“Flood the Jail with Mail”

March 26, 2008

Free Kareem and the Committee to Protect Bloggers have announced a joint mail campaign in support of arrested Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer.

From April 7 through April 21, both organizations are encouraging their readers to go analogue and write Kareem a letter or postcard.

There are several reasons for another analogue campaign, as I’ve pointed out in the post I wrote for Free Kareem:

First, we’ve organized demonstrations and public outreach events all over the world but nothing that targets Kareem directly. It is time for a campaign that focuses on him in personal way! He really enjoys letters and they make a difference to him, as he has stated before. Second, a sufficient amount of such mail will remind Egyptian authorities that Kareem, bloggers in general and prisoners of conscience over all, are not alone. Remember, when Kareem was being tortured several months ago, the focus of international media was instrumental in stopping it. And finally, this campaign means an opportunity for us to really do something directly for Kareem.

We have asked you to write to Kareem before, and by all means continue it! But now we are especially asking you to send him at least one letter between April 7 and April 21. During this period, let’s “flood the jail with mail”!

Below you find the address in English, followed by a picture of it in Arabic. It goes without saying that both versions (if you are writing from a non-Arabic country) must be on the mail to assure that it gets delivered.

Alexandria
Borg Al-Arab Prison
Room 1 Section 22
Prisoner Abdul Kareem Nabil Suleiman
The Arab Republic of Egypt

Kareem’s address in Arabic (mandatory to be included on the envelope)

Please also have a look at Alexandra Sandels’ article about this campaign at Menassat, which includes statements by both Free Kareem Founder Esra’a Al-Shafei and Egyptian blogger Wa7damasrya as well as some background information. The campaign has also been covered by Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb.

If you need more information about the “Flood the Jail with Mail” campaign, please feel free to contact the team of Free Kareem.

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Rallies and Articles for Kareem Amer

February 17, 2008

Kareem AmerOn February 22, it’s the first anniversary of the jail sentence against Egyptian Kareem Amer ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested bloggers: Kareem Amer)). Arrested since November 6, 2006 the blogger was sentenced to four years in prison for defaming Allah and President Mubarak. He shall not be forgotten: It’s time for new rallies.

Since his detention, Kareem has suffered in prison. He has been threatened, even tortured ((Free Kareem! » Kareem is being tortured in prison)) – and still says that “prison didn’t change him” ((Free Kareem! » Prison didn’t change me: Kareem Amer)).

The “Free Kareem” campaign ((Free Kareem!)) is for sure the most famous of numerous groups supporting arrested bloggers. Dozens of rallies have been held worldwide, attracting a high media attention on the young Egyptian’s case. To keep up the good work, they call for an “op-ed day” on February 22 as well as for another three rallies in support of Kareem.

“Op-ed” stands for opinion / editorial – and that’s the part of a paper we’re as many as possible articles on Kareem shall be published on February 22. The Free Kareem! group, lead by Esra’a Al-Shafei of Mideast Youth ((Mideast Youth – Thinking Ahead)), is trying to convince journalists and authors from all over the world of writing an article on Kareem Amer. But also bloggers are called for participation – every supportive word is needed.

But words are just one part of the protest: There will also be rallies in three different cities. In Washington D. C., London and Paris supporters of Kareem Amer will hold demonstrations for the freedom of the young Egyptian and, through that, the freedom of expression in Egypt and all over the world. They wont be the first and they hopefully wont be the last demonstrations for Kareem, continuing a long row of rallies in more than a dozen cities of the world.

What can I do

No matter where, you can publish an article on Kareem’s case. If it’s your blog, a student paper or an internationally published magazine – every single word counts.
You may also attend one of the three rallies held for Kareem Amer in Washington D.C., London and Paris.


