THE INDEX – June 8, 2010

The Chinese government’s Internet and censorship watchdog, the State Council Information Office, is reaffirming Beijing’s strict Internet policies.

A white paper from the Information Office 
 purports to support free expression and expanding Internet access. Yet Western observers note that no fundamental loosening of censorship or access control was included in the document. In fact, the paper seems to have been meant to reaffirm and clarify China’s censorship policies that regulate access to certain kinds of information.

The whitepaper does devote a number of pages to Internet security. Monitoring and controlling the flow of information and access to websites is touted as an “indispensable requirement for protecting state security and the public interest,” and immune to foreign criticism. This is a direct counter to American attempts to challenge Chinese Internet restrictions that impact Western companies like Google.

Google was partially forced out of the Chinese market earlier this year. After being subject to sophisticated cyber attacks originating from China, Google defied Chinese censors by allowing full access to its search services, previously self-censored.
                                                                                                                       —Nestor Bailly


A new report by the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) highlights the Tunisian government’s manipulation of the judiciary and restriction of the press as the chief contributing factors in its ongoing—and intensifying—human rights abuses. 

The TMG, an umbrella organization concerned with the freedom of expression, presented the report, entitled "Behind the Façade: How a Politicized Judiciary & Administrative Sanctions Undermine Tunisian Human Rights,” at the Arab Free Press Forum in Lebanon. 

The report states that the human rights situation in Tunisia has worsened since the TMG last conducted research there in 2007 and details the Tunisian government’s unjust treatment of human rights activists and journalists and control over the judiciary.  It concludes with suggestions for reform.

"At a time when the Tunisian government is seeking ‘advanced status’ with the EU, TMG members urge the government to take serious steps to adhere to international standards of basic human rights, as guaranteed by the Tunisian Constitution as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," says the TMG team leader Amadou Kanoute.
                                                                                                               —Caroline Soussloff


Public workers across Spain took to the streets on Tuesday, striking to protest a five percent wage reduction imposed by the government.

In a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit, civil servants will have their pay cut by five percent for 2010 and that level frozen through 2011.

Spanish unions report that 75 percent of the 2.3 million public employees across the country did not show up for work in protest, though the number is contested—the government claiming that barely 11 percent of its civil servants stayed away from the workplace Tuesday. The government is refusing to count those employed who carry out “minimal services,” while the unions are including such workers in their numbers, accounting for a slice of the difference between the two figuresIn Madrid, 70 percent of civil servants refused to work Tuesday, compared with just 10 percent according to the government. The strike is expected to last just one day.

The strikers are from many different public industries, including transportation, health care and postal services. However, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the level of normalcy is quite high.

In 2009, Spain’s deficit ballooned to 11.2 percent of the GDP, which the government is seeking to lower to 9.3 percent in this year. Leader of the CCOO trade union Ignacio Fernández Toxo says the government “uncritically” listened to European Union recommendations regarding its deficit.
                                                                                                                        —Seth Walder


Serbia and Croatia have signed a historic military cooperation treaty aimed at improving relations between the onetime enemies and enhancing their bids for EU membership.

The agreement is “a step forward” for security in the Balkan region, coming 15 years after Serbia and Croatia fought a bitter war over Croatia’s secession from former Yugoslavia. Croatia had agreed to let an international panel arbitrate a border dispute with Slovenia earlier this year.

The deal brings the defense establishments of the two nations closer together with military education exchanges, personnel transfers, and military industrial cooperation.

Serbia plans to learn from Croatia’s peacekeeping experience when Serbian troops deploy to UN missions in Lebanon and Cyprus later this year. The leaders of both nations describe the pact as a victory for both sides on “political and professional” levels.

Serbia and Croatia have made no effort to conceal their hopes to join the EU. This agreement is a clear effort to make both attractive candidates for membership and to clean up the region’s tarnished image after the wars of the 1990’s.
                                                                                                                       —Nestor Bailly

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