Sunday, December 30, 2012

Greg Jericho's The Rise of the Fifth Estate

My review of Greg Jericho's The Rise of the Fifth Estate is online:

There's a touch of irony in Michangelo's David gracing the banner of Grog's Gamut, the humble blog that slew the mainstream media goliath during the 2010 Australian Federal elections campaign. His post Election 2010: Day 14 (or waste and mismanagement – the media) famously attacked the performance of the national press gallery.

...Now Greg Jericho has reloaded his slingshot to venture onto the field of the printed page. The Rise of the Fifth Estate is much more than a Cook's tour of 'social media and blogging in Australian politics'. It is a detailed and well-researched look at how the new social media world is changing politics down under.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Two Tales of the Tortured Middle East

Two tales of torture and tyranny. Two brutal regimes. One the enemy of the United States and its allies. The other home to the US Fifth Fleet. One demonised by much of the media. The other mostly ignored.

The headline Blogger's death stirs political hornet's nest... could easily have been about either country as both regularly use imprisonment, torture and murder as tools to suppress their own people's desire for democratic change.

That hornet's nest is of course in Iran. The story concerns the State murder of Sattar Beheshti, a labourer from Tehran. He was arrested, tortured and killed by Iran's cyber police. His crime was attacking the government. His weapon, a humble blog.

The outrage within Iran and outside has seen the fight for human rights rekindled. You can read Reuters full report here. We can expect exensive coverage of the human rights situation in Iran during the lead up to the 2013 presidential elections.

Zainab al-Khawaja, currently in prison for protesting against her government, tells a similar story of arbitrary imprisonment and torture in Bahrain, a Brutal Ally.

At present, the Bahraini government believes it has international immunity. It commits widespread human rights violations, and business continues as usual: the government continues to buy arms and negotiate lucrative deals, without having to face any real consequences. This is why the most prominent Bahraini human-rights defenders are languishing in prison. Until the United States starts to put real pressure on its ally, Bahrain’s government has no incentive to change.

No matter the price, Bahrainis will keep demanding the very values — human rights and democracy — that the United States claims to stand for. It is an outrage that America continues to back a regime that tramples them.

From Behind the Bahraini Revolution: An Interview with Maryam Al-Khawaja:
Whenever you want to know the human rights situation of any country, ask where their human rights defenders are. In Bahrain, all of the most prominent human rights defenders sit in prison cells today.
Maryam is the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the deputy director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. Let's hope her self-imposed exile will not be a long one. And that the situation in Bahrain receives at least a fair fraction of that given to Iran.

It is no surprise then that Twitter hashtags #teargas and #Bahrain often appear in the same tweet.

So what can you do? Find your local journalists on twitter who cover world politics and ask about the silence surrounding Bahrain. Sending them the link to Global Voices Online's stories about Bahrain might also help.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fatwa Against Santa Stirs Passions

My latest post for Global Voices Online:
Online outrage has followed news reports of a fatwa against Christmas allegedly issued by an imam at Sydney’s Lakemba Mosque. There have also been touches of humour from those tired of the seasonal hard sell.
Australia: Fatwa Against Santa Stirs Passions


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mariam Issa's A Resilient Life

My post for ThinkBrigade Black in Brighton: Mariam Issa’s Resilient life touches on a thoroughly modern and topical Australian story. Mariam tells her 'refugee' journey from Somalia and Kenya to Melbourne's East Brighton in a self-published autobiography.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Introducing Global Voices Online

An introduction to Global Voices Online:

Thanks to Paula Góes, GV Multilingual Editor. Her presentation transcript is available here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Human Rights: When Journalists Are Shut Out

Last week Wendy Bacon & I spoke about what happens to coverage of human rights abuses when journalists are shut out. The presentation was part of the Thomson Reuters Human Rights Law conference in Sydney on 22 Nov 2012.

My webpage/blog post for the presentation can be found here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Covering Human Rights abuses: What happens when journalists are shut out?

Thomson Reuters Human Rights Law Conference

Sydney 22 -23 November 2012

Professor Wendy Bacon, Professor, Australian Centre for Independent Journalism
Kevin Rennie, Citizen Journalist

According to Article 19, journalists being shut out is a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

When the Media Shuts Down

We don’t have to look far from Sydney to know what happens when journalists are locked out. But Nauru, like most things in our modern world, is connected. We all know what happens when the media are shut out. Governments get away with murder, literally. 

