Internet and Egypt protests

INTERNET WARS: Hashtags #Jan25 #Cairo and #Egypt are following the latest protest on twitter. Police followed the progress of the set up of the protests using Twitter and Facebook. Yet, learning from previous clampdowns of similarly organised protests this year, the first locations posted were decoys to derail riot police.The government also tried to prevent information from spreading by blocking Twitter, Facebook, and telephones on both Jan 25 and Jan 26. Again, savvy activists knew their way around and used proxies to bypass the internet block.  Click here to read an impressive report on internet guerrilla tactics and build-up of protest.

International Hackers Anonymous have started a full hacking campaign on Egypt’s government websites.

REASONS FOR CURRENT PROTEST IN EGYPT:

Poverty: Nearly half of all Egyptians live under or just below the poverty line set by the United Nations at $2 a day.

Restraining freedom of speech, among other constitutional freedoms under Emergency Law.

The current president has been in term for more than legal limit.  According to Daily News Egypt article, “Organizers of the protest said that their demands include raising the minimum wage, ending emergency law, the impeachment of the minister of interior and limiting presidential terms to two.”

LATEST PHOTOS FROM EGYPT:

Remon Elmarkiz Micheal, a photographer from Cairo, has been kind enough to share this set of photos with Canary Trap. The photos are related to Egyptians protecting a residential block in Cairo.

Click here to view more photos…

Why I protest: A view from Egypt

I write this now mostly to those who are not in Egypt, mainly because internet has been blocked amidst an intentional media blackout orchestrated by the Egyptian government, conspiring against its own people.

The complete and utter brutality of the Egyptian regime has never been exemplified as much as it has during the protests that started on 25 January of 2011. As I went out to protest, people around me were from all classes and all ages, yet contrary to what was reputed about the Egyptian characters, they were very responsible, peaceful and disciplined. Egyptians knew the rules of a protest well, to keep it peaceful and not to use foul language. For every one person who even thought of breaking these rules, there were 10 to point him back to the way chosen for this protest.

Unprovoked, the police would use tear gas, beat up protesters, and hire thugs with bats, knives and swords to intimidate and beat up citizens. All this is captured on video and yet the US refuses to act and continues to provide Egypt with weapons. Police fire live ammunition on protesters and America remains silent. America supplies weapons to criminals who break the law put by their own country and the worst part is that they’re the ones trying to uphold it. Contrary to US popular belief, Egyptians are fond of Americans, but when the US does not practice what it preaches about democracy, freedom and human rights, people become wary of their treason to their own values. It’s not true that only Mubarak will serve America’s interests, unless America will only rely on dictators to serve its own end.

I may seem to have been sidetracked, but it only seems that way. It’s not the US, but the values that Americans and westerners can relate to that I’m really trying to express. Since I send this out to places with less oppressive regimes, I want to tell you that the reason I went out to protest are the values that west preaches.

I come from an upper middle class family, with an upper middle class job. I have a car, I have a phone, I have money and I’ve been around the world. I’m not financially impoverished and yet I protest. I protest because in Egypt we lack dignity and a sense of humanity. I protest because I cannot take part in any elections and they’re all rigged. I have no voice, I have no vote. I protest because poverty around me impoverishes me even though I possess money. I protest because everyone around me is unhappy and we’re capable of so much more, so much more.

I protest because it’s not enough to have money, one needs a sense of respect as a human being and we don’t have that. I protest because those who are poor do not even have the little respect I’m given. There are too many injustices and the regime sits idle, at most commending the bad and punishing the good. I don’t know how one can stand for that, and yet America does. I don’t know how one can be silent for 30 years and yet Egyptians have.

The world is silent, watching, waiting as a media blackout takes control of Egyptians. Governments like vultures watch and wait for an outcome, condemning weakly by voice, and not at all through action. It seems that money means more for governments than human lives. I know that this is not the sentiments of people it represents. I know that people in the US like Egyptians value freedom, dignity and equality more than they value selfish gains by unlawful dictators.

