Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. We begin this week’s report with a close look at media coverage of the 43 students who went missing in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. Since the students’ disappearance became public in October, a cluster of independent and opposition-leaning media organizations have played a key role in revealing mass killings, egregious abuses of power by senior government and law enforcement officials, and attempts by authorities to bribe activists and even parents of missing teenagers to keep them from speaking out.
Among others, Sin Embargo, an independent online media organization, has been a central target of attacks on media workers and citizen media sites covering the situation. Sin Embargo has undergone aggressive technical attacks to both its website and social media channels, and staff have also faced threats via telephone and in person. Last week, a man broke into the organization’s office and demanded that administrators remove from their site an incriminating photo of a local government official, or “pay the consequences.”
In partnership with Article 19 and PEN Mexico, Sin Embargo has issued an official letter (in Spanish, open for sign-on here) condemning the attacks and the endemic impunity for perpetrators of crimes against media workers in Mexico. In the letter, the staff write that they see these episodes as,
…parte de la descomposición institucional y social que padece el país. La falta de condiciones para que los ciudadanos vivan en una sociedad libre también ha golpeado al ejercicio informativo.
…part of the institutional and social decomposition that the country is suffering. The lack of conditions that would allow citizens to live in a free society has also affected informative [news reporting] practices.
According to Article 19, between January and June of this year, there have been a total of 157 attacks on journalists in Mexico, including one assassination, 66 physical attacks, 28 threats, and 17 legal actions. In 43 percent of the attacks, the aggressor was a civil servant.
Hungary buys time on Internet tax
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban withdrew the contentious “Internet tax” in the wake of massive protests that brought thousands of people to the streets last week. Orban promised a “national consultation” on the matter in January.
Press freedom threats Myanmar bode poorly for online rights
Myanmar freelance journalist Ko Aung Kyaw Naing was detained and killed by the Myanmar Army while in its custody. The circumstances surrounding his death remain murky. A group of citizens and civil society groups have joined together online to call for an investigation into death of the journalist. Popularly known as Ko Par Gyi, he had been covering clashes between the army and the Karen rebel group when he was detained on Sept. 30.
Argentine football blogger faces big fines over reader comments
A blogger in Argentina may face a 10 million peso fine (roughly $1.2 million US) for allegedly defamatory comments posted on his site by readers. The blogger, who covers financial and political news surrounding football, was sued by the former president of the state football association for “moral damages.”
GCHQ goes after social media; media goes after GCHQ
In an inflammatory opinion piece for the Financial Times, newly-minted director of UK intelligence agency GCHQ Robert Hannigan criticized US technology companies for becoming the “command and control networks of choice” for terrorists and asserted that there is no “absolute right” to privacy. In response piece for the Daily Telegraph, Jamie Bartlett wrote:
“The same tools used by extremists are free to the rest of us too. That gives all of us both the opportunity and responsibility to defend what it is we believe… The battle for ideas online can't be won, or even fought, by governments. It's down to us.”
GCHQ received and stored large amounts of bulk data from other foreign spy agencies without obtaining a warrant for the material, according to documentation obtained by Privacy International. In an article for WIRED magazine, Ray Corrigan discusses the wide interpretation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 that enabled the surveillance to occur.
Facebook says hi to Tor
Facebook took a surprising step last week by setting up an address on the Tor Network to enable users to access the site “without losing the cryptographic protections Tor provides.” The move should carry special appeal for users in countries such as Iran, where Facebook is blocked.
Western tech companies confront repressive regulations, attacks in East Asia
The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group comprised of tech companies like Google, Facebook, eBay, and Yahoo, issued a letter of concern over a new decree law in Vietnam that restricts how Internet users share information online and includes new requirements for licensing and registration of social networks.
Shortly following the launch of the iPhone 6 in China, Apple’s iCloud service became the target of man-in-the-middle attacks by hackers linked to the Chinese government. Attackers sought to steal user data including iMessages, photos, and contacts. According to Apple, its servers have not been compromised.
Scratch the power: Turkish pussycats riot for digital rights
Pussycat Riot is taking on Internet censorship in Turkey. After the Turkish government suggested a cat was responsible for blackouts following local elections in March, the cats banded together (along with the help of human activists) to fight restrictions on free speech. Most recently, they held a piano recital to play the national anthems of countries known for their censorship of the Internet, including China, Iran, North Korea—and Turkey.
- Who Has Your Back?: Protecting Your Speech From Copyright & Trademark Bullies – Electronic Frontier Foundation
- APT28: A Window into Russia’s Cyber Espionage Operations? – FireEye, Inc.