Saturday, August 1, 2020

'Cancel culture' - muffling voices - freedom expression champions !!


“cancel culture” is most talked about now ! ~  Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.

Kerala turmoil .. .. .. the office of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has, in recent days, come under intense pressure following the seizure of 30kg of gold - part of a diplomatic consignment that arrived at the state capital's Trivandrum International Airport on July 4.  The gold, reportedly valued at Rs 15 crore was seized by Customs officials at the airport. Under the Vienna Conventions, a country is able to send documents or other items to its consular offices or international organisations like the United Nations as diplomatic baggage.  Following the discovery, Sarith Kumar, a fomer public relations officer (PRO) of the UAE consulate in Thiruvanthapuram, and an accused in the case, was arrested on Monday, and remanded in custody for a period of two weeks.

People have been commenting on social media on Communist stand and their falling standards ! – the Party would vociferously advocate ‘freedom of expression’ and simplicity but would not comment a word when things like this surface nor on the human rights violations in China.  There was this Commie backed Union who would fight for worker’s right and need for confirming daily-roster employees – but in the Union Office they employed a person for a measly payout without providing regular employment !

When Liu Xiaobo was formally awarded his Nobel Peace prize in 2010, he was represented at the ceremony by an empty chair. By then, the dissident academic was in prison again, this time serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" for his role in drafting a democracy manifesto for China. Chinese authorities, recognizing in recent years that limited freedom of expression enables the government to better monitor potentially problematic social issues have not permitted freedom, at best they created a kind of "free-speech elite," and only  in government-controlled forums.

Freedom of speech  is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.  Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice".

Some 150 writers, academics and activists - including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood - have signed an open letter denouncing the "restriction of debate". They say they applaud a recent "needed reckoning" on racial justice, but argue it has fuelled stifling of open debate. The letter denounces "a vogue for public shaming and ostracism" and "a blinding moral certainty".

The term “cancel culture” originally surfaced as a hashtag, credited to black users of Twitter. It was used when celebrities were seen to fall from grace. At times it got linked to the #metoo movement, and so Louis CK was cancelled – for all of 10 months!  When civilians, ordinary human beings, are cancelled, their lives are turned upside down.  An ill-advised tweet may make someone unemployable, the consequences lingering for years.

At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of a contentious new national security law, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech and force internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the law took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the last year of protests. Charles Mok, a pro-democracy lawmaker who represents the technology sector, tweeted: “We are already behind the de facto firewall.”

Hong Kong is facing a dramatic decline of one of its most important advantages – a free and open internet – a defining trait that sets it apart from mainland China where Facebook, Twitter, Google and most major foreign news sites are blocked. The prospect of Beijing-style internet controls – where residents are not just restricted but monitored and punished for what they post online while companies are forced to censor their platforms – is worrying for citizens, activists and businesses in Hong Kong.

The law gives authorities the power to demand individuals and service providers remove content, or access to content deemed threatening to national security. Noncompliance can result in fines and imprisonment for company staff or individuals. Police investigating national security cases can surveil communications and confiscate electronic devices. “The law seems to be building up the Great Firewall locally in Hong Kong. Personal freedom on the internet will be eliminated,” said Charles Low, the chairman of the Hong Kong chapter of the Internet Society. “If you say something wrong they can request the service provider to give your IP address or mobile number so they can grab you.”

After the new measures were announced late on Monday, Facebook, Microsoft, WhatsApp, Google, Twitter, Telegram and others said they would not process information requests from the government until they had reviewed the law. TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, said it was leaving Hong Kong altogether. Protesters who have relied on digital tools over the last year to mobilise demonstrations now find those same platforms could be used against them. Political groups have already disbanded and formerly outspoken activists have quietly left social media, while others have deleted old comments. “We had freedom before and now it is being taken away. It is extremely painful for me to experience that,” said Glacier Kwong, a digital rights activist. “There will be a loss of information available to the public because people are afraid to speak up. They are controlling the discourse, how people can think about things and what they can think about. It’s very dangerous.”

Experts say it is precisely because Hongkongers used digital tools so effectively against the Beijing-backed government that authorities are now targeting the online space. The movement that erupted last year managed to mobilise itself without leaders through platforms such as the LIHKG forum and messaging app Telegram – with a level of organisation that Beijing has tried to point to as evidence to claim the demonstrations are coordinated by foreign forces.  Experts point out that China’s Great Firewall – which allows the government to inspect data as well as block IP addresses and domain names – could not be immediately replicated in Hong Kong, home to several private internet service providers and internet exchanges.

The security law may also add to the Balkanisation of the internet, with countries having their own fenced-off versions, and major international tech companies will be under pressure not to contribute to that. But Hongkongers, accustomed to decades of unrestricted access to information, may not be so easily deterred. Since Beijing announced its plan in late May to enforce the security law, searches and purchases of virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxies to hide IP addresses have soared. Many have migrated from Telegram to the encrypted messaging app Signal, and some residents have turned to sim cards from providers in other countries. Kwong says it is not just young protesters who are taking action – her parents recently moved their family group chat to Signal.

In 2017,  Liu Xiaobo, the renegade Chinese intellectual who kept vigil at Tiananmen Square in 1989 to protect protesters from encroaching soldiers, promoted a pro-democracy charter that brought him a lengthy prison sentence and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while locked away, died under guard in a hospital on Thursday. He was 61. The Chinese government revealed he had cancer in late June, only after the illness was virtually beyond treatment. Officially, Mr. Liu gained medical parole. But even as he faced death, he was kept silenced in the First Hospital of China Medical University, still a captive of the authoritarian controls that he had fought for decades. He was the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in state custody since Carl von Ossietzky, the German pacifist and foe of Nazism who won the prize in 1935 and died under guard in 1938 after years of maltreatment.

~ and people here talk about freedom of press and gagging individual opinion !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
9.7.2020.


No comments:

Post a Comment