NAFTA remarks send peso to new low

Commerce Secretary nominee says reopening trade agreement will be priority

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From left, Salinas, Bush and Mulroney at NAFTA signing.
From left, Salinas, Bush and Mulroney at NAFTA signing.

The peso hit a new record low yesterday after Donald Trump’s pick for United States Commerce Secretary said that NAFTA talks will begin soon after Trump’s inauguration as president tomorrow.

Trump’s risks to trade “don’t appear fully priced in,” said Citigroup Inc. analysts, according to a report by Bloomberg, after the peso fell 2% to 21.95 to the dollar.

Wilbur Ross said renegotiating the North American Trade Agreement will be a priority for the new administration.

His remarks also sent the Canadian dollar on its biggest slide since June. That the negotiations will happen “sooner rather than later caught the market offside,” said a foreign exchange strategist at Credit Suisse Groupe AG.

“Everything he [Ross] said tends to confirm fears that a NAFTA repeal as early as next week is a distinct possibility,” said Alvise Marino.

Ross’ comments came during his Senate confirmation hearing, at which he insisted he was “pro-trade.”

“I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade,” Ross said. “But I am pro-sensible trade, not trade that is to the disadvantage of the American worker and to the American manufacturing community.”

He said NAFTA had never been transparently reviewed and suggested that such agreements should be systematically reopened.

The trade agreement was signed in January 1994 by Mexico president Carlos Salinas, United States president George H.W. Bush and Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Source : Mexico Daily News

Chilean eco terrorist group claims responsibility for parcel bomb against CEO of largest copper corporation

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Chilean eco terrorist group claims responsibility for parcel bomb against CEO of largest copper corporation

Landerretche suffered superficial injuries to his extremities and chest when the bomb went off.

An eco-terrorist group said it was responsible for a parcel bomb that detonated at the home of the chairman of the board of Chilean state-owned mining giant Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer.

In an Internet blog site, the group known as Individualists Tending toward the Wild (ITS-Chile) posted a statement in which it claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack as well as two images of what it said was the bomb sent to the 44-year-old Oscar Landerretche’s home.

The parcel bomb was wrapped as a gift and delivered by a young woman to the residence, located in Santiago’s La Reina neighborhood. A professor of mining engineering at the University of Chile was listed on the parcel as the sender.

Landerretche suffered superficial injuries to his extremities and chest when the bomb went off. The group said the parcel would have arrived at the offices of the university professor if Landerretche had not received it first.

“The pretentious Landerretche deserved to die for his offenses against Earth,” it said, adding that he “had been deserving of our explosive gift for being at the head of this megaproject devastating all the beauty of Earth.”

They added that they were not anarchists and were seeking vengeance “for Earth’s devastation.”

That group has earlier claimed responsibility for other firebomb attacks or attempted attacks, including one targeting the University of Chile’s Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in May 2016.

Landerretche called the attack “very violent” and “cowardly” after being treated for his injuries at a clinic on Saturday morning. He told reporters that he and his family were fortunate, adding that his daughter and a domestic worker were in the house at the time but that his injuries were the most serious. (MercoPress)

 

Source : Santiago Times

“Era dinheiro nosso, não foi lotaria nenhuma, agora vale muito pouco”

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A Mevil foi declarada falência em 1995, um ano depois venderam os bens, mas os trabalhadores e restantes credores só firam o dinheiro ao fim de quase 22 anos.

Saldar dívidas, pagar a casa, mudar de carro. Dizem os trabalhadores que tanto poderiam fazer com os salários e os subsídios em atrasos quando fechou a MevilL, metalomecânica Vilafranquense. Deixaram de receber os salários, o tribunal decretou a sua falência a 22 de maio de 1995; receberam agora esse dinheiro, quase 22 anos depois. Vale muito menos, dá para reparar o carro, fazer obras, guardar para as despesas de saúde ou de um lar. Os que sobreviveram. Muitos morreram e a outros a doença impede-os de perceber que foram finalmente indemnizados.

“Era dinheiro nosso, não foi lotaria nenhuma, agora vale muito pouco, Foi trabalho prestado e que a empresa não conseguiu pagar na altura devido às dificuldades financeira. Dificuldades que não conseguiu vencer”. Daniel Pirralha, 74 anos. Começou a trabalhar na Mevil aos 29 anos e permaneceu até ser declarada oficialmente falência, nem sabe muito bem porquê. “Naquela altura arranjava trabalho em qualquer lado, mas como tinha a minha profissão e era perto de casa, fui aguentado para ver se a situação melhorava. Mas isso nunca aconteceu, foi-se arrastando, arrastando, cada vez mais no fundo, até o tribunal dar ordem para fechar”. Entrou como servente, adaptou-se “muito bem”, quando saiu era maçariqueiro, cortava chapas, metais e tubo com o maçarico.

