.

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Global Voices: Love wins: same-sex marriage law fully endorsed by Taiwan’s legislature

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Over 30,000 people await the final decision on marriage equality in front of Taiwan’s legislative body. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia, also known as IDAHO. This date took on a historical significance in Taiwan as its legislature voted to allow same-sex marriage. This decision has turned the island into the first country in Asia to recognize marriage equality for all its citizens.

A three-hour suspenseful wait under heavy rain

For the LGBTQI+ community, May 17th was a crucial date. Elated by a 2017 ruling of the Constitutional Court recognizing the eligibility of same-sex marriage, only to be stunned by the results of a November 2018 referendum that refused a change of the Civil Code to actually implement marriage equality, the LGBTQI+ community decided to rally en masse in the early hours of May 17 in front of the Legislative Yuan in central Taipei. Despite pouring and almost non-stop rain, a crowd of over 30,000 people monitored the voting process of the legislators that was being transmitted live via large screens.

Jennifer Lu, one of the most outspoken speakers for LGBTQI+ rights in Taiwan. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

The community was represented in all its diversity and various groups. One of the first speakers was Jennifer Lu, a representative of the minority Social Democratic Party (SDP) and chief coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan. In her opening remarks, she reiterated that the community had been asking for equal rights and that nothing short of marriage could be accepted at this point. 

Chi Chia Wen with pro-LGBTQI+ religious leaders on stage. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Also very much present in the large crowd was Chi Chia Wei, known for coming out on national television in the 1980s, and considered a veteran of the LGBTQI+ movement. Waving his large rainbow flag, he was anxiously waiting for the final results of the vote.   

While the main opposition to same-sex marriage comes from certain Christian groups, a number of priests and a female pastor were present on the stage to express their support to marriage equality, saying that “Jesus does not distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual believers”. 

A number of members of the LGBTQI+ community from regions and countries where their rights are not acknowledged or poorly protected also joined the event, as they can rarely or never demonstrate in public. 

Malaysian and Hong Kong flags present in the march as some activists request recognition of trans-national same-sex marriage. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

Emotions reached their height around 1:15 PM as legislators voted on article 4 of the bill which is regarded as essential because it enshrines the term ‘marriage registration’ in the bill. Scenes of tears, hugging and dancing in the rain followed the announcement of legislative support.

End of a two-year legal limbo

The issue of same-sex marriage started to become a central point of Taiwanese politics in May 2017 when the Constitutional Court ruled that there were no obstacles in the Constitution barring same-sex couples to marry. It also gave a two-year period to the Legislative Yuan, the equivalent of the Taiwanese parliament, to amend existing laws to allow marriage equality regardless of the gender of the two persons getting married.

In Taiwan, marriage is ruled by the Civil Code. After the Constitutional Court interpretation, referred to popularly by its number 748, was met with strong opposition by a number of political and religious groups, the government held a referendum in November 2018 to ask whether Taiwanese citizens would support a reform of the Civil Code to allow same-sex marriage. The referendum, which also covered other issues, rejected any change to the Civil Code by nearly two-thirds.

Following this, the government announced on 21 February 2019 that its ruling, based on interpretation 748, would still require implementation outside the Civil Code, since the decision of the Constitutional Court prevails over the referendum. It thus drafted a bill, requiring the Legislative Yuan to review it to meet the May 24 deadline. The main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which has ruled Taiwan’s political life for most of its period since 1949, also drafted its own version of the bill that would offer same-sex union, but would shy away form the term marriage, among other differences.

The issue rapidly turned into a test for president Tsai Ing-wen, who represents the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that lost the local elections of November 2018, after which Tsai resigned at DPP leader. 

This thus comes as a double victory both for the DPP, which openly supported the bill, and for the LGBTQI+ community that is now in celebration mood. With the bill now passed, hundreds of same-sex couples are now preparing to wed on May 24 across the island. In Taipei, over 150 couples have already registered to mark what some have been waiting decades for. A traditional wedding banquet is also organized on May 25th outside the Presidential Office to gain visibility and mark a historical change in Taiwanese society.

