The interview was going well until O’Neill attempted to discuss some of the prejudices still facing members of the LGBT community. O’Neill said that of course things has changed over time but that it there were still difficult to deal with the kind unpleasantness found “the internet in the comments and people who make a living writing opinion pieces for newspapers”. When pressed for examples O’Neill named John Waters, Breda O’Brien and the Iona Institute.
Not long after it was posted the interview was taken for “legal issues” following complaints made. When the interview was re-posted on line, all discussion of homophobia was edited out. A transcript of the missing section can be found here.
O’Neill himself has received soliciter’s letters personally from Breda O’Brien, David Quinn, Patricia Casey, and John Murray (all of the Iona Institute the highly-conservative lobby group) and from John Waters.
John Waters, being the Irish Times columnist who wrote that the “gay lobby” want “to destroy the institution of marriage because they’re envious of it” and who is absolutely no way homophobic of course.
This is not the first time the head and founder of the Iona Institute, David Quinn, has silenced his critics or those of Iona with the threat of legal action.
It’s worth noting at this point that mostly the news outlets brave enough to risk Quinn’s legal wrath have been student publications with far less legal support than mainstream media.
‘Defamation,’ the common thread to these claims, is a slightly complicated piece of Irish law though it’s outlined brilliantly in relation to this case here. But ultimately nothing that is true can be legally considered defamation. Is the claim that the Iona Institute, Breda O’Brien and John Waters homophobic, not one of a opinion that O’Neill as a gay man is entitled to have?
Even outside of the range of opinion and in analysis of statements made against Same Sex Marriage by all three that they work against the mainstream of the LGBT civil rights movement is not a matter for debate, as is outlined in an analysis of statement here.
But I believe the real problem is that frequently it is not a question of whether those getting served with Quinn’s legal complaints are legally in the wrong but whether than can afford to run the risk that a judge might side with a wealthy, prominent public figure over them. Deeper pockets wins the debate; which is a scary thought for the future of journalism in Ireland.
Where does the argument for “defamation of character” end? How do we hold people accountable for defaming their own characters?Because the journalists and others Quinn has targeted are not in a position to stop his organisation publishing or operating, they are simply stating that they disagree. But Quinn’s actions serve to silence the opposition entirely. This incident certainly begs the question whether a wealthy, public figure can be held accountable for the offense his organisation causes so many people.
And much more importantly when will we stop letting those with the most cash on hand, and the best solicitors dictate what is and is not fair debate?
Imprisoned Ideas is an online campaign for the purpose of highlighting the cases of academics imprisoned for their work, frequently for human rights advocacy. The group uses Tumblr and Twitter to achieve greater awareness of these cases. But the campaign brought to mind several things I’d been considering about online activism in general.
Social media campaigns comes in various levels of competency and effectiveness but the significance of this campaign is that it directs support towards already existing campaigns on the ground. This incorporates the idea that social change cannot, and does not need to be imported or dropped in on people’s heads but rather emerges from the local context.
Each of the academics highlighted by the campaign has a petition and interest surrounding their arrest already but little support outside the local sphere. Imprisoned Ideas attempts to give a wider audience for these petitions, documentaries and campaigns.
Social media, while frequently used ineffectively or for lip-service activism spawning the phrase slacktivism, has great potential for assisting political and social movements.
For example this campaign could theoretically become a platform to be continuously updated, providing a excellent resource to journalists, activists and interested individuals.
Situations of political prisoners, such as Iranian physics postgraduate student Omid Kokabee or Professor Hadif Rashid al-Owais in the United Arab Emirates, are difficult to get accurate and up to date information, even for their own legal defense, never mind journalists or campaigners outside the country. This is a strategic decision by the governments in question to limit the capacity for international response or discussion. If journalists can’t access information how can they spread it? Twitter has already changed the nature of news reporting. Maybe it could change political behaviour as well.