Daniel é natural de Glória do Ribatejo, concelho de Salvaterra de Magos, fixou-se na localidade de Nova Loja, em Vila Franca de Xira depois da “guerra do Ultramar”. Deixou a agricultura para trabalhar numa fábrica de detergentes, de onde saiu para a metalomecânica. “Não foi por causa do salário, foi por causa dos turnos. E na Mevil havia a possibilidade de aprender um ofício, era uma escola!”

“A Mevil era uma grande escola. Muitos rapazes aprenderam lá a profissão e depois foram trabalhar para grandes empresas, ainda hoje lá estão”. Diz, também, Alípio Carvalho, 67 anos, dos quais 15 na metalomecânica.

Alípio trabalhou em madeiras, era entalhador, esculpia flores e outros ornamentos, ofício que ainda hoje considera ser o seu. Saiu por ser mal pago.

“Estive lá sete anos na indústria da madeira sem ser aumentado e fui para a Mevil por causa do ordenado. Ganhava seis contos e passei o dobro”. Quase o dobro, fazia muita diferença. Foi trabalhar com uma calandra, máquina de fazer tubos.

Primeiros salários em atraso

A empresa tremeu nos anos 70, mas foi nos anos 80 que “começou a andar mais tombada”, As coisas já não estavam bem no 25 de abril, éramos pagos à quinzena – quando comecei era à semana – e os pagamentos já falhavam. O patrão trabalhava em carrossel, pagava as dívidas aos bancos com o dinheiro que ia recebendo de cada um deles. Deu-se o 25 de Abril e os bancos fecharam as portas, o carrossel deixa de contar, começam a cair as contas, as encomendas a diminuir. Foi quando se pediu a intervenção do Estado”. Explica José Fernandes, 78 anos, um dos funcionário mais antigo quando a empresa fechou. Entrou com 22 anos, ali esteve “35 anos e oito meses”.

José Fernandes cresceu e evoluiu naquela que já era a casa do pai, seguiu-lhe os passos e sempre teve orgulho nisso. Ainda hoje, quando visitámos as instalações, dois grandes edifícios germinados, nas cercanias de Vil a Franca de Xira, que conservam uma chapa à entrada com a inscrição Mevil. “Aqui eram os escritórios onde recebíamos os salários. Para o fim, nunca sabíamos quanto dinheiro iríamos receber”. Entretanto, por ali passaram outros negócios, agora é a Munditubo.

É um dos mais velhos vivos, também um dos mais reconhecidos, não só na indústria como em Vila Franca de Xira, asseguram os amigos. “O Zé tinha estudos, era culto”, elogia Daniel Pirralha.

O Zé era serralheiro civil quando entrou na Mevil, em 1960, tinha 22 anos. Tinha experiência na construção, iniciou-se como serralheiro, tirou o curso Industrial à noite, foi evoluindo na profissão e na hierarquia. Saiu de lá preparador, avaliava o que era preciso para a obra e preparava todo o material.

Alípio e José contam que com a intervenção estatal e com o envolvimento da comissão de trabalhadores sentiram melhorias, foi uma fase boa, tiveram esperança. “Empresas grandes como a refinaria de Sines faziam-nos encomendas, apanhámos uma grande quantidade de trabalho, aumentámos o fundo de maneio, os salários eram pagos a horas, construiu-se o refeitório.”

Defendem que piorou quando regressou aos proprietários, já não os fundadores mas os filhos e outros sócios. Má gestão, um salto maior que a perna, a concorrência? Mas todo o país tinha empresas a fechar. Em com a entrada da CEE em 1986, entraram também as multinacionais, não resistiram. A Mevil não foi a única indústria a fechar em Vila Franca de Xira (ver texto ao lado).

“Entrei para a empresa a seguir ao 25 de Abril e já estava tecnicamente falida, estive lá 20 anos, sai com 46. Começaram a atrasar os salários, com a CEE era preciso fazer mudanças que não se fizeram, enfim.” Joaquim Humberto, 48 anos, cumpriu serviço militar no Ultramar, teve várias profissões antes de chegar à Mevil. Entrou como torneiro mecânico, passou para o controle de qualidade, terminou como orçamentista.

