Nonviolent Action around the World – 5 May 2009

May 5, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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AFRICA

Zimbabwe: State wants to re-detain all 18 abductees
By: Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa, May 4, 2009
After being illegally abducted, tortured and spending months in horrendous prison cells, the State is still determined to target a group of civic and political activists, who face charges of trying to overthrow the Mugabe regime. All abductees were in court Monday and were formally charged. Their trials were set for June and July and the Attorney General’s offices made submissions in court to have the bail of all 18 accused persons revoked.
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Change not coming soon enough for Zimbabwean journalists
By: Ish Mafundikwa, VOA, May 3, 2009
As journalists the world over commemorate World Press Freedom day the difficult relationship between the Zimbabwean media and the government has eased somewhat. But talk by the new unity government of positive changes have not been matched by action. Ever since the introduction of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in 2002 Zimbabwe has been one of the world’s most difficult places for journalists.
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Wife of Kenyan PM backs sex ban
By: BBC News, May 1, 2009
The wife of Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga says she supports the sex ban imposed by women’s activists over the country’s political impasse. Ida Odinga said the week-long boycott had already worked by drawing attention to the squabbling which has hit Kenya’s power-sharing government.
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AMERICAS

Cuban zeal: Revolutionary art and artists
By: The Independent, May 4, 2009
Just a few minutes’ drive from the hill- side mansions of Cubanacan, the leafy north-western corner of Havana where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara liked to play golf in the Sixties, is El Romerillo, the city’s largest slum.
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Venezuela cuts funds to opposition Caracas mayor
By: Casto Ocando, Miami Herald, April 30, 2009
Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved a much-anticipated law that essentially gives control of an opposition-run city to an official appointed by President Hugo Chávez — an action the opposition mayor characterized as a continuous “coup d’etat.”
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Plot foiled? In Bolivia, truth is elusive
By: Simon Romero, NY Times, April 27, 2009
Wielding assault rifles, the members of Delta Group, an elite Bolivian police unit, quietly crept up the stairs to the fourth floor of the Hotel Las Américas. It was 4 a.m. on April 16 in Santa Cruz, the city in the lowlands of Bolivia that is a bastion of opposition to that nation’s president, Evo Morales. Then they did their work.
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ASIA/SOUTH ASIA
Repression continues since Burma cyclone
By: One World, May 4, 2009
“One year after the devastation of Cyclone Nargis, the Burmese military government should release all those imprisoned for independently providing humanitarian aid to victims and for criticizing the government’s response,” urges an international human rights watchdog.
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Vietnam: End crackdown on labor activists

