Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Greece: If you don't mind we are little busy with a little thing we invented...its called Democracy


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    Printed/Used with permission from www.zapiro.com

Thursday, February 13, 2014

When Media Become Lapdogs Rather Than Watchdogs


A little over a week has passed since police stormed the Musa Mosque in Mombasa, and killed up to 9 people whom they accused of participating in a "jihadist convention." Nearly 130 others, including children were arrested -58 have since been released- and the rest charged with offences under Kenya’s terrorism act. The police claim to have recovered terror training materials and information indicating plans to attack an "unspecified target."

I think there is a lot that is disconcerting about how this story is being told and the assumptions that have been made. There is little questioning of the government narrative. The media appears to have already made up its mind about what happened and has entirely ignored 
alternative versions of what happened.

Some things just don't seem to gel with the “official truth”. To begin with, this was no secret meeting. The media has reported that the convention was openly advertised on posters pasted across town and on social media postings and that the authorities were well aware of it. There is also considerable confusion over who called the meeting and what exactly was to be discussed.  
The Standard reported there were lectures “on various topics justifying jihad, claiming conspiracies against Muslims and exhorting the faithful to prepare for ishtishhaad (life of sacrifice)”. However, Sheikh Abdallah Kheir, an imam and lecturer of sociology at Kenyatta University, told the press the meeting had been advertised merely as a religious lecture. Some of those who claimed to have been there also seemed unaware they were attending a "jihadist convention."

Further, it is unclear whether the meeting had been prohibited (which would raise fundamental issues surrounding the legality of any such a ban, and the impact on constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of assembly and speech -issues that the press has not bothered to address.) T
he press reported that "authorities in Mombasa" had said they "would not allow it to take place." But these "authorities" do not appear to have made any effort to inform the organizers that their meeting had been disallowed. Though in the aftermath of the raid, the Mombasa County Police Commander was quoted as saying: "'we' had issued a warning that we will not allow such a meeting because it was illegal," other reports indicated that the Mombasa County Security Committee made no attempt to stop it "anticipating that known hardcore jihadists would attend it." In fact, "attending an illegal meeting" does not appear to be one of the charges levelled in court in relation with the incident.

As I write this, the government has reportedly arrested three persons  in the capital, Nairobi, after police broke up 
a citizens' protest they had themselves cleared. The demonstration, led by the activist Boniface Mwangi and the widely respected Rev Timothy Njoya, was supposedly outlawed by the shadowy National Security Advisory Council which accused the US Agency for International Development of plotting to topple the government by financing demonstrations. Again, as the press has dutifully parroted the government's ridiculous allegations and ignored the constitutional issues, no one asks why it appears that the authorities once again appear to have made no effort to inform organizers that their event was “banned” or which law gave them the power to do so.

Going back to Mombasa, I am also greatly concerned at the terms employed in the coverage, much of which mirrors the distorted and lazy international reporting on seemingly all matters Muslim. The press has branded the meeting an "outlawed jihadist convention" and taken to calling those arrested (and, it would seem, pretty much any collection of young men at the coast) "militants" or "radicalized youth". We hear of "jihadist" flags and banners (apparently any black cloth with Arabic-looking script) and everyday household items, 
including scissors, a pair of pliers and a screwdriver, described as "weapons".  There's a disturbing vagueness about what is meant by radicalization. Who gets to decide who is a "radical preacher", which youngsters have been "radicalized", and what a nice "moderate" Muslim looks and sound like?

A few days after the Masjid Musa raid, a mob in Kisumu defaced and forced the removal of a monument put up to commemorate a century of Sikh presence in Kenya's third-largest city. In the days leading up to the destruction of the statue,
Christian preachers were openly inciting their followers claiming the structure was "satanic" and attributing weather phenomena to its erection. Despite this, no one called for regulation of sermons in Kisumu, the shutting down of “radical preachers” in favor of “moderate Christians” or characterized the violent youths as “militant” or “radicalized”.

It is clear that the government has for a long time been uncomfortable with rising political consciousness at the coast and elsewhere. Its standard response however has been one of demonization while continuing to ignore the underlying grievances. Its dealings with civil society critiques or 
the Mombasa Republican Council, for example, demonstrate this clearly enough.

While there may be areas of legitimate security concerns, such as recruitment into terror outfits like Al Shabaab and possible terror plots, this does not give authorities carte blanche to ignore constitutional limits and to deny fundamental freedoms. The constitution exists primarily to constrain the power of government, not the rights of citizens. Thus we really should be worried when government sets itself up as the public censor, purports to ban speech and speakers it does not like and uses "national security" as an excuse to close down the space for political expression and protests.