“Imagine o que é chegar ao fim do mês e não receber nada ou muito pouco; não ter subsídios, nunca saber com o que podíamos contar. Construi a minha casa com muito esforço, não pagava renda, também não tinha filhos. A mulher trabalhava no campo, no aviário de uma vizinha, tínhamos as nossas coisas, a horta, aguentámo-nos. Para os colegas que tinham rendas, filhos para criar, era muito difícil”, diz Daniel Pirralha. “Eu aguentei-me porque a minha mulher trabalhava”, acrescenta Alípio de Carvalho. Era operária da Pluricoop, uma empresa do concelho que resistiu aos anos 80 e 90 do século passado mas que não sobreviveu ao século XXI, fechou em 2011.

Anos de ouro à falência

“A Mevil abriu em 1960, o meu pai foi um dos fundadores, trabalhava noutra fábrica e foi convidado pelo patrão. Começaram num edifício pequeno em frente à estação, onde agora está um novo edifício e é um banco. Eram dois sócios, faleceram há muito. Construíram depois um pavilhão [em Santa Sofia, a alguns quilómetros do centro de Vila Franca de Xira, que a maioria dos trabalhadores percorria a pé], foi crescendo, construíram o segundo pavilhão, chegou a ter mais de 200 trabalhadores. Até que começou a ter problemas de tesouraria, nessa altura já estava na mão dos herdeiros”.

Quando fechou não chegava aos 30 funcionários, muitos já tinham saído e também esses só agora receberam os salários e subsídios atrasados. Ao todo foram 94 os trabalhadores ressarcidos, num total total de 152 credores, o que envolveu o pagamento de 609 937,90, todo o dinheiro que restou da Mevil, depois da venda do património, a que se juntaram os juros do depósito.

Rosa Saúde, 64 anos, dirigente sindical reformada mas que “continua na luta”, acompanhou todo o processo. Era, então, o Sindicato dos Metalúrgicos de Lisboa, que se fundiu no SITE (trabalhadores das indústrias transformadores e de energia”, em prole dos trabalhadores e muitos anos a delegação de Vila Franca de Xira. Apoiaram 84 dos 94 trabalhadores indemnizados, todos os que eram seus associados.

“Em 1986 houve uma tentativa de recuperação da empresa porque começarem a atrasar o pagamento dos salários. Mas não eram só os salários, havia dívidas à segurança social, aos bancos, aos fornecedores… O Tribunal decretou falência e considerou os trabalhadores como primeiros credores, que receberam a totalidade da dívida. O que sempre contestámos é que, se havia dinheiro da venda dos bens da empresa, porque é que não se pagava logo aos trabalhadores? Fizemos manifestações, escrevemos para todas as entidades, só ao fim de mais de 21 anos é que receberam. Receberam toda a dívida mas os valores não representam o mesmo agora”, explica. Nem é preciso fazer contas.

José Fernandes assistiu ao leilão da venda de todo o património, ele e outros colegas. “Não ia comprar nada, queria saber o que havia, para onde ia tudo aquilo. Foram muitos anos, aprendi, havia camaradagem”. As instalações e as máquinas renderam 100 mil e 100 contos, 500 mil e 500 euros.

Uma técnica do Tribunal de Vila Franca de Xira justifica o arrastar do processo pela existência de “múltiplos recursos com efeito suspensivos relativamente ao andamento do processo; também a circunstância de o Tribunal estar durante vários anos com excesso de pendência causado por falta de funcionários”. Justifica, ainda: “Estes processos de grandes empresas são muito complexos e muitas vezes o seu tratamento é demorado: são necessários vários dias para tramitar cada fase dada a sua complexidade, número de credores, quantidade de bens, etc”.

Explicações que vão de encontro às de Manuela Paupério, presidente da Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses (ver entrevista). E da experiência do advogado António Jaime Martins, especialista nesta área . ” Há tribunais de comércio que têm uma pendência muito elevada até porque tivemos um boom de insolvências com a crise, não só de empresas mas também de particulares. Os tribunais de comércio não são em número suficiente para a quantidade de insolvências e estes são processos complexos, às vezes com mais de 100 credores cada. Além de não estarem preparados com juízes e funcionários suficientes para dar resposta. Também faltam administradores bem preparados.”

