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Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown

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DUBAI — Iran was bracing for a renewed wave of protests Thursday, one day after authorities reportedly disrupted mobile internet access across the country.

Iran’s authorities have restricted mobile internet access in several provinces, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday, following a trend of social media posts and messages from relatives of those killed in unrest last month calling for more protests and ceremonies to commemorate the dead.

State media, meanwhile, said intelligence ministry agents had seized a cache of 126 mostly U.S.-made guns smuggled to the central city of Isfahan from abroad.

 

 

Dec. 6, 201903:37

The protests were initially sparked in November by hikes in gasoline prices but demonstrators quickly expanded their demands to cover calls for more political freedom and other issues.

The government, which launched the bloodiest crackdown on demonstrators in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic, blamed foreign enemies for stoking tensions.

An official denied any order by the authorities to block the internet, which was shut down for about a week in the November unrest. A news agency also cited mobile operators saying their services had not been disrupted.

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The semi-official news agency ILNA quoted an informed source at the Communications and Information Technology Ministry as saying mobile internet access to overseas sites was blocked by “security authorities” in Alborz, Kurdestan and Zanjan provinces in central and western Iran and Fars in the south.

“According to this source, it is possible that more provinces will be affected by the shutdown of mobile international connectivity,” Reuters reported the ILNA as saying.

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said on Twitter: “Confirmed: Evidence of mobile internet disruption in parts of #Iran …real-time network data show two distinct drops in connectivity this morning amid reports of regional outages; incident ongoing.”

The shutdown appeared to be spreading.

“I just checked myself and asked a friend, and the internet is off on our mobiles,” a resident in Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-producing Khuzestan province, told Reuters.

But a communications ministry spokesman denied there was an order to shut down the internet. “No such order has been issued by the judiciary or other relevant authorities. The Fake News are at work,” Jamal Hadian said in a Twitter post.

Iran’s three mobile operators also denied experiencing any internet disruptions, the YJC news agency reported.

An Iranian woman uses her cellphone on Dec. 23 in the capital Tehran ATTA KENARE / AFP – Getty Images

In Alborz province, one of the areas affected by the shutdown, authorities this week arrested the parents of a young man who was shot dead during the protests, after pressuring them to call off a commemoration for their son scheduled for Thursday, citing concerns it could create unrest.

The weapons seized in Isfahan included assault rifles, handguns and pellet guns, the state news agency IRNA said. “Most of the weapons carry USA badges and are American-made,” it added.

The internet blockage made it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to generate support and also to obtain reliable reports on the extent of the unrest.

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s communications minister last month for his role in “widescale internet censorship,” a reference to the nationwide shutdown.

Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign foes — the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia — for stirring up unrest through social media.

During the protests, hundreds of banks and public buildings were attacked and damaged.

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Online hate a regular occurrence for women, visible minorities in media – Montreal Gazette

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Women and visible minorities in media are disproportionately targeted by hate speech online.

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Emilie Nicolas tries to take the good with the bad when it comes to social media.

As a columnist and commentator — for the Montreal Gazette and other outlets — who often broaches topics of race and social justice, she receives hateful, vitriolic messages on a weekly basis.

“I would say that in general, social media are both an incredible asset for people who do not have a voice in traditional media,” she said, “and also a very dangerous weapon.”

Nicolas has been subjected to “rape threats, insults, death threats,” and been told she is anti-Quebec, that she is the real racist, and that she should go back to her country.

“Basically, for different reasons, these people have come to the irrational conclusion that I don’t have a right to a space,” Nicolas said.

Women and visible minorities in media are disproportionately targeted by hate speech online, she noted, often as a form of retaliation against much needed social change.

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She points to Carla Beauvais, a Black columnist for Journal Métro, who in a recent column in Elle Québec revealed she had taken several months off after reaching her limit with online abuse.

“The empathy isn’t there,” Nicolas said. “Precisely because our voices have been erased, historically, in traditional media, there’s this perception that we are not legitimate interlocutors, and there’s no need to hold punches.

“It’s very much about control, like most violence, and about who gets to have a voice. I think the goal of the way women and people of colour are targeted by online hate is really to make us shut up.”

Nicolas was barred from Twitter for 10 days last month, after a series of complaints by trolls about her tweets. It seems the platform’s AI monitoring technology couldn’t decipher irony in one of her tweets.

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When it comes to online vitriol, one’s status in traditional hierarchies of power appears to play a part in the amount and intensity of the abuse one is subjected to.

In discussing his reasons for retiring from his role of court jester on hit Quebec talk show Tout le monde en parle, Sunday night, Dany Turcotte placed part of the blame on the hateful messages he has received for years on social media, including homophobic slurs that greeted his coming out on air in 2005.

Racism, sexism and homophobia are among the most common forms of online hate, and people from racialized groups are particularly vulnerable to such abuse, according to a recent poll by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and Abacus Data.

Canadian heritage minister Steven Guilbeault will table legislation against online hate speech in the coming weeks, a representative from Guilbeault’s office confirmed to the Gazette on Monday.

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Concordia University’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights (MIGS) has received funding from Canadian Heritage for a study of how female journalists and politicians are disproportionately targeted by online hatred, titled the Canadian Leaders’ Digital Defence Initiative.

“In the U.K., we’ve seen a trend of female politicians leaving politics because of this,” said Marie Lamensch, communications and projects coordinator at MIGS.