When the Sri Lankan civil war neared its horrific final days, the UN, most NGOs and the media left the battle zone. We know the consequences:

"The United Nations has admitted it failed to protect civilians during the final months of the bloody Sri Lankan civil war which ended in 2009." UN admits failure over Sri Lankan civil war 

It is hard to find much online about the impending disaster. The Age got close on 15 May 2009, though you would hardly know it from the headline:

'The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the only neutral organisation working in the conflict area, said its staff were "witnessing an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe."' Sri Lanka military says rebels 'giving up' fight 

In 1993 controversial journalist John Pilger snuck into Timor Leste. He produced the documentary Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy, which helped to keep the struggle for independence alive. He copped the usual flak from politicians. Gareth Evans’ barb that Pilger "had a track record of distorted sensationalism mixed with sanctimony." would have a familiar ring for Julian Assange.

Letting the World In

We know what happens when the media is shut out. So what can we do to let the world in? Basically the fundamentals haven’t changed:

* Get up close

That’s what the best journalists have always done. Like Australian cameraman Neil Davis, they find different points on the ground from which to view events, and local voices that are not always the usual suspects. Davis would be horrified by the various versions of embedded journalism, not to mention the public relations circus that masquerades as news.

Tim Bowden's biography One Crowded Hour and David Bradbury’s documentary Frontline should be compulsory for journalism students. Davis covered much of the Vietnam war with South Vietnamese troops and spent a lot of time in the hidden war in Cambodia. But more of him later.

* Avoid group think

The stereotypical press corps view from the bar has its modern equivalent as journalists follow the conventional memes.

* Chase the stories

There are more sources than ever, even if some of them may not be English language ones.

They are out there. And they’re more accessible that many think. Even in China, the advent of Weibo has meant that more open discussion and criticism is taking place. If your Mandarin is non-existent like mine, there are websites that have translations for you apart from Global Voices. Try chinaSMACK or the Ministry of Tofu.

* Grasp New Media Tools

Use the latest tools to find and protect sources. Some of the current ones include:


Other P2P Peer-to-Peer



Tactical Tech’s Security in-a-box

Crypto Cat

Advox has more tips.

* Make friends

Not just on Facebook. Find key players and alternative voices on Twitter and other social media sites. Follow people with different languages, cultures and beliefs. Most of the important stuff is unlikely to be In English. Use lists to manage large numbers. Connect with NGOs like Reporters Without BordersHuman Rights Watch,Witness, and let's not forget Amnesty International and Oxfam.

One of the best places to make friends and get the latest stories is Global Voices Online It's an amazing community of authors and translators. Our projects include Advocacy, Threatened Voices, Rising Voices and the Technology for Transparency Network. Incidentally, if you missed Sami Ben Gharbia's presentation at the Castan Centre's Human Rights Law conference, it's a must-see. Sami was Director of Global Voices Advocacy until recently.

Legal Dilemmas

Is it ever justifiable to break the law to expose human rights abuses or defend those rights?

Publishing illegally obtained documents or multi-media? Using hidden cameras? Bugging? Entrapment? Phone tapping/taping/hacking? Entering countries illegally or trespassing?

To save lives? To bring mass murderers and torturers to justice?

* What about Google?

Recent self-censorship by Google was justifiably criticized when it removed Innocence of Muslims from YouTube without government requests. More in Global Voices Advocacy: In Censoring Anti-Islam Video, Did Google Do the Right Thing?

Google publishes a Transparency Report and has a useful Human Rights Youtube channel.

Google is a sponsor of Global Voices but is not spared a grilling when its representative fronts the biennial Summit. The 2012 session was Giants of the Internet: What Roles and Responsibilities?

Researcher and consultant in global digital activism, Mary Joyce, blogged in GV Citizen Media Summit: Public Day 1: Let Me Google That For You:

"...the most contentious panel of the day featured Bob Boorstin of Google (a major GV summit funder) and several activists and academics including Ramzi Jaber and Max Schrems. Internet privacy and corporate responsibility has been a major theme of this conference."

Bob Boorstin defended Google, citing increasing ‘forced compliance’ by governments. They have to obey the law, don’t they? As a business, not a not-for–profit, what should their human rights responsibilities be? Should communications companies do business in countries with strong censorship laws that cover up human rights abuses?