RSF awards to Democratic Voice of Burma and Kareem Amer

December 8, 2007

Wednesday, Reporters without Borders presented the winners of their annual human rights awards ((rsf.org: The 16th Reporters Without Borders – Fondation de France prize awarded today in Paris)). Among those chosen by the jury were TV and radio station Democratic Voice of Burma and Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer.

Blog4BurmaDemocratic Voice of Burma ((Democratic Voice of Burma: Official site)) was awarded the prize in the category “media” mainly for their role on the failed “saffron” revolution at the end of September. The station was founded in 1992 by democratically-minded Burmese students who escaped the massacres of 1988. With growing success and more professional structures the DVB – based in Norway’s capital Oslo – soon became known as one of the few independent news channels available in Burma. Since 2005, satellite television broadcasts are being aired regularly. Together, DVB TV and radio reach millions of listeners with their program, being transmitted in Burmese and several local languages. It is the first and only free station in Burmese language ((Wikipedia: Democratic Voice of Burma)).

During the demonstrations and the following crackdown Democratic Voice of Burma was one of the most reliable sources on the topic, transmitting uncensored recordings submitted by underground correspondents. Together with bloggers like ko htike ((ko htike’s prosaic collection)) it was instrumental in attracting attention on the revolution, something what did not occur in 1988, when thousands were murdered by the junta.
The DVB’s work was and is marked by four primary goals:

  • the provision of “accurate and unbiased news to the people of Burma”
  • to “promote understanding and cooperation” among Myanmar’s religious and ethnic populations
  • to “encourage and sustain independent public opinion” and to provide for “social and political debate”
  • to “impart the ideals of democracy and human rights” to the Burmese people

Ideals, which were honored by being awarded the Reporters without Borders’ prize.

Free Kareem! Another prize winner is the Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, who was awarded in the category “cyberdissident” ((FreeKareem!: Reporters Without Borders awards Kareem)). The 23 years old student, who was sentenced to prison because of insulting Islam and president Mubarak in February, mainly owes this to the “Free Kareem! Coalition” ((Free Kareem!)). Since Kareem became arrested in November 2006, they are working to attract international attention on his case.
As representative of Kareem, his lawyer traveled to Paris and got the prize, which includes 2500 €uros, in behalf of him. The money is a not to be underestimated help to the arrested, because he has been expelled from his family and depends on donations for his basic necessities.

The other prizewinners are Seyoum Tsehaye, an Eritrean journalist arrested since 2001, and the Journalistic Freedom Observatory from Iraq. Also, the Reporters without Borders awarded a special prize to husband-and-wife human rights team Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan. Both are currently under house arrest, but still doing their best to inform the world on human rights abuse in China, especially when dealing with next years Olympic Games in Beijing ((T-Shirt showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs, stating “Beijing 2008”)).


Wael Abbas’ suspended account restored by Youtube

December 2, 2007

Ten days before the Google-owned video sharing site Youtube had suspended the account of popular Egyptian human rights activist Wael Abbas because of torture videos the award-winning blogger presented there. The account has been restored now, but all about 100 videos Abbas had uploaded have been deleted.

Wael Abbas, who won the noted Knight Award of the International Center for Journalists this year, had, among videos showing voting irregularities or anti-government demonstrations, uploaded records of torture in Egyptian police stations and prisons. One of these videos had lead to last month’s jail sentence against two police officers, attracting international attention.

The blogger’s account has been restored on November 30, documented by comments there. Today, Youtube announced this in an answer on my protest note from November 28, saying the account were viewable again:

“Hi there,

Thanks for your email.

We have reinstated the account in question and you should be able to view it again.

User feedback is very important to us, and your comments and ideas will be used to improve the YouTube community.

Regards,

Sam
The YouTube Team”

The motives leading to the suspension and its retreat were not mentioned, but Fox News quotes Youtube calling it an official act:

“Having reviewed the case, we have restored the account of Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas — and if he chooses to upload the video again with sufficient context so that users can understand his important message we will of course leave it on the site.”

