The government controlled Malaysian news agency Bernama writes (via Susan Loone) about the government’s plan to take “tough action against web bloggers who write on sensitive issues which include insulting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Islam”:
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the government would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 121b of the Penal Code against these bloggers.
He said the government had exercised restraint in the matter for a long time and the time had come for it to act according to those laws.
“I want to issue a warning that the time has come for us to take action against them (bloggers who make disparaging statements). We have the right and we will do it. We have been very patient,” he said when winding up debate on the Electronic Government Activities Bill 2007 in the Dewan Negara here. The bill was passed.
As much of the main stream media in Malaysia is under government control there is not much of press freedom as we understand it in the country. Blogs are the only source that could provide a somewhat credible and critical coverage of news and current events in the country. This explains the government’s eagerness to get at critical bloggers.
The owner of the independent news site Malaysia Today, Raja Petra, was taken in for questioning at a police station on Wednesday and released after eight hours. He was faced with accusations that articles and comments posted on his website “insulted the Yang diPertuan Agong and Islam”. Insulting the monarch and religion is a standard phrase commonly used to describe critical web contents.
As Bernama reports, alleged insults of the monarch and islam were also quoted by the coalition senator Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who filed the compalint against Malaysia Today. Berasa quotes the senator as saying:
“The liberal writing on the portal can cause young minds to think that there are no rules and sensitivities governing articles and that anyone can write on any matter in the name of individual freedom,” he said.
“At a time when the government is introducing the system of electronic government, there are unhealthy developments in the form of publications on the web such as this, articles which can be read not only by our society but also the whole world and anyone for that matter, even children,” he added.
Anyone writing “on any matter in the name of individual freedom” is called freedom of speech elsewhere, senator. It must be a pain in his senatorial ass that the whole World gets to read this “liberal writing”. It would be so much more comfortable if only one official truth was spread around the World from Malaysia.
This is why the Malaysian government is doing their best to shut up critical bloggers. Which of course will only put lacking press freedom and freedom of speech in Malaysia on focus but I guess the government is unable to understand this.
Edit: Oh dear! It looks like quite a lot of good comments intended to this post have ended up here. I have no idea why this happened. I can just refer to read the comments there.
A court order in Spain issued by judge Juan del Olmo triggered a police operation to impose a seizure of all copies of the Spanish weekly satirical magazine El Jueves. The El Jueves web site has been down all weekend but I do not know if this is connected with the seizure. Judge del Olmo ruled that this caricature featuring Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia “struck at the honour and the dignity of the people represented”:
In the text the Crown Prince, while banging his wife, says that if she becomes pregnant, it would be the closest to work he will ever have been during his life. The statement makes fun about the Spanish government’s plan to fight declining birth rate by paying 2500 € to parents of every fresh born baby. El Jueves is known for their republican sympathies.
Insulting the Royal Family is prosecutable in Spain. While judge del Olmo obviously had no choice but to grant the court order, I wonder if he and the prosecutors seeking the seizure realize that in this day and age, trying to censor something, especially something which is witty and funny, is bound to backfire. This is the most certain way to guarantee that the cartoon is going to be spread far beyond the boarders of Spain while the printed copies would probably have been forgotten within a week without these futile attempts of censorship.
As the Spanis paper El Mundo puts it:
“The picture, which had been seen by thousands of people, was posted on numerous Web sites in Spain and abroad and will now have been seen by tens of millions of people. Not even the Crown’s worst enemy could have had that effect.”
On Monday I wrote about Malaysian blogger Nat Tan who was arrested on Friday with charges under Official Secrets Act. The “secret” Nat allegedly disclosed seems to be public knowledge in Malaysia: the government has a poor record of fighting crime.
Now I learn via Susan Loone that Nat Tan was released on bail yesterday. He is under obligation to appear at the Commercial Crime Division in Kuala Lumpur the 31st July.
Nat himself is obviously exhausted and takes a well deserved break. Wishing him all the best, I am making a note to have an eye on further developments. Does criticizing the government for its poor crime fighting record equal to disclosing an official secret? Ergo, does the government thus not indirectly recognize the poor record?
Tags: flickr, hong kong, photography
This artistic photo has been up in flickr for more than a year without encountering any problem in terms of flickr’s decency policy. Displaying the flickr hosted picture on a Hong Kong based web site the same way I am displaying it here may, however, bring Oiwan Lam a heavy fine or even a jail term up to one year. You may want to read the whole story by Rebecca MacKinnon.
This highly critical blog post about the Malaysian government’s poor record on fighting crime is believed to be the reason to arrest of Malaysian blogger Nat Tan. Susan Loone writes that Nat Tan has been detained for four days under Section 8 of the Official Secrets Act 1972:
If convicted, Tan may be sentenced to a jail term not less than one year but not exceeding seven years.
