Jerry Jackson

Posts Tagged ‘Al Jazeera’

Donkeys Take Over From DSL as Syria Shuts Down Internet

In Activism, Human Rights, Internet Censorship, Society, Syria, World News on June 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm


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The Facebook revolution has retreated from this dusty Jordanian town on the Syrian border.

In a bid to quash a rebellion now entering its third month, the Syrian government, perhaps one of the world’s most Internet-unfriendly, has shut down pretty much all electronic communications inside the country and to overseas. Cut off from the World Wide Web, protestors, journalists and human rights activists have resorted to communications networks from another era.
And for that, Ramtha, a Jordanian town of about 100,000 people 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the capital of Amman, has become a virtual switchboard for news coming out of Syria, not to mention a swarm of refugees seeking to flee the carnage that has taken some 800 lives across the country, according to a United Nations estimate released last Friday.
Facebook and other social media have been widely lauded as the fuse that lit the unrest exploding across the Arab world. But Internet use in Syria has always been severely constrained and the number of people with access to it is very small – about 17% of the country had it in 2010, according to Internet World Stats – even if the government dropped its long-standing ban of Facebook weeks before the unrest broke out.


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Just across the border from Ramtha, the Syrian town of Dara’a is the birthplace of the Syria rebellion. That began in mid-March when dozens or more youths were detained by security forces for spraying anti-government graffiti. Since then, despite the massive presence of troops and attacks on the city’s main mosque, Dara’a remains in turmoil.
To get the news outs, activists have been smuggling videos to Jordan through the desert and across a nearly 80-kilometer border Jordan shares with Syria. Some risk approaching the border with Jordanian cellphones to report to the outside world and send clips. It’s a dangerous task because the Syrian and Jordanian armies traditionally have the area under heavy surveillance to prevent the smuggling of drugs and weapons into the kingdom or further to the Gulf states.
But desperate Syrians have been using a helping hand from smugglers to cross the border, either by walking or on the backs of donkeys, according to residents from Ramtha. Locals have centuries if not millennia of experience eluding officials.
“The two cities are connected more than anyone could think. For hundreds of years, the residents of Ramtha and Dara’a have been moving between the two towns easily through the farms and desert area. Now they rediscovered these ancient routes,” says Ahmed Kareem, a Jordanian taxi driver from Ramtha.
Kareem says several Syrian families escaped the wrath of the military by walking for nearly 24 hours before they were received by residents from Ramtha. The majority are being housed in a public school for the sake of their safety, and away from prying eyes of the media.
“We prepared the schools to welcome as many refugees as possible, but the problem is that many want to come but are unable due to the closure,” said Kareem.


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Syria says it has been forced to close the border to prevent foreign elements, who it has blamed for inciting violence, from infiltrating into its territory. Syrian officials indirectly accused Jordan of facilitating entry of foreign elements to stir the public against Bashar al Assad regime. Syria also accused Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood movement of coordinating with its Syria’s counterpart to topple the al Assad regime.
Those allegations have yet to be proven, but the closure limits the flow of news about what has been taking place in Dara’a, said Abu Abdullah, a Syrian rights activist who spoke to the Media Line by telephone from the city.
Syria refuses to allow foreign press into its territories, while those who leave refuse to go on camera for fear of retribution. Last month a Reuters correspondent was arrested after he was found covering the uprising in Dara’a. Dorothy Parvaz, an Al-Jazeera television correspondent, was detained by Syrian authorities and has since reportedly been transferred to Iran.
As a result, scores of journalists have flocked to the border point near Ramtha in the hope of catching news on the military operation taking place. But it is not proving to be easy, according to journalist stationed near Jordan’s border point.
Syrian activists who try to reach the outside world take a serious risk. Abu Abdullah, who asked not to be identified by his real name, uses a Jordanian mobile number to place calls, but to do so he has to get close to the Jordanian border at the risk of getting killed. Among the Jordanian cellular operators, activists say Umnia has the best reception in Dara’a.
“As I talk, people are trying to protect me from snipers by holding barrels and other items. This is very dangerous. We are unable to tell the world what is happening,” Abdullah said last week as he gave an account of an attack on civilians, including women and children.
“As I walked to this spot, I saw three people dead — a woman, a man and a girl. Nobody was able to save them because of the snipers stationed on rooftops,” he said.
Activists in Jordan say Syria has arrested a number of Jordanians as they tried to cross into its territories through the regular border crossings. Abdullah Zubi, a Jordanian driver arrested three weeks ago on the border, says Syrian police had one idea about the events.
“They asked me to confess that Jordan’s intelligence service is behind the attacks. They prepared a confession about role of Jordan’s secret service and wanted me to sign it,” he told The Media Line a day after he was released on May 11.


