Viral Occupation

Cameras and Networked Human Rights in the West Bank

by?Rebecca L. Stein | published?March 20, 2013
When I film, I feel like the camera protects me. But it?s an illusion.
?Emad Burnat, West Bank Palestinian and co-director,?5 Broken Cameras
A commander or an officer sees a camera and becomes a diplomat, calculating every rubber bullet, every step. It?s intolerable; we?re left utterly exposed. The cameras are our kryptonite.
?Israeli soldier, infantry brigade
To some degree, the conflict in Judea and Samaria has become a camera war.
?West Bank settler
When Israeli security forces arrived in the middle of the night at the Tamimi house in Nabi Salih, the occupied West Bank, the family was already in bed. The raid was not unexpected, as news had traveled around the village on that day in January 2011: Soldiers were coming to houses at night, demanding that young children be roused from sleep to be photographed for military records (to assist, they said, in the identification of stone throwers). Bilal Tamimi, Nabi Salih?s most experienced videographer, had his own camcorder at the ready by his bedside table when he was awoken by the knock on the door. His?sometimes shaky footage, drowsiness and concern for his children making his hand unsteady, subsequently ran on Israel?s evening news programs, the video provided by the Israeli human rights organization B?Tselem as part of its effort to document army abuses in the Occupied Territories. The footage told two stories, testifying to the increasing use of photography both by the army as a means of counterinsurgency and by Palestinians under occupation for evidence and self-protection. In the West Bank today, cameras are ubiquitous, as is the usage of social media as a means of online witnessing. Both are deemed nothing less than political necessities, the?sine qua non?of political claims in the networked court of public opinion.
Cameras have long played a central role in the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories — their importance dramatized in?5 Broken Cameras, the joint Palestinian-Israeli production nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary. Today, one finds cameras of various kinds and degrees of technological sophistication in the hands of the Israeli army, whose film unit dates to the occupation?s early years; Palestinian residents; activists and NGOs operating in the territories; Israeli human rights groups and anti-occupation activists; and organized bands of Israeli settlers (enabled by a rabbinical ruling that authorized filming on Shabbat).?[1]?Cameras, of course, are also embedded in the surveillance infrastructure of the military occupation itself, mounted on drones, checkpoints and the separation barrier. As the above list suggests, cameras serve many competing political agendas, employed by the military for both official security measures and personal displays of militarized bravado (as evidenced by the February?viral Instagram scandal, when a soldier posted aestheticized photos of a Palestinian boy in a rifle?s crosshairs), and by Palestinians under occupation and their anti-occupation allies as a means of deterrence and protest.
As in other political theaters, most players in the Israeli-Palestinian media field shoot video, chiefly with camera phones, and disseminate the footage via social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Video is deemed not merely a political advantage within this theater but a requirement — despite the debates about video veracity that almost always ensue, often fueled by charges of technical manipulation or politically motivated editing.?[2]?The technological playing field is highly uneven. Israel boasts some of the world?s highest rates of Internet penetration and social media savvy, while Palestinians are constrained by the regulation of their telecommunications infrastructure, over which Israel exercises considerable control by the terms of the Oslo accords.
B?Tselem launched its camera project in 2007 in the West Bank city of Hebron, site of some of the fiercest confrontations between Palestinian residents and militant settlers. Unexpectedly, the Hebron footage went viral. Since that initial success, the organization has distributed hundreds of video cameras to Palestinians living in high-conflict areas of the Occupied Territories, enabling them to record firsthand their frequent abuse at the hands of Israeli security forces and neighboring settler populations.
Today, the proliferation of camera equipment in activist theaters across the globe usually yields a tale of ?liberation technology? — a variant of the digital democracy narrative echoed so frequently in the first months of the Arab revolts, positing new media technologies as naturally suited to progressive grassroots activism. The case of Israel-Palestine, with cameras on all sides of the occupation?s political divides, tells a more complicated story, suggesting the highly variable political functions and futures that new technologies can serve.

?Document Everything?

The village of Nabi Salih in the occupied West Bank is a focal point of Palestinian protest against the Israeli separation barrier. Since 2009, the village has held a weekly non-violent demonstration that, on any given Friday, draws residents from across Palestine, as well as tens of Israeli and international solidarity activists. International journalists also number heavily at these demonstrations, their presence sometimes outmatching that of the foreign activists. Given the political import and visibility of this weekly demonstration, and the global media coverage that can result, the Israeli security forces have endeavored to stop it and violent dispersals with tear gas, pepper spray and beatings are common, as are raids on households suspected of participation.?[3]
Bilal Tamimi, 46, affiliated with B?Tselem in 2010. At the time, he was the only active cameraman in Nabi Salih, as few residents had camera phones or Internet access. He began filming in clandestine fashion, perhaps shielded by a porch or awning, in an effort to avoid detection. Soon, political necessity dictated a retreat from the shadows, and Bilal began filming demonstrations and arrests from the ground, in full view of the military. Thereafter, Bilal?s camera was always at the ready, sitting next to his bed, in accordance with his personal pledge to ?document everything? pertaining to the village?s struggle with the security forces.
The technological landscape has changed dramatically since 2010 — an interval which produced a marked shift in technological literacy and penetration within the village. B?Tselem now has three camera volunteers working in the village, each with his or her own camcorder, equipped with a memory stick to speed the transfer of files. Thanks to camera phones and donations from an independent NGO, nearly every Nabi Salih household now has photographic capabilities and most have their own Internet connection (many sharing routers with neighbors to lower cost), enabling social media circulation. Having taught himself to edit video, Bilal also self-publishes on a?dedicated YouTube account?(only one of those active in the village, where social media savvy is high), documenting several years of local demonstrations.?[4]?Because Bilal is one of the most experienced volunteers working in the West Bank, the formal and arguably aesthetic dimensions of his footage are something of a B?Tselem exception. For unlike his footage, most of the video shot by volunteers adheres to the now conventional norms of amateur video production amid acute political crisis, with shaking lens and subjects that move in and out of the frame — aesthetics that are the byproduct of both videographer inexperience and a context of danger and fear.
Sitting with Bilal in his shared office at the Palestinian Ministry of Education in Ramallah, where he works as a graphic designer, we screen some of his most influential videos. Footage of the weekly demonstrations predominates, including the beating of Israeli and international activists by Israeli security forces. Among the most widely viewed by the Israeli public was that of the raid described above that began at Bilal?s own home. It is?a disarming portrayal?of the violent intimacy that such raids occasion, in the confrontation between armed soldiers and a terrified family jolted from sleep, all within the walls of the private family home. ?Here, you see my hand is shaking,? Bilal says, ?because it was the first night raid on my house.? Still in his bedclothes, Bilal and his camcorder accompanied the soldiers as they continued their evening patrol, knocking on the doors of neighboring households to wake startled residents and photograph their children. The footage betrays the complexity of Bilal?s relationship to the scene; the looks exchanged between him and his neighbors suggest that his presence as videographer is both welcomed and expected, his camcorder providing a modicum of security in this highly insecure situation. It is a battle of lenses: the camera as humanitarian witness pitted against the camera as state tool of counterinsurgency. The military spokesman, called upon to respond to the footage following its airing in the Israeli media, defended the camera practices and nighttime raid as a security necessity.