Ventures like Imprisoned Ideas have the potential to be a platform that brings together grassroots campaigns for around the world and offer them support without taking over or claiming to have better solutions than campaigners on the ground.
It also raises the an idea I’d call “crowd-sourced activism” where the majority of the practical work is done on a local level but those local activists can receive publicity and put out calls for specific action, such as petitions or boycotts, through platforms such as the Imprisoned Ideas Twitter.
Fundraising through crowd sourcing on sites like IndieGogo and Kickstarter have proved the potential for fundraising in this way. That’s how the Veronica Mars movie has been made. If crowdfunding can change the music and film industries than why not political activism?
“The right to security of a country’s citizens can never be insured by violating the fundamental human and civil rights of another country’s…” – Rousseff (03:30)
This session saw the much anticipated first speech by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. His tone was not as conciliatory as perhaps was expected however it was not aggressive either. He highlighted that Iran wished to work to create a less militarised, more stable world but also highlighted what he felt were injustices being perpetrated against Iran such has the harsh international trade sanctions. Rouhani argued forcefully against these sanctions, saying that they violated inalienable human rights and caused widespread suffering.
Barrett Brown (32) is an American freelance journalist who has written for the Guardian, Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post. He is facing the prospect of a 105 year jail sentence.
In 2009, Brown set up Project PM which was “dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance”. Then in 2010 the actions of Wiki Leaks and the brutal treatment of Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning inspire Brown to dedicate himself to online activist and transparency projects.
It was through this that he came into contact with the ‘hacktivist’ collective Anonymous. Not as a hacker, but as someone who discussed and defended the group to the media, without actually being a member.
Then in 2011 Anonymous hacked the computer systems of private intelligence firm HB Gary Federal and released thousands of incriminating emails such as the firm trying to persuade Bank of America to hire them to discredit Wiki Leaks supporters. This was followed by the 2012 leak of emails from Stratfor, another private security firm.
It was ultimately Brown’s investigations of these two firms that led to his harassment by the FBI. In March 2012 his apartment was broken into and searched for information pertaining to HB Gary and Stratfor, various documents were seized but they did not have a warrant for his arrest at this point. Ultimately the FBI found Brown at his mother’s house where they demanded his laptop, which he denied having. Over the months that followed, agents continued to harass Brown and threatened to arrest and indict his mother for “harbouring” Brown or helping him conceal documents.
Then in September, Brown posted a YouTube video in which he talked about how FBI agents had threatened to ruin his life. In the emotional video he threatened to “destroy” one of his harassers FBI agent Robert Smith, who had threatened his mother. There were no physical threats issued.
This allowed the FBI to arrest Brown on the charge of threatening a Federal agent. Once he was in custody they found other charges to hold him on such as trafficking in stolen goods for sharing a URL to the leaked emails with some of his colleagues, as well as the more ludicrous charge of credit card fraud as some of the emails contained credit card information which it was clear he had never used.
Brown has now spent a year in prison awaiting trial.
“Both prongs of prosecutorial abuse are clearly present in Brown’s case. There is no evidence that the link he posted to already published documents resulted in any unauthorized use of credit cards, and certainly never redounded in any way to his benefit. More important, this prosecution is driven by the same plainly improper purpose that drove the one directed at Aaron Swartz and so many others: the desire to exploit the power of criminal law to deter and severely punish anyone who meaningfully challenges the government’s power to control the flow of information on the internet and conceal its vital actions…What the US government counts on above all else is that the person it targets is unable to defend themselves against the government’s unlimited resources” – Glenn Greenwald
What should be highlighted here for everyone, not only journalists, is the implication that linking to stolen information could be deemed illegal, by extension making investigations into many kinds of clandestine activities also illegal.
The prospect of the American government giving itself the authority to control what the public should and should not know is not new.
However the idea that you can be charged simply for reading something available to the public online is incredibly worrying.
This particularly should worry any American readers but given recent revelations about the NSA have made it clear that the US government believe it has the right to monitor citizens of other countries as well this is a matter which affects everyone.