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Global Voices: The beauty of Afro-Peruvian women through Ayleen Díaz’s illustrations

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A Peruvian illustrator on self-love and the celebration of difference.

Peruvian illustrator Ayleen Díaz in front of one of her murals. Photo by Afroféminas, used with permission.

This interview was conducted by Diana Sierra and originally appeared on the website of Afroféminas. A slightly edited version is published below as part of a content partnership with Global Voices.

Ayleen Díaz is an architect and freelance illustrator from Peru. Through her work, she wants women of African descent to feel not only represented but also proud of their natural beauty.

Her art draws from her personal experiences of struggling to fit in mainstream beauty standards, which in Peruvian culture means Caucasian features. Her illustrations revolve around femininity, self-love, and the celebration of difference.

Ayleen has been drawing since she was very young, but she only turned that into a career that after a friend was captivated by her portraits, which she’d do whenever she was bored at work. She began using social media to show off her drawings and selling them.

Diana Sierra: What inspires you to draw?

Ayleen Díaz: Empecé dibujando cabello rizado porque yo me alisaba el cabello con productos y plancha todos los días durante ocho años. Recuperar mi cabello me ha costado un montón de tiempo, de dedicación, de amor. Aparte, desde que empecé a dejarme mi cabello natural empecé todo este proceso de reconocimiento personal y de amor propio. Creo que eso es lo que trato de reflejar. A muchas mujeres afrodescendientes nos cuesta abrazarnos con todas nuestras virtudes y defectos. Este camino es largo y tedioso y a veces la gente no ayuda, te crítica y te pone las cosas difíciles. Pero creo que al final lo puedes conseguir y llegas a un equilibrio en el que te puedes aceptar y amar tal como eres. A mi me pasó eso con mi cabello, siento que desde que empecé a aceptar mi cabello rizado y esponjoso cambió todo.

Ayleen Díaz: I started by drawing curly hair because I used to straighten mine with products and flat irons every day for eight years. Recovering the natural shape of my hair has taken time, dedication, and love. That is how I’ve started this process of personal recognition and self-love, and I think that’s what I try to reflect on. For many Afro-descendant women, it is difficult to embrace all of our virtues and shortcomings. The journey is long and tedious, and people don’t always help, they criticize and make things harder. But I believe in the end you can make it, you can finally find a balance in which you’re able to love and accept yourself the way you are. That is what happened to me. I feel that when I started to accept my curls and fluffy hair everything changed. 

Illustration by Ayleen Díaz, used with permission.

DS: Do you feel that Peru lacks a high representation of the Afro-descendant population?

AD: En Perú no existe mucha representación. De hecho, la mayoría de personas que aparecen en la publicidad o en la televisión siempre siguen un mismo patrón con la tez clara y el cabello liso. Es cierto que desde hace unos años esto está cambiando, pero acá era complicado hasta conseguir productos para el cabello. Si querías un champú específico tenías que traerlo de fuera. Ahora ya hay muchas marcas y muchas personas que te enseñan a cuidarte tu cabello con productos naturales. También muchas activistas afroperuanas que están luchando contra el racismo y contra los prejuicios, que te enseñan a aceptarte tal como eres.

AM: In Peru, there isn’t much representation. Indeed, most people who appear in advertising or television always follow the same standards with a light complexion and straight hair. It’s true that in the past few years this has been changing. However, for a while it was complicated even to find hair products. If you wanted a specific shampoo you had to bring it from abroad. There are many more brands available to the public now, and there are people who teach you how to take care of your hair with natural products. There are also many Afro-Peruvian activists fighting racism and prejudice, people who teach you to love and accept yourself.

An ilustración by Ayleen Díaz, used with permission.

