Monthly Archives: January 2011

Egypt’s internet cutoff has failed in its central aim, but there may yet be further harms

As recently as a week ago, Egypt‘s internet was extraordinary in the Arab world for its freedom. For more than a decade, the regime has adhered to a hands-off policy, leaving unblocked everything from rumours about President Hosni Mubarak’s health to videos of police beatings. Unlike most of its regional neighbours and other authoritarian regimes, Egypt’s government never built or required sophisticated technical infrastructures of censorship. (Of course, the country has hardly been a paradise of free expression: the state security forces have vigorously suppressed dissent through surveillance, arbitrary detentions and relentless intimidation of writers and editors.)

Partly as a result of its liberal policies, Egypt became a hub for internet and mobile network investment, home to a thriving and competitive communications sector that pioneered free dial-up services, achieved impressive rates of access and use, and offered speedy wireless and broadband networks at relatively low prices. Indeed, Egypt is today one of the major crossing points for the underwater fibre-optic cables that interconnect the regions of the globe.

But last Thursday, the Mubarak regime shattered a decade’s worth of accomplishment by issuing the order to shut down the mobile networks and internet links. Since the internet age dawned in the early 90s, no widely connected country had disconnected itself entirely. The starkness and suddenness of Egypt’s reversal – from unrestricted to unreachable – marks one of the many tragedies of the Mubarak regime’s brutal and hamfisted response to last week’s emergence of citizen protests.
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(Global Voices) Sudanese students chose January 30, 2011 to be the beginning of peaceful demonstrations against President Omar al-Bashir. The main call asking people to take to the streets of Khartoum was made on Facebook. Was this Sudan’s first “Facebook Revolution” with the help of twitter as a side kick?

Social media tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube played a vital role in organising and reporting the Jan 30 Sudan peaceful demonstrations. In this post I will try to highlight some of social media tools that were used to organise, report and comment on the protests.

Facebook played a vital role as information center and an organising space while on Twitter users were reporting about the demonstrations in real time. Jan30Sudan used Ushahidi platform to document the demonstrations on a map.

It seems it all started with a Facebook group leading the role by inviting people to attend the protests. The group is called “>شبــاب لأجـل الـتـغيـــر·.»شـــرار ة  which translates to Youth For change “the Spark”. The group, which has over 8,000 friends, is credited with helping to organise the protests. Another Facebook group is “>رصد الاعتقالات و التجاوزات القانونية في مسيرة 30 يناير السلمية بالخرطوم which translates to “Records or Updates of arrest and illegal actions or violence in the 30 of January Peaceful Demonstration in Khartoum.”


Protesters in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo courtesy of Ehsasi Gdeed.

On the other side, there are blogs such as hurriyatsudan, which keeps track of news and updates. The blog has published names of people who have been arrested. Jan30Sudan website helped people to track locations of the protests and actions such as arrest or clashes with the police. Read more…


(Democracy Now!) Renowned feminist and human rights activist Nawal El Saadawi was a political prisoner and exiled from Egypt for years. Now she has returned to Cairo, and she joins us to discuss the role of women during the last seven days of unprecedented protests. “Women and girls are beside boys in the streets,” El Saadawi says. “We are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system… and to have a real democracy.” Watch it

( Chinese journalists are to undergo six-month training courses that will teach them how to “eradicate false news, improve the feeling of social responsibility and reinforce journalistic ethics.”

“In short, to make journalists themselves actors in censorship,” Reporters Without Borders commented.

The initiative comes from the Propaganda department, directly linked to the Communist Party, and follows its announcement of 10 directives relating to the press in 2011.

Reporters Without Frontiers condemns this escalation in the control of information.

“The Propaganda Department shows itself to be ever more inventive in working out new directives to put pressure on journalists,” the press freedom organization said. “This training takes the form of banning among journalists any critical sprit and making out of them state employees in the service of state ideology.”

On 26 January Zhai Huisheng (翟惠生), the secretary general of the Official Association of Chinese Journalists, made public the new campaign to control the media.

The training arrangements will be the responsibility of several bodies, including the central propaganda bureau, the Association of Chinese Journalists (中国记协), Renmin Ribao (人民日报, People’s Daily) and the Xinhua news agency (新化社). It will be up to them to control the process in 14 provinces and to ensure the smooth running of this operation, which will allow journalists to “recognize and avoid politically sensitive topics.”

Reporters Without Borders also condemns the abusive use of the notion of “false news” (“虚假报道”), which justifies a large number of cases of maltreatment on the part of the authorities in respect of defenders of free expression such as Long Can(龙灿) of the Chengdu Shangbao (成都商报), andChang Ping (长平) of the Nanfang Baoye Jituan (南方报业集团), unjustly removed from their jobs.

