Last week, UN Secretary General Ban delivered the keynote address at the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, in which he made the pointed remark:
“Some dictators in our world are more afraid of tweets than they are of opposing armies.”
Being a mere 86 characters, that quote made its way through the Twitterverse in fairly short order, with some glib derision in response.
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An internet cafe in Istanbul. (UGUR CAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A curious op ed appeared in The New York Times recently, titled “Internet Access is Not a Human Right.” In this piece—which I read as I do most news and media, via my computer—Vinton Cerf, a “father” of the Internet, makes an argument that despite the critical role of Information Communication Technologies (the internet) in the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, access to the Internet is not a human right.
I should note that his right to express himself so is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to… seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
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Today, please send Twitter messages supporting Amnesty International to actor Hugh Jackman @RealHughJackman. The actor is asking fans to help him choose a charity worthy of his $100,000 donation and we hope you agree that Amnesty’s work to defend human rights and protect lives should be it.
“The more passion shown for your charity the better! Get the support of your friends and teach them the importance of giving” wrote Jackman on Twitter.
2.2 million people around the world already show their passion by fighting with Amnesty to free prisoners of conscience, abolish the death penalty, stop violence against women, and ensure that every person enjoys full human rights. Help Hugh Jackman see how vital human rights are for all by submitting your own tweet to @RealHughJackman!
Here are some examples to help you get started:
The students were seized at midnight. Fists and boots pummeled dreams. Hope was almost lost, until at dawn, Amnesty International arrived.
Maybe if there’s pressure, like from Amnesty International, we turn them over to a judge. If not, they’re dead. – Words of a real torturer
No matter if you locked up in Burma or Gitmo, AI will campaign on your behalf
The last ten days have seen massive protests in several countries, including Moldova, where the government is now accusing the organizers of peaceful demonstration on April 6 of inciting the use of extreme violence the following day.
On April 6, protestors participated in a “peaceful day of mourning” in Chisinau, in order to demonstrate against the outcome of the recent parliamentary elections. The next day, in a separate event, the protests turned into violent riots as the crowds attempted to overtake government buildings. It is unclear who started the violence, with witness accounts stating that objects were being thrown at police forces from the crowd as well as allegations that plain clothes police officers in the crowd provoked the violence.
The organizers of the April 6 demonstration, including fellow blogger Natalia Morar, used twitter and social networking sites to mobilize people. The government has accused these organizers of the peaceful protests of also planning the violence on April 7, even though they did not organize these riots. Two of the organizers, including Natalia Morar, are hiding, and urgent action is needed to protect them. The Economist just published a story that sums up Moldova’s chaos pretty well.
The protestors were demonstrating against the recent elections, which the opposition claims were manipulated. Faced with these accusations, President Voronin agreed to a recount, which the Constitutional Court authorized. This recount is being boycotted by the opposition, as they claim that it is a “trick” by the ruling party to distract from the fraudulent activities.
Moldova is a young democracy, gaining its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union. The move to a democracy has not always been easy for the Post-Soviet States, and even within Moldova there is a disputed autonomous region. The recent election has demonstrated some of the divisions within the country, as the current government has close ties to Russia and many of the opposition wants to move closer to their Romanian and its Western neighbors. Despite the difficulties in of being a young democracy, human rights cannot be ignored. Not only must the government be held accountable for any human rights abuses already committed, but it must reaffirm its dedication to human rights, ensuring that they will be respected no matter the outcome of the recount. This recount should be transparent and fair.