By: HRW, May 4, 2009

The Vietnamese government should immediately free activists who have been unlawfully imprisoned for peacefully campaigning for workers’ rights, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. The 32-page report, “Not Yet a Workers’ Paradise: Vietnam’s Suppression of the Independent Workers’ Movement,” documents the Vietnamese government’s crackdown on independent trade unions and profiles labor rights activists who have been detained, placed under house arrest, or imprisoned by the Vietnamese government in violation of international law.
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Opposition raises specter of civil war in Thailand
By: Brian McCartan, WPR, May 4, 2009
Thailand calls itself the Land of Smiles, and is known for its tropical beaches, beautiful mountains, good food and friendly people. But that may soon change. While the happy-go-lucky image of Thailand may be hard for many to shake, political observers — and the government — are beginning to take the possibility of a civil war much more seriously.
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Amnesty says China quake survivors face intimidation, detention
By: Reuters, May 4, 2009
Survivors of China’s devastating earthquake last year face detention and harassment if they protest over collapsed schools, corruption claims and other grievances, Amnesty International said. While Beijing is pouring billions of dollars into rebuilding towns in south-western Sichuan province flattened by the May 12 quake, the government also has waged a less public campaign against citizens who blame more than natural destruction for the many schools that collapsed, killing thousands of children, the human rights advocacy group said.
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Sri Lanka: In honour of slain editor, they keep writing
By: HRT, May 4, 2009
It is a familiar pose of Wickrematunge’s, leaning back in his chair, smiling; yet his raised fingers make it clear that he is making a point, like he always did. Since his assassination, Wickrematunge, who was posthumously named recipient of the 2009 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, has become a rallying point for journalists, especially those he nurtured.
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Burma: Exiled lawyers group declared illegal
By: DVB, May 1, 2009
A Burmese lawyers group who recently called for an end to the Unlawful Association Act, under which many dissidents have been sentenced, were today declared an illegal organization by the Burmese government. The Thailand-based Burma Lawyers’ Council last month called for the abolishment of the Unlawful Association Act, citing the malleability under which the government uses it to sentence opposition members, journalists and activists.
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Indian Dalits face attacks, intimidation in polls
By: One World, May 1, 2009
Members of the persecuted minority Dalit community in India have endured attacks and intimidation, blocking them from casting their votes in the country’s weeks-long general election.  As India enters the third of five rounds of voting to elect members of parliament and a new government, “Dalit organisations fear incidents of intimidation and threats [are] leading to large scale ‘silent’ rigging of the votes of these communities,” reports Minority Rights Group International (MRGI).
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China hears out students, and lets millions listen
By: China Digital Times, April 30, 2009
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the nationwide, student-led democracy movement in China, and the subsequent military crackdown in Beijing. To mark the occasion, CDT is posting a series of original news articles from that year, beginning with the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 and continuing through the tumultuous spring.
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China: Recent defamation cases and abuse of local power
By: China Digital Times, April 30, 2009
In a number of recent cases, local officials have brought defamation or libel charges against citizens who criticized them. In discussing these cases on their blogs and in their writing, Chinese journalists and academics have brought up broader issues of freedom of information and local power. China Media Project translates a blog post by People’s University Professor Zhang Ming about the recent cases.
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Digital Bangladesh: Virtual dreams, real lives
By: Delwar Hussain, Open Democracy, April 30, 2009
It is a familiar cycle in democracies: as post-election euphoria fades and a new government faces a myriad of problems, ambitious projects whose announcement injected some life into the campaign start to lose their sheen. Will this be the fate of “digital Bangladesh”?
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EUROPE

