Activists calling for political reforms in the United Arab Emirates. An American web user wins her online battle with the governor of Kansas. And teen idol Miley Cyrus voices her support of the Occupy movement in an online video clip.
UAE: freed activists call for political reforms
They have only just been released but these five activists have already reiterated their commitment to campaign for political reforms in the United Arab Emirates. The activists received presidential pardons on Monday, just a day after they were convicted and sentenced to jail terms for insulting the UAE’s leadership.
They had all signed this online petition back in March, demanding free elections in the country, where political parties are banned.
Nasser bin Gaith, is one of the group web users have dubbed the « UAE 5 », here he is with his lawyer shortly after his release. The economics professor who lectured at Paris’ Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi had criticized the emirates public spending policy, saying social spending had been raised in a bid to prevent the eruption of popular unrest.
Ahmed Mansoor is a prominent blogger in the UAE, and also the founder of « UAE Hewar », a very popular discussion forum for debating subjects like human rights, the independence of the judicial system and racial discrimination. The site was blocked in February, and a court order was issued recently to close it down.
The United Arab Emirates has been relatively spared from the wave of uprisings across the Maghreb and the Middle East. The authorities had in fact reinforced surveillance of the web and social media platforms, for fear the protest movement would spread to the UAE. This Facebook group urging citizens to take part in a demonstration back on the 25th of March was blocked, and no longer has any members.
Emma Sullivan versus Kansas Governor
It’s almost like an online version of the story of David and Goliath. On the 21st November, high school senior Emma Sullivan, posted this message on her Twitter account which had just 65 followers. She tweeted that she had insulted Kansas governor, Sam Brownback, in person, as he delivered a speech at her school. This could have been the last of it, but when Brownback got wind of the famous tweet, he decided to take matters further.
The Kansas governor contacted Emma Sullivan’s school and the Principle told her she had to write an apology. The 18 year old refused and posted another tweet explaining she was exercising her right to freedom of expression.
It was a bold reaction bearing in mind she was dealing with a politician, and she has won the support of many American web users. In just a few days her number of Twitter followers has swelled from 65 to over 14 500, which is more than Brownback has. And social networks have been awash with messages of support for Emma Sullivan, some wonder why the governor did not have better things to do than hounding a high school student online.
And so faced with this mass mobilization of support for the student, Sam Brownback decided to back track: he justified his actions in a message posted on his Facebook page, explaining his staff had overreacted. He also emphasized his support for freedom of speech, and even apologized to Emma Sullivan.
Thailand: creativity during floods
Improvised boats made out of plastic tubs, life jackets for pets put together using bottles, and cars wrapped up in giant bags… this blog displays all the interesting flood devices created by people in Thailand. Although water levels have started to subside in some areas, many residents are still facing the floods. The flood disaster in Thailand began at the end of July, hundreds of people have lost their lives and millions of others have been affected.
Now trending on social networks
British web users have responded en masse to a Twitter poll conducted by Sky News, and affirmed they are « right to strike ». The television broadcaster asked web users if they supported Wednesday’s historic strike action by public sector workers and the vast majority replied “yes”. Strikers say they want to protect their spending power, and do not see why the public sector should have to pay for the recession.
Video of the day
Star of television show Hannah Montana and American teen idol Miley Cyrus has posted a video online which features footage of the numerous « Occupy » protests that have taken place across the world over the past few months. One of her hits provides the background music for the clip which she has dedicated to all those who are standing up for what they believe in. It remains to be seen whether or not the singer truly supports the movement or if she is just using the global protest movement to win new fans…