Ethical Reporting

The rights of ‘victims’, and others involved in human rights abuses, need to be respected. This can be especially difficult in crisis situations.

UNICEF's Principles and Guidelines for Ethical Reporting on Children and Young People under 18 years old is a useful document, much of which that can be applied to adults as well.

The International Center for Journalists’ Journalism Ethics: The Global Debate is also an excellent source. You can download it free here.

Credibility 101

As Mark Colvin argued in the 2012 Andrew Olle Lecture:

'Credibility is not just about what you put in the paper, or out on the airwaves, it's about how you get that information, what you do with it, and more broadly, how you conduct yourself as a corporation.'

* Cred 1: Telling the whole truth

What happened to the Arab Spring?

The Arab Spring is not over. But when did you last see stories about Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco? What about Mauritania or Jordan ?


The recent peaceful protest in Amman apparently did not involve tear gas.

That is unusual in MENA (Middle East & North Africa). Twitter hashtag #teargas is a testament to its continual use in places such as Bahrain.


Mainstream media have responsibility for truly global coverage. Not just the sensational stories or the ones that are easier to cover. Just as important is the need to follow up and follow through, rather than just move on to the next tragedy.

The Philippines used to be the big story in the 80s and 90s. Reports from Somalia and the Sudan were ubiquitous.

* Cred 2: News, not views - maintaining objectivity

It’s the old cliché about seeing what you believe. Where opinion fashions the facts or clouds judgment.

Global Mail’s Jess Hill wrote recently about ‘How prominent commentators from the ‘anti-imperialist’ left have twisted the public discourse on Syria and, in the process, provided intellectual cover for the Assad regime’, inAssad’s Useful Idiots

"Syria has been one of the hardest conflicts in living memory to report on, largely because of the extreme restrictions imposed by the Assad regime. Earlier this year, I wrote about how these restrictions were making it immensely difficult for reporters to sort fact from propaganda, and how important it was that we maintain a critical eye on both sides ('Syria's Propaganda War', April 12)."

One of her targets was none other than John Pilger.

* Cred 3: Turn up the bullshit detector (Authentication/Verification)

So how can a journalist distinguish the real stuff from the spin, the PR, the propaganda? Who are the genuine voices on twitter or the blogosphere? How do you identify the sock puppets, the trolls and the false identities? Is it a Labour/Labor staffer or a Mossad agent?

There are plenty of tips around on how to deploy your bullshit detector, such as Best Practices for Social Media Verification.

In the case of images or videos, then a course in using meta-data would come in handy.

Is the requirement for two separate sources passé these days. One way around it is to tell one person’s story. Jess Hill’s powerful profile Going Home, To Aleppo is an example. Sorry Jess, but no good deed should go unpunished.

Dangers & Dilemmas

For the dedicated correspondent, there are lots of risks, especially if trying to follow Google’s advice to ‘do no harm’.

* Myth creation

One is related to the creation of myths. We all know what started the Arab Spring. Or do we? It may seem relatively harmless even if there is Doubt over Tunisian 'martyr' who triggered revolution.

But more concerning are the consequences that may flow from ‘media creations’:

"Previously unpublished statistics seen by the BBC show that, in the year since the revolution, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of people setting themselves alight across Tunisia." Tunisia one year on: New trend of self-immolations

The recent coverage of Tibetan self-immolations also raises issues about whether media reporting may be encouraging these suicides.

* Protecting People

Protecting sources, protecting victims, protecting co-workers, protecting yourself are increasingly difficult tasks. Bill Latch, Neil Davis’ sound recordist, died alongside him on a Bangkok street in 1985.

Journalists are a threatened species in many parts of the world.

Over 150 journalists have been killed since 1986 in the Philippines, with seeming impunity. Iris Gonzales documents this scandal in her post One Death is Too Many.

Fighting impunity is something we can all do. In fact tomorrow is International Day to End Impunity 

Turkey is alleged to be the Number One in Jailing Journalists with 61 locked up in relation to their work.

Finding Business Models

Finally, a world about money, Mark Colvin’s crisis of finance. Good reporting can cost heaps. Being on the ground makes all difference to the quality and cred of the stories. The ABC has one reporter in North Africa and the Middle East and one for the whole of the rest of Africa. Matt Brown and Ginny Stein continue to amaze with their omnipresence. But they are the exceptions these days.

We are seeing the resurgence of Press Agencies such as AAP and AP, who are the ones hiring foreign correspondents. Good as much of it is, it's generic reporting.

