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 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 "çapulcus," a term meaning marauder, riffraff, or bum. Both the terms "marginal" and "bum" went through the movement's satirical machinery, and the title of "çapulcu" 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'."

Martin Luther King's Dream of Barrack Obama

Monday, July 15, 2013

US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists

Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president's removal

Emad Mekay
Al Jazeera, 10 Jul 2013
[Condensed version of original article]

Berkeley, United States - President Barack Obama recently stated the United States was not taking sides as Egypt's crisis came to a head with the military overthrow of the democratically elected president.

But a review of dozens of US federal government documents shows Washington has quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for toppling of the country's now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC [University of California] Berkeley show the US channelled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This programme vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011.

Activists bankrolled by the programme include an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow of the Morsi government, an anti-Islamist politician who advocated closing mosques and dragging preachers out by force, as well as a coterie of opposition politicians who pushed for the ouster of the country's first democratically elected leader, government documents show.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, and public records reveal Washington's "democracy assistance" may have violated Egyptian law, which prohibits foreign political funding.

It may also have broken US government regulations that ban the use of taxpayers' money to fund foreign politicians, or finance subversive activities that target democratically elected governments.

'Bureau for Democracy'
Washington's democracy assistance programme for the Middle East is filtered through a pyramid of agencies within the State Department. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is channelled through the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), USAID, as well as the Washington-based, quasi-governmental organisation the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In turn, those groups re-route money to other organisations such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House, among others. Federal documents show these groups have sent funds to certain organisations in Egypt, mostly run by senior members of anti-Morsi political parties who double as NGO activists.

A main conduit for channeling the State Department's democracy funds to Egypt has been the National Endowment for Democracy. Federal documents show NED, which in 2011 was authorised an annual budget of $118m by Congress, funnelled at least $120,000 over several years to an exiled Egyptian police officer who has for years incited violence in his native country.

This appears to be in direct contradiction to its Congressional mandate, which clearly states NED is to engage only in "peaceful" political change overseas.

Exiled policeman
Colonel Omar Afifi Soliman - who served in Egypt's elite investigative police unit, notorious for human rights abuses - began receiving NED funds in 2008 for at least four years.

During that time he and his followers targeted Mubarak's government, and Soliman later followed the same tactics against the military rulers who briefly replaced him. Most recently Soliman set his sights on Morsi's government.

Soliman, who has refugee status in the US, was sentenced in absentia last year for five years imprisonment by a Cairo court for his role in inciting violence in 2011 against the embassies of Israel and Saudi Arabia, two US allies.

He also used social media to encourage violent attacks against Egyptian officials, according to court documents and a review of his social media posts.

US Internal Revenue Service documents reveal that NED paid tens of thousands of dollars to Soliman through an organisation he created called Hukuk Al-Nas (People's Rights), based in Falls Church, Virginia. Federal forms show he is the only employee.

After he was awarded a 2008 human rights fellowship at NED and moved to the US, Soliman received a second $50,000 NED grant in 2009 for Hukuk Al-Nas. In 2010, he received $60,000 and another $10,000 in 2011. 

INED has removed public access to its Egyptian grant recipients in 2011 and 2012 from its website. NED officials didn't respond to repeated interview requests.

'Pro bono advice'
NED's website says Soliman spreads only nonviolent literature, and his group was set up to provide "immediate, pro bono [free] legal advice through a telephone hotline, instant messaging, and other social networking tools".

However, in Egyptian media interviews, social media posts and YouTube videos, Soliman encouraged the violent overthrow of Egypt's government, then led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.

"Incapacitate them by smashing their knee bones first," he instructed followers on Facebook in late June, as Morsi's opponents prepared massive street rallies against the government. Egypt's US-funded and trained military later used those demonstrations to justify its coup on July 3.

"Make a road bump with a broken palm tree to stop the buses going into Cairo, and drench the road around it with gas and diesel. When the bus slows down for the bump, set it all ablaze so it will burn down with all the passengers inside … God bless," Soliman's post read.

In late May he instructed, "Behead those who control power, water and gas utilities."