I have unofficial information, that the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, is not happy about this funny music video being visible in the Internet. Apparently, they have been placing preassure on YouTube and other video sharing sites and the video has on several occasions been taken down by the service providers. It has been uploaded and deleted on several rounds.
I uploaded it onto my YouTube account, just to oppose the concept of censorship. It is visible here untill it may eventually be deleted.
I also uploaded the video onto my Multiply account, visible here. And just to be on the safe side, the original file is accessible at my virtual server. Maybe the Bundeswhr should acknowledge that censoring the Internet is a hopeless enterprise doomed to fail.
Schott’s Blog, which I have enjoyed reading as one of the critical voices from Germany, is about to close. The reasons to this decision are connected to the German Impressumspflicht, an obligation imposed on owners of web sites, bloggers included, to publish their contact credentials in the web, the home address included (see my earlier posts here and here. The rules make it possible to intimidate a critical blogger by legal means and also makes it easier for stalkers of all sorts to get a physical access to a blogger.
Farlion comments Schott’s Blog’s decision by admitting that he has considered to do the same but decided to go on with his critical blog(s). Farlion notes that the main stream media in Germany is toothless and does not publish critical coverage of the actions taken by elected politicians. According to Farlion, the media has accepted that it is more comfortable to cover politics without criticism.
Farlion also points out that the political blogs are the only media in Germany to deliver critical views and without blogs there would not be a real public opposition. He goes on to note that the German people were widely criticized after World War II for failing to stop Hitler:
Ich will mir später einfach nicht nachsagen lassen, dass ich ja alles kritiklos hingenommen hätte. Nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg wurde den Deutschen immer wieder eine Frage gestellt: “Warum habt ihr nichts dagegen unternommen?”
Diese Frage möchte ich mir irgendwann in der Zukunft einfach nicht stellen müssen. Und darum bleibe ich auch beim politischen Bloggen, auch wenn es mir zeitweise zugegeben etwas schwer fällt.
So Farlion goes on to blog, in spite of occasional motivational difficulties but Schott is going to let a part of his contents be visible for an undefined period before eventually closing for good. I am sorry to learn about this since there are not too many good blogs around that would speak up and let the truth be told. Critical bloggers have a mission, the mission of truth.
Freedom is the most valuable property anybody could ever have. Freedom as an abstact expression sounds great but remains hollow as long as a person does not enjoy a freedom of opinion and lacks a real chance to express their opinion. For less than 20 years ago, this was the case for most of us. We had an abstract freedom of speech but nobody in the wide World would hear us and our opinion actually mattered just within the physical boundaries of being heard.
The Internet changed all of that. All the bells and whisles attatched to what we know as web 2.0. are great technical gadgets but above all they are tools of liberty. They deliver us the real freedom of speech.
The total number of weblogs in the World is something nobody knows for sure. It was above 60 million for two years ago but taking into account the accelerating speed of new blogs being started, there is nobody to count the exact number of the day. Regardless of numbers, writing a weblog is the first tool in the history of human communications allowing global coverage to anybody’s opinion, at least theoretically. It can be heard and agreed or disagreed instantly throughout the World.
The problem of the average web surfer is paradoxically the very number of blogs. How to find the real good blogs among this multitude? Of course every weblog has a value per se, but most of them have importance just for the closest circle of the blogger, friends and the loved ones.
In order to assist the average surfer to find the blogs that have something to say beyond the boundaries, my friend Peter Wilhelm near Heidelberg in Germany initiated a project entitled Blogwatch.eu. In addition to offering hints to the average surfer, Blogwatch.eu seeks to promote blogs that might otherwise not get the attention they would deserve. That said, the site still reflects the subjective opinion(s) of its three authors. As Peter W. puts it:
Bei dieser Suche werden sie sicherlich über die eine oder andere Perle stolpern, die sich bis dato mehr oder weniger versteckt gehalten hat; aber genau so sicher werden sie auf Weblogs stoßen, die eher einen Würgereiz auslösen.
Joining Peter Wilhelm in this project is German journalist and photographer Peter Roskothen. Peter and Peter are going to cover the German language blogosphere. I was honored to accept the invitation to participate in the project covering blogs in lingua franca, i.e. English.
So our first entries are going to be on line on Saturday 23rd June 2007. There has been a considerable interest against Blogwatch.eu already days before going on line. So I am looking forward to adding my two cents to promote freedom of speech.
May I also take this opportunity to thank my friend Peter Wilhelm for his efforts to kick off Blogwatch.eu? He has done a marvellous job creating the site and also correcting the code that I screwed up. I am proud to be his friend.
