After the success of our first indoor screening on 23 October 2016, we decided to host a second indoor screening for the Khaw Than minority rights film series at Phandeeyar. Over 80 people attended the event and the discussion panel with the filmmakers went really well.
Then on 30 December 2016, in collaboration with the Yangon Youth Network, we held our final screening at the Kyinmyintaing tea shop, where we showcased a selection from the Khaw Than series including, 'Sound of Silence', 'My Mother is Single', 'A Letter from Civil War' and 'I Wanna Go to School'. The films addressed ethnic, women and children’s rights.
The rustic tea shop was the perfect place to hold our night of documentary screening. Whether sipping on Myanmar tea and samusar, a premium coffee, or a soft drink, the tasty drinks and friendly atmosphere was sure to put our audience at ease.
Most of the people at the event felt free to join in and share their thoughts, both before and after the screening. One of the attendees commented, “Screening documentaries in tea shops is really great. You can watch documentaries at home but in this kind of venue, you can discuss your point of view with different people. I think this is the difference between watching a documentary at home and here.”
Istirahatlah Kata-Kata, the critically acclaimed film about poet-cum-activist Wiji Thukul, premiered last week in 14 cities across Indonesia.
The film depicts the period of Wiji Thukul’s life when he was on the run from Indonesian authorities during the Suharto government’s crackdown on intellectuals and activists in 1996. Thukul was forced to flee from his hometown in Solo, Central Java to Pontianak, Kalimantan for eight months, moving houses and changing names to shield his identity.
In May 1998, when he returned to Java to participate in anti-government protests, Thukul suddenly disappeared. His whereabouts are still unknown today.
Before director Yosep Anggi Noen’s film, most people knew about Wiji Thukul because of an infamous line from his poem, “Peringatan” ("Warning”). It was supposedly the most-quoted line of poetry towards the end of Suharto’s regime: “Hanya ada satu kata: lawan!” (There is only one word: fight!”)
However, those expecting an action-packed film in Istirahatlah Kata-Kata will be gravely disappointed. Instead, the film is a quiet and poetic take on Thukul’s days of hiding, and explores the more solemn themes of isolation, loneliness, paranoia and fear. It also portrays the difficulties faced by Thukul’s wife and children, whom he had to leave behind in Solo, and who are continuously interrogated by the police.
These are emotions that anyone can relate to, and that we do not typically associate with grandiose heroes. In this way, Noen has humanised Thukul. The result is a moving film about a poet who touched the lives of millions of Indonesians with simple but compelling words.
“The movie is my attempt to see Wiji Thukul’s spirit, who is able to note down his daily life into powerful words,” Noen said in an interview with the Jakarta Post.
He also said during the premiere in Pontianak that he wanted the movie to “serve as a reminder for the young generation about missing activists.” (Jakarta Post)
Wiji Thukul is one of thirteen activists still missing since 1997-1998. The other activists include Suyat, Yan Afri, Sonny, M. Yusuf, Noval Alkatiri, Dedy Hamdun, Ismail, Bimo Petrus, Abdun Naser, Hendra Hambali, Ucok Siahaan, and Yadin Muhidin (Stop Impunity).
Istirahatlah Kata-Kata has participated in various international and local film festivals, receiving nominations in Germany, Switzerland, Russia and the Philippines. It also won the Golden Hanoman Award at the Jogja Asian Film Festival and 2016 Best Film by Tempo magazine.
Several days ago, the Indonesian government announced that it had blocked 800,000 websites since December 2016. According to Samuel Abrijani Pangerapan, the director general of Information Application at the Communications and Information Ministry, 90% of these websites contained pornographic or gambling material, while “some were simply spreading hoaxes” (Jakarta Post).
Pangerapan stressed that the government did not block journalistic websites. Journalists must abide by the Law on the Press and register with the Press Council, he argued, and claimed that “journalistic” websites lacking these credentials were therefore lawfully censored (Tempo).
His statement comes just a month after the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) condemned the government’s shutdown of the news website, suarapapua.com, for containing “negative” content.
Suarapapua.com regularly covers human rights violations in West Papua, such as the recent illegal detention of peaceful demonstrators (including a newborn and children aged 4-17 years) who participated in the Trikora protests in December 2016 (Suara Papua).
Activists at LBH Pers are considering taking legal action against President Joko Widodo’s administration for violations against the freedom of press under Article 18 of the 1999 Press Law (Jakarta Post).