B?Tselem?s Camera Project

In the summer of 2012, some 150 B?Tselem camera volunteers were operating in the occupied West Bank. It is a volunteer population organized by region and overseen by local fieldworkers, themselves Palestinian residents of the area. Cameras are deemed most necessary in sites of heightened conflict, typically, in households living on the edge of town and adjacent to aggressive Jewish settler populations. Settler attacks constitute the majority of footage filmed by volunteers, rivaled only by demonstrations. Each volunteer and/or household is provided with a digital camera (a step up from the videocassettes used in the past, which made transmission of footage cumbersome) and given rudimentary training in camera techniques: how to hold the camera, how to record and shoot, how to use the zoom. To prepare participants for the challenges of filming an episode of conflict, the day-long workshop engages them in a simulated soccer game, with volunteers asked to follow the ball and players with their lens. The game approximates the rapid, unpredictable movement characteristic of a scene of violent confrontation. Interestingly, fieldworkers report that local Palestinian suspicion of B?Tselem, on the grounds of its Israeli identity, is unusual; on the contrary, there are many more West Bank requests for cameras than the organization can accommodate. Despite the ubiquity of citizen journalism in Palestine, Palestine?s robust NGO sector lacks an equivalent initiative on this scale. And arguably, a Palestinian analogue would struggle for a hearing among the Israeli and international public that B?Tselem targets.
Typically, B?Tselem works with a single volunteer within a household — usually the male head of house (with that designation made by the family itself). Yet in practice, cameras often circulate within the broader family unit, shared by several members. Young women are often initiated into the role of filmmaker in this circuitous manner, their role dictated by necessity. When men leave the house to confront approaching settlers, as occurs in many households, women are left to pick up the camera, and often without formal training. Thus it is that many powerful and subsequently viral videos of settler attacks have been shot by women — sometimes the daughters, sometimes the wives of the designated volunteers.?[5]
The footage produced by the volunteers is highly varied in content, vantage and filmic quality. Such variations correlate with the geographic location of the filmmaker or household and with the skills and personality of the cameraperson. Some volunteers are relatively experienced behind the camera (Bilal being among the most veteran). He is known to, and now often tolerated by, the security forces, enabling him to capture scenes of routine army violence without the need for covert filming tactics. More typically, when settler violence erupts suddenly, volunteers shoot from roofs and behind windows, the resultant footage marked by sudden movements and partially obscured by window grates and bars. Like Bilal, most volunteers keep their cameras charged and at the ready.
The B?Tselem project is driven by the need to produce visible evidence of human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories. But the local security rationale is equally crucial. Volunteers attest to the powerful protective function of their cameras, many describing a gradual decline in settler incursions since the cameras? arrival and the lighter hand of Israeli security forces when cameras are raised. This development has been slow and uneven. Initially, the security forces demanded that volunteers stop filming, despite army regulations permitting cameras in the field, and attempts to confiscate cameras, videocassettes and memory cards were frequent. More recently, volunteers report greater army toleration of the lens (a shift which the army, when queried by me, has been reluctant to discuss). For their part, settlers are not deterred; rather, they have responded with their own camera initiatives. Settler attacks documented by B?Tselem volunteers show that these assailants are now armed with two kinds of weapons: clubs, rocks and/or guns — and cameras of their own.?[6]
Circulation of volunteer footage within Israeli media networks is laborious and its outcome uncertain. In addition to self-publishing on the organization?s website and YouTube page, B?Tselem sends several videos per week to Israeli evening news programs — those videos deemed visually powerful and clear proof of human rights breaches. Despite the Israeli public?s growing intolerance for human rights work in the territories, several clips get a nationwide screening every month, sometimes to viral effect. Indeed, so prevalent are these amateur videos that they have achieved a kind of brand status. ?When they see the West Bank and the shaking camera,? says the project?s Israeli coordinator, ?they know it?s B?Tselem.? Some videos also serve a legal function, providing the evidentiary basis for complaints filed by the organization with the Israeli government.
The ease with which such clips circulate via social networking obscures the complex routes that the video material must travel before arriving at the B?Tselem central offices in West Jerusalem. Much of this material must be delivered by hand — for reasons related to the underdeveloped Palestinian telecommunications economy, itself a byproduct of the military occupation. And delivery is highly contingent. Will the fieldworker?s car break down on the West Bank?s unpaved roads? Will soldiers at the checkpoint permit the cassette transfer — or will cameras and video be confiscated, or even destroyed, to prevent incrimination? Or, in the rare case where electronic file transfer is possible, will power outages prevent the FTP server from functioning? Coupled with the intolerance for human rights claims, these physical obstacles mean that the visibility of the B?Tselem footage is never guaranteed.