This is the situation in Egypt, if it wasn’t already clear to outsiders. Egyptians of course know all this. They are aware of the tyranny and oppression we’ve been faced with for 30 years. They know what it’s like to fight so hard for the simplest right and not get it. In one day, a decision to cut us off from the world was taken, and the aim was to slaughter us in the absence of media reporting and as I speak now, wounded people are unable to communicate with hospitals, families and friends in order to receive medical care. The country is up in flames and still the government imposes the media blackout.

It took Mubarak four days of the most intense protests in the history of modern Egypt to even begin to listen to what was being said. Even then he did not understand any of the concerns of the people and accused them of violence rather than his police and thugs. Who could accept a ruler like that?

If it takes so much effort to get nothing, what use is it belonging to a government like this? The government must change, cheating must change and the criminals that govern us must change. Is it too much to ask?

(The identity of the author has been withheld keeping in mind the security implications. He resides in Cairo.)

Egypt protests: Eyewitness account from Cairo

(The following is an eyewitness account of the events of the night of January 25th in Cairo. The email was sent by a foreign national living in Egypt to friends and family, describing the protests and the crackdown in Cairo. Canary Trap thanks Lara for sharing the details with us.)

I am in complete awe by the bravery and resilience of the Egyptian people. We are being careful and are keeping an hourly watch on News updates from the BBC, Al Jazeera, arabist.net, Facebook, our embassies, etc.

There is a lot to be said about these protests and why we think it’s a good thing. I will try to keep this to the basics of what we experienced Jan 25th into the early morning of the 26th.

The first of the marches began Tuesday around noon. We received news from twitter and Facebook about where exactly protesters were marching in Cairo.

We decided to head downtown to participate (with caution, from a distance) and see history-in-the-making. Cairo hasn’t experienced protesting this large since 1977. A few hours downtown lagging behind the marches, taking videos/photos, we ended up in the central square called Tahrir- which means “Liberation square”.

Here are some photos from our mobile: http://www.flickr.com/photos/forestparks/sets/72157625910170852/

It was about 16:30. There were approximately 2000 people in Tahrir, mostly young men. But we also saw families, children, the elderly, and some colleagues and friends there.  Some were setting up picnics, picking up litter, and some chanting things like: “Enough of Mubarak’s regime”; “Gamal, tell your father he’s not wanted” and “Police, how much money do you make- 50 pounds per month?”  (which is the equivalent of 10$).

At this point, Twitter was completely shut down, but we still received updates from facebook and a warning that the police were preparing to use water cannons and tear gas.

We decided to get a view from above and were escorted by an Egyptian friend to a nearby high rise. From there we took this video:  http://vimeo.com/19211496.

In the video you can hear/see that just as the call to prayer began, police started shooting tear gas canisters, chasing and beating people down Qasr al-Aini Street (which parliament and a host of other govt buildings are located).

A close look and you can see 8 police barricades spanning about a mile down the street. The people regrouped and forced the police past their water cannons!  Protesters chanted “Allah Akbah” and then warning sirens went off to signal an upcoming tear gas attack.

Once the tear gas hit, we went inside the building.

Come 22:00, we were ready to go home, but decided to stop by the square again to see if activists were still around.

Considering the excessive use of tear gas we honestly thought it was all over. It wasn’t.  A little less people than last time, but still in the thousands, and still with high and peaceful spirits.  Another friend we came across told us the police will be using rubber bullets soon.

So, we went back up to the same roof as before. The doorman saw us, but was busy controlling the crowd at the elevator. We took the stairs. There were a handful of journalists up there. We all watched together as the police beefed up their barricades and closed in all 6 streets to the square. The people were completely blocked in.  We also saw a line of men in plain clothing march out from the protesters’ side and line up in rows of 10 behind the riot police (an Egyptian journalist told us that those were the “hired thugs” and “undercovers”).

The warning sirens went off again. It was midnight. Water trucks and police trucks equipped with sound guns rolled up to the front of the barricade.

From there, we saw the police initiate the attack by driving the trucks slowly into the protesters, followed by police with swinging batons, electric guns, and tear gas. By 1:00am the square was empty of protesters and full of police. We waited an hour for them to clear out.

Because of Egypt’s “state of emergency law”, which makes any assembly without government permission illegal, police can arrest anyone suspect of protesting. When we decided it was safe, we all headed down the stairs together only to find that there were police at the bottom floor talking to the doorman.