Fifteen Belarusian anti-Lukashenko activists go on hunger strike
By: Earth Times, May 4, 2009
Fifteen opponents of Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko went on hunger strike on Monday, in a rare challenge to the country’s authoritarian regime. The strike would continue until three Belarusian businessmen arrested in February are released or face formal charges, said Nikolai Statkevich, leader of an anti-government political party.
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Europe: Police battle May Day protesters
By: BBC News, May 1, 2009
Clashes have broken out in a number of countries as unions used traditional May Day marches to protest against the handling of the global economic crisis. In the Turkish city of Istanbul, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon as protesters threw petrol bombs and attacked banks and shops.
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Russian government keeps eye on social unrest
By: Daria Solovieva, WPR, May 1, 2009
The Russian government has stepped up its efforts to keep social unrest in check as the financial crisis rages on across the country. Russia’s economy has been among the hardest hit globally, with the unemployment rate reaching the 10 percent threshold in March, its highest rate in the last nine years. Both government officials and critics in Russia and abroad have expressed public doubts about the economy’s ability to bounce back in such an adverse economic climate.
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MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA
West Bank: Postcard from…Bi’lin
By: Vanessa Ortiz, FPIF, May 4, 2009
The ritual occurs every Friday in Bi’lin, occupied West Bank. Palestinian protestors – community members and activists – gather around the mosque following midday prayers to march against the construction of the separation wall and the proliferation of Israeli settlements.
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Nascent Egyptian opposition group seeks change
By: Cynthia Johnston, Reuters, May 4, 2009
An emerging Egyptian anti-government group, among the few movements willing to call people onto the streets, says it is intent on a democratic regime change for which members are ready to risk arrest. Ahmed Maher, a soft-spoken civil engineer who is leader of the Sixth of April Youth group, says he is currently working to build a popular base for democratic change in a country whose citizens have typically shied away from public protest.
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Iran: ‘Oh mother, I can see the noose’
By: Clair Soares, The Independent, May 4, 2009
It was 7am when Delara Darabi phoned home. “Oh mother, I see the hangman’s noose in front of me,” she garbled. “They are going to execute me. Please save me.” Moments later a prison official snatched the handset away. “We will easily execute your daughter and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he barked at the parents. Then, with a chilling click, the line went dead.
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An outrage that shames Iran
By: The Independent, May 4, 2009
It is harrowing to learn of a woman, convicted under dubious circumstances, being forced to observe her own scaffold from her cell. It is still more to read the words she composed for an exhibition of her art, in which, “from behind the walls”, she said “hello to the world”.
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Rights groups denounce execution in Iran
By: Jeffrey Fleishman, LA Times, May 3, 2009
Human rights groups on Saturday condemned Iran for executing a 23-year-old woman who they maintained had received an unfair trial when she was convicted of murder as a juvenile. Delara Darabi was hanged Friday at Rasht Central Prison, according to Human Rights Watch, which said the woman was 17 when she was coerced into pleading guilty to killing her father’s cousin. She later recanted, saying her 19-year-old boyfriend had committed the crime.
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Women call for gender equality ahead of Iran’s presidential vote
By: RFE, May 3, 2009
Former lawmaker and journalist Azam Taleghani is one of two women to have announced plans to run in Iran’s presidential election in June. In the unlikely event Taleghani were to become president, she would encounter obstacles not often associated with a head of state. This is because, despite her status as the holder of the country’s highest office, Taleghani would still be a woman, making her subject to the same forms of legal discrimination faced by all women in the Islamic republic.
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Egyptian farmers protest mandatory swine slaughter
By: CNN, May 3, 2009
Pig farmers threw rocks at police officers in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday as health workers gathered the farmers’ herds for slaughter in what the government says is a precaution against the spread of swine flu, an interior ministry official told CNN. Brig. Gen. Hani Abdel-Latif said 50 to 60 protesters gathered in Cairo’s Manshiyet Naser slum because they were upset with the health ministry’s decision to slaughter all pigs in the country.
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The Israeli police crackdown on the “New Profile” women
By: Deb Reich, Counterpunch, May 1, 2009
The Israeli Police have set themselves up to become the laughingstock of the world. Look what they’ve done: It was a pinpoint maneuver, timed for maximum impact just before the nation’s Memorial Day, designed to intimidate unarmed civilian idealists whose alleged crime is to steadfastly challenge the wisdom of the ruling military mindset in this country (by seeking to “civil-ize” it). New Profile is a movement founded mainly by women. It has been run for a decade in a fluid, egalitarian, non-hierarchical manner as a partnership of all its activists. No chain of command! Wow! Insufferable!
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Israel: U.N. seeks end to razing of homes in East Jerusalem
By: Isabel Kershner, NY Times, May 1, 2009
The United Nations is calling on Israel to freeze all pending demolition orders against Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in a new report that reflects growing international concern over developments in the contested city. The report also urges Israel to provide solutions to the housing crisis there.
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Syria accused of covering up deaths of 25 prisoners
By: Con Coughlin, Telegraph, April 30, 2009
Human rights activists claim the killings happened at Sednaya prison, situated in North-West Damascus, which is run by the regime’s military intelligence and holds hundreds of Islamist activists, many of whom have never stood trial. The prisoners are reported to have been killed during riots that erupted at the prison last December, the second time Sednaya has been affected by rioting in a year. Last July an estimated 25 prisoners were killed by security officials when disorder broke out after guards attempted to conduct a search of prison cells.
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Iran: Roxana Saberi is on hunger strike
By: IHRV, April 30, 2009
The father of Roxana Saberi says that his daughter informed him that she has been on hunger strike for the past five days, and she will continue her strike for as long as she is held in prison. On Saturday, April 25, Reza Saberi told the Persian bureau of the BBC: “Our daughter called us around 15:30 from inside the prison, she spoke very briefly and said she has been on hunger strike since last Tuesday.
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Bahrain: More websites and blogs blocked by authorities
By: IFEX, April 24, 2009
The Bahraini authorities have widened their campaign against all Internet outlets, inside and outside Bahrain, which covers all aspects of public affairs in the country. The lastest victims of the site-blocking campaign, led by Mai Al-Khalifa, the Minister of Culture and Information, are http://www.aafaq.org , a Washington-based news site, and http://www.Bahrain-eve.blogspot.com , the blog of female activist Ghada Jamsheer. The authorities have also blocked the alerts site http://www.bahrainblogs.org that lists reports about any posting or updates made by bloggers in Bahrain and includes alerts from the BCHR site: http://www.bahrainrights.org . All sites were blocked on the morning of 21 April 2009.
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OCEANIA