Viral Violence

In the southern Hebron hills, in the West Bank, confrontations between Palestinians and militant settlers are frequent and heated. The settlers are engaged in what human rights organizations call ?land grabs,? efforts to expand territorial holdings into neighboring Palestinian lands, often by violent means, and justified by biblical claims to Jewish ownership. The raids often damage Palestinian orchards and livestock, and Palestinians have often been hurt. On June 8, 2008, several Palestinian shepherds were tending their flocks in the village of Susiya when Jewish settlers arrived from a neighboring settlement and demanded the shepherds? departure. The Palestinians refused and the settlers departed, returning minutes later in larger numbers, their faces masked, and their hands wielding clubs. A shepherd?s young wife captured the scene on film, her camera provided by the B?Tselem project.
The?short video she produced, just over a minute in length, is vivid in its detail. Her camera faces the oncoming settlers as they walk, with a slow, confident gait, toward their target. Their heads are draped with colored fabric, with only their eyes visible. One is bare-chested and all carry clubs and large sticks, and as the camera shifts position to capture their approach, the neighboring settlement, with its signature red roofs, comes slowly into view at their backs. An elderly Palestinian man and woman are fleetingly seen in the foreground, dressed traditionally with arms at their sides and rocks in hands. Only partially captured by the camera?s viewfinder, the man turns suddenly from his impending attackers, standing his ground in defiance, averting his eyes. The settlers approach and meet him, and the shepherd speaks, his words drowned out by a heavy wind. Then the beating begins.
With its sudden movements, its subjects only partially captured by the viewfinder, this video partakes in a well-established B?Tselem genre — that of footage imprinted by the somatic terror of its producer, shot with a shaking hand and overlaid with quickened breath, or the audible footsteps of flight, or the startled cry of the unexpected eyewitness. Footage of this kind is often filmed in hiding, shot through windows and sometimes behind grates, all visible in the image. And as in the Susiya material, the image of heightened confrontation is often foreclosed, interrupted by a fallen camera, dropped in fright at the moment of attack. Such cuts in the video narrative, a standard feature of amateur production in conditions of abject terror, create numerous challenges when such footage is used in the legal arena.?[7]
This footage went viral in Israel in the summer of 2008. It was screened repeatedly on the evening news, and became the subject of numerous media commentaries and radio call-in shows. Stills of the advancing perpetrators appeared on the front pages of Israeli newspapers. ?It was the first time that Israelis saw masked Jews,? B?Tselem staff noted (since that time, settler masking has become common). These images conjured up others — first and foremost, the iconic?kaffiyya-swathed Palestinian activist, a visual staple of first Palestinian uprising in 1987-1991. Indeed, in those days, masking practices often incurred live fire from Israeli soldiers. But another set of stock scenes was also conjured in the process, as noted by many staff at B?Tselem: ?It was just like a scene from the Wild West,? like something pulled straight from a Hollywood script.

The Challenge of Being Seen

The Israeli political climate creates numerous difficulties for the B?Tselem camera project, particularly since Israeli the public is now the organization?s primary audience. Today, the separation barrier has rendered the military occupation, and Palestinians living under occupation, nearly invisible to most Israeli Jews. In tandem, the Palestinian aspiration to a territorially contiguous, sovereign state has been all but ignored by the Netanyahu government, as settler politics continue to encroach on the ideology of the center-left. At the same time, the very notion of human rights has been framed by the Israeli state as an existential threat to national security — a framing campaign that has been remarkably successful among many strata of Israeli society. In this political climate, the B?Tselem project confronts a nearly impossible question: What are the conditions under which Israeli human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories, and the Palestinian victims thereof, might be made visible to Israeli Jews? This is a challenge that B?Tselem confronts nearly every day, with varying degrees of success where the video project is concerned. Indeed, the organization?s occasional viral success within Israeli media networks may not reflect an Israeli appetite for eyewitness footage from the Occupied Territories. At times, the viral video in question may have a cinematic appeal (as was the case with the Susiya footage) that makes the political message more palatable, if not altogether invisible. And while social media helps with circulation, the insertion of these clips into a prolific body of global networked images can dull the human rights message. When assimilated into the YouTube platform and algorithm, B?Tselem footage can register as just another scene of amateur spectacle.
There are hundreds of videos uploaded to the B?Tselem website. But there are thousands more in the video archives in West Jerusalem, clips considered unworthy of media attention or self-publication, including footage of political demonstrations, settler incursions and abuses by security forces. The rationales for relegation to the archive are several: Perhaps the images are unclear, perhaps the assailant is beyond camera range or the offense too poorly lit. Or perhaps the depicted violence is simply deemed too mundane for an Israeli viewing public saturated with images of conflict and now weary of them. This archive, which is frequently mined by documentarians and scholars, is a rich visual compendium of daily Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank, those that were not spectacular enough for the national airwaves. Indeed, as one of the video project?s Israeli curators proposes, this portrait of the everyday occupation may be the video project?s most powerful contribution.
Author?s Note:?Many thanks to my colleagues at B?Tselem for their generous collaboration with this research project. This project was made possible with the assistance of the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
Editor’s Note:?Hide in crowd? think again?http://ow.ly/pjmQU[email protected]2100MP! Fixing on drones 2! dble-clk a few times (or ‘spread’ on device)?#surveillance