Foreigners like us, and some others who were there, were not to be at any risk. But the Egyptians with us were.  So we headed back up the stairs. One person in our group, owned a space in the building. He herded us all into the classrooms (we were 21 people at this point). The doorman came by and warned that friend of ours that the police will be searching the building and that we must stay quiet. As we sat whispering and sipping tea, we could hear police going up and down the hall stairs. Meanwhile, some of the journalists were on the classroom computers writing up articles and posting videos.

Four hours go by. The doorman then came up and told our friend that it was safe to leave, but that we must go in pairs of two. One of the Egyptians in the group lived in our district and had a car; we left with him.

When I walked through the square at 5am, it was completely silent, but also, what struck me was how clean it was. Not a speck of trash on the ground. Not a single trace of the thousands who gathered there.  We got home safely at 6am.

Sorry this took a while to get to you, but Gmail has been in and out as the company Vodafone is compliant to government pressures. I will keep on updating as much as I can. And I will let you know as soon as I get that other video up. Please keep informed (not via Fox News) about the events. The Facebook group “We are all Khaled Said” has leading updates across Egypt.

Much love and peace

Lara

“Day of Anger” continues in Egypt

A land cannot be protected from its own people; any government that tries to do so is not a democracy. No wonder then that Egyptians chose Police Day: January 25, 2011, to express intolerance towards a police state. The current scenario – rampant with corruption, youth unemployment, and increasing poverty – is not one citizens would have chosen for their future generations. Now it calls upon the 83-year old Hosni Mubarak to step down from power after three decades of presidency.

January 25 marks a tipping point in Egyptian history. These are the first nationwide demonstrations of their kind since Egypt’s resistance against Israel in 1973. Now, Egypt exercises the power of assembly, a democratic right that was denied it under the Emergency Law. This law, which allows censorship, extends police rights to ‘maintain order’, and suspends constitutional rights (such as those of freedom of expression and assembly) has been in effect in the entirety in Mubarak’s rule. The law also prevents street demonstrations and the formation of political organisations. Violators are sent to imprisonment and sometimes torture.

http://egyprotest-defense.blogspot.com aggregates information on protests in Egypt. http://egyprotest-defense.blogspot.com/search/label/Jan25 focuses specifically on the January 25 protest.

Social media and networks have been used by activists in Egypt to assemble. The 6 April strike in 2008, called the “Egyptian Intifada,” started with workers in the industrial city of El Mahalla el-Kubra calling for an increase of minimum wages. Activists used Facebook, blogs, and text messages to rally support for the strike against the regime. Police was forewarned of the strike, and was quick to stall it. The April 6 Youth Movement that started as a Facebook page in support of workers in 2008 gathered support form 70,000 members in 2009. The follow-up strike on 6 April that year however was also stalled. Access to information on strikes was freely available through Facebook and Twitter making protests easier to contain and quell.

Intimidation of political bloggers, journalists, and activists is not uncommon in Egypt. Cases of torture and police brutality are also not unheard of. However, when 28-year-old Khaled Said from Alexandria was brutally beaten to death at the hands of police, civilians were inflamed. Images of Khaled Said’s disfigured face spread quickly, and the popular slogan “I too am Khaled Said” spread. In an extraordinary show of non-violent protest, people wearing black assembled in various places marking July 23, 2010 as a day of silent protest.

Following cases of self-immolation in Tunisia that led to the toppling of the leader Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, many cases of self-immolation followed in the region. Copycat self-immolation protests in Egypt were perhaps the most powerful spark in the region, and served a warning sign to the government: http://thedailynewsegypt.com/people/analysts-say-self-immolation-warning-sign-for-govt-as-6th-incident-reported.html.

(The post is a compilation of eyewitness accounts sent to Canary Trap from Egypt. The identities of eyewitnesses have been withheld keeping in mind the security implications to their lives.)

2G Scam and Sibal’s strange arguments

BY ARUN AGRAWAL

Last week, one was dumbfounded when Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal tried to insult the intelligence of the entire nation while stating that the 2G scam did not cause any loss to the nation. Though his arguments seemed convincing, they were heavily flawed. The one to one interview with TV anchor/talk show host Rajdeep Sardesai and Karan Thapar did not help matters. Neither of them did their homework, did not read or understand the issues raised by the CAG report. In short, they had not put in the work required to take on the  minister who was on top of his brief. That further emboldened the minister and it was only after the  Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Murli Manohar Joshi and the CAG Vinod Rai intervened that the minister’s aggression abated.