Increasingly old media looks to new media for a free ride. Crowd sourcing is just one example of this trend. There are also an increasing number of online sites such as the Global Post, with lots of niche operations likeInternews.

Real investigative work seems beyond the shrinking budgets of much of the print media. Commercial television loves today’s explosion rather than tomorrow’s exposé. The pictures and sound are everything.

It’s not enough to blame the audience as too many media leaders have done recently. We all must take responsibility for making sure that human rights coverage flourishes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

William Maley - Australia & Asylum Seekers

William Maley, Director of the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, Australian National University, speaks about current Australian government policy towards asylum seekers who arrive by boat. The presentation was part of Thomson Reuters Human Rights Law conference in Sydney on 22 Nov 2012.

The presentation was part of Thomson Reuters Human Rights Law conference on 22 Nov 2012.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Google's Beta Human Rights Channel

Google has taken plenty of flak over its self-censorship in totalitarian or repressive countries or those with tight media controls.

The latest Human Rights channel on YouTube is a welcome attempt to balance things.

There is full play list for the month with videos from dozens of countries

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sour Grapes Over Surprise Seat on UN Security Council

From my latest Global Voices post:
There was lots of jubilation when Australia won a two-year non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council on Friday, October 19, 2102. The long UN Security Council and the short #UNSC of it were both trending on Twitter, down under. 
...But it isn’t all self-congratulation. There seem to be some sour grapes as well. 
Australia: Surprise Seat on United Nations Security Council

Oceans of Toxic Plastic

From the third in my series Poisoning Paradise for ThinkBrigade:
Are we poisoning our oceans and ourselves with plastics? Oceans of Plastic is the third of the “Poisoning Paradise” series.

Plastic Oceans, a recent report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV’s Catalyst programme, explores the latest science and its global implications for wildlife and humans.
Poisoning Paradise: Oceans of Toxic Plastic


Monday, October 8, 2012

Global Voices - Venezuela: Chávez Gets Six More Years

Global Voices has the reaction on twitter to Hugo Chavez's re-election:

After the most contested and intense elections of the last decade, Venezuela will add six more years to the administration that began in 1999 with Hugo Chávez Frías. The traffic on social networks, particularly on Twitter, was extremely intense, especially moments before the official announcement of the results.

From the side that supports the President, tweets express joy and satisfaction, while those who support Henrique Capriles share mixed feelings of disappointment with deep convictions that changes are possible in the future.

Venezuela: Chávez Era to Extend for Six More Years

Available in English and Spanish, with more languages to come.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Statement on Alan Jones: End the Culture of Hate

For those who missed Nic Lochner and Vinay Orekondy's excellent letter this week about their vision of civil political discourse. Their argument that 'the culture of hate is unsustainable' should be supported by us all:

Is Social Media Leading a Hyper-Revolution? want feedack about their video about the online activist revolution. It claims:

Today, a handful of users on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube can launch a movement that can topple a regime. Just look at Tunisia. Just look at Egypt. It can organize the frustration of middle class Americans from the impotent complaints of individuals into a spontaneous, passionate and primal force. A wave doesn’t demand concessions, but you have no choice but to acknowledge it when it crashes down on you. We are the 99 percent.

Please leave your comments and I'll pass them on.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shock Jock Attack on PM Gillard Fires Online Anger

From Global Voices:
Spontaneous anger erupted on Australian social media on Saturday night 29 September 2012. News broke that a Sunday Telegraph journalist had recorded a tasteless reference to Prime Minster Julia Gillard's father by controversial radio shock jock Alan Jones. This anger has been translated into action with Twitter and Facebook used to push for his sacking.
Australia: Shock Jock Attack on PM Gillard Fires Online Anger

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Global Voices: Social Media's Search for Missing Woman

From my roundup for Global Voices:

This week Melbourne has seen what is perhaps its biggest and its saddest social media campaign following the disappearance and alleged rape and murder of Jill Meagher.

...Most of the visitors to these [Facebook] pages were trying to be helpful but there were the inevitable trolls on Facebook sites and twitter.

Australia: Social Media’s Search for Missing Woman


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Poisoning Chilli Beach

From my post for ThinkBrigade:

The dire state of Chilli Beach, a remote beach on Australia’s Cape York, is shocking to many visitors: the flotsam and jetsam is impossible to miss.

