Tag Archive for 'censorship'

Putin shutting down critics using piracy witchhunts

If the Burmese Government was as smart about suppressing free speech and civil rights as the Russian Government is, they would’ve probably already killed all the monks in the country and gotten a medal for it from the US.

The latest tactic by the Russian Government to shut down critics involves raiding the offices of newspapers and political activists in search of pirated software. It’s pretty ingenious really when you think about it. The United States has pressed Russia for stronger intellectual property protection laws and enforcement for years. I don’t think this is what the US bargained for however.

The Washington Post is writing that in the past 10 months several newspapers, advocacy groups and political activists have been raided, their computer equipment has been confiscated and staff has been detained for questioning because alleged use of pirated software in at least five different cities.


Ban the Bible

Before you flip completely out, I’m not really calling for a ban on the bible. However, if the people advocating for violent video game bans would follow their argument logically, they should. They won’t, of course, because they’re all hypocrites.

Utah’s Brigham Young University recently conducted a study on 490 students about the psychological affects of reading violent passages in the bible. The study found a correlation between exposure to scriptural violence that is condoned by God and increased aggression.

What makes this study interesting to me is the similarity of it to studies on video game violence and how they affect children. The same correlation has been found on quite a few studies on video game violence. The affects of violence on people are exactly the same between reading violent scriptures in the bible and playing violent video games.

What’s different between the studies on video game violence and violence in the bible is that nobody will ask the politicians to ban the bible from underage kids based on this new study. All kinds of Christian moralists and family values advocates have, however, been advocating for various levels of video game bans for years based on similar studies on video game violence.

This study is the perfect way to show the stupidity and downright dishonesty of the video game violence “debate” in this and other countries. One wonders how the Christian moralists and other blowhards will react to this study and the inevitable comparison between it and the studies on video game violence.


Kremlin, Inc.

Michael Specter, a reporter for the The New Yorker, has written an excellent article on how Vladimir Putin has ceased absolute power in Russia and how he’s using his iron fisted control of the Russian media to create a completely censored newsfeed to the Russian people.

The article also describes how Vladimir Putin came to power by ruthlessly surpressing free speech and slandering his opponents just before the elections in media controlled by him and his cronies.

Finally it goes onto explore why, as the article’s subtitle suggests, are all of Vladimir Putin’s opponents dying?


Russia’s “Third Way” Is A Road To Nowhere

[by Kerkko Paananen, originally published in Finnish]

The situation of NGOs has gone from bad to worse in Russia during President Vladimir Putin’s reign. The authorities are doing their utmost to eliminate the emergence of a free civil society. The government is trying to subjugate any signs of civil expression, subordinate public opinion to state interest, and incorporate civil society into the government’s statial strategy.

Many NGOs in Russia defend those most vulnerable, and it is exactly these organisations that suffer the most from government repression. Those at the receiving end of this repression are thus the weak and the helpless. If we close our eyes from this, and choose to cooperate with “front” organisations enjoying state blessing, we are not only wasting our financial support, but are doing real damage to the very people we wish to help.

Stating a few obvious facts: The Russian Federation is a state, which engages in an open war of terror against its own citizens. Authorities at both federal and local level attack, terrorise, and kill their own fellow citizens. Russia is no state governed by law.

Government pressure on NGOs does not depend on the NGOs themselves, but on the political and economic interests of the ruling elites. Authorities do not react to the actions of NGOs, but create themselves the conditions, in which NGOs are left with no way out; in which NGOs cannot avoid an open confrontation.

It is the moral duty of Finland and other free nations, especially in the EU, to help our partners in Russia to survive. We cannot let the authorities intimidate our friends, drive them into a corner, and destroy everything we have achieved together in the past ten years. It is vital to continue the work and support one another.

Finnish experts often highlight the “uniqueness” of Russia’s development; most likely, this is because we wish to monopolise the expertees on Russia. It seems that Finns have stressed Russia’s uniqueness for so long that we have begun to believe in it ourselves. The end result of this is that the average Finn has a very hazy knowledge of our eastern neighbour; even those who have visited Russia only see what they want to see.