How honest was Sibal in his arguments can be better appreciated if one goes back to what has been recorded by the Hon’ble Judges of the  Delhi High Court in Home Communication Ltd. And Anr. vs Union Of India, argued by him. The issue in that case too  was  the first come first serve system of allotment of time slot on satellite channels. Sibal was representing Hindustan Times in that case. The First-Come-First-Serve (FCFS) policy was struck down by the Delhi High Court, a fact conveniently forgotten by both Sibal and A Raja, be it for different reasons.

Here are the excerpts of what Sibal’s arguments as recorded in the judgment: Kapil Sibal said that the principle of ‘first come first served’ was applicable only in such situations where the recipient of the distribution of the largess was entitled to refuse to deal in the said commodity, and that it applied only to such cases involving the government and the vendee where the vendee had the absolute right in discretion to deal with the commodity in the manner it liked and the public was entitled not to purchase the said commodity.

He said such a principle was wholly inapplicable to the concept of public broadcasting where the general public had no right not to view the programme. He said if it was an import license the question would have been different and the only affected party would be the competitor, but here it is the general public. Sibal said that the present scheme was unworkable, and perhaps, auction could have been a better method. He said between FCFS and Random Number Generation the latter would be still better as everybody would have a chance there.…..

FCFS could work only if the demands were less and slots were more which was not the case here, so Sibal put in. He said that the FCFS method as envisaged will result in black marketing of time slots by unscrupulous licensees which will be at the cost of the public revenue as well as sufferings of the viewers….The policy as it stands promotes trafficking in licenses and fails to address itself to the consequences and the policy to be adopted in the event a particular programme fails.

Everything that Sibal said then is applicable to the 2G scam now. The difference was that in the 2G scam licenses were given on the FCFS, and that black marketing did take place at the cost of public revenue.

All that the CAG did was compute the loss in terms of the auction price of the 3G spectrum and the rate at which Swan Telecom and Unitech black-marketed the license.

Sibal, to be fair, may take the defence that in that case he was arguing for a hefty fee (amount not known) by representing Hindustan Times and was merely being loyal to his client.

Which then begs the question that how does one know that he is not arguing now to make a bigger gain?

Is that the reason then for his  allowing all the license holders to pay a minuscule fine for not complying with the roll out norms instead of forfeiting the license and re auctioning them?

What is the difference in amount between forfeiting the license and collecting the fine? What would five percent of that difference be?

Kapil Sibal would like us to believe that the exchequer benefited by Rs 110 crores because he believes that spectrum is for free. However, if the lowest of the black marketing figure is used  to calculate the loss then the exchequer is poorer by Rs 50,000 crores, 5 percent  of that is  Rs 2500 crores. Could that be the amount that Sibal and his party made in the cover up? That is a lot better than arguing a case for Hindustan Times!

(PS: It was the license that was being sold and the license fee that was being paid for included  the cost of the spectrum. It was the license that had to be auctioned. The CAG has dealt at length on the issue of separating license from the spectrum.)

(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar)

Best of Canary Trap in 2010

A very happy and a prosperous 2011 to all the readers of Canary Trap. As we enter the new year, we bring you the top 10 posts of 2010 from different categories (Corruption, Politics, Security and Intelligence, History, Media Analysis).

It has been an eventful year for Canary Trap and we have tried our best to keep our readers updated regarding all the issues that made headlines.

From the Telecom Scam, controversy surrounding the Nuclear Liability Bill, Mining mess in Karnataka, David Headley case, Terrorism in India, Bhopal gas tragedy case, Paid news phenomenon, crisis in the Indian intelligence agencies, important political developments, to the revelations made by Wikileaks, Canary Trap has always been ahead in giving out information. Our list of guest bloggers is also expanding and we will be publishing a wide range of opinions on important issues in 2011.

