Parece que os autocratas perderam a vergonha de reprimir..
The Washington Post, 202, July 30, 2019
THE BIG IDEA: Huge protests in capitals around the world are among the most important and underplayed stories of this summer, but pro-democracy movements on three continents are at risk of being squelched as surveillance states grow more adept at controlling the technologies that helped people liberate themselves during the Arab Spring at the start of the decade.
In Moscow, as an estimated 1,400 demonstrators were arrested outside City Hall on Saturday, Russian authorities stormed a TV studio belonging to opposition figure Alexei Navalny so they could shut down a live stream of the protests on YouTube. Thousands took to the streets, risking prison time, because opposition candidates have been blocked from appearing on the ballot in upcoming municipal elections. The violent crackdown, led by a close ally of Vladimir Putin, came a week after more than 22,000 people protested in downtown Moscow, chanting, “Russia will be free.”
In Hong Kong, police arrested at least 60 people on Saturday and Sunday, the eighth consecutive weekend of protests, the most detained in a single weekend since the start of the upheaval. The Beijing-backed government is using facial-recognition software to targetdemonstrators. Pro-democracy activists are responding by wearing surgical masks and using laser pointers to foil the technology. My colleague on the island, Shibani Mahtani, reports that they’re also deleting all the Chinese-made apps on their phones, even for e-commerce shopping sites, in a quest to stay ahead of Big Brother. They’re installing virtual private networks on their phones and downloading secure messaging apps such as Telegram. Young activists in Hong Kong who came of age in a digital world are trying to go as analog as possible so they can limit their footprint on the grid, but they’re learning how hard it’s becoming. They buy single-ride subway tickets, forgo credit cards, take no more selfies and buy pay-as-you-go SIM cards.
Chinese authorities responded by allegedly launching a massive cyberattack against the servers for Telegram hours before protesters planned a major occupation of Hong Kong’s streets last month. The company said it was hit by a powerful distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which filled servers with junk requests, that originated from the mainland. Hong Kong police officers also arrested a coordinator of a Telegram group with thousands of people at his home. A court in Moscow banned Russians from using Telegram last year after the company declined to provide encryption keys to the state security agency, and Iran also blocked the app after it was used to organize protests to draw attention to economic hardships.
In Sudan, the military council that took control after overthrowing Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April decided to shut down all public access to the Internet in a ploy to quell continuing street protests. Sudan is one of at least 22 African countries where the government has ordered a shutdown of the Internet at some point in the past five years. The list also includes Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The previous regime ordered telecom companies to block access to social media from December through April, but it wasn’t enough to stop word-of-mouth organizing.
There has been significant bloodshed since the president was deposed after three decades in power. Sudanese security forces fired yesterday on student demonstrators in a central province, killing at least five people, organizers told the AP. On June 3, pro-democracy activists say that security forces killed at least 128 of their people – the state prosecutor says it was 87 – while dispersing a protest camp in front of the military’s headquarters in the capital of Khartoum. Organizers say they pulled 40 bodies from the Nile River that were slain as part of a crackdown.
Hundreds of thousands of people turned out on June 30 to show that they would not be deterred. “Protesters rubbed the leaves of nearby neem trees onto their faces to get relief from the tear gas,” my colleague Max Bearak reported from Khartoum. “Sunday’s protests were organized almost entirely without Internet service. Graffiti announcements blanket many of the city’s walls, and small groups have walked through neighborhoods with megaphones to spread the word.”
The Sudanese Professionals Association – which helped coordinate Monday’s student activism – organized months of protests leading to the overthrow of the former president, but leaders now worry that the generals won’t follow through on a promised transition to civilian rule. That’s why they continue to mobilize. The protest leaders are scheduled to meet today with the leaders of the military to discuss a power-sharing agreement. There was a tentative accord this month, but several holdups remain. Among them, according to the AP, is whether military commanders should be immune from prosecution for violence against protesters.
-- In this brave new world, there are constant games of cat-and-mouse between people who yearn for more freedom and those who seek to keep control. In Indonesia, to quell protests in Jakarta after the president was reelected this spring, the communication minister curtailed access to social media after six people were killed and hundreds injured. The restrictions limited the sharing of videos and photos over Instagram and WhatsApp.
Iran has been blocking public access to sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube since activists used them to organize mass protests and document a crackdown after a disputed election in 2009. Young people who hunger for a taste of the outside world go to great lengths to bypass state censors, downloading VPNs. Notably, though, leaders of the regime – such as the foreign minister – use sites like Twitter to share the party line. And while pro-government accounts have proliferated, the AP noted from Tehran last week that YouTube remains largely off-limits because it’s hard to download and view videos while using the workarounds.
-- Strongmen fear social networks because they continue to be such a potent organizing tool. More than a quarter-million people assembled on June 23 in Prague’s Letna Park to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who they believe subverted the independence of the judiciary by appointing a new justice minister who is unlikely to bring charges against him in a fraud case involving the misuse of European Union subsidies meant for small businesses. (Babis denies wrongdoing and retains a strong grip on power.)
This was the largest mass protest in the Czech capital since the 1989 Velvet Revolution allowed dissident Vaclav Havel to become president. It grew out of a Facebook group called A Million Moments for Democracy, which launched on the anniversary of that famous protest. Over the past year and a half, thanks to social media, the campaign has led to protests in more than 300 cities and villages.
-- After Kazakhstan held an election on June 9, police arrested thousands of protesters who believed the regime falsified the results.“Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan had been ruled by its communist-era leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had handpicked candidate Kassym-Jomart Tokayev — and declared him the winner. As protests continued despite mass arrests, Kazakhstan’s urban areas were blanketed by police forces, at times visibly outnumbering the civilian population,” writes National Defense University’s Erica Marat. “Both sides of that equation — the mass dissent and the police repression — reached new levels in Kazakhstan. With a new leader, the nation is entering a volatile phase of police-public dynamics, one in other hybrid regimes like Russia or Ukraine under President Viktor Yanukovych.
“Here’s the issue: Hybrid regimes — those that are partly democratic, partly authoritarian — have more protests and more brutal suppression than those that are fully one or the other,” she explained. “These nations have a coercive apparatus that is intact and functional — but also a civil society whose members strive to be active political players. Unlike in fully democratic nations, those individuals and organizations have no real opportunities to collaborate with the government. When elections aren’t truly competitive, protesting is one their few options. But the more anti-government collective action is organized, the more brutal state response is likely to be.”
-- There have been scores of other newsworthy protests this summer from Algeria to Zimbabwe, with recent activity in Guatemala, Pakistanand Bahrain. What modest gains there have been often seem fragile.
-- Democracy has been in a recession the past few years, and the world now stands at a plastic juncture. If the 20th century was the American Century, will the 21st century be the Autocrats Century?
-- In Hong Kong, China would much rather use technology than troops to put down the protests. But the regime's patience appears to be thinning. Top officials in Beijing called on Monday for punishing the “radicals” involved in the turmoil. “China maintains a military presence in Hong Kong, and China’s Defense Ministry suggested last week that it was open to using troops to quell the unrest, saying the protests were ‘intolerable,’” Mahtani and Anna Fifield report. “Signs of China’s influence over Hong Kong abound. The Hong Kong and Chinese flags flew at half-staff above government offices Monday in mourning for Li Peng, the former Chinese premier known as ‘the Butcher of Beijing’ for his role in the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.”