Chilli Beach is one of the remotest places in Australia. Fringed with coconut palms and golden sands, it is situated at the end of a very long unsealed road, 700 km north of Cairns, the gateway to the iconic Great Barrier Reef.

...The first thing that hits you is the rubbish washed up on the shore: thongs (the footwear variety also known as flip-flops), household and personal items, fishing nets, countless containers. A closer inspection also reveals micro-particles in the seaweed on the beach.
Poisoning Paradise: Cape York’s Chilli Beach


Friday, August 3, 2012

Ron Merkel on the High Court & Human Rights

Ron Merkel, barrister and former Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

"Australia's 'horse and buggy' Constitution has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to political, social and economic change. Far from being a document that merely established a federal system of government in Australia it has been interpreted and applied by the High Court to protect fundamental human rights. ...Australia's constitutional framework has unexpectedly become highly protective of human rights against the exercise of arbitrary, capricious or unsupervised legislative or executive power."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Susan Ryan: 'Human Rights Never Age'

Susan Ryan, Australian Commonwealth Age Discrimination Commissioner, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

She gave an ' outline of the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth) and how it operates. She will discuss gaps in the ADA and other laws and policies which discriminate on the basis of age. Commissioner Ryan will outline opportunities to address these issues, including the federal government's consolidation of anti-discrimination laws and the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into barriers to work for older persons.'

Asylum Seekers: People Just Like Us

"I remain ready, willing and able to work with anyone who wants to promote the human rights of asylum seekers.

But I also remain ready, willing and able to work against those who don't."

Allan Asher, former Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

From the conference papers:

"This paper sets out the experiences of an Immigration Ombudsman who mistakenly believed that the government was genuine in its commitment to the compassionate and tolerant treatment of asylum seekers and to the honouring of our international treaty obligations.

Key issues include: conditions in detention centres, treatment of juvenile crew, management of suicide and self-harm, community detention, security assessments, poor administrative practice, and failure to support oversight."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange: 4 Corners Investigates

Finally caught up with the ABC Four Corners documentary Sex, Lies and Julian Assange (screened in Australia on 23 July 2012).

The online version is here.

As well as investigating the charges of rape and molestation against Assange the program:
...looks at claims the United States is working hard to unearth evidence that would lead to a charge of "conspiracy to commit espionage" being made against Assange - which in turn would be used in his extradition from Sweden. The program also documents the harassment experienced by Assange's supporters across the globe - including his Australian lawyer - and the FBI's attempts to convince some to give evidence against him.
46 minutes well spent. Good to see our national broadcaster presenting such quality journalism

Friday, July 27, 2012

'No Winners, No Losers: Just Truth, Justice and Mercy'

"I have a growing disquiet that asking, that expecting, the majority of Australians to vote YES in a referendum to include first peoples in the body of the Constitution and to removing the clause that allows discrimination based on race, in the next three to five years or so, will fail."
Dr. Kerry Arabena, Professor and Director of Research for the School for Indigenous health in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

The program notes for her presentation 'No Winners, No Losers: Just Truth, Justice and Mercy - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Constitutional Reform' included:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a history being framed by Australians as either competent or lacking competence; whether we need to be controlled or whether we can take responsibility; whether we are affected by the problems or we are the problem; or whether we are one of you and able to be included, or we are different and need to be excluded. In this presentation, Kerry Arabena explores national discourses relating to Constitutional reform and explores how language is being used to bring about a 'Yes' vote in the referendum. First she reviews the current discourses framing the First Peoples' responses to the Constitutional reform process. Second, she identifies a campaign based on a concept of preciousness by way of providing an alternative discourse than that which is currently popularised in some media. Finally, she explores what a discourse would need to achieve - what compelling narratives do we need to build a positive public response that allow us all to participate in nation building projects across Australia?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Responsibility to Protect after Libya and Syria

To find out which member of the Syrian regime makes Gareth Evans feel like puking you’ll have to watch the video.

The former Australian Foreign Minister and former CEO of the International Crisis Group, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

He spoke about the future of the United Nations initiative, the Responsibility to Protect, in the wake of events in Libya and Syria.