DS: In your illustrations, you also show bodies of women with stretch marks and who are not thin…

AD: Sí, lo de las estrías empezó porque vi una foto de una chica en una pose echada y con sus estrías. Me dije “guau se ve increíble”. Yo escondía mis estrías, pero ahora es como que me gustan, me dan un encanto diferente. Mientras más las enseñemos la gente las va a aceptar más. Es algo normal que te sale en el cuerpo por muchas razones y no te lo puedes quitar. Hay que abrazarlo y aceptarlo y decir “esto es lo que tengo”.

AM: Yes, the stretch marks thing started because I saw a picture of a girl posing, lying down and with all her stretch marks. I was like “wow, she looks incredible”. I used to hide my stretch marks, but now I even like them, they give me a different kind of charm. The more we show them, the more people will accept them. It is something normal that happens to your body for many reasons and you can’t get rid of them. We have to embrace and accept it and say “this is what I have”. 

DS: In your Instagram stories, you tend to talk about self-acceptance…

Sí. Un día mostré en mi historia una foto de mis estrías así, en primer plano, y comencé a hablarles a las chicas que me siguen para que ellas también compartieran las cosas que les cuesta aceptar o que ya aceptaron y de las que se sienten orgullosas.

Además, fue justo en internet que encontré la frase “nos esforzamos en encajar cuando podemos sobresalir”, que me pareció perfecta para saber de lo que estaba hablando. La publiqué y un montón de gente la compartió. Me pareció muy lindo que se identifiquen con esto. Yo también he pasado por momentos en los que no me gustaba mi cuerpo. Me gusta que se den cuenta de que no están solas, de que todo el mundo pasa por problemas como estos. Todos hemos pasado por ese momento en el que queremos cambiarnos algo.

Tú con tu cuerpo y con todas tus curvas, con todas tus líneas, con todas tus formas, colores, eres igual de linda. No hay por qué estandarizar la belleza. En realidad hay millones de tipos de belleza y depende de cómo tú lo veas. Puedes marcar tu propia belleza. Cuando dibujo distintos tipos de cuerpo y distintas formas de cabello busco que la gente aprenda que todo es bonito.

AM: Yes. One day I showed in my Insta-story a close-up picture of my stretch marks and asked my followers to share the things they found hard to accept, or that they have already accepted, and are proud of. Actually, it was online that I found the phrase “we strive to fit in when we can stand out”. It was perfect to understand what I was talking about. I posted it and people began sharing it. I thought it was amazing that they identified with it. I’ve also had moments where I did not like my body. I want them to realize that they are not alone, that everyone goes through problems. Everyone at some point wants to change something about themselves.

You are just as beautiful with all your curves, with all your shapes and colors. There is no need to standardize beauty. In reality, beauty comes in a million different ways, it all depends on how you see things. You can highlight your own beauty. By drawing different body types and different hair textures, I want people to learn how everything is beautiful. 

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Pintar y vivir ✨ • Me encanta pintar pero por mi chamba de arquitecta 👷🏾‍♀️ y la practicidad del ipad no lo he hecho hace varias lunas, lo bueno es que ayer que volví a pintar, me he re encontrado con el amor y ahora tengo dos lienzos más para darles color 🔥 • Sobre mi experiencia de ayer, es la segunda vez que pinto en vivo y la verdad no es tan fácil pero siempre siempre termina siendo super gratificante 💛 • Pdt. No se olviden de visitar la expo #MARZ8 organizada por @artdictos en @amaru.cc 🌻 • • • • #ayleenmayte #leafillustration #ilustradoras #canvaspainting #canvasart #ilustradoraperuana #illustragram #artistofinstagram #patternlover #printandpattern #curlylover #ilustracionbotanica #colorpalette #handpainted

A post shared by Ayleen Mayte (@ayleen.mayte) on

To paint and to live. I love to paint, but because of my job as an architect and the convenience of using the iPad I haven’t done it for many moons now. The good thing is that yesterday I started to paint again. I’ve found that kind of love again and now I have to more canvases that I can give color to. About my experience yesterday, it’s the second time I paint live and it’s actually not very easy, but it always ends up being rewarding. Don’t forget to visit the exhibition organized by @artdictos.