Fala da atualidade, após as alterações legislativas com o Código de Insolvência e Recuperação de Empresas, aprovado pelo decreto-lei 53/2004, que também tem sofrido alterações. Criaram-se os tribunais de comércio, agora já não são falências mas insolvências. Existe a possibilidade das empresas negociarem com os credores um plano de viabilização sem o recurso aos tribunais e, nos casos em que isso acontece, muitas das decisões são tomadas a nível dos administradores. “Em termos de legislação está relativamente estabilizado, o problema é a falta de juízes e de administradores especializados, diz António Jaime Martins, que acredita que hoje um processo não demoraria tantos anos.

Era bem diferente quando a Mevil fechou, tudo era menos expedito e foram apresentados vários recursos das decisões dos tribunais, incluindo o Supremo, muitos deles contra a graduação dos créditos. Só os trabalhadores receberam a totalidade da dívida , com valores que vão de 129 a 24 742 euros por cada um, consoante a antiguidade. Todos os outros credores, nomeadamente instituições estatais, viram os valores baixar. Em 610 mil euros disponíveis , mais de metade, 380 mil, destinaram-se a pagar aos trabalhadores.

Tiveram sempre esperança de que iriam ser pagos, por saberem que havia dinheiro. O que não compreendem é a razão pela qual não receberam os juros desse depósito. Explica Jorge Antunes, da secção de Vila Franca de Xira da União dos Sindicatos, a que pertence o SITE, que nestes processos, há uma conta para o qual revertem os juros, que depois são distribuídos segundo os créditos reclamados, o que aconteceu com a Mevil. Essa é a razão pela qual os 500 mil e 500 euros de venda do património, totalizavam 610 no momento de pagamento das dívidas, em dezembro último. E que não chegou para pagar os montantes inicialmente devidos.

“Quem não viveu esta situação dirá que foi feita justiça aos trabalhadores aos lhes serem pagos os créditos a que tinham direito, mas para esses operários foi apenas a conclusão de um processo judicial que levou à total desvalorização do dinheiro a que tinha direito”, conclui o sindicalista.

Andar no “rasga manta”

O DN esteve com quatro dos trabalhadores que viveram todo o processo até ao fim. Com José Fernandes, Joaquim Humberto, Daniel Pirralha e Alípio de Carvalho, por ordem decrescente de idades, também de antiguidade na empresa, com mais salários e subsídios em atraso, o que se refletiu nos valores que só conseguiram recebe a partir de dezembro. É Alípio Carvalho quem tem o contacto de todos, os que vivem no centro de Vila Franca ainda se vão encontrado. É sempre uma alegria o novo reencontro. Alípio e José fazem caminhadas.

Lemos os nomes dos 94 trabalhadores credores, um ou outro já não se lembram quem era. “Devem ser daqueles rapazes que estiveram lá pouco tempo”. Uns 20 já morreram. “O quê, já morreu? Mas foi à pouco tempo. Coitado!” Tentam saber o que é feito das famílias dos falecidos. “Não consegues falar com a filha, sabes onde morava?” Os herdeiros têm direito a receber esses créditos, dívidas e lucros não prescrevem com a morte. Nem reclamaram esses valores até agora, talvez porque nem saibam que existem.

“Vou meter o dinheiro num banco, guardar para a reforma, talvez para um lar, não tenho filhos. Na altura dava para comprar um bom carro, agora só se for em segunda mão”. É o destino do cheque no valor de 23 320 euros que recebeu José Fernandes, reformado aos 62 anos de idade.

Quando a Mevil fechou transitou com Alípio para a Grumil, empresa do mesmo ramo para onde foram convidados por um antigo administrador da Mevil. Aí trabalharam quatro anos, posteriormente também esta empresa fechou. “Tinha muitos anos de descontos e reformei-me por anos de descontos. Comecei a trabalhar aos 12 anos numa fábrica de peças para automóveis”.

Joaquim Humberto divide agora os dias da reforma entre Castanheira do Ribatejo e Peniche. Há 21 anos saiu da metalomecânica para vender pelas de aço inoxidável, a ganhar o mesmo ordenado. mas conta que lhe faltava tudo o resto. Reformou-se aos 60 anos. Recebeu 13 084 euros. “Olhe, o carro foi logo para a oficina, está velho, tem 20 anos e há muito que precisava de uns arranjos. Em 1995, com este dinheiro podia mudar carro, mas seria sempre um em segunda mão”. Conta o que viveu, mas sem fotos. “A minha história é igual aos outros. É melhor não aparecer, ainda me vêm assaltar, há gente para tudo”.