More recent Facebook instructions to his 83,000 followers range from guidelines on spraying roads with a mix of auto oil and gas - "20 litres of oil to 4 litres of gas"- to how to thwart cars giving chase.

On a YouTube video, Soliman took credit for a failed attempt in December to storm the Egyptian presidential palace with handguns and Molotov cocktails to oust Morsi.

Funding other Morsi opponents
Other beneficiaries of US government funding are also opponents of the now-deposed president, some who had called for Morsi's removal by force.

The Salvation Front main opposition bloc, of which some members received US funding, has backed street protest campaigns that turned violent against the elected government, in contradiction of many of the State Department's own guidelines.

A long-time grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy and other US democracy groups is a 34-year old Egyptian woman, Esraa Abdel-Fatah, who sprang to notoriety during the country's pitched battle over the new constitution in December 2012.

She exhorted activists to lay siege to mosques and drag from pulpits all Muslim preachers and religious figures who supported the country's the proposed constitution, just before it went to a public referendum.

The act of besieging mosques has continued ever since, and several people have died in clashes defending them.

Federal records show Abdel-Fatah's NGO, the Egyptian Democratic Academy, received support from NED, MEPI and NDI, among other State Department-funded groups "assisting democracy". Records show NED gave her organisation a one-year $75,000 grant in 2011.

Abdel-Fatah is politically active, crisscrossing Egypt to rally support for her Al-Dostor Party, which is led by former UN nuclear chief Mohamed El-Baradei, the most prominent figure in the Salvation Front. She lent full support to the military takeover, and urged the West not call it a "coup".

"June 30 will be the last day of Morsi's term," she told the press a few weeks before the coup took place.

US taxpayer money has also been sent to groups set up by some of Egypt's richest people, raising questions about waste in the democracy programme.

Michael Meunier is a frequent guest on TV channels that opposed Morsi. Head of the Al-Haya Party, Meunier - a dual US-Egyptian citizen - has quietly collected US funding through his NGO, Hand In Hand for Egypt Association.

Meunier's organisation was founded by some of the most vehement opposition figures, including Egypt's richest man and well-known Coptic Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, Tarek Heggy, an oil industry executive, Salah Diab, Halliburton's partner in Egypt, and Usama Ghazali Harb, a politician with roots in the Mubarak regime and a frequent US embassy contact.

Meunier has denied receiving US assistance, but government documents show USAID in 2011 granted his Cairo-based organisation $873,355. Since 2009, it has taken in $1.3 million from the US agency.

Meunier helped rally the country's five million Christian Orthodox Coptic minority, who oppose Morsi's Islamist agenda, to take to the streets against the president on June 30.

Reform and Development Party member Mohammed Essmat al-Sadat received US financial support through his Sadat Association for Social Development, a grantee of The Middle East Partnership Initiative.

The federal grants records and database show in 2011 Sadat collected $84,445 from MEPI "to work with youth in the post-revolutionary Egypt".

Sadat was a member of the coordination committee, the main organising body for the June 30 anti-Morsi protest. Since 2008, he has collected $265,176 in US funding. Sadat announced he will be running for office again in upcoming parliamentary elections.

After soldiers and police killed more than 50 Morsi supporters on Monday, Sadat defended the use of force and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, saying it used women and children as shields.

Some US-backed politicians have said Washington tacitly encouraged them to incite protests.

"We were told by the Americans that if we see big street protests that sustain themselves for a week, they will reconsider all current US policies towards the Muslim Brotherhood regime," said Saaddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American politician opposed Morsi.

Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldoun Center in Cairo receives US funding, one of the largest recipients of democracy promotion money in fact.

His comments followed statements by other Egyptian opposition politicians claiming they had been prodded by US officials to whip up public sentiment against Morsi before Washington could publicly weigh in.

Democracy programme defence
The practice of funding politicians and anti-government activists through NGOs was vehemently defended by the State Department and by a group of Washington-based Middle East experts close to the programme.

"The line between politics and activism is very blurred in this country," said David Linfield, spokesman for the US Embassy in Cairo.

Others said the United States cannot be held responsible for activities by groups it doesn't control.

A Cairo court convicted 43 local and foreign NGO workers last month on charges of illegally using foreign funds to stir unrest in Egypt. The US and UN expressed concern over the move.

