Stories from Quick Reads and South Asia
The proposed Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PEC) Bill in Pakistan has raised concern among local and international human rights organisations as it could put at risk freedom expression and privacy in Pakistan.
Mariam at Catalyst Woman blog reports:
After the dedicated efforts of numerous advocacy groups, ngos and private citizens, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication has agreed to a public hearing of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PEC) Bill 2015 this Friday, 22 May in Islamabad.
Invitations to the “public” hearing have only been extended to six people to appear before a committee of 20 members. According to the Joint Action Committee on the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 (PECB) & Alliance For Access:
This is contrary to the spirit of a “public hearing.”
The Joint Action Committee members are definitely among the stakeholders, but we are not the only ones. Instead of hand-picking selected invitees, we call upon the NA Standing Committee on IT to conduct the public hearing in a proper manner, by opening it to all concerned members of the public and invite the entire print and electronic media too, in the spirit of transparency and openness.
The Catalyst woman blog proposed a #Tweetstorm to raise awareness of the public’s concerns about the Cyber Crime Bill in its current state. “There should be a public debate on all aspects of the bill,” the blog says.
Blogger Kureege Fuluheh is a Maldivian ex-police officer, who writes about issues in policing and the police service in Maldives. The blogger analyses how the Maldives Police Service (MPS) is perceived by people over the last seven years and discusses what is the way forward:
Worrying is police’ behaviour towards members of public whilst on duty and the alleged association with crime groups to create fear. [..] In reality, policing has failed to deliver to public satisfaction due to lack of effective strategy and intra-organizational arrangements to cut crime and proactively police.
From crime recording, public engagement, enforcement to investigation, it is evident that policing is ineffective in these areas. [..]
Right now the policing landscape in Maldives fails to perform and deliver through arrangements akin to democratic principles. It is of utmost importance that a police reform bill paves way to create a policing architecture that holds police accountable to its public and public say is counted in how they are policed.
On Sunday noon a passenger ferry reportedly packed with more than 100 passengers was hit by a cargo vessel 40 kilometres northwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital. It subsequently sank.
A rescue vessel located the capsized vessel and attempted to pull it up. According to reports 37 bodies have been found and many are feared missing.
— The Daily Star (@dailystarnews) February 22, 2015
Passenger lists are rarely kept accurately, making it difficult to know how many people are missing when accidents occur. Many people have already been rescued from this particular craft, but it will take days to determine precise numbers. This is the country's second deadly boat accident in less than a fortnight.
The ongoing summit of the The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was covered by international media with different perspectives. However non-official initiatives such as 18th SAARC Summit blog, Facebook account, Twitter and Google+ account are aggregating updates on the summit for easy archiving.
Here are some examples:
— 18th SAARC Summit (@18thsaarc) November 27, 2014
— 18th SAARC Summit (@18thsaarc) November 27, 2014
— 18th SAARC Summit (@18thsaarc) November 27, 2014
— 18th SAARC Summit (@18thsaarc) November 27, 2014
Indian alternative news portal Beyond Headlines sheds light on the darker side of India's judiciary. In India, of all people detained in lockups and state prisons there are more people under trial than convicts.
Because of the slow process of the judiciary process, thousands of people suspected or accused of a crime end up waiting for trial for years in cramped prison cells which lack electricity, food and other necessities. About 250,000 men and women in India are currently in jail without having been proven guilty. Their fate or innocence is bound by the course of their trials.
And who and where are all these detainees? These tweets explain:
— Rukmini S (@rukmini_shrini) October 30, 2014
— Amnesty India (@AIIndia) September 23, 2014
Freeing the detainees awaiting trial is also not a good option, as Sudhir Krishnaswamy and Shishir Bail write in the Hindu: “Without substantive reforms to the investigation and trial process, early release of undertrials may further aggravate the pathologically low rates of conviction and incarceration in the Indian criminal justice system.”
If we look back the history of Bangladesh, we see examples of ancient kings and land lords who sponsored cultural activities, making literature, music and art flourish in the region. In the present era, we see affluent corporations, mostly telecom companies in Bangladesh, taking their place.
They have been going the extra mile to sponsor a wide variety of cultural pursuits, including a rural festival celebrating Fakir Lalon Shah (c. 1774–1890), a popular Bengali baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker, but not always with positive reception.
Zahid Islam at the blog Alal O Dulal explains how corporations are selling the Lalon culture:
In 2007 for the first time in history, Lalon Phokir’s Dol Uthshob (Lalon's Dol Festival) was held under sponsorship, with promotion campaigns so aggressive and ill designed it disgusts me to even remember it. Since then Grameenphone and Banglalink (telecom brands) took turns in sponsoring the festivals.
He also mentions that Lalon festival is getting a modern shape under corporate banner:
The first time around, those of us who had been visiting Cheuria for many years, were shocked to find the sponsorship junks.
And the need to protect their sanctity:
There are many people and organisations, home and abroad, that feel we need to “protect” the baul way of life. I do not necessarily agree with this notion. Rather I feel our intervention is what creates most of the “problems.”
