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YouTube Suspends Account of Prominent Egyptian Blogger and Anti-Torture Activist November 29, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Citizen Journalism, Independent media, YouTube.
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From Sam Bayard at Citizen Media Law Project:

I’ve blogged before about Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger and political activist who has gained renown by, among other things, posting videos on YouTube revealing brutal scenes of torture from inside Egypt’s police stations. According to Reuters Africa, YouTube has recently suspended Abbas’s account due to complaints about the content of his postings:

Wael Abbas said close to 100 images he had sent to YouTube were no longer accessible, including clips depicting purported police brutality, voting irregularities and anti-government demonstrations. YouTube, owned by search engine giant Google Inc., did not respond to a written request for comment. A message on Abbas’s YouTube user page, http://youtube.com/user/waelabbas, read: “This account is suspended.” “They closed it (the account) and they sent me an e-mail saying that it will be suspended because there were lots of complaints about the content, especially the content of torture,” Abbas told Reuters in a telephone interview. Abbas, who won an international journalism award for his work this year, said that of the images he had posted to YouTube, 12 or 13 depicted violence in Egyptian police stations.

Elijah Zarwan, a human rights activist and blogger living in Egypt (and a personal friend), told Reuters that he found it unlikely that YouTube had come under official Egyptian pressure, and was more likely reacting to the graphic nature of the videos.

I wonder if the people making account-suspension decisions at YouTube realize that they’re blocking an important distribution channel for some of the most important journalistic work to come out of Egypt in years. It would be a shame if this is happening because of some squeamish and/or paternalistic YouTube users who can’t be content to simply turn their own eyes away. Then again, that’s slightly less disturbing than YouTube caving in to Egyptian government pressure. I’ll keep my eyes on this one.

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New documentary series, “Encountering Attica” November 27, 2007

Posted by terilawprof in Blogging, Documentary.
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The Projecting Law Project at the University at Buffalo School of Law has undertaken a year-long project that takes a small group of first year law students out to Attica Correctional Facility, a men’s maximum security prison) six times to meet with inmates doing long sentences over the course of their first year of law school. The students (as well as correctional officers, ex-cons, prison administrators and civilian staff) are interviewed on videotape about their insights into the criminal punishment system.

The three themes of the series are: (1) why is the conversation so difficult to have (in other words, why is it so unusual for prison inmates (who have experienced the justice system firsthand) and law students (who are studying the justice system and training for careers in law) to have an extended discussion? (2) how might the views of the one group change or influence the views of the other group (and vice versa) over the course of the year? and (3) what are the costs of the current “lock them up and throw away the key” philosophy of the criminal justice system?

The Projecting Law Project is screening the first of three installments at the law school on Tuesday, Dec. 4th. The screening (of about 16 mins. of roughly edited footage) will provide a springboard for a broader conversation about criminal punishment in the 21st Century and the pros/cons of the current trends in criminal punishment and incarceration. The Dean of the Law School will lead a discussion after the screening. Since the series is an ongoing work-in-progress, the audience will actually have an opportunity to suggest to the filmmakers directions the series should take, and additional issues that could be explored.

Although the face-to-face encounters with the inmates are limited, the law school group communicates with the prisoners via a protected discussion board, as well as a public web blog at wordpress.com. So the discussion continues outside the visits themselves, and the content of these discussions is included in the footage that will eventually be edited into a full-length documentary.