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Free weekly #4: Freedom, bananas and Putin's CIA Wurst

Source: Instagram neymarjrIn this edition: freedom day, the Russian clamp down on freedom of expression, bananas and the stemfie.


Freedom is never granted. It is something worth fighting for – and to celebrate. That exactly is the purpose of May 4th and May 5th in the Netherlands. On May 4th the people killed in the fight for freedom are remembered and on May 5th the country celebrates the freedom. A great tradition and something worth copying, as we should not forget that freedom is never granted.

Two days earlier, on May 2nd, it was exactly 25 years ago that Hungary opened its borders to Austria. That proved later to be an important day in the fight for freedom in many Eastern European countries – and the beginning of the final days of the Berlin Wall and with that also the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately recent events show that freedom is never safe – and that freedom can be taken away again.


Freedom taken away – that happened also to more than 200 school girls in Nigeria. Already mid-April they got kidnapped by Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a fundamentalist group that fights against freedom and everything that can be associated with Western democracies (and is abusing in doing so the name of religion). Only due to the social media campaign #Bringbackourgirls the kidnapping made international news. Hopefully the pressure remains long enough so that they will be freed. But the real challenge is to make sure that this does not happen over and over again.


Russia is also on the move again against freedom. No, this is not about Eastern Ukraine or Crimea. But as all attention is drawn to the events there, Putin signed a few laws that will make it even easier in the future to clamp down on any voices against himself or his politics. He is on the move again against the freedom of speech and expression - and especially against the big evil internet, an "CIA invention" in his words. Two recent laws are especially designed to fit this purpose. The first law makes it harder for bloggers – as any blog with more than 3,000 visitors has to register as “media outlet”. With that it is also required to keep all records and logs for at least 6 months, a requirement that will also apply for providers and other media. Furthermore the net in Russia will be divided into three layers: local, regional and national. The vision is that only the top layer, the national net, will be connected to the rest of the world. Well - you can guess why is that.

The second law sounds at first like a joke: a law against profanity, outlawing the use of profane language in art and media, including social media – imposing hefty fines for not complying with the law. Put knowing Putin: he is not from the joking kind, at least not if he is the subject of the joke. Rest assured that he will make use of this law – but as usual very selective: only for people and sites he doesn’t like…


Discrimination is also a form of limiting freedom. For government and legal institution there are rules to prevent this as much as possible – but for obvious reasons there are no regulations for the private part of live. This is also a tricky balance – and as it should it usually tips towards freedom of speech. But how can you make clear to others that this is socially not accepted? Two soccer players found a great way to achieve this – by making fun of it in a social media campaign. This brought the banana selfie into life. This campaign had been planned before by Dani Alves and Neymar Jr., both playing for FC Barcelona – after they had been racially abused in March – and was just waiting for the next racial abuse to happen.

Source: Hintmag.comLast week the Eurovision Song Festival set an example for tolerance and acceptance – when the Austrian bearded dragqueen Conchita Wurst clearly one. People showed that music and performance matter and not the person someone is. Upfront there was a lot of discussion about it when Russia and some former Soviet republics as Belorussia and Armenia tried to get the Austrian contestant excluded – or at least that the performance of Austria will not be shown in their countries. Not that they’ve succeeded with that. And the voting actually showed that the people in those countries are more tolerant than the regime: whereas the juries in those countries hardly gave any points to the Austrian performance the popular vote was putting the Austrian entry in the top places. As often people are way more relaxed about things. A cynical could conclude that people with fear and prejudices are more inclined to to into politics than others (not saying that this applies to all politicians - there are luckily enough that are not like that).

Anyway - that it can be found via the net that the Russian people are actually more tolerant than its political elite will only be one more reason for Putin to continue with the clamp down on the net. Oh this damn CIA saussage!


And to finish this newsletter something from the Netherlands. At the last local elections the new hype was the so called stemfie (derived from “stemmen”, meaning “voting” and selfie – so basically a selfie in the voting booth). Not everyone was happy with that and some even went to court – claiming that the stemfie would interfere with the voting secret. What the heck you might think. But the good news is: the court ruled that a stemfie is not interfering with the voting secret. So – do expect some stemfies again on May 22nd, when the Netherlands is voting for the European Parliament!


Free weekly is a bi-weekly newsletter on this site (ultimately aiming for weekly). As the word “free” can have several meanings so it has here: the format is free and the content focuses mainly focus on news around freedom, civil rights and on news that caught the author’s attention but did not made it to the headlines. Talking about free: Feel free to send any input!

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