Unfortunately, our press, more lapdog than watchdog, has largely failed to question the motives and (mis)deeds of the people in power. As we have seen before, it is ever happier cozying up to them and helping to delegitimize their opponents. Like the mob in Kisumu, it is quick to desecrate and deface, and slow to think and question.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Henry Makori

The media landscape in Africa is quite diverse. Campaigns for media freedom and freedom of expression have resulted in the repeal of repressive laws in some countries, but old and new challenges persist. There are interesting debates about the place of the media in the continent's development

Rasna Warah

Local media coverage of the 2013 Kenyan elections downplayed acts of violence and bordered on self-censorship despite the fact that social media reflected a deeply politically and ethnically divided society. The new Kenyatta government has now embarked on a charm offensive to co-opt the media

Henry Makori

The media in Kenya continues to be the target of intense criticism over its coverage of the elections in March. It is thought to have shirked its watchdog role and focused on peace messages. But supporters say that was necessary, given the circumstances

Abdullahi Boru Halakhe

By easily relinquishing a critical agenda setting role, the mainstream media in Kenya appears to have given up on its well-earned position as an accessory to the second liberation for which it paid a steep price. Today, media content is generally vacuous

Aamera Jiwaji

A study of how young Kenyan women engage with Cuando Seas Mia suggests that the Mexican telenovela is not a cultural imperialist product but one that helps them redefine their identities as modern African women

Workers and funding for public litigation..the Fat cats

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

ICNC - July 2013 posts

By: Alice Driver, School of Authentic Journalism, May 15, 2013
The important role Mary King played in helping to advance the struggle for women's rights is a lesser known story of how the success of one social movement, the U.S. civil rights struggle, helped to expand the space for another movement. King spoke recently about how her consciousness of women's rights was shaped by her organizing and media work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement, while attending the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism - an intensive workshop focused on journalism and social movements held in Mexico in April

By: Theory Talks, June 5, 2013  
Nonviolent resistance remains by and large a marginal topic to international relations. Yet it constitutes an influential idea among social movements and non-Western populations alike, one that has moved to the center stage in recent events in the Middle East. In this talk, Mary King-who has spent over 40 years promoting nonviolence-elaborates on, amongst others, the women's movement, nonviolence, and civil action more broadly.

By: Narco News TV, May 15, 2013 
In 1985, Mkhuseli "Khusta" Jack organized a consumer boycott in the city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which helped end racial apartheid. In 2000, Oscar Olivera was the spokesperson for a popular resistance that stopped the privatization of water in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In 2013, they met face to face and shared their stories of strategic organizing with the scholars and professors of the School of Authentic Journalism.

By: Carole Reckinger, Erenlai Magazine, April 23, 2013
Since 2007, a small village in the island of Jeju, South Korea, has led a nonviolent resistance against the construction of a naval base next door to a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The military base had been planned to enable better policing of the sea-lanes and faster response to any acts of aggression by North Korea. The Jeju anti-naval base protests and their persistence and endurance in the face of mainstream media demonization, raising fines and government pressure, is a sign of a civil society awakening in South Korea.

By: Peter Ackerman, Deutsche Welle, May 28, 2013
With tactics such as strikes, boycotts, and mass demonstrations, civil resistance spurs defections among supporters of oppressive regimes. This strategy of dissolving their capacity to use power is more likely to be effective than violent uprisings. The international community must stop being mesmerized by the false choice of accommodating or attacking tyrants and should pay attention to history's verdict: The very people who are oppressed, if they know how to use civil resistance, can win their rights through their own initiative. 

By: Kevin O'Connor, Times Argus, May 26, 2013
Think bombs are more powerful than sit-ins, strikes or boycotts? Vermont native Maria J. Stephan has proof war is no match for nonviolent opposition. Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth teamed up to write the book "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict," a statistical analysis of more than 300 global campaigns over the past century that is the first definitive study of its kind. "The most striking finding," the authors conclude, "is that between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts."

By: Andrew Stelzer, NPR, May 25, 2013
What does it mean to be an ally in a political movement? From white Americans in the civil rights era, to Israelis in Palestine, to Latino-Americans working with the undocumented...how does one work to support another's struggle?  From Mississippi to Zimbabwe, a roundtable discussion on the do's and don'ts of how to be an effective ally.
By: Juan Cole, Informed Comment, May 26, 2013 
After a subway official chastised a young couple in Ankara for kissing in public, internet activists organized a small flash mob at the Kurtulus metro station in the Turkish capital, where lots of couples engaged in a public display of affection. They attracted the ire of a group of religious men, but were protected by the police.