Endnotes

[1]?Joshua Briner, ?Not Just B?tselem: Settlers Will Document Clashes with Palestinians,?Walla, September 22, 2011. [Hebrew] Also see Scott Krane, ?Separating the Settler Movement from the ?Price-Taggers,???Times of Israel, May 28, 2012.
[2]?Adi Kuntsman and Rebecca L. Stein, ?Digital Suspicion, Politics and the Middle East,?Critical Inquiry?(2011).
[3]?B?tselem,?Show of Force: Israeli Military Conduct in Weekly Demonstrations(Jerusalem, 2011).
[4]?The village?s most visible English-language social media presence is the blog calledNabi Saleh Solidarity, linked to a Facebook page. Bilal?s wife, Manal, tweets about the village?s political struggles at @screamingtamimi.
[5]?This footage of a?2007 shooting in Ni?lin, which went viral in Israel, was shot by the daughter of a B?tselem volunteer. So, too, the wife of a B?tselem volunteer shot this footage of a?May 2012 attack?on the village of ?Asira al-Qibliyya by settlers from Yitzhar.
[6]?For one example, see the B?tselem?footage?of the May 2012 settler attack at the 3:30 mark.
[7]?See Kuntsman and Stein, op cit.

Meta-narrative: Fred Ritchin on the future of photojournalism

By Fred Ritchin in British Journal of Photography

balazs-gardi-bending-the-frame
Photographer Balazs Gardi co-created the experimental media project Basetrack, which documents the deployment of the 1st Battalion, Eighth Marines, at Combat Outpost 7171 in Helmand, Afghanistan. Image ? Balazs Gardi / Basetrack.org
Ensuring the future of photojournalism rests in more complex narrative formats, believes Fred Ritchin, who spoke with Laurence Butet-Roch ahead of the release of his new essay, Bending the Frame Continue reading “Meta-narrative: Fred Ritchin on the future of photojournalism”

Changing audience behaviour and changing media response

Workshop by David Brewer

Photo david_brewer_march_2011

How technology has empowered the consumers to be the producers and what?that means for traditional mainstream media.

Venue: Broadcast & Multimedia Department, Pathshala
Address: TK Bhaban (12th floor), Kawran Bazar, Dhaka
Date: Saturday, 16 February (1:30pm to 3:00pm)
About David Brewer:
David Brewer was launch managing editor of BBC News Online and of CNN.com?International EMEA and CNN Arabic as well as the launch consultant for Al Jazeera English. Brewer started his professional life as a journalist working in print, radio, TV and online.
Brewer focuses on the workflows and content offerings, in particular creating converged/integrated newsrooms and workflows delivering multiplatform content to whatever devices the target audience turns to in order to consume news and information.
For registration call: +8801818333315 or mail to: [email protected]
Registration fee: BDT 200 (free for Pathshala students)
Seats are limited

Media Leaders and Drik discuss potential of New Media

Rural Visual Journalism Network launched in Bangladesh

Dhaka, 26 November, 2012: Drik held an interactive global dialogue today, with media leaders looking at the potential of New Media and the creation of content to suit the evolving market place.  Saiful Islam, CEO Drik in his welcome address stressed the importance of moving into the global market place with products using new media, citing the twitter book as an example of new forms of publishing.

Continue reading “Media Leaders and Drik discuss potential of New Media”

Media literacy debate at Global Media Forum


While the following text is in German, the interview is in English.
Bangladesh: ?Vor allem unsere Politiker brauchen Bildung?
Shahidul Alam
F?r Shahidul Alam, Fotograf und Aktivist aus Bangladesh, ist Bildung viel mehr als Lesen und Schreiben. Im DW-Interview spricht er ?ber die Notwendigkeit eines weiter gefassten Bildungsbegriffs und der Abkehr von westlichen Denkmustern.
Shahidul Alam ist Gr?nder des Fotografischen Instituts Bangladesh ?Patshala? und Juror der diesj?hrigen Deutsche Welle Blogs Awards The BOBs. Er bedauert die Einschr?nkung, die der Bildungsbegriff durch die englische Kolonisierung seiner Heimat erfahren hat. Die heutige Schulbildung in Bangladesh setze eher auf mechanisches Wissen, sagt Alam. Dies sei aber nicht ausreichend: ?Bildung darf nicht nur auf Alphabetisierung zielen, sie muss auch Werte vermitteln?. Mit seiner Bildagentur Drik will er der westlichen Repr?sentation seines Landes eigene Sichtweisen entgegensetzen. H?ren Sie das englischsprachige Interview unserer Mitarbeiterin Debarati Guha:

Tales from rural Bangladesh


Bhuter beel (wetland) is situated at Terkhada upazilla in Khulna district. Only five years ago, it was a vast land for cultivation of different types of crops in the dry season. But now there is no cultivation due to water logging. Fishing and collecting waterlily have become the main sources of income for the people in this area. Torikul Isalm (25) used to cultivate crops five years ago in this area, now he lives on fishing. Some people have got involved in bird hunting, as they failed to find suitable alternative jobs. Thousands of people in this water-logged area have become unemployed as no initiative was taken by the government to address the problem. Local people are demanding immediate steps by the authorities to resolve the long-drawn issue of water logging. This story by Shaikh Mohir Uddin/DrikNEWS, is based on the feedback of the affected people, Khulna, December 2011.

