Posts Tagged ‘speeches’
I’m currently in Vilnius, Lithuania, at a conference organized by Community of Democracies. It’s a loose intergovernmental organization, which includes most democratic countries (and, for some reason, a few undemocratic ones).
Tonight I met, together with a group of activists from other countries, with Hillary Clinton. The meeting itself was off the record, but I may publish what I said.
One of the major problems of the Russian political system is the impunity of those responsible for attacks on activists and journalists. International sanctions directed against these individuals could not only restore justice to some degree but also deter others from participating in persecution. I am pleased to see that Sergei Magnitsky Act that can help implement such a policy is being considered by Congress. I also hope that the European Union will enact similar legislation. I wish the State Department took some steps of its own regarding this issue.
At the very least, those involved in human rights abuses should not receive support from democratic countries. For instance, a number of Western companies, including Cisco and Ernst & Young, are among the sponsors of a large Seliger Forum that will open tomorrow. Its organizer, the former leader of the infamous Nashi group, Vasiliy Yakemenko, is widely believed to be connected, among other things, with the attempt to assassinate journalist Oleg Kashin. I think that a strong statement from US officials could discourage such irresponsible corporate behavior.
This weekend, I participated in Anti-Seliger Forum: a sort of festival/summer camp for civil activists, organized by Khimki Forest defenders not far from Moscow. This was one of the most significant opposition (or, better to say, independent of the government) events of the last year in Russia, an attempt, apparently successful, to reach out to a broader part of the society. According to different estimates, from 1000 to 3000 people participated in it over four days.
I presented a new project that we at Vision of Tomorrow Fund have been preparing for several months: Civil Leadership School. Its goal is to create a community of capable, effective and smart activists who will become the leaders of Russia’s civil society in this decade. Through their participation in the School, they will take part in trainings, engage in discussions, gain useful contacts and get to know each other. Best experts will be invited to speak at the School’s events.
For more on the School, check out CivilLeaders.ru (the full Website in both Russian and English will be launched soon). If you understand Russian, you may also watch the very presentation speech at the Anti-Seliger:
Yesterday I made a speech at Youth Involvement in Demonstrations and Riots conference in Tallinn. I talked about the recent history, present state of, and prospects for, the protest movement in Russia.
Yesterday I participated in a Conference on Cyber Dissidents held in Dallas jointly by George W. Bush Institute and Freedom House. Despite mixed feelings about GWB’s presidency, I decided to take part; I try to use every opportunity to share my views and listen to others. Both President Bush and his wife participated in the event too (Laura Bush stayed the whole day).
Thanks to the ash cloud from Iceland I had to participate via video conferencing. After all, it wouldn’t be a cyber dissidents event if everyone managed come and without these geek things. We used ooVoo and Skype and both worked well (the former one allowed multiple people to participate simultaneously but is either paid or ad-sponsored).
Here is a transcript of my speech:
It is honor for me to speak at this conference. I managed to watch most of the presentations and I find them amazing. I’ll share some experience that we have in Russia with the new media.
1. Almost all conventional media are blocked:
- TV directly or indirectly owned by the government;
- most radio stations and newspapers are either controlled by the authorities, or self-censored, or have little general impact.
2. Internet became a natural resort for people looking for uncensored information and free exchange of ideas.
3. Traditional ways of involvement into civic or political activities on the Internet are:
- users can gain access to alternative sources of news and opinions;
- people discuss political issues in blogs and forums that are extremely popular in the Runet (like LiveJournal);
- grassroots groups organize online and offline actions using social networks and blogs.
More online tools are utilized by protest groups including Twitter, video blogging, live broadcasts, civil journalism and Web 2.0.
Interestingly, more and more grassroots initiatives, not connected with any political groups, start on the Internet.
As penetration rate of the new technologies increases, they rapidly replace TV as the main political media.
4. Government is trying to stop this process. They are making it in a smarter way than Iranian or Chinese authorities. They don’t block all the “bad sites” right away. In fact, very few Websites are permanently blocked in Russia.
Instead, they hire hackers to put the Websites or blogs down. Targets of such attacks included Estonian official sites, leading independent online news media, opposition groups’ Websites and individual bloggers. Some of such attacks are extremely powerful and expensive.
Another way of dealing with “uncomfortable” bloggers is more conventional: persecution. Since 2008, more and more bloggers have been sentenced for “extremism.” After some recent amendments to the criminal law, almost any criticism may be considered inciting hatred against social groups–extremism. For instance, people who discussed police brutality were sentenced for inciting hatred against the police and a guy who criticized his governor was sentenced for inciting hatred against the local government as a social group. There’s no limit to your imagination.
Such showcases make many more bloggers think twice before posting anything critical.
Ultimately, the government invests a lot into their own resources. They hire Internet experts, make deals with leading sites and buy popular websites including LiveJournal. This is one of the most serious challenges to the protest groups because we’ll never match the government’s resources.
But we are still superior in creativity and enthusiasm.
I spent last week in the USA. I was invited by Principia College in Illinois to participate in their Lucha Noerager Vogel Program on Moral Courage. I had a speech there devoted to my experience of nonviolently opposing authoritarianism in Russia, and I also mentioned the experience of Belarus and Ukraine. Apart from that, I met with a lot of student at classes and gave an interview for the college’s Internet radio (downloadable here). The guys there are very thoughtful and polite; their interests and questions were very different from political science students who I used to talk to.
Before coming to Illinois, I spent a few days in Washington, DC. I attended a brilliant panel on rule of law in Russia organized by Cato Institute. Karinna Moskalenko and Robert Amsterdam, both prominent international lawyers and both very active in their defense of Russian citizens from political repression (e.g. Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a client of both of them), as well as Andrei Illarionov, one of the Russia’s most respected economists, discussed prospects for Russian democracy as well as US-Russia relations. This discussion’s video posted by Bob Amsterdam is highly recommended.
I also had a panel of my own at American Enterprise Institute. I was talking about the numerous problems with freedom of assembly in Russia, from vague legislation to police brutality to violent assaults on protests. I am also going to talk about this issue next week at the Washington Human Rights Summit.
My way back from Principia to Moscow was troubled by the Washington snowfall. Although I was staying in St Louis, i.e. quite far from DC, my flight had to stop at Dulles Airport and was cancelled. After waiting in the town for three days, I had to rebook my tickets and go via Chicago and Zurich. But thanks to that delay, I managed to meet Craig Pirrong a.k.a. Streetwise Professor, a Houston professor of Economics and the author of a great blog on Russia’s economy. He has already posted an entry about our meeting.
PS: I was surprised to know how many participants of the AEI discussion (many of them, too, were students) and not just them read my blog (hi!).
These days I took part in OSCE Civil Society Forum. It was held in Helsinki in connection to the ministerial meeting that’s planned for Thursday and Friday. Representatives of dozens of NGOs as well as OSCE officers participated in the event. I addressed them at the opening plenary yesterday:
…I recall what I did at this very day a year ago. It was an election day but for me it was marked by another arbitrary arrest. Just seconds after I commented the elections to an foreign TV channel in the heart of Moscow, I was literally dragged into a police van, threatened and beaten by several anonymous officers. Then they brought me to a police station, held there for a few hours and released without any charges.