Long Can, a well known investigative reporter from the daily Chengdu Shangbao (Chengdu commercial Daily), was fired on 21 January, on charges that he produced “false news.” He had revealed that the authorities in Huangshan, in Anhui province, had ignored three appeals for rescue from 18 students from Fudan University in Shanghai whose lives were in danger during a visit to the Huangshan mountains.

Under pressure from the central propaganda department the Chengdu Shangbao was forced to dismiss its staff reporter. Within the newspaper, editor Zhang Feng was fined 1,000 yuan (110 euros). Executive editor Zeng Xi was also fired. Jiang Quanhong, an editor on the news desk, was stripped of his duties and subjected to a searching inquiry. Wang Qi, a member of the editorial team, was fined 3,000 yuan (333 euros), as was chief editor Chen Shuping.

On 28 January, Chang Ping, a talented and daring journalist, was forced to quit his job with the Nanfang Baoye Jituan for refusing to change certain passages in his articles. Chang Ping has a policy of refusing any compromise with the government.

His press group, based in Guangzhou, has a reputation for the high quality of its investigations and the boldness of its editorial choices. Once again the authorities exerted pressure on the management of the group to fire the journalist after he published “false information.” He had already lost his job as editor in chief for his articles highlighting the role of the Chinese government during the uprisings in Tibet in 2008.


(Privacy Lover) A new Wikileaks alternative has just opened for business, it is called Openleaks and their target is to help whistleblowers spread leaked documents and information. Openleaks has a contact phone number (with a German country code), fax, email address (with corresponding PGP encryption key) and Skype.

Using Skype for communications does not seem too bright for someone who is a Government target, Skype is owned by eBay and it is closed source software, I can easily envision an scenario where a US Court forces eBay to insert a backdoor in Skype for the FBI to tap into the communications.

I wonder why Openleaks didn’t choose a Jabber based instant messenger based on XMPP, the open standard for instant messaging, Gajim and PSI would be two good choices, they both support end to end encryption with SSL and do not belong to any big US corporation open to subpoenas.

Differences between OpenLeaks and Wikileaks

Openleaks will not publish any leaked information themselves they pass it on to third parties, they define themselves as a complementary project to Wikileaks, not a competitor.

There are ways for someone to anonymously send confidential information to a third party (tor proxy, remailers, etc) but that needs time and knowledge, Openleaks will make it easy to send leaked documents, acting as a middle man in between the leaker and the publisher, the more proxies you have, the harder it becomes tracking down the source.

The only doubt in my mind is, who will dare to post the next stolen top secret documents in a censorship free media without fear of consequences? I can only think of WikiLeaks, maybe Openleaks can be used to send documents to Wikileaks. :)

In fairness Openleaks claims to be on an alpha stage and it is still too early to judge them, I hope they succeed in their endeavours, I hope they change the Skype thing too.

Visit OpenLeaks homepage

OpenLeaks website


LocaLeaks sends tips to 1400 US newspapers

This online drop box allows you to send tips and attachments to a list of 1400 local USA newspapers through a simple form, using a drop down menu you first choose a US state and then the local media you want to send an anonymous tip to, I loved the simplicity of this website.

LocaLeaks website uses SSL encryption for access and encrypts all text and attachments during transmission to the server. They claim that they do their best to erase identifiable information like session cookies and IP logging on the server side. Documents metadata is also stripped, an often overlooked factor by non techie people.

After you have submitted your pseudoanonymous tip, the newspaper receives an email alerting them, if they are interested in the information they will need to reply for a secure file transfer to take place, unfortunately many local newspapers are highly unlikely to be using GnuPGP encryption and the last step is more likely to be done in the clear, but the information source should still be safe.

Visit LocalLeaks homepage

LocaLeaks anonymous tips


(Dandelion Salad) Overnight, the death toll among Egypt’s masses protesting for the overthrow of US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak has risen to over 150 and thousands injured. With telecommunication services blacked out by the authorities (and willingly obliged by the telecoms corporations), it is hard to verify the exact casualty figures. But it is undeniable that a massacre is occurring. And it is a massacre made in the US.

The US public needs to be very clear about this. The armed forces of the Mubarak regime are now killing and maiming civilians with weapons that are made in the US and supplied by the US at the rate of $1.5 billion a year – for the last 30 years.

Mubarak’s regime could not carry out its violent repression without the material and political support of Washington. For 30 years, the Mubarak regime could not have impoverished its mass of people, subjected them to terror, illegal incarceration, torture and killing without the material and political support of Washington (and other Western governments).

Now bitter irony heaped upon bitter irony, the Israeli regime is reported to be sending weapons to its partner-in-crimes against humanity in Cairo to put down the popular uprising. Israel, which receives $4-5 billion a year from Washington to crush Palestinian Arabs, is sending its surplus of US-made and US-supplied weapons to crush Egyptian Arabs.

The bottom line is that US weapons, whether sent directly or indirectly, are being used to massacre civilians who are simply demanding democracy, economic justice and human rights.