Think about your Facebook profiles, your Twitter feeds, your Tumblr dashboard and think of all the links you click on or share every week. This trial has the potential to create legal precedent to have you be legally responsible for information you find online.
Even outside of the bigger picture, the charges still do not make sense. How can the prosecution argue that Brown is legally culpable for the information he possessed and not the dozens of other journalists, from various media outlets such as the New York Times, who reported on the information, most of whom must have read the material as well?
Brown’s lawyer, Ahmed Ghappour, has stated that this gag order is a violation of Brown’s 1st Amendment rights as a writer who has continued to work from behind bars on issues not pertaining to his own case or his prosecution.
Now not only can journalists be punished for critical writing about their government but once arrested cannot speak to other members of the press. The ways in which this threatens the right to freedom of expression are obvious and deeply concerning.
The General Secretary of Reporters Without Borders came out in defense of Brown saying:
“Above all, Barrett was an investigative journalist who was merely doing his professional duty by looking into the Stratfor emails, an affair of public interest…Threatening a journalist with a possible century-long jail sentence is a scary prospect for journalists investigating the intelligence government contractor industry”.
From start to finish this has been a targeted attack on a journalist who did his job. The US attorney’s office have made claims they know do not hold weight in attempts to discredit, bankrupt and silence Brown. I would go so far as to say that Barrett Brown is a political prison of the US state.
To learn more detail about the trial or to donate to Brown’s legal fund go to Free Brown Brown dot org. The persecution of investigative journalists puts all civil liberties at risk and must not be ignored.
The internet has allowed greater freedom of the press than ever before in human history but many governments have shown tendencies to try to combat this freedom wherever they can.
Reporters Without Borders is an NGO dedicated to protecting journalists and the rights of the press.
“Every year, some 500 journalists are arrested, 1,000 assaulted or threatened, and over 500 media outlets censored. All of these violations have serious consequences which need to be tracked in order to better counteract them.” – RSF
They also campaign against internet censorship, teach about online security and provide support for online journalists.
“Netizens now play an essential role in the vanguard of news coverage worldwide. However, more and more often, they are becoming victims of threats and censorship by governments who fear this new cyberspace of freedom.”
Organisations like this are becoming increasingly necessary with the climate of censorship and harassment of the press that appears to be growing more prevalent in countries that would have previously supporting a free media.
The US have traditionally taken great pride in their press freedoms but in recent years have found ways to undermine any attempts at investigative journalism.
“Barrett Brown is not a hacker, he is not a criminal…He did not infiltrate any systems, nor did he appear to have the technical expertise to do so. Above all, Barrett was an investigative journalist who was merely doing his professional duty by looking into the Stratfor emails, an affair of public interest. The sentence of 105 years in prison that he is facing is absurd and dangerous” – Reporters Without Borders General Secretary, Christophe Deloire.
The proposed resolution would call on member states to regulate and control surveillance, protect whistleblowers on a national level and spark an investigation by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. This committee has previously shed light on CIA inference and secret detention centres.
In the discussion of intervention in Syria, much US political rhetoric on the support of human rights has been used. America publically campaigns for holding governments accountable for human rights violations, in fact that is the first point made on the State Department’s human rights goals. However the human rights landscape in the United States of America is far from static and uncontested. America today faces grave charges of human rights violations both from critics within the country and from the international community.
The second Article of the UDHR states that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. Regardless, in 1996 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Armstrong that racial profiling (where race is used as a distinguishing feature in identifying a suspect’s tendency to be involved in crime) is constitutional in the absence of data that “similarly situated” defendants of another race were disparately treated despite opposition based on the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees the right to be safe from search and seizure without a warrant (which is to be issued “upon probable cause”), and the Fourteenth Amendment which requires that all citizens be treated equally under the law.
“Approximately eighty-seven million Americans are at a high risk of being subjected to future racial profiling during their lifetime”.