Unfortunately, all of Wael Abbas videos have been deleted. Even though he has cover up copies of them this is a great loss, as the Committee to Protect Bloggers points out, noticing that all permalinks have been deleted with the videos. So, even if Wael Abbas uploads the videos again, they will not be shown on the sites linking to them before the suspension. That causes the loss of the great viral effects Abbas’ work had up to now.

Having said that, the restoring of Wael Abbas’ account is still a great effort for the Egyptian blogosphere, showing that protesting against censorship is not futile. Hopefully, Youtube will maintain this (new) liberal politic on human rights activists in future, allowing them to use the platform in their work for freedom, even if it means breaking the community policies.

Links:

Wael Abbas’ account
Committee to Protect Bloggers: Wael Abbas’ Youtube account restored
Fox News.com: Youtube restores account of award-winning Egyptian blogger

Blogger for Freedom

Youtube suspends human rights activist’s account
(28.11.07)


Youtube suspends human rights activist’s account

November 28, 2007

Keine Freiheiten für MenschenrechtsaktivistenGoogle-owned video sharing site Youtube has deleted the account of an Egyptian human rights activist because of “terms of use violation”. Wael Abbas had among other images uploaded videos showing torture in Egyptian police stations.

Abbas stated he had uploaded about 100 videos, out of which circa one dozen were showing violence. The rest contained among others recordings which showed evidence for voting manipulations and anti-government demonstrations. A statement made by Youtube on the suspension is not available, trying to view the videos the user while find the usual “this account has been suspended” message. In the notification on the deletion it had been stated, the account would be disabled because of “lots of complaints”, the activist told Reuters.

Yet Wael Abbas is a well known human rights activist, winning 2007’s Knight Award of the International Center for Journalists for his work. His videos of an arrested bus driver being tortured in a police station this year lead to the jailing of two policemen. The case attracted high attention, because in Egypt, which officially condemns torture but is well known for it’s cruel police, jail sentences agains police forces are very rare.

That Youtube has suspended Wael Abbas’ account complies with it’s statutes, which say:

“Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it.”

Nevertheless this step his a big blow for the work of human rights activists in every dictatorship. Not just in Egypt, but as well for example in Burma most media underlies more or less strict censorship. Therefor citizen journalists depend on the anonymity and wide availability of international media platforms like Youtube.

Usually, Youtube is by far not so strict in it’s interpretation of these rules, as you may find dozens of versions of the video which shows the police attack on Rodney King an which became famous within the trail against the offenders and the following L. A. riots. In the case of Wael Abbas, Youtube should have a look on another line from it’s “Community Guidelines”:

“We encourage free speech and defend everyone’s right to express unpopular points of view.”

This is why popular Egyptian blogger Big Pharao calls his readers “for the sake of Egypt” to protest at Youtube’s against the suspension. The right on Freedom of Expression does not just mean, that everybody is allowed to express his opinion, but also, that he is able to. Therefore Blogger for Freedom supports the appeal to Youtube to reopen Wael Abbas’ account and to cut out deleting human and civil rights activists’ accounts in future.

What can I do?

Write to Youtube: Contact Youtube

Urge Youtube to reopen Wael Abbas’ account and to cut out deleting human and civil rights activists’ accounts in future.

Links:

Reports:

Reuters: YouTube stops account of Egypt anti-torture activist
Big Pharao: For the sake of Egypt: email YouTube
3arabawy: YouTube disables anti-police brutality channel
Committee to Protect Bloggers: Youtube cancels Wael Abbas’ account
Ta3beer: Blogger videos of torture banned from YouTube, which closes Wael Abbas’ account
Global Voices Advocacy: Egypt: YouTube Disables Activist’s Account
Mideast Youth: YouTube suspends account of prominent Egyptian activist

Further Information:

Wael Abbas’ Youtube account
Wael Abbas’ blog
International Center for Journalists: Knight Award to Wael Abbas
Youtube: Community Guidelines