So, here’s a list of Canary Trap’s top 10 posts of 2010:

1. Is Headley US’s another Ali Abdel Saoud Mohamed?
Category: Security and Intelligence
Date: January 7, 2010
Excerpt:
David Headley’s case is frighteningly similar to another US informant, which the US would never want to forget. Ali Mohamed — former Egyptian army officer turned CIA operative, Special Forces advisor, and an FBI informant — is one of the most dangerous intelligence operator who compromised the US intelligence community before the fateful September 11, 2001 attacks. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE….

2. Who leaked classified US info on Indo-Pak War in 1971?
Category: History
Date: January 13, 2010
Excerpt:
Jack Anderson, an American investigative journalist, first reported about the US tilt towards Pakistan under secret orders from then President Richard Nixon. Anderson got the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972 for his reports on US’ tilt away from India. The United States administration had ordered a high-level inquiry into the special reports by Anderson in The Washington Post on December 14 and December 16, 1971. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

3. Tapping, trapping and Telecom Scam
Category: Corruption
Date: April 28, 2010
Excerpt:
The intercepted calls also exposed the extent of lobbying done for ministerial berths and the helplessness of none other than the Prime Minister in preventing corrupt people from occupying high offices. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

4. This, is “News”
Category: Media Analysis
Date: May 15, 2010
Excerpt:
Yes it’s a trade; it’s always been one. All it has done is metamorphosed from the practice of a skill to the far more realistic you-scratch-my-back-and-I-scratch-yours stage. Nah, that’s a dirty phrase. It just trivializes the effort that goes into sustaining the mystic of morality while manufacturing opinion. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

5. Is the new GoM on Bhopal gas tragedy a farce?
Category: Politics
Date: June 15, 2010
Excerpt:
The 55-page PMO documents gathered using Right to Information Act (RTI) shows manifest collusion between ministers, officials and Dow Chemicals to protect it from the liabilities of industrial catastrophe of Bhopal. The documents reveal how some of the ministers who have been made part of Group of Ministers (GoM) by the Prime Minister have been acting to safeguard the interest of the US corporation in question, which is liable for Bhopal disaster. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

6. Mining Mess: Open letter to Manmohan Singh
Category: Corruption
Date: August 7, 2010
Excerpt:
It is ironic that while iron ore worth Rs 100 crores is being pilfered and looted by private interests each day in a cosy crony capitalistic relationship, NMDC is looking for fresh investment for iron ore in Australia! Add to that the proposed allotment of iron ore to private barons worth trillion of dollars for petty royalty and not to NMDC, the tragedy of a poor nation suffering at the hands of corrupt politicians is complete. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

7. Why banning BlackBerry is not the answer?
Category: Security and Intelligence
Date: August 15, 2010
Excerpt:
Given the Indian Government’s record in illegally tapping phones there is a huge possibility of them using the access to BB devices to monitor communications of business leaders, journalists, social activists, political rivals, and bureaucrats among others. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

8. CWG, Kalmadi, Indian Media and Paid News
Category: Media Analysis
Date: August 26, 2010
Excerpt:
A leading English newspaper sent a proposal to Kalmadi for positive coverage of the CWG in November 2009. The entire deal was worth Rs 12.19 crore. The media group wanted an “Official Newspaper” status for its flagship newspaper. The proposal stated: “We do not solicit any financial assistance from CWG for the above activities apart from the regular advertising support for encouragement.” CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

9. Is Ratan Tata’s SC petition on 2G tapes a bad strategy?
Category: Corruption
Date: November 29, 2010
Excerpt:
Ratan Tata would be well advised to sack the lobbyist, withdraw the petition from the Supreme Court and let the tapes remain in the public domain. Otherwise he risks damaging his reputation forever which will be a sad thing. As for the tapes, they will remain in public domain (the Internet is too vast to be covered by a court injunction). CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…

10. Telecom Scam: Is Swan Telecom being let off?
Category: Corruption
Date: December 30, 2010
Excerpt:
None of the people involved in the cover up have answered the question as to who was the owner of Tiger Trustee from 2/3/07, the date on which the application was filed to 18/10/07, the date on which pan-India license was given to Reliance Communication and on which date the company Tiger Trustee was transferred to Balwa and Goenka for a paltry investment of 4.99 crores? CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…