DS: Do you believe that the work of Afro-Peruvian activists is becoming visible in the country?

AD: Cambiar la sociedad y el pensamiento de tanta gente no es tan fácil. Cuesta un montón de tiempo y puede ser que a corto plazo no lo veamos, pero el cambio se va a dar progresivamente. Me encanta el trabajo de Natalia Barrera, de Una chica afroperuana, por ejemplo. Yo la sigo desde que comenzó hace mucho tiempo. El contenido que comparte es muy bueno y muy educativo.

AD: To change a whole society and the mindset of so many people is not an easy task. It’s going to take a long time. We might not see it in the short term, but change is going to happen progressively. I love the work of youtuber Natalia Barrera, for example, and her channel “An Afro-Peruvian girl”. I have been following her since she began a long time ago. The content she shares is very good and very educational.

DS: Are there other illustrators that you admire?

AD: Sí, yo sigo a Carla Llanos que tiene un estilo muy lindo se parece al mío. También a Alja Horvat. Sus ilustraciones me parecen lindas, dibuja mujeres igual que yo, con cuerpos reales. Me encanta su estilo.

AM: Yes, I follow Carla Llanos she has a very nice style that resembles mine. Also, Alja Horvat. She draws women just like me with real bodies, her illustrations are beautiful and I love her style.

DS: You also paint murals, tell me some more about it.

AD: Pertenezco al Colectivo Papaya, somos cinco mujeres artistas, ilustradoras muralistas todas, con un estilo diferente pero con un mismo concepto: todas queremos realzar la belleza de las mujeres y, sobre todo, que se estas mujeres se sientan identificadas, valoradas y que se acepten bellas tal como son. Nos hemos hecho muy buenas amigas dentro del colectivo, lo pasamos bien y nos encanta juntarnos para pintar y poder llevar nuestro mensaje. También hacemos trabajos de obra social junto con una ONG que lleva artistas que quieran pintar las paredes en colegios de bajos recursos.

AM: I belong to the “Colectivo Papaya” (Papaya Collective). We are five women artists. All of us mural illustrators with different styles, but with a similar concept: we all want to highlight women’s beauty, and most importantly, we want women to identify in these images, to feel valued, and to accept their beauty just as it is. It’s a group of five artists that have become very good friends, who have a good time and love to get together to paint and be able to carry out our message. We also do charitable work together with an NGO that takes artists who wish to paint the walls in low-income schools.

Yesterday, on our first day of work with our first mural as a collective. We finished it today, you can find it at Caminos del Inca 3200 (in the country’s capital, Lima). If you visit the mural, take some pics for us. Thank you to the life’s wonderful chances to make me meet this wonderful women.

Global Voices


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Global Voices: Angola cancelled a public tender after suspicions of fraud, indicating divisions in government

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Front page of newspaper Jornal de Angola on the tender won by the company Telstar. Taken by Dércio Tsandzana, 19 April 2019 and used with permission

The Angolan president João Lourenço cancelled, on 18 Abril, the public tender for the fourth mobile phone operator in the country, arguing that the winner Telstar did not meet the necessary requirements to deliver the service. The president’s decision could indicate divisions in the Angolan government.

The company Telstar was created in January 2018 with a capital stock of 200,000 Kwanza (around 600 US dollars), and its shareholders are the general Manuel João Carneiro (90 per cent) and the businessman António Cardoso Mateus (10 per cent), according to the Portuguese newspaper Observador. Manuel João Carneiro’s rank was awarded by the previous president José Eduardo dos Santos, according to the Angolan online news outlet Club Net.

The Observador reported that 27 companies participated in the tendering process opened by the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, under José Carvalho da Rocha.

On 25 April, João Lourenço signed an order which establishes new rules for opening the new invitation to tender, according to the newspaper Jornal de Angola.

