The famous slogan of the French Revolution was “liberty, equality, fraternity“. In the succeeding two centuries the world has demonstrated both the contradictions of this slogan and the very limited degree to which in fact any of its three elements have been realized anywhere in the modern world-system.
Today, the question is whether, in a future world-system, there are ways of making this trio more compatible each with the other. We are dealing here not with this trinity but rather with the relation between inequality, pluralism, and the environment. It is hard to say what the French revolutionaries would make of this discussion. Pluralism was exactly the opposite of their aspirations, since they wished to eliminate all intermediaries between the individual and the state of all the citizens. The environment was entirely outside their topic. And inequality was assumed to be inevitable on tis way out, precisely because of their victorious revolution.
“But these questions about both trinities are very much unresolved today. The next several decades will be a period of collective world decision about precisely these issues, about whether another world is really possible in a foreseeable future. I shall start by discussing the least discussed, indeed the long almost-forgotten, member of the French Revolution’s trinity, fraternity. It is only in recent decades that fraternity has returned to the forefront of our collective concerns, but it has indeed returned, and with a vengeance”.
Freedom on the Net 2014 – The fifth annual comprehensive study of internet freedom around the globe, covering developments in 65 countries that occurred between May 2013 and May 2014 –finds internet freedom around the world in decline for the fourth consecutive year, with 36 out of 65 countries assessed in the report experiencing a negative trajectory during the coverage period.
In a departure from the past, when most governments preferred a behind-the-scenes approach to internet control, countries rapidly adopted new laws that legitimize existing repression and effectively criminalize online dissent.
The past year also saw increased government pressure on independent news websites, which had previously been among the few uninhibited sources of information in many countries, in addition to more people detained or prosecuted for their digital activities than ever before.
Between May 2013 and May 2014, 41 countries passed or proposed legislation to penalize legitimate forms of speech online, increase government powers to control content, or expand government surveillance capabilities.
Since May 2013, arrests for online communications pertinent to politics and social issues were documented in 38 of the 65 countries, most notably in the Middle East and North Africa, where detentions occurred in 10 out of the 11 countries examined in the region.
Pressure on independent news websites, among the few unfettered sources of information in many countries, dramatically increased. Dozens of citizen journalists were attacked while reporting on conflict in Syria and antigovernment protests in Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine. Other governments stepped up licensing and regulation for web platforms.
See also: The Economist ~ How protestors evade digital censorship
Government censorship in the face of unrest is nothing new. And as social media become an increasingly important tool in the protestor’s arsenal, some governments have responded by tightening their grip on the internet. So how do protestors evade digital censorship?
First, protesters are using new, or newer technology than that of the governments trying to muffle them. Hong Kong’ s protestors are using an app called “FireChat” to work around China’s control of the web. The application uses direct Bluetooth links between handsets in a crowd, meaning protestors can still communicate via messages and forums, even without a mobile network or access to other forms of social media.
Second, tech savvy protestors in Turkey used VPNs – Virtual Private Networks. These allow users to mask the address of their devices, meaning they seem to be wherever the VPN provider is. Now that the user appears to be located somewhere like Indianapolis instead of Istanbul, they can access Twitter and other banned sites when the government has blocked local access.
Another technology called Tor, goes a step further. Tor anonymises users by bouncing their traffic through a network of volunteer computers. In the days following the contested 2009 election in Iran, the number of people using Tor to protect their online identity surged. Originally funded by the US government, some people (like Edward Snowden) also use it to evade surveillance by the very government that helped launch it.
The web was built to be fault-tolerant – information is simply re-routed if the network is tampered with. As unrest unfolds around the world, people and social networks are upholding that same idea.
For more multimedia content from The Economist visit our website: http://econ.st/1xzDu0y
December 1, 2014 – The RQ Celebrating 1800 Posts ~ 300 Pages Of Information, Intelligence, Orientation, Learning & Wisdom. And Some Entertainment.
Cherish forever what makes you unique, ‘cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes – Bette Midler
SACSIS – the South African Civil Society Information Service – is a platform for policy dialogue that has been established as a news agency to channel social justice news and analysis about policy dialogue in South Africa to the media.
Rationale of SACSIS
SACSIS seeks to influence media reporting and consequently public policy discourse to promote the idea of the entitlement of the poor, to a higher standard of living and better quality of life.