Some Egyptians, meanwhile, said the US was out of line by sending cash through its democracy programme in the Middle East to organisations run by political operators.

"Instead of being sincere about backing democracy and reaching out to the Egyptian people, the US has chosen an unethical path," said Esam Neizamy, an independent researcher into foreign funding in Egypt, and a member of the country's Revolutionary Trustees, a group set up to protect the 2011 revolution.

Excuses for the Egyptian coup

Excerpt from: ‘Egyptian Coup Apologists Offer Lame Rationalizations’, by Haroon Siddiqui, the Toronto Star’s Editorial Page Editor Emeritus

Apologists for the Egyptian coup, including many Egyptian Canadians, are offering
lame rationalizations:

1. The situation was chaotic and the economy in ruins — someone had to restore order.
That’s the standard excuse for military coups. Besides, the army itself encouraged the
undermining of Morsi by Mubarak-era courts, Mubarak-era police and Mubarak-era
financiers who backed mass demonstrations. They created the upheavals that killed
tourism and stifled the economy.

2. Morsi only controlled the parliament where his Muslim Brotherhood had nearly half
the seats. But the assembly was dismissed by the courts, leaving him only his own
elected legitimacy — and that was what was systematically destroyed.

3. Morsi was partisan and unilateral. He was — but far less so than, say, Stephen
Harper and the Republicans in Congress. He appointed no more party loyalists and
nincompoops than  [Canadian Prime Minister] Harper has to the Senate or other public institutions.

4. Morsi had only a “narrow mandate,” at 52 per cent in a two-way race. But his was a
bigger margin than Obama’s. And in multi-party elections, the Brotherhood
proportionately won more seats than either Harper’s or [UK Pfime Minister] David Cameron’s

5. Morsi was taking orders from the Muslim Brotherhood. He no doubt was but no
more so than members of the [U.S.] Congress sing their key funders’ tunes.

6. He was advancing sharia or he may have been preparing to do so. In fact, he fought
off Salafist demands for constitutional guarantees for Islamic law.

Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi

New York Times, July 10, 2013

CAIRO — The streets seethe with protests and government ministers are on the run or in jail, but since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street.

The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.

And as the interim government struggles to unite a divided nation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mr. Morsi’s supporters say the sudden turnaround proves that their opponents conspired to make Mr. Morsi fail. Not only did police officers seem to disappear, but the state agencies responsible for providing electricity and ensuring gas supplies failed so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration.

“This was preparing for the coup,” said Naser el-Farash, who served as the spokesman for the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade under Mr. Morsi. “Different circles in the state, from the storage facilities to the cars that transport petrol products to the gas stations, all participated in creating the crisis.”

Working behind the scenes, members of the old establishment, some of them close to Mr. Mubarak and the country’s top generals, also helped finance, advise and organize those determined to topple the Islamist leadership, including Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire and an outspoken foe of the Brotherhood; Tahani El-Gebali, a former judge on the Supreme Constitutional Court who is close to the ruling generals; and Shawki al-Sayed, a legal adviser to Ahmed Shafik, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, who lost the presidential race to Mr. Morsi.

But it is the police returning to the streets that offers the most blatant sign that the institutions once loyal to Mr. Mubarak held back while Mr. Morsi was in power. Throughout his one-year tenure, Mr. Morsi struggled to appease the police, even alienating his own supporters rather than trying to overhaul the Interior Ministry. But as crime increased and traffic clogged roads — undermining not only the quality of life, but the economy — the police refused to deploy fully.

Until now.

White-clad officers have returned to Cairo’s streets, and security forces — widely despised before and after the revolution — intervened with tear gas and shotguns against Islamists during widespread street clashes last week, leading anti-Morsi rioters to laud them as heroes. Posters have gone up around town showing a police officer surrounded by smiling children over the words “Your security is our mission, your safety our goal.”

“You had officers and individuals who were working under a specific policy that was against Islamic extremists and Islamists in general,” said Ihab Youssef, a retired police officer who runs a professional association for the security forces. “Then all of a sudden the regime flips and there is an Islamic regime ruling. They could never psychologically accept that.”