Here is what I recorded and posted to YouTube about my participation:
There was an all time high in my blog statistics a couple of weeks ago. As my web connection was broken at the time and I therefore had a very limited access to the Internet, I had absolutely no idea why my two month old post about Atze Schröder a.k.a. Hubertus Albers was suddenly receiving loads of hits. While Atze Schröder is a very popular TV character in Germany, I thought that attempts of Hubertus Albers to get his name off the web were not such a big deal.
What I did not know is that the CEO of Wikimedia Deutschland e.V Arne Klempert had published a long post in his blog about legal actions taken by Mr. Hubertus Albers against him. Mr. Klempert appears as the admin-C of Wikipedia.de. The well known fact that the real name of Atze Schröder is Hubertus Albers was momentarily to be read in an article in the German Wikipedia.
In December 2006, Arne Klempert received a cease and desist letter from a lawyer representing Hubertus Albers. On advice of his counsel, Mr. Klempert refused to comply and was subsequently sued by Hubertus Albers. The case was scheduled for a first hearing in Hamburg in early May but just before the trial, Mr. Albers withdrew the lawsuit.
One would think that this would be a closed case as far as Arne Klempers is concerned. But what do you know, now Hubertus Albers is seeking his legal costs from Arne Klempert. As Mr Klempert writes, Mr. Albers was barking at the wrong tree in the first place and had a case with very questionable merits, to put it mildly. His legal team must have realized that they were wrong but they still want Mr. Klempert to pay for their own mistake.
As I wrote in March, there is a public record readily available in the web saying that Atze Schröder is a registered brand belonging to one Hubertus Albers in Emsdetten. Practically all Germany and anybody else who may be interested knows who the guy is. So suing everybody who may or may not have published his real name is a bad art of comedy.
Tags: ddr, easedropping, stasi 2.0
Stasi used to be the Ministry for State Security in the former communist East Germany. They had a network of informants covering practically every citizen so they knew every little detail about everybody. Everybody was a potential threat against the ruling communists so there was a presumption of guilt against every citizen.
I can only imagine what sort of sophisticated tools the East German Stasi would have used if communism had survived to the age of web 2.0. The police would probably have secretly installed governmental trojans to innocent citizens’ home and office computers. They would have easedropped and recorded everybody’s e-mail traffic and phone calls. Records would have been kept on web sites visited. And so on.
Luckily, all of Germany is democratic so this is not something Germans would have to worry about. Unless, of course, the German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble happened to think that the presumption of innocence can and should be put aside if there is a chance that a citizen is connected to terrorists. Never mind article 20 of the constitution, it can not be applied when hunting terrorists. Every criminal investigation could theoretically have importance in the fight against terrorism which is why Mr. Schäuble is a strong proponent of surveillance on line.
Bloggers are a strange crowd of people. They do not tend to like it when a government which is supposed to be democratic tries to use undemocratic methods. They especially hate it when a supposedly democratic government is trying to interfere in the freedom of the World Wide Web.
German bloggers are no exception. Just look at the number of pings to this post, a cry for distress against the measures proposed by Wolfgang Schäuble. More than 40 responses just in a couple of days. As Farlion points out, Technorati returns about 1500 links to a Stasi 2.0 query.
The issue is not just German. Germany is the largest member country of the EU. If such a restrictive legislation were passed in Germany, it would not take long before it would be enforced throughout EU.
So I am not only concerned for my friends in Germany although I am concerned for them. The freedom of us all is at stake here. Which is why you and I had better do something about it before it is too late.
If you are old enough you may still remember the time when there was no Internet. Younger people obviously have hard time believing this. They must be wondering where we got our news and other information.
Most people used to have a box in the corner of their living room. It was called television or TV just for short. A what? I’ll tell you.
The box looked a bit like a computer screen. The contents were received through the air by radio waves, at later times also by cable. There were a number of output channels for different content streams.
And that was it? Yes that was it. Well, a junior may ask, how did you manage your input if there was no keyboard and mouse?
There was no need for input. Television was a one way street from the content producer to the viewer. A bit like the early days of the Internet but even more restricted than that. There are still some of those antique web sites of the prehistoric age of the web to be seen. TV was even more boring than those.
So where did we put our own contents? Those who were rich enough could by the equipment but broadcasting licenses were regulated by the government. So there was no way for a common citizen to reach a large audience.
That must have been comfortable for the governments of the time. They did not need to consider the public opinion because critical voices did not reach further than you were able to shout. But since everybody had the right to express their opinion, they could still say that there was a freedom of speech.
The governments became worried when anybody was able to say what they think and actually had access to millions of people. A citizen expressing a critical view was a potential threat or at least a pain in the ass for those in power. So to miscredit critical people the governments suggested they were terrorists. In some countries they passed laws on surveillance of private citizens.