Lembra Daniel Pirralha: “Apanhei três anos no desemprego [anos a que tinha direito], mas estive só um ano. Trabalhei numa fábrica de plásticos e depois fui para vigilante, sempre a pensar em ir trabalhar para a Câmara. Abriu um concurso e concorri, fui lavar as viaturas, reformei-me com 62 anos”. Recebeu 12 205 euros. “Na altura tinha comprado um carro, também já estava gasto. Vou guardar, a mulher não está bem de saúde qualquer dia tenho de a meter no lar, ela e eu. Não temos filhos”.

Alípio era bem mais novo, tinha 48 anos quando a fábrica fechou. “Fui para o “rasga manta”. O que significa trabalhar para empresas fornecedoras de mão de obra. Reformou-se com 64 anos. Recebeu 9 137 euros. “Uma parte guardo e outra é para fazer obras na cozinha, mas não pode ser grandes luxos”. E os sócios da empresa». “Não ficaram muito bem, os principais já morreram”.

Responde por todos os processos de falências Rosa Saúde. “Penso que não houve aproveitamento. Mas os patrões ficam sempre melhor que os trabalhadores, até porque têm hipóteses de se prepararem para essas situações. Em à partida, também têm mais recursos”.

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Selfie with Merkel Haunts Refugee

Dear Facebook, This Man Is Not a Terrorist

Under normal circumstances, he would be considered a shining example of integration. But a selfie of Anas Modamani together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been used repeatedly to label the young Syrian refugee as a terrorist. The 19-year-old has had enough and is taking legal action against Facebook.

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Photo Gallery: Haunted By a Selfie with Merkel

Life might have turned out differently for Anas Modamani had it not been for the selfie he took. Then he wouldn’t have had to hide out in the apartment of a friend in the town of Bitterfeld, Germany, after suddenly falling under suspicion of being a terrorist. But he also wouldn’t have been put on the cover of Stern magazine’s “Year in Review” issue or appeared on the popular talk show “Maybrit Illner.”

But he did take the photo. A selfie with a woman he didn’t immediately recognize at the time, but who he quickly realized was Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor and, back then, still a leader advocating on behalf of refugees.

Modamani, a 19-year-old Syrian, has been haunted by this photo, which he took during his first month in Germany as a refugee. Now he is even going to court to force Facebook, the world’s most powerful social network, to stop circulating manipulated photos of the event. He claims his selfie, as well as a picture of the moment taken by a news-agency photographer, have been repeatedly abused for the purposes of incitement and defamation, especially on Facebook. “People need to stop,” says Modamani.

Headlines Around the World

News of the lawsuit has made headlines around the world because the story combines a number of factors: a photo that gathered attention globally at the time it was taken; Merkel and the refugee crisis; Facebook and the issue of online hate; and the powerlessness of those who are defamed online. Reporters from Britain, Canada and Brazil are all currently trying to land interviews with Modamani, the Syrian in the Merkel selfie.

I met Modamani at his host family’s apartment in eastern Berlin. Sitting at the kitchen table, he spent 90 minutes telling his story, in German. He stumbles here and there, but his German is perfectly understandable. Suddenly he pauses, pulls out his iPhone and says: “Should we take a selfie?”

Modamani likes taking photos and posting them on his Facebook page, where the 19-year-old doesn’t worry too much about his privacy and where, at the time our interview took place, he had 2,789 friends. Far less normal is the fact that the photo of his Merkel selfie has been systematically and repeatedly used to defame him — at times as a “terrorist” and at others as a “violent criminal.”

This Should Be a Success Story

Absent these circumstances, Modamani’s integration in Germany could only be described as successful. It hasn’t even been a year and a half since the high school graduate fled Daraya (a city south of Damascus that lies largely in ruins today) for Germany. Modamani is staying with a cordial host family and fills his mornings with a language course and every other afternoon with a job as a McDonald’s cashier. Once he passes tests for the next two levels of German, he will be eligible to apply to study at a German university.

But he fears that the selfie he took together with the chancellor could ruin those plans. The selfie and the image by the photographer were both taken on Sept. 10, 2015, at an initial refugee reception center run by the Worker’s Welfare Association (AWO) in Berlin’s Spandau district. A handful of refugees that day managed to get photos together with Chancellor Merkel.

The images quickly traveled around the world, illustrating as they did Germany’s welcoming embrace of refugees at the time. But those days are long gone. Modamani’s image is still circulating widely on the internet today, but in entirely different contexts. It has become a symbol misappropriated by opponents of Merkel’s refugee policies — it has become a symbol of opposition to the chancellor. Mondamani may only be the means, and not the end, but he too must suffer the consequences.