During the Eid holidays, Carnival Park at Jamuna Future park welcomed a large number of visitors. On October 7, 2014, one of its attractions, the 360-degree shuffle ride, stopped in the middle of a ride. Everyone on-board was stuck in their seats for about an hour. The ride had no emergency backup system, preventing a normal shutdown, delaying the release of its riders. Rescue workers had to free every individual manually, in a rather painstaking process.
Facebook user Sultanul Nahian Hasnat was present at the mishap and later uploaded to Facebook two videos (click her to watch the 1st and the 2nd), which went viral. These are now available on YouTube, also.
There was no mention of this incident in the local mainstream news.
Karthik Shashidhar, a freelance management consultant and data scientist, shares interesting statistics from the National Family Health Survey. Shashidhar discusses the percentage of women in India who are married to someone of their own caste. The caste system in India is based on an order of (predominantly) endogamous groups rendering marriage out of caste deplored by the society. Most of the marriage out of caste is out of love and defying the socio-cultural norms.
The survey, which was carried out in all states in India, asked “ever-married” women whether they were married to someone from the same caste, or to someone from a higher caste, or to someone from a lower caste. The result shows that the national average for the percentage of women who are married to someone of their own caste is 89%.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was a commission of inquiry mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances which led to the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. After an 18-month inquiry, the commission submitted its report to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa almost three years ago, on 15 November 2011. The Sri Lankan citizen journalism website Groundviews recently posted an infographic released by Center For Policy Alternatives, a think tank, showing the slow progress of implementing the LLRC's recommendations.
It is noteworthy how Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe in March 2013 claimed that 99% of the LLRC Action Plan had been implemented, with President Rajapaksa claiming in May 2014 that only 30% had been implemented. These discrepancies highlight the lack of clarity across the GoSL [Government of Sri Lanka] on reconciliation efforts.
Last update at 7:45PM GMT, September 1, 2014
Hundred of protestors of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have stormed into the Head Office of Pakistan's state-owned TV channel PTV. On 1st of September at around 11:20 am protesters broke open the main gate of Pakistan Television (PTV) Head Quarters in Islamabad and the station went off air soon.
Since August 14, 2014, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters have been camping out demanding that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should step down.
Journalist Omar Quraishi tweets:
Pakistan's state owned Pakistan Television has gone off air after anti-government protesters stormed its Islamabad headquarters
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) September 1, 2014
Employees are trapped and harassed says Pakistani blogger Ghazala Khan.
— Ghazala Khan (@ghazala_khan) September 1, 2014
DawnNews reports that the army was called in to handle the situation and they cleared the PTV office from protesters in 15 minutes. The TV broadcast has been restored.
Global Voices has launched a new partnership with Balochistan Point, an English language news site that writes under-reported stories from Pakistan's southwestern province.
The Balochistan Point initiated in 2010 to highlight important news from an area which Pakistan's national online, broadcast and print media largely ignores.
Adnan Amir, the editor at Balochistan Point hopes “unreported news stories from Balochistan will reach a global audience through its partnership with Global Voices.”
Balochistan is Pakistan's largest yet least-populated province. It is its poorest and most under-developed, but is rich in natural resources like coal, natural gas and copper. The Balochistan Point website explains:
The electronic and print media in Pakistan in general, and in Balochistan, in particular has failed to highlight the most important issues of Balochistan. Therefore, there is a stronger need than ever for an alternative platform to report the ignored issues about Balochistan […]
We stand for human rights, democracy, social and economic justice. The newspaper aims to mirror Balochistan. The volunteers of Balochistan Point launched it to keep reporting on human rights abuse, political, social and economic issues of Balochistan. Our center of focus is Balochistan but we are not limited to it. We also report on important issues at a national level that has implications for the Balochistan province and its people.
Like Global Voices, Balochistan Point is driven by volunteers and its “doors are always open to aspiring writers.” Global Voices will republish Balochistan Point content regularly. Sometimes we will edit their stories to add context and tailor them for our global audience.
We kick off this partnership with three articles Risking Their Lives to Save Pakistanis From Polio, How a Bus Stop Row is Crippling Public Transport in Balochistan's Capital and For Pakistan's Struggling National Airline, Balochistan Comes Last.
Read the full interview here at Scroll.in.
Bangladesh has now a satirical Facebook page much like Pigeons of New York, which is itself a parody site of the famous Humans of New York project. Goats of Bangladesh is only about six months old, but it boasts of almost 10,000 followers. Sahil Bhalla of Scroll.in interviewed one of the page's administrators, who preferred to remain anonymous.
[What is] the idea behind the page?
We were bored one day during Eid and decided to take pictures of goats with a DSLR camera. After seeing the outcome of the pictures, one of us decided we would open a parody page called “Goats of Bangladesh” where we would mimic the style of posts made by Humans of New York in a mocking way.
Read the full interview here at Scroll.in.
The blog MujeresMundi is an infoactivism project run by Belgium-based Peruvian Xaviera Medina “committed to gender as a key to development”.
[…] Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that Malala is not an isolated case. Education is not an inherent right for girls in many countries, and every day, hundreds of Malalas are threatened for attending to school.