The Rural Visual Journalism programme is an innovative multimedia project between Drik and Pathshala in Bangladesh and the World Press Photo Foundation in the Netherlands.
 
 

Bangladeshi blogger Abu Sufian wins ?Reporters Without Borders? Category Award in Best of Blogs contest

Bangladeshi and Tibetan bloggers win ?Reporters Without Borders? category awards

BANGLADESHI BLOGGER WINS ?REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS? CATEGORY AWARDS

Bangladeshi blogger Abu Sufian

 
Bangladeshi journalist?Abu Sufian?s blog?about extrajudicial executions and other kinds of injustice is the jury choice in the ?Reporters Without Borders? category of this year?s BOBs (Best of Blogs competition), organized by the German radio station Deutsche Welle. It was was chosen from 11 finalists by an international jury consisting of bloggers and a Reporters Without Borders representative. Continue reading “Bangladeshi blogger Abu Sufian wins ?Reporters Without Borders? Category Award in Best of Blogs contest”

Shahidul Alam in jury for "Best of Blog"

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?????????? ??????????? ???? ???? ??? ?????’ ? ?????? ?????? ?????????? ?????????? ????????’-? ?????? ?. ?????? ??? ????? ????? ?? ????????? ???? ????? ??????? ?????? ???? ?????, ?????? ??? ?????? ?????? ?????? ???????? ????? ??????? ????????, ?????? ?????? ???????? ???? ?????? ???? ?????? ??? ?????? ???? ?????? ???? ???????? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?? ??? ????? ???? ????? ??? ??? ??? ??????”
???? ???? ??????? ? ???? ???????? ???, ???? ????? ????? ????? ?????? ????? ?????? ??? ???? ??? ????? ???? ???, ?? ????? ????, ???????? ????? ????? ?? ??? ?????? ?????? ???? ?????, ??????, ???? ??????????? ???????????? ?????, ????? ?????? ?????? ???? ?????? ??????? ????? ??????? ?????? ???? ??????? ???????? ????????? ?????, ?????????? ?????????? ???????? ??????????? ?????? ??????? ???????? ?? ????? ????????? ?????????, ???????? ?????????, ?????? ? ????????, ???? ??????? ??? ??? ????? ? ??????????? ?????? ????
???????????????? ?? ??????????? ??????-??????, ????? ???? ????? ??????? ??? ??????? ???? ???????? ????, ??? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ???? ??? ?? ????????? ????? ???????????? ???, ???????? ???????? ????? ??? ???? ??? ???? ????????? ?????????? ???? ???????? ???? ?? ??? ????????? ? ??? ???”
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???-?? ?????????? ?????? ??? ???? ???? ?????? ???????? ???????? ??????????? ????????? ??????????? ????? ??? ??????? ?????? ??????? ??? ?????? ????? ?? ??, ???? ????? ?????? ?????????? ?????? ???? ????? ??????? ????? ?????? ?. ??? ???? ??????? ????????? ???? ????? ????? ??????-?? ??? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ??? ??? ???? ????? ????? ???, ????? ?????? ??????? ???????? ????? ?????? ????, ????? ??? ??? ????? ???? ?????? ????? ?????? ??????? ???? ???? ?????????? ???????, ??? ????? ???? ??????? ???? ????? ??? ?????? ???? ???? ???? ??? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ?????? ??? ????? ???? ???? ???? ??? ????? ??? ??? ??????????? ????? ????? ?????? ????? ??? ??? ????????? ???? ????????? ?????? ?????? ??? ????? ????????? ??????????? ??????? ?? ????? ??????, ?????????? ???????? ?????????? ?? ????? ????? ??????, ?? ?????????? ?????? ???? ???? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ????, ?????? ????? ????????”
??????????, ???? ????’ ??? ??????????? ???????? ??????? ???????????? ???? ???????? ?????? ???????? ?? ??????? ???? ?????? ?? ???????? ?????? ? ????? ???????? ??????????? ??? ????????? ???? ???? ????? ????? ??’??? ???? ????? ????? ?? ???? ???? ????????????? ??? ??? ?????? ????? ??????? ???? ????? ??????? ?????? ????? ??????????? ??’-?? ??????????? ?????? ?????? ?????? ????? ?? ?? ???, ???? ????? ???? ????????????? ????? ????? ?????? ?? ???????? ??????? ??????’-?? ?????????? ??????
???? ???? ???? ???????????? ??????????? ????? ?????? ????? ???? ???? ???? ???????? ???, ?????? ???? ???? ????????? ??????????? ???? ??? ??? ???????????? ???? ????? ????, ??????? ????????????, ??????? ????????? ?????????, ????? ???????, ??????????? ???????? ???????? ?????? ????? ???? ???? ??????????’ ? ?????? ??? ???????? ?????? ?????
?????????: ??????? ???
????????: ?????????? ??-?????
The categories for 2012 are:
Best Blog
Best Social Activism Campaign
Best Use of Technology for Social Good
Best Video Channel
Special Topic Award Culture and Education
Reporters Without Borders Award
Best Blog in each of The BOBs’ languages
The competition starts on February 13.

BBC Bangla anniversary debate

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BBC Bangla anniversary debate on Channel i focuses on freedom of information

Date:?21.12.2011Last updated: 21.12.2011 at 15.01Category:?World Service

Bangladesh?s rapidly changing media scene will be in the focus of the special BBC Bangla programme to be broadcast on Channel i, marking the 70th anniversary of BBC Bangla in the year of the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh?s independence.