When Mr. Mubarak was removed after nearly 30 years in office in 2011, the bureaucracy he built stayed largely in place. Many business leaders, also a pillar of the old government, retained their wealth and influence.

Despite coming to power through the freest elections in Egyptian history, Mr. Morsi was unable to extend his authority over the sprawling state apparatus, and his allies complained that what they called the “deep state” was undermining their efforts at governing.

While he failed to broaden his appeal and build any kind of national consensus, he also faced an active campaign by those hostile to his leadership, including some of the wealthiest and most powerful pillars of the Mubarak era.

Mr. Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men and a titan of the old establishment, said Wednesday that he had supported an upstart group called “tamarrod,” Arabic for “rebellion,” that led a petition drive seeking Mr. Morsi’s ouster. He donated use of the nationwide offices and infrastructure of the political party he built, the Free Egyptians. He provided publicity through his popular television network and his major interest in Egypt’s largest private newspaper. He even commissioned the production of a popular music video that played heavily on his network.

“Tamarrod did not even know it was me!” he said. “I am not ashamed of it.”

He said he had publicly predicted that ousting Mr. Morsi would bolster Egypt’s sputtering economy because it would bring in billions of dollars in aid from oil-rich monarchies afraid that the Islamist movement might spread to their shores. By Wednesday, a total of $12 billion had flowed in from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. “That will take us for 12 months with no problem,” Mr. Sawiris said.

Ms. Gebali, the former judge, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that she and other legal experts helped tamarrod create its strategy to appeal directly to the military to oust Mr. Morsi and pass the interim presidency to the chief of the constitutional court.

“We saw that there was movement and popular creativity, so we wanted to see if it would have an effect and a constitutional basis,” Ms. Gebali said.

Mr. Farash, the trade ministry spokesman under Mr. Morsi, attributed the fuel shortages to black marketers linked to Mr. Mubarak, who diverted shipments of state-subsidized fuel to sell for a profit abroad. Corrupt officials torpedoed Mr. Morsi’s introduction of a smart card system to track fuel shipments by refusing to use the devices, he said.

But not everyone agreed with that interpretation, as supporters of the interim government said the improvements in recent days were a reflection of Mr. Morsi’s incompetence, not a conspiracy. State news media said energy shortages occurred because consumers bought extra fuel out of fear, which appeared to evaporate after Mr. Morsi’s fall. On Wednesday, Al Ahram, the flagship newspaper, said the energy grid had had a surplus in the past week for the first time in months, thanks to “energy-saving measures by the public.”

“I feel like Egypt is back,” Ayman Abdel-Hakam, a criminal court judge from a Cairo suburb, said after waiting only a few minutes to fill up his car at a downtown gas station. He accused Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to seize all state power and accused them of creating the fuel crisis by exporting gasoline to Hamas, the militant Islamic group in the Gaza Strip.

“We had a disease, and we got rid of it,” Mr. Abdel-Hakam said.

Ahmed Nabawi, a gas station manager, said he had heard several reasons for the gas crisis: technical glitches at a storage facility, a shipment of low-quality gas from abroad and unnecessary stockpiling by the public. Still, he was amazed at how quickly the crisis disappeared.

“We went to sleep one night, woke up the next day, and the crisis was gone,” he said, casually sipping tea in his office with his colleagues.

Regardless of the reasons behind the crisis, he said, Mr. Morsi’s rule had not helped.

“No one wanted to cooperate with his people because they didn’t accept him,” he said. “Now that he is gone, they are working like they’re supposed to.” 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

ICNC posts - 4 May 2013

By: Thabani Nyoni, Zimbabwe Independent, May 3, 2013
Zimbabwe has seen a plethora of opposition political parties, civil society groups and human rights organizations as well as dissenting voices being criminalized, delegitimized and brutalized. This culture of violence, intolerance and impunity has thrived as the government uses terms like "sell-outs", "puppets of the West", and "Western-sponsored agents of regime change" to justify political persecution. Civil society groups and human rights activists have worked to expand, democratize and maintain a vibrant and legitimate public sphere in Zimbabwe, which is a legitimate democratic regime agenda.