In Canada, she cites the harassment received by female politicians including Ottawa MP Catherine McKenna in recent years.

“We decided to launch a project studying what is happening in Canada, looking at patterns and trends of how women are being attacked: What is the narrative? Are there differences across regions? We know in advance that (women of colour) are threatened a lot more on social media than Caucasians; we have seen that in other countries.”

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The institute will submit its report on the topic this spring.

Fabrice Vil, a media commentator, lawyer and social entrepreneur, takes a hands-on approach to online attacks. He has turned off Twitter comments from people he doesn’t follow, “because it bothers me to receive hate speech.”

He would rather not have to resort to such measures.

“It means I lose the benefit of reading comments by people I don’t know,” said Vil, who is Black. “It stops me from participating fully in exchanges. But I was receiving too many insults. It becomes too much for my brain to process.”

He also posted a code of conduct for those who post on his Facebook page, which has 19,000 followers; and he has hired someone to moderate the comments, in order to ensure that discussions remain civilized. Vil believes it’s part of the responsibility that comes with having a public tribune.

“I see how people communicate with each other, and how debates degrade into incivility,” he said. “People give themselves the right to be meaner on social media.”

Vil is disturbed by how he and others who speak up on issues of race are portrayed by some mainstream media commentators, which he believes has a carryover effect on public opinion and online abuse.

“People call us radical militants,” he said, “which can only serve to provoke hate.

“People don’t realize we are just citizens participating in the social project.”

tdunlevy@postmedia.com

twitter.com/TChaDunlevy

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Watchdog urges release of media workers held in Ethiopia – 570 News

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KAMPALA, Uganda — The Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Ethiopian authorities to free journalists and media workers detained in the Tigray region, where government troops and their allies are battling forces loyal to the local administration.

At least four Ethiopian media workers assisting members of the international press have been detained in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, in recent days.

They include two translators working for the French news agency AFP and the Financial Times, as well as a local fixer, according to the journalists’ group. The three were arrested on Saturday. The BBC reported on Monday that a journalist working with its Tigrinya service had also been arrested.

The BBC, AFP and the Financial Times had permission to operate in Tigray.

“The scarcity of independent reporting coming out of Tigray during this conflict was already deeply alarming. Now, the Ethiopian military’s arrests of journalists and media workers will undoubtedly lead to fear and self-censorship,” Muthoki Mumo, sub-Saharan Africa representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in the statement. “Ethiopian authorities should release these journalists and media workers immediately and provide guarantees that the press can cover the conflict in Tigray without intimidation.”

The office of Ethiopia’s prime minister announced on Feb. 24 it was authorizing some members of the international press to report from Tigray, a northern province that has been in armed conflict with the federal government since November.

But two days later a ruling party official, Habtay Gebreegziabher, told a state-run media agency that authorities would take measures against people he accused of “trying to supply wrong information” to international journalists in Tigray, according to the statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the “humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate” as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

Rodney Muhumuza, The Associated Press

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'Pawri' power: 5-second social media clip pulls India, Pakistan closer – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Syed Raza Hassan

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – A 19-year-old Pakistani student who shot to fame after her five-second video went viral on social media across the subcontinent, hopes numerous renditions of her monologue will translate into more dialogue between rival neighbours India and Pakistan.

The short video shot by Dananeer Mobeen in the Nathaigali mountains of northern Pakistan and uploaded onto Instagram shows a group of youngsters enjoying themselves by a roadside.

Swinging around the device she is filming on, Mobeen gestures behind her and says in Urdu, “This is our car, this is us, and this is our party taking place.”

Seemly innocuous, she deliberately mispronounces the English word “party” as “pawri” to poke fun at South Asians who adopt Western accents. It immediately struck a chord in both India and Pakistan, sparking top trending hashtags on social media, and garnering millions of views and hundreds of spin-offs.

“It was the most random video. I initially had no intention of uploading it,” Mobeen said, expressing surprise at how viral it had gone and adding the trend showed the power and reach of social media.

“Pawri” monologue renditions have been used by police in India and the Delhi Commission for Women in their social media outreach campaigns.

In one video, two Indian soldiers deployed in snowy mountains give it their own spin with “This is us, this is our gun, and we are patrolling here”, while popular Bollywood actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone each did a version that also went viral.

Indian dairy company Amul, known for inculcating trendy takes on current issues in its advertisements, did a “this is our pav-tea” version https://twitter.com/Amul_Coop/status/1362262247809028100?s=20, in a nod to a popular bread snack eaten with tea.

Even politicians jumped on the bandwagon, with a leader from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party using the catchy hook at an election rally.

“I’m honoured and grateful for all the love across the border,” said Mobeen, expressing her happiness at fostering some rare friendly cross-border dialogue.

India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed nations, have fought three wars and often had tense relations since gaining independence in 1947.

Relations had most recently soured over developments in the northern region of Kashmir, which both countries control in parts but claim in full.

Last week, their militaries released a rare joint statement saying they had agreed to observe a ceasefire along the disputed Kashmir border, after exchanging fire hundreds of times over past months.

Since the video went viral, Mobeen said she has been inundated with acting and modelling offers, along with requests for product endorsements. Instead, she says she aspires to join Pakistan’s foreign services.

(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Additional reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Gibran Peshimam and Karishma Singh)

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