Produced by BBC Bangla in collaboration with Channel i and moderated by BBC Bangla Editor, Sabir Mustafa, the programme, Freedom of information in the internet age, will debate issues raised by the spread of television and advent of social media.
The debate panel will include: Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, H T Imam; Editor of News Today, Reazuddin Ahmed; and Abu Saeed Khan, Secretary General of AMTOB, the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh. An invited audience of some 200 people will ask the questions.
Sabir Mustafa will moderate the debate, asking about the challenges facing the traditional and new media: ?These challenges are coming from the social media revolution which has opened up new avenues to exchange information and debate. They are also coming from governments and other regulatory bodies which seek to restrict the freedom of the established media through legislation and to restrict the use of social media.?
The pre-recorded hour-long debate will be followed by an hour-long live studio discussion during which BBC Bangla presenter, Akbar Hossain, and studio guests – photographer and blogger Shahidul Alam of Drik, and leading journalist and former president of National Press Club, Shawkat Mahmud – will discuss comments on the topic, texted by viewers using the short code 16262.
The panel debate will be broadcast by Channel i at 7.50pm Bangladesh time on Thursday 22 December, and at 8pm on Saturday 24 December on BBC 100 FM in Dhaka and on shortwave 12035kHz and 9800kHz. The live discussion will go on air on Channel i at 7.50pm Bangladesh time on Friday 23 December.

The Technician in the Establishment: Obama?s America and the World

By Vinay Lal

Vinay Lal teaches history at the University of California, Los Angeles and is presently with the University of California Education Abroad Programme in India.

Courtesy: Economic and Political Weekly

Barack Obama is poised to become the 44th president of the United States. Many see in the ascendancy of a black man to the highest office of the world?s hegemon a supremely historic moment in American if not world affairs. Such is the incalculable hold of the US, in times better or worse, on the imagination of people worldwide that many are more heavily invested in the politics and future of the US than they are in the politics of their own nation.
There may yet be method to this maddening infatuation, for Iraqis, Afghanis, and Pakistanis, among many others, known and unknown, the target at some point of the military wrath and moral unctuousness of America, may want to reason if their chances of being bombed back into the stone age increase or decrease with the election of one or the other candidate. The French, perhaps best known for the haughty pride in their own culture, were so moved by the events of September 11, 2001, which the Americans have attempted to install as a new era in world history, rendering 9/11 as something akin to BC or AD, that Le Monde famously declared, ?Nous sommes tous Americains? (?We are all Americans?). One doubts that, had it been Beijing, Delhi, or Dakar that had been so bombed, the French would have declared, We are All Chinese, Indians, or Senegalese. That old imperialist habit of presuming the royal We, thinking that the French or American we is the universal We, has evidently not disappeared.

Obama vs McCain

There can be little question that Obama?s presidency would be much preferable to that of McCain. If nothing else, his presidency is not calculated to be an insult to human intelligence or a complete affront to simple norms of human decency. After eight years of George W Bush, it seemed all but improbable that America could throw up another candidate who is, if not in absolutely identical ways, at least as much of an embarrassment to the US as the incumbent of the White House. But one should never underestimate the genius of America in throwing up crooks, clowns and charlatans into the cauldron of politics. It is likely that McCain has a slightly less convoluted ? or should I say jejune ? view of world history and geography than Bush, nor is his vocabulary wholly impoverished, but he will not strike anyone with a discerning mind as possessed of a robust intelligence. McCain has already committed so many gaffes, accusing (to take one example) Iran of training Al Qaida extremists, that one wonders whether his much touted ?foreign policy experience? amounts to anything at all.
In America, it is enough to have a candidate who understands that Iraq and Iran are not only spelled differently but constitute two separate nations. Obama seems so far ahead of the decorated Vietnam war veteran in these respects that it seems pointless to waste any more words on McCain. Obama writes reasonably well, and even been lauded for his skills as an orator; he is suave, mentally alert, and a keen observer of world affairs.
Far too many American elections have offered scenarios where a candidate has been voted into office not on the strength of his intelligence, sound policies, or moral judgment, but because the candidate has appeared to be ?the lesser of two evils?. The iconoclast Paul Goodman, writing in the 1960s, gave it as his considered opinion that American elections were an exercise in helping Americans distinguish between undistinguishable Democrats and Republicans, and there are, notwithstanding Obama?s appeal to liberals and apparently intelligent people, genuine questions to be asked about whether this election will be anything more than a choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Candidates with wholly distinct views have always been described as ?spoilers? in the American system, and anyone who do not subscribe to the rigidly corporatist outlook of the two major parties can only expect ridicule, opprobrium, and at best colossal neglect. To this extent, whatever America?s pretensions at being a model democracy for the rest of the world, one can marvel at the ease and brilliance with which dissenters are marginalised in the US. The singularity of American democracy resides in the fact that it is, insofar as democracies are in question, at once both perversely primitive and advanced. In its totalitarian sweep over the political landscape, the one-party system, which through the fiction of two parties has swept all dissent ? indeed, I should say all thought ? under the rug, has shown itself utterly incapable of accommodating political views outside its fold; and precisely for this reason American democracy displays nearly all the visible signs of stability, accountability, and public engagement, retaining in its rudiments the same features it has had over the last two centuries.

A New Obama after the Election?

Obama?s most ardent defenders have adopted the predictably disingenuous view that Candidate Obama has had to repress most of his liberal sentiments to appeal to a wide electorate, and that president Obama will be much less ?centrist? in his execution of domestic and foreign policies. (The US is one country where most hawks, particularly if they are ?distinguished? senior statesmen, can easily pass themselves off as ?centrists?, the word ?hawk? being reserved for certified lunatics such as Bill O?Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, or blatantly aggressive policymakers such as Paul Wolfowitz. No one would describe Colin Powell, who shares as much responsibility as anyone else for waging a criminal war on Iraq, as a hawk.)
Of course much the same view was advanced apropos Bill Clinton, who then went on to wreck the labour movement, cut food stamps, initiate welfare ?reform? that further eroded the entitlements of the poor, and launch aggressive military strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Kosovo, and a host of other places. Moreover, unless one is to take the view that Obama thought of his candidacy overnight, it is equally reasonable to argue that, knowing how much he would have to appeal to the rank and file of not only Democrats but the large number of ?undecided? voters as a candidate who would be markedly different from both the incumbent and the Republicans running for the presidency, Obama has been projecting himself as far more liberal than either his political record or views would give warrant to believe. Indeed, as a close perusal of his writings, speeches, and voting record suggests, Obama is as consummate a politician as any in the US, and he has been priming himself as a presidential candidate for many years.

Entry to the Obama World View

Obama?s 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope (New York, Crown Publishers), furnishes as good an entry point into his world view as any. Its subtitle, ?Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream?, provides the link to Obama?s memoir of 1995, Dreams of My Father (1995). People everywhere have dreams, no doubt, but there is nothing quite as magisterial as ?the American dream?: the precise substance of the American dream ? a home with a backyard, mom?s apple pie, kids riding their bikes without a care in the world, a cute dog running around in circles after the kids, ice tea, a Chevrolet or SUV ? matters less than the fact that ?the American dream? signifies something grand and unique in the affairs of humankind. A politician who does not profess belief in the American dream is doomed, but there is no insincerity on Obama?s part in this respect. Leaving aside the question of how the American dream has been a nightmare to many of the most thoughtful Americans themselves, from Henry David Thoreau to James Baldwin, not to mention tens of millions of people elsewhere, Obama?s fondness for what Americans call ?feelgood? language is palpably evident. Just what does the audacity of hope mean? Need one be audacious to hope? Obama?s pronouncements are littered with the language of hope, change, values, dreams, all only a slight improvement on chicken soup for dummies or chocolate for the soul.
The chapter entitled ?The World Beyond Our Borders?, some will object, is illustrative of Obama?s engagement with substantive issues, and in this case suggestive of his grasp over foreign affairs. One of the stories that circulated widely about Bush upon his election to the presidency in 2000 was that he carried an expired passport; a variant of the story says that Bush did not at that time own a US passport. It is immaterial whether the story is apocryphal: so colossal was Bush?s ignorance of the world that it is entirely plausible that he had never travelled beyond Canada and Mexico, though I am tempted to say that illegal aliens and men born to power, transgressors of borders alike, share more than we commonly imagine. Obama, by contrast, came to know of the wider world in his childhood: his white American mother was married to a Kenyan before her second marriage to an Indonesian.
Obama lived in Jakarta as a young boy, and the chapter offers a discussion of the purges under Suharto that led to the extermination of close to a million communists and their sympathisers. Obama is brave enough to acknowledge that many of the Indonesian military leaders had been trained in the US, and that the Central Intelligence Agency provided ?covert support? to the insurrectionists who sought to remove the nationalist Sukarno and place Indonesia squarely in the American camp (pp 272-73). He charts Indonesia?s spectacular economic progress, but also concedes that ?Suharto?s rule was harshly repressive?. The press was stifled, elections were a ?mere formality?, prisons were filled up with political dissidents, and areas wracked by secessionist movements rebels and civilians alike faced swift and merciless retribution ? ?and all this was done with the knowledge, if not outright approval, of US administrations? (p 276).
It is doubtful that most American politicians would have made even as mild an admission of American complicity in atrocities as has Obama. But a supremely realist framework allows for evasion as much as confession: thus Obama merely arrives at the reading that the American record overseas is a ?mixed? one ?across the globe?, often characterised by far-sightedness and altruism even if American policies have at times been ?misguided, based on false assumptions? that have undermined American credibility and the genuine aspirations of others (p 280). There is, in plain language, both good and bad in this world; and Obama avers that the US, with all its limitations, has largely been a force for good. And since America remains the standard by which phenomena are to be evaluated, Obama betrays his own parochialism. The war in Vietnam, writes Obama, bequeathed ?disastrous consequences?: American credibility and prestige took a dive, the armed forces experienced a loss of morale, the American soldier needlessly suffered, and above all ?the bond of trust between the American people and their government? was broken. Though two million or more Vietnamese were killed, and fertile land was rendered toxic for generations, no mention is made of this genocide: always the focus is on what the war did to America (p 287).
The war in Vietnam chastened Americans, who ?began to realise that the best and the brightest in Washington didn?t always know what they were doing ? and didn?t always tell the truth? (p 287). One wonders why, then, an overwhelming majority of Americans supported the Gulf war of 1991 and the attack on Afghanistan, and why even the invasion of Iraq in 2002 had far more popular support in the US than it did in Europe or elsewhere around the world. The suggestion that the American people were once led astray but are fundamentally sound in their judgment ignores the consideration that elected officials are only as good as the people to whom they respond, besides hastening to exculpate ordinary Americans from their share of the responsibility for the egregious crimes that the US has committed overseas and against some of its own people.

Good Wars, Bad Wars?