According to Zubi, Syria has arrested dozens of Jordanians during the past weeks as part of its crackdown on Dara’a.
Ramtha residents are concerned that the crisis will have severe economic implications for a city reliant on trade. Ramtha sees dozens of vehicles crossing into Syria or coming into the kingdom laden with goods heading to the kingdom’s market or to the oil rich Gulf states. The border crossing has helped thousands of Jordanians make a living.
But since Syria sealed the border with Ramtha, the city’s streets are void of traffic. It’s a double-blow for Ramtha residents, who are also feeling the impact of higher food and energy prices and a slowing Jordanian economy.
Many residents say they will have to look some where else to earn a living. For a start, this week, the government has now allowed taxi drivers from Ramtha to operate in other routes in light of continued closure of the borders.




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Reporters Without Borders protests against crackdown on media in Syria

In Activism, Human Rights, Internet Censorship, Military, Society, Syria, World Government, World News on May 5, 2011 at 12:16 am

Reporters Without Borders activists gathered outside the Syrian embassy in Paris at 11 a.m. today, World Press Freedom Day, to protest against the Syrian government’s crackdown on the media.

Chanting “Huriyat Al-Sahafa fi Suriya!” (Freedom of the press in Syria), the demonstrators threw buckets of blue paint at the embassy’s perimeter walls and used the paint to write: “It is ink that should flow, not blood.” Police detained 30 of the press freedom organization’s activists for a few hours.

“Syria is the country that worries us most at the moment,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “No one knows what is going on there. How many of the demonstrators have been killed? How many have been wounded? No one knows because journalists are being prevented from working. Foreign reporters cannot get visas to go there and local journalists are all being jailed or forced to remain silent.”

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Julliard added: “Defending freedom of information in Syria above all means defending the Syrian people’s right to know what is going on in their own country. The government must end this news blackout. Acts of violence are almost certainly taking place at this very moment in Syria but nothing is being reported because the media are banned from going there. This is unacceptable.”

Reporters Without Borders hails the release of Khaled Sid Mohand, an Algerian journalist who had been detained in Syria. It shows that all the demonstrations on his behalf in France and Algeria paid off. Journalists nonetheless continue to be targeted in Syria, as they have been since the start of the wave of protests there. Arrests, physical attacks and deportations are all being used to ensure a complete news blackout.

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The crackdown is continuing. Yesterday, the Syrian writer and journalist Omar Koush was arrested on arrival at Damascus airport after participating in a conference in Turkey, while Al-Jazeera announced that it had lost contact with one of its journalists, Dorothy Parvaz (who has US, Canadian and Iranian citizenship), since her arrival in Damascus on 29 April. Al-Jazeera previously announced on 27 April that it was suspending all activities throughout Syria until further notice because of the many threats and acts of intimidation against its crews.

Three other journalists are currently known to be held by the Syrian authorities. They are Fayez Sara, a Syrian journalist and writer who was arrested on 11 April; Mohamed Zaid Mistou, a Norwegian journalist of Syrian origin, who was arrested on 7 April; and Kamal Sheikhou, a Syrian blogger who was arrested on 15 March.

At the same time, there has been no news of the journalists Akram Abu Safi and Sobhie Naeem Al-Assal since 24 March.

As part of its actions marking World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders today released the 2011 version of its list of Press Freedom Predators, this one with 38 heads of state and warlords who sow terror in the media. The most important changes in this year’s list have been in North Africa and the Middle East, where dramatic and sometimes tragic events have taken place in recent months.