According to Pangerapan, the owners of blocked websites can appeal to a control and monitoring body and request for “normalisation” (i.e. the lift of censorship) after meeting certain requirements. However, it is unclear what these requirements demand of websites such as suarapapua.com.
Pangerapan encouraged Indonesian citizens to seek more details at the website http://trustpositif.kominfo.go.id/, which states that the purpose of TRUST+ is the “protection of society against ethical values, morals and rules that do not fit the image of the Indonesian Nation.”
As of 11 January 2017, more than 766,000 websites were blocked for pornography, 2100 for gambling, 85 for radicalism, 23 for SARA (secular sentiment) and 2 for security. There have also been 264 cases of “normalisation”.
Despite the government’s positive spin on TRUST+ and its censorship program, these developments reflect a worrying trend in increased online surveillance (read more: Digital Freedom and Privacy Under Attack in Indonesia). Digital rights, which have gained significant popularity and attention since Edward Snowden, include the rights to information and privacy, both of which are being violated in Indonesia.
We are very excited to announce that after much effort, Plumi is now available to install on Debian Jessie, Ubuntu 16.04 (latest stable) and Centos 7.
The latest code is available here on Github: https://github.com/plumi/plumi.app
Documentation on how to install is available here: https://github.com/plumi/plumi.app/blob/master/README.rst
Further documentation including an introduction, installation, theming and maintenance guide has been updated here: https://mgogoulos.trinket.io/plumi-4-5
This means our free open source video platform now works across these up-to-date and secure major Linux based operating systems. Free community media infrastructure is needed now, more than ever before, and we are very proud to offer this with Plumi.
We want to heartily thank Markos Gogoulos for all his hard work to get us here, and Mist.io for supporting EngageMedia in this work.
on behalf of EngageMedia
What a difference a year makes!
Last year, EngageMedia collaborated with Phandeeyar and the Myanmar ICT Development Organisation (MIDO) to hold a one-day event in Yangon to discuss digital rights with human rights organisations and other allies. That event was attended by 18 participants, and tackled the basics of relating digital rights to human rights with a focus on the Myanmar context.
Last week, for a day and a half, the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum (MDRF) was held -- with over 90 participants, including 10 from outside of Myanmar. The MDRF was the product of the continued partnership among Phandeeyar, MIDO, the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), and EngageMedia. But more than that, the MDRF was a milestone in the digital rights movement -- a result of the years of policy advocacy and awareness raising, capacity building, participation in regional and international events, and hard work by the local groups to bring to the foreground the issues of internet freedoms.
In the last year alone, the MDRF collaborators have been busy playing critical roles in events in Myanmar. Phandeeyar organised a Tech Camp to Strengthen Transparency and Accountability in April, a meet up on the Violence Against Women in the Digital World in July, and a Right to Information Law event in November. Between traveling around Myanmar to raise awareness on responsible internet use and internet rights, running campaigns against hate speech, conducting research on internet usage in Myanmar, and implementing a telecentre initiative with Telenor, MIDO co-organised a camp on the Politics of Data with Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) in September. MCRB has continued to hold consultation meetings with various stakeholders to discuss the implications of the different laws and bills on human rights in Myanmar over the past year.
Unfortunately, all of these initiatives were triggered by troubling trends in Myanmar in relation to digital rights and internet freedoms. Journalists, bloggers, activists and ordinary internet users have continued to be arrested under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law -- as of end of November 2016, 20 individuals have been arrested. Hate speech online has continued to be an issue in Myanmar, and the increasing instances of harassment of women and LGBT individuals have worsened. Beyond these on-going issues, another has emerged in the last month -- the Privacy and Protection Law that the Parliament is rushing to pass. According experts, how that particular law has defined ¨privacy¨ is problematic in its vagueness and its lack of comprehensiveness. More than that, there has been no public consultation on the law.
Needless to say, it´s been a busy year for digital rights in Myanmar.
And the MDRF came at exactly the right time. The MDRF allowed the long-time advocates for digital rights (both those working locally and internationally) the platform to discuss issues with different stakeholders. The topics tackled in the MDRF reflect the current and emerging trends in and threats to digital rights in Myanmar: surveillance, content restrictions, and lawful interception standards; freedom of expression and hate speech; harassment of journalists; policy reform; right to information; national identification; and privacy issues in the current laws. The MDRF was also an opportunity for digital rights movements from across the region to learn from each other -- and to encourage the growth of the Myanmar digital rights movement -- with sessions that shared experiences around building social movements on policy reform, and looking back on the digital rights movements in India, the Philippines and Myanmar.