The twisting of his image first began after the terrorist attacks in Brussels in March. Anonymous.Kollektiv, a Facebook page notorious for its agitation that has since been deleted, posted a link to a photomontage that included the selfie and a photo of one of the Brussels terrorists, Najim Laachraoui. The accompanying caption read: “Dumb, dumber, Angela: Did Merkel take a selfie with one of the Brussels terrorists?”

Over the Easter holiday, the post went viral. Then, in early June, the image was used in a posting with the heading, “the violence-importing selfie queen” (a reference, of course, to Merkel).

Internet-Speed Defamation

Anas Modamani’s case is indicative of the sheer speed and momentum with which defamation can be spread on the internet. It shows how it can be reused in new contexts without the ability to hold anyone accountable. It demonstrates how powerless those affected by such attacks can be made to feel.

The concept of “fake news,” which has been a focus of intense discussion in recent weeks, can be so abstract that it is difficult to grasp or pin down. Modamani’s case shows what can happen when lies about an individual are constantly circulated on the web in ways that weren’t even possible only a few years ago.

More recently, the photo of the selfie began circulating again in December. Someone had used Photoshop to superimpose the image onto a photo of the semi-truck used in the terrorist attack in Berlin, with the caption: “Merkel’s dead.” A week later, Modamani’s image began circulating again, only this time it had been distorted. Modamani’s face has been made thinner in an attempt to make him look like one of the five Syrians arrested in Berlin, suspected of having set fire to a homeless man and his belongings at Christmas.

“They’re against Angela Merkel, not against me,” Modamani says. “But I want it to finally stop.”

A Problem that Won’t Go Away

At some point, he hopes he will be able to fly back to Syria or to Lebanon to see his parents and siblings, who stayed behind, and he is concerned that airport authorities will find his image on the internet with the word “terrorist” next to it. He fears that he will meet a woman and she will Google his name. He is afraid that the defamation will haunt him for years to come.

Modamani says people sometimes write to him on Facebook and ask him nastily when he plans to finally return to Syria. He says he can’t always find the right German words to reply. He even stopped using Facebook for a few weeks, but now he is back online because of the latest photomontage. He wants to see what is being written about him.

His host mother Anke Meeuw sees a lot more than he does. She clicks through the profiles of people who are making defamatory postings and is well-connected with groups active in the fight against hateful agitation on social networks. She says she now ignores most posts that fall “under the radar” — in other words, things that don’t go viral.

A Small Victory

Sometimes she writes to people who share the postings. And often it gets ugly. After the attacks perpetrated by refugees in the towns of Ansbach and Würzburg, the Bavarian state chapter of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party posted its own photomontage. It included images of the attacks in Würzburg, Reutlingen and Ansbach. Underneath was the image of Merkel and Modamani, although his face had been slightly pixilated. The text read: “Migrant terror in Germany: Without Merkel, the perpetrators wouldn’t be here.” It included the hashtag #Merkelsummer.

In response, Meeuw wrote a letter to the head of the party’s Bavarian state chapter. In it, she described what these associations mean for her, her family and their foster son. The politician then deleted the image, but also blocked her from the page, she says. A minor victory.

The 41-year-old says she has an even deeper reason for fighting back. She wants to prevent “right-wing populist agitation from becoming socially acceptable.” She tells her foster son: “We have to take action against this — otherwise it will never stop.”

A Lawyer Who Is No Stranger To Facebook

An acquaintance put her in touch with Chan-jo Jun, a lawyer from Würzburg who has attempted several times to hold Facebook legally accountable for disseminating hateful speech on its platform. So far, he has made a considerable effort and attracted a lot of attention, but he has not been successful legally.

Jun is now seeking a temporary injunction to prohibit people like AfD politicians from sharing the posting about the homeless man, but also obligating Facebook to ensure that the image can no longer be shared and that it will be automatically blocked. He’s basing his legal argument on Paragraph 186 of the German Criminal Code on “defamation,” which prohibits the assertion or dissemination of a fact about a person which may defame that person or negatively affect public opinion about that person unless it can be proven true.

Should it be Facebook’s job to filter out defamatory content before it is posted? The current standard is that social media platforms like Facebook only have to take problematic content down after they have been informed about it. In practice, however, it doesn’t happen often enough.

Jun says the problem is that Facebook’s own community standards, its internal guidelines on what needs to be deleted, is much more loosely formulated than German law. And that’s why problems keep popping up for people like Modamani.

Facebook: We Take Responsibility ‘Very Seriously’

For its part, Facebook asserts that it adheres to Germany law. The company has since deleted all posts that are listed in the temporary injunction request.