Those affected encompassing “Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Arab Americans, Persian Americans, American Muslims, many immigrants and visitors, and, under certain circumstances, white Americans.”
Racial profiling also seems to have a large degree of popular support, as indicated by polls from organisations and media outlets like USA Today. Furthermore, the potential for racial discrimination among other human rights violations has exploded with the introduction of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.
The USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act is an Act of Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. Opposition to the Act has focused on provision for indefinite detention of immigrants, the permission given law enforcement officers to search homes or business premises without the owner or occupants’ consent or knowledge, and the expanded use of National Security Letters which allegedly:
On May 26, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, extending some of the most controversial provisions for a further four years past the original expiry date: roving wiretaps, searches of business records and conducting surveillance of so called “lone wolves” (suspected terrorists not linked to larger groups).
Far more notorious than even the expansion of surveillance under the USA PARTIOT Act is the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention camp in Cuba, established in January 2002used by the USA to hold potential terror suspects. One issue debated is that of whether those imprisoned as part of the War on Terror are prisoners of war and thus deserving of protection under the rules of war.
The Geneva Convention’s rules for dealing with prisoners of war are only violated if the prisoners are deemed to be soldiers involved in a war. Defenders of the prison may echo Jim Phillips of The Heritage Foundation, who has said that “some of these terrorists who are not recognized as soldiers don’t deserve to be treated as soldiers.”
On 22 January 2009, President Barack Obama signed an order with a view to suspending proceedings at the Guantanamo military commission for a period of 120 days and decommissioning the detention facility later that year. Nevertheless, on 7 January 2011, Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, placing restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or to foreign countries, impeding the closure of the facility, which is still open today.
These expansions of surveillance and detention have been kept out of public eye to the extent that the American government could keep it. However, individuals and organisations inside and outside the system have leaked thousands of documents to expose the reality of human rights abuses undertaken by the United States of America and elsewhere.
The largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public was largely a result of the actions of Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning), then an intelligence analyst with the US Army (she has since received a dishonourable discharge as a result of the leaks).
While her actions have been debated as either heroic exposure of corruption or villainous endangerment of lives, her status as a transgender woman has been a source of further controversy. Journalist Anne Russell has noted that media outlets differ on whether to represent her as Chelsea with feminine pronouns (as she requested) or as Bradley with masculine pronouns. At the time of writing, Manning is held in a male prison, raising questions of whether she has been wrongly-gendered or correctly sexed with regard to her imprisonment.
In June 2013, Edward Snowden was charged under the same Espionage Act, when he released several documents exposing the NSA’s PRISM Surveillance Program along with details of other top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs to the press. Like Chelsea Manning, he too has been hailed as both a hero and a traitor.
More than sixty years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, the United States of America is still deeply confused and divided on who is a human person and how universal and inalienable that human person’s rights are.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), known frequently as the Tamil Tigers were rebels who fought in nearly 30 years of civil war before being defeated by the government in 2009. Ethnic Tamils claimed they faced, and still face, much discrimination from the Sinhalese ethnic majority. The goal of the Tigers was to create an independent Tamil state. A UN report says that up to 40,000 people were killed in the final days of the conflict.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, just concluded a week long visit to Sri Lanka which followed a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling on Sri Lanka to investigate civil era war crimes committed by its government forces that passed in March.
“I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction…the fighting is over, the suffering is not”.
“This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced…the United Nations takes the issues of reprisals against people because they have talked to UN officials as an extremely serious matter.” – Pillay
But Rajapaksa claims that these ideas are created by ex-LTTE propaganda and the Sri Lankan people must choose whether to trust in their government or not rather than being “caricatured by external entities influenced by vested interests.”
Pillay will brief the UN Human Rights Council on her findings next month and a full report is due to be published in March 2014.
