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Civil Unrest...and how Web 2.0 can help Democracy

Posted by: Dissol

Tagged in: Yemen , Web 2.0 , Twitter , Tunisia , pakistan , Libya , Egypt , Civil Unrest , Bahrain



It started with Tunisia, where long term president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted, in January, after pro-democracy demonstrations.  It spread to Egypt, where Mubarak was forced to step down.  Now similar demonstrations are happening in Libya, Kuwait, Bahrain, the Yemen, Pakistan, even the same is happening in the Basque regions of Spain…  There are many other countries on the verge of unrest.  Uganda is presently counting the votes to see if President Yoweri Museveni will continue his 25 year reign.


Power to the People?


Certainly many of these leaders have ruled with an iron fist for many years, without any chance of elections.  There are also many different dictatorships, theocracies, and unjust governments around the world.  I wonder if the same will spread there...I doubt it, as civil unrest in places like Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea or Iran are usually dealt with severely.  But I would have said the same about Libya until recently…  Although there are reports of over 100 killed in the latest demonstrations.


I do think that the Internet & Web 2.0 has been a vital part of not only the actual start of the unrest, as people can begin to realise that living under an oppressive regime is not normal for most people in the world.  Further, mobile phones, satelite phones, with cameras, mobile internet connections means that (almost) anyone can send information, in the form of text, photos, or video from (almost) anywhere.  Previously, any oppressive regime censors the media, and only allows foreign media in under tight controls.  Certainly, as soon as there is the whiff of a problem then the first thing they do is to clamp down on the media.  Web 2.0 lessens the impact of this.  Data gets out (and in).  Certainly people have to be careful.  I have friends who live in oppressive regimes around the world, and they have to be very careful with not only what they put on the internet, but also what sites they visit.


Wikileaks, and the like has demonstrated how no regime can keep anything, when it comes to foreign policy, particularly secret for too long.


Organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, amongst others have always been able to garner information.  But previously it was after the fact.  Too late for people to take action.  The oppressive regime had time to sweep it all under the carpet, and put it down to the over-zealous application of the law by officers on the ground.  But now the information is available real time.  Demands from the international community can be made immediately.  There is no hiding anymore.


While I am pleased that these oppressive regimes are being forced out.  I am always concerned with the vacuum that is created after they fall.  In Egypt, there has been an increase of fanatical groups who are trying to fill the vacuum.  They see this as an opportunity to replace one regime with another.  The world needs to guard against that...we need to keep using Web 2.0 to ensure that one oppresive regime is not just replaced by another.  We need to help others who are fighting for basic human rights, like the freedom of expression.  Web 2.0 can play a vital role in this.  But we should also be aware of any potential attacks on our own freedom of expression at the same time.  Some of the new laws being put forward by the ANC will do just that.  The ANC historically fought for freedom...Animal Farm by George Orwell should be compulsory reading by any South African politician...

But anything that topples that madman, Gaddafi, & his various henchmen has to be applauded.  He is an dreadful individual, but has become one of the longest reigning leaders in the world.  Some of the titles that he has given himself, would be laughable...just you would be killed in Libya if you did laugh at them....  I mean his main title is "Brotherly Leader, and Guide of the Revolution"  Thug is more appropriate.

Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Dissol, February 21, 2011
Add Sudan, and unfortunately Jordan too... (I do have experience of Jordan, and I say unfortunately as I do believe the system there is trying to make changes to a more free and fair system).
written by barrmar, February 25, 2011
Unfortunately, I am drawn to Iran where a popular uprising of the people (long before the web and cell phones) managed to topple the Shah. Unfortunately, I don't believe that the Ayatollah has been any better for the country or the people. If anything, it is worse.
Is it just a question of upsetting the apple cart - replacing one tyrant with another - or will these countries manage to obtain genuine freedom and democracy?
In the meantime it seems that Gaddafi is willing to go to all lengths to suppress opposition. He has already been responsible for machine gunning hundreds of demonstrators and executing soldiers that refused to fire on demonstrators. These are the lengths that this champion of human rights (he was elected as president of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2003) is willing to take against his own people.
The strange thing is that until now we have hardly heard a whisper about human rights abuses and suppression of the populations in these dictatorships, just about alleged Israeli abuses.
written by Dissol, February 25, 2011
Barrmar, I could not agree more. I am very nervous that the vacuum(s) could be filled by horrific, brutal theocracies (Iran being an excellent example - which is, without doubt, many times worse now than it ever was under the Shah). And the Muslim theocracies have made a mockery of the UN Human Rights Committee for several years. I think there have been many times that Israel has deserved heavy criticism many times. But the level of criticism coming from that skewed committee in the UN, without a single reference to the higher level of Human Rights abuses on the other side of the fence (by the countries or friends of the countries that have stacked the UN committee) has made any decree coming from there ridiculous. As a suggestion, countries that have been censored for their own human rights abuses are barred from serving on that committee. Presently, the work is ignored from there, & the real world relies on organizations like Human Rights Watch.

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