The MDRF also created a space where the participants could brainstorm what actions to take to address the daunting digital rights issues in Myanmar. On the second day, specifically, the participants formed themselves into groups to discuss specific action ideas and initiatives:
- Engaging Facebook on Hate Speech
- Anti- Hate Speech campaign
- Open data basics and awareness-raising
- Law review towards policy reform
- Campaign against the 66(d) arrests
- Addressing online harassment of women and LGBT
- Building the capacity of the youth on digital rights
At the end of the MDRF, a range of concrete actions and plans were made. Of these, a statement against the Privacy and Protection Law was signed by the participants of the forum, and sent to Parliament at the end of day two.
EngageMedia is fortunate and thankful to have been able to be part of this, and to witness the continued growth of the digital rights movement in Myanmar. And we will continue to support this growing movement.
After our first screening in Yangon on the 26th of October 2016, we then moved on to our next screenings in Mandalay and Sintgu, which were held in collaboration with Metta Campaign and Rainbow Organisation Sintgu on the 10th, 11th, and 12th of November.
There were over 300 people in attendance at the screenings and a high level of engagement in the discussions held after the films. Among the films screened was Lei Lei Aye’s women’s rights film ‘My Mother is Single’ along with her film ‘Soul Mate’ which was recently awarded at &Proud Film Festival.
Along with Lei Lei Aye’s contributions, we screened the Khaw Than collection's most popular documentary, ‘Sound of Silence’, winner at the Spain Gerona Film Festival, and ’I Wanna Go to School’ which was awarded at the Human Rights & Human Dignity Film Festival.
Ma Phvo, a transgender woman of Rainbow Organisation Sintgu stated, "These screenings have revolutionised our thoughts on minorities. Through these video interviews, we have gained a deeper understanding of our rights and can now peace build more effectively within the current situation in Myanmar".
Watch out for our next blogpost on the two final Khaw Than screenings in Yangon.
Indonesia is hardly a utopia for those practicing an alternative or different lifestyle, and the brunt is especially felt by those of alternative sexual orientations. The country is still largely conservative and floats unsure of itself through the 21st century attempting to arrive at some meeting point between traditions with modern ideals. In the last few years, political and social movements against the LGBT community are becoming more frequent and intense.
In November we woke to the news of an attack against a dozen homosexual Indonesians gathering in Jakarta. It was led by the Indonesia Police in collaboration with one of the largest fundamentalists groups. The crackdown also happened online, which leaves little to no safe space for LGBT peoples in Indonesia.
In January this year, Indonesia’s Technology, Research & Higher Education Minister, Muhammad Nasir, stated that Indonesian universities must uphold standards of ‘values and morals’ and should not support organisations promoting LGBT activities. This only added to the pressure felt by LGBT groups in academic settings.
Diplomatically, Indonesia has joined a group of 17 countries, including Saudi Arabia, to block UN plans on including LGBT Rights in their new urban strategy plans. Earlier in the year, 12 academics from Aliansi Cinta Keluarga (Family Love Alliance) petitioned the Constitutional Court of Indonesia to change existing laws to make it illegal for consenting adults to involve themselves in homosexual acts, an act they said should be punishable by up to five years in jail. The situation was made much worse by conservative media groups.
The lack of LGBT voices in national media is a huge problem as they are not able to provide a discourse that challenges the views of conservatives. This silence is in part due to government crackdowns on LGBT organisations. Our Voice’s SuaraKita has been shut down several times by hackers and the government filter systems. The same is happening to other LGBT organisations and media outlets who promote tolerance.
While my intention in writing this article was not to display desperate notions, I honestly find myself desperate at the state in which the LGBT community finds itself in currently and the further difficulties that they will face ahead. We cannot allow this to happen, we need more action!
On 12 April 2016, nine women from Mount Kendeng, Rembeng regency of Central Java encased their feet in cement in front of the State Palace, Jakarta in protest against the construction of a PT Semen cement plant.
The women hoped that the protest would symbolise the ‘shackling’ of their lives and their environments by cement. Riem Ambarwati, one of the protesters, described cement as ‘dead earth’ because no living thing can grow within it (Coconuts).
PT Semen began construction of their plant in June 2014 and have since experienced massive community backlash. The communities of Kendeng and also Pati, Grobogan and Blora, where other cement companies have plans to build; are mostly farmers and are concerned that the plant, being build upon the Watuputih groundwater basin area will greatly diminish their primary water source and so impact upon their livelihoods as farmers. The communities also point out that they have always been able to support themselves through farming and do not need or desire the jobs that the cement plants will provide.
