Every year, representatives from the G20 (top 20 economic countries) get together to discuss issues pertaining to international finance. Every year, people from all political and sociological beliefs get together to protest (most of them peacefully) for their particular cause. Last year, at Toronto’s G20 summit in June 2010, it all went horribly wrong; and for the first time that I can remember, a developed and democratic western country revealed just how easily civil and human rights can be swept away, and police be used to control innocent civilians.
The video below, entitled Under Occupation, provides real and shocking accounts of the events that transpired that week. Watch it.
The biggest news story of this week will most probably be the recent protests currently taking place in Egypt, where the people are fighting to oust existing President Mubarak, and have the right to vote. The current Egyptian government has essentially had dictatorial powers since 1981. Since then Egypt has had a few uprisings, each quashed with the use of force by the government. The latest protests have been sparked by the Tunisian uprising that resulted in the successful ousting of President Ben Ali.
Since the start of the current protests on 25 January 2011, the government has brought in riot police, armored trucks, tear gas, and even called in the counter-terrorism unit. The government announced that all protesters would be immediately arrested, and several protesters and one police office have already been killed. The Associated Press have footage of a protester being shot down by a police sniper.
As the Internet has been the primary form of communication for protesters, Egypt has seen most popular social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter, blocked. As of this post, the Egyptian government has apparently been able to largely shut down Internet access for the entire country (apart from one network). A large number of messages are still reaching Twitter, presumably by proxy, as well as videos being posted on YouTube. Some Egyptians who manage to get online have been using Tor to get around the ISP censorship, and people are currently being urged to run Tor Exit Nodes to help out.
On Friday 28th of January, there is expected to be an even larger protest after noon prayers, and there are rumors that the government will be shutting down all landlines, mobiles and the Internet in an attempt to quell organization, as well as calling in further reinforcements. The question is being asked whether this could be the final Revolution.
[Update 11/02/2011] Mubarak removed as president by the military. Congratulations to all Egyptians for persevering in you fight for freedom. You deserve it.
In what can only be described as a small win for freedom and privacy activists fighting an uphill battle in the UK, the government has decided to scale back some of their anti-terrorism laws, which have been one of the most stringent in the western world. Since 9/11, the UK government has had the right to hold terror suspects for up to 28 days before charging or releasing them. The only problem being that the definition of ‘terror suspect’ becoming increasingly wide over the past few years. Following the changes, announced by British Home Secretary Theresa May, the police can now only hold terror suspects for 14 days. The U.S. authorities only have 7, and the French 6 days.
The British police are also no longer allowed to perform random (read: profiled) searches of the public, and can’t prevent people from taking pictures of landmarks on the suspicion of being potential terrorists. The changes also include a proposed reform of the house-arrest style (and Big Brother sounding) Control Orders, which originally imposed a curfew of up to 16 hours with an anklet, limited contact with other people, and banned an individual from using the Internet or traveling abroad. The new renamed plan will enforce an 8-10 hour curfew with anklet, prevent Internet access from a mobile phone, and enforce limited (and presumably monitored) access to websites from a home computer. Suspects could still be banned from meeting with specific individuals, and visiting certain buildings or streets.
Despite the changes, human rights groups are seeing this as a betrayal from the new government that took office in May 2010 after having pledged to restore civil liberties in the UK. There are also a number of other overpowered laws, such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), that are repeatedly abused to monitor and police normal citizens.