By: Gregory Warner, NPR, May 2, 2013 
Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki does not tolerate any independent media, the Internet is restricted, and Reporters without Borders recently named it 179th out of 179 countries for freedom of expression. Isayas Sium, an Eritrean-American exile, had an idea to subversively protest against the government: robocall Eritreans with a smuggled phonebook and tell them not to go out as traditional on Friday night. They called the movement "Freedom Friday." According to one activist, Eritreans are "...not as fearful as she thought they'd be, as according to inside sources and recent refugees who've fled, staying home on Friday nights is becoming kind of cool

By: Adam Clayton Powell III, Good Governance Africa, May 2, 2013
Citizen journalists, mostly untrained volunteer newscasters, activists and whistle-blowers can take advantage of powerful new technologies, many created in Africa, to collect and distribute their reports. The power and ubiquity of inexpensive, low-end cellphones has increased, making possible access to tools that can help spread information and safeguard anonymity.  For example, Mimiboard, a virtual noticeboard, won the most votes at last year's Open Innovation Africa Summit and enables users to post, via the web or SMS, events and information about social and political issues in their communities - particularly when these  citizen journalists and activists who may not be able to operate openly.

By: Felicity Clarke, School for Authentic Journalism, April 24, 2013
For more than twenty years, Brazilian authorities have maintained that the Vila Autódromo favela in Rio de Janeiro's west zone doesn't belong and have attempted to remove it, citing aesthetic damage, environmental damage, environmental risk and, more recently Olympic Park developments as reasons. The community continues to resist, knowing their legal right to the land and creating an alternative upgrading plan for the community at a lower cost than relocation. This is where the School of Authentic Journalism comes in: reporting for RioOnWatch in the last year, I have been learning how journalism can empower people, even whole communities. 