Many people protested against the plans and the citizens became aware that their governments meant to spread fear of terrorism and in fact impose their own terror against free speech. Thanks to the global networks created through web 2.0 those evil plans of the governments were stopped. It happened approximately at the same time as many people purged their television and only trusted the sources of their own choice. That was when freedom took the place of fear in the hearts and minds of citizens.
As I wrote a while ago, the German TV star Atze Schröder does not want it to be told in public that his real name is Hubertus Albers. I also noted that Stoibär received mail from his
lawyers management for mentioning Atze Schröder’s real name in his blog. Now I hear that RA-Blog has received a cease and desist letter from the lawyer for posting the image below.
It is a screenshot from a public record which shows that the trade mark “Atze Schröder” has been registered and belongs to one Hubertus Albers in Emsdetten. The lawyer representing Hubertus Albers suggests that posting the screenshot of a public record would constitute a violation of his client’s personal rights. Thomas has deleted the post without admitting any wrongdoing.
This looks to me like utmost bizarre humor but I guess Hubertus Albers and his lawyer are actually serious about it. I am just being too polite to comment their mental status. Something like this could only happen in Germany. Or China.
It is more or less common knowledge in the Cyber World that China is protecting its citizens from the harmful effects of free speech by massively censoring the Internet. I discovered through this anonymous news blog that there is a web site calling themselves Great Firewall of China which says it is performing a live test on any URL in the World to show if that site is accessible in China or not. According to the site, they have a test server in China to be connected during the live test.
As the picture above shows, this blog is blocked in China, according to the Great Firewall of China. Another test showed that I am not alone: all of the WordPress.com seems to be blocked. I also detected that the blogging engine of Blogger.com seems to be available while the blogs hosted in Blogspot.com are blocked.
Since the mirror site of my Estonian blog is hosted by WordPress.com it is also blocked but the blog itself, hosted in an Estonian server, is readily available. I guess this just shows the scale of the Chinese censors. They block large areas of the Internet without paying much notice to the content censored.
Obvious blocks are placed upon Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders while the International Federation of Journalists web site seems to be available. Available are also the sites of US Senate, White House and The European Union. The official site of the President of Estonia seems to be accessible as well as the personal site of Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.
While China seems to be afraid of bloggers hosted by major blogging services, the self hosted blogs that I checked out seemed to be accessible. This goes at least for RA-Blog, Dreibeinblog, Farliblog, Christian in Vienna and Mein Parteibuch. The Great Firewall itself was unable to load Schott’s Blog although the blog was accessible for me during the test.
Precisely the fact that the Firewall does not seem to be able to load some sites made me a bit suspicious. GMail should not be that difficult to reach if the site indeed operates in the Netherlands as this WHOIS query suggests. Entering http://mail.google.com produces this error message: “This page does not exist or could not be tested due to technical reasons!” Fishy, I say! I certainly hope that the recorded queries do not land down on the table of the censors to assist them block further sites.
Be it as it may, the censoring itself is an effort bound to be wasted in the long run. You can only protect a billion people from the truth so much. If China used the same energy to block Chinese spammers from submitting entries to WordPress hosted blogs as they use for censoring the contents of those blogs, the Internet would be a much better place to surf in.
I thought at the end of last week that this blog would have been over and done with Atze Schröder a.k.a. Hubertus Albers. The story is bizarre and it is strange, to say the least, that the German Wikipedia would volunteer to self censor their article about Atze Schröder a.k.a. Hubertus Albers. But I never believed that this would become a sticky story that I frequently need to return to.
Not only is it practically common knowledge in Germany that Atze Schröder’s real name is Hubertus Albers. There must be around 100.000 pages in the web to be googled to disclose that very same piece of information. If one of them gets deleted – either because the site owner no longer wants to have that information at their site or for other more compelling reasons – It would be likely that about 10 new pages in blogs and other sites would pass on the info. Once it is in the web there is no way to take the information back.
Now I hear (via Peter) that out of all these 100.000 places Hubertus Albers has chosen to attack one single blog, StoiBär. According to StoiBär, he has received mail from “Atze Schröder’s Management”, quoting the court ruling against a German paper and demanding a particular blog post to be removed. The ruling does not even have the authority of a final decision yet and even if it did it would only apply the paper in question.
As Peter writes, Atze Schröder has gone one step too far. There is no way Hubertus Albers could censor off his name from the World Wide Web.
This act of self censorship is based on a ruling of Landgericht Berling placing a gag order on a German newspaper to print the name Hubertus Albers. Wikipedia is no party in the case.
For more details see my post yesterday.