The plant could potentially cause the loss of 51 million litres of water. Aside from community opposition the construction of the plant has met with opposition from environmental activists and academics who insist that the mountainous karst area must be preserved. The mining of limestone in the karst region, necessary for the production of cement will have detrimental impacts on the mountains underground water channels that provide water not only to the immediate area but also carry water farther afield.
The Kendeng community were granted an audience with President ‘Joko’ Jokowido who ordered further strategic environmental assessment (KLHS) and all permits to be annulled for the duration of the study. The assessment will involve the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and is estimated to take one year.
The affected communities still fear that this will not deter activities at the plant and plead for a respect of their environment and for dialogue between industrial contractors and local land holders, who in this case had never been previously consulted regarding the construction of the plant.
On 4 December 2016, Kendeng farmers set out to undertake a 150 km march from Rembang to Semarang. PT Semen Indonesia has not stopped its illegal activities at the cement plant and the villagers are petitioning the Supreme Court to take action. The week leading up to the march also saw a huge spike in cement factory advertising across Indonesian mass media channels, this may have fueled the decision to take further action against the large corporation.
The Myanmar Penal Code of 1860 states;
Of Unnatural Offences
377. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with transportation for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Policy written in colonies during occupation are inherently structured on the cultural and political norms of the coloniser. Within this environment intercourse against ‘the order of nature’ or ‘unnatural sex’ is usually interpreted by authorities to mean sodomy or same-sex activities that cannot result in procreation. The lineage of such ideologies can be traced back to ideas of religious sinful practice in Europe. Countries previously held by Britain including Myanmar, India, Malaysia and Singapore still hold these colonial era laws in place.
In Myanmar today this law is rarely enforced but because of its existence LGBT people are seen as criminals and are frequent victims of discrimination, violence, oppression and in some cases extortion.
Hla Myat Tun from Colors Rainbow, a LGBT advocacy organisation stated of Myanmar police, "They see them as a walking ATM. If they need to fill their quota, they arrest transgender sex workers, or gay guys. They harass them, they arrest them, even gang-rape them in the police compound" (The Guardian).
Aung Myo Min created Colors Rainbow in 2007 after having realised that Myanmar’s "main human rights violation was ignorance". The organisation trains volunteer paralegals to document occurrences of homophobic and transphobic activities. By recording this information and through further research they aim to educate the wider public and to propose a new anti-discrimination law that they hope the new liberal government, the National League of Democracy (NLD) will adopt.
At a time when Myanmar is leaving behind its authoritarian past and navigating the discriminatory laws put in place by the British it is essential that minorities including the LGBT community are aware of their legal and human rights so that their voice may find a place in the rewriting of Myanmar social and political life.
These messages are being spread effectively though film. This year, Myanmar held their second &PROUD LGBT Film Festival, which premiered a biographical documentary about Aung Myo Min titled Di Lo A Chit Myo (This Kind of Love), among other short films.
Similarly, EngageMedia is holding multiple screenings around Myanmar aiming to educate audiences of the experiences of a wider range of minority groups. Among the films is Turning Tables production That’s The Way I Am, a film exploring a homosexual mans experience in coming out and the fear that characterised his childhood.
From 5-7 October 2016 organisations from all over Asia participated in the Regional Meeting for the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This meeting aimed to strengthen APC's regional strategy for 2017 and beyond.
One of the key points that arose was attempting to find a better way for collaboration between APC members in the Asia region. The participants were also concerned with how this regional collaboration on technology and information can cover gender and sexuality challenges that are specific to particular countries. These points will continue to be discussed in the APC Paper about Theory of Change and Strategy for 2016-2019.
In discussing cutting-edge technology participants raised concern about problems of access to information and technology in the Asia regions. There was discussion about the social and economic costs of network shutdowns on freedoms and human rights in the Indian sub continent. APC also endeavoured to develop a framework on last mile access to examine which countries do not allow community networks, an issue faced in Argentina and which are wireless, like Nepal.
The participants also explored the possibilities of holding a national school for internet governance in Asia so that any member can replicate this in their home country. There was also suggestions to facilitate participation in the design of digital rights camps in South East Asia or more widely, South Asia.
The meeting was closed by a short conference with Bangladesh Minister of Information & Communication Technologies and received a lot of coverage from the Bangladeshi media.