Monday, July 1, 2013

The fading beat of Drum magazine

Drum was the only magazine when the winds of change were blowing through the African continent in 1957. It celebrated its 60th birthday recently.
The best talent available in the urban South African community was, like moth to light, attracted to the charismatic power of its visionary and prophetic founder, a Mr Jim Bailey. It was fate that brought them together.
This collaboration of white economic power and black creative talent delivered a product that could not be ignored. It was taken seriously. There was no other publication like it anywhere else in the world.
Drum magazine was the bible of African creative thought, laying bare the heart and soul of a nation. It was intuitively connected to the people. Indeed, it was accepted as the “voice of the people”. Quite simply, it was who the urban African population were: strong, resilient and determined souls that confronted and transcended colonialism and apartheid conditions that were considered “a crime against humanity” in the middle of the 20th century.
There was a wall. That wall of fire leaped as high as the skyscrapers. The wall was impenetrable white economic power and domination. And the African journalists lay prostrate before it. They had no choice. This led them to frustration, hard drinking, sexual promiscuity, fast living, and, ultimately, dying young in their efforts to escape monopoly clutches.
But their eyes remained on the prize of speaking truth to power.
We live in the reverberating sounds of the Drum beat. Readers are bombarded by images, primarily, of clowns who are mistaken for celebrities because they appear on television. It is a fleeting popular culture where those who have neither land nor wealth allow themselves to be portrayed as having everything.
Most of what we know about ourselves – people desperate for acknowledgement and recognition by any means necessary – is hyped by the new plastic age of Drum. We live in a time where perception is reality. What is imagined, especially using the smoke and mirrors of high fashion, far-into-the-night drinking parties and soulless music stars – is more powerful than what is real. If it is featured in Drum, then it is the new trend, the “in thing”.
These days Drum’s pictorial news, which can be considered a national album, is the source of the belief that in South Africa perception is reality. The mag is a leader in chronicling contemporary celebrities in the present tense.
The Drum of Henry Nxumalo, Can Themba, Zeke Mphahlele, Bloke Modisane and Todd Matshikiza, to name a few, had this glitter and glamour to it, too. But they did not deliver that at the expense of truth. They understood that news and not fashion was an important job to do. Depending on how you look at things, today’s Drum has become an institution that reflects the pseudo-reality and thus fails the country every day.
The reality of prison conditions, bludgeoned youth, poverty, unemployment, abortion, illiteracy is not special focus features in the new Drum. Instead, it glows bright with the glamour and drama of fake glitterati. Popular figures created by a single appearance on a television soap opera are elevated into role models or super-achievers. Discerning readers recognise this as sowing the seeds of success measured by money and fame in the minds of gullible readers.
Drum journalists ride in hired limousines as VIP guests in the company of stars clothed in borrowed designer clothes. The gullible are most unlikely to see the blurring of lines as journalists must be objective and not take sides.
The Drum of Nxumalo, Mphahlele and, of course, Stan Motjuwadi was to just tell South Africans and tourists the hard truths, the facts about failing freedom and the truth about empty democracy. What you need to know about the Dream Deferred of Chief Albert Luthuli, Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko that was once reflected on its pages. That was what Drum used to do in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Adam Small’s eulogy to Biko in 1977, for instance, was the fastest selling Drum in history. In 1980 Drum sales were hovering around 200 000 copies.
What is the role of Drum in a transitional society?
Nxumalo, Themba, Mphahlele and Modisane would say it is to get under the skin of the new rulers and remind them of their obligation to the dream of a free and anti-racist society. This was the virus that drove them to self-sacrifice through hard drinking, promiscuous sex, hopelessness and, ultimately, exile and early death. This is the betrayal of patriots that the people need to know.
There is cause for alarm now that this is not happening. Drum fought a vicious struggle against the heinous state that launched Pace magazine just to dilute its political message. Much as it was not an ideological publication, it stood up for principle and was committed to the ideals of a new society.
George Orwell’s prophetic 1984 marked a new era for Drum. It was taken over by verligteformer Afrikaner Broederbond members who desired to penetrate deeper into the African market and mind. The work of Drum, now, is not necessarily politically conscious any more. In fact, it never was. Its journalism cannot exactly be defined as a calling. It is a big deal job with access to celebrity parties and petty scandals. The strategic objective has changed from what Jim Bailey wanted: to be a gadfly in the face of evil power. The emphasis, now, is maybe to please the shareholders and feed the beast called profit. The mission is not Sobukwe or Biko’s African personality, Black Consciousness or self-determination.
Instead, it is here to entertain by giving the people what they want. It is here to sell what will give people delusions and dreams to make them forget.
Gone is the spirit of Henry Nxumalo, Can Themba, Zeke Mphahlele or Stan Motjuwadi, for instance. There are no stories of enslaved farm workers, abused prisoners, abortion clinics or truly African divas that nourish the soul of the nation.
Everybody is a player now, playing the same game as the movers and shakers who will be written about tomorrow.
There is a serious problem with the heartbeat of Africa today. It is the fading sound of the cowhide Drum.
But everyone seems to, generally, hate the press, today. It is not just Drum. Even former cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi was especially critical of the desire to make profit at the expense of telling the country’s story.
Well, we can say what we will about Drum. However, we must do it for the right reasons. It is not like it is now a conniving and conspiring institution that wants to keep the people ignorant of their history in the present. There are no executives who wish to dictate to its journalist what to write. Besides, Drum was part of the struggle for freedom of expression and the media in this country.
The fact is, Drum was not an ideological publication. Its agenda was not to have an agenda besides providing entertainment news and, if possible, make profits for its owners. And to achieve that it must please and not provoke its readers. It must cheer and challenge its subjects.
Let the Drum beat go on to reverberate in our heart and soul no matter how faint the sound.
The often repeated conspiracy theories about who owns Drum and what they want to use it for do not address the burning issues. It does not matter who owns the press. The loud complaints, if any, should be about the meaning and purpose of the journalists. How do they want to serve the country? The Nxumalos and Thembas made their choice. Today, the media is free despite the barking from the governing party.
The dumbing down and the erasing of the legacy of what used to be done before is about the focus on the business of journalism which is about business and profits. It is about globalisation and how the media is not for truth but profits. Thus Drum has to create a news mix that will boost the advertising revenue. This is the new agenda.
Drum has lived through six decades of diminished seriousness and clout as it feeds the beast called the market. In a democracy, the people get what they deserve.
And as Jim Bailey said, Drum can “go and do better”.
Now is the time.