Asked for a response, a company spokesperson sent the following statement: “When we are informed of content that is in clear violation of German law, we respect this and delete the content in compliance.” But: “a whole lot” of the content that gets reported “does not violate German law.” The company also states that it takes its responsibility very seriously.

To test how seriously Facebook takes such reports on a daily basis, I reported one image disparaging Modamani as a vile criminal. After our meeting, I used the report function to register a complaint about a photo suggesting Modamani had been involved in the attack on the homeless man.

The image had been posted by a certain “Dorothee K.” (or some user pretending to be a woman, since Facebook identities can never be truly verified) at 4:06 a.m. on Dec. 28. The user has more than 1,800 friends and most of the postings on her profile are about Islam, along with many links to pages filled with conspiracy theories. From this page alone, the image with Modamani got shared 67 times.

Limited Reporting Options

Facebook’s reporting options still aren’t suitable for instances like this. The network has announced that it will soon add the “It’s a fake news story” to the pull-down menu of reasons a story is being reported in Germany. Those reported stories would then be reviewed by community fact-checkers. But it will take several more weeks for the system to become operational.

Of all the bad options available, I click through to find the most appropriate one. “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook,” “It’s annoying or not interesting,” -> send to Facebook for review.

I sent the message at 9:46 a.m. At 6:57 p.m. the same day, I received a message on my mobile phone. That went fast.

A “message from the help team” informed me that Facebook had reviewed the photo in question and added: “Although it does not violate our community standards, it was still right to inform us.” According to the message, defaming a 19-year-old as a vile criminal is not a violation of Facebook’s community standards.

The help team also provided an additional suggestion, noting how I could block Dorothee K. Blocking, though, merely means that neither of us would be able to view each other’s profile or contact each other again on Facebook.

It makes it sound as if it is about something personal, as if the error was made on the part of the person who reported the content. The fact is that the responsibility lies with the people who create and disseminate such defamation. In the case of Anas Modamani, it is likely he will still be dealing with the consequences of these images for years to come.

“I love Facebook — I found an apartment through the network,” he says during our meeting. “But I also hate Facebook because this Photoshop stuff simply never ceases.”

 

Source : Der Spiegel

Mightier Than the Sword: How Politics Is Tearing Apart PEN Russia

The expulsion of a prominent writer has split Russia’s writer community and brought back ghosts of Soviet censorship

Jan 21, 2017 — 13:49— Update: 13:58
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Katerina Lobanova

“A person whom we thought was an aesthete has turned out to be one of the sharpest exponents of a distinctly political battle.”

In 1958, that description of Boris Pasternak by the literary scholar Kornely Zelinsky at a writers’ gathering was deliberately damning. Several days earlier, Pasternak had been expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union for his “anti-Soviet” views. The public pummeling by his colleagues was the final nail in the coffin.

Since then, Pasternak and many other writers who fell foul of the Soviet authorities, have been rehabilitated, signaling the country’s new commitment to free speech and openness.

But fears that some of those gains are being reversed have sounded once more in Moscow in recent weeks after a prominent journalist was expelled from the Russian branch of the Poets, Essayists and Novelists association, or PEN. Two other members have also received strict warnings for their political activities in a move that is unprecedented in the center’s almost 30-year history.

Split

Those looking for Soviet-era undertones in the expulsion, do not have to look too far.

“It appears that Sergei Parkhomenko, who has the reputation of a ‘Bolotnaya Square provocateur,’ joined our organization only to destroy it from within by turning it into an opposition political party,” PEN’s board announced in an online statement in late December.

Parkhomenko, a blogger and radio commentator, did indeed play an active role in mass anti-Kremlin protests in 2011 and 2012. He is also involved in the Dissernet group which exposes plagiarism, often targeting Kremlin-affiliated officials, and the Last Address project to commemorate the victims of Soviet repression.

But whereas in Pasternak’s time the accusation of anti-government activity was enough to make him a pariah, Parkhomenko’s expulsion has caused a wave of outrage in Russia’s literary community, splitting it into opposing sides.

Almost two dozen writers, including some of Russia’s biggest names such as Nobel Prize Winner Svetlana Alexievich and detective writer Boris Akunin, have quit the group in protest. Some 55 more members have called for Parkhomenko’s reinstatement in an online letter which also questions the legitimacy of PEN’s leadership.