Feminism is word that simply by existing can cause controversy. It is often implied that feminist issues are frivolous issues, that feminists are petty and mean-spirited or that feminists just care about abortion or sexual harassment. The mainstream media fosters this idea of feminism is narrow, reactionary and unnecessary.
But feminism is more than a narrowly interpreted idea of “women’s issues”.
Education is a feminist issue. Two thirds of the children in the world without access to education are girls.
Trans rights are a feminist issue. When someone is told that their gender identity lessens them as humans or limits their human rights, that is a feminist issue.
Poverty is a feminist issue. Women make up 70% of the world’s poor. Women work two thirds of the world’s working hours but receive only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. Of the 150 major conflicts fought since War War Two, 130 of them were fought in the developing world.
Racism is a feminist issue. Stereotypes and discrimination of women of colour is a feminist issue. Native American women are nearly twice as likely to be sexually assaulted. Indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely to die as a result of violence.
Women between the ages of 15 and 44 years of age are globally more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are from cancer, war, car accidents or malaria according to World Bank data.
There is a sentiment that feminism is unnecessary or that the term is outdated, that there is no need to actively promote the ‘feminine’ but rather support equality as a whole. But the idea that what is traditionally ‘feminine’ is lesser is still so pervasive in today’s culture that while it is socially acceptable for a women to behave and dress in ways considered traditionally masculine, the same cannot be said for men who wish to behave or dress in ways considered to be feminine. These bias are damaging to men as well. But more significantly they demonstrate that many advances that appear to have occurred in gender equality are based on the idea that women should behave or value things that are more traditionally masculine.
There were mass protests by opposition when President Nasheed fired Justice Abdulla Mohamad on January 16. Justice Mohamad was head of the criminal court and President Nasheed ordered that he be arrested for failing to investigate corruption and human rights abuses by the previous PPM administration.
This was not the first time Nasheed clashed with the judiciary during his presidency. He claims that the judiciary are under the thumb of the old regime.
Justice Mohamad is a public supporter of the former authoritarian president Gayoom and stands accused by the Judicial Services Commission (the Maldivian judicial watchdog) of having two children, the alleged victims of sexual assault, act out their assault in the courtroom. Mohamad has protected himself from investigations with court injunctions.
JJ Robinson, editor of the Maldives based Minivan News, claims that:
“of the 200 judges and magistrates in the country…50% of them have less than a Grade 7 education and 30% of them have actual criminal records: everything from child abuse to terrorism…these are not independent, impartial, moral-free thinkers.”
Hasheed wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times on February 8 where he alleged that his resignation was nothing short of a “coup” and accused his former deputy Mohamed Waheed of taking part in a conspiracy to oust him. He also claimed that “Islamic Extremists” had abused new free speech laws to throw “anti-Semitic and anti-Christian slurs at my government, branding as apostates anyone who tried to defend the country’s liberal Islamic traditions and claiming that democracy granted them and their allies license to call for violent jihad and indulge in hate speech.”
Nasheed’s resignation prompted his supporters to protest which was met with severe police reactions including tear gas and the alleged beating of member of Nasheed’s party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Following the resignation the new president, former deputy Waheed, issued a statement saying that the rule of law would be upheld “at any cost” and denied that any coup had taken place. Warrants were issued for former president Nasheed’s arrest.
After 10 days in the embassy he left and was arrested. If convicted he would be excluded from the elections being held in September. His supporters feared for his life as he was being held in an infamous prison on a remote island. Many of his supports were forced into exile as well.
However international outcry motivated the EU to state that the polls would “not be credible without Nasheed“. The UN and India followed suit, both calling for free and inclusive elections.
But most mainstream media has paid very little attention to the Maldives. Most media outlets have not covered the story at all and those who do go out of their way to avoid stating that a coup occurred or whether police abuses of MDP members and supporters are still ongoing.
“Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office. The wave of revolutions that toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year was certainly cause for hope. But the people of those countries should be aware that, long after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies.” – Nasheed ‘The Dregs of Dictatorship’ Feb 2012