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US And Egyptian Special Forces May Be Covertly Training Libyan Rebels

In Egypt, Libya, Military, World Government, World News on April 5, 2011 at 5:50 am

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Gregory White
Business Insider
April 3, 2011

U.S. and Egyptian special forces are training Libyan rebel fighters in the use of advanced weapons, according to a report from Al Jazeera.

This news comes as U.S. fighter planes appear to be pulling back from the front lines, with NATO forces taking over.

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Beyond training, it appears Egypt and the U.S. are already supplying Libyan rebels with weapons, even though U.S. officials have publicly refused to do so. The individual who spoke to Al Jazeera mentioned Katyusha rockets as weapon they were being trained to use.
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Check out the Al Jazeera report below:


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Libya protests spread and intensify quickly

In Activism, Human Rights, Libya, Society, World News on February 22, 2011 at 4:32 am

Scores of people have been reported killed in continuing violence in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, amid escalating protests against Muammar Gaddafi‘s 40-year rule across the north African nation.


Deep cracks were showing and Gaddafi seemed to be losing vital support, as Libyan government officials at home and abroad resigned, air force pilots defected and major government buildings were targeted during clashes in the capital.

At least 61 people were killed in Tripoli on Monday, witnesses told Al Jazeera. The protests appeared to be gathering momentum, with demonstrators saying they had taken control of several important towns and the city of Benghazi, to the east of Tripoli.

Protesters called on Monday for another night of defiance against Gaddafi, despite a harsh security crackdown by his government.

A huge anti-government march in Tripoli on Monday afternoon came under attack by security forces using fighter jets and live ammunition, witnesses told Al Jazeera.

Libyan authorities have cut all landline and wireless communication in the country, making it impossible to verify the report.


As violence flared, the Reuters news agency quoted William Hague, the British foreign secretary, as saying he had seen some information to suggest that Gaddafi had fled Libya and was on his way to Venezuela.

But Al Jazeera’s Dima Khatib, reporting from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, said government officials there denied that Gaddafi was on his way to the South American country.

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The Libyan deputy foreign minister also denied that Gaddafi had fled the country.

With reports of large-scale military operations under way in Tripoli, a spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon said the UN chief held extensive discussions with Gaddafi on Monday, condemned the escalating violence in Libya and told him that it “must stop immediately”.

”]Protests against Gaddafi's rule have prompted harsh reprisals in several cities

” … The secretary-general underlined the need to ensure the protection of the civilian population under any circumstances. He urged all parties to exercise restraint and called upon the authorities to engage in broad-based dialogue to address legitimate concerns of the population,” Ban’s spokesperson said.

For this part, several Libyan diplomats at the country’s UN mission called on Gaddafi to step down.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, the deputy ambassador, said that if Gaddafi did not relinquish power, “the Libyan people [would] get rid of him”.

“We don’t agree with anything the regime is doing … we are here to serve the Libyan people,” he told Al Jazeera.


Dabbashi urged the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent mercenaries, weapons and other supplies from reaching Gaddafi and his security forces.

He said the Libyan diplomats were urging the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands-based body, to investigate possible crimes against humanity in the Libyan context.

Arab League to meet

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, called for an extraordinary meeting of the Arab League to take place on Tuesday. The aim is to discuss the current crisis in Libya and to put additional “pressure” on the government, he told Al Jazeera.


Talking to Al Jazeera, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi condemns Gaddafi’s regime

Hamad bin Jassim said the international community must act now. “I feel a big sympathy for the Libyan people. We don’t accept using force in this way or any way against the people or against any nation from their governments,” he said.

“And we make our declaration in this space and we think that the international community should also take a stand against what is happening in Libya at the moment.”

“I think the [UN] Security Council has to play a role. The condemnation is not enough … I think the five permanent members and others, they should take the responsibility and do something to help the civillian people in Libya, because what is happening is not acceptable in any way.”

Earlier in on Monday, Ahmed Elgazir, a human-rights researcher at the Libyan News Centre (LNC) in Geneva, Switzerland, told Al Jazeera that security forces were “massacring” protesters in Tripoli.

Elgazir said the LNC received a call for help from a woman “witnessing the massacre in progress who called on a satellite phone”.

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