Fiji leader defies democracy call
By: BBC News, May 1, 2009
Fiji’s military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has defied international demands for a return to democracy. Pacific nations had set a deadline of 1 May for him to announce a date for elections this year, or be suspended from a key regional forum.
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Fiji faces suspension from Pacific Islands Forum
By: Michael Hartsell, Global Voices, May 1, 2009
At midnight Friday May 1, Fiji passes a deadline set by the Pacific Islands Forum to schedule elections to be held this year or be kicked from the regional group. Members of the 16-nation body gave that ultimatum in late January to then-Interim Government leader Frank Bainimarama. The group stated that if Fiji does not meed the deadline, the country would be suspended from all Forum events and cease receiving any new financial and technical assistance.
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Australia: Saying sorry is not enough
By; James Patterson, Open Democracy, May 1, 2009
“I’d have thought that the Aboriginals would have been pretty happy with the apology,” a white Australian taxi driver remarked as he drove me through Redfern, symbolic home of Sydney’s Aboriginal community.  He was referring to the apology issued by Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal people on 13th February 2008.
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ARTICLES OF INTEREST

Burma tops list of worst places to be a blogger
By: CNN, May 4, 2009
Bloggers in Burma, Iran and Syria work under some of the most repressive conditions in the world, facing tactics such as regulation, intimidation and even imprisonment, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The organization released a list of the “10 worst countries to be a blogger” to call attention to online oppression in connection with World Press Freedom Day, which was observed Sunday.
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Photos: May Day protests around the world
By: NY Times, May 4, 2009
A traditional May Day march in Paris on Friday. French unions and workers marched nationwide, hoping to build on momentum from recent strikes and protests against French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s handling of the economic downturn.
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IREX observes World Press Freedom Day
By: IREX, May 3, 2009
On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, IREX would like to recognize the thousands of journalists, media workers, and media outlets with whom we have the honor to work as friends and colleagues. Without their hard work, without the risks they take every day, and without their dedication and sacrifice, more citizens throughout the world would be deprived of the vital news and information they need to actively participate in the development of their neighborhoods, towns, countries, and regions.
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NEWS IN OTHER LANGUAGES

Manuel Rosales: peripecias de un “baluarte de la democracia”
By: Alito Boron, TNI, April 29, 2009
Buena suerte la de Manuel Rosales, pero se le está terminando. La “prensa libre” del continente lo elevó a las alturas de un honesto y sacrificado líder democrático, opositor a Hugo Chávez y obligado por eso mismo a buscar refugio en el Perú. Lima acaba de informar que le otorgó el asilo político, probando que Alan García sigue siendo muy amigo de sus amigos (entre ellos de otro fugitivo, Carlos Andrés Pérez) aunque esta desdichada decisión lesione seriamente el prestigio internacional del Perú y debilite su poder de negociación en el litigio que mantiene con Chile, en la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya, por la revisión de los límites marítimos.
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NOTICES
Call for applications: 2009 Grant for Democracy and Human Rights Projects in Asia
By: The May 18 Memorial Foundation, May 4, 2009
The May 18 Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization established to commemorate the 1980 Gwangju Uprising by continuing the Uprising’s spirit of struggle and solidarity, contributing to the peaceful reunification of Korea, and working towards peace and human rights throughout the world. The Foundation carries out numerous projects in various fields, including organizing memorial events, establishing scholarships, fostering research, publishing materials, dispensing funds, building international solidarity, and awarding the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
For more information…