By: Katharina Pfannkuch, Your Middle East, May 24, 2013
Two years after the revolution, the streets of Tunisia are more and more in the hands of the Islamists. The Danseurs Citoyens use art as a weapon of resistance against the new self-appointed moral guardians in the country: The idea to re-conquer the streets of Tunis was born immediately after an attack by Islamists on a group of dancers in the capital.

By: Andres Jimenez, Peace and Conflict Monitor, June 12, 2013
This article discusses the shortcomings of violent social struggles - their relative exclusivity, vulnerability to foreign manipulation for geostrategic goals, and their likelihood (if successful) to establish similarly repressive and violent regimes to the ones they seek to overthrow. These are then juxtaposed with the relative merits of nonviolent struggles - their inclusivity, self-sufficiency, and compatibility with democratic structures of governance
By: Loveday Morris, Washington Post, July 7, 2013
In a Muslim-majority region where women are often marginalized from politics, women have taken an unusually prominent role in Western Sahara's independence movement against Moroccan rule. Female activists attribute the phenomenon to a combination of the indigenous Sahrawi population's moderate interpretation of Islam and the freedom they derive from their nomadic roots - but also, perhaps counterintuitively, to the prevalence of traditional gender roles, which they say give women the time to demonstrate.

By: Sebnem Arsu, NY Times, July 7, 2013
The recent antigovernment riots, which began with a sit-in at an Istanbul park scheduled for demolition and grew to encompass the grievances of millions of Turks disillusioned with their government, have largely faded after an intense crackdown about three weeks ago. Now, Turkey's parks have become safe places to gather and speak freely, with people arriving each evening in dozens of parks nationwide to discuss what happens next. The forums, an unprecedented exercise in grassroots democracy in a country with no tradition of public assembly, are not affiliated with any political party.
By: Terry Messman, Street Spirit, June 7, 2013
Terry Messman interviews Erica Chenoweth about her recent research on the effectiveness of civil resistance. In "Why Civil Resistance Works," the book based on this research, Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan analyze 323 campaigns seeking to change society, both violently and nonviolently, in one of the most comprehensive studies of social change movements that exists. Chenoweth speaks about the results of her research, what led her to undertake the project, and lessons she has learned that might help illuminate the road ahead for social-change movements.
By: Christiane Gruber, Jadaliyya, July 7, 2013
Early on in the Gezi protests, Erdogan dismissed the protesters as "marginal groups" and misbehaving "├žapulcus," a term meaning marauder, riffraff, or bum. Both the terms "marginal" and "bum" went through the movement's satirical machinery, and the title of "├žapulcu" became the highest badge of merit for any of the demonstrators.

By: Mohamed El-Sayed Abdel Gawad, Egypt Independent, July 8, 2013
Tamarod, since its founding, adopted peaceful methods, enabling it to gain a favorable view among a wide spectrum of society. Tamarod has taught us that peaceful popular action will be a tool of change in the future. Traditional political movements, on the other hand, often result in bloody revolts, military coups, or foreign intervention. To conclude, the success of Tamarod and earlier youth movements has proved that changes in the Egyptian political arena are no longer brought about by the traditional elite, but rather by new political forces that operate outside of partisan boundaries and engage more effectively with the masses

By: Ariam Frezghi, IPS News, July 13, 2013

Among the issues bringing protesters to Gezi Park, the now-iconic site of struggle in Istanbul's Taksim Square, is the demand for women's liberation. Coming from many walks of life and expressing a myriad of ideals and values, the women of the Occupy Gezi Movement have voiced a collective desire: to fight the undercurrent of deeply entrenched patriarchal values and reclaim autonomy over their own bodies and lifestyles. These demands are now coalescing around proposed legislation from the country's Health Ministry to limit the sale of oral contraception. 

By: Dana Alexandra Scherle, DW, July 25, 2013
What is it that connects the protesters? "What ties them together is the desire to live in truth. To use the words of Vaclav Havel [in reference to life under communism during the Cold War], 'they can no longer stand to live a lie, in a criminal system, in shadows'."  
Do you see parallels with the protests in Turkey? "Yes, there are parallels: members of different levels of society have joined together and reacted as one political subject. And the political subject says: 'This can't go on'."