He argued that the Responsibility to Protect needs a real consensus at the United Nations Security Council such as the one that existed for Libya last year. The current crisis in Syria is a “low point of paralysis, even on adopting non-military measures’.
He examined why this consensus has fallen away. Syria is a very different geo-political situation from Libya, not just a breakdown of the Responsibility to Protect. It includes:
  • complex internal sectarian divisions;
  • potentially explosive external regional implications;
  • real anxiety about the democratic credentials of many of those in the opposition;
  • absence of Arab League unanimity in favour of tough action;
  • and a strong Syrian army.
He analysed why there is no consensus, even about sanctions. He argues that many blame how the NATO mandate was carried out in Libya. The BRICs countries believed that civil protection was manifestly exceeded. They accused the US, UK and France of not settling for anything less than regime change, by rejecting ceasefire offers, bombing retreating forces and civilian targets such as presidential palaces. Real debate was resisted in the Security Council and information withheld.
Gareth believes that although “the bruises need to heal, a way forward had opened up”. Brazil has argued that, “the R to P concept needs to be supplemented by a complementary set of principles and procedures, a Responsibility while Protecting”. This set of criteria would be backed up by enhanced monitoring and review processes. This would enable debate of such mandates by the Security Council.
The guidelines could include that:
  • the risk justify the force
  • use of force be primarily to halt the threat/harm
  • every non-military option has been explored
  • there is proportionality – the minimum force necessary to meet the threat
  • there is a balance of consequences –those threatened will be better off
Opposition to R to P continues, with a belief by some members of the Security Council that low-level action such as sanctions will inevitably lead to military action. “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.
Progress will be hard but, “the alternative is a return to the bad old days of Rwanda, Srebrenica and Kosovo”. Gareth believes that the Responsibility to Protect is here to stay and will evolve. It can be “effective in responding to a whole range of these horrible situations”.
During questions Evans expanded on the Syrian crisis and on Russia’s role there and in the world in general. “Putin’s instincts are wholly undemocratic, unsympathetic to human rights…” “…there are some things that the Russians are saying which have a skerrick of truth to them, namely that the Alawi and Christian and one or two other minorities are at risk…”.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tim Flannery: Global Warming and Human Rights

Professor Tim Flannery addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012. He spoke about global warming, climate change and their links to human rights issues.

Among the basic human rights, he included rights to: food and water; a nationality; protection from dangerous rates of change; life itself. He argued that each of these is affected by climate change. The greenhouse gases are the product of our economic success. We must uncoupled this link and there has been some progress over the last ten years in doing this.The most disadvantaged people are the most vulnerable and suffer the most from climate change.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Social Media and the Tunisian Revolution

Sami Ben Gharbia, outgoing editor of Global Voices Advocacy addresses the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

He speaks about the role of digital activism in the 2010 Tunisian revolution and the Arab spring. He shares some of the strategies used to expose government corruption and nepotism and to combat its censorship, both online and offline.

In addition he touches on the involvement of Wikileaks and Anonymous in assisting the campaign.

Professor Sarah Joseph, Director of Monash University's Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, chairs the question time that follows the presentation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lion Promenade - Pride of Masai Mara

'Shot' at Masai Mara National Park, Kenya on 26 June 2012.

Music: nebife by Oumou

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Seizing Kenya's Sporting Chance: Richard Wanjohi

Kenyan Richard Wanjohi speaks with GV author Kevin Rennie in Nairobi at the GV Citizen Media Summit 2012 in July about the challenges facing Kenya and Africa in general.

Richard speaks about political, social, and economic issues. He reflects on the role of blogging and the growing importance of citizen media in Africa.

He is a great sports lover and would like to be Global Voices sports editor.

Monday, July 9, 2012

When Change Comes - Kenyan Poet Njeri Wangari

Kenyan poet and blogger Njeri Wangari reads her poem 'When Change Comes' at the Global Voices Summit in July 2012 in Nairobi. Njeri also talks to GV author Kevin Rennie about the challenges facing Kenya and Africa today, including political, economic, educational and health issues.

She speaks about her role as a blogger and the growing significance of citizen media in Africa.

From her poem 'When Change Comes':

When villages grow into towns
Towns into cities
Shops into malls
Spaces into estates,
When streets turn into avenues
Avenues into highways, super highways
Subways and runways
Then things change.

Njeri blogs at Kenyan Poet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Melbourne’s Eco-city

Melbourne is supposed to be one of the world’s most liveable cities but it will have to work hard to make sure it has a truly sustainable future.

As Melbourne City councillors, the two main candidates in the Melbourne State parliament by-election on 21 July 2012 are key players in its program to be an Eco-city.