Trustees of SACSIS
SACSIS is governed by a board of trustees drawn from civil society. Our trustees include activists and practitioners working in academia and NGOs.
Values of SACSIS
SACSIS embraces a rights based approach to development, which views poverty as a denial of human rights.
Approach of SACSIS
SACSIS releases between two and five articles per week. Our emphasis is on quality as opposed to quantity.
The right to know – to access and share information, to organise, protest and speak out – is the foundation of a just society. Information rights were a driving principle in the struggle against apartheid, and at the centre of the democratic gains achieved in the 1990s.
Twenty years into South Africa’s democracy, these gains appear to be facing greater limits.
Climate of secrecy
At the heart of this is an emerging trend towards security-statist approaches to governance.[i] An expansive ‘national security’ mentality encroaches on democratic principles by stifling debate,undermining accountability and protecting the powerful from scrutiny.
The best-known embodiment of this securitystatist mentality is the Protection of State Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill), which sits on President Zuma’s desk, awaiting signature. Few laws have so focused the public mind on the problem of secrecy in our society and what appears to be a resurgence of the ‘securocrats’.
But the Bill may merely be a symptom of a broader climate of secrecy and securitisation:
– The use of secrecy to shield political actors, in particular President Zuma, from embarrassment and accountability;
– Increasing limitations on protest, with an extraordinary spike in police violence and growing signs of criminalisation of protest;
– Apparent increase in the use of state-security policies such as the National Key Points Act;
– Lack of democratic oversight of surveillance tools which are vulnerable to abuse.
Ordinary people, ordinary secrets
Secrecy is not only about the political machinations of major institutions. At the heart of possibly every grassroots struggle for social, economic or environmental justice, there is a need for information. This is often basic information about bread-and-butter issues, which people need in order to exercise control over their own lives. Here we see worrying signs of the obstacles to accessing information:
– Access to information mechanisms are failing;
– There is too little proactive release of information;
– The transparency obligations of the private sector, particularly in industries with a serious environmental impact, are largely overlooked. Read more
We are pleased to announce the publication of the next volume of the Johannesburg Salon. Volume 7 centres on a collection of essays convened for Achille Mbembe’s African Future Cities Seminar, held at Harvard University in Autumn of last year. Edited by Stephanie Bosch Santana, the pieces explore the continent’s diverse urbanisms with an eye towards future trajectories of inventiveness, fortification, resilience and segregation.
In our Editorial section, artist Raimi Gbadamosi remembers the late Stuart Hall, Ashleigh Harris discusses style in recent diasporic African fiction, Helena Chavez Mac Gregor explores emergent political formations in Mexico and elsewhere, Lewis Gordon ruminates on the philosophical blues, Jonathan Klaaren reflects on the limits of the South African legal system and Ellison Tjirera makes a case for Windhoek’s city-ness. Catherine Portevin interviews Achille Mbembe (in French) about how his book Critique de la Raison Negre draws on the theories of Frantz Fanon and others to enter into dialogue with Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. The AFC symposium is complemented by Bregtje van der Haak’s exclusive interview with Rem Koolhaas, in which the architect meditates upon the meanings and possibilites of his Lagos Project, now fifteen years old.
Juan Orrantia’s Dialogues. A southern conversation, which makes up the ZONE 3, incorporates the following two conversations and accompanying images:
A conversation between Lola Mac Dougall and photographer Gauri Gill about developing her practice beyond a Euro-centric paradigm, about privacy and the multiple readings of her work, particularly the Birth Series (2005), reproduced herewith.
A dialogue between critic/curator Renuka Sawhney and artist Naeem Mohaiemen who have been speaking to each other for some time now about the role of memory as part of a critical approach and form of work(ing) with(in) contested political spaces is unpacked through its manifestation in various locations.
A project of the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC), The Salon is an intellectual, political and cultural digital magazine. It is open to scholars, writers, artists, designers, architects, activists and public intellectuals who want to shape conversation from the global South while testing their works and ideas against unanticipated modes of everyday life in an uncertain world.
The Salon blurs the lines that separate print from digital media. It combines maximum elegance and minimum ornamentation, transparency, minimalist aesthetics and ease of use.
Its platform has been designed by The Library, with funding from The Prince Claus Fund and support from the Faculty of the Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa).
The Salon’s editors are Megan Jones and Achille Mbembe.
Volume 7 and previous: http://jwtc.org.za/volume_7.htm