“PEN has taken up a kind of neutral, undefined but overall conformist position that I find unacceptable,” Lev Rubinstein, who is among the authors to quit the group, told The Moscow Times. “I’d been delaying the decision, but after Parkhomenko’s expulsion I realized I can’t stay there anymore.”

Others have been even less forgiving. “Russian writers have not been this subservient since Stalinist times. Putin will go, but this shameful page in PEN’s history will remain,” Alexievich said on an unofficial Facebook page of PEN members.

First secretary of the Soviet Writers Union Konstantin Fedin makes a speech at the fourth Congress of Soviet Writers in Moscow, May 26, 1967.

First secretary of the Soviet Writers Union Konstantin Fedin makes a speech at the fourth Congress of Soviet Writers in Moscow, May 26, 1967.TASS

Unacceptable Position’

At the heart of the conflict is a disagreement over whether the Russian version of PEN, an international association of writers who are committed to defending freedom of speech, is a political organization.

The question goes back a long way. In 1956, culture officials rejected a request by the Soviet Writers’ Union to join the PEN group, arguing in a letter that it would put Soviet writers in an “unacceptable position: speak out against censorship, or criticize the government and so forth.”

Such concerns took a backseat with the advent of perestroika and glasnost, and in 1989, Russia finally launched its own PEN Center. On occasions, it was critical of the authorities, speaking out against the second Chechen War, for example.

But in recent years and especially since Russia became embroiled in conflict in Ukraine, PEN Russia’s management has steered clear of sensitive topics. “It’s become increasingly geriatric,” Lyudmila Ulitskaya, a former PEN vice-president and writer, told The Moscow Times.

In an attempt to revive the club’s political spirit in 2014, she invited roughly forty new “young, talented and socially active” members to join PEN, among whom was Parkhomenko, she said.

Under their influence, a significant segment of PEN’s 400 members became increasingly politically engaged, publishing open letters against the jailing of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, the so-called foreign agents law against NGOs or, more recently, the prosecution of the director of a Ukrainian library for extremism.

While they identify themselves as PEN members, the petitions are signed in their own names, and are often joint initiatives with other rights groups, Parkhomenko told The Moscow Times. Nonetheless, PEN’s management has not been pleased with the change in tone.

In the summer of 2014, Ulitskaya was accused of staging a “takeover” and “politicizing PEN” by its then-head Andrei Bitov himself, ironically, a writer with the reputation of being non-conformist.

“Some of those very people who suffered from Soviet authoritarianism are now copying that very behavior,” says Nikolai Podosokorsky, a prominent literary critic and a PEN member. He doesn’t discount that practical concerns could be involved. “Maybe the management got spooked and thought the center itself could be labeled a foreign agent.”

Ulitskaya quit the group and roughly two dozen people followed, including the prominent writer Lev Timofeyev.

The final drop appears to have been an open letter to Putin signed by dozens of PEN members, including Parkhomenko, asking him to pardon Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker who opposed the annexation of Crimea and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “terrorism.”

PEN’s management distanced itself from the appeal as having come from “a group of ‘liberal’ opposition activists, who are trying to come into conflict with us and are following their own line.”

In response, Parkhomenko slammed PEN’s leadership on his Facebook page, which has almost 150,000 followers. “I said it was an embarrassment and a betrayal of the principles PEN Russia was founded on,” Parkhomenko told The Moscow Times. Weeks later he was expelled.

No Revolution

As a young author, PEN Russia’s president Yevgeny Popov himself was ousted from the Soviet Writers’ Union and his work banned. But he doesn’t see any conflict between his personal experience and his own actions.

“PEN is an apolitical rights organization,” he said. “We defend all victims regardless of their political views. But we’re constantly being dragged into a political battle of countries and clans.”

“We don’t want a revolution, there’s been enough of that in Russia, we want evolution,” he added.

Nevertheless, the conflict risks endangering the symbolic step made by Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, when it was allowed into the PEN club. PEN International, which could revoke Russia’s membership, has so far remained silent. But the signs spell trouble; in an online statement following Parkhomenko’s expulsion, the American PEN branch expressed “concern.”

In comments to The Moscow Times, its director, Suzanne Nossel, called the complaints by PEN members against their board “serious.” “Their acts of protest reflect both courage and commitment to the core principles that we at PEN America share,” she said.

Should PEN Russia be dismantled, Parkhomenko is convinced a different group will arise in its place. “There is a need for politically active writers,” he says. But he hopes it won’t come to that. “All I expect is from PEN is for it to promote people’s rights. If it is going to do that job, I’ll try to do my part, too.”

 

Source : The Moscow Times