Please see my post for ThinkBrigade Melbourne’s Eco-city: Working for a Sustainable Future for more.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What Would Change Your Mind on Climate?

My latest roundup for Global Voices Online: Australia: What Would Change Your Mind on Climate?

The scenario is simple. A wily conservative ex-politician and a young climate activist visit their ‘experts’ around the globe together. It’s a futile and inevitably failed attempt to change each other’s mind.

...The ABC, as our national broadcaster, is supposed to help us to form our views by presenting competing ideas. Many feel that giving equal time to the small percentage of scientists and commentators who are climate sceptics, delayers or deniers provides unwarranted weight to their arguments not true balance.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You and me and everyone we know: Rio+20

Giedre Steikunaite, one of the ThinkBrigade team, is a finalist in the TckTckTck Rio Blogger prize.

Her post You and me and everyone we know is a must read for anyone interested in the Rio+20 Earth Summit, plus all those who should be:

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible – Stanisław Lec

Whoever still doubts that our planet is in crisis has their eyes wide shut. The avalanche that is approaching us at a seemingly unstoppable speed presents perhaps the most challenging confrontation of them all, the confrontation with oneself: how far am I ready to go to make future possible again? What am I willing to sacrifice? And just how honest are my replies?

We the snowflakes are rebels with a cause. Our mission is to atone the crimes we’ve committed against our planet – to right the wrongs and never repeat them again. The ways to do it are as diverse as life itself.

Please share with your friends and networks.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Road to Rio +20

The Earth Summit Rio +20, a United Nations conference on Sustainable Development & Green Economy, takes place in June 2012.

This video is an introduction that raises some of the issues.

It will be part of the ThinkBrigade online magazine that starts on Tuesday 10 April.

Thanks to Mark Manney's Remix Abscondo for the instrumental, and the UN photo library for some images. With a lick of irony the music is called 'I'll Die Smiling'

Friday, March 30, 2012

State of the Planet Declaration

Debategraph's dynamic map for the Planet Under Pressure

The State of the Planet Declaration from the Planet Under Pressure conference is now available online:

Society is taking substantial risks by delaying urgent and large-scale action. We must show leadership at all levels. We must all play our parts. A strong contribution from all stakeholders should make the UN’s Rio+20 conference a defining moment that sparks global innovation to move us towards a sustainable future. We urge the world to grasp this moment and make history.

...let’s be honest. While some progress has been made in addressing global environmental issues, poverty alleviation and food, water, energy and human security, the scale of actions has not been commensurate with the scale of the problems. The issues to be debated at Rio+20 are the same as those identified 20 years ago, but it is now even more urgent to address them.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Connecting the Dots: Climate Change & Extreme Weather

Climate campaigners are organising events for 5 May 2012.

Across the planet now we see ever more flood, ever more drought, ever more storms. People are dying, communities are being wrecked — the impacts we’re already witnessing from climate change are unlike anything we have seen before.

But because the globe is so big, it’s hard for most people to see that it’s all connected. That’s why, on May 5, we will Connect the Dots.

If you're wondering why we should bother, a careful reading of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) latest report MANAGING THE RISKS OF EXTREME EVENTS AND DISASTERS TO ADVANCE CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION might fuel your interest:

Extreme weather and climate events, interacting with exposed and vulnerable human and natural systems, can lead to disasters. This Special Report explores the social as well as physical dimensions of weather- and climate-related disasters, considering opportunities for managing risks at local to international scales.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Clive Palmer's Perfect CIA Storm

My latest roundup for Global Voices Online:
In a “bizarre” outburst mining magnate Clive Palmer joined the ranks of the CIA conspiracy theorists this week during the Queensland State election campaign. Australian bloggers have revelled in his accusations that the CIA funds Green candidates and organisations such as Greenpeace.

...As they say: One person's conspiracy is another person's reality.
Australia: Mining Magnate's Bizarre Claim of CIA Coal Conspiracy

A friend on Google+ asked: "Are you sure you didn't make all that up :-)"

My reply:

As the cliché goes, you couldn't make up this stuff. Clive Palmer is a perfect storm: a greedy mining magnate, a climate denier, a Tory and a loose cannon. Gina Rinehart, who is referenced in the cartoon, also fits this description but she is also buying into TV and newspapers - presumably with a view to promoting her 'interests'. Andrew Forrest is the third leg of this axis of greed. Their common bond: digging stuff and selling it to the Chinese.