After the results of the first tender were made public, many Angolans questioned the integrity of the process. Some, for example, highlighted that winner Telstar did not even have a website. Skit Van Darken, an editor and event organizer, said on Facebook:

A Telstar – Telecomunicações, Lda, constituída a 26 de Janeiro de 2018, com capital de 200.000 Kwanzas…de acordo com o Diário da República, cujos accionistas são o general Manuel João Carneiro (90% do capital), na reforma, e António Cardoso Mateus (10%).

O accionista maioritário tem ligações à empresa Mundo Startel, uma sociedade de capitais anónimos, registada na INACOM, o regulador das telecomunicações, com licença de telefonia fixa, entretanto expirada. Uma empresa que nem se quer website tem!

EU NÃO ACREDITO SE QUER QUE EXISTIRAM OUTROS CONCORRENTES

ESSE PAÍS É UMA DESGRAÇA

Telstar – Telecommunications, Ltd, formed on 26 January 2018, with capital of 200,000 Kwanzas… according to the [newspaper] Diário da República, whose shareholders are the general Manuel João Carneiro (90 per cent of the capital), in retirement, and António Cardoso Mateus (10 per cent).

The majority shareholder has links to the company Mundo Startel, a limited liability company, registered at INACOM, the telecommunications regulator, with a landline licence, although expired. A company that doesn’t even have a website!

I DON’T EVEN BELIEVE THAT THERE WERE OTHER COMPETITORS

THIS COUNTRY IS A DISGRACE

Meanwhile, Joaquim Lunda, a journalist and frequent social media commentator, praised the president’s action and even thought that the minister in question ran the risk of being fired for these failings:

Agradeço e é de louvar a decisão tomada pelo Presidente da República, João Lourenço em anular o concurso público que atribuiu à empresa angolana Telstar a licença para a quarta operadora de telecomunicações em Angola. Havia muitas reticências e muitos pontos por esclarecer no assunto. Não se reconhece idoneidade numa empresa que foi criada em 2018 c/ capital social de 200 mil kwanzas em ser lhe atribuído a tal empreitada.
Tenho a plena certeza que os dias do Ministro das Telecomunicações e das Tecnologias de Informação, José Carvalho de Rocha, estão contados. Após o desaire que foi o ANGOSAT 1, agora mais este que testemunhamos hoje, duvido se o “Dread” vai resistir.
Apreciemos os Cenários…Nas Calmas!!”

I appreciate, and it is praiseworthy, the decision taken by the president of the republic, João Lourenço, to annul the public tender which awarded the Angolan company Telstar the licence for the fourth telecommunications operator in Angola. There were many reservations and a lot of points to clarify around the issue. One doesn’t see the aptitude in a company which was created in 2018 with capital stock of 200 thousand kwanzas to be awarded such an undertaking.
I am completely certain that the days of the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, José Carvalho de Rocha, are numbered. After the failure of ANGOSAT 1, now also this that we witness today, I doubt if “Dread” will make it.
Let’s enjoy the show… calmly!!”

The president’s decision came after the same minister led the project, in 2017, for the satellite Angosat 1, also characterized by problems.

For Adriano Sapiñala, a deputy of Angola’s biggest opposition party, the case shows disorganization within the government:

JLo tem de andar a combinar bem com os seus auxiliares porque ontem o Ministro de tutela dizia que o tempo das reclamações tinha terminado e por isso a Telstar teria avançado com os passos subsequentes sendo ela vencedora do concurso fraudulento e hoje JLo vem e anula o concurso!! Vocês comunicam assim tão mal?

Agora ou o Ministro coloca o seu cargo à disposição (demitindo-de) ou então JLo tem de o exonerar porque se anulou o concurso é porque não correu bem e para não beliscar ninguém inocente, que se apurem responsabilidades!!

JLo [João Lourenço] has to organize his team well because yesterday the minister responsible was saying that the time for complaints had ended and so Telstar would have gone ahead with its next steps given that it was the winner of the fraudulent tender and today JLo comes and annuls the tender!! You communicate so badly?

