Posts Tagged 'Free Speech'

HRW Report: Crackdown

AFTER INTERVIEWING NEARLY 100 eyewitnesses in Burma, the New York-based Human Rights Watch has released its report on the violent crackdown in Burma this past fall (via BBC).

The report makes no recommendations to the Burmese junta, on the grounds that such pleas would be futile, and instead prods surrounding nations like China and India to take action. The entire report can be found here, and a haunting photo montage on the crackdown is here.

The people of Burma have sacrificed much in their effort to be free, and endured unimaginable repression. The least we can offer is our support. Please write to your local representatives – wherever in the world you may be.

Yahoo, Accomplice to a Crackdown

YAHOO IS DEFENDING ITSELF as it gets lambasted by U.S. lawmakers for being complicit in the crackdown and imprisonment of a Chinese pro-democracy journalist (AP):

“While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said angrily after hearing from the two Yahoo executives.

He angrily urged Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan to apologize to journalist Shi Tao’s mother, who was sitting directly behind them.

Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for politically “subversive” activities by the Chinese government after Yahoo handed over information about his online activities.

In addition to divulging information about Chinese citizens (Wang Xiaoning was similarly sentenced to 10 years in 2002 after the Internet company provided information to authorities), Yahoo has willingly tailored its search engine in China to filter responses to search terms like “democracy” or “Falun Gong”, doing their part to layer bricks in the Great Firewall of China. They have also engineered their photo-sharing site Flickr in such a way that residents in Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Hong Kong cannot access uncensored content.

And all along the way they’ve made pathetic excuses – this from a Wall Street Journal post back in 2006:

Yahoo’s Terry Semel faced tough questions from Walt Mossberg — and the audience — over the search company’s decision to comply with requests for user data from the Chinese government, which has used the information to pursue dissidents.

“I continue to be pissed off, outraged, and feel very very bad about it,” Mr. Semel said. “But you have to follow the laws of the country you’re in.”

Mr. Semel went on: “I don’t think any one company is going to change a country, and I dont think any one industry is going to change a country. ”

Grade A cop-out bullshit. Where is the sense of responsibility, of courage, of doing the right thing? Yahoo quivers at the thought of losing the Chinese market as though the rest of the world were not enough, and doesn’t hesitate to throw upstanding human beings under the rug if it means holding on to their investment. I’m glad they’re getting the verbal battering they deserve, but I question whether that’s enough.

RELATED NEWS: Chinese environmental defender loses appeal against concocted blackmail charges (TDT loses faith in humanity – see related post).

Window into Burma

THE BUBBLES OF RAGE and protest have ceded to a false calm back in Burma – the fragile and still-simmering status-quo restored through brutal force. But this cannot be the end, and we cannot forget the people who have disappeared under the junta’s cloak.

Choe Sang-hun, a reporter for The New York Times and International Herald Tribune, has been doing some serious digging around in Burma, risking his ass to put out some really compelling and insightful stories (for more on foreign journalism in Burma, check out ‘Required Reading’ in the sidebar). His latest gives us a window into the shell-shocked Buddhist sangha, and is accompanied with a surreal photo series – I say ‘surreal’ because to be visually taken from inside of the temple, where monks meditate and read peacefully, to the streets, where they march carrying megaphones and signs, feels otherworldly.

The current situation in Burma presents an endless frustration. Not only do we as ordinary citizens feel impotent to enact real change (my two [perhaps naive] letters to lawmakers went unanswered, likely unacknowledged), but even if we held political clout a despot like Than Shwe would lend no ear. But this is no time to give a shrug and go about business as usual – in a world without real walls or borders, all our fates are intertwined.

In whatever small way we can, we must push, raise a voice, and have courage for those who may feel all is lost and hopeless.


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