With millions of citizens taking to the streets in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria – and reports of similar unrest in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere across the Middle East and North Africa, it can be fairly said that a revolution in popular awakening is underway. And it is clear that these people are demanding an overthrow of decades-long regimes that have denied them, often brutally, democracy. Simple as that.

It is also crystal clear on which side of the struggle that the US government and its Western allies stand. Despite mealy-mouthed and disingenuous ‘support’ being voiced from Western capitals for the demands of the people, these same capitals are steadfastly on the side of the corrupt status quo. Think about that. The US and other Western governments are against democracy. They are for fascistic dictatorship, massive immiseration, countless other crimes against humanity and other ‘evils’ that go with that, such as extremism that so haunts the West.

In many and very real ways, as Andrew Gavin Marshall (1) and others have pointed out, what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa is the beginning of a global awakening.

Right now, the streets of Cairo, Tunis and elsewhere look like battlefields. But the biggest battlefield yet to come will be in the US. And quite fittingly so. As the executive power upholding the capitalist order that has for decades spawned wars, violence, injustice, corruption and fascism around the world to achieve its undemocratic ends, the US is the primary site of struggle for democracy, not just in the US, but also for the rest of the world.

In past decades, the battle lines were obscured by lack of communications and propaganda diversions (the ‘evil Soviet empire, Vietnam, Latin American subversion, war on drugs, and, latterly, this phony war on terror, etc). But with mounting and unrelenting poverty across the US (and Europe), and global communications, the battle lines are now becoming apparent. The real enemy is the US/Western diktat of capitalism – the economic system that enriches the few and impoverishes the majority because it is all about private profit, and increasingly elite private profit.

The people of the US and Europe are not mere observers to some kind of removed spectacle. They are intimately involved in this struggle. It is their governments that have already taken sides in this struggle. It is their governments that have sparked the revolution by creating these regimes in the first place.

It is their governments that form and inform the policies of these regimes. Because they are the very same policies of anti-democracy that are also being forced – and all too painfully being forced – on the people of the US and Europe: autocratic political monopoly under two- or three-party systems of servility, economic injustice, elite embezzlement, financial oligarchy, erosion of human rights, police state powers. It’s a sliding scale of fascism that has as its epicentre Western capitals, and in particular Washington. The struggle for democracy is not just being fought for in the streets of the Middle East and North Africa. The struggle is on every US and European street too – albeit latent and partially obscured for now. In this struggle, we are no longer Americans, European, Africans or Asians – the elites long ago gave up their pretense of patriotism in their quest for profits. We are people of the world who demand democracy – real, sustainable democracy that can only be delivered by socialism.

The world is witnessing a world revolution. Its origins, of course, go back a long time to the tyrannies of Europe. But its latest phase began in the US. There, it will have to be finished. It is a vital task. Onerous yet potentially glorious for the sake of democracy, justice and peace in the world.

31 January, 2011
by Finian Cunningham


( Have you ever been alone in a house at night and thought you heard someone breaking in, and laid, awake and immobilised by fear watching moving shadows until day breaks and the ordinary objects of your home are no longer monsters? That is how I felt walking around the streets of downtown Cairo yesterday.

We arrived in Tahrir Square around 3 p.m. to find an army checkpoint at the entrance to the square from Qasr El-Aini Bridge formed by two tanks. Someone had scrawled Fuck Mubarak on the back of one. Soldiers checked bags and patted people down for weapons.

Beyond this a man stood holding a piece of paper above his head reading, “have some respect for yourself Mubarak and leave”. To the side of him men sweeped the ground and picked up litter, a sight I have witnessed numerous times in Tahrir Square and which never fails to move me; Cairo is a notoriously filthy city and littering is a huge problem; now here was one man picking up tiny bits of paper off the ground – he has reclaimed ownership and now he and the thousands of others sleeping, eating, singing and resisting in the square feel a duty to look after it and surrounding streets in a way the government never did. Read more…


(Human Rights Watch) Cairo – The Egyptian government should order security forces, especially police and plainclothes agents, not to use live fire against peaceful protesters and bystanders, Human Rights Watch said today. Following reports that dozens have been killed at demonstrations, Human Rights Watch confirmed at least 33 dead in Alexandria and heard plausible reports of at least 50 to 70 dead at a single morgue in Cairo.

Human Rights Watch urged the Egyptian army to continue to exercise restraint in the face of legitimate protests and warned that soldiers and police could face prosecution if they open fire on demonstrators without justification or give orders to do so. The authorities should immediately open investigations into the live fire in Alexandria and elsewhere by police and plainclothes agents and prosecute those responsible for unjustified killings and injuries, Human Rights Watch said.

“We hope the Egyptian army will not follow the ruthless brutality of Egyptian riot police in their confrontations with demonstrators,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Police and plainclothes agents seem to be shooting people without justification, using live bullets or firing teargas canisters straight at protesters. Those giving the orders to shoot, no matter how senior, should also be held to account.”

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