Now either the minister makes his position available (resigning) or then JLo has to fire him because if he cancelled the tender it is because it did not go well and to not affect anybody innocent, they need to establish responsibility!!

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Global Voices: Mozambican contestant won world bodybuilding competition in Hong Kong

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Bruno Saraiva vence prémio de Hong Kong | foto cedida por Bruno (20.04.2019)

Bruno Saraiva won an award in Hong Kong | photo provided by Bruno (20.04.2019)

On 17 April, the Mozambican athlete Bruno Saraiva won an international bodybuilding competition in Hong Kong.

After beating five competitors, the athlete won first place in the category of classic bodybuilding (classic physique), the most popular and important category in the event, which seeks to find the athlete who best displays their musculature in various positions.

Bruno also won in the ‘overall’ category for the best athlete across all the sub-categories.

He participated in three categories in the Hong Kong Bodybuilding contest: men’s athletic physique, men’s fitness physique, men’s sports model. The contest is scheduled to be held next on 23 June.

In response to our request sent by Facebook chat about how the competition went, Saraiva highlighted that it was his first time at the contest, as well as the limited time he had for preparation:

Eu fui preparado pelo Castro Cazé em apenas poucos dias e lá fomos fazer as inscrições, e ele disse Bruno tu vais fazer a categoria que eu sempre quis que fizesses: a mais conhecida por Classic Physique e logo na minha primeira aparição ganhei na minha categoria e fui ganhar ainda o overall, como se fosse chamar todos os primeiros lugares da tua categoria.

I was trained by Castro Cazé in only a few days and then we went to do the registration, and he said Bruno you’re going to do the category that I always wanted you to do: the one best known as Classic Physique and soon in my first appearance I won in my category and I then also won the overall, as it is called for all the first places of your category

Followed by over 24 thousand people on his Instagram account, Bruno, who resides in the capital Maputo, is a figure of reference for bodybuilders in Mozambique.

According to the Wikipedia entry for bodybuilding:

Bodybuilding is the use of progressive resistance exercise to control and develop one’s musculature for aesthetic purposes. An individual who engages in this activity is referred to as a bodybuilder. In competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders appear in lineups and perform specified poses (and later individual posing routines) for a panel of judges who rank the competitors based on criteria such as symmetry, muscularity, and conditioning.

Saraiva expressed his happiness with winning the award in Hong Kong in an Instagram post:

Obrigado pela vitória senhor. É com muita alegria que tenho o prazer de anunciar e compartilhar com todos vocês a minha vitória na categoria Classic Physique e tendo vencido o overall na competição global clássica em Hong Kong.

Thank you for the victory, Lord. It is with much joy that I have the pleasure of announcing and sharing with you all my victory in the category Classic Physique and having won the overall in the global classic competition in Hong Kong

In another post, though, Bruno recounted the difficulties he went through before going to Hong Kong:

Por favor meu amigo/a leia esta mensagem com muito carinho, porque essa é a mais pura realidade, não tenho vergonha de dizer e sei que muitos vão se emocionar: quando estava pra vir a Hong Kong pra competir andei em vários sítios batendo as portas pedindo apoio, falei com varios amigos que alguns eu tinha a certeza que pudessem ajudar, e as respostas de alguns eram:

1. Bruno tu não vas conseguir ou seja não tens chances de ganhar e nem de ficar entre os melhores;
2. Outros diziam que não me podiam ajudar porque seria deitar fora o dinheiro;
3. Outros ate disseram Bruno você deve fumar muita maconha.

Please my friend read this message with a lot of kindness, because it is the purest reality, I have no shame in saying it and I know that many will overreact: when I was about to come to Hong Kong to compete I went around a lot of places knocking on doors asking for support, I spoke with various friends some of whom I was sure could help, and the answers from some were:

1. Bruno you’re not going to make it or you don’t have any chance of winning nor of finishing among the best;
2. Others said that they couldn’t help me because it would be throwing away the money;
3. Others even said Bruno you must be smoking a lot of cannabis.

Global Voices


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