I forgot: And regime change, of course.


Monday, March 19, 2012

World Water Day Video: The World Is Thirsty Because We Are Hungry

From the UN Water The World Is Thirsty Because We Are Hungry, in English with Arabic subtitles:

World Water Day 22 March 2012 official video, focusing on the theme of the campaign "Water and Food Security".

Produced by and featuring a soundtrack by DDG Project.
Download your animation on:

What are you doing for World Water Day?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Green Economy Starts in Our Own Backyards

We’re not talking about veggie gardens. It’s the big picture stuff that will be debated at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. This 'doughnut' demonstrates the complexity and difficulty of the task facing negotiators:

Planetary and social boundaries: a safe and just space for humanity (Source: Oxfam)
In Australia’s case, it’s our own backwaters. Our national government and negotiators are currently setting priorities for the United Nations conference on sustainable development in June 2012.

One of its highest priorities is a Blue Economy:
“Blue economy” initiatives should promote the development of marine
industries which sustainably derive ecological, economic and social benefits from
marine ecosystems.
Reconciling green with growth has taken on new colours down under: blue waters versus black coal; a clean future versus fossil fuels. How do we nurture our oceans while exploiting our coal reserves?

A report on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) 7.30 program on 6 March explored some of the issues in Does resources boom affect Great Barrier Reef?:
The Great Barrier Reef is facing death by 1,000 cuts, from mining and overdevelopment - at least that's one of the messages being sent loud and clear to a United Nations inspection team here to assess whether the reef should be classified as a World Heritage Site in Danger.
The full video report is available online with the transcript.

“Bulk commodity shipping” is the major threat as “mega mines” are opened, ports expanded, new facilities developed and total coal exports increase dramatically. Critics argue that a major ecological disaster has been averted so far through good luck rather than good management.

Against the backdrop of concerns about the impact on global warming, the “war against coal” is intensifying:
ANTI-COAL groups led by Greenpeace are calling for the biggest environmental campaign in Australian history in a bid to disrupt and delay the expansion of the industry.
The Australian government’s other priorities for the Earth Summit are ambitious:
  • Food Security;
  • Water Use Efficiency: growing more food with less water
  • Biodiversity Conservation;
  • Desertification;
  • Sustainable Energy;
  • Sustainable Mining Practices;
  • Innovation, Research and Collaboration; and
  • Climate Change.
One of the proposed outcomes for Sustainable Mining Practices is ‘ensuring mining is conducted under sound environmental management and contributes to opportunities. for economic and social development’.

As well as the future of the Great Barrier Reef, Coal Seam Gas has become another explosive issue. Farmers are challenging the rapid spread of this fossil fuel industry. In this case it’s their back paddocks where you’ll find the action. Concerns include the possible degradation of groundwater and other effects associated with extraction processes such as fracking.

Anxious Harvest (Image: ABC Landline)
The impact of visual pollution on eco-tourism in areas such as the vineyards of the Hunter Valley is also bringing protests. Apart from economic benefits, the resultant natural gas produces less greenhouse and toxic gases. There is a useful summary in CSG: what is it, where does it come from, and why is it so controversial? and further research and discussion at FAQ.

The Oz government also has “cross-cutting priorities’:
  • Finance for Sustainable Development;
  • Measuring Sustainability and Environmental Accounting;
  • Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Market Mechanisms and Price Signals;
  • Empowering Women to achieve Sustainable Development;
  • Education and Training: Empowering Youth;
  • Communications and Information Technology.
Let’s hope that the summit can actually work out where the money’s coming from. Experiences with the Green Fund do not inspire optimism.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a possible replacement for the UN Millennium Development Goals after 2015. If you’re not up with living within the ‘doughnut’, this Oxfam video might help:

Governments need to come to Rio+20 with clear consciences and concrete plans for action. We must make sure they are taking care of their own patch of this planet. As I wrote in an earlier post:
Rio+20 needs to be more than a dream. It must come up with more than a platform to negotiate an agreement. It must deliver more that the bare bones ‘institutional framework’. The summit can be a game changer, an earth mover. It’s over to you!
So what’s your government up to? Find out and join those in your country and around the world who are striving to ensure that Rio+20 doesn’t become another Copenhagen. You can also become involved through the Rio Blogger Prize