Many are simply unable to regard Russia with common sense, according to the same human standards that we regard other states and cultures. Instead, many choose to spread all sorts of fictitious legends and metaphysical constructions about Russia. It often seems that economists have the clearest idea of what is going on in Russia, because they usually understand the value of money. And money is the only thing Russia’s ruling elite is ever interested in.

The uniqueness of Russia’s development, the so-called “Third Road”, is the artificial ideological construct that the notion of a “Sovereign Democracy” that Putin’s regime has declared is based on. This “Sovereign Democracy” is ruled by the “Power Vertical” — the authoritarian power apparatus of Putin’s presidential administration. By stressing Russia’s uniqueness, we are, in fact, lending support to the development of authoritarianism that lies behind the troubles Russia is facing today.

How to stop the press from interviewing your citizens – Soviet style

A reporter for Helsingin Sanomat, the most important Finnish newspaper, visited Mari-El in October 2005 and tried interviewing local Mari-El activists. The interviews of the most prominent activists weren’t exactly successful due to the active harrassment from President Leonid Markelov’s goons.

The article describes how three of the interviews the reporter was able to secure were interrupted Gestapo style by the local (Russian) officials. From fabricated criminal charges to eviction procedures that just had to be scheduled at the same time with the interview.

If you want to oppress your people, couldn’t you find something slightly less transparent than harrassing them when a foreign reporter is visiting? I mean, you can’t possibly harrass the foreign reporter when he’s back in his home country to stop him from writing about it.

How about paying neo nazis to beat the living daylights out of whoever you want beaten? Oh, wait, Markelov’s been there and done that, too.

The Russians clamoring for old the Soviet era must truly be happy these days. At least the authoritarian dictatorship is well established again.


Fabricated criminal charges Russia’s latest weapon against Mari-El activists

The Russian Federation and its little dictator wannabe, Leonid Markelov, are once again persecuting Mari-El activists. As if directly from the Oppression 101 text book by Stalin and Hitler, the oppression proceeds in a truly predictable way.

Last year it was near fatal beat downs, and today it’s using the judicial system with fabricated criminal charges. I wonder when (if) the trial starts, if Markelov decides to dress the guilty, um, defendants in oversized clothing. It’s also in the same Oppression 101 text book.

Vitaly Tanakov and Nina Maksimova are both charged with “incitement to ethnic, racial or religious enmity”. Apparently promoting Mari-El culture and cultural events is streng verboten. Human rights organization are all saying there is no justification in bringing up charges against Mr. Tanakov and Ms. Maksimova.

The Markelov dictatorship is also stepping up the garden variety kind of harassment of Mari-El activists. Anonymous phone calls, interrogations and harassing relatives and children of Mari-El activists have been common place in recent times.

I guess one should be “happy” the recent terror campaign hasn’t involved the use of violence towards Mari-El activists, but that’s just a matter of time, again.

Putin is all talk when it comes to human rights. The two-faced lieing bastard lets his henchmen crack down on ethnic minorities in lesser states like Mari-El while he can prance around in Moscow introducing smoke and mirror PR statements pretending to be the patron saint of human rights in Russia making friends with western countries.

I hope the western countries are not so easily deceived.

Update: The news made it to USInfo as well: usinfo.state.gov

I’ve written about Russia’s human rights violations against Mari-El activists before:
The IHF issues a stinging report on human rights situation in the Republic of Mari El
Mari-El activists still persecuted in Russia
The people of Mari being systematically persecuted by Russians


The people of Mari being systematically persecuted by Russians

The Finnish belong to an ethnic group of FinnoUgrian people. All the FinnoUgrian people have a similar language and share the same ethnic origins. The cultures are more common than different as well.

The largest groups of FinnoUgrian people live in Hungary, Finland and Estonia, but there are smaller groups of people with their own languages and cultures living in various parts of Eastern Europe. A lot of these ethnic groups have already dissappeared as younger generations adopt Russian language and culture instead of maintaining their own cultural identity.

The Mari people are among the largest of these smaller groups and live in a region in central Russia called Mari El at a bend of the Volga river. There’s about 700K people living in Mari El. 43% are Mari, 47% Russian.