Obama has on more than one occasion said, ?I?m not against all wars, I?m just against dumb wars.? More elegant thinkers than Obama, living in perhaps more thoughtful times, have used different language to justify war: there is the Christian doctrine of a just war, and similarly 20th century politicians and theorists, watching Germany under Hitler rearm itself and set the stage for the extermination of the Jewish people, reasoned that one could make a legitimate distinction between ?good? and ?bad? wars. Obama has something like the latter in mind: he was an early critic of the invasion of Iraq, though here again more on pragmatic grounds rather than from any sense of moral anguish, but like most liberals he gave his whole-hearted support to the bombing of Afghanistan in the hope, to use Bush?s language, that Osama bin Laden could be smoked out and the Taliban reduced to smithereens.
Obama is so far committed to the idea of Afghanistan as a ?good? war that he has pledged that, if elected president, he would escalate the conflict there and also bomb Pakistan if it would help him prosecute the ?war on terror?. He has recently attacked McCain, who no one would mistake for a pacifist, with the observation that his opponent ?won?t even follow [bin Laden] to his cave in Afghanistan?, even as the US defence secretary has all but conceded that a political accommodation with the Taliban, whose support of bin Laden was the very justification for the bombing of Afghanistan, can no longer be avoided. The casually held assumption that by birthright an American president can bomb other countries into abject submission, or that the US can never be stripped of its prerogative to chastise nations that fail to do its bidding, takes one?s breath away.
No one should suppose that Obama, blinded by the sharp rhetoric of the ?war on terror?, has positions on Iraq and Afghanistan that are not characteristic of his view of the world as a whole. ?We need to maintain a strategic force posture?, he writes, ?that allows us to manage threats posed by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran and to meet the challenges presented by potential rivals like China? (p 307). This could have been the voice of Reagan, the Clintons, Bush, McCain, and countless others: there is such overwhelming unanimity about ?rogue states? that almost no politician in the US can be expected to display even an iota of independent thinking.
No Change from Staus Quo
On the question of Palestine, Obama has similarly displayed belligerence and moral turpitude. At the annual meeting in June 2008 of the American Israel Political Action Committee, a self-avowedly Zionist organisation that commands unstinting support from across the entire American political spectrum, Obama was unambiguous in declaring that ?Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided?. It would only be belabouring the obvious to state that, on nearly every foreign policy issue that one can think of, with the exception of a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, Obama?s position can scarcely be distinguished from all the other advocates of the national security state.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that Obama?s election as president of the US will appreciably alter American debates on race. African-Americans make up 12 per cent of the population but constitute nearly half of the US prison population; one of three black males will, in his lifetime, have gone through the criminal justice system. African-Americans are, alongside Puerto Ricans, two ethnic groups among whom poverty is endemic, and repeated studies have shown that in every critical sector of life, such as access to jobs, housing, and healthcare, blacks face persistent racism and discrimination. Obama is fully cognisant of these problems and is likely to address them to a greater extent than any other candidate. But one can also argue, with equal plausibility, that his ascendancy will strengthen the hands of those who want to think of American democracy as a post-race society, and whose instant inclination is to jettison affirmative action and reduce the already narrow space for discussions of race in civil society.
It is immaterial, even if fascinating to some, whether numerous white people will vote for Obama to prove their credentials as non-racists, while others will give him their vote because he is not all that black ? just as some black people will surely cast their ballot for Obama precisely because he is black. By far the most critical consideration is that the US requires a radical redistribution of economic and political power: Martin Luther King Jr had come to an awareness of this in the last years of his life, but there is little to suggest that Obama, a professional politician to the core, has similarly seen the light.

Establishment Candidate

In these deeply troubled times, when there is much casual talk of the American ship sinking, the white ruling class is preparing to turn over the keys of the kingdom to a black man. Imperial powers had a knack for doing this, but let us leave that history aside. Here, at least, Obama appears to have displayed audacity, taking on a challenge that many others might have forsworn. However, nothing is as it seems to be: with the passage of time, Obama has increasingly justified the confidence reposed in him as an establishment candidate. A man with some degree of moral conscience would not only have shrugged off the endorsements of Colin Powell and Scott McClellan, until recently among Bush?s grandstanding cheerleaders and apparatchiks, but would have insisted that Powell and others of his ilk be brought to justice for crimes against the Iraqi people. But Obama will do no such thing, for after all Powell and the master he served, like Kissinger and Nixon before them, only made ?tactical? errors. Obama prides himself, moreover, on being a healer not divider: he will even rejoice in the support for him among previously hardcore Republicans.
When Obama is not speaking about values, hope, and change, he presents himself as a manager, representing brutal American adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan as illustrations of policies that went wrong. He comes forward as a technician who is best equipped to fix broken policies, repair the system, and get America working once again. One can only hope that an America that is once again working does not mean for a good portion of the rest of the world what it has meant for a long time, namely, an America that is more efficient in its exercise of military domination and even more successful in projecting its own vision of human affairs as the only road to the good life. To believe in Obama, one needs to hope against hope.
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Perspectives from Sri Lanka
Nalaka Gunawardane from Sri Lanka comments on the role of new media in the campaign.
Groundviews -? – Sri Lanka’s award winning citizens journalism website
In Barack Obama: Hope for America, but not for the world? Nishan, who shares Obama’s alma mater, shares a simple insight, noting that nothing Barack Obama has done or promised will usher in the change needed in the world. Posing eight pertinent questions Nishan ends his article by noting that, ” For those who were listening, Barack Obama has in fact been threatening the world, by the trade, military and foreign policy positions that he has articulated consistently throughout his campaign ? and there is no reason to think he didn?t mean what he said. Has Barack Obama offered ?hope? for Americans? Resoundingly ?Yes!? But the hope that President Obama offers Americans is not hope for the world.”
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleka, in Barack Obama: History?s High Note comes to a very different conclusion to Nishan, noting that “[Obama’s] natural tendency will be to be a great teacher, reformer and reconciler on a global scale; to be a planetary ?change agent?, leaving the world better than he found it.”