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The Third Wave, The Fourth Screen, The Fifth Power, And Beyond

Egypt: Bloggers open the door to police brutality debate [via GV/WITNESS]

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

‘Extraordinary rendition’ has passed into common parlance over the last year as human rights organisations have accused the US government of exporting suspects to be tortured in regimes like Egypt, Morocco and Syria. But while cases involving international suspects get the headlines, these countries are regularly cited by human rights activists as having a major domestic torture problem, with the police in particular seeming to act with total impunity.

Now in Egypt, bloggers have struck a blow against police torture, by publicising videos shot by police officers of their colleagues beating suspects, and of police cadets receiving training. Add to this articles in the independent press and protests by civil society organisations, what’s fast becoming a national campaign is gathering momentum.

Demagh Mak and Wael Abbas writing in Arabic, and others writing in English, such as Hossam e-Hamalawy, have consistently sought out and brought to light videos of incidents of police brutality on their blogs over the past few months. It’s videos like this one – uploaded by Wael Abbas – that appear to be shifting the debate:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqJyJSpWkrw]

As reported by Hossam el-Hamalawy, an investigation has been launched into the conduct of the officer shown slapping the suspect in the above video, although it has now emerged that the officer in question has not yet been suspended from duty.

The brutality of Egypt’s police is not a new story – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights have regularly documented and condemned police brutality in briefings and reports.

But sustained pressure from the bloggers, and the publication of an investigative piece into the police torture video in the independent Egyptian weekly newspaper, El-Fagr, have forced the story into the mainstream. On 27th November 2006, El-Fagr published an expose on violence against suspects in the country’s police stations, identifying the officers in the video above, and describing a second, much more brutal video.

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Filed under: Cellphone, Citizen Journalism, Cyber-Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Journalism, Law, Middle East & North Africa, Mobile, Online Video, Police, Politics, Prisons, Protest, Technology, WITNESS

Egypt: Cairo’s women speak out against violence [via GV/WITNESS]

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

In the run-up to the annual global campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, addressing a meeting of the Arab Women’s Organisation, issued a heartfelt plea:

What shall we do to face challenges of discrimination, extremism and religious fanaticism?

It’s a vexing question – and one to which women back home in Egypt would have a very specific answer: stop ignoring violence against women even when it’s become an international scandal thanks to citizen video and the internet.

In her speech, Mrs Mubarak failed to make even a passing reference to what had happened to tens of women in her home city of Cairo just a couple of weeks before. A wave of attacks on women in downtown Cairo erupted on the Muslim feast day of Eid Al Fitr, October 24th 2006, when large groups of men attacked several women in the street, as Manal and Alaa’s bit bucket relates. But this wasn’t a one-off – in January 2006, on Eid al Adha, film-maker Sherif Sadek was back in Cairo, when he heard a commotion on the street outside his downtown apartment. Sherif grabbed his camera and leaned out the window to film the video presented below.

Synopsis

Initially it’s a little difficult to tell what is going on in the video – there are crowds in the middle of the street, which looks unusual – but after about 25 seconds, you will see two or three men leading four or five girls down the street past the building from which Sherif is filming. The crowd behind them is extremely large, a couple of hundred strong, and soon surrounds the girls (around 1’20). They then pass down a side-street, partially out of view, which gives Sherif time to spot a man in uniform – a police officer? – looking down the street at the commotion, who then gets back in his vehicle (1’50). Sections of the crowd then come running back round the corner, although it’s not clear whether they have the girls with them or not.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2SGamUeMec]

The October attacks took a similar form. GV’s Amira al Hussaini rounds up the best blog coverage of the October attacks, including Forsoothsayer’s translation of blogger Wael Abbas‘s eye-witness account, and Mechanical Crowds’ attempt to pull together the key facts.

Most strikingly, one of the victims of the Eid al Fitr attacks seems to have found a voice through the medium of blogging. Wounded Girl From Cairo appears to be by one of the women attacked on Eid al Fitr, and her description of her ordeal is required reading.

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Filed under: Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Middle East & North Africa, Online Video, Politics, Protest, Technology, WITNESS, Women

Iraq: Rare testimony of abuse by the Iraqi Security Forces [via GV/WITNESS]

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS’s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

Torture in Iraq, says the UN, is “out of control”, and “worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein”. So it was especially timely for Brian Conley at Alive In Baghdad to e-mail us to say that he had an interview with a man who claims to have been beaten and abused by Iraqi security forces in Ramadi:

Click on the image to play video


The man in the video, referred to as “Majed”, talks of being arrested without charge by members of the Iraqi National Guard – now known as the New Iraqi Army – on 13 July 2006. The abuses he alleges include arbitrary detention, persistent beating and kicking, and whipping with an electric cable. He shows the camera the physical scars of his ordeal.

There are some questions about this case that the video interview doesn’t answer: did Majed make a complaint to any official authorities? If he did complain, did the Iraqi Security Forces deny the allegations or agree to investigate them? If the allegations are true, and the perpetrators are identified, is there any prospect that they will be punished? What about the US officer whom Majed refers to?

Nonetheless the alleged maltreatment described in the interview should be enough to make us all sit up and take notice.

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Filed under: Citizen Journalism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Law, Middle East & North Africa, Military, Militia, North America, Police, Violence, War & Conflict, WITNESS