The 2014 Nobel must remind us that Malala Yousafzai is not an anecdotic case, but a everyday reality of thousands of youngster and children around the world.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a civil society think tank in Sri Lanka, has recently conducted a top line survey on “Democracy in post-war Sri Lanka 2014“. The results show that difference of opinion on the reconciliation still exists between the Tamil and the Sinhalese people after the Sri Lankan civil war.
The findings from the survey with regard to the Tamil community is very significant. Their key issues are poverty and unemployment and they feel deprived having very little say about the affairs of the country. Here is an infographic depicting their plights:
The author @sutarcv works as a communications co-ordinator with Atma.
Children from a local municipal school in Mumbai voice their opinions on inventions, technology, environment and money in a recent video from Atma, an education non-profit organization whose mission is to support initiatives that help underprivileged children in India.
This video gives insight into what's going on in the minds of children studying at local municipal schools, many of who face challenging circumstances like living in a bad neighborhood or having to deal with an alcoholic parent, for instance.
One girl wants to invent technology that can help a man to fly at his will. Another wants to invent a wallet in which the money never ends. As far as technology goes, it seems these children at this municipal school are enthusiastic about it. They know about messaging service WhatsApp, email and Google, but it also appears from the conversations of children that their access to Internet is limited.
Inish Merchant commented on the Atma Facebook post with the video saying:
I wish govt. schools start giving IT lessons as a part of their syllabus.
The most fascinating responses is on an hypothetical question — what would they do if they had lots of money? Some said they will save it for their parents, while others said they will donate it or help people with a disability. There are also a few who said they will build something for themselves first and then make something for others.
This is beautiful! Only if more adults looked for the possibility of ideas through the eyes of a kid!
Indian photoblogger Anirban Saha points to a growing problem in India — plagiarism of intellectual property online. A number of his photos were used in a poster for a theatre festival, on a cover of a book, in an advertisement by the state government, in political banners, in magazines in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and a school publication without his consent.
He writes that Indian copyright laws protect intellectual property, but there is not much awareness:
We can spread the awareness of intellectual property rights, share contact details of lawyers who have already fought similar cases. We should be more aware of safeguarding our creations and spreading the awareness to create a better world. Read about Indian Copyright Act 1957. More than the artists who still now are a minority, it is you readers who can make a difference. You need to be aware and spread the awareness.
Anirban Saha also publishes a number of graphics to make the Indian copyright laws easier to understand.
In September 2014, Apple has launched the newest version of iOS 8, an operating system for its iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone. Apart from other major additions for better usability, iOS 8 has a very important feature for non-Latin script based languages, native input. This was missing since long and will be a great advantage for the languages – lot many people will easily be able to type in their own languages. Be it microblogging, social media, email or contributing to any platform like Wikipedia, there was a lack of native inputs for a long time after the first iOS was launched. iOS 8 has support for 5 Indic scripts: Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu for the first time since the launch of the Apple gadgets in the Indian subcontinent. Apart from language inputs, iOS also allows a user to change the interface language partially/fully to the user's native language which will better usability among many Asian users.
Facebook user Jayanta Nath is excited abut this addition:
After update (of) iOS 8, it has added bengali default keyboards.
Bangladeshi blogger Raad Rahman tells the story of a girl in rural Bangladesh who avoided a forced child marriage after she started a grocery shop using a small grant from a local non-government organisation. She was going to be married off to her neighbour's son because her family could no longer support her financially.
Blogger Passang Tshering, a high school teacher from Wangdue, Bhutan, wrote in his blog on 31 August, 2014, about an image of Lord Buddha's face formed out of natural rock located on the elephant shaped hill on which the famous Wangdue Dzong is built. He posted photos of the site and wrote:
I don't understand how this place is not recognized as one of the holy Buddhist sites, though some people already knew about it.
Tshering writes in a follow-up post that his post about the face of Buddha has become popular and many are flocking to the site:
It was on Sunday I posted the story and by Monday I started receiving pictures from people who went there to see for themselves. By Wednesday the site was crowded with people, and that evening authorities decided to put fence around it. Today when I went there I could see long queue of people across the river, and many breaking through the fence already. On the other side of the river cars and people are causing traffic jam on the national highway. This is more than the attention one can ever ask for.
From Bhutan, the land of Gross National Happiness, blogger Passang Tshering shares how people can achieve happiness in democracy. He compares democracy to love marriage and says that there are three groups of people, the lovers, the haters and the concern citizens.
The Lovers are the ones who swear by one party, and regardless of how good or bad the decision the party makes they will not move an inch into disagreement. They are like a obsessive husband who could go and hug his wife after she has thrown a hot pan on his face.
Contrary to that The Haters are the ones who turn blind eyes to all the good things a party does and suddenly becomes so loud when they see a flaw. They are like an angry husband who would slap his wife even when she gifts him a bouquet of flowers.
If we have more of these two groups of people then democracy is at risk. They could fail a country. Therefore we must strive to be and saw the seed of The Concerned Citizens in our youth. Educating and inspiring them to grow the heart that is courteous enough to acknowledge the good even if it's done by an enemy, and courageous enough to condemn even when the wrongdoer is a friend. That like a very human and loving husband.