In 2000 a national populist pro-Russian Leonid Markelov became the president of Mari El with the backing of Moscow. In 2004 he was re-elected in elections widely considered to have been rigged.

Since his election Markelov has systematically tried to undermine the human rights of the Mari people in Mari El. Teachers teaching Mari language or voting for Mari candidates have been fired from their jobs, Mari people are economically oppressed, Mari activists and journalists are routinely beaten, severely, by people who somehow never get convicted, people are getting arrested for no cause and they sometimes do not come back, FSB (the Federal Security Service, roughly equivalent to the FBI) is following foreign journalists writing about the situation. It’s basically just like in Soviet Union, straight out of Stalin’s playbook of oppressing minorities.

One would expect some two-bit wannabe communist tyrant in a remote area of Russia to behave in this manner, but what’s really surprising is that Markelov appears to have a full backing of Vladimir Putin and his government. They’ve released statements accusing the ethnic Maris of plotting, with the Finns, Hungarians and Estonians, to form a new FinnoUgrian state and actively undermining the economic development of Russia to achieve this goal.

They’re stopping one step short of accusing the Maris (and Finns assisting them) of being terrorists. Everyone knows what happens to terrorists these days. The Maris are not terrorists. They’re being systematically eradicated by a Russian ethnic majority.

An “interesting” timeline of brutality against prominent Mari people was published by Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples. None of the murders or assaults have resulted in convictions or even arrests:

Uninvestigated crimes against journalists and opposition leaders during the presidency in the autonomous Republic of Mari El of Leonid Markelov, a man openly contemptuous of democratic processes

November 21, 2001: Aleksandr Babaykin, assistant chief editor of the opposition newspaper The Good Neighbors, was brutally killed in the centre of Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of Mari El.

November 2001: Leonid Plotnikov, assistant chief of department of the publishing house Periodika Mari El, was killed.

November 2001: Aleksei Bakhtin, journalist of a regional newspaper, was killed.

March 12, 2002: Vladimir Maltsev, chief editor of the newspaper The Good Neighbors, was attacked in the evening and caused severe bodily injuries.

March 14, 2002: The door of the Vladimir Maltsev’s apartment was poured over with fuel and put on fire by unknown persons.

April 16, 2002: Viktor Nikolayev, Member of Consultative Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples and Chairman of the all-Russia movement Mer Kanash, was attacked and brutally beaten in front of his house. Nikolayev had just called the 6th extraordinary Mari Congress due to be held on 26 April.

August 14, 2004: a pogrom was made in the apartment of Valentin Matveyev, a public figure and author of critical articles in The Good Neighbors.

October 4, 2004: masked bandits, armed with weapons and acting in the name of the Department of Criminal Investigations, attacked the apartment of an employee of the human rights organization Citizen And Law.

October 2004: unknown persons attacked journalist Vitaliy Igitov. Earlier, in personal conversations, President of Mari El Leonid Markelov called Igitov the man who had insulted him most.

January 7, 2005: correspondent of the Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe Yelena Rogacheva was attacked.

February 7, 2005: Vladimir Kozlov, chief editor of the international Finno-Ugric newspaper Kudo+Kodu, Member of the Consultative Committee of the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples and leader of the all-Russian movement of Mari people Mer Kanash, was attacked and severely beaten.

May 27, 2005: ethnic Mari artists and musicians, among them prominent cultural figures, were attacked by a group of Russian skinheads after a concert in the Culture Hall in Yoshkar-Ola. No one responsible was found. In their conversations with local residents, skinheads said that the incident was arranged at the orders of the chief of the fascist group who was instructed by Dmitry Frolov, Head of the Presidential Administration of the Mari Republic. The latter had promised that a plot of land would be allotted to the group to build its base as an award for the action.

July 6, 2005: Yuri Anduganov, prominent Finno-Ugric scholar and President of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies, was killed in a car crash in the Republic of Marii-El. His widow described the circumstances of the collision as suspicious because the truck in front of the car braked extremely unexpectedly and rapidly.

August 27, 2005: Vasli Petrov, Chairman of the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples, was attacked and beaten in